John Coppock and Albacutya Run

The Mallee


The name Mallee comes from the name the Aboriginals gave to the short gum trees that grow throughout the region. The people that inhabited the area before white settlement was the Wotjobaluk tribe, they had five groupings.

  1. The Gromiluk, Lake Hindmarsh area
  2. The Yakkil-Baluk, Lake Albacutya area
  3. The Kretch-Baluk, Dimboola area (Previously called Nine Creeks)
  4. The Witch-Wundaik, Warracknabeal area
  5. The Yarikiluk, Lake Corrong area (Hopetoun)

The tribal groups descended through the mother and they wandered throughout an area bounded today by Dimboola, Pine Planes, Hopetoun, and Warracknabeal. The Mallee has had a chequered past, with the lack of water holes even restricting the movement of the aboriginal tribes. Sturt was the first white man to attempt to cross the Mallee when he attempted to cross south from the Murray River in 1830. In 1836 Major Mitchell travelled along the boundary of it and was so unimpressed that he reported back to the Government that is was a most undesirable place. In 1838 Eyre made an attempt to cross the Mallee and discovered a large fresh water lake that he named Lake Hindmarsh in honour of the Governor of South Australia who had sent him on the expedition but he failed to find Lake Albacutya. The early settlement days belonged to the squatters who ran sheep on properties known as runs. Due to the sparseness of the land they had tough times with feed in short supply and a lack of water over much of the region especially during the droughts. Large areas were covered with the mallee trees and scrub, much of it was drifting sand dunes and their leases gave them little encouragement to improve the land. As there were no fences the squatters broke their sheep into flocks and put a shepherd in charge of each. The shepherd would take his flock to a location on the run where he would have a hut to live in that ranged in size from a box on stilts to sleep in, to a one or two room hut usually made in the pine slab style. The native pine was plentiful in the area and the best timber for building their homes. In 1883 the Mallee pastoral act came into effect and the time of the squatter came to an end as the government broke up the runs and the land was opened up to selectors who had to improve the land and farm it to maintain ownership of their lease. Today the Mallee has been mostly cleared and the sand dunes have been tamed and now due to advanced farming methods the Mallee is mostly a rich grain growing area, with wheat, oats, canola and lupines among the grains being sown. A large portion of the area is now Wyperfeld National Park under the control of Parks. This parkland takes in the Big desert and goes all the way to the South Australian border. The region has been through change and the changes have been reflected in the rise and fall of communities starting from the early days of the squatter, with no towns or community other that the homestead, through the selectors with the development of towns with the increase in population and onto today with the modern farming techniques and the demise of the towns with machinery taking the place of the farm workers who were the basis of the development of schools and businesses that became small towns throughout the area. The modern motor car further reduced the population of these towns to the point that businesses could no longer survive and started closing as the population went to larger towns to shop and stopped supporting the local businesses leaving them with no option but to close. This had the effect of reducing the town population even more and it wasn’t long before the remaining residents moved on as well due to the lack of local facilities. The very facilities that they had failed to support. As you pass through the Mallee you will come across some small towns, you will also pass by many signs that indicate that a town or a school was once in this location. Some of these towns were quite substantial and some were merely a school or hall where the community had their meetings and social events. You may find evidence of tennis courts, football grounds and maybe a cemetery, Evidence of the presence of a substantial community, but in many cases they are reduced to a plaque indicating what was once here. The village is gone with crops now growing over what was once a thriving community of homes businesses and streets. The arrival of the train lines made a big difference to which towns survived and flourished and which ones died. Some towns were developed as people speculated on the arrival of the trains only to die after the government decided on a different location. In this narrative I will attempt to describe the phases that the Mallee has been through along with a selection of the characters that opened the country and the hard labour and trials they went through to make it what it is today. I will also follow the rise and fall of the towns as different circumstances decided their success or fate. This is my view of the Mallee taken from research of the area both verbal and written as well as my travels in search of the towns of yesterday. It is difficult to know where to start. The exploits of the explorers Sturt, Eyre and Mitchell are well documented and only small amounts of information are available for many of the first group of squatters. The first appear to be in order of the taking up their claim.

