Heywood District Pioneers & History
Heywood Pioneer Articles : 1935-1938
A rural settlement on the Fitzroy River in south-west Victoria, Australia
"Portland Guardian" (Vic.) Thursday, 12th December 1935.
Memories of Heywood

Following on Mr. J. Cundy's contribution to the "Spectator," as published under the above heading a few issues back, an "Urchin of the Early Sixties" writes to that paper as follows :--

When your correspondent sent along a list of the old pioneer teamsters, there were several spectacular members of that noble profession omitted. There is little doubt that James Parker of Heywood, was one of the first line of carriers. Mr Parker was a compeer of William Dutton, of the old whaling days at Portland. He was a very powerful man of over six feet in height, and it was a common exhibition of his strength for him to take hold of the back of an old-time bullock dray and lift the wheels clean off the ground, without apparent effort.

Another pioneer teamster was John (Johnny) Carroll, of Heywood and Drumborg. He was very popular with every class of people. He always commanded a first-class team, and drove them until he was a very old man. Some of Mr. Carroll's verses could still be produced in print. He was the poet laureate of the road. That is not counting Mr. Thomas Bilston. Mr. Carroll could arrest the attention of any people in company. In one of his poems he complains of his lack of scholarship, but he really could not say that of his intelligence, as he was widely informed on passing and historical subjects. Michael Carroll, a younger brother, was an other member of the old carriers. "Mickie" Carroll was popular with everyone up and down the country. Patrick O'Meara, of Drumborg, and later of Portland, travelled with Johnny Carroll for many years. They were brothers-in-law. Mr. O'Meara had the misfortune to lose two beautiful boys at Drumborg, they being drowned in a dam whilst bathing. They were clasped in each other's arms when found. It was one of the district's most pitiful and pathetic tragedies.

In the old carrying days it was quite a common practice for teamstersto travel at night in the very hot weather, especially in the moonlight. They would rest their animals in the day time, and "yoke up" about sundown. The tinkling sounds and the crunching of the wheels were quite familiar to all old residents of the townships on the then King's Highway. Mention of the King's Highway recalls that it had to be avoided in many places from the surveyed roads. Many old tracks are still visible through what is now private property and perhaps some of these old tracks were in use before the surveys were instituted.

The first police station at Heywood was quite a mile from the township, on the old road from Portland on the west side.

Mention of James Parker reminds me that he, with his wife and small daughter, were, when on their way to the diggings at Ballarat, stuck up by a bushranger. He searched all their belongings on the dray, but got no money. What money they did have with them was stowed away in the child's shoes. That little girl, Minnie Par'ker (later Mrs. Alfred McKeand, formerly of Heywood) died in Melbourne a few weeks ago, aged 88 years. Another well known district resident in the past was Harry Wright, late of Tyrendarra. Mr. Wright claimed to be amongst the earliest of teamsters, and he has recited to us of his adventures while carting stores to the Golden Mole and Moligul in the 'fities. There was also John Wheeler and Thomas Wheeler, of Wheeler's Hill, at Heywood ; George Farnum, Joseph Aldridge, David Langbridge, Alfred Lovell all of the 'fifties and 'sixties. Many of the old-time carriers would boast of how many years they had carted such a station's wool. Most of the old carriers looked forward to each wool season for their usual "cut" of the carting, and at the same time the station owners and manager fully expected their services in the same manner that is applied to the shearers at present.

Many a good beginning was made in those good old days with eight or ten bullocks, and it was really not a poor man who could get a team together at that time. Besides the animals there were the conveyances, harness, chains, and other trappings for the road. Of course, they were looked upon by any ignorant people as insignificant or just a "bullocky," but 95 per cent. of the old carriers came out on top. They were, in many cases, instrumental in much good country being opened up after they had blazed the trail.

"Portland Guardian" (Vic.) Thursday, 28th November 1935.
Memories of Heywood : "The Reverberating Whip."

"One must be old to memorisd most of the incidents of the carly days," writes Mr. J. Cundy, of Heywood, to the "Spectator," "for although past 75 I cannot recall the majority ; but can personally remember many of the stories of the '60's."

