Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The new Duck Holes School

The plan above shows the Duck Holes Hotel on the Lancefield Rd, to the right of the image. The "New school house" (written upside down on the plan) is on the other side of the Duck Holes Creek, to the left of the hotel.  VPRS 61/P0/1848.
Duck Holes was a tiny settlement on the Lancefield Rd in the Parish of Monegeetta in Victoria. The growing number of children needing an education prompted locals to set up a Church of England School. In 1861 they wrote to the Denominational Schools Board seeking a salary for the teacher. At this time the school was already being conducted in a private home, but a new school house would be completed within two to three weeks. The application included a list of students and a drawing of the school and surrounds (shown above), as required. The teacher salary was granted. Bob Mackay, a friend of mine, was doing a trawl through the Denominational Schools Board correspondence at PROV, and as was his usual practice, ran his eye over the list of pupils - and spotted a surname he recalled as being of interest to me - Hitchman.
Denominational Schools Board, Inwards Registered Correspondence, VPRS 61/P0/ 1848.  Application for funding for a teachers' salary, 1 July 1861.

Among the 54 children listed were James Hitchman, 9 and Catherine Hitchman, 7, both C of E. (So the flirtation with the Catholic Church had come to an end, apparently.) Their ages were somewhat inflated, perhaps deliberately. James would have been 8, and Catherine 5. After our last sighting of the Hitchmans, the baptism of Catherine in March 1856, which may have been in Coburg, or more likely Donnybrook, the family had moved on to Duck Holes, which is on the Lancefield Rd, on the way to Romsey. It is now known as Monegeetta. This is north west of Donnybrook, and well off their usual haunt along the old Sydney Road. The next sighting of the Hitchmans after Duck Holes was Wangaratta where Ann Hitchman was born circa 1862-63, according to her death registration in NSW in 1868. In 1875 the Postmaster General started a program to re-name what he considered inappropriate names of post offices around Victoria, considering they were instituted by 'rowdy diggers'. He wanted them replaced with indigenous names, and so the startling Duck Holes Post Office was renamed Monegatta, and later Monegeetta North. The school likewise changed its name, but the Duck Holes Hotel stuck it out and retained the name which amused the settlers. 

The 1859 Duck Holes Hotel, 2015. The farmer on whose land the hotel stands covered the hotel in corrugated iron some years ago for the safety of his children.  Courtesy of Margaret Fleming.

There is not a lot left now at Monegeetta, the former Duck Holes. Miraculously the Duck Holes Hotel built in 1859, has survived to this day, though no longer operating. I think we would be safe in saying that James Hitchman senior had a cooling ale on his way home from work and 'never ever ever got rollin' drunk'.  (Probably).

Duck Holes Rd crossing Duck Holes Creek in 2015.  Courtesy of Margaret Fleming.

The Duck Holes Hotel was built in 1859, but the earliest known licence was from  1862. The school, established as a Church of England Denominational School, first applied for government funding for a teachers' salary in July 1861, but it was already operating in a private house by that time.  The application, made by the Rev John B Stair of Broadmeadows,  explained that a 30 X 15 feet  schoolroom was in the course of construction.   The hotel and the nearby school became the central point for community activity.

Duck Holes Hotel, Argus 11 Apr 1868

The name Duck Holes was given to the area owing to the ducks attracted to the crabholes and ponds which formed the Duck Holes Creek. 

When the government defunded Denominational Schools in 1863, forcing many of them to close, schools that were more than two miles from an existing government school continued on as Common Schools. Duck Holes School survived because the nearest school was Bolinda, four miles away.  Duck Holes then acquired the number 201.  It was later renamed Monegeetta North.

Margaret Fleming (who supplied photos and information about Duck Holes) and I met as volunteers at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria some 160 years after our great grandfathers went to school together at Duck Holes. 

Pioneer brothers: Henry and John Muller: their heritage and descendants, 1715 -2015, by Margaret Fleming and Marie Dickson, 2015.  
PROV:  VPRS 61/P0/1848.
Wikipedia:  Monegeetta, Victoria.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Flirting with Catholicism? Hitchman children baptised at St Paul's Catholic Church, Coburg

