Horticultural Settlement at Arthurs Creek

Chapter 10

Published Apr, 2012

Looking across ‘Glen Donald’ on the east side of the Arthurs Creek, with the Village Smithy (the Blacksmith's workshop) to the right at the corner of Greens and Arthurs Creek Roads, c 1890s. Photo credit McDonald family

…by the 1880s the Arthurs Creek district became a major source of Melbourne’s fruit supply…

At the close of 2012, it will be 150 years since the arrival of the first selectors to establish a permanent settlement at Arthurs Creek.

The selection acts of the 1860s were the result of pressure to unlock the land held by the squatters. The acts encouraged closer settlement and increased agricultural production, by allowing settlers with limited means to acquire land of their own. Under the Duffy Land Act, which came into force on 10 September 1862, pastoral leases in the Arthurs Creek district were cancelled and the land surveyed and thrown open for selection.

Patrick Reid of ‘Hazel Glen’ held a pre-emptive right to the 640 acre homestead section of the former Stewart Ponds run, which was approved for purchase on 30 April 1852. Other leaseholders residing in the district during the 1850s included the Smith brothers of ‘Glen Ard’ and Archibald Macfarlane of ‘Ardchattan’. The Bear family leased an extensive tract of land to the east of the Plenty River, including sections of Bear’s New Leicester run.

The first selectors at Arthurs Creek were Charles Draper of ‘Charnwood’, ‘then a tenant farmer on the Kangaroo Ground’ and John Ryder, born in Devonshire ‘who was for ten years at the Plenty’. Draper and Ryder were friends and are said to have ‘tossed up for first pick’ of the allotments. Ryder’s selection included the site of the present township. Draper selected adjoining land to the north, with excellent shelter and running water suitable for fruit-growing. He named his selection Charnwood, after the Charnwood Forest area of Leicestershire where he was born.

Draper and Ryder built their homes adjacent to each other on the west side of the Running Creek, near the junction with the Deep Creek and Arthurs Creek. Jim Draper, the third son of Charles and Catherine Draper, was born at Running Creek on 9 January 1863, with Mrs. Jane Ryder acting as midwife.

The Arthurs Creek was named after Henry Arthur, a member of John Batman’s Port Phillip Association who, in about 1836, built a homestead below the Nillumbik Lagoon at Diamond Creek. The local district was initially identified as Linton, from the Parish of Linton, and for many years as Hazel Glen, from the name of the Reid’s original eight square-mile Hazel Glen pastoral run. The timber bridge, which replaced the original log crossing over the Arthurs Creek near John Ryder’s vertical slab dwelling, was known as Ryder’s Bridge.

‘Bruni’, in ‘The Australasian’ of June 1889, wrote in relation to Charnwood, ‘The difficulties in the way of making the new home were many and formidable…It was objected by the land officers that the site was too near Melbourne to be taken up under the act (Duffy Land Act 1862), but that objection was overcome. Taking a bullock dray on to the selection was a most difficult job, and then there was facing the years of hard labour and hard living before there was any possibility of any return…gradually the stubborn forest was subdued, and it was eventually proved that fruit trees would not only grow well, but would produce the finest fruits in this poor looking soil. While this was being done, dairying was carried on to provide the means of subsistence.’

Other settlers followed Charles Draper’s example and planted fruit trees on their selections, with the result that by the 1880s the Arthurs Creek district became a major source of Melbourne’s fruit supply. The Leader, under the heading of ‘The Fruit Crops’ in February 1880, reported that ‘one of the best, and most extensive orchards in the colony is situated a few miles within the county of Evelyn, at Charnwood, near the post town of Hazel Glen, where Mr. Charles Draper selected land among the Plenty Ranges…containing a large extent of alluvial flats, which are found exceedingly well adapted for the growth and productiveness of all the hardier kind of fruits; upwards of 100 acres have been broken up and planted.’

In 1889 it was estimated ‘that in the banks and braes of the Arthur or Diamond Creek and its tributaries, there are now fully 2,000 acres of land planted with fruit trees. Many of these fruit growers got their first trees from Mr. Draper, and still more are adopting his mode of treating their trees.’