Mr. Cundy goes on to say that the township of Heywood, being on the bottle-neck of the branch roads northward from Portland, gave him a good insight into the old carrying days, when bullock and horse teams were the general medium of haulage or transport. Two great inland roads converged on Heywood--one leading to Casterton and which was generally known as the Smoky road, taking its name from the Smoky river at Hotspur. Branching off at the north the road describes a north westerly course. Part of it is now the Prince's Highway leading through Dartmoor to Mt. Gambier. The other branch is almost due north to Hamilton. It was known in the early days as The Grange road. Another branch, about five miles from Heywood, is where the Prince's Highway parts from the old Casterton road. All traffic on these roads to Portland passed through Heywood (known to early teamsters as "The Glue Pot"). It was a common practice here to double-bank two or three teams to get through with loaded drays and waggons. Teams then always travelled in pairs or companies, usually loaded with wool, wattle bark, flour, salt from the northern lakes, grain and pollard. It was a common sight in the sixties and seventies for the flat at Heywood to be well patronised. It was an ideal camping ground in the summer months, but only the owners of empty drays dared take the risk in the winter. Bullocks would be let loose with a good percentage of bells on their necks, and it was only a matter of heading them a few hundred yards from the township to feed anywhere. Many of these teams would wait a week at Portland for back loading. Other camps were at Double Corner and the Nine Mile waterhole, Green Vale, three miles out on the Grange road, and also at Scott's waterhole on the Smoky road. Carriers travelled as far as Apsley, or farther to stations and inland settlements.

The best known stations were Muntham, Heathfield, Hilgay, Merino Downs, Basset, Arrandoovong, Morven, Oakhank, and Ettrick, with others farther north, such as Brim Springs, Bringalbert and Neuapur. The old-time carriers were a fine class of men. We as children would sit on the road and watch the teams pass in long strings. I can still remember some of the drivers. There was Robert ("Bob") Hicks, from the Casterton district--the "Beau Brummel" of the horse brigade. He drove a splendid team of six or eight beautiful draught horses, all the harness being clean and dazzling in the sunlight. Other old carriers were Robert Roulston, John Best, Paul Alday, Robt. Black, Thomas Cain, Thomas Bilston, William Wagland, Patrick Bourke, Daniel Carracher, Barney Lavery, James Neill. The last-named three settled later in the Neuarpur district. Then there were Eli Hawkins, John Gundell, "Bodger" Wombwell, William Winters, Charles Pratt, Edward ("Neddy") Fitzgibbons and James Neeson (from Nareen). There are others whose names I have forgotten. Some of these men were operating in the sixties, others in the seventies.

Mr. Cundy proceeds : "There were two notable teamsters from the Condah Mission Station. They were well over six feet tall and power fully built--James Egan and James Lancaster, the latter being regarded as the chapion whip-cracker. It was said that a bombardment from his whip midway between Heywood and Portland (16 miles) could be heard at either place. James Egan was for some years later superintendent of the stores at Condah Miission.

A good story of Charles Pratt, senior, might be worth relating. We were at that time--about the year 1872--as boys boiling the billies for our fathers, who were working on a piece of new road at Cowland's Hill, or Greenwald. The contractor was very fidgety about teams encroaching on the new portion, and would put them on to the unmade sides, where it was very rough. On a particular day, two heavily loaded teams on their way to Portland came on the scene. After much higgling the contractor persuaded them to "gee off." However, they got past, and further down the road they met Charles Pratt on his way home to Dartmoor, and they informed him of what had happened. 'He will not bluff me in that manner,' said Charlie. When Charlie's team appeared near the south end of the made road the contractor rushed at the leaders with his shovel, saying at the same time : 'You can't go down there.' "Keep away," said Charlie. 'I am driving this team,' but as the contractor persisted in molesting the bullocks, Charlie stood off and slashed him with the whip. By that time the waggon was against a tree. 'I will make it warm for you, Pratt,' said the contractor. 'I think I have made it warm enough for you al ready,' said Charlie. For several evenings all the points of law were exhumed, and we were all to be witnesses at the next court, but the men prevailed on him to let it drop, as it was of no use going further with a case that he was sure to lose, as they persuaded him that he had forced the team into the timber with violence, and that the driver was quite justified in protecting his team, and that he would also have a clear cross case. As kiddies, we thought Charlie Pratt to be a great hero, and he had the sympathy of all the men on the works. I have ridden past the spot on several occasions since that time, and have always recalled the battle with the shovel and the whip."

"Portland Guardian" (Vic.) Thursday, 15th September 1938.
Early History : Heywood's Interesting Pioneers -- (By J. Cundy.)

