William Trewin: 'Rhoda Mountjoy is my niece. She has been staying with me on a visit for about three weeks. About 9 o'clock in the evening of the 24th inst, deceased went to bed when the rest of the family retired for the night. Between 1 and 2 o'clock in the morning of the 25th inst...' Kuriah Trewin: 'I heard a door open and someone go out of doors. I spoke to my husband and said, "Who can it be that is gone out?" William Trewin: 'My wife asked me to light a candle.' Kuriah Trewin: 'I then got up and found the room occupied by my late niece, Rhoda Mountjoy, empty. I went in search for her, and I then went back and called my husband.' William Trewin: 'I went in search but could not find her. I then alarmed my son and daughter. We all searched the place around. We then went to the dam, about 200 yards distant from the house. We found no trace of her there then. I then sent for assistance. I then went again to the dam and this time I found her hat on the edge of the dam in the water. I then sent word to the police.'
Thomas Pearse: 'I was called on the morning of the 25th inst about 3 o'clock am to go in search of deceased. I went in company with Mr Trewin and his son to the dam. About 9 o'clock am the body was found. I searched for the body with a rake.' Roderick McLeod: 'I am overseer on Mr Mitchell's station. I was called by Mrs Howard on the morning of the 25th inst about 7 o'clock. I came up to the dam near Mr Trewin's house and made search in the dam as I was told that a young woman named Rhoda Mountjoy was missing. ! searched until nearly 9 o'clock am and then I found her in the dam, about the middle of the dam in the deepest water, about twenty yards from the bank in about 9 feet of water. I got the body out.' Thomas Pearse: 'We made a drag and so got the body to the bank.' Roderick McLeod: 'There were no marks of violence on her body. I assisted to convey the body to Mr Trewin's house. She had on an ordinary dress.'
William Trewin: 'I never noticed anything peculiar in deceased's mind, and can assign no reason for her committing such a rash act.' Kuriah Trewin: 'She was always a quiet normal girl.' Thomas Pearse: 'I have known deceased since childhood, and never noticed anything peculiar about her.'
Tom Pearse was 39 that year; the Trewins were in their early 70's. Their unmarried son, William Lawrence Trewin, was 28, and their unmarried daughter, Annie Maria, was a few years older.
Evidently none of those involved could swim, and they had some difficulty in locating the body and bringing it to the bank. But why were the Trewins, father and son, incapable of doing this themselves, and so dependant on the assistance of their neighbours?
One can picture the scene: the women in the farmhouse, shocked and silent, remembering the last things Rhoda said, how she had seemed, and when they had last seen her and what they had said themselves. And the hat - she had put her hat on before going out in the middle of the night to kill herself. Outside, the dawn; the awakening of birds and farmhouse animals; the fractured routine of the farm that cold autumnal morning. And later at the dam, its wide waters deepened perhaps by recent rain, the small bundled body in a
sodden muddy dress, beset with flies, lying on the trampled earth. Then the mounted procession to the farmhouse; the necessity of removing the wet clothes, of drying the body, and laying it out in a fresh new dress on a bed for the magistrate to see. This was done by Granny Pearse.
Rhoda Mountjoy's body was carried in a buggy that afternoon to Echuca for a post-mortem, which was performed by Doctor Eakins. He found that 'the body was well nourished, and the various organs healthy. The young women was not pregnant.'
All these events took place before her father, Caleb, and other family members of the Mountjoy family, were able to reach Echuca from Deans Marsh and Lome.
That same day, Thursday, 26 April, The Echuca and Moama Advertiser headlined the story Distressing Drowning Case. Given a full half-column in the centre of the page, it appeared between European News by Cable and Echuca Rowing Club. Some facts were wrong, but the reporter covering the story had dug out some interesting background information.
He wrote: 'Miss Mountjoy... was on a visit to Torrumbarry, and was staying at the house of her uncle, Mr Trewin, for her holidays, and apparently enjoying herself very well. She was in Echuca during last week, and was on of the guests at a marriage ceremony that was celebrated at a friend's, and was to have come into Echuca again yesterday to complete the remainder of her holiday before returning home to Lome... She was in her usual spirits, beyond the regret at leaving next day after spending a pleasant holiday... It is stated that some 18 months back Miss Mountjoy suffered from brain fever, which for a time had a depressing effect upon her, but this effect had long since passed away.'
