History Of Yea
The following information on the history of Yea was prepared by Yea Rotarian Elaine White PHF
Hamilton Hume & William Hovell - commenced October 1824. Entirely funded by themselves. The party consisted of 6 men, two carts pulled by oxen plus one spare ox, 3 horses and various dogs. Provisions for the party consisted of 12801bs flour, 400lbs pork, 200lbs sugar, 28lbs of tea, 16 lbs of Tobacco, plus salt, soap and coffee. Supplies intended to last 4 months but they had run out of flour on the return journey.
By 2nd December they were approaching the boundaries of the Yea district. They described the area "As on the whole a fine pleasant country. The soil being good, produces an abundance of fine grass and the whole, both hills and lowlands, being lightly timbered. It is our opinion we have not seen more agreeable and interesting country since leaving home."'
Crossed the Goulburn 3rd December and named it after Major Goulburn, the Colonial Secretary, and then proceeded through swamps and marshes which extended about a mile from the river. They ascended a range and then proceeded through agreeable and picturesque country with only trees here and there, just enough to provide shade for the cattle on a warm day!
They found themselves on the banks of another river, some 7 miles distant from the Goulburn and although considerably smaller gave them more trouble than the Goulburn due to banks being choked with fallen trees and the muddiness of the banks; thus naming it Muddy Creek.
In conclusion in his diary he wrote - "In all our travels I have seen no country better adapted for feeding sheep, the hills adjoining the Goulburn Rover being nearly clear of timber, grass to the top, and in the hollows below an abundance of herbage of very excellent quality." It was Hovell noted the resemblance of the Cheviot Hills to those famous hills of that name in England.
They had a rest day on the banks of the Yea River as stock and men footsore, washed and mended clothes and suffering from the heat which had not dropped below 65 degrees overnight. They crossed what sounds like the Junction Hill area in their diary and came across a creek where they saw King Parrots for the first time since leaving Cumberland and so named the creek the King Parrot Creek.
They tried to ascend the mountain range due south but found the scrub so dense, the way blocked at every turn by large fallen trees and sharp rocks injuring the feet of the cattle, that they had to abandon that route and returned to the King Parrot creek following it and crossing over somewhere near Strath Creek and onto what is now the Kilmore area.
Their glowing reports of the Port Phillip area were the immediate cause of settlement there in 1835 but official government policy was for closer settlement before expansion inland, and any who went beyond the Goulburn Plains (NSW) were, in the eyes of the law, trespassers and outlaws.
Governor Bourke succeeded Governor Gipps and conceded that regulation was impossible and so the first squatters set out for the Yea district in May 1837 and became known as the "Goulburn Mob". They became renowned in Melbourne when they journeyed to the fledgling city for their drinking and carousing. The five young men were Peter Snodgrass who took up the Muddy Creek watershed of 40,000 acres, James Campbell Hughes took up his run on Hughes creek, Farquhar McKenzie settled the Flowerdale Station on King Parrot Creek, John Murchison who settled Kerrisdale Station and Colonel White settled the Sunday Creek area. The only other person living in this area at the time was Mr John Clark who resided in what was known as The Old Crossing Place, which is now Seymour. These young men bought overland with them, their stock and shepherds, supplies for one year as well as all the tools needed for building and shearing of their flocks. Soon to follow were Edward Cotton (Balham Hill at Molesworth), John Cotton (Doogallook), James Murdock (Trawool), Dougal Fletcher (Murrindindi), James Campbell (chin Ghin).
The Yea township developed as a service to the squatters and settlers of the district and as gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851 and the search for more gold swung north-east, Yea found itself as a natural stopping place. At first a blacksmith's hut and forge was erected on the Muddy Creek crossing but as it was on Miller's Murrindindi Station, he complained to the government and as a result surveyor Thomas Pinniger was sent out to lay out a township. At this stage the township was just a handful of stores and huts occupied by tradesmen.
Thomas Pinnigar was responsible for the wonderful layout of our main street; he also surveyed the geodetic lines of Victoria and built a stone cairn at each trig
point. There is a perfectly preserved one of his cairns in the Switzerland reserve - and it was this that the Yea Historical Society copied when we honoured his achievement by erecting the cairn and story board in the plantation opposite the Yea Shire Hall. It was also at this time that the town's name changed from Muddy Creek to Yea.
News reached Victoria while Yea was being surveyed of a battle in the Crimea in which Colonel Thomas Lacey Walter Yea was killed leading his men. He was renowned as a benevolent and brave leader; one of the few gentlemen soldiers of the time who saw that his men were properly housed and fed. The Surveyor General of Victoria at that time had been in Colonel Yea's regiment and ordered that a town in Victoria be named after him - and that his how we became known as Yea. Col Yea was a member of the Royal Fusiliers and a portrait of him hangs in the Tower of London to this day. The Yea Historical Society are in contact with Colonel Yea's descendants in England and Victoria.
In 1857 gold was found at Reedy creek, then reportings of some gold on the Boundary and King Parrot Creek but nor until 1859 was payable gold found at the head of the Ti Tree creek and the Ghin Ghin diggings. There was a big settlement at the Ti Tree Creek with 7 inns and hundreds of miners huts - including those for the 300 Chinese working the lucrative Welcome Mine. Some shepherds walking from one shearing job to the next shed near Yea kicked over a nugget and as it was a Sunday, the diggings were named The Providence.
