An historical account of Traralgon, written for the boys and girls of the city.
First published in 1970. Reset on CD Rom 2001
About the author - William J. Cuthill - click here
Chapter 3 When Duncan Campbell was King 1854 - 1869
Gold ! Gold! Gold! How that word rang throughout Victoria. Diggers were searching creeks everywhere for nuggets, and finding them, too. And then there would be another rush to the new diggings. The people here in Traralgon heard it, and Port Albert was almost deserted, all the men who could, having gone off to the goldfields in Central Victoria, like Ballarat and Bendigo. Most of them came back after a while, for the lucky ones who made the big finds were few. But they did not give up searching for gold here in Gipps' Land, and finding it too, as we shall see.
You have already read how the Churches held their first services here, but I have not told you about the Presbyterians. Nearly everyone in Traralgon was a Scot, and I must tell you about their Church. The first Presbyterian minister to be stationed in Gipps' Land was William S. Login, and like Rev. Bean, he travelled all over Gipps' Land on his pony from Sale. He held the first Presbyterian service here on 12th February 1854, at Loy Yang, and we can be almost sure that it was in Mr. John Turnbull's best room.
Now there was a Scotsman named Duncan Campbell managing a run called Mewburn Park near Maffra for a Mr. Johnson, and his brother, John Campbell, was on a station called Kilmorie up near Bruthen. These two men had been in Gipps' Land since the beginning, and, in July 1855, they came here to Traralgon. You know all about Hobson. You must now learn just as much about Duncan and John Campbell.
Duncan Campbell bought the Traralgon West run from James Purves. He also had another run called Gelantipy away up past Buchan. When they came here to Traralgon, they built themselves a homestead down where the Traralgon Park homestead is now, and part of the old building is supposed to still be there. And you will see how, before long, Duncan Campbell owned almost everything in Traralgon, while his brother was one of the chief drovers of the mobs of cattle that were being sent to Melbourne.
When we read the old stories of Gipps' Land, where do you think we can find them? Well, up until now they are scattered in the old books and letters. But in October 1855, the first newspaper was started in Gipps' Land. It was called the "Guardian" and they printed it over at Port Albert. It was just a little paper - one big page folded down the centre - but from this time on, you and I can find things out for ourselves by reading the "Gipps' Land Guardian". There is no "Guardian" newspaper now though. It last only until 1869, and the owner sold all his type because it did not pay to print the paper any longer.
You will remember how Edward Hobson tried to buy part of his run from the Queen, but could not do so, because the run had always been under the name of his dead brother, the doctor.
In November of this year, 1855, John Turnbull bought a square mile of his Traralgon East run, and that was the first Government land ever sold here. He got it for only £1 an acre, and the part he bought was all that corner where Hobson's old house stood.
The road to Melbourne was still all mud during the winter. Who would think of trying to ride to Melbourne that way when you could travel fifty miles over to Port Albert in comfort in a gig and then catch a steamer to Melbourne in the afternoon, arriving there the next day ? For £5 you could have a cabin, but if you could afford only 45/-, you would travel in the steerage or second class part. So the Melbourne road was still being used chiefly by the cattle who stamped the mud with their hooves and made it deeper.
In our Parliament in Melbourne, we have the two Houses, the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly was first elected in 1858, and the Electoral Roll or list of voters was printed in the "Guardian". Only men had a vote, and they had to be earning £2 a week or have a house. There were only eight men on the roll for Traralgon. They were Duncan Campbell and his men, John Blair, Alexander McCrae and John Simpson; John Turnbull and his men, William Morris and James Peck; and our old friend, Thomas Windsor. John Campbell did not get a vote - maybe because he lived in Duncan Campbell's house.
There was not even a policeman here. If anything happened, the Police at Sale looked after the Glengarry side of the river, or rather the Eaglehawk side, if we keep the correct name, and the Police away over at Alberton looked after this side. There was a bit of horse stealing going on, too, and there was talk about putting a policeman at Moe, the horse thieves could be caught easily while getting through the forest there, for there was no other way to Melbourne, but nothing was done about it.
