A listing of some events, some humourous, some tragic, some natural and some not, that have been documented as part of Waanyarra’s colourful history.
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In January, 1862 temperatures soared to 118 degrees F and 120degrees F in the shade. The following week temperatures went as low as 45 degrees F.
“On Saturday night last, the 14th instant, I was milking the cows in the yard when I heard a child scream.
I ran to the house immediately and saw the deceased outside the door with her clothes on fire.
I ran to her and tore her clothes off.”
This is part of the statement made by Michael Morton at the inquest into the death of his daughter Elizabeth, who died on November 16th 1863, aged 4, from burns she received when her nightdress was set alight by the candle she had been playing with.
Her sister Catherine testified:-
“I remember Saturday night last I was in the kitchen with my sister.
She cut up a candle into small pieces and was burning ants with them on the table – I did not see her clothes catch fire – I fell asleep and awoke when I heard my sister scream – she was then in the yard”
Other sections of statements made by the Doctor who attended, of Michael, and a witness Lachlan Roberts, tell of the treatment of her burns with salad oil and grated potato.
Elizabeth is buried in the family grave in the Waanyarra Historic cemetery.
Cholera was believed to be the cause of death of Mr. Peter Campbell of Waanyarra. Mr. Campbell took ill and died only a few hours after returning from Dunolly on 15th April.
Seik Cassin, a native of Calcutta, died in his tent at Long Gully on the 24th August. The inquest revealed that he died from the want of proper nourishment.
Dr. McGregor performed the post mortem.
Burns caused the death of John Frayne, a native of Devonshire, England, aged 38. The inquest was held at the White Swan Hotel in July, 1868. The verdict was that he had died from burns received when he fell into a fire. Mr. John Frayne, who was the cousin of Dunolly Publican, Peter Frayne, had been in Victoria for 15 years.
An inquest was held into the death of Stephen Holtz (real name – Pozzi, a native of Switzerland) who collapsed and died when returning to his hut at Deadman’s Gully after visiting “The Welcome Inn” at Jones’ Creek, where he had been served beer by Michael Morton’s eldest daughter Catherine.
The inquest was held at Morton’s “Welcome Inn” on 18th September, 1872.
On Saturday, 28th September, 1872, Mrs. Mary Beiza of Waanyarra was returning to her home at Mosquito Gully from Morton’s Welcome Inn, when she slipped and fell into an old mine shaft nearly full of water. She fortunately had on an unusually large crinoline, which she states kept her afloat in the water, or she would certainly have drowned. Mrs. Beiza called for help, and after some time, grabbed a bush, dragged herself out and made her way slowly home.
The following day she was taken to the Dunolly Hospital where it was discovered her left arm was broken below the shoulder.
1st February, 1873 saw the heaviest flooding known at Jones’ Creek. Water completely covered the surface of the road. The bridge over Jones’ Creek was severely damaged – the solid creek banks washed away at the abutment leaving a gap of 8 ft. wide, 10 fl long and 5 ft. deep. The cost of lining the abutment and wings with two inch planking and fixing the approaches would cost from £12 to £14.
The suspected “murder” on the Tamagulla road was finally believed to be a case of suicide.
On 14th September, behind a large fallen Ironbark tree at the side of the road, a man was found hanging by a cord from his neck. The cord was fastened to the limb of a tree about 4 ft. from the ground. At the inquest it was considered that the man could not have hanged himself.
On 22nd September, the body was exhumed and identified by a resident of Jones’Creek as being that of Godford Ludwig Dancel Thiedmann. The informant had seen Thiedmann tramping along the road in great pain. Thiedmann had been a patient of Amherst Hospital and on the 4th September left Talbot on his way to Dunolly and the Riverina. It was said that he told his mate not to be surprised if he committed suicide.
On 6th October, it was reported that the body had been exhumed again and viewed. The coffin was then closed and lowered into the grave. It was finally believed the death was due to suicide.
January, 1875. Large flocks of locusts passed through the district causing havoc to gardens. No rain of consequence had fallen for eight weeks. Creeks and waterholes had dried up and it was difficult to get sufficient household water supplies. Wheat prices were 4/2d to 4/6d a bushel, oats 4/- to 4/6d, hay £3 to £4 per ton, straw 30/- to 40/- per ton.
An earth tremor was felt in a north-south direction at Jones’ Creek and surrounding areas on Ist March, 1875. Houses were shaken and doors banged. The tremor lasted from 10 to 15 seconds.
At Jones’ Creek on 12th June, the death occurred of James Evans, native of Birmingham, England.
Mr. Evans, who was aged 72 was one of the first settlers to arrive at Port Phillip on the “Enterprise” with John Pascoe Fawkner.
Mr. Evans was a sawyer whe had two sawpits in Elizabeth Street on the site of the Melbourne Post Office. There he cut timber for Cole’s Wharf on the Yarra, for the Melbourne Gaol as well as some of the main buildings in Melbourne.
When the goldrush started, Mr. Evans left Melbourne and had been at Jones’ Creek since 1855.
Mr. and Mrs. Barnes of Grassy Flat, Waanyarra had their home destroyed by fire on 26th February, 1879. Nothing was saved. Pigs were roasted in their sties. News of the elderly couple’s loss spread to Jones’ Creek where at a sale a collection of £6.7.6d was taken up.
7th December, 1888. Mrs. Burns of the Waanyarra Store stumbled while putting up the shutters. She sustained a head wound which resulted in loss of blood and her confinement to bed.
There was greater scarcity of water in the Waanyarra/Tarnagulla farming district in 1888. But for the dam built by the Bet-Bet Shire, hundreds of cattle would have died.
