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14. THE OLD WARHORSE MAKES HIS LAST STAND

Robert now carried the torch for his family and he quickly took over the land selected by David east of the family home.  He cleared it and fenced it and in 1871, brought home to Bank Head his wife Ellen Armstrong, whom he married on March 15th.  A new generation of Stevensons was about to inhabit the fertile land but the old warhorse Joseph had not yet raised the flag of surrender.

Bank Head now evoked too many painful memories and Joseph resolved to settle a few miles to the south at a point midway between the land selected by David and the junction of Watsons Creek and the Yarra River.  He was 68 years old when on the morning of August 29th 1870, he rode down to the Yarra’s Bend of Islands.  On horseback alongside were his two remaining sons Robert  & Joseph (Jnr) his son-in-law James Mess who had married Jane in 1863 and his neighbour’s son Mark Bunker.  These men were the first selectors to take up land on the southern reaches of Watsons Creek.  They selected under the 19th Section of the 1869 Land Act.  They would be required to pay 2 shillings per year for the next 10 years for each acre selected.  At the end of 10 years provided they improved each acre by 1 pound they would own the land and receive a grant from the Crown. 

Compass in hand, armed with axes and shovels the party blazed a trail a mile long due south from Sugarloaf Creek to McPherson’s track (now Henley Road). After erecting posts every 200 or so paces, they cleared 6 further trails due west from each post to Watsons Creek.  There, on the creek bank at the termination of their cleared trails, they set up their final posts.  When complete, their exertions resulted in 6 farmlets all with their own water frontage, enclosed within each four sets of corner posts.  Joseph Stevenson   marked down in his own name three of the farmlets, (two of 30 acres the other of 18 acres), whilst the others each chose a farmlet of average size 28 acres.

The regulations required that the posts they used be of a particular size, be painted white and readily visible at 10 paces.

On October 8th 1870, contract surveyor T.S. Parrot rode in and measured up the blocks and trued up the angles.  Joseph, the old warhorse, now summoned up his remaining energy and proceeded to clear two acres at the junction of   Watsons Creek and a small tributary. Just south of the junction on a shoulder of Watsons Creek, he made his last stand.  There on the forest floor he erected his final edifice.  By his own standards, it was poignantly simple, a two-room timber house measuring 27 feet by 12 feet.  In his return of 1874 to the Board of Land and Works he stated that he had also built stables for his stock and had each year grown 2 acres of potatoes and oats. 

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