Thomas Murphy, a native of County Armagh in Northern Ireland, commenced dairying at Sydney Road, Somerton before selecting land at Arthurs Creek, in 1863. Faced with a shortage of water for his stock, Thomas ‘heard that there was plenty of fresh water flowing from the mountains…at a place called Arthurs Creek.’ Thomas and his eldest son William ‘rode out to have a look and were so impressed that they immediately went to the Lands Department, Melbourne, and selected 80 acres adjacent to C. Draper’s allotment on its north side and the family (of five boys and two girls) all moved out to Arthurs Creek in 1864.’ Thomas and Elizabeth Ann Murphy built their home ‘beside the Deep Creek then a beautiful stream teeming with black fish.’

John and Christina McDonald came from Invernesshire in the Scottish Highlands. Both were Gaelic speakers indented to Captain Aeneas McPherson, ‘manager of Thomas Walker’s estate  along the Plenty River’. The McDonalds lived at Yan Yean before selecting land of their own at Arthurs Creek in 1864. They called their selection ‘Glen Donald’ and built a comfortable home on the east side of the Arthurs Creek for their growing family of five sons and two daughters.

Donald Macmillan, a Gaelic speaker from Breakachy farm in the Parish of Laggan, Invernesshire, arrived in Port Phillip as a widower of age 50 years. He was accompanied by his family of seven children. Donald was indented to Captain McPherson and worked as a shepherd ‘until he paid off his passage money’. He remarried, and had five more children. In about 1866, Donald selected ‘lot 35a of 19 acres or thereabouts’ adjoining John McDonald’s selection on the eastern side of the Arthurs Creek. He moved from Morang to his new home overlooking the alluvial flats of the Arthurs Creek.

In 1866, Alexander Brock of Oak Hill, Preston, selected 188 acres of land above the junction of the Stewart’s Ponds and Arthurs Creeks at Nutfield. He named his property ‘Kirkliston’ after his birth place in Scotland. Richard Bassett, a native of Cornwall, selected land on the south side of Doctor’s Gully Road which he named ‘Tregowan’.

Other early settlers included Pierce Brennan who, in about 1867, selected land along the Running Creek to the north of William Murphy, which he called ‘Fernvale’, and his brother Michael who selected land to the west of the Deep Creek, which he called ‘Pine Hill’. Further upstream, the Macfarlanes were able to retain part of the former Running Creek Station, including the ‘Ardchattan’ homestead block.

In June 1888, Charles Draper was unanimously elected a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria. A subsequent meeting of the society acknowledged the efforts of ‘Mr. C. Draper, who has for many years been actively identified with the progress of horticultural settlement in Victoria and has occupied a prominent position on the committee of management of the society…’ In August 1890, he was appointed a Member of the Board of Horticulture for Victoria and in February 1891, was appointed to the Board of Advice for the management of the Burnley Horticultural Gardens.

On 12 May 1890, at a meeting convened by Charles Draper and chaired by Richard Bassett, the Arthurs Creek Fruit Growers’ Association was formed. Charles Draper was unanimously appointed President, Patrick (P.W.J.) Murphy Secretary and John Herbert Treasurer. Twenty-two members enrolled at the entrance fee of one shilling. Chas. Draper, R. Hempel, W. Draper, J. Draper, Bassett, D. Christian, S. Spicer, P. Murphy, A.J. Macfarlane, P. Green, G. Gray, J. Mann, J. Lodge, O. McDonald, J. McDonald, O. Gray, J. Linton, J.W. Laidlaw, J. Herbert, H. Macmillan, J. Harrison and Jas. Murphy.

In 1894, George and Isabella Apted commenced fruit growing on their ‘Meadvale’ property at Nutfield. The former 172 acre homestead block of ‘Glen Ard’ station was purchased by George Apted in 1906. This land included two existing orchards planted along the creek flats. Extensive clearing was undertaken to prepare additional land for cultivation. Between 1912 and 1920, the Apted family relocated in stages from ‘Meadvale’ at Nutfield to ‘Glen Ard’ on the upper Arthurs Creek. Today, there are about 140 acres under apples and pears at ‘Glen Ard’.