Robert William Von Steiglitz
1846,  Hindmarsh  Run

John Coppock
1846, Albacutya Run

Peter McGinnis
1846, Lake Corrong Run

Joseph Jardine and Haberfield
1847, The Outlet Run (Later taken over by John Coppock)

James Maxwell Clow
1847, Pine Plain Run (abandoned after a few months) Later owned by O. (Hughie) O’Sullivan

Henry Davis
1846, Davis Plains Run

Henry Davis
1848, Brim Run

George Archbold and sons
1849, Brimmin Run now Nypo

As I have been doing a lot of research on the Albacutya and The Outlet Runs and the towns in and around it I will begin with a narrative about John Coppock overseer of convicts, explorer, hotelier, shepherd and squatter who was the first to adventure past the 36th parallel where the netting fence was built. The following was written after the death of John Coppock by John Coppock White who came to live and work with his uncle in this inhospitable land. John’s Brother also came to work on the Run as well but was not able to cope with the environment so returned to England a short time after arriving. I will pick up the rest of the story after J. C. W’s narrative.

 The Australasian 31 October 1885.



By J. C. W.

The hero of the following narrative of facts, John Coppock will, doubtless, be well remembered by very many old colonists still living in Victoria and New South Wales, He was an early colonist, having arrived in the latter colony in the year 1829, and was amongst the first free emigrants who came to Port Jackson Before proceeding with his Port Phillip experiences, I will here relate an incident which occurred on the acceptance of his first situation in New South Wales, which will serve to convey to my readers the character of the man better than I could do by writing a column. Amongst his letters of introduction to influential people in Sydney was one to Mr. Samuel Lyons, at that time the leading business man there. On presenting it he explained that he wanted employment, and was prepared to accept anything, and, although his education fitted him for a town life, yet his leanings had always been towards a bush life, where he would have difficulties to contend with, and he was nearer being suited then than he had any notion of. Calling on Mr. Lyons one morning, the latter said,” Ah, glad to see you. I have a billet to offer you now that will just suit you. Mr. John McArthur, of Camden, wants an overseer, splendid salary, £80 per year, comfortable home, nothing to do but take charge of all the Government men on the estate, see they do their work, and keep them in order. There is only one drawback, and that is, that the two last overseers McArthur has had have both been murdered by the men, but I hope you won’t take any notice of that I have heard that they were both great tyrants, but I think you would manage the men all right.” John replied that it certainly did strike him as a drawback, but that he would think the matter over, and took  till the next day to decide. After mature consideration he accepted, and entered on his duties at once. In the year 1836 John, while still in the same employ, met a gentleman named William Henry Yaldwin, a capitalist, who was anxious to secure a tract of country in Port Phillip for pastoral purposes, and proposed a partnership for the purpose, the latter gentleman to find the necessary capital, Coppock to take charge, of the proposed expedition. Matters were arranged to their mutual satisfaction. Early in 1837, 4,000 young ewes in lamb were bought from McArthur, of Wollondilly, near Goulburn, two teams of bullocks, some horses, rations, tools firearms, and every requisite necessary to form a station in a new country. As free men were not procurable for a trip of this sort, 21 assigned servants were secured, the only free man in the camp being the leader. A start was made early in the year, the intention being to follow Major Mitchell’s line. and in the wake of Faithfull’s party, who had left Goulburn a short time previously with sheep for the same destination. A strong staff of men was required for help in travelling as well as for protection. as it was anticipated they would have a good deal of trouble with the blacks, who were known to be warlike and treacherous on the front ages, notably on the rivers Murrumbidgee and Murray. The men had to be entrusted with firearms, which was a source of continual trouble to the leader, as he soon discovered they were an unmitigated band of ruffians, and at times were very difficult to control, and required a good deal of management On the way over they had several encounters with the blacks, and several of the party received spear wounds at different times, but none of them were of much consequence. The blacks were found to be most plentiful and troublesome on the river frontages. After crossing the Murray, or Hume as it was then called, they made good progress to the Broken. river (near the present site of Benalla), where they first heard of the dreadful