Word soon spread throughout Victoria and by 1895 up to 1500 men were on the Providence and Ghin Ghin fields, although rumour has it that in 30 years over 7000 men worked the field. A map of the thriving town of Ghin Ghin is in the possession of the historical society but because of lack of water on the field and diggings opening up at Cheviot and Murrindindi, Yea once again became the main route between fields and so became the main settlement. In its heyday Ghin Ghin boasted 10 hotels as well as beer shops and nameless shanties. 4 butchers, 3 bakers, 3 general stores and even chemists.
The next event in opening up this district was the building of the rail line - originally from Tallarook to Yea. The Yea Roads Board (the precursor of the Shire of Yea which was proclaimed in 1873) sent numerous petitions over many years to parliamentarians for a rail line to be built because in winter the roads became impassable and there were so many flooded creeks and rivers preventing delivery of goods and travel. Coaches and carriers could be marooned for days from swollen rivers. There was a privately owned ferry built at Molesworth and another near the Ghin Ghin bridge to allow travel over the Goulburn, but most other creeks were forded. The calamitous floods of 1870 washed away nearly all roads and privately owned bridges as well as many of the fords through creeks. In 1882 the construction of the long awaited railway line from Tallarook to Yea commenced at an estimated cost of 97,368 pounds. Construction of the line presented many difficulties because of the terrain through which it passed. For the first 10 miles it had to be cut into the base of exceedingly steep hills with the waters of the Goulburn so close that in many places a stone could be dropped from the carriage widow into the waters below. There were 23 bridges and innumerable cuttings. More than 1000 men were employed and the headquarters and a huge camp was set up at the King Parrot Bridge, with other smaller camps along the route. The line was constructed in record time but an extra 4" of top ballast and extra fishbolts were thought necessary to be added because of the very winding and at times steep route. A Grand Banquet was held in the Yea Shire Hall on completion with parliamentarians and dignitaries coming from Melbourne on a special train. The shire spent an extra 12pounds 10 shillings on grubbing stumps and clearing station street (which was also renamed from Upper Muddy Creek Road). It was not until 1887 that the first sod was turned to extend the line onto Mansfield and the side line to Alexandra.
The other big influx of workers came with the timber industry. The prosperity of the Yea district up till the early 1900's had been wool, meat and dairying but the timber industry became of equal importance
after the opening of the railway line. Up until that time it had been mostly a local industry but its geographical position and now easy transport to Melbourne and north east to Bendigo saw it become a massive local industry. The quality of the timber was another major factor in its prosperity. The heyday of the saw milling industry in the Yea area was from 1907 to 19115 when 2.5 million feet of timber was sent out each year over the timber tramlines to Cheviot siding.
As with the roads in those early days, the timber tracks became a quagmire in winter so a wooden timber tramway was built from the Murrindindi Forest to Cheviot; a major undertaking n itself and included several trestle bridges. Over half the employees working in the forest resided in Yea and camped out in the
bush during the week. In the early days they walked or rode a horse to their camp and would carry all their week's food supplies with them each Monday morning. Most lived in 2-man huts but the larger mills provided housing for families.
At the peak of the timber trade, seven mills were operating in the Yea district, including two in the township - Jackson's Mill in Raglin Street and Burns Mill in the Yea Railway yards. In the very early days there was also a Wightman's Mill where the Yea Caravan Park is now and the bridge which crosses over the Yea River there is still called Wightman's Bridge. Burns and Jacksons mills were still operating in the township up until the 1960's and we grew up to the sound of the saws cutting through timber and the lunchtime knock-off whistle could be heard all over town and was the signal for the shops to close for lunch also. Over 100 men were directly employed in the timber industry with many more in cartage etc.
Dairying was a very big industry in the district in the early farming days with nearly every small community having a creamery. The Yea Butter Factory began in a temporary premises in 1905 and was producing 24 tons of butter per week. They operated under the She-oak Brand. With the new building, modern machinery and increased production from dairy famers, the company was buying two million pounds of milk each year, drawing supplies from 16 creameries operating in the shire. Much of the butter was sent by ship to England. An interesting sideline to the Butter Factory story is that its tower was used during the Second World War for enemy plane spotting. Mostly young girls around town were rostered nightly to watch for enemy aircraft.
Electric power first came to Yea when E.S. Purcell installed a generator in the building which later became the Chronicle Office, charging Yea Shire Council 250 pounds per year for some street lighting. It did not last long however as neighbouring residents complained of the noise at night. The Shire eventually took the plunge in 1925, after years of talking, to establish a town electricity supply and the Power House was established on the council owned quadrangle (at the bottom of Anne Street) and big celebrations were made for the official turning on of the electric light at Yea Shire Hall in 1926.
The first school in Yea was held in a tent at Whatton Place in 1857 and then transferred to the Presbyterian Chapel . All the small districts throughout the shire had their own small schools with some being part time schools with a shared teacher. Many were burnt down and rebuilt several times, many deliberately lit by disgruntled fathers or students. Yea State School No 699 was established 1860 with 26 children aged between 5 and 15. The brick Primary School No 699 was built in 1872 at a cost of 230 pounds.
The first church services were observed in private homes or from the back of a dray if a passing preacher was in the vicinity. When the first preacher was obtained , all denominations joined together in a wooden building which served as both church and parsonage. Mrs Miller built the first very plain brick church in Miller Street then the Church of England was opened in 1868 after six years of fundraising.
A wooden presbytery was first built to accommodate the catholic priest and services were also conducted here until the present church was built in 1902. Presbyterian services were conducted in the Miller Street church until the present church was built in 1922.