An active community worked together to improve amenities and services for the growing settlement. The old Hazel Glen School in Chapel Lane, built ‘some time before 1867’, served as a district school prior to the opening of the Arthurs Creek State School in January 1876. A Primitive Methodist Church opened for worship in November 1873. In September 1887, a grand concert and ball was held to celebrate the opening of the Mechanics’ Institute and Free Library. A post office was opened at the school in October 1889. In 1899, a purpose built post office and store was opened next to the hall (closed 1972). These and other facilities, including the historic Arthurs Creek Cemetery, former Church of the Irish Martyrs, Ryders Flat Reserve and the Fire Brigade, have provided support for a small rural community living close to Melbourne in the green wedge of the Nillumbik Shire.

Creek near the 'Hazel Glen' homestead in flood. Agnes Reid was sitting under this tree sewing in the 1840’s, it creaked ominously and she ran inside fearing it would fall, but it still stands today. Photo credit Reid family
John Ryder's original dwelling was typical of many in the district and was constructed using slabs and palings from local river gum or stringy bark, and then lined with paper. It was originally adjacent to Charles Draper's 'Charnwood' selection on the Running Creek before it was relocated to the Draper property 'Barton Hill', Arthurs Creek, and used as a kitchen and pantry. Maria Pickard (nee Draper, 1849 - 1925), eldest daughter of Charles and Catherine Draper, is in the foreground. Photo credit James Chester Draper
'Charnwood' Arthurs Creek, 1960's. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
Charles Draper, J.P. (1825 -1909), the author's great-grandfather and a noted horticultural pioneer, he was the first large scale fruit grower in the Arthur’s and Diamond Creek districts. He was a co-founder and long-serving President of the Arthurs Creek Fruitgrowers’ Association. The Arthurs Creek Cemetery gates reference Charles Draper, Chairman of the Trustees for the Linton Cemetery, and James T. Murphy, Secretary of the Arthurs Creek Cemetery Trust. The cemetery underwent three names changes, from Hazel Glen Cemetery, to Linton Cemetery, to Arthurs Creek Cemetery. Photo taken in 1905 when Charles was 80 years old. Photo credit Draper family
Diamond Creek fruit show in the Horticultural Hall in the 1890s. The Arthurs Creek Fruit Growers’ Association and the Diamond Creek Horticultural Society held meetings and demonstrations in the Horticultural Hall. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
Historic view across 'Charnwood' and the Running Creek valley to Mt. Sugarloaf. Photo credit Draper family
Hillary Hewitt with a reversible hillside plough at 'Mt Osborne', 1940
Orchardists attending a demonstration of spraying and materials at Martin Brennan's property, 16th July, 1913. Left to right back row: Joseph Murphy, F.K. Phillips, Con Hildebrand, Martin Brennan, Harry Schultz. Middle row: Harry Christian, George Murphy, Albert Hempel, Dinny Murphy, Otto Muller, David Murphy, A. Muller, J. Brennan, C. Nink. Front row: C.J. Verso, J. Murphy, E.W. Wallis (District Orchard supervisor), Mr Lawry, P.W.J Murphy, George Horne, Jack Nink, W. Brennan. Ground: Harry Limmer, George Brain, C. Lawry, Jack Brennan. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
Gray's cider press at Nutfield. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
'Ardchattan' homestead, 1912. Photo credit Macfarlane family
Cockerell's Forge on the corner of Bridge Inn Road and Plenty Road, Mernda. In rural areas, the local Blacksmith exercised both town and country skills. Great innovation and skill was often shown in the development and manufacture of a diverse range of agricultural equipment able to meet the practical needs of local farmers. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