The newspaper said she was 'well known and liked in the district' and that the circumstances of her death had 'caused a painful feeling amongst the many friends of the family here.'
Rhoda was buried in the Wesleyan section of the Echuca Cemetery, behind William Honeycombe's grave, on Friday 27 April.
The Riverine Herald said the following day: 'The funeral cortege, which was of considerable length, was joined at the borough boundary by friends from Echuca, while numbers more were waiting to receive them at the grave. The service was read in an impressive manner by the Rev John CatteralL. We understand... that some eighteen months ago the young lady's state of health gave her friends considerable anxiety. Medical advice was obtained, and everything necessary done, and after a time she recovered her usual tone of mind... But it now appears that while generally bright and cheerful, several of her letters home indicated a depression of spirits, and she complained of not being able to sleep, and it would now appear as if she herself feared a renewal of her former experience. For she is reported to have said to a female friend, in a pause in their conversation, and while holding her hand to her head: "Did you ever hear that I was once out of my mind? Well, I feel now as if I were going to
The full family history of the remarkable Mountjoys from northeast Cornwall would be worth a book in itself. Much of the stirring saga of their family fortunes has been touched on. But further details need not concern us unduly from now on, apart from the deaths of some of those most closely related and known to Jane, Lawrence Mountjoy's second wife. For she was herself a Mountjoy by marriage and died as one, and the activities of all three Mountjoy brothers, their dreams and dramas, obviously affected her life.
So did their dying - especially of those who died young - and in the 1880's family tragedies struck more than once in the midst of the Mountjoys' golden years.
In July 1881, when Thomas and Caleb Mountjoy took over the lease of Lawrence's land, Jane and Lawrence were living a life of affluent ease in Fernside, their new home in Geelong. Jane was 55 that year; Lawrence was 61. Caleb, now 52, was farming at Wharparilla near Echuca and was in the process of becoming the biggest land-owner in the district at that time.
It was an unhappy year for Caleb Mountjoy: two of his children died. The first was a one-day old baby boy, born at Wharparilla in June. Called George Lemon, he was Caleb and Louisa's last child. Then one of their teenage daughters, Louisa, known as Louie, died in August in Geelong. Aged 15, she was buried in the graveyard of the Wesleyan church at Highton, and on the gravestone commemorating her death were also inscribed the names of the three other children in the family who had predeceased her; James, in 1862, aged five; Edgar, in 1866, aged one year and 10 months; and Harward, in 1867, aged six years and 10 months.
After the deaths of George Lemon and Louie, six of Caleb and Louisa's 11 children still survived: Lawrence, Rhoda, Emma, Edmund, Mabel and Annie. But within 10 years, three of these would also be dead.
The first of them to die was the eldest daughter, Rhoda, who committed suicide on the Trewin selection at Torrumbarry in the early hours of Wednesday, 25 April, 1888. She was 25.
A 'Magisterial Inquiry' was held in William Trewin's house the following day before Robert Foyster, JP. Having viewed the body, with Constable Brooks and a clerk in attendance, Foyster heard the evidence of William and Kuriah Trewin (Rhoda's aunt and the older sister of Lawrence Mountjoy senior), and two neighbours, Tom Pearse and Roderick McLeod.
What follows is taken from their signed statements, made the day after Rhoda died.
The name became a local fixture when the Elmore to Cohuna railway was opened in 1915. The line ran diagonally across the Mountjoy blocks and a siding was built south of the Terricks Road pn Mountjoy land. The siding was initially called Keyemery. Gut because it was on Roslynmead land and near the homestead of that name, the little railway station became known as Roslynmead. And so it is today.
The homestead was on the north side of the Terricks Road, east of the railway station. In later years the house became a store, a post office and then a school.
The Pearse family history often refers to Roslynmead. It says that when Tom Pearse died in 1909, his older brother, George, returned to Echuca to assist Tom's widow, Annie, to manage her property, four blocks adjoining the southern edge of the Mountjoys1 land. It continues: 'While at Roslynmead, he was an agent for wheat and superphosphate. He regularly provided a barrel of beer for his customers. His sister-in-law, Annie, objected to this, so, following an argument, George cleared out and lived with his niece, Bessie, for a short time. George was noted for his ability with a gun; if he saw two rabbits together, he would shoot them both, the first from his right shoulder and the second from his left shoulder.' He died in 1925.
