Sketch of an early selector: Arthur Knight
This account shows an example of how one man acquired land in Upper Beaconsfield by selection of Crown Land in the 1870s. Coming from a modest background, he used subdivision of his land to better himself and his family. He showed initiative with his involvement in several enterprises over the years.
Arthur Knight's name first appeared on local records when he selected 138 acres on 19 July 1875. The land he selected is on the southern side of St Georges Road from its beginning to present day No. 55. Its lower reaches go down to "Kyogle" and further across to "Kimbolton". The south eastern boundary of the property was McBride Road, which back then was the upper part of the main road to Upper Beaconsfield. The property was known as allotment 66 in the Parish of Pakenham. The land had been previously selected by Charles Crossman, a bush carpenter who lived in Haunted Gully. The department dragged its feet, until he gave up and didn’t pay the survey fees. Shortly after the land was made available again for selection.
The land selection file is sparse about biographical details of Arthur Knight, other than that his occupation was warehouseman with residence in Carlton. By October 1875 the land was surveyed, and he declared that his intention was to reside on his land. An Act of Parliament stipulated how long this had to be. In December "authority to occupy" was issued to him.
In January 1876 Knight discovered that timber had been removed from his land. Purportedly it was to be used for building railway tracks, and thus he neither had a right to prevent the removal, nor to be reimbursed for it. He sent a letter to the Lands Department, and was informed that he had been lied to by the contractors who stole it, and that he had full rights as to what he wanted to do with the wood from his land.
Nearly two years later, he contacted the Department again. He wrote that he had been approached by a saw miller who wanted to purchase some of his timber, and would like to erect his mill and huts for his timber workers on his land. He wanted to know if this would invalidate his lease. When he didn’t receive a prompt reply, he sent another letter two weeks later, asking the same questions, though elaborating on them. The only note in the land file was that the saw mill would require a licence to operate. The saw miller, William Brisbane, chose to build the plant on his own selection.
A new road
In February 1878, 23 selectors, mainly from Cockatoo, but also including a handful from Beaconsfield, addressed a petition to the Surveyor General, A. J. Skene:
"Sir, We the selectors and residents of Gembrook and Packenham County of Mornington humbly request that you will please order that a new road may be surveyed through the selection of Mr Arthur Knight in the Parish of Packenham. This road we request will be to start from the north east corner of Mr Knight’s selection, thence south west distant at about five chains more or less and being west from the two chain road and thence ending at the south east corner of the said selection. This new line of road will be on the side of a very high hill and with little expense can be made into a very good road. The present one chain road [now McBride Road] is too steep that it is almost impossible for us to get either up or down it and ought never to have been surveyed in that place. Trusting that you will give this a favourable consideration."
Matters moved slowly in those days, and it was not until 16 May 1878 that Council presented the petition to Skene. Council was informed that it must take action under Local Government Statute. The process of having this new road (now the upper portion of Beaconsfield-Emerald Road) surveyed was slow, and a letter from the Berwick Shire Council to the Lands Department on 26 October 1880 enquired about the progress. In March 1881 the land for the road was finally transferred to Council. Despite this Council in January 1880 had already agreed to Knight’s offer to throw the road open at once on condition that he got £1 per chain for fencing forty chains, and £6 compensation.
Improvements to property
After about three years of occupation, Arthur Knight, on 7 January 1879 declared to the Land Office what improvements he had made to his property. He stated that he had built two huts, one a log hut, covered with shingles, the other a weather board hut, with an iron roof. Each of the dwellings was a single room. He also had built a dairy, two cow sheds, two hen houses and a pig sty. He had planted three acres with hay and potatoes, and it seemed that the hay harvest was unsuccessful, but the potatoes yielded four tons. He then sowed eleven acres with cocksfoot and clover. It is believed that his dwellings were about where 17 St Georges Road is now.