The township of Heywood is, perhaps, the oldest township in Victoria, it being the first place of call northwards from Portland, 17 miles by road. The early settlers appeared to have some faith and ambition in the place, as three hotels were established in a very short time, the first near the Fitzroy river ; the Heywood Hotel by Thomas Bilston or David Edgar (it is said that Bilston exchanged with Edgar the station at Chetwynd, known as "Steep Bank," for the hotel business.) The Commercial Hotel was built a little later by a man named Blake. In 1860 a bluestone hotel was built by Frederick Slater and was known as, the Star Inn-that building still exists in splendid order. Slater appeared to be a man of ambition and enterprise as he managed the hotel, a wheelwright's shop and a saw-pit. The latter is still to be seen, or rather part of it. Nickolas Saunders, a blacksmith, was well known in Heywood for half a century. He was a Cornishman, and was one of the earliest pioneers. He was a very pleasant and quaint talker. Every prominent lump in the ground was, according to him, "Blackfellow's grave you." and all roots turned up by the plough were blackfellow's bones. Many pleasant hours have been spent in his shop. He died at Condah, where he had a shop for several years, at a very ripe old age. Frederick Slater stuck to his wheelwright shop until he died a very old man. His son, Harry, carried on the business for a considerable period afterwards. Patrick Lavery established a wheel-wright's shop and blacksmith's business shortly after Slater, north of the river, and worked in his shop for many years, but later went to the Neurapurr district over fifty year's ago. There was plenty of work for the wheelwright and blacksmithing trade in those years, and it was quite a common sight to see the sparks flying at any time after sunset. The making of chains was perhaps the lighter of the jobs. About the first general store was that established by Mr. Ha... Rosenbloom, with Andrew McKeand shortly following. Other early stores were those of Michael, the Jew, and Mr. Thomas Kean, but Rosenbloom's stone store is still staying put. Early butchers were William Bell, Condon and Price, who were butchers and bakers, but most of the bread was baked at home in those days.

About the first school teacher was Mr. Josiah Remfry, whose sons, Richard, Horiata and Samuel, were also teachers in different parts of Victoria later. Mr. Thomas Henry was perhaps the next teacher. Mrs. Henry and their daughter, Miss Dora Henry, also taught classes at the school. Later came Mr. Herbert Hayward, who taught for several years in the early seventies. About one of the earliest doctors to attend Heywood was Dr. Whyte, of Portland, and later Dr. Brewer, also of Portland. Mr. R. C. Miller had a chemist's shop in Heywood for a number of years in the seventies and eighties. Mr. Frederick Ullithorne was registrar of births and deaths. Constable Ryan was an early policeman also Constable Reilly ; but before their time the police barracks was a mile further up along the river. A prisoner arrested for horse stealing escaped from there, and was never afterwards traced. The first bush tracks went that way.

Something might be said about the heroes of the road. To mention a few local teamsters, there was William Wagland, who, with his eldest son, worked two teams of bullocks. Patrick Bourke and his son drove two teams. Then there was John Carroll and his brother Michael, and Patrick O'Meara, who mostly travelled in company. Alfred Lovell and David Langbridge were mates on the road. There was Thomas Wigley, Joseph Newton and Cain Bros., of Portland and Bridgewater. All these were bullock teamsters. Horse teams were driven by Thomas Cave, Paul Aldray and John Best, and also Robert Black, of Heywood, and they were generally together on their various trips. Other bullock teamsters were James Rhodes and John Hemson, both of Heywood. Also there was John and Thomas Wheeler, of Wheeler's Hill, north of the township ; but perhaps James Parker, of Heywood, was the pioneer of them all. The above named are just a few of the locals who were engaged in the carrying trade in the fifties, sixties anul seventies. But after 1877 they started to dwindle, as they had the new railway to compete with. The bulk of the loadling to Portland was wool, wattle bark, wheat, and for the return journey general store goods.

It is quite a treat these days to see a team of bullocks. There are many relatives of the old teamsters still in our district, but they have run down to the third and fourth generations in many cases. A man with one or two teams of bullocks in those days could not be classed as a poor man, and in most cases it proved to be so in later years, even when it came to parting with their teams of from fourteen to twenty-four or thirty bullocks. There was sufficient to start a good farm with what they had already accumulated.

That turned out to be the case in almost every instance. There are a few names of men further inland that some of us might remember, such as Robert Hicks and Edward Fltzgibbons, of the Casterton district ; also the Craigs, Eli Hawkins, Charles Pratt, of Dartmoor ; and some of the elder Cowland family ; Robert and James Roulston, of Coleraine, who were Heywood citizens in the early days ; also Robert Heaney, who used to accompany the Roulstons. All those men have been prominent on the land, as are also most of their families now.

