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THE GAEDEtf OF THE
THE LAST OF MOORAK.
Tho sub-division of the.lost portion of the Moorak estate has been effected, anil residents of Mount Gambier are jubilant that it is so. Individuals, of course, are not satisfied with the allotments made by the I.and Board, but this is not to be wondered at, seeing that the deserving ap- plicants greatly exceeded the number of block* available. Some disappointed ap- plicants claim that the first preference should be given to married men wich fami- lies, or practical producers, who have no land of their own. These men call atten- tion to the allotment of a valuable block to a septuagenarian widower, and the be j »towoi o'f another, without any persona? . residence restriction; upon a settler living 118 miles away. Without knowing what ' the_ evidence was that guided the board in
their decision, one cannot say whether they . have erred in these cases. For example, I the aged man referred to will have, no
¡chance of paying for his block unless he \ lives to be over a hundred, but lie has a
son with a poor selection, which might possibly be worked in conjunction. It is a matter for regret that so many months passed after purchase, before the allottees got their chance to shoulder their burden
of_ financial responsibility. Ii has been
said that a Government department is never in a hurry, and it certainly seems as if there is some foundation for the state- ment. Although the property has been held by the Government for months, at the time of mv visit, the settlers Jound that on most blocks they had either to sink expensive wells and erect windmills, or Ht down and wait till the Government evtend the reticulation fom the Blue Lake pumping plant. Naturally mese men do not care to face an expenditure on a water supply, which would be rendered wasteful when the authorities <*arry into effect their promise to run main' through the properties-but thev are sti'l I .-.si n g money in waiting for the ccnvenincce. At the time of mv visit, luxuriant grass was
waving 3 ft. high over some of the blocks,. and provided a good cut of grass hay, or |
ample feed. Belts of pme trees wer«
, planted along the boundaries <*f portions | i of the estate, and these had attained such
splendid ¡iropo.-iins. that t'*iey m «-re re-1 served for the Forestry Department for | cutting into box timo;r. It is doubtless 'commendable enterprise to turn the beau-
tiful rows of trees into a source of profit, i ¡but it is v*i:h-r fnrei.Mi. on the ether hand, '
to finely the Forestry Department refusing «ot'Uers' requt-.i,;s to buy a few trees- to be allowed eo stand a«; wind breaks and shelter cn the land for which lhev have" got to pay. One allottee «iisired to have half a dozen such trees reserved, but his request was refused. It will take him at least 30 years to grow such fiue and suit- able specimens.
An Historic Estate.
The passing of Moorak as an estate is reirretteil bv the sentimental as the de- struction of a visible link between the present and the past. Jts hfctory « com- paratively recent, vet it is full of old time memories. The romantic idea, of Australian station life was closely fulfilled by Moorak in its early days. Thousan'ls of kangaroos, wallabies, opossums, and other marsupials, and emus and wild cats, found ideal conditions on the grassy plains or the bracken-clad rises and gullies, from which towered white gum trees, diversiiiud by the dw,arfer growth of blackwood, wattles, honeybuckle, and cherry. Li the lighter country to the south-wesc stringy- bark aboundeel.. Through all this country native birds were plentiful, and aboriginals of the Bo'undik tribe roamed conlentjdly over tracts that for them literally Unwed with milk and honey. Times have cliangeel. scones have changed, and to-day the whole aspect of the country has been altered. The blacks anel the native game-wipoil out by civilizing influence«-were replaced by pastoral interests, and these in turn have been wiped out by closer settle-
The liistory of the estate was closely sketched in the '"Border Watch" some months ago. Moorak, as a stock run, is believed* to be 20 years older than Mount Gambier. In 50 years the town has de- veloped from a few straggling huts to a
modern place of 5,000 residents, but ita j
expansion was held back bv the existence of Moorak, locking up 15,000 acres of the finest agricultural land in the State as a sheep and cattle run. That reproach has been removed. The first' occupation of Moorak or Mount Gambier station, as it was first called, is ascribed to Mr. Edward Henty, of Muntham (Victoria). tOne of his stockmen, Jas. Smeed, an ex-convict from Victoria, is alleged to have seen the dim bluish outline of Mount Gambier from one of the hills near Casterton, on a fine sum- mer's day. His employer, after investiga- tion through Smeed and- Frost, took up
the- land under license from the New Sonth i Wales Government about 1836 or 1837. and brought over a mob of cattle. He either abandoned or forfeited the lease when the boundary line between New South Wales and South Australia was defined in 1839. The next owner of Moorak was reputed to be Mr. E. P. Sturt, afterwards police
magistrate in Melbourne, who held it from I the South Australian Government, and I
sold portion! to Mr. -T. C. Hunter, and tlie remainder to Mr. W. Mitchell. Mr. W. B. Crouch, whose late father was the pio- neer storekeeper of Mount Gambier,
members the statement of his father tliat the tenure of Mitchell was a short one, and that it was on his Victorian property that Henry- Kingsley wrote the famous Australian novel "Geoffrey Hamlyn."' He told' the "Watch" "Mitchell sold the sta- tion at Mount Gambier to David- Power, who acquired the freehold, of the land. My father told me that tlie price paid- to the Crown was £2,000 the square mile." Mr. Power increased his estate by purchases of adjoining land.. Some of these addi- tional blocks were originally granted by Go- vernor Robe, to Messrs. Geo. F. Angas, Hy. Kingscote, and Ja«. B. Todd, of the S.A. Land Purchase Company, at a price of £30 1/ per section. During Power's proprie- tors-hip the foundation of the town of Mount Gambier was hud by the .late Mr. Alexander Mitchell, who had bought two sections of land from Sturt at £2 per acre, and another from Power at £5 per acre. The later price was re- garded as outrageous, although it was not such a great; advance upon the £3 odd re- ported to have been paid by Power to the Government . In 1855 Mr. Mitchell sur- veyed the town on sections' 1100 and 1103, hundred of Blanche. To-day the munici- pality of Mount Gambier contains 2,048
acres, inclusive of the late forest re- serve, and the assessment for ' 1909 was £24,973 10/-a remarkable advance.
