This post continues the transcription of the family history of the Edwards family at Charlton, Victoria, compiled by Frederick James Edwards (1884 – 1974). Charlton is in north-central Victoria in the east Wimmera. F.J. Edwards was Greg’s first cousin three times removed.


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When the over all gold [alluvial gold] was booming, the squatters’ drovers became restless and left to go gold digging, and the squatters in desperation imported Chinese by the thousand, at one time 100,000 Chinese were here and they also left for the gold. They were paid by the squatters per month and keep. The pastoralists advertised In China and the Chinese paid £3 boat fare and brought their own food.

In 1862 the bill was passed to open up the land and started the selected going north. And in 1874 with his brother Thomas and a little money saved, James came to Charlton and pegged out two 320 acre blocks adjoining making the square mile. An Act passed in 1862 allowed a selector only 320 acres at £1 per acre with conditions such as, the selectors had to build, fence and clear with 10 years to pay off, which the selectors could not do, and the payment was extended from time to time.

The parish plan showing the two blocks selected by James and Thomas Edwards near Charlton
The land at Charlton in June 2021

James Edwards went back to Geelong after selecting land in Charlton and married Elizabeth Ann Nicholas on 29th December 1874 and started making preparations to come to Charlton. They got together 4 horses, a buggy, a light wagon and bare necessaries and started off in the late autumn of 1875. It took two weeks to arrive at Charlton and heavy rain slowed the travel,  it took three days to go from Charlton to the selection 12 miles out. It was a big trial especially for James Edwards’ young wife who had not been out of Geelong, she had known her husband quite a few years. She had three brothers and one sister Ellen, who married a Shire Secretary at Wagga and lived there all her life and reared a big family. Her own mother corresponded regularly and I remember how the letters were looked forward to. Our mother was a stout strong woman, as her father who, tradition says held the belt for wrestling In Cornwall.

The coming to Charlton, and the prospect of a home, allowed them to look forward to their future life. Her parents said to her when leaving, in 10 years you ought to be able to retire back to Geelong, little did they know the hardships of Pioneers. The first job after arriving at the selection was to build a home, which consisted of logs and mud, the roof was the tent and the house consisted of one room. With improvements to this they lived there three years, and during that three years they were building the home which we know. There were plenty of straight pine trees which were stood up 3 feet apart with slabs across and filled with mud.

I have often heard our mother say how lovely it was to get into this new house, bark of a big tree and flattened with weight was used a lot for roofing. A poem by Tom Murphy would fit in here

Wattle and Dab formed the walls of the hut
From gumsucker saplings the highbeams were cut
And the roof over the heads of my parents and I
Was the bark of a box from the gully near by
The furniture crude in the old fashioned shack
Was the pine from the pine ridge a mile or so back
And the hole still remains not far from the door
Where they puddled the clay for the old earthern floor
The flesh of the roo for mutton did pass
And faces were washed in the dew laden grass
This beautiful towel was the bright morning sun
And the moon gave them light when the daylight was done
Our porridge a corn twint, the wheat and the oat
Whilst we coloured our tea with the milk from the goat
But although they were days of trials and fears
They but used them as steps did our old pioneers.

Our mother was a wonderful woman and took her part in the pioneering of the district. A little woman named Jane Prichard came up with her and stayed with her for 10 years, a grand little woman. The first 10 years being the hardest for the pioneers. Our mother’s first born arrived in November 1875. She journed to her old home in Geelong for the event, the rest of her family were born at ‘Lamorna’. Ada the second girl was born in the tent, there was quite a big population coming there by that time, and a few of the old women acted as maternity sisters and the friendships in the District was a wonderful help to those old pioneers.

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The Narrewillock school had 60 on the rolls and the families of those old pioneers always had 8 to 10 children, in fact 3 families adjoining us had 13 children. Within a few miles of our parents home there were a dozen big families, amongst the neighbours were the Douglass family of 12 only 1/2  mile away. Alec Coote, W. Coote and Tom Coote, O’Callaghan, O’Mearers, William, and a few others, all good neighbours and would all help one another.

For the first 10 years clearing the land carting water, and sinking storages was the big worry, the years 1875 to 1907.

