Presented by Paul Clacher Copyright 2002

Contents... Carapooee West

Ffyffes Hill
The Hollow Gum Tree
Carapooee West State School
Chinese Settlement
Batchelors Reef or Federal
Railtons Tunnel
Chopping Block
The Gap (Township)
Harry Burrows (The old sailor)
The Old Sawmill
Jimmy Mitchell


Carapooee West... The name Carapooee or Kalaparee is an Aboriginal name meaning 'an earthly paradise'.

As the district abounded in wild game of all kinds and was abundantly supplied with fresh water, in which fish were plentiful, the aboriginals found living easy to get and considered it was the earthly representation of that happy hunting ground they expected to enjoy when their earthly race was run.  Even to this day aboriginal kitchens may be seen showing they had camped and cooked in the same snot probably for centuries.

Ffyffes Hill...

Mining had been done about Ffyffes Hill and a curiosity of this place is that Ffyffe excavated a big dam and ran drains in some places four feet deep through hard reef around the hill. It was done with - pick, shovel and barrow and must have taken years to accomplish.  When one considers that the dam is nearly on top of the hill and has scarcely any catchment one wonders what Sam Fyffe had in view when he took so much pains for such poor results.

The Hollow Gum Tree...

In a reserve at Carapooee West stands a huge hollow trunked gum tree.  During a depression years ago men carrying their swags in search of work would camp in the shelter of this large old tree trunk.

Carapooee West State School No.1648

Carapooee West State School No.1648 stood on a five acre block with a pretty hill at the back.  Mr.Kell built the building, which was nice and large, with a residence attached.  Many children attended it then.  Previously the Carapooee West children walked from four to five miles to Peters Diggings to get education, paying one shilling a week.  The school then was of bark structure.  Their teachers being Mr.Short followed by Messrs Saunders and Mather.  The first teacher at the Carapooee West School was a Mr.Healy. He was followed by many more over the years. 

As time passed by, folks left the district, with no children coming on to keep the school open, the school closed.  The school was used for Methodist Church Services for many years and a goodly number attended.  Also the local Hall was used for entertainment.  The Education Department decided. to remove the building and got in touch with Mr.D.H.McDonald to get his views about it.  He suggested that a small room be left to continue Church Services.  This the Department did, leaving also two long desks for church use. This small room is now privately owned for it was sold not long ago to an outside buyer.

Rostron Chinese Settlement...

Chinamen who had been mining in the district stayed on growing vegetables and keeping bees.  They built their Bark Huts close to a large dam and from this had a plentiful supply of water for their gardens.  They hawked their wares in two cane baskets, with a rod over their shoulders, around the then thickly populated district of Carapooee West.  On their return journey home they would gather horse manure off the roads and carry it all the way in the same baskets that a short time ago held their vegetables.

As time went by only two Chinamen were left.  Ah Dan and Ah Dew.  Ah Dew fell into the dam and was drowned and Ah Dan finding it too lonely shifted to St.Arnaud to live. These Chinamen liked cats to eat and encouraged lads of the district to bring along any stray cats. At a noted wedding at Carapooee West, the parents of the Bride had the loan of several pieces of glassware and crockery from a nearby relative for use at the wedding breakfast.  A few nights later these were being returned in a large clothes basket.  Heavy rain had fallen previously, the night was dark and when the clothes basket bearer lit a few matches to see his way across a creek he had to cross, a loud cry rang out.  It was from a Chinaman trying to find his way in the darkness.  Never the less the basket bearer getting fully soaked made his way back to camp.

Chopping Block...

In the early days a man named Smith stole cattle from a neighbouring farmer named Carney.  The wood block used for butchering the carcases can still be seen.

Bachelors Reef or Federal...

Sam Fyffe found the Bachelors Reef on the Stuart Mill Road, in fact a drive runs right under the road.  It was worked by private enterprise for some time and sunk to 160 feet.  Later it was floated into a company known as the Federal and was worked into a depth of 220 feet.  For a time excellent returns were obtained and the mine had its own 5 head battery.

