A Genealogical Road Trip Part Six – The Snowy Mountains

Heading into the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales
Snowy Mountains Range in New South Wales

Running roughly parallel to the eastern coast of Australia, a little bit inland, is a line of mountains known as the Great Dividing Range.  It extends from Victoria right up into Queensland.

The Great Dividing Range is, more accurately, a series of ranges which were discovered one by one and eventually correctly positioned on the map.  In the early days of white settlement, Australia was a difficult place to map.  The terrain was hard and the weather was extreme. The Great Dividing Range was truly a barrier which divided coastal Australia from the inland.   Even in the 1830’s after fifty years of settlement in New South Wales, what lay beyond those mountains was still wild and unseen by many.

The highest mountain in Australia, Mt Kosciuszko, is in the Snowy Mountains, a section of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales.

The farming district of Mannus is also in the Snowy Mountains Range, but further north and close to the forestry town of Tumbarumba.  You can see Mt Kosciuszko from Tumbarumba, but somehow I did not take a picture.  Tumbarumba has an elevation of 592m (1,942 ft) above sea level and I choose to visit in summer, as does my mother.  It snows here in winter and can have very chilly daytime maximums and seriously cold nighttime minimums.

Mannus is about 10km from Tumbarumba.  Like so many rural districts, it once had more of a centre than it does now.  It was the location of a cattle station owned by Robert McMicking/McMeekin/McMeakin who settled in 1856. He seems to have been something of an autocratic man.  He established share farming on his land in the 1890s and my William and Fanny Morey were amongst the share farmers.

The climate must have been a shock to Wiliam and Fanny coming from Bethanga.

Road to Tumbarumba about 20km from the Hume Freeway
Road to Tumbarumba about 20km from the Hume Freeway

As soon as we turned off the Hume Freeway towards Tumbarumba, the surroundings changed from flat open fields to close trees.  The road is a slow uphill all the way, and I can remember doing this trip in my grandfather’s old car in the 1970’s when this leg of the journey took us about two and a half hours if not more.  The road is much better now.

On the road to Tumbarumba Dec 2014
On the road to Tumbarumba Dec 2014

There are still both Moreys and Peards in Mannus – plenty of the former but very few left of the latter.  The current Peard was the only son and has no children. The property will probably pass to one of his married sister’s children.  At least it will be in the family, but sad to see a line die out after 115 years.

William and Fanny Morey’s daughter Stella was my great grandmother.  Stella was born in Bethanga in 1887 and was aged about 12 or 13 when they moved to Mannus.  She was nearly of an age to go out to work.  I don’t know much about her childhood.  She could read and write, but not very well.  She had the sunny disposition which seems to characterize most if not all female descendants of Fanny Morey nee Fox.  Of the nine children in her family, Stella was bang in the middle with four older and four younger siblings. I have no pictures of her in her young days and no good picture at all. She is the lady who is responsible for my family history work, it was her family stories and her interest which got me started when I was ten.

Emily Estelle Peard nee Morey 1887-1984
Emily Estelle Peard nee Morey 1887-1984

The ruins of William and Fanny’s home can still be seen at Mannus, but it is a long way from the road on land now owned by the Mannus Correctional Facility – known thereabouts as ‘The Prison Farm’.  There’s always a chance of a private landowner granting permission to access their land to photograph a ruin, but the chances are pretty slim when it’s a jail.  This picrure was the best I could do.  This is the area.

Remains of William and Fanny Morey's home from the road.
Remains of William and Fanny Morey’s home from the road.

My great grandfather, Burleton Peard, arrived in Mannus in a year unknown but probably somewhere around 1900 also.  Our existing family at Mannus were pondering during my visit on which of them arrived first, but we did not have enough information to deduce it.