The dingo gave them a worry, I have heard our father speak of the last dingo shot, he hid in a big bush one bright moonlight, expecting the old man dingo he came back to the kill of the night before and shot him. His 4 paws and tail were hanging up in the barn for many years. Kangaroos and Emus were all gone and driven back by 1880. About the early 80’s the rabbits put in their appearance, our father came home excited one day with a young rabbit and in a few years there was a plague of them. I caught the first fox in about 1890 with the sheep dogs. That was their first appearance and of course that pest will be always here now. The Shire gave a bonus of £1 a scalp and I got the £1 for the skin we kept for many years.

The native wild life that was on the Lamorna farm In the 1870s are now gone. Kangaroo, Emu, Native Cat, Wood mice, Curleu, Woodpecker, Ground Pluver, Chatterona Brown Bird, twice the size of a starling. The fox, rabbits and house cats, gone wild, are responsible for their disappearance.

Schooling for myself and four sisters was at Narrewillock five miles from home, the school had a few rooms attached, and an old man lived there named Brightwell, he kept the  Post Office. Our eldest sisters did all their schooling there, later there was a school built one mile away from home called Hallam school, myself and youngest sister went mostly to this school. All walking was the order of the day. A teacher called Os Derrick stayed at Hallam four years and this was really the only schooling I received. Our parents lost one of the family, a girl they called Mary Beatrice who died of quinsy in 1880 which was a heavy blow to our parents. Two of the biggest worries was the shortage of water and money, and carting water was a constant job and sometimes from the Avoca River 7 miles. This worry was not realised [relieved] till 1921 the year I tapped the Marmal Creek and filled our dam, when the creek ran in the winter time. This creek ran eight years out of ten, the farmers are now served by a channel from Lake Lonsdale, in 1948.

On the 640 acres there were two patches of about forty acres without trees and these patches got more than their share of cropping, as the clearing of this was a big job. Our father bought a mower with two horses to pull in 1877 and a little peg drum thrasher to thrash the barley, and in about 1882 bought a stripper and winnow from South Australia which was wonderful in those days.

This type of stripper was used till the turn of the century. Our father bought the first H. V. McKay harvester in 1906 and from then on harvesting became much easier.

Advertisement for H.V. McKay, Sunshine Harvester Works in Sunshine, Victoria about 1911. This image appeared in The Leader (Melbourne) on 11 March 1911, page 31 with the caption “Young Australia at work; 500 bags of wheat harvested, unaided, by the Sunshine Harvester in a week by two boys, aged 12 and 13 years, sons of Mr. James Murphy, Sale.” This image retrieved from Flickr but the original source not given.
HV McKay Harvester at Campaspe Run Rural Discovery Centre, Elmore, Victoria, Australia. Photograph by User GTHO retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

The horses named Darling and Jess were two good mares, they bred from them and their breeding was carried through right to the time the horses were discarded on the farms in about 1935, some farmers favoured horses earlier and some later. The prices for grain were too low for the farmers to prosper, the prices were controlled by spectator [speculators] being about 2/6 for wheat and as low as 1/- for oats, lambs 10/-. On less [Unless]  a compulsory pool was established in 1916 but still no price fixed. In 1928 the Wheat Growers Association was formed  which I was a foundation and executive member and from then on we gradually took control. The stabiliasion [stabilisation] scheme has been paying 12/- for quite a few years. I stayed on the State Council of the Victorian Wheat Growers Assoc. for five years and for the work and enthusiasm I put into the Association in the pioneering days, the Association at the Annual Conference in 1964, I was made a life member.

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The season in this part of Victoria was uncertain, sometimes a very wet year and sometimes a drought. 1902 was the big drought and the next year 22 inches of rain. The big drought that I remember was 1902, 1914, 1920, 1929, 1940, 1944. I Frederick James took over the control of the farm in 1907. Nell the eldest married in 1902 to J. Findlay. Ada was music teaching in Ararat and Jean the youngest sister was with her, and Beatrice married P. Toose in 1909. I married in 1910 and had our 5 children there and for a while drove them to Narrewillock school but in March 1920 bought this house in Charlton and have lived there ever since. My wife Anne died 9th January 1963. Our family all turned out well they were all big, strong and good sports. Gwen (4 daughters) now Mrs. Richards, Bob married Joyce Parker (3 daughters) and is now at Beaumaris, Freda (1 son &  1 daughter) now Mrs. Piccoli and is now at Barraport. Joyce with two sons is on the farm, Nan (2 daughters) now Mrs. Nagel and lives at Black Rock.

