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last updated:    18 October 2004

 

 

 

 

 

10. THE STEVENSONS AT KANGAROO GROUND 

On June 1, 1849 Joseph’s newly acquired Crown grant of 78 acres in Kangaroo Ground “being Allotment 3 of Section 3 County of Bourke” was duly signed by the Governor-in-Chief Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy.  It was acquired for one hundred and seventeen pounds and named by Joseph and Ruth “Bank Head”.  They now relinquished their Christmas Hills licence and settled on their new fertile ground.  Joseph built their home about ¼ mile off the main Eltham – Christmas Hills road.  It was built to last with hand made bricks from local clay and huge timber slabs sawn from the surrounding gums.  A roof of slate completed an impressive dwelling.              

There were large open fireplaces which during the colder months burnt wood continuously and strong iron bars cemented in the chimneys allowed all manner of cooking pots and kettles to be suspended over the fires. A large brick-lined oven with a heavy iron door was used for baking bread and a brick-lined well collected water from the roof.  These were the golden years for Joseph and Ruth.  Sheep farming had given way to wheat, oats and grass hay.  In 1842 James Donaldson had led the way.  He and his wife Isabella bought the first square mile of land in Kangaroo Ground.  Joseph with his ‘splitter’ mates of the 1840’s, William Bell and Thomas Armstrong had followed 6 years later.  Together these Scots had evolved from farm and timber labourers, to leasehold pastoralists to land owners, farmers and graziers.  Kangaroo Ground was a virtual granary for the surrounding districts and when in 1850, the price of hay soared from 1 pound 5 shillings to 50 pounds a ton, the old colonial splitters cleaned up.  The discovery of gold at Warrandyte in 1851 and Panton Hills in the following years further fuelled the demand for wheat and the Kangaroo Ground farmers reaped their rewards.

Joseph and Ruth’s family had grown by 1851 to 3 boys and 5 girls. Together with the children of the other 10 pioneer families of Kangaroo Ground, they attended the first school set up in a local hall.  Twenty-seven years later it would make way for a larger state school supporting 60 children.

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