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The Farms

By Ray Gibb.

In 1836, squatters such as the Jacksons, Brodies, George Evans, John Aitken, Hunter ∓ Watson and the Fosters took up the land along the roads which today pass through Essendon; J.P.Fawkner was supposed to have occupied land along the Moonee Ponds Creek. They bred sheep to sell to prospective squatters who had arrived after them. By 1843, there was an over-supply of mutton which bankrupted many squatters and others were saved only through getting 5 /- per sheep from boiling- down works on Coghill's Glencairn and Joseph Raleigh's property (Highpoint West site). Thereafter, except for Taylor , Clarke and Robertson's vast estates on the rocky land west of Keilor, sheep grazing played a less- prominent role within 15 miles of Melbourne.

Some wheat-growing was attempted in the 1850s but by the mid 1860s, the flour mill on Lochton near Bulla had closed down and the one on the Pipeworks market site at Campbellfield was probably not far behind. Farming near the Strathmore area then consisted mainly of hay-growing, dairying, breeding of stock and some gardening. Poultry and pig farming became more common in the Tullamarine area from the 1920s, especially after 1940, and it is reasonable to assume that the same situation applied nearer to Strathmore. There were some goat farms and Barrett's dairy in Strathmore according to Peggy McKenzie who moved into Pascoe Vale in the 1920s.

John Pascoe Fawkner received the grant for Belle Vue Park in 1839 and set about removing the native vegetation which he replaced with vineyards, orchards and oak trees; these trees supplied the farm's next name which was applied to the suburb later. "Victoria and Its Metropolis" (A.Sutherland 1888) tells us a little of land-use in the Strathmore area. Samuel Jackson had been a gardener but turned his hand to farming (presumably hay-growing) when he bought land near Lind St. William Jones, who bought the Young Queen Inn and 20 acres south of Main St, engaged in hay-growing, averaging 2 tons per acre.

In "Memoirs of a Stockman", Harry Peck tells us that Frank Goyder, who was on Oak Park in 1880, bred racehorses and raced a few good ones such as the big chestnut, Sussex. Harry makes the apparently strange claim that Robert McDougall of "Arundel" (Melway 4,H/12) and Henry Stevenson of "Niddrie" (16, A/9) were neighbours. However they had adjoining land at Strathmore in 1880 with Henry on St. Johns and Robert on 200 acres to the north or east. Both probably bred Shorthorn cattle there, but there the similarity ended. Stevenson followed the Bates strain and was therefore a declared enemy of McDougall who supported the Booth strain.

Broadmeadows Shire's ratebooks show that dairyman, Robert Bryant had been on Oak Park and Hodgson's 200 acres south of the creek until being replaced by Alexander Robertson in 1900. Hodgson's land was probably east of St.Johns with the boundary being south of Woolart St., and may have been McDougall's land until his death in 1887.

John Kernan, a great mate of Bulla's Michael Loeman, had been on Merai Farm, between Devon Rd. and Gaffney St, since 1856. But in 1880, he also owned 320 acres in Strathmore, which may have extended south from the Melissa St. shops to about Lloyd St., with the western boundary at about Esmale St. He informed the Royal Commision on Noxious Trades in 1871 that he had been using animal matter from the Maribyrnong Meat Preserving Co. to fertilise mangolds and some new crops for three years producing a fifteen- fold yield, but he did confess that it smelt pretty strong. Kernan's sons carried on his hay-growing after his death in 1879. It was the same matter which made Cam. Taylor's St. John's an oasis of green in mid- summer according to Gordon Connor, Essendon's nightsoil was dumped there for years. (Broadmeadows: A Forgotten History, A.Lemon )