massacre of Faithfull’s party by the blacks, which had occurred a short time previously. It was a dreadful affair, and had the effect of making all hands in our party very uneasy. It led, however, to a very vigilant watch being kept whilst in that neighbourhood, as there was always danger of their meeting the same fate if taken by surprise, but they came safely through, and finally pitched camp on a creek which has since then been named Piper’s Creek, about eight miles distant from the present site of Kyneton. John Coppock named his camp Barfold, after a place of similar name in his native county in England, and the name bestowed on it then is retained at this present day. The country was thoroughly explored, approved of, and a large tract applied for, but as at that time the territory belonged to New South Wales there was a great deal of trouble, annoyance, and delay before a lease to occupy was granted. Huts and yards were erected at the main camp, and a few out-stations formed on different parts of the run. The sheep had, meanwhile, increased considerably; they had lambed on the road, and a good percentage was saved. At first the blacks were very shy, but when they found that sheep were good to eat they began to be very troublesome, and a constant watch had to be kept on them. They were continually spearing sheep for the sake of the inside fat, and had wounded three shepherds at different times. Another source of anxiety to the leader cropped up at this time; he discovered that his men, like savages as they were, were in the habit during his absence of shooting down the blacks on sight; they did not confine themselves to men, but destroyed the lubras and piccaninnies as well. He never allowed the blacks to be interfered with in his presence, unless in self defence, but as he was necessarily absent a good deal they had plenty of chances to put some blacks away; not very much could be said to them, and it was out of the question to think of disarming them, as there was only one against 21, and they would not listen to the proposal made to leave their arms at home and to try and make friends of the blacks. On visiting an out-station or sheep camp one day the leader was very much surprised to find the shepherd and watchman both lying dead, having been speared and clubbed to death by the blacks, and the sheep 1,200 young wethers gone. There were a lot of sheep lying about dead, cut open, and the fat taken and the carcass left intact. From appearances, and so many dead sheep about, the leader concluded there must have been a strong body of natives; and they had left a very broad trail in driving the sheep off, which would be easily followed. After noting this he returned to the main camp, collected his men (nineteen now), supplied them with plenty of ammunition, returned to the out-station, and had the two unfortunates buried, after which they started to recover the flock, or what might be left of them. The trail was easily followed by the dead sheep lying along the route, but it was night before they came up with them; they were camped in a deep gully, the sheep in the centre, surrounded with fires, and a large number of natives all around. The leader, in coming along, had decided that there was nothing for it now but to give the blacks a lesson which they would not be likely soon to forget. He reasoned the matter thus-I have always endeavoured to treat the natives with justice; they have been a great annoyance, and have killed a large number of my sheep, wounded three men, and have now murdered two. I have applied to the Government for protection, and received as an answer that I would have to protect myself; these things being so, I must protect myself, and will give them a proper lesson whilst I am about it The men, meantime, were very impatient to start; they were anxious to avenge their comrades, and at the same time satiate their bloodthirsty natures. The leader was a man of stern and inflexible will, but just withal, and to that trait in his character must be a tribute to his success in keeping such a lot of men as he had in subjection at all. He divided his men into four parties of five each, and arranged that at a given signal the work of slaughter was to commence, which was accordingly done, with the result that 23 blacks were left dead on the field. No doubt some others were wounded, but got away. One or two of the attacking party received slight wounds. The blacks were so much taken by surprise that they made but a feeble resistance. The sheep were recaptured and driven home again, and found to be some 300 short, but no more trouble was taken about them, as it was considered they had been killed. After this for a long time there was not a native to be seen in that neighbourhood, so it is to be presumed that the” lesson had been an effectual one. As long as the party stayed there afterwards they were never troubled by blacks again. Coppock thought now that the