People arrive in the wombat forest
40,000 years B.C
Aboriginal people came to Australia 40,000 years B.C. They came to the Wombat Forest because there were many animals, as it was wetter and greener than the rest of Victoria. Aboriginals were the first people in Bullarto. The aboriginals set up camp very close to Kangaroo Creek because there were many animals and there was a good water source. They would use big trees to make weapons and would make shelters using branches, twigs, bark and trees. They would hunt for animals for food like possums and kangaroos. They used the land for camping in the summer. Because the grass was green at Bullarto, in the summertime, animals like kangaroos would come here to eat grass and so the Aboriginals could eat the animals. In winter there would be no grass and it would be cold and horrible. The aboriginal people would move north where it was warmer.
European people came to Bullarto about the time of the gold discovery in 1851. Gold was mined at Bullarto in the Wombat State Forest. But, there was a big problem. There was water not far under the ground. They might be able to mine but not very far down.
Coaches would drive from the Goldfields through Bullarto to Melbourne with gold. One day, one of the coaches was held up by bushrangers. They stole all the gold from the cart and hid it in a tree stump and it was never found!
A sawmill was needed in Bullarto because they could get wood to stabilize mine shafts, for firewood and build homes. A sawmill was established in 1871 by J. Wheeler. He built the sawmill in the middle of the bush. He had also built some more local sawmills around the area. Timber was transported around Victoria by trains, also tramlines and bullocks. The forest was spread apart and not overgrown by feral plants like blackberries and gorse. There were not many spiky plants and a horse and dray could fit through the trees.
First Farm Land
In 1871 the first freehold land titles were given around Bullarto.
To keep the land and make it into a farm the selector must build a fence around it and cut down the trees.
This was very hard work because with an axe, a jack and a shovel a strong man could only cut down two large trees in a day. After grubbing a tree, the selector must roll or slide it with either a traction engine, bullocks or manually. Then it is burnt and buried. The fencing was extra hard because the mortising took hours so to build a whole fence kept a man busy for a long time.
Passing The Time.
Around the 1850’s in Bullarto people didn’t have phones or tablets to entertain themselves. They had to make something up or go back to an old tradition. One of these traditions was dancing. People danced in the Bullarto Hall, Coghlan’s Hall and in hotels.
Cockfighting was another pastime locals liked to watch and bet on. Before myxomatosis was introduced in Australia they used to go out hunting for rabbits. Townsfolk also used to put a duck in a box with its head sticking out and they used to bring their shotguns and try to shoot it at a set distance. People also liked to play cards. They sometimes walked for entertainment but liked to do athletics such as running races as well.
Woodchops were one of the things locals liked to watch or participate in. Horses weren’t just used for travel. They were also used for horse events. We still do some of the pastimes played back then like footy, cricket, table tennis and badminton. Bullarto had a rifle club which lots of people joined. Young people were part of a scout pack while there was a youth club for the kids. They had a church group, and a charity club. There was also a Bullarto ladies guild. The Bullarto Ladies Guild was something all the ladies participated in. The community had a Bullarto Comforts Fund which must have been to make Bullarto more comfortable.
120 years ago
Farming In Bullarto
In Bullarto, lots of different things were being farmed. A common crop was peas but they lessened as time went on, eventually disappearing from the community altogether.
Potatoes were farmed, too, and are still today, though not as much due to them getting hard to sell. There were so many potatoes in those days that farmers would use all the possible land to grow them, including the strip of land next to the railway.
Cows were kept in paddocks and were farmed for their milk which was made into butter and other dairy products. They were also farmed for their meat. If a farmer didn’t have the land to keep a cow he would leave them on the roadside to graze.
Wheat was farmed to make into flour. Before the creation of the thresher, families would sit around a table at night and rub wheat to separate the seed from the husk. When they had a reasonable amount they would load it into their dray and it would be taken to Coomoora to be made into flour. Rye straw was used to stuff horse’s saddles and collars with and was grown for grain. Oats are still common and are used for hay and grain.
Sheep were farmed for wool and fat lambs were slaughtered and eaten.