The above image has a logo on the lower right side for the Victorian Places website, but the photo is no longer on that website. It is now located on St Paul's Catholic Church Parish website
Family legend has it that the first of James Hitchman and Elizabeth Rochester's children were born at Donnybrook, which seems to have been beyond the reach of the Registrar General of Births Deaths and Marriages, so none of them were registered. However, it appears that the first three were baptised into the fold of St Paul's Catholic Church, Coburg. This was a real departure for them, because in most other respects they were members of the Anglican Church - though we do remember they were married in the Free Presbyterian Church in Melbourne in 1853. The question in my mind is whether they were actually active members of that parish, or whether a keen priest on horseback pursued little heathens with a baptismal register in his saddlebag? The fact that there were three baptisms over five years does suggest a bit more intent. All three of them were baptised by Father Charles O'Hea. My grandmother actually told me that her father, James Hitchman junior, had been baptised in a Catholic Church, which she explained away by virtue of the baby being born sickly so they took him to the nearest church, which happened to be Catholic, to have him baptised. However, that doesn't explain the other two baptisms, and now strikes me as more of a cover story to explain perhaps the discovery of a Catholic baptismal certificate in the house (though not by me!) Catholic baptisms don't include the "abode" of the family, but they do include the names of the sponsors, so this might be a means of working out where they were living. For young James, in 1855, the sponsors were James Slater and Mary Pender. For Catherine, in 1856, the sponsors were Michael Kennedy and Mary Ann Campbell. For Elizabeth the sponsors were Bryan Cumming and Alice Cumming.
Thus far I have determined that James Slater had a child born in Yan Yean in 1855, Michael Kennedy had a child born at Donnybrook in 1864 and Mary Ann Campbell lived at Campbellfield. The only thing I can conclude from that is that it doesn't seem as if they were living near Coburg. If they were the same people, which is not certain.
A section of the old Hume Highway showing a warning sign approaching Pretty Sally, from the Kilmore side. This long and dangerous hill was north of Donnybrook. Note the old post and rail fence to the left side of the image. Taken in 1929 by the Country Roads Board, part of the Public Records Office of Victoria Collection, VPRS 17684 P0003.
It may be possible that the families travelled to St Paul's to have their children baptised, but I think the unmade road would tend to discourage people from heading towards Melbourne on a casual basis. A baptism might have been significant enough, though if the priest was willing to come to them, I suspect that would be the best option for them.
Thank you to Maureen Doyle who assisted me with information from the St Paul's Baptismal register.

UPDATE: A useful blog post from the State Library of Victoria reveals that Canvas Town existed from 1852 until a notice that it was to be closed by the end of March 1854. Whether it actually closed on that date is undisclosed for the moment, but certainly it would appear to have been shutdown before James Hitchman's baptism in 1855, so the story about where he was born is shown to be unreliable. 


Monday, July 13, 2020

Flagstaff Boarding House

The Flagstaff Boarding house was at 126 Little Bourke St, East, just around the corner from King St, in the vicinity of the red circle. This 1855 map of Melbourne by James Kearney can be seen in its entirety at the State Library of Victoria:

The day after the marriage of James Hitchman and Susan Rochester, an advertisement seeking James was published in The Argus.
If this should meet the eye of James Hitchman of Keilor, his brother wishes to see him at the Flagstaff Boarding House, King st, Melbourne.The Argus 22 December 1853.
Perhaps a message could be left there, or his brother, most likely Richard, might be staying there, just before Christmas. So, we want to know just where this boarding house was situated, and what sort of establishment it was. 
RESPECTABLE Board and Residence, 27s. per week,
Flagstaff Boarding House, 126 Little Bourke street
west, two doors from King street. 

Advertising (1855, April 17). The Age
(Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 1.
A young lady who wished to work for a respectable dressmaker resided at the boarding house in the same year:

The Argus, 30 June 1853, p 1.

The landlord of the boarding establishment was possibly Mr Patrick Healey.

Advertising (1853, August 2). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 1.

RESPECTABLE Board and Residence, 27s. per week,
Flagstaff Boarding House, 126 Little Bourke street
west, two doors from King street. 

Advertising (1855, April 17). The Age
(Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 1.

There was a shop advertised with the house back in 1853, and in 1855 we find the shop is advertising roasted coffee (see, Coffee Culture well into Melbourne by 1855.)

Advertising (1855, July 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 8.

Very likely D Walton sold anything he could buy at a good price at the docks.  In the following case, Flour of Sulphur.  Various explanations of the use of flour of sulphur do not inspire one with comfort in terms of its safety.  In this instance it could have been used as an insecticide, and we hope not stored too closely to the coffee.

Advertising (1855, September 29). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 1.

Advertising (1855, December 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 1.

Whether the whole of 126 Little Bourke Street had been turned over for a domestic residence, or whether Mr Coughlin and wife were boarders at a still-operating Boarding House is not clear, but the next few notices were for domestic in nature. 

Family Notices (1856, February 29). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 8.

Advertising (1856, April 29). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 1. 

The tiny house at 126 Little Bourke Street continued on in the annals of Melbourne for many years. 

But to return to the question of whether the 'brother' enquiring after James Hitchman was his brother Richard, we have one other tiny piece of evidence  - which at the very least implies he was in Melbourne.

1855 'No. 23. General Post Office, Melbourne.', The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), 9 July, p. 6.,

In this list of letters detained at the GPO for the payment of sea postage was a letter for 'R Hitchman', so we may assume that Richard Hitchman was in Melbourne, or had been in Melbourne prior to the date of 9 July 1855.