In his declaration he stated that he did not have a family but that his mother lived with him. A thorough search through public records for Arthur Knight sheds little light on his family situation. There was no Arthur Knight that fits this bill. A comparison of signatures on various documents leads to the assumption that our Arthur Knight was the same man as an Arthur Knight who had married a widow, Matilda MacPherson, 21 years his senior. Did he declare her to the Lands Department as his mother, so that tongues would not be wagging?
By 1880, Knight was looking for a partner to support his farming enterprise. Henry Pegler and his family were living on the land in 1883, but may have moved here earlier. Two of his children were on the first attendance roll of the Upper Beaconsfield Primary School. In September 1884 Pegler died of consumption.
On 25 August 1881, Arthur Knight made his final payment to obtain the crown grant. He immediately initiated the subdivision of his land and the first parts of the land were transferred to new owners from 1883 onwards. This included the land between Beaconsfield-Emerald Road and McBride Road which was sold to Elizabeth Rushall, twenty acres (incl. Kyogle and Fernacre) to Joseph Bulling, and six acres to Catherine Walsh.
William Brisbane wrote to the Lands Department in July 1883, that Arthur Knight was desirous to present an acre of land to the inhabitants of Upper Beaconsfield, on which they could erect a hall for public purposes. As the Assembly Hall was built in Salisbury Road, the land was ultimately used to build St John’s Church.
The balance of his property (about 100 acres) was sold to Walter Smythe Bayston on 25 October 1888. Shortly after it changed hands again and by the early 1890 the Commercial Bank foreclosed on a mortgage.
Knight himself had probably left Upper Beaconsfield as early as 1881. By the late 1880s he had a crockery business in Richmond for sale. By 1889 he was advertising another business, Knight & Bedggood, selling crockery in Lygon Street Carlton. Arthur may have been estranged from Matilda, and she died in 1891. Three years later, shortly after Jeannie Bedggood (nee Tijou), his business partner, had obtained a divorce from her estranged husband, she married Arthur Knight. Jeannie had three young children from her first marriage.
In 1893 they dissolved their business and bought an orchard in Mildura and grew lemons, peaches and apricots. Arthur died on 18 March 1916, aged 76.
Next chapter in the history of PAK-66
On 3 Nov 1888 a caveat was lodged, and as it lapsed on the same day that the property was transferred into the name of Thomas Barrett, a builder, there are grounds to assume that Barrett may have been contracted to build a house for Bayston, who defaulted.
On 7 Aug 1891 Barrett took out a mortgage from the Commercial Bank of Australia. From the rate books we know that the property had a house on it by 1890, but it is not known on which lot the house was built on. The net annual value of £125 suggests that the house was quite substantial. The same value was used to calculate the council rates in the following two years, but the 1892 rates were already paid by the Commercial Bank, so Barrett must have defaulted this mortgage shortly after obtaining it. The dire economic situation during the 1890s made the council adjust the rates, and in 1893 and 1894 the net annual value is reduced to £35, then for the next two years to £25 each year. On 2 Sep 1895 the Commercial Bank sold lot 3 of this land to William Henry Dale.
Over the following twenty years the rest of the selection was sold:
Lot 2: To Henry George Dauntless Burston - 24 Dec 1896
Lots 5+6: To Elizabeth McLean - 18 Nov 1897
Lot 8: To Henrietta Singleton - 4 Aug 1900
Lot 1: To Erdmuthe Friedericke Marianne Smith (except for land reserved for a church) - 15 Nov 1907
Lot 9: To James Ramage and James Joseph Ahern - 14 Sep 1912 - see history of Alston Barkala
Lot 7 was divided into 5 parts which were sold separately:
27 Feb 1912 to Dr William Elliot Drake
17 May 1913 to Walter Fergus Robinson
18 Nov 1913 to James MacDougall
21 Jul 1915 to Caleb Wheeler
15 Apr 1918 to Alice Emily Brown
See separate pages for the history of these individual properties.