Railtons Tunnel...

A man named Railton put in a very long tunnel under a hill in the hope of striking gold without sinking for it through cement.
He achieved no success and 'Railtons Tunnel' is now only a harbor for foxes and rabbits.  The foxes prey on young lambs in the surrounding paddocks.  Once a party of young people wishing to explore deep into the tunnel and only having matches to show, the light met a full grown fox scampering to the mouth of the tunnel.  In a matter of seconds not one person was left in the tunnel and the exploration was abandoned.

The Gap ...

About the time Rostron was a live mining industry a little town sprung up at the Gap.  James Malcolm and John Landry had General Stores and Ted Lloyd a Bakery.  When the gold languished Landry removed to Landsborough. - After Malcolm and Lloyd left to start up in business at Stuart Mill an old Chinese took up his residence in the remains of the Bakery and became known as "Oven Joe". A Mr.Prain had a puddling machine here and he got as much as 14 ozs in a clean up.

Harry Burrows (The Former Sailor)

Within a mile from the Chinese Village lived an old Sailor.  He came, to the district in search of gold and for years followed that occupation.  He was handy too at carpentry and building Mud Brick houses.  He built several of these houses for Carapooee West residents as well as building his own hut on the banks of Wattle Creek.  Both of his arms were well tattooed and at parties and evenings he was sought for his singing ability.  A neighbor who used to pass by on his way to-work noticed as the days passed there was no sign of the old man but thinking as was his usual way had gone to Stuart Mill for "Refreshments" and food' was not duly worried.  Still the days went by and no sign of the old chap, so the neighbour got in touch with Stuart Mill and found he had been there but left about a fortnight ago.  A search began and Mr.Burrows body was found quite close to Stuart Mill.  He had evidently collapsed on his way home.  The remains were buried in the St.Arnaud Cemetery.

The Old Sawmill...

Sometime before land settlement took Place a firm of saw millers, who at first had what was called a Pitsaw at Beasleys Bridge, moved to a spot on the creek near the Carapooee Railway Station and later to a site on the Carapooee creek near where Mr.Alf Topliss used to live. Here they erected a large steam operated plant.  Shortly after Land Settlement up north commenced, and St.Arnaud began to go ahead, they found a ready sale for sawn timbers.

They had a special way of felling the beautiful straight trees.

Trees fell 107 years ago can be recognised by their stumps in the forest today.  The members of the Milling Firm were George Dobson, Bill Cross, John Williams, Hugh McDonald and Johnny Jones.  Jones played the concertina.  At rare intervals a travelling hawker called at such out of the way places with boots drapery and fancy goods.  One Hawker had a concertina for sale and he played it so delightfully that Jones made an exchange and paid a big premium.  The Hawker was then asked to play Jones concertina and when he did so its superiority was very evident and Johnny Jones realised he had got the worst of that deal. The Mill Firm had a fine team of big bullocks to haul logs and deliver sawn timber.  Ned Topliss being the driver.  At night the bullocks had bells strapped to their necks and they were turned adrift to find their own food in the hills and valleys.

Jimmy Mitchell.. The Carapooee West Vagabond

During the years 1918-1920, a stranger made his appearance in the Carapooee West district.  He was middle aged and short of stature.  The weather was intensely hot, the air thick with smoke and the sun like a red ball from distant bush fires.  It was the middle of summers Jimmy took up his abode back in the bush and at intervals made a raid on a farm house stealing food money, clothes or tobacco. One evening a resident was paying a visit to his neighbour a couple of  miles away and boastingly said 'Jimmy won't find my money. When he went home that night he found on entering his kitchen things very much thrown around. In the centre of the floor was outspread the contents of sugar where Jimmy had emptied sugar so that he could use the bag to pack in his spoils.  Going to his room he found Jimmy had been there too.  The drawer of the dressing table was open and money gone.  It seems that the cover of the dressing table had got caught in the drawer thus exposing it.  Clothing also had disappeared .