And all this time there was not one bridge across the Latrobe river anywhere. Where it was shallow, men used to ford it with their horses. But, further down, you had to use a boat. The people at the Ridge at Rosedale used to keep a boat there for those wishing to cross. They could swim their horses behind the boat. Further down at Sale, there was a punt which was big enough to carry a horse and cart. But, in 1857, the first bridge was built across the river at Longford, although it was not really opened until May, 1858, and what a difference it made. Straight away some people in Sale started to run a coach service from Sale to Port Albert, taking two days for the journey. This was the first coach service in Gipps' Land, and people from Traralgon could now drive up to Sale through Holey Plain and Longford and catch the coach to Port Albert from where the little steamer carried them round Wilson's Promontory at night to reach Melbourne next day. It was only a five horse wagon, but it was, at least, some way to save walking all the way for those who had no horse.
When Edward Hobson left Traralgon, there was no Justice of the Peace here and, in August,1857, John Fowler Turnbull was made a J.P. As he was the leading citizen and a man of good standing, the choice was a good one, and, for many years afterwards, he helped to keep the law in our little village.
Other parts of Victoria were having railways built from Melbourne but poor Gipps' Land was so cut off by the forest that nobody could ever think of finding all the money needed to build a railway 130 miles to Traralgon and Sale. So there were many people who thought that it would be better to build a short railway from Sale to the steamer at Port Albert, the country being flat all the way. They even talked about putting down wooden rails, and if they couldn't get a railway train, they could, at least, use it for a horse tramway. The wooden rails would save pulling wagons through the mud. Gipps' Land had no stone for roads, and they even had to bring rocks over from Wilson's Promontory to make the roads around Port Albert. But you and I know that no railway was ever built from Sale to Port Albert.
At the beginning of the year 1858, the Government in Melbourne sent up a surveyor to Traralgon to mark out the township. Other surveyors had been up here ten years before, and they had drawn maps of the river showing where Hobson's and Windsor's houses were, and where the tracks went, but this surveyor marked out our first streets.
All he saw was just the track to Sale past the Hotel, and the rest was all open, grassy forest. So he called this track Kay Street on both sides of the creek after Captain Kay, who was a Government officer in Melbourne at that time. Cutting Kay Street north and south he marked Franklin Street out in the grass and named it after Sir John Franklin who had been Governor of Van Diemen's Land and who was lost while exploring near the North Pole. He also put in Grey Street, Seymour Street and Hotham Street, naming Grey Street after Lord Grey who had been Prime Minister of England, Seymour Street after another Government Officer and Hotham Street after Sir Charles Hotham who had been Governor of Victoria but a short while before. The map which he drew does not go past Hotham Street, and down on the Mitchell Street flat the surveyor has drawn in a big swamp. He also marked out part of the land across the bridge on both sides of Kay Street, which you now call Rosedale Road. .... All this was being done ready for the sale to the settlers of blocks of land in the township.
The most important thing in Traralgon for many years was its bridge, and each time a new bridge was built, there was an argument. about where it should go. Hobson's old bridge was wrecked by floods, and a new bridge was built some distance down stream from our present Long Bridge, which meant that travellers could not go straight down Kay Street, we call it Argyle Street nowadays, but had to turn left down the bank, across the flat, over the bridge, and to the right again to get back to Kay Street. This winding road caused the Star Hotel to be built in the wrong place some years later, and I will tell you more about that in the next chapter.
Another thing happened, too, which helped to hold up the building of a good road into Gipps' Land. A bold young man sailed his schooner across the bar into the Gippsland Lakes and right up the Mitchell to Bairnsdale where he unloaded goods, and he then went up the Tambo almost to Bruthen. This was the first time that such a thing had been done. The entrance to the Lakes was then in a different place to where you see it now when you drive down the hill into Lakes Entrance. That entrance was made by some clever engineers, but I am telling you about the entrance that the rivers used to make for themselves when the floods were up. There was nothing to stop this young fellow, Malcolm Campbell, for that was his name, from sailing across Lake Wellington and landing goods at Longford either. So why worry about a railway from Sale to Port Albert, or why worry about a road to Melbourne through the mud in the forest. If all the goods for Sale and the miners at Omeo could be brought in by sea, it would save all the money that had to be paid to the carriers who had to haul the wagons all the way from Port Albert. Anyhow, the road was so bad during this winter that the coach service had to stop until December. When the coaches started to run again, they tried to do the journey in one day instead of two. When the roads were dry they were able to get through in twelve hours.