We also learn that 'Annie played the piano for the Roslynmead Methodist Church.' She leased the farm to her son, Peter, in 1927, moved to Echuca and then back to Geelong, where she died in 1944.
Her eldest surviving son, David, born in 1879, was 'an excellent rough-rider, boxer and all-round athlete. As a boxer, he was barred from challenging members of the Jimmy Sharman Boxing Troupe, which toured country towns... He was a champion horseman, well known on the rodeo circuit. While still living at Roslynmead, he regularly bought young horses and broke them in for station use.'
David was killed in 1908, when a cedar log at the timber mill in Queensland where he worked rolled on him and crushed him.
All the Pearses and their children appear to have worshipped at the Methodist Church at Torrumbarry South; and the children went to the Roslynmead Primary School. This was in the 1920's. In 1930 the Pearse farmhouse 'at Roslynmead' - on the Kotta Road - was burnt down for the second time.
It is clear from all this that the Mountjoys' original homestead west of Echuca gave its name not just to a railway station and a school, but to an area on the Terricks road, west of Wharparilla And all because a pioneering Scottish settler west of Geelong decided to name his first homestead Roslyn, after the Scottish town that once had been his home.
he was now something of an absentee landlord and that someone also was looking after his acres, which now numbered 593.
It also indicates that he had a new home, a house with 11 acres. Where was this? And when did Lawrence hand over his land at Torrumbarry to another tenant, to his nephew, or to his brothers and their other sons?
It seems that soon after William Honeycombe's death, in 1876 or 1877, Lawrence Mountjoy and Jane decided to return to Geelong, and in effect to retire. He was 58 in 1878, and in that year we know that he was residing at Geelong because he is described in a list of shareholders as a 'gentleman' residing at Highton - not as a farmer from Echuca, and not at Roslyn. We also know that Roslyn was sold (the house and four acres of orchard) in 1878. So it would seem that Lawrence and Jane occupied their new home, in Highton, that year.
Lawrence was also one of a group of tradesmen (they included a blacksmith, ironmonger, engineer, timber merchant and produce dealer) who formed the Chilwell Gold Mining Company in 1878, with a proposed capital of £2000 in 2000 shares of £1 each, consisting of 1750 contributing and 250 paid up shares, some of which were held by Lawrence Mountjoy. The new company's prospectus stated: 'This Company is being formed for the purpose of proving the ground which has been prospected for some time on Mercer's Hill in the municipality of Newtown and Chilwell.' The freehold of the site had been bought and shafts dug and timbered. Machinery to expand the operation was now needed and a grant of £150 from the government was sought.
Within a year the enterprise was dead. The public were apathetic, water filled the shafts, and a drift of fine sand hindered progress. At a special meeting, held on 13 August 1879, the shareholders voted to wind up the company's affairs. The land, equipment, timber and sheds were sold off at fair prices, so presumably Lawrence Mountjoy did not make a loss.
He and Jane were now living in a house in Thornhill Road at Highton, not far from Roslyn, their former farmhouse home. It was an address appropriate to the apotheosis of the Mountjoy brothers' lives: Thomas was a successful hotelier and property-owner at Lome; and Caleb was a prosperous grazier, managing farms and many acres at Echuca and Deans Marsh. These were jointly owned by Caleb and Thomas, although Lawrence may also have had a stake in them. Lawrence himself was a worthy member of the Highton community. A retired farmer, he was now a 'gentleman' and lived in a fine stone house called Fernside, where he and his wife would remain for over 20 years.
Fernside, built in the sober style of a gabled Scottish manse, had been the home of Mr TM Sparks in the 1850s. It was next owned by William McKellar, and then by George Synnot, who bought the house at an auction in 1866.