Richard and Ann Bassett of 'Tregowan’. They donated a piece of land at the corner of Bannon’s Lane North and Doctor’s Gully Road as a site for the Hazelglen Hall. Both died in 1913. Photo credit Bassett family
Family of Richard and Ann Bassett of 'Tregowan', Doreen c 1905. Photo credit Bassett family
John Archibald (1810-1876) and Elizabeth Horton (1815-1899) Macfarlane of 'Ardchattan' with their family c 1860. Photo credit Macfarlane family
Thomas McMillan, maker. Apple model – Winter Majetin, Hazelglen, Victoria, 1875. Wax, pigment. On loan from Museum Victoria. The Technological and Industrial Museum’s economic botany collection recorded and advertised the economic potential of Australia’s agricultural products. Among these were fruit and vegetables. In order to demonstrate Victoria’s capacity in this area of production, and in the absence of colour photography, the museum commissioned wax models of local specimens. Trained model makers, many of whom were women, worked in the museum laboratory making models that documented healthy, diseased and unusual examples of fruit and vegetables. These were placed on permanent display for the education of the general public. This model is of a Winter Majetin, a cooking apple, which was grown by Charles Draper of Hazelglen in 1875 (Hazelglen was then the district name, later being named Arthurs Creek and Doreen). Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
Maize grown in the Yan Yean and Arthurs Creek districts. Photo credit James Chester Draper
Potatoes grown in the Yan Yean and Arthurs Creek districts. Photo credit James Chester Draper
Mrs Elizabeth Ann Murphy, wife of Thomas Murphy, both from County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Thomas and Elizabeth built their home beside the Deep Creek, then a beautiful stream teeming with black fish, having selected 80 acres adjacent to Charles Draper’s allotment, and the family of five boys and two girls moved to Arthurs Creek in 1864. Photo credit Murphy family
Owen McDonald and Pat (P.W.J.) Murphy, Arthurs Creek. Photo credit McDonald and Murphy families
The Arthurs Creek Fruit Growers’ Association and the Diamond Creek Horticultural Society held meetings and demonstrations in the Horticultural Hall
The author's friend, Lindsay George Apted (1922-2010) overlooking the Big Dam at 'Glen Ard' towards the headwaters of the Arthurs Creek and Mount Sugarloaf. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper, November 2003
Bear's Castle is reputed to have been built in the 1840s. It is pictured here in the late 19th century
The picturesque 'Glen Donald' homestead was built around 1864 for the McDonald family. John (1853-1929) and Susan (nee Underwood, 1860-1946) McDonald and their children are pictured left to right - Jane, Christina, John (Jack) Henry, Harold, Donald, Susan (nee Underwood), Alice, John and Emily. It is believed Ruby took the photo. Photo and information from the author's friend and cousin, Pamela Goodey
Fruit wagon with driver (thought to be James Mann) and horses, Arthurs Creek. The Evelyn Observer of 1917 reported that a local fruit wagon was on its way home from market with a passenger sitting on the empty cases behind. Coming down one of the hills these slipped, and the passenger was deposited on the roadway… In October 1873 James Mann selected land on the upper reaches of the Arthurs Creek in the Parish of Queenstown which he named ‘Lang Fauld Farm’. He was joined by John Mann in 1874 who selected adjoining land which he named ‘Carseburn’. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
Running Creek near Ardchattan. In the early days, the Parish of Linton encompassed the rolling hills and creek flats at the junction of the Deep Creek, Running Creek and Arthurs Creek. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper, September 2003