About a week later this resident again paid a visit to his neighbour and when looking up at the mantelpiece from an easy chair near the fire exclaimed 'Where did you get that from?  Its mine'.  It was a small brown jewel case.  All in the room were astonished but the man of the house explained 'the other day I was crossing over a low place in the chock and log fence near the house when I saw the case and picked it up'.  Evidently Jimmy dropped it when climbing over the fence on his way back to his bush hide out after making- his raid. 

Another night it was very hot and a mother and her two daughters were sitting on the verandah of their home just a few chains from the Main Road. (Nth.Western Highway now) when out of the darkness appeared a man who asked for tucker.  One of the daughters has hastened to oblige, but none were duly afraid for quite close by on a reserve was camped a road repairer.  The food duly prepared was handed to the stranger who seemed rather nervous of the loud barking of the two house dogs.  As he moved away he said Don't let the dogs out and the mother suspecting Jimmy said 'Now you get out of here quick or I will'.  With that he made his exit to the road.  That night it was learned he broke into the road repairers camp taking, tobacco and food.  Little did the mother and her daughters know the road repairer was away and they were all alone. 

This breaking and stealing was not confined to Carapooee West only but the neighbouring districts fell in for their share too.  At this time the hills had no graded roads like today and the bush was a real wilderness making it very hard to find anyone.  It appears for a time Jimmy hid in a diggers hole not far from the West of England Range.  For about 3 months the Carapooee West folk were troubled with his -presence and one day news went around he had a gun.  However one day he broke into Mr.Medlyns house (a few miles from St.Arnaud) and on being caught feigned sickness and wanted to go to the hospital.  Mr.Medlyn got him into the gig and set sail for the hospital.  Near the Black Range Jimmy badly wanted to get out but Mr.Medlyn kept going.  Not to the hospital but round to the Police Station.  Jimmy was duly tried and sentenced and the Carapooee West residents were at peace again. Long after it was said Jimmy again returned to a neighbouring district but as time went on, nothing further was heard of him and a very old resident said Jimmy perished in the hills.

Carapooee   A local History

Carapooee is a native name meaning 'Land Of Plenty!  It came into existence as the result of the discovery of gold about 1855, as the prospectors were going north to New Bendigo, now known as St.Arnaud North.  The prospectors sank several holes on Peter's Station and found a little gold, but it was not until 1862 that the alluvial mining commenced.  The district was then known as Peter's Diggings. The early pioneers reaped rich rewards from shallow sinking in the sources of the leads.  The deepest sinking was at forty feet and claimed to have been the most payable.  Other alluvial fields were known as 'She Oak,' Cornish Hill (side of the school)...Bragg's Hill... Pollard Hill... and Frenchman's Hill.  Gold Mining lasted 10 years.

Corn was first grown by Mr.Peters, and Mr.H.Perry purchased the first block of land that was sold on Peters Diggings. In 1865, a brick school was built by the Diggers and the first Head Teacher was Mr. Saunders. Railway communication was established in 1878 by the opening of a line from Dunolly.  Previous to that the only connection was by means of a rough bush track which extended from Avoca to the Richardson River. In the 80 years of its existence Carapooee has experienced the vicissitude of fortunes peculiar to most mining towns but owing to the flourishing conditions of the Agricultural and Pastoral industries is now looked upon as a prosperous district. 4.10.1943.

Note... The above School Essay from records held by the St.Arnaud and District Historical Society Inc:.  There was no name on the Essay. It is believed that the essay was written by Mr. Keith McDonald.

A brick school 30ft. x l6ft was erected at Carapooee in 1875, No.762, replacing an iron school erected some years previously, with money raised by a collection among diggers of the Carapooee gold rush.  The bricks were made locally on Peters property and Mr. Berry was the carpenter.  The Government purchased this school in 1872.  As numbers declined, the school was reduced to class 7 in 1895. The brick building was demolished in 1961.  Source... Vision and Realisation.. Lodden Region St.Arnaud High School Library

My research indicates that this essay WAS written by Mr Keith McDonald in 1943. Copyright 2002

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