Burleton was born in Bowna, New South Wales in 1879, the seventh child in a family of twelve.  His father was an Irish immigrant, listed on the shipping record as a ‘gentleman’.  His mother was the daughter of a family of good name in Somerset, England.  We know that Burleton began working on the family farm at the age of 12, and that he had no choice in this.  His father was a strict man, but a fair man and one who had an understanding of property management.  Burleton’s first visits to Mannus were as a young man when he would ride a pushbike up there for seasonal work, and return to his parent’s property afterwords.

That’s a colossal amount of uphill riding!

My great grandfather Burleton Peard
My great grandfather Burleton Peard

Somewhere up there, Burleton Peard met Stella Morey who was eight years his junior. He and Stella were married at St Jude’s in Tumbarumba in 1908 when Burleton was 29 and Stella was 21 and they lived first at Tallangatta near Bethanga. Their first child, a son, was born here.   Five years later they had moved back to the mountains and were settled on their own land, a thousand acres or so sold off from the original McMeakin property.

Burleton and Stella only had two children, the boy born in Tallangatta and my own grandmother Dulcie.  Both children were born in Mannus in Burleton and Stella’s own house, one Burleton built himself with the help of Stella’s father and brothers.

As a child, I listened to Stella’s stories of her life.  I was ten, and had no idea what to ask about.  She used to drive a sulky with a horse, and she would drive it to the train station to collect goods.  It sounds as if she drove everywhere – into Tumbarumba, down to Wagga Wagga and Henty, to nearby Rosewood,  She was baptised Emily Estelle but she had a cousin of the same age who was also Emily Morey, so she became Stella.

As I write this, the story takes on a new importance. I have not identified a cousin for Stella called Emily.  I have not located marriages at all for two of her Morey uncles.

It was Stella who showed me the family bible, which I have never seen again.  We looked for it this visit without success.

The family property is looking very neglected now, a consequence of the age and infirmity of the current occupant.  Once there were three habitable houses on the place, now there is only one.  But the fences remain along with the remnants of landscaping and early bridges.  They place has charm.

Home of Burleton and Stella Peard
Home of Burleton and Stella Peard

Burleton and Stella – known to us all as Pa and Ma – built their house, planted their orchard and did very well for themselves.  Burleton was an able farmer, his cattle and produce won prizes and his farm thrived. In later years after their death, the house was cannibalized to repair the sheds and other houses.  Not much remains.  On this visit, I did not go in due to the likelihood of snakes.  In other years the area nearby was cleared.

Their son built himself another house on the property in the 1930s.  That house has not been lived in for 15 years and was in a poor state at the time of death of its occupant.  It still holds furniture but nature is taking over.  This house is where I hoped to find the family bible, but did not.  It may be there, buried deep in a cupboard under some blankets or clothing.  I was a visitor and even in an unoccupied house, had no right to go poking into all cupboards.  I asked for permission to look in a few likely drawers but found nothing.

The second house on the property at Mannus. In a sad state of disrepair but still furnished.
The second house on the property at Mannus. In a sad state of disrepair but still furnished.

I did find the Boer War medals, but apparently a cousin had come through and removed some of the photographs only six weeks earlier.  Hopefully she also grabbed the family bible.

I have many memories of this house, and it was sad to see it in its present state.  I remember my sister and I sleeping in the third bedroom, sharing the room with my great grandmother who was living there in her old age.  We slept in a very old high bed which felt miles from the floor, and were horrified to find a chamberpot under our bed for our use, as the house at that time only had an outdoor toilet.

This was the house my mother grew up in, and I have heard her stories too. I know where she did her homework, where she slept, how the dining room was kept in pristine condition and the children were not allowed in it.  I remembered sitting at the kitchen table for meals because in my childhood, the dining room was still not used for family.

Sadly, the ceiling in that room has now given out – only a few weeks ago – and the room’s contents are apparently ruined.  I don’t know this for sure as I could not obtain permission to undo the barricade and poke my head inside.  I have some fear that at this point, some of the room’s contents might be salvagable and even precious, but I was always the optimist.

The third house on the property is smaller and currently occupied, so will not be posting a photograph.

In my next blog post, I’ll cover the relics.

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