Further information about the 1862 Land Act also known as the Duffy Land Act can be found here.

For more information about these individuals and families see

George and Isabella Apted 

Henry Arthur

Richard and Ann Bassett

John Batman

John and Ann Bear

Charles and Catherine Draper

James Chester Draper

Henry, Robert and Frances Hurst

Joseph and Joan Lobb

John and Elizabeth Macfarlane

Donald Macmillan

John and Christina McDonald

The Murphy Families

Patrick and Agnes Reid

John Ryder

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Abbey FamilyAirey FamilyAlfred DeakinAllen FamilyAllwood StationAlma Shanahan (1923-2015)A Mountain Muster by Ian StapletonApologies & Appendages by Ian StapletonApted FamilyArdchattan StationArthurs Creek CemeteryArthurs Creek Cemetery: a History (Revised Edition) by Lindsay MannArthurs Creek Cricket ClubArthurs Creek Football ClubArthurs Creek Fruit GrowersArthurs Creek Mechanics Institute at a GlanceArthurs Creek Mechanics Institute by Bruce G. DraperArthurs Creek Mechanics Institute HallArthurs Creek Methodist ChurchArthurs Creek Post OfficeArthurs Creek Primary SchoolArthurs Creek Rifle ClubArthurs Creek Uniting ChurchAtkinson FamilyAustralian Garden History SocietyBarr FamilyBarton Hill StationBassett FamilyBatman TreatyBear's CastleBear FamilyBegoniasBoadle FamilyBoer warBraeside StationBrain FamilyBrennan FamilyBrock FamilyBushranger BurkeCharnwood StationChristian FamilyChurch of the Irish MartyrsClarke FamilyCleir Hills StationCorr FamilyCraigie Lee StationDeep CreekDishleigh StationDoctors Gully RoadDoreen VillageDraper FamilyDuffy Land ActDunolly Scent FarmEarly BlacksmithsEllis Cottage Historical Precinct by Nillumbik Historical Society on WikinorthiaEltham District Historical SocietyFay Thomas Collection by Yarra Plenty Regional LibraryFernvale StationFlintoff FamilyFrank Dalby DavisonFriends of Burnley GardensFrom Drovers To Daisy-Pickers by Ian StapletonFrom Fraser's To Freezeout by Ian StapletonFrom Laggan To Arthur’s Creek by Ross McDonaldFruit Cool StoresGillian FamilyGlen Ard StationGlenburn StationGlen Donald StationGray FamilyGreen FamilyGrimshaw FamilyHairy-Chested History by Ian StapletonHall FamilyHazel Glen CemeteryHazelglen HallHazel Glen SchoolHazel Glen StationHazel Glen Wesleyan ChurchHealey FamilyHeidelberg Historical SocietyHenry ArthurHerbert FamilyHeyfield GippslandHickey FamilyHickey’s CornerHowitt FamilyHulme FamilyHurrey FamilyHurst FamilyJohn LoxtonKenneth JackKirkliston StationLaidlay FamilyLang Fauld StationLeon Saper (1928-2005)Linton CemeteryLinton FamilyLinton Grange StationLobb FamilyLobbs HillLodgeLodge FamilyMacfarlane FamilyMacmillan FamilyMacpherson FamilyMann FamilyMcDonald FamilyMcKay FamilyMcKimmie FamilyMcLelland FamilyMills FamilyMountain Rescue 1944Murdie FamilyMurphy's CreekMurphy FamilyMuseums Victoria CollectionsNillumbikNillumbik Heritage GuideNillumbik Historical SocietyNillumbik Reconciliation GroupOf Pioneers & Perseverance by Ian StapletonPeter Laycock (1927-2009)Pine Hill StationPioneers and Painters: One hundred years of Eltham and Its Shire by Alan MarshallPlenty RiverPresswell FamilyPublic Records Office VictoriaRAAF Base East SaleReid FamilyRobert (Bob) Mair (1943- )Ronald FamilyRoyal Historical Society of VictoriaRoyal Horticultural Society of VictoriaRunning CreekRussell FamilyRyder FamilyRyders Flat ReserveSchultz FamilyScrubby CreekSeeds of Yesterday : the Fruit of Tomorrow by Pam GoodeyShire of Nillumbik Local Historical SocietiesSlabon FamilySmith FamilyState Library VictoriaSteer FamilyStewart's PondsStewart FamilyStubley FamilyThe Andrew Ross MuseumThe Last Cry by Mick WoiwodThe Melbourne Book written by Clive Turnbull ; drawings by Kenneth JackThomas FamilyTregowan StationTroveUnderwood FamilyUp the Creek : Early Days in the Arthurs Creek District by Bruce G. DraperVersdale StationVerso FamilyVictorian CollectionsVictorian Collections Eltham District Historical SocietyWaitui StationWeatherbeaten Wisdom by Ian StapletonWhittlesea Agricultural SocietyWhittlesea ShowWikinorthiaWild Horses BrumbiesWilliam Jock FraterWinter Majetin AppleYan Yean : A History by Dianne EdwardsYan Yean Primary SchoolYan Yean ReservoirYarra Plenty Local HistoryYarra Plenty Regional Library