On the council

James Lerk | Bendigo Weekly | 31-Aug-2017

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The Strathfieldsaye Shire had three main sources of revenue from its ratepayers in the late 1890s, fruit and vine growing, mixed agriculture and gold mining.

Strathfieldsaye fruit was being sold in the markets of Europe, with local growers being awarded for the quality of what was offered. 

Strathfieldsaye wines were considered to be among the best and compared more than favourably with those from France and Germany.

British capital had been secured for developing a number of mines at Diamond Hill, part of the Strathfieldsaye Shire, in the Mandurang Riding of which Herbert Keck had been elected as the council representative.

It was a huge achievement on the part of two men who had managed against immense competition from the Western Australian Goldfields and those of the Rand in South Africa to bring capital to the shire for the mines there. 

The two men responsible for securing this elusive investment money were Louis August Samuels, a former president of the shire, and Henry John Etherington. 

Both these mining entrepreneurs and their important role have been much neglected by Bendigo historians.

WG Blackham, a prominent local mining investor and company director wrote to the shire pointing out that there were many people who were marking out residence areas around the Faugh Ballagh area and towards Dead Dog Gully, now renamed Autumn Gully. 

A “residence area” was a quarter acre of land that could be marked out and then occupied by any holder of a miners’ right.

Many houses on the goldfields in former times were constructed on residence areas, which were a very economical way of obtaining land to build on, a nominal rent was paid for the privilege.

The Extended Red White and Blue Gold Mining Company which WG Blackham represented, drew the attention of the councillors and the council administration to the fact that his company was about to be hemmed in by these residence areas. 

Mr Blackham was concerned that access to the mine may become impossible with the large numbers of residence areas having been taken up. 

It was important for the council to have a road proclaimed that would run from the Back Creek (Quarry Hill) Cemetery all the way to Dead Dog Gully – now known as Masefield Street.

In mid 1899, Councillor Herbert Keck with the council’s Clerk of Works Mr Brennan had ridden over the ground in question and worked out a route for the yet to be proclaimed road. 

Back at the council table Cr Keck moved to have the road protected and then proclaimed. 

Mr Blackham and his fellow directors of the Extended Red White and Blue were grateful for the council’s action. Those who know Masefield Street would be aware of its tortuous route.

One Tree Hill was in the Strathfieldsaye Shire, councillor Richard HS Abbott lived on Tannery Lane, the hill was behind his property. 

Cr Abbott wished the council to take some action in respect of “the tree” on One Tree Hill as it was dead, and should be replaced. He thought that the tree should be an exotic and therefore be more attractive than the natural vegetation growing over the area.

Cr William J Lowndes was a man ahead of his time, he along with Herbert Keck thought that the native eucalypts were best suited to grow on the top of the hill. 

It was agreed that a single existing tree should be selected and protected so that it could grow to full maturity and therefore “preserve the individuality of the place”. 

Herbert Keck along with a council officer were to go to the top of One Tree Hill and select the most suitable tree.

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