worst of his troubles were over, the country was suitable for stock, there was plenty of it to be had on application, the climate agreeable, and the sheep increasing. ‘ He began to think his lines had fallen in pleasant places, after all. There, however, was one drawback, wool was not of much value in those days, and as there was no chance of getting it to Melbourne, it was shorn off and burnt out of the way. However, there were, hopes that this would not occur again, as by next shearing time the leader counted on being able to drive his sheep down to Melbourne, shear them there, sell the wool, and bring them back again. But, alas, these bright anticipations were never to be realized, and the troubles and dangers they had successfully overcome were as nothing compared to the troubles looming in the immediate future. When the collision with the natives had taken place Coppock had sent a plain, un varnished statement of the occurrence to the head of the head of  police, Captain William Lonsdale in Melbourne, which, I presume, was forwarded to headquarters as shortly after an intimation was received requiring the attendance of the whole of the party in Sydney on a stated date to give a personal explanation of the encounter. After due consideration of the matter in all its aspects, and after consultation with his simply ruination, and the total loss of everything for which he had worked so hard and suffered so much it was out of the question to think of getting anyone to take charge of the property during their absence, and the only alternative would be to sacrifice everything. No answer was ever received to this communication; but shortly after a notice was received saying that if the whole of the party did not attend at Sydney on a date mentioned warrants would be immediately issued for the whole of them. Matters were becoming warm now, and there was nothing for it but to prepare to obey their behests and perform the sacrifice. Accordingly: preparations were immediately taken to that end. Sheep, bullocks, and horses that could not be taken were turned adrift, and the blacks had fair play at them no doubt enough horses were taken to carry the men’s swags. Coppock had his own two favourite hacks, and they shook the dust of Barfold off their feet (never to behold it again as events turned out), and turned their steps to Williamstown, in those days the chief shipping port in Hobson’s Bay. On arrival their passages were taken in a brig named the Sarah; she was ready to sail, and was only waiting for a wind, and they all went on board, her destination being Sydney and now comes the strangest incident in the life of this old colonist, whose life so far had been a succession of strange incidents. And I have often wondered that mention of it has never been made in any of the Old Time Memories” of Melbourne, written by Mr. J. J. Shillinglaw some years ago. and published in ‘The Australasian; this being so, I will relate it here. The leader felt cramped on board, and as the wind did not appear to be coming he went for a walk on shore, and was agreeably surprised to meet an old English acquaintance, who had lately arrived. They adjourned to the nearest hotel to talk over old times and relate their several experiences. They enjoyed themselves so well, and got so jolly, that they concluded to make a night of it, which they did. In the morning you can imagine the chagrin of Coppock when he discovered that the brig had sailed in the night, and he was left behind. Evidently his absence from the vessel had not been noticed-fortunately for himself as it turned out, as had his absence been noticed there can be no doubt that the captain would have had him hunted up, as his band wanted a restraining hand over them. Strange to say, from that day to this, nothing has ever been heard of the brig Sarah, her crew, or passengers, and what became of her or them has remained a mystery: all sorts of conjectures were made at the time to account for her disappearance, but they had no foundation to rest on. John Coppock’s opinion was that the most likely thing to happen would be that, when the men found that he was not on board, they would murder the crew and take possession of the vessel, and steer a course for some of the islands, where they would have a chance of remaining free. They had a greatest objection to going to Sydney under any circumstances. and had it not been for Coppock’s great influence. over them they would have revolted long before, and have refused to go. Of course Coppock was supposed to have sailed in the brig and when she failed to turn up at her destination, Sydney, he was mourned for as one prematurely cut off, by all his relatives knowing this to be so, he decided on remaining quiet, and let his friends believe he was dead, until ten years subsequently, when his worldly prospects had improved, and he was finally settled in a home of his own at Lake Albacutya, Wimmera district