"Portland Guardian" (Vic.) Thursday, 29th September 1938.
Heywood's Pioneers -- (By J. Cundy.)

While on the subject of the pioneers of Heywood, of which a few outlines were recently published, it must be stated that many of the first old settlers had been passed over in favor of the teamsters and hotel-keepers, but of course they are now well scattered over the continent, while some of their families and relatives still remain in the third, fourth, fifth, and, in a few cases, to the sixth generations, and it is quite natural that such a thing should happen, owing to the fact that Heywood was (and still is) very close to Portland, which holds the record and honor of being the first place of settlement in Victoria.

Now for some of the oldest settlers in Heywood, as townspeople that had, at that time, adopted Heywood as their future home. Many of these people were immigrants from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and very few of them ever showed any inclination to return to their native land. And they would tell us so, stating as their reason that the living conditions of the Old Country were in such a very bad state at the time of their departure. Old pioneers have told us that 6d. a day was in many cases a working man's wage, and that they had, in many cases, lived on mashed turnips as a daily food, with nothing but water to drink, and that to go back and live again under such circumstances was out of all reason.

I am afraid I have wandered away from my original topic, the giving of a list of the oldest townspeople. Of the Wagland family, none are left, but with permission, I might mention Mrs. Robert Jeffries, of Portland, who was Rose Wagland. Of the Bourke family, Mr. James Bourke is still with us ; also a sister at Goroke, all past the allotted span. Of the Aldridges, Mr. Thomas Aldridge is still a citizen. There was Mr. John and Mr. William Rigby here in the fifties, but at present there is only one grandson, Mr. Fred Rigby. Of the numerous Lovell family, only one representative is left in Mr. Isaac Lovell, who is nearly 80 years of age. To mention the Bell family we must come down to the second generation. The Remfry family have all left us. Of the Laverys and Carrachers not one remains in our district. The Heaney and Roulston families, too, moved further north, and still exist in later families. There was the Wilcox family, but no representative is left. The Devlin family, too, have all passed on. The Matthews, one of the oldest settlers in the township, are gone ahead. Mr. William Matthews, of Heywood, being of the third generation. At 77 years, yours truly is the only representative of the Cundy family, but two sisters live in the metropolis. The Parkers, of Heywood, are now non-existent. Mr. Vivian Ullithorne, as a grandson, represents Mr. Frederick Ullithorne, who was one of the first police in Heywood. Mr. John Wheeler and Mr. Thomas Wheeler were probably some of the canvas settlers, who reared families here, but we have to go to Condah Swamp, and as far as Murrayville to find some of the same connections - Wheeler's Hill, however, still remains with us. Two grandsons of Mr. John Barclay who are still with us are Messrs William and Ernest Barclay. Mr. James Satchell, as a grandson, represents the Satchell family of the fifties. Representatives of the Vanner family were with us until quite recently. Of the numerous Gorrie famiily, there remain Mr. Richard Gorrie (at Condah) and a grandson, Mr. Thomas Gorrie ("Tod.") Of the Benbow family we have Mr. Edwin Benbow.

No doubt there are some people even in Heywood that do not remember all these names. Of the original Price family not one is left with us, but the representatives are still numerous, down to the fourth and fifth generations. A little further out of the 'township' was the Pergandi family, but all have gone from the district. The old Carroll family (of Mr. John Carroll) is represented at Drumborg by Mr. James Carroll and Mr. Frank Carroll. Mr William Read was one of the earliest settlers of the township, and two of his daughters, Mrs. C. Gilhome and Miss Eliza Reid, are still with us. There is no member of Mr. James Reid's family in Heywood at present. From time to time we have had some of the Bilston families residing in Heywood, but none for a number of years. The Bilston family was perhaps unique, as Mr. George Yarra Bilston, the eldest son of Mr. Thomas Bilston (one of the earliest pioneers), was the first white child born in Victoria, on the Yarra river, which was then under canvas. Mr. Thomas Bilston kept the first hotel in Heywood, but I have previously mentioned that fact. The Malcolm family were also among the early district settlers, and Mr. Archibald Malcolm was one of the first hotel keepers in Branxholme, but the family removed to Heywood later. Mr. James McGregor was also a very early townsman, with a sawmill, and Mr. William McGregor, at 82 (one of his four sons) is still a good representative of the township. Mr. and Mrs. James Gray and Mr. and Mrs. John Smeardon were residents for a long time. Mr. William George Gardner was also one of the first to occupy a township block. A son (Mr. George Gardner) lives at Goroke, and at the age of 76 he is the only member of the family alive.