In 1858, the biggest thing by far appeared in Traralgon. Duncan Campbell decided to build a Travellers' Rest - an hotel. He put it on the corner where the Traralgon Hotel now stands. You see, all this part of Traralgon was his run, so he picked the last piece of high ground before the track led down to the bridge over the creek. It was quite a big building for such a small place. It had a large dining room, four sitting rooms and eight bedrooms, as well as a bar and a cellar, and out in the yard were six more bedrooms, the laundry and the kitchen. It was built of red gum boards which had to be sawn here by hand as there were as yet no steam saw mills in the district. So the sawyers made a sawpit over on the Old Shire Hall corner, and there, with a long cross-cut saw, they sawed the red gum logs into boards, one man on top, and the other down below in the pit, being covered in sawdust with each cut of the saw. The cellar was built first, and the first load of grog brought up from Port Albert was drunk in the cellar before a stick of the hotel was put up.
Duncan put his relative, Peter McColl, into the hotel, and when the Court over at Alberton gave him the licence, they decided not to give any more licences to Peter Smith for his shanty on the Methodist Church corner. Of course, Peter Smith and his friends were not very pleased. but, if Duncan Campbell was ready to spend all that money, he really deserved to get the licence for his hotel, don't you think?
On his plan of Traralgon, the surveyor has drawn in the new Travellers' Rest and also Peter Smith's house, and even his stable on the bank of the creek. There were no other buildings anywhere - just red gum trees and grass and the dusty track from Morwell passing the new Travellers' Rest and running down across the flat to the bridge and then over to Turnbull's at Loy Yang.
Of course, during the winter months of 1859, the Sale to Port Albert coach stopped running again. The Old Port Road was in a dreadful state before it dried out in the spring when they started up again. So, about every ten miles or so, there was a little inn where those walking to Sale could stay each night.
The Government decided to start selling land at Traralgon now that the surveyors had finished their plans, and, on 29th August, 1859, the first land to be sold here was sold up at Sale. The Police Magistrate there was the auctioneer at these sales, and he sold all the land on the north side of Grey Street from Church Street up as far as Cumberland Park. And whom do you think bought it ? Why, none other than our old friend, Duncan Campbell. It was part of his run that Captain Carey, the P.M., was selling anyway, so he bought all that land back to the river for £1 an acre.
And all this time there had been gold prospectors trying all the Gipps' Land creeks for gold. They found gold up near Mount Baw Baw, and the news soon got around. A policeman was sent all the way from Alberton to see if it was true, and, sure enough, it was. This was in September, 1859. In telling the story, the "Guardian" said that the find was in the ranges about thirty miles from Traralgon, and just in case you have been thinking that Traralgon was well known, the paper says: "It may be as well to state for the benefit of strangers to the locality, that Traralgon is between 50 to 60 miles from Port Albert, on the main Melbourne Road." This gold discovery soon made Duncan Campbell's Travellers' Rest a busy place with those seeking their fortune calling in. They could go on to Peter Smith's at the Morwell or Henry Miller's at the Moe, but Duncan's place must have been a palace compared with the other shanties.
On 30th November, 1859, the Governor of Victoria gave Traralgon its name when he fixed the boundaries for the township as drawn by the surveyor. The spelling was now correct, and there was only one way to spell it - TRARALGON. This, too, is one of our important dates. At the end of December, the first blocks in the new township were sold by Captain Carey up at Sale. The Traralgon Hotel corner was sold with the new Travellers' Rest on it. Anyone who wanted to buy it had to pay Duncan Campbell £1,725 straight away for his hotel. That was a lot of money in those days, and there were no takers. So Duncan bought that corner for £4 for the half-acre and paid himself for his hotel. This land has been sold over and over again since then, and the hotel is now owned by the Ryan family. The name of Travellers' Rest was changed after a few years to the Traralgon Hotel, so, although the old building was pulled down fifty years ago, the Traralgon Hotel is really over 100 years old now. Police Sergeant Coleman of Sale bought the service station corner at Church and Kay Streets, and Constable John O'Connor of Sale bought Clauscen's corner. He came here the next year as our first policeman. John Campbell also bought some blocks. Captain Carey also sold the Grey Street School corner and Duncan Campbell bought it too, and thus he now owned the whole of the north side of Grey Street.
