…it is not very good for sheep, and it is bad work to shepherd them, the ground being far from level, the ranges are high and the gullies short and deep, and it is bad work to follow the sheep up and down these ranges…
The area covered by Glen Ard station is considered to have been a part of the leasehold associated with John Bear’s extensive New Leicester run. In February 1845, Patrick Reid of Hazel Glen stated that Bear’s run included ‘two miles of river frontage on the Plenty River plus several miles on the Diamond Creek.’ At the time of his death in 1851, John Bear was ‘in possession of no less than 29 (640 acre) sections within the settled district’. The view to the north from Glen Ard overlooks the headwaters of the north branch of the Diamond Creek (Arthurs Creek) and the rounded hump of what was referred to as Bear’s Sugarloaf.
A patch of level ground to the east of the Glen Ard Cool Stores is said to be the site of the hut owned by Richard George McLelland, who in 1851 was described as ‘a comfortable settler on the Diamond Creek’ running a flock of some 1100 sheep. The bark settler’s hut was burnt in the disastrous bush fires of Black Thursday, February 6, 1851, with the tragic loss of his wife Bridget and their five children.
The property was afterwards occupied by the Smith Brothers, John, Duncan and Angus, who, between 1851 and 1864, held a pastoral licence for the Glen Ard run on the upper Arthurs Creek. Further upstream from the hut site, a few bricks and stones remain from the original Smith Brother’s homestead and yards, which were built close to the southern bank of the creek.
On February 8 1854, Angus Smith wrote in a letter to his cousin Finlay McGillivray of Nairn, Scotland – ‘Our run is within the Settled Districts. We hold a licence from the Government. We may keep it as long as we choose provided the ground will not be sold, which is not likely to be done here very soon. It is not very good for sheep, and it is bad work to shepherd them, the ground being far from level, the ranges are high and the gullies short and deep, and it is bad work to follow the sheep up and down these ranges.’… ‘As soon as we dispose of the sheep we mean to turn our attention to something else. Though we mean to keep the place at least till we are able to have it restocked, we do not mean to remain all here. One of us must be obliged to remain. What we may turn to is not certain yet. There are good wages given for every sort of employment.’…‘John MacGillivray is giving up the place he took close to us, he found he could not make anything of it, he has not engaged in anything else yet.’
Angus subsequently earned his living as a school teacher.‘Before his death (in 1858) Patrick Reid (of ‘Hazel Glen’) engaged Angus Smith, the youngest of the three brothers of Glen Ard to teach the younger members of his family.’ In 1867 Angus and his wife Barbara took up positions as school teacher and sewing mistress respectively at the new Hazel Glen School. Barbara died in 1888 and Angus, ‘of Hazel Glen’, in 1892. Both are buried in the Arthurs Creek Cemetery alongside the grave of brothers John and Duncan.
The upper Arthurs Creek area was some of the last land in the district to be taken up by selectors under the various Land Acts, commencing with the Duffy Land Act of 1862. John Smith was able to select the Glen Ard homestead block and Duncan Smith land further upstream. Angus and Alexander McDonald selected the adjoining block to the east of Glen Ard. The Smith brothers’ life as selectors involved a number of years of struggle. John, ‘late of Glenard Station, native of Invernesshire’, died in 1871 at the age of 56. In 1885, Duncan sold his selection to John Mann jr., who named it ‘Violet Glen’ after his mother. Duncan died in 1890 at age 72.
In 1894, George and Isabella Apted commenced fruit growing on ‘a rather steep and difficult block’ at Nutfield. This was later supplemented with a poultry farm. In 1902 they purchased a bush block of 315 acres, from William Grimshaw, covering the slopes to the south of Glen Ard. The block was used for grazing cattle under the brand IA. The forfeited Clark selection of 234 acres, adjoining the Grimshaw block, was purchased from the crown in 1904. Timber cutting for firewood and building materials was widespread in the district at this time.
In 1906, George purchased Crown allotment no. 1 in the Parish of Queenstown, the former 172 acre homestead block of Glen Ard station. This land, ‘purchased from the bank’, included the ruins of the Smith homestead and yards, the remains of a saw mill and two existing orchards planted along the creek flats by Jack Cherry and the McDonald brothers. Extensive clearing was undertaken to prepare additional land for cultivation. A fruit tree nursery was established and successive plantings commenced in about 1908 to extend the existing orchards. The Hempel orchards on the downstream side of Glen Ard were purchased in 1914. Shortly after purchasing this property there was a severe frost resulting in a difficult year with no fruit for sale.
The Nutfield property was eventually sold. Between 1912 and 1920, the Apted family relocated in stages from ‘Meadvale’ at Nutfield to Glen Ard on the upper Arthurs Creek. George Apted, an experienced carpenter and builder, constructed a fine Victorian style weatherboard house on the Glen Ard property in about 1913. In 1916, a cool store was erected nearby. Originally apples, pears and stone fruits were grown. A licence to pump water from the Arthurs Creek for irrigation of the orchards, was first granted in 1926.
Today (July 2006) at Glen Ard there are about 140 acres under apples and pears. The Glen Ard orchards are a focal point for the district and one of the few remaining large orchards close to Melbourne.
Source : Notes from the Apted family provided by Lindsay and Edith Apted.