Mr. James Roulston, also one of the first residents, died at Henty a few years ago, aged 92, and of the Robert Roulston family there are three of his sons (Mr. Joseph, Heywood, aged 77, and Messrs. James and David Roulston, younger brothers.) Mr. David Stone, who had a bootmaker's shop in Heywood for many years and reared a family here, has not one left to represent him. Mr. Storar Graves was also in the township in the early days, but none of that family reside in Heywood now, although there are two of his daughters in Portland (Mrs. James Price and Mrs. Cathels.)

Mr. Thomas Dye was one of the early townsmen who came to this district in the late fifties, but none of the original family are left ; but there is a large contingent of grands and greats down to the sixth generation - so it is claimed - in the Beavis families, Mr. George Beavis, senior, was a very early settler in the township, and married Mr. Dye's eldest daughter. Mr. Thomas Larg bought the stone house (the original Star Inn) about 70 years ago, and his daughter, Mrs. John Bell, still resides there.

Mr. William Evans, of Heywood, should not be forgotten. He is now 91 years of age, and came to Heywood at the age of 12 years with the late Mr. Thomas Dye, already mentioned. It might be interesting to state here that with the passing of each of those old residents, ten others come to take their place, and it is comforting to be able to say, with much truth, that Heywood and Portland districts have been invaded by some scores of strangers in the past few years. The Bond family have been valuable citizens since the very early days. The senior Mr. Bond lived a few miles north-west of the township, and several members of his family are still active people on the land. Mr. E. E. Bond, our representative in the Legislative Assembly, is a grandson of the original a pioneer.

Other settlers have been mentioned in a previous article, such as Messrs. Paul Alday, John Best, Thos. Cave, Robert Black, etc. Mr. Joseph Black was also an early citizen, but the families are now in Hamilton. Mr. Joseph Reid was one of the earliest residents. He built a stone house west of the township (of ironstone), but it was demolished a few years ago. He had a sister, Mrs. James Gray, and gave her a block of land on which to build also. They have long since passed on, and there were no descendants.

Many young people might never have heard of some of these old townspeople, and it is rather sad to think how soon some more of the old pioneers who first blazed the track and lived in tents and bark huts, before being established in the white man's way of living, will pass to their just reward. It is also remarkable how soon a wilderness will blossom into a town or township in a few years, or at least in a few decades. Portland, Heywood, and the hundreds of townships and towns spreading fanwise northwards have all been through such experiences within the past hundred years, and still there are some people ever ready to jibe us about our empty spaces, instead of giving us credit for what we have already accomplished in so short a time - merely the life-span of one individual, or very little more.

In taking Australia as a whole, to get seven millions of people established in a little more than one hundred and fifty years, must surely be a world's record, or at least compare favorably with any other world settlements. I do not claim that my list here of the pioneers or township settlers is in any way complete, as there were many who came and went on again before my recollection, because Heywood is just about the same age as Portland.

There are a few old families that should be remembered as some of our earliest settlers connected with the township. Mr. Donald Cameron, of Oakbank Estate ; Mr. William Learmonth, of Ettrick station and of "Ellangowan" ; the Moore families, which are still with us ; also the Ainsworth family, down to the fourth generation, who still represent the pioneers. There was also Richard May and family, long gone, and the Maze family, the late Mr. James Maze, who died recently, being the last of that line.

There are scores of other early settlers, but only a few of the first comers are being mentioned here. I sincerely hope that no one will be annoyed with me for taking the liberty of including their names in the pioneer list, and it would be perhaps much more satisfactory if someone with superior ability could supply a more detailed list of our forefathers and mothers, who so indefatigably carved out our future homes. It would be very interesting to get the outlines of the original settlements and the pioneers of many other settlements and townships up and down the country, if it is not intruding on the editors of our provincial newspapers, whom we are aware are possessed of much patience at all times. Before closing this item we must not forget the Thomas family, the foundation of which were three brothers - Messrs. William, George and John Thomas, who settled in Heywood at a very early date. Their descendants are, perhaps, more numerous than that of any other family that are still with us, and all are worthy citizens. The Beavis family might be their equal as local assets and also numerically, but it will be understood that it is only the original settlers that are mentioned here, consequently there are many later comers to Heywood not included. It may be that a few have been over looked, for which I hope to be excused and forgiven. It would be very interesting if some deserving people would send in their claims for inclusion in the list.