The following is from my father James Edwards Diary.

1874. Met the surveyor from St. Arnaud and pegged out the two blocks at Narrewillock, the ground looks good plenty of grass but no water. I was married on 29th December 1874.

1875. Spent a few months in preparation in coming to Charlton, left Bullarook on 22nd May having lived there 14 years. My father has recorded they were very happy there. Arrived at the farm having spent 16 days on the trip. Very wet which made the travelling hard. First child born in November (Nell).

1876. Sowed the first patch of wheat, carting water.

1877. Second child born (Ada) .

1878. Drove to Geelong — one horse and buggy. We shifted to the new house having lived in a tent for 3 years.

1880. Rabbits were in plague proportion. Brought first stripper which proved a success.

1881. Lost two fingers, a sad event. Father suffered severely and was in St. Arnaud hospital for awhile.

1882. Started a Sunday school at Narrewillock which he kept on for 25 years.

1883. Shortage of water is causing hardship, sold 150 sheep 7/-.

1884 Received £11/7/3 as fathers share of Will B. Gilbart (London).

1885. Very bad year, 167 bags (4 bushels) total cheque £115/11/11.

1886. Another bad year 94 bags from 150 acres. Sold 61 bags for £34/19/6.

1887. First plague of Locusts.

1888. Sold 220 bags wheat price 2/10 ½ per bushel. Rev. Kirkwood started preaching at Narrewillock, he stayed there 20 years. Bought 125 sheep at 6/5d. , wheat price this year 1/9d.

1891. Sent two trucks of sheep and lambs to Melbourne, price £87/5/- for 226 sheep.

1892. Later sent 165 lambs to Melbourne, cheque £54/4/10. Bought stripper and winmower, the winmower is still at the farm. Bought cow and calf for £3.

1893. Sold 163 bags for 1/9 a bushel some at 1/7 ½, sold 115 bags oats @ 6 ½ d.

1896. Wheat price rose to 4/6 ½.  696 sheep were shorn, shearing cheque £5/2/- for shearers.

1897. Sent 130 lambs to Melbourne, cheque £41/1 2/10.

1898. Rented Howards 1200 acres for 3 years, £150 per year, this land is held now by Hillard, Blair, McGurk and L. Douglass.

1900. Ordered first seed drill, Massey Harris £45.

1901. Very dry, carting water takes the whole time.

1902. The first big drought, practically no rain for the year, horses went to Lang Lang and sheep sold, this from now on is  written by F.J. Edwards.

1903. The year was good and from now on the farming system very much improved.

1905. We bought a H.V. McKay harvester which made harvesting from now on much easier.

1907. [1908] Uncle Tom died, he had been a great help mate to father all his life  – age 81

1908. Our mother died, she had been in Ararat with Ada, but came home when she became sick –  age 65.

1909. Sister Beatrice married P. Toose

1910. Myself married to Annie Morcon of Bendigo.

1914. Another drought, no wheat, the first big war started.

1916. Our father died this year aged 81 both he and our mother are buried in Terrappee cemetery.

1920. Been having good seasons, my wife and self bought our home in Charlton, we have five of our family.

1921. I sank the big dam at the farm 9000 yds it took three five horse teams about three months, a big job.

1925. Ken McPherson took wheat growing on the shares, he and his wife stayed five years.

1929. Another drought, sent 24 horses to Tatura on swamp country, Gerald Buckley property, stayed 6 months.

1930. The Wheat Growers Association was formed this year the first big move to organise the wheat growers as a foundation member. I stayed on the State Council five years. The next ten years was the depression years, fair seasons but low prices.

1931. Bob 21 was now working the farm, I made over Pratts and Howards 560 acres to him.

1941. Son Bob married and built the new home at the farm, costing about £3,000.

1944. Very bad drought, Bob Edwards took over the full management and bought O’Mearers land 500 acres @ £7 per acre.

1948. Bob bought 2,000 acre property at Ballan and left the farm.

1949. Joyce and Bob Chambers left the Bank and gradually took over the whole farm, bought Bob Edwards’ land for £20  per acre.

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1963. 9th January mother died and is buried in Terrappee Cemetery, her passing has left a blank in the family.

1964. Another good season, the Chambers have two good boys, one 19 and the other 13, these boys should and I think will carry on and uphold the tradition of the Pioneers, and who will carry on the farm at Narrewillock.

I am now 80 years.


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