Some Later History.
There is; a discrepancy in the statements made concerning the ownership of Moorak in the early sixties, but it is said that Mt. Power sold out to Messrs. Fisher & Roche
fort very early in 1860, and later in the 1 year they sold to Dr. Browne. Others, j arrain, claim that after the Hentys carne! the Churn'sides, of Emu Creek. Victoria. | who sold in turn to Mr. Power, who parted with his interest to Messrs. W. J. & J. H.
Browne in 1862. This seems to be the j most acceptable view, although there is no i reason to doubt that small portions that were incorporated in the estate had at dif- ¡ ferent periods belonged to gentlemen like ' Mr. John Ellis, of Benara, and others, in any case, it is clear that Mr. W. J. Browne settled on the estate in 1863 with hw wife and family, and- in 1866, after changing its name to '"Moorak." an aboriginal name meaning "mountain," he left for longland with his family, leaving the late Mr. 1'hos. Williams as manager. During this period Lincoln sheep were sent from England to form a s-tiid. and also for mating with Iloo boorowie Merinos. English grasses were established in the pastures, a stud of Short- horn cattle was bred up,< and the reputa- tion of the property for quality, stock, and
natural fertility, became widely known. Kangaroos in tho early sixties were so plen- tiful that in one battue 5,000 were killed on the Moorak and the adjacent Benara es- tate. Hunters decimated them, and tliey were replaced as a pest towards the end ol the decade by the rabbits, which were largely kept m check bv the use of wire netting. In 1871 Mr. " vV. J. Browne be- came sole owner, and he introduced a sys- tem in 1SS3 of letting anaiuall.v for ten montli» 800 to 000 acres of the most fertile land for potato-growing. The leases were sold by auction, netting up to £4 per acre. The system was continued till 1889. As an absentee landlord Mr. Browne paid several visits to tho estate. He died in England in December. 1894. Two years previously the estate had been transferred to his son, the late Lieutenant-Colonel P. J. Browne,
who remained the owner till the ill-fated ¡
Waratah was lost. During his ownership he sold, inclubive of Woodlands (15,000 acres) and German Creek, 28,000 acres oi land. The first subdivisional sale of Moo- rak was made in March. 1904, when 6,000 acres of the estate, mainly east of the Port MacDonnell main road, were offered. Most of it was sold by auction at prices ranging up to £36 per acre. This land reaches up to the boundary of the Blue Lake on the southern side, and is now dotted with the homes of prosperous set- tlers. The unsold portion of the offering
wes bought by the Government and dis- , posedi of through the land board. The re- ' mainder of the estate, as is well known, | was acquired by the Government and allot- ted within the past few weeks. There were 4,300 acres, and, with the exception of the homestead block, improved by a modern mansion erected about 13 years ago, which is reserved by the Government for public purposes, practically the whole ha*, been allotted to small producers. There ' are still, however. 81 half-acre blocks adja ! cent to ,Commercial-road and 12 larger I blocks, ranging in size from 10 to 92 acres, I awaiting allotment. These will be ga-
zetted this week and will remain open to ; application till Tuesday, December 12. On 1 the allotted portion the majority ot allot-
tees, who are mainly residents of the di* ¡ trict, began fenoing and improving within ' a week of their good fortune being known. The working settlers' blocks, already allot- ted, number 75, ranging from' 19 acres to 98 acres, prices varying trom £11 to £45 per acre. Land at these prices must be worked, and worked systematically, but the new holders have no fear of their future. The. majority pin their faith to dairying. One block was allotted for the specific purpose of use as a centre for the establishment of a co-operative dairying factory. The closer settlement of this area must increase production and assist in mv Eroving the prosperity of the Mount Gam-
THE MOORAK HOMESTEAD.