…Ryder’s vertical slab dwelling was typical of many in the district – constructed using slabs and palings from local ‘river gum’ or ‘stringy bark’ and lined with paper…
John Ryder was born in Devonshire, England, in 1821. He arrived at Port Phillip in 1852 and ‘was for ten years on the Plenty’ in the vicinity of Whittlesea, before moving to Arthurs Creek.
John Ryder and his friend Charles Draper were the first to select land at Arthurs Creek, under the then recently passed Duffy Land Act, which came into force on 10 September 1862. The two men are said ‘to have tossed for allotments’. Ryder’s selection included three allotments to a total of 229 acres covering the site of the present township. Draper selected three 80 acre allotments of adjoining land to the north of Ryder, suitable ‘for orchard purposes’. The selections included prime land with running water, encompassing the rolling hills and creek flats at the junction of the Deep Creek, Running Creek and Arthurs Creek in the Parish of Linton.
John Ryder, and his first wife Jane (nee Tucker), established their homestead on the flat below the school, adjacent to the crossing over the Arthurs Creek. This area was known as Ryder’s Flat. The wooden bridge which replaced the log crossing over the Arthurs Creek was referred to as Ryder’s Bridge. Charles and Catherine Draper built their original dwelling further upstream along the Running Creek, where their third son James was born on 9 January 1863, with Mrs. Jane Ryder acting as midwife.
Ryder’s vertical slab dwelling was ‘typical of many in the district – constructed using slabs and palings from local ‘river gum’ or ‘stringy bark’ and lined with paper.’ The slab dwelling was relocated to ‘Barton Hill’, Running Creek Road by James (Jim) Draper, in about 1920, where it was used as an outside kitchen and pantry.
John Ryder, William Reid and Robert Airey, were early members of the Whittlesea District Road Board, proclaimed on 1 December 1862. John Ryder donated land for the erection of a Primitive Methodist Church at Arthurs Creek, which opened for worship in November 1873. He was Correspondent for the Committee formed to establish the Arthurs Creek School, built on two acres of land purchased from John Ryder in 1875.
He was also one of a number of early settlers who participated in the search for gold, following new discoveries along the Arthurs Creek in 1876. According to James T. Murphy, fortune was not with John Ryder on this occasion as ‘heavy rain swamped the shaft with his tools in it’.
William Murphy, eldest son of Thomas Murphy of County Armagh, purchased 223 acres of land from John Ryder in 1881. Land suitable for the erection of a Mechanics’ Institute and Free Library was donated to the Hall Committee by William Murphy in 1886. John Ryder chaired a public meeting held to establish a post office at the school in 1889. In 1899, William Murphy opened a purpose built post office and store next to the hall.
The Evelyn Observer reported the death at Arthurs Creek on Friday 7 February 1902 of ‘ex councillor Ryder, of the Whittlesea Shire. The deceased was an old and very highly respected resident of the district, having at one time been a councillor of the old Whittlesea Road Board. Mr. Ryder had reached the remarkable age of 82 years, and was a resident for over 40 years of the Arthurs Creek district.
He was a keen sportsman, a great lover of hunting and a keen lover of a good horse. In his younger days he was a daring rider and one of the best wrestlers in the district.’
Well-known thoroughbred horses owned or leased by John Ryder, included Peter Wilkins, Whalebone, Zanga, Glen Arthur and Duchess. In addition to thoroughbreds, he is said to have kept English Game fighting cocks. Coursing with greyhounds and hares grew in popularity during the 19th century. Coursing Clubs were formed throughout the Colony including such places as Arthurs Creek.
Ryder’s first wife Jane died in 1891 at age 80 years. In 1895 at age 75 years, John Ryder married Rachel Smith. The couple ‘lived on thirty-five acres at the bridge for many years.’ There was no issue from either marriage.
John Ryder ‘had been for a considerable period an invalid, and his death was not unexpected. He was buried in the Hazel Glen Cemetery on Sunday, 9 February 1902, Mr. Apps being the undertaker. J. Smithers Gadd J.P., Secretary of the Early Pioneers’ Association concluded in 1917, that ‘Ryder was unfortunate and died a poor but honourable man’.
‘John Ryder and Scotty Stewart were close friends, and drinking mates, who lived across the creek from each other. Both men liked to share a dram of whisky at the close of day. Stewart was known to be scared of ghosts even when sober. Some boys tried to frighten him one night, with one of the boys dressed in a sheet at Ryder’s slip rails near the bridge. On this occasion Stewart was a bit drunk and had some courage. He said to the boy in the sheet, ‘What kind of beastie are ye? The ghost remained silent. Scotty removed a slip rail from near the bridge and hit the ghost, badly injuring him.’ – Courtesy James ‘Chester’ Draper.