A. Burns, son of James Burns, Waanyarra, Post Master and very old resident, died on 9th February. The following day he was buried at Waanyarra Cemetary. The Rev. McLellan conducted the service.
The late Mr. Burns was a cricketer and Secretary of the Waanyarra Presbyterian Church.
Bushfires were prevalent around Dunolly because of excessive heat a few days prior to 10th January, 1896. Fires were raging at Waanyarra and Arnold West.
Mrs. Caroline Gourley died on 2nd February, from burns she received when she fell into the fire. Mrs. Gourley, who was aged 70, was buried at Waanyarra.
On 8th January, Thomas Jones aged 73 years was found dead in his hut at Waanyarra. Mr. Jones, who had been a resident of the district for many years, was buried at Tamagulla. Police found £100 and valuables in his hut.
In May, the death of Henry Raven occurred at Waanyarra. The late Mr. Raven, who was 74 years of age, was a native of Norwich, England. Prior to coming to Waanyarra he had been a miner at Bendigo and Inglewood.
On 21 st January, 1902 a severe wind and dust storm struck the district. Trees were blown down, houses unroofed and apples, pears and peaches blown off the trees.
18th March, 1902 saw two cases of diphtheria reported from Waanyarra.
Waanyarra residents complained to the Shire of defective sanitary arrangements and sought improvement in January, 1903.
On Tuesday, 3rd March, 1903 heavy rain from thunderstorms filled dams and waterholes and caused creeks to flow strongly. At Waanyarra claims were flooded and work was suspended for some time. By the end of the month the Waanyarra Rush was still recovering from the recent floods, and returns were the smallest for some time. Holes in the creek had fallen in and would be dangerous to work. The claim of E. Williamson was said to be the best on the creek.
There was a failing off in numbers at the rush by early April, 1903, due to the danger caused by the large volume of water in the creek. McPherson and Co.’s claim near the creek was suddenly flooded, but the miners escaped in time. Water was being pumped from claims.
The death of Mr. Thomas Comrie, ex M. L.A. was reported in August. He was a native of Perthshire, Scotland and came to Victoria in 1856 at the age of 25.
Mr. Comrie found his way to Jones’ Creek where he was employed by the firm of Thomson and Turnbull. The business later transferred to Sandy Creek (Tarnagulla). When Mr. Turnbull died, Mr. Comrie entered into business, and on Mr. Thomson’s death in 1876, he became the Proprietor of the entire company. Mr. Comrie also acquired the Tarnagulla Roller Flour Milling Co.
Mrs. Maunders, aged 88 years, a devout church member at Waanyarra, died in December. Her funeral was held at Tarnagulla.
This year was classed as a drought year. Conditions were as bad as in 1888.
One of the heaviest thunderstorms ever known by residents of Waanyarra took place on Sunday morning, 26th February, 1922 when over eight inches of rain fell in a few hours. An immense flood in Jones’ Creek and Grassy Flat Creek rose above the previous records.
A lot of damage was done, hardly a settler on the flats escaping.
Flood waters swept away miles and miles of fencing, swamped houses, damaged haystacks, spoilt stored grain in barns and gardens and dams were destroyed. Fortunately, there was not much loss in stock.
Many of the residents spent an anxious time until the floodwaters receded. Among the chief sufferers were Messrs. De Santis, Maunder, Bofill, Morton, Douthat, Williams, Locket, Jones, Scholes and the brothers Williamson.
The roads suffered badly, some were almost impassable.
0n 4th June, the death of William Davies of Waanyarra occurred. The late Mr. Davies, aged 66 years, was a native of Tasmania. He had been in Victoria about 20 years.
Mr. Robert Soulsby of Rheola died on 26th May, aged 70 years. He was a native of Waanyarra and spent his boyhood at “Secret Hill’. From 1890 to 1924 he conducted the Post Office at Rheola.
On 23rd March, the Dunolly Express reported the death of Harry Boan of Perth, Western Australia, at the age of 80 years.
His father, Thomas, conducted the White Swan Hotel for many years at Waanyarra.
Harry was the founder and governing director of Boans Ltd., Perth, established 40 years before.
When he died, the store employed 1,200.
Born in 1860 at Dunolly, he went to Ballarat at the age of 18 and worked in a warehouse for 5/- per week and meals. He later became a traveller for the business, and received 50 shillings weekly. He worked in Melbourne; then in Sydney where he sold quilts.
With £200 entrusted to him by his parents, he and his brother opened a business at Broken Hill which had a turnover of £ 1,000 for some time.
In 1895, he sold out and with another brother, Benjamin, founded Boan Bros. on a site which was little more than swampland in Perth. A single storey shop was erected on a quarter acre site.
On opening night, Perth residents were brought to the store, free of cost, in a fleet of cabs.
In 194l,the store covered 8 acres and its capital value was £1,000,M.
Benjamin Boan died in 1901, and Harry carried on.
The business name was changed to Boans Ltd. in 1918.
Mr. Boan was a Life Governor of Dunolly Hospital, and some years ago when visiting the institution, presented a wireless set and the cost of installation to each bed. (Back)
On 17th August, 1941, Mrs. Mary Cheetham died in Tarnagulla at the age of 99 years. She arrived with her parents from England, and attracted by the gold rushes, the family went to Waanyarra and later moved to Tarnagulla.
Her husband, James Cheetham was a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, and the first member for Dunolly in the Assembly. He was Secretary of the Bet Bet Shire.
Mr. Cheetham died when thrown from a buggy when the horse bolted.”
(Dunolly Express, March 25, 1941)