The Adcocks, Thomas and Henry, had separate homes further down Thornhill Road; as did Colonel Conran, who had lived there, in Barrabool House, since 1874. Once ADC to Governor La Trobe, and the first Sergeant-at-
arms in the Victorian Parliament, Col Conran retired after 20 years spent in England and settled in Highton where, according to JH Bottrell 'he lived the life of an English country gentleman.' Mr Bonsey, the police magistrate, had been the previous owner of Barrabool House, and the Colonel continued Mr Bonsey's practice of striking a bell 'for the purpose of letting the men working in the fields know the time to commence or cease work.'
Bottrell likened the scenery thereabouts to the leafy lanes of southern England - a rural idyll. He wrote in 1931: 'The view from the corner of Thornhill and Bonsey Roads presents a picture of almost ethereal loveliness. But every home in Highton seems to have a lovely view.'
Here lived Lawrence and Jane, experiencing the comforts and social status achieved by hard labour, luck, good investments and good works. Periodically they must have made use of the Mountjoy coaches that met the trains at Birregurra and then Deans Marsh and carried them off to Lome. There must have been many family gatherings at Erskine House, and indeed at Fernside; and at Yan Yan Gurt, the homestead at Deans Marsh that eventually became Caleb's final family home.
But when Erskine House was sold, in 1889, did any of the three brothers and their wives ever visit Lome again?
Meanwhile, Lawrence was disposing of his farmland south of the Murray River at Torrumbarry. It is not known when and to whom he sold the lease of his land. But in March 1881 he applied to have the conditions altered of the lease on William's land, as the crop that summer had been so poor and his expenditure on it exceeded his income.
Four months later, Thomas and Caleb Mountjoy took over the lease on what had been William's land, and in July 1897 they were issued with a Crown Grant.
By this time Thomas and Caleb were in possession of Lots 1,2,3,4,5,6,10,10A, 12 and 13 in Section II, south of the Terricks Road, and of Lots 12,13,26,29 and 30A north of the road, which led on in fact past Mt Terrick-Terrick down to two hamlets, Mitiamo and Serpentine.
The name still exists, now merely marking an intersection on the road to Mitiamo/Serpentine, 12 kilometers south of what now is Torrumbarry and as many kilometers west of another intersection marked as Wharparilla.
The original homestead at Roslynmead must have been built by Lawrence Mountjoy and named after his first farm, Roslyn, near Geelong. In view of the fact that the house in Geelong to which Jane eventually retired was also called Roslyn, we may assume that she and Lawrence had a fondness for the name. We may also assume that when Caleb moved in and began taking over other blocks of land and expanding the Mountjoy acres, Roslynmead was the name given to the whole estate. Finally, we may presume that Roslynmead was indeed the home of Lawrence and Jane for a while, and that it was where William Honeycombe died.
Ernest Giles, on his fifth exploration and second crossing of Australia, had pitched camp, with his camels and companions, on Saturday 3 June, eleven miles into the Gibson desert. Plagued by sand blindness, heat and flies 'enough to set anyone deranged', they trudged across sandhills for another 40 miles on 4 June. Half their camels were incapacitated overnight by chewing on a poisonous shrub. So they rested for a day, then staggered on, spending two days digging a well 15 feet deep, until some water 'yellowish but pure' appeared. 'Two other camels,' wrote Giles, 'were poisoned in the night... On the 8th of June more camels were attacked, and it was impossible to get out of this horrible and poisonous region... I dread the reappearance of every morning, for fear of fresh and fatal cases... We had thick ice in all the vessels that contained any water overnight; but in the middle of the day it was impossible to sit with comfort, except in the shade. The flies still swarm in undiminished millions...'
Ernest Giles died in Coolgardie in 1897, a 100 years after William's birth. Born in Bristol, Giles came from there, as William did, to make his mark on Australia. Giles succeeded hugely, seeing much that no white man had seen before and naming everything new he saw. His discoveries and his books live after him.
Soon after William's death, Lawrence Mountjoy set about his task as William's sole executor of sorting out the estate. A letter was despatched on 29 July 1876 via Lawrence's solicitors, Kelly & Hewitt of Echuca, to the Secretary for Lands in Melbourne. Payment of £19 was sought. It was said to be 'due to the deceased for fencing round land which was subsequently allotted to Piffrow (sic)atTorrumbarry.1
This was eventually paid, and Lawrence acknowledged receipt of the £19 in October. Two months later he applied for the acreage that William had left to him.