Peter Smith had left Traralgon after he lost his licence to sell beer at his place on the Methodist Church corner, and he went down to the bridge over the Morwell River and there set up another hotel of a kind. It was the first inn in that area, and those people who could not walk the extra ten miles to stay at Duncan Campbell's nice hotel would stay the night at Peter Smith's little place on the Morwell.
Early in the year 1860, it was decided that there should be a policeman here to keep order. There was a police station at Sale and one at Dandenong and not a solitary policeman anywhere between. There was no place for a policeman to stay except at the hotel or at John Campbell's house so a police station was built on the Post Office corner. It was just a small two-roomed weatherboard place with a roof of shingles, and the inside walls and ceilings were lined with calico, and here Constable John O'Connor moved in with his bride in September. His district went right down to the Bunyip River, and he had to visit the gold diggings up near Mount Baw Baw regularly to see if the miners were behaving themselves. He was a very good officer, and he was well liked by all the people here.
To get to the diggings from Port Albert, the only road for a dray was up to Longford first, and then along the river through Holey Plain to Traralgon, but you could walk or ride a horse from Stradbroke across to Rosedale and then to Traralgon, but there were no inns at which travellers could stay on the track from Stradbroke to Rosedale. Gold was being found in many other creeks running into the Tangil River. So Duncan Campbell decided to open a store at his hotel. Up until then, the nearest store to the diggings was at Rosedale. Duncan was advertising in the "Guardian" in October, 1860, that his store was the nearest to the Shady Creek diggings, and that, besides groceries, he stocked picks, shovels, tin dishes and blankets for the diggers. His best Adelaide flour was 5d. a pound.
So, by the end of these years, we have a hotel, a police station and a store. The village was growing, and, on 1st January, 1861, a post office was opened here. And who was the first postmaster? Have a guess.
Duncan Campbell, of course.
He was paid but £10 a year, and Traralgon was the nearest post office to the Baw Baw, Russell's Creek and Shady Creek diggings, The post office was at the hotel, too.
The people at Rosedale were thinking of asking the Government to put a bridge across the river there, and this did not please the Traralgon people who looked forward to the day when small steamers would sail up the river as far as Moe to carry goods and passengers to the diggings, there being, as yet, no talk of a coach service here, for the coach service from Sale to Port Albert was not paying. It was bad enough having the river blocked by a bridge at Longford, and they didn't want another bridge further upstream.
Every ten years nowadays we have a census or a counting of the people. They held a census from time to time in early days at Traralgon, but the first one that tells us very much about our village was in the year 1861. There were 21 men and boys and 15 women and girls here, and they lived in the six buildings here . You already know the hotel, the police station, the Traralgon Park homestead and Peter Smith's old house. The other two places were a tent and a hut. I can count but 8 men and boys and 13 women and girls whom I know were then here, so I think that about 20 other men, such as miners and drovers and travellers were here when the count was being made.
Duncan Campbell decided to sell the rest of his Traralgon West run that had not been sold at the land sales and also his run up at Gelantipy to some Melbourne men who had other stations and from this time on, although it changed hands several times, the Traralgon West run was no longer owned by a citizen living here in Traralgon. On 31st July,1861, the first copy of the "Gippsland Times" was printed. That newspaper is still going strong at Sale. It was not the first paper there for, in January, 1861, there was a little paper called the "Independent", but the owner ran out of money and stopped printing his paper after four months. Just as you read the "Journal" today, people one hundred years ago read the "Guardian" from Port Albert and the "Times" from Sale to find out what was going on in Gipps' Land, and even now you and I can see those old papers in the LaTrobe Library in Melbourne, and can read all about things that happened here at Traralgon long, long ago.
There was still more and more gold found up near Mount Baw Baw, but the miners still had to come all the way to Traralgon if they wanted to go to the Post Office to send an important letter - 40 miles each way over a bad road.
