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The Story ofShady Creek

Part 1 - by Andy Ringin (D. Steer)

At the May 1986 meeting, members enjoyed hearing the "History of Shady Creek" told to us by our popular guest speaker, Mr. Andy Ringin, Secretary-Treasurer of the Moe Historical Society.

The name "Shady Creek" refers to two separate features in the area.

Firstly, it is the name of the small creek which was once a feeder source for the great Moe Swamp. At the beginning of this century, the lower reaches of the creek were realigned and converted into a deep drainage channel known as the "Main Drain" which empties into the Latrobe River just over a mile north of Moe. This change made available for use some thousands of acres of rich flats reaching back from the Latrobe River to just west of Yarragon.

Secondly, the name refers to a small settlement which, over the course of 125 years has occupied three different sites. However, the site that concerns this article is the first, or original, site, located on a rise above the creek from which it drew its name and of which, today, nothing remains other than the faint traces of the early road, a partly filled hole, which was once the cellar of the "Drovers' Rest Hotel", and a solitary headstone marking the site of the Shady Creek cemetery.

For many years, the settlement stood in a peaceful setting, in natural bushland, but today the area is cleared, and used for cattle grazing. The single headstone. remaining in the original Shady Creek Cemetery commemorates Dr. Henry Hadden (baptized William Henry), who died on 29th May 1869 aged 47 years. He was born in Wexford, Ireland, the son of a Methodist minister.

Before coming to Australia, Henry served an apprenticeship with his older brother, David, a doctor, at Skibbereen, Ireland. He sailed from Liverpool aboard the "Prince Arthur", on 24th January, 1853. Dr. Hadden first practised in Australia at Daisy Hill, Back Creek, Amherst (near Maryborough Victoria).

In October1855, a Coroner's Jury, at Amherst found that Dr. Hadden "did by criminal neglect cause the death of Ellen Kirkham" and he was committed on a charge of manslaughter. In December 1855 he was sentenced to three years hard labor on the roads.

However, by 1866 he was in practice again as the first doctor at Walhalla, where he is best remembered for his role in attending a Smallpox victim, Mrs. Hanks, who had contracted the disease while staying in Melbourne. On here arrival at Walhalla she was very ill and was diagnosed as having Smallpox, thereby causing great consternation and fear amongst the Walhalla community. Her husband removed her from the hotel to their home which was then isolated and guarded, Dr. Hadden being the only person allowed to visit the patient. Mrs. Hanks died and her son and her husband contracted the disease but recovered due to good medical attention and careful nursing by Dr. Hadden and an old lady. No further cases of Smallpox occurred.

Dr. Hadden died in a Cobb & Co coach at Crossover, on his way back to Walhalla from Melbourne. Following this incident, an aperture was cut into the backs of coaches and a riding light affixed, to allow better illumination of the interior of coaches. Dr. Hadden was buried at Shady Creek because of the difficulty of taking the body from Shady Creek to Walhalla over the rough track.

Another well-known resident of Shady Creek was Nicol Brown (1819-1916), an early squatter and partner with Billy Hillier in Scrubby Forest Station. Billy's Creek, south of Morwell, is named after Billy Hillier. Nicol Brown set up the "Drovers Rest" hotel at Shady Creek, in 1859 - a well chosen site as the discovery of the Tanjil and Walhalla goldfields brought travellers and business. Later still, it became the changing stop for Cobb & Co, coaches and others, providing a good trade in drinks, meals, accommodation, and fodder and stabling for horses as Brown was able to transport this from his Scrubby Forest Station property.

Shady Creek became quite a little settlement, with its Government cattle reserve for the drovers, the hotel, a store, a post office (1871) and a police station (1872). On 8th April, 1860, Nicol Brown's wife, Julia Costella Brown died, at the age of 30, and in November of that year his young daughter, Isabella, died after being severely scalded. Both Julia and Isabella were interred near the hotel but 35 years later, when Nicol Brown settled at Rosedale, he had both bodies exhumed and re-buried at Rosedale.

In 1865, Brown charted a route from Shady Creek to Tanjil, Coopers Creek and Walhalla, known as Brown's Track, which was used by all travellers. In the same year the first Sale to Melbourne coach service was operating through Shady Creek; taking 36 hours to complete the,journey - one section of the "road" was particularly bad and became known as the "glue pot".

Eventually, Nicol Brown remarried, taking as his wife a barmaid from a Melbourne hotel. Rightly or wrongly, he believed that his wife and the young mailman, William Laughton, were too friendly, and one evening in October 1868 he shot and killed "Billy the Mailman". Brown was arrested and tried at Sale in April 1869, receiving a sentence of 20 years jail. He was released in 1887 on the occasion of an Amnesty for Queen Victoria's Jubilee. Billy Laughton was also buried at Shady Creek.

0n his release from jail, Nicol Brown found that Scrubby Forest Station and his hotel had gone. For a time he managed a property at Upper Flynns Creek; for T.Y. Anderson. Then in 1894 when he was 75 years of age, he decided to try goldmining in the West, and departed for Coolgardie with £100 in his pocket. After many setbacks and great hardships, he and his companions "struck it rich", finding gold averaging 30 Oz. a week. They sold their claim for £60,000, of which Nicol's share was .£5,000. He returned to Melbourne in September of the same year.

Nicol Brown returned to Rosedale and bought a farm for his son. Later on they lived near Trafalgar. Eventually Brown married a third time, in Melbourne, in 1903, at the age of 83.

He died in Melbourne in 1916, aged 96, bringing to an end the story of a remarkable man, one of the pastoral pioneers of our part of Gippsland and a man typical of his times.

A grateful vote of thanks was acclaimed to Andy for his sympathetic presentation of this very human story, and we thank him also for making his notes available for this report.