The area has a very rich history with many small significant historical
sites dotted all over the country side. Here I would just like to touch
on the area and how our family came to be farming in the district.
Murra Warra - Selection and Settlement
Like many place names throughout Australia, the
word Murra Warra is Aboriginal. It is thought that the Wotjobaluk
tribe gave the name to the area meaning "place of no
water" which aptly describes the lack of any permanent natural water
supply. In 1836, Major Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor-General of New
South Wales, and his party were the first recorded Europeans to explore the
area called the Wimmera Plains.
From then on pastoral tenants known as "squatters"
came into the area in
search of land. These early pioneers were responsible of much valuable
exploration and within a few
years, large runs were taken up. Kewell Station was amongst these with
an area of
117,760 acres owned by the Wilson brothers.
In 1865 a Lands Act was introduced and several parishes
close to Horsham were surveyed into small allotments. This Legislation made
land available to selectors who were permitted to peg blocks of 320 acres,
causing the squatters to eventually lose control of their large tracts of
land. After selection or "pegging" the land Selector applied
for a "License" to occupy.
The Grant Land Act of 1869 (so named after the Minister,
James McPherson Grant) imposed strict conditions in an attempt to ensure that
only bona fide selectors were recommended. Each applicant, after
selecting not more than 320 acres, was required to appear before a Local Land
Board for assessment. When the License was approved, the selector was
required to live on the allotment, to fence it, and within the first three
years to cultivate at least one acre in ten. He had to pay an annual
rental of two shillings per acre which, after three years, entitled him to be
issued with a Lease, and at the end of a ten year period, or on full payment
of one pound an acre, to the issue of a Crown Grant (title). By 1897
selection in the Kewell West Parish was nearly completed.
We can get an understanding of some of the hardships faced
by the early settlers from the following article.
In 1874 the first settlers wended their weary way to
the then waterless plain. The first houses were calico and water tanks in
wagons or drays told all too plainly of the long journeys for water. On the
way some of the settlers were met by men who told them they were mad going
to the Wimmera plains - no water and no feed for man or beast.
Horsham Times (date unknown)
The Kelly name goes back to the roots of Murra Warra when James Bourke Kelly
(commonly know as "J.B.") first selected land in the Parish
of Kewell West which would become his farm. What is known of James is he came
from Learmonth in Victoria. Possibly in early 1874 James selected
Allotment 101 (File 923) of 320 acres and Ann selected Allotment 99 (File 922)
also of 320 acres. On the 1st of August 1874 James and Ann received
their licenses to occupy. Eight years later in 1886 James gained the
title to allotment 99 followed five years later for allotment 101 in 1891.
The Kelly's main home was a three bedroom
house, with a utility room, bathroom, laundry and kitchen. On the north of the
house was an underground
water tank and to the east a cabin for his sons and
workers. The homestead had a unique cooking area, the whole southern wall of
the kitchen was built out of bricks. It comprised a bread oven, a stove and an
open fireplace that were all in separate compartments. The way the bread oven
was warmed was not by the fireplace but by hot coals. The baker put the hot
coals into the oven, then when the oven was hot enough the baker would replace
the coals with dough. One of the rooms was used for when the visiting
priest came to the area. The original roof of the homestead was made of shingles that were nailed
onto the three gables. The shingles were later covered with corrugated iron -
by whom we do not know. Other farm buildings including a three stand shearing shed with a plunge dip,
a stable and a huge chaff-shed which housed a chaff-cutter, the
engine that drove it, and the chaff. There was a lean-to on the southern side
of the chaff-shed that housed machinery.
James Ryan Kelly,
known as 'Sliprail' (a teenage nickname that carried through his life), was
born in 1876 and was the second son of Mr and Mrs J. B. Kelly. He married
Cassidy. The estate grew to 1100 acres which incorporated the historic
Sailor's Home property. A small piece of the
Sailor's Home property (otherwise known as the Blackheath Homestead) was
donated on which the
Sailor's Home Hall was later built. The hall was officially opened by James Ryan on
October 16 1923. James was the first
person holding the secretary role of the hall, carrying this official duty
from 1923 to 1925. He was also a councillor of the Wimmera Shire
and was involved with the Victorian Farmers Union. He loved politics and
poetry. In later years he wrote articles for the Mail Times on a regular basis
giving his opinion and views on any topic. Armed with an astounding
knowledge of local affairs, his advice was keenly sought. During 1925 he
moved to Horsham and towards the end of his farming career he let out land and sold parts off until the
last of the estate was sold in 1953. James Ryan died in 1954 aged 78.
The first tenant of the 99 and 101 allotments of the Kelly estate was Albert Hinch.
He worked it for
approximately five years. Harold Smith was the next tenant and he worked the
estate until early 1943. The next tenants were Les and Allan Saunders who
share-farmed the estate for approximately four years. In June 1943 while the Saunders were tenants of the Kelly estate, a huge
wind storm ripped thought the property leaving the chaff-shed in ruins. A
local tradesman, Jack
Kid came out and he dismantled the chaff-house. All that remained of the
chaff-house were the lumbers that supported the roof of the lean-to shed that
was used to house machinery. Jack converted the old workers cabin into a
chaff-house and he moved all of the chaff-cutting equipment into it.
Around 1947 the two allotments were then
purchased by Ern Miller, from the Hamilton area. Allan
left the partnership the same year leaving Les to work for Miller. Miller
found another share-farmer, Roy Pietsch, who joined up with Les and worked the farm
together until 1950.
In 1950 Miller sold the allotments 99 and 101 to Albert Victor Jochinke
for 16 pounds an acre. May of that year Vic and his wife Emma, moved into the
homestead with their one year old son Trevor. Albert (known as Vic) was a
returned soldier who had previously owned land near the Ebenezer Mission
Station in north-west Victoria.
Around 1958, Trevor attended the local Murra Warra primary school
2344. He later attended the St. Peters Lutheran School in Dimboola then the
Horsham Technical College. After completing a Diploma of Agriculture at Longerenong
Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture he was conscripted into the
army and served in the Vietnam war. On returning, he started working the
farm and married Elaine Ruth Zacher on 3rd of March 1973. Over the following
years they had a daughter Ruth and son David.
David attended the local kindergarten and then St. Peters Lutheran School
at Dimboola. He later attended the Dimboola Memorial Secondary College
until 1994 after which attaining a scholarship completed his Victoria Certificate of
Education at Good Shepard College in Hamilton. He attended The
Longerenong Campus and completed a Diploma of Applied Science in Agricultural
Services in 1997. During
the years at Longerenong he commuted daily from the farm where farm work was a
part of the daily routine. In 1998 he commenced
full time work on the farm which he had already been managing for the past two
years due to Trevorís poor health. Also in
1998 he became a member of the North Wimmera Country Fire Authority
brigade and a delegate of the Wallup Topcrop / VFF group. During 2001-02
he held the position of Secretary & Treasurer for the West Wimmera District Council
of the Victorian Farmers Federation. He also held the Presidents
position in 2004 and Vice in 2003 and 2005. He is the current
president of the Sailors Home Hall Management Committee and a committee member
of the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority Land Issues Group and the Birchip Cropping & Wimmera Farming
Selected details come from Murra Warra From sheep runs, to settlement and
beyond, New Style
Publications of Horsham and The selectors in the Parish of Kelwell West,
Publication No 63 of the History and Natural History Group of the MLA Donald.