People were still trying to find better tracks through the bush. A new track was discovered to shorten the road from Port Albert to save going through Willung and Rosedale, and down near Warragul Ken Bennett from Hazelwood and a companion found a better track than that which was being used. Their new track did not go up and down the fern gullies, and missed a lot of the swamps. We must remember this find by Bennett and his friend for, after a few years, it became possible for coaches to get through to Melbourne on this much better track.
New Year's Day, 1862, at Traralgon must have been its best day up until then, for Duncan Campbell ran a sports meeting on the Traralgon Park behind his hotel. There was even a steeplechase, and the crowd there on this day was probably the biggest ever at Traralgon up until then. Every year after that, at Christmas time, there was a sports meeting with horse races behind the hotel.
The mailman was now going through to Melbourne three times a week and the mail took only 67 hours from Sale to Melbourne - about 2½ days from Traralgon to Melbourne. Of course the mailman did not ride in the dark. Few people travelled at night in those times when there were no lights. If possible, they waited for a moonlight night.
Traralgon West run had new owners too. They still paid only £10 a year for their licence. John Turnbull was paying £15 for Loy Yang run and £10 for Traralgon East run. More and more land around the town was being sold by the Government, but often there were no people who would buy. Ben Russell bought the two corners where Henry Street runs into Breed Street - five acres on each side - for £25. But the rents of the runs were soon to go up.
It was in this year, too, that Captain Carey the Police Magistrate opened a Court at Rosedale coming there every month from Sale, but there was not enough work for him and the Court was closed down until the end of 1863. The people of Rosedale, Traralgon, Morwell and Moe must have been good citizens, for Rosedale was their nearest Court. The first bridge over the river at Rosedale was finished and now people going to Sale crossed the river there and travelled on a better track than that round through Holey Plain and over the bridge at Longford. It also meant that people going from Traralgon to Toongabbie did not have to risk fording the river - they could ride or drive down to Rosedale and go round that way.
A surveyor named McDonald found a new track to Melbourne which left the Morwell Bridge and ran along the tops of the ridges south of Moe. It was called McDonald's track, and we are still using part of it for our roads even today. It was a good winter track on which travellers would not get bogged in mud, but because it kept up in the hills, there was no water for the mobs of cattle and it never really came into use.
Gold had been found by a man named Ned Stringer on a little creek which people called Stringer's Creek after him. Later on this place was called Walhalla. There were other places up in that part, too, where there were miners seeking gold so a policeman was sent to Rosedale to look after all the people on those diggings. It was much shorter for people reaching Port Albert by ship on their way to these diggings to come up to Stradbroke, then across to Rosedale over the new bridge, on to Bald Hill, which we now call Seaton, and then on to the diggings. There were so many people on that road that some coach owners who called themselves Cobb & Co. started to run coaches direct from Port Albert through Rosedale to Bald Hill. At the Melbourne end there was also a coach running from Melbourne to an inn kept by a Mrs. Bowman some miles this side of Dandenong. As the track became better the coaches got as far as the Bunyip river and, by Christmas 1862, the coach ran three times a week from Connor's Bunyip Hotel to Melbourne, the fare being 17/-.
You have already read how much the people of Gipps' Land depended on selling their cattle to the Melbourne market, to Tasmania and over to New Zealand. Now, at this time, cattle in some parts of Victoria began to get sick from a disease which killed them off very quickly. It was called pleuro-pneumonia. No one knew how it started, and no one knew how to stop it. All they could do was to try to treat the sick cattle, but they had very little success. So it was thought best to keep all strange cattle away from a clean district. Gipps' Land was a clean district for a start and New Zealand stopped taking cattle from anywhere except Gipps' Land. So the Gipps' Land squatters were glad to have this chance to keep the New Zealand trade all to themselves, but their good fortune did not last.
For, despite all the care taken by the squatters and settlers, somebody sneaked some sick cattle in, and the disease started up near Sale in 1863. Cattle caught it and died everywhere, and it must have cost the Gipps' Land settlers many many pounds. But, by killing or treating the sick cattle and stopping mobs of cattle from being driven all over the place, the disease died down after a couple of years. Nowadays, of course, we would be better able to stop the disease, but, a hundred years ago, the poor settlers were taken by surprise.