At a later date, William's larger block of land, which had shrunk from an original 320 acres to 228, was further reduced to 222. No notes have been found to account for this change. Perhaps the missing six acres were given to another farmer or excised for some public need.
A lease on the 222 acres was ratified in May 1877. The improvements had cost £252-4-0. Lawrence accounted for this sum in his lease application as follows: 'Fencing-£106-10-0; Cultivation - £34-7-6; Buildings - £50; Water Storage - £40; Ploughing and preparing for line fence - £21 -7-6.
In this application Lawrence gave some details about the actual crops, about William's neighbours, the size of the reservoir, and the materials used to build William's house. He refers to William as 'the deceased' and to himself as the executor - separately, apart from one line in his declaration: 'During the currency of the said License the deceased and his Executor cultivated at least one acre out of every ten in the said allotment.'
So it seems that Lawrence assisted William in some way with his selection. Their lands adjoined after all, and may have been farmed as one unit. We also learn that William resided continuously on his land, had no family with him, had no other place of abode, nor owned any other land apart from the adjacent 51 acres.
It was not until July 1879, however, that Lawrence made an application for the lease on these 51 acres. Fencing here, he said, cost £69, and cultivation (a wheat crop that yielded seven bushels from seven acres) £10-10-0. But he adds: 'For the convenience the seven acres mentioned was cultivated on the adjoining block.' Piffero is on the south of this block: but someone called Moad has replaced Balding and Ferguson on the north and west. 'Own land' lies to the east.
This application is made in Lawrence's name and he gives his address as 'Highton, Geelong.' His family resides at Highton, he says, and he has 11 acres of land there. The lease was apparently granted after the probate of William's will had been checked. Lawrence's presence in Highton seems to indicate that
'dug a trench not less than two feet long, six inches wide, and four inches deep in the direction of the continuing sides, and placed conspicuous posts or cairns of stones with notices thereon at the corners of the allotment.' He also said he was a farmer and had been residing on the adjoining allotment for 'about 2 years since'. The new land, he said, adjoined his present selection - 'Jl Balding on north and B Piffero on the south' - and covered about 65 acres.
The survey was not carried out, however, until 15 January 1876, when the Authorised Surveyor, Robert Nankivell junior, as he certified on the neat plan he penned, 'used a Theodolite and a Chain in accurate adjustment.' The plan was based on his field notes and carefully drawn and signed on 8 February. It described William's new selection as 'Open Plain - Clay Soil' and now quantified it as being 51 acres 1 rood 39 perches.
The application was considered and approved by the Local Land Board on 23 February, and on 23 March William's original form was returned to him, the acreage duly emended, with a request from the Melbourne office (Occupation Branch) that he reapply.
A disapproving note was added in the margin of this letter - 'You have crossed out (why?) his answers, one of which was that he used his other 228 acres for 'cultivation & grazing & residing.' In answer to Question 4, he said he had '12 acres under cultivation' and that he had 'built a house' and had 'all the land fenced in.'
What is odd, apart from the evident deterioration of William's handwriting and sense of purpose, is the fact that although the form was witnessed again by Walter Moore, JP, on 3 April 76, the bottom section, dealing with the actual size and description of the applied-for acreage was not completed. Nonetheless, the 'authority to occupy' was approved on 1 May and the license issued on 3 June 1876.
But this was now of no concern to William. He died the following day.
He had been ill for a fortnight. Probably a winter cold, or a feverish chill brought on by wet clothes soaked in a rainstorm, developed into the pneumonia that caused his death. He was 79.
His death certificate says he was a farmer and died 'near Wharparilla, Shire of Echuca, County Gunbower.' He was last seen by the local doctor, Henry O'Hara, on 29 May. The informant on the death certificate is given as his son-in-law, 'LC Mountjoy1, who was apparently unaware of the names of William's parents, for that section of the certificate says 'Not Known'. This strongly suggests that Jane was in Geelong when her father died. For she would have known her grandparents' names. Not to mention that of her mother. Again 'Not Known, Not Known, Not Known' is written in the column concerning the deceased's marriage - where, at what age, and to whom.