It was hard for these people to look ahead to today. They could see little chance of a railway ever being built all the way from Melbourne where, for about fifty miles, there were no people at all living. They could not imagine that their Gipps' Land Road would ever be much more than a dusty track in summer and miles of mud and bogs, cut up by all the cattle, in winter. You see, there was no stone in this part of Gipps' Land either to use for making road metal. Some wise fellow tried to get them to put their money into an idea to put a canal through the swamps. He told people that it should be possible to sail a steamer up the river from Sale to Moe. From Moe he proposed making a canal through the Moe and Koo-wee-rup swamps to join up with the creek that flows into Port Phillip near Mordialloc. But, of course, he had never been through that part for he would have found a range of hills in the way of any canal.
The people of Traralgon still used water from the creek, and I find that, at the end of 1862, Alexander Dodds agreed to keep the police station supplied with water at the price of 1d. per gallon.
In March, 1863, the Presbyterian Church started holding regular Sunday services at Traralgon, being the first Church to do so. Rev. Login had received an assistant, a Rev. Souter, and, between the two of them, they were able to hold Sunday services at Traralgon and Rosedale as well as at Sale. Church was held in the dining room of Mr. John Campbell's home. But, when Mr. Souter left later in the year, the best that Mr. Login could do was to cover Sale and Rosedale, so there were no more Sunday Presbyterian services here at Traralgon for some years. Duncan Campbell, who was the postmaster, storekeeper, butcher, baker and almost everything else, now took over the running of his hotel from another relative, Hector Munroe, who had followed Peter McColl in the hotel when McColl started a farm on the creek just above the bridge in Shakespeare Street. Duncan truly was the King of Traralgon.
And the road through the bush was now almost good enough for a coach, for one fellow proved it by driving an express wagon through to Sale.
I am now coming near the time when the settlers at Traralgon were to start running their own town. The Government in Melbourne looked after everything in Gipps' Land except around Port Albert, where the people had their own Road Board - just like a Council. But, in September, 1863, the people of Sale formed themselves into a Borough. They were allowed to vote for a Council and, from then on, they looked after their own roads, their own town lighting, their drains and all those things which are under the charge of a local Council. In later years, the Borough of Sale became a Town, and then a City. The people of Traralgon, too, were looking forward to the day when they could have a Council.
How many schools are there in Traralgon now? In 1863 there was none, and none at Rosedale either.
There had been a school at Sale since 1853, but there was no education whatever for the girls and boys here. A gentleman who was living at Mr. John Campbell's was seeking a job as a tutor in a private family, or even as a clerk in a solicitor's office, or as a book-keeper on a station. There were no solicitors here - the nearest was at Sale or Port Albert. But there was to be no school at Traralgon yet for another seven years. Maybe he did get a job teaching Mr, Turnbull's children, I do not know if he did,
In August, 1864, John Turnbull made his superintendent, Charles Henderson, his partner in his two runs. Mr. Henderson was a good worker for Traralgon as we shall see, and it was he who did so much towards getting the first school house built over in Campbell Street.
During 1864, a telegraph line was laid all the way from Melbourne to Sale, and, in September of that year, the first message went along the wire. There was an operator in Melbourne and one in Sale - none here in Traralgon although the wire went through our town. But what a wonderful thing it was for the people of Sale. Instead of the news taking 67 hours to come up with the mailman, it came over the wire in less than a second. But the people of Traralgon still had to go up to Sale to send a telegram for some years yet. The telegraph line - just a single wire - was often broken by trees falling on it in the forest, and sometimes the operator in Sale had a hard job to work out what was being sent over the wire, and made a guess which was sometimes wrong. But it was the beginning of this new idea of sending messages through to Gipps' Land.
The big event of the year was, of course, the Boxing Day Sports run by Duncan Campbell at the rear of the Traralgon Hotel. There were horse races as well as climbing the greasy pole, catching the greased pig and even sack races. This was followed by another race meeting on New Year's Day at the same spot.
Our village was growing. I have the names of most of the families who were living here at the end of 1864. There were fourteen of which I know, and I will give them to you - John Turnbull, the squatter at Loy Yang, and his Superintendent, Charles Henderson; Duncan Campbell, who owned the hotel; John Campbell, his brother, who was also a squatter and a drover; Peter McColl, their relative, who was a farmer on the creek; William Vesper, a carrier; John Whalley, who looked after the horses at the hotel; Samuel Bradley, a labourer; William Noble, who kept the hotel for Duncan Campbell and who also sorted the letters; Constable William Smythe; Victor Bladin, a carpenter; Benjamin Russell, a labourer who lived at the bottom end of Henry Street; Charles Linden, who married Eliza Windsor; and Alexander Dodds, a gardener. An old book tells us that there were 81 people altogether in Traralgon by the year 1865.
At the end of 1864, Constable O'Connor left Traralgon to take over the Police Station at Rosedale, and his place was taken by Constable Smythe. At that time the cemetery was on the hill overlooking the creek near the railway yards. You pass the old cemetery as you walk down Hotham Street on your way to the Showgrounds. Did you know that? This was years before the new cemetery was started out on the Bluff on the road to Tyers, and most of the people who died in these early days were buried here in the town. Mr. Charlton Kinchant, who was overseer of the Tyers station, and who was drowned while crossing the Latrobe River on a log, was buried there. There would have been at least twelve graves there when the new railway line being built to Sale cut through the burial ground. While they were here, Constable Smythe and his wife had a little baby girl who died, and she was buried there on that hill.
He always looked after the baby's grave and kept a fence around it. He has now passed away, and the Railway people have put a concrete tablet on the grave. If you go around to the back of the last of the Railway houses in Hotham Street, you will see the grave there right beside a big poplar tree. I do not know the little girl's christian name or exactly when she died. The Smythes came to Traralgon at the end of 1864 and they left in 1871. So here, tucked away out of sight, is the town's earliest link with the past - the last resting place of a little girl who, although not much can be found out about her, will still be remembered by boys and girls like you. Why not go round to Hotham Street and see the grave for yourself?
Although the people of New Zealand had tried to keep pleuro-pneumonia out of their country, cattle from Australia must have brought it in, and by 1865 there was no further need for the New Zealanders to refuse to take our cattle. They opened their ports once again, and the cattle boats could start taking cattle from Port Albert. This must have been a great help to all the cattlemen in Gipps' Land.
The road, too, was getting better. Coaches were running from Sale to Morwell with the mail. From there it was carried on a packhorse as far as Nar Nar Goon where it was carried on by coach. One thing about the coaches, they did not stop anywhere for the night, and the mail was being carried very much faster. In the Spring of 1865, when the better track picked out by Ken Bennett and the others dried out, the coaches started running all the way. They took 36 hours for the journey from Sale to Melbourne for a start, but they soon had it down to 24 hours. The horses were changed every 15 or 20 miles, and here at Traralgon the stables were at the Traralgon Hotel where the coach horses were kept. As the coaches left Melbourne and Sale in the daylight, the bad part through the forest between Moe and Nar Nar Goon was always done at night. These coaches were just like those you see in the westerns on T-V.
What a change the coach service made, too. Instead of travelling fifty miles or more to Port Albert through Rosedale, Willung and Stradbroke and then taking the steamer to Melbourne, you could now catch the coach when it stopped at the Traralgon Hotel. If you were lucky or were a lady, you had a seat inside in the dark. If you were unlucky, you rode outside on the top of the coach in the cold and rain. Kerosene lamps had just been invented and the coaches still used candles for lights.
It was at the end of this year that Duncan Campbell and some of the other citizens of Traralgon picked all the land on the west side of Franklin Street between Hotham Street and Seymour Street for a schoolground, and Rev. Login sent in their application to the Board of Education in Melbourne. Although it was just an unfenced paddock then, they did not get that land after all, for some land on the corner of Peterkin and Gwalia Streets, opposite the Scout Hall, was given to them instead, as I will tell you in the next chapter.
In about 1866, there were two rooms built next door to the hotel in Kay Street about where there is now a small brick building. These rooms were the first public hall in the village. They were used for services of the Presbyterian Church dances, and concerts were held there, and even the Court sat there when it first started in Traralgon. Even men who tried to get into Parliament held their meetings there. If anyone threw anything at the speaker, he could escape quite easily outside in the dark, for there were no street lights then, and outside it could be as black as pitch.
Traralgon was well in the news in these days. Some gold was found at Tyers and black coal nearby. But the big brown coal fields on both sides of our town still had to be discovered. The parts of the Traralgon East and Loy Yang runs that John Turnbull had not bought from the Queen had now come into the hands of William J. T, Clarke. "Big" Clarke was a millionaire, and he had many cattle runs at this time. You may have heard of "Rupertswood" near Sunbury. This was also one of his stations. These big cattle men did not really help Traralgon grow, but sometimes they had a good manager here who is remembered by us as a good citizen of the town. This was more the case with the Traralgon West run as I will tell you later.
The coaches had great difficulty in keeping up the service to Melbourne during the winter. As you know, all the country to the north of Warragul and Drouin is red soil. The coach road went through that part then, from Moe to Shady Creek to Brandy Creek and on to Melbourne. The road became very muddy - sometimes over two feet of mud -and the passengers had to get out and walk in the middle of the night to help the horses. People called it the "Gluepot", and every winter this part of the road became just a sea of mud.
In September, 1866, Uriah Hoddinot, who had another run called Sunville over near Stradbroke, obtained the Traralgon West run. His son, Joe Hoddinot, managed the run here for him, and he built a homestead down on the creek out near Mr. Jim Dunbar's "Homestead". The old homestead is gone now, but the poplars planted by Joe Hoddinot are still there. A couple of years later, Thomas Row, who was the manager for another Melbourne firm, built "The Homestead" where it now stands and moved part of Hoddinot's place up on the rise from the bank of the creek below.
In 1867, Duncan Campbell started to get rid of some of his many jobs. Charles Denis became postmaster in the two rooms next to the hotel where he was also running the store. Denis was an old soldier who had fought for his Queen in the Crimean War. At the Battle of Inkerman he had lost an eye. He was also the first registrar of births and deaths here and the Mining Registrar who kept all the books in which the gold mining claims hereabouts were written down. And the magic wire of the telegraph still went through Traralgon, but you still could not send a telegram from here. But, in this year, the Post Office people sent a telegraph operator up to Rosedale, and from this time onwards, people from Traralgon had to ride only 14 miles to send a telegram. And on arriving at Rosedale, they might find that the wire was down in the forest and the telegraph was not working.
The best parts of the Traralgon East, Loy Yang and Traralgon West runs had been sold to John Turnbull, Duncan Campbell and others, and the remainder of the runs - just the right to graze cattle and sheep there year after year until the Government decided to sell more land, if the run holders paid their licence fees - kept changing hands from one big cattle man to another.
In the year 1868, Richard Goldsborough and Hugh Parker bought Traralgon West from Uriah Hoddinot, and their manager, Thomas Row, became a very good citizen of the growing township. Thomas Row was a good worker in getting our first school here. He also played cricket with the first Traralgon Cricket Club and was the starter for the first Racing Club,
We are now nearing the end of the reign of Duncan Campbell. He leased his hotel to Thomas Shiells in 1869 and went to live with his wife on the east side of the creek. He died at Sale in May, 1877, at the age of 68 years. He had done his part for Traralgon although he was often fighting people in Court at Rosedale. At times he bought too much land and ran out of money for, in 1863, the people who had loaned him money were just about to sell his hotel to get their money back.
PHOTO: Click on the thumbnail photograph, for a full page view of a photograph of the Campbell home, "The Retreat", in Kay Street, which was the first Post Office before the new building was erected in 1886. This photo which appears also in Par. 4, was taken before it was demolished in 1953.
His brother, John Campbell, lived on for another fifty years and he lived with his family in "The Retreat", a weatherboard villa just around the Post Office corner in Kay Street. His youngest daughter, Rodena, who was later Mrs. Wallace, lived on here up until after World War 2, and, as she was born here in 1866, her memory could take us back to these early days of our town. She remembered the old Police Station and the first school and the first train. But now she has gone, and we have nobody now old enough to tell us of those days.
In the next chapter, I will tell you how the citizens here first had a chance to run their own town when the Shire of Rosedale was formed and the people first learned to tax themselves to pay for their roads and bridges.
End of Chapter 3