This article was published in The Australasian 31 October 1885 and was followed by the rest of the story in a subsequent publication.

The Australasian March 20 1886


By J. C. W.

A former article described the trials John Coppock had with the blacks long prior to the gold Gelds era, and how he with the whole of his assigned servants were summoned to Sydney from the Port Phillip district to give an account of the battle he fought in self-defence, when his station was attached. While Coppock was waiting at Williamstown for the departure of the schooner, whose starting had been delayed, a favourable wind suddenly sprung up, and the captain, thinking his passenger was on board, put to sea. The vessel was never again heard of, nor her crew, nor the assigned servants. It became an established fact that she bad gone down, and, of course, Coppock was believed to have been lost with her. He began to look about for some speculation in which he might with safety embark his small remaining capital he had lost all his stock through having to abandon the station and his next venture was to become licensee of a public house at a crossing-place on the bank of the Little River, near Geelong. Being a bachelor, he was dependent on men servants to do all the work of the house, and they had to be taken as procurable whether suitable or not. The custom was mainly derived from the stations settled around, and from occasional parties of explorers pushing out west, who bad mostly come from Tasmania. He was not long in finding out that the life of a publican did not suit him, but he carried on for a considerable time in fact, until his license was can celled.” Some of the officers of police had stayed a night at the house, and the groom having got drunk their horses were not groomed as they should have been, and their boots were not blackened, which caused warm words to pass between them and the landlord, resulting in the cancellation of his licence at the next meeting of the court at Geelong without a reason being asked . after selling his property, Coppock returned to Melbourne, resolved in future to keep clear of the public house industry. In town he became acquainted with a settler named Egerton, from Tasmania, who on a previous trip had secured a block of country near Buninyong and had returned home for sheep to stock it. Being an uneducated man, Egerton wanted someone who could keep his books and write his letters, and he engaged Coppock. He had to mind the store and attend to a small flock of sheep, for which he was to receive a salary of 8s. per week, free tobacco, and the advantage of living with the boss thrown in. On entering this employ Coppock agreed to lend his small capital to Egerton at interest On running the boundaries of the run applied for it was found to have a remarkable mount on it, which was christened Mount Egerton, in honour of the lessee, a name retained at the present day. After spending: eight dull and uneventful years at Mount Egerton, Coppock thought it high time to make a push for himself As Egerton’s affairs had not prospered ready money was scarce, sheep were of very little value, and during the first few years wool was only shorn off to be carried outside and burned. Coppock agreed to take what ready money could be raised and the remainder in sheep and start for himself on the outside fringe of settlement. At the last moment Egerton offered to become a partner in the venture, supplying his quota of sheep and paying his share of the outfit Among the horses. was Cornborough mare bred at Camden which had come over from Sydney in the first expedition. She was a wonderful bit of horseflesh, and never known to have thrown a bad foal. Thirty years later her descendants were among the best hacks on the Wimmera River. Coppock had a first class turnout; Plenty of bullocks to draw the drays over new country, a good supply of rations, and all other procurable   necessaries. Although it was a much smaller party than the one he brought into the Port Phillip district from the Sydney side, the men were free and known to be decent, hard-working fellows. The country through they, purposed travelling was partly   settled, and little or no trouble was to be   apprehended from the natives. The intention was to travel towards the Murray, and secure the first available block of country fallen in with. The only way to attain this object was to travel out and look for it. They left Mount Egerton in I848, and fell in with another expedition with stock which left Geelong a short time previously. The owner and man in charge, Mr. Martin Shanahan, since deceased, had secured a block of country on the Richardson River and was now on his way there to take possession. The leaders agreed to travel together as far as the Richardson. They went by Fiery Creek, Mount Cole, thence across to Mr. Shanahan’s country, where they parted. Coppock   and Egerton continuing their course to strike the Wimmera River. Lake Hindmarsh, occupied by Mr. Steiglitz, was then the furthest out-station between the Wimmera and the Murray. The western frontage of the lake was occupied by Messrs. Pepper and Atkinson. The party were kindly received at Mr. Steiglitz’s, and invited to stay a short time to recruit, which offer was gladly accepted. Meantime information was sought concerning the quality and capabilities of the country lying between this point and the Murray. Very little appeared to he known beyond the fact that there was plenty of dense mallee and heath out in that direction. Alter a sufficient rest a move was made on to the North end of the lake, where the leader had been granted permission to camp on water until he had time to explore the adjacent country for the purpose of choosing a place on which to settle. A temporary camp and sheep yards were formed, Coppock, taking with him his most reliable man. a pack horse, to carry-rations, tools, &c., started out to explore. They followed the outlet down   There was a well-defined channel with a good deal of flooded country on each side, dense mallee growing to the edge of the flooded land for a distance of ten miles from the lake, after which the country opened out. and several dry swamps were met with. After travelling about fifteen miles they came to a large dry lake, the native name of which they afterwards learned from the blacks was Albacutya. It was judged from appearances that there had been no water in it for a great number of years, as all around the margin was covered with a dense growth of scrub, a sort of bastard myall, from eight to ten feet high, very thick, and difficult to penetrate. Over the bed of the lake was spread a thick sward of grass, interspersed with succulent herbage. It was first-class country- for stock evidently. Water for use was found along the outlet, but nothing permanent On sinking a short depth in the sand they came upon slightly-brackish water. There were many dry lakes and broad watercourses in the vicinity, the overflow having followed the fall of the country eastward until arrested by the high banks of a saltbush plain in that direction—the site of a former salt lake, over which a crust had formed of no great thickness. In one place where the crust had become broken intensely salt was found underneath green as the sea, and of an unknown depth no saplings tied together ever having been found long enough to reach the bottom. On cantering a horse over the plain a hollow sound was given out, and when rain threatened the surface became quite wet and greasy from the melting of the salt spread over it. On the north-east side of Albacutya there was a nice stretch of plain country thickly covered with salt and cotton bush grass, and various kinds of fattening herbs. On this side of the lake the banks were high and picturesque. The plains were backed by extensive belts of the prettily-growing Murray pine. It was veritably a land of promise. The camp in the bed of the dry lake was constituted their head-quarters while they remained. It was within easy reach of all the open country in the neighbourhood, and the horses stayed very contentedly. Dingoes were plentiful and bold, and after following the explorers about all day they would howl around the camp fire all night Traces of natives were seen, and the bones of one was found on the beach. The lake appeared to have been a favourite native camping ground. As the description of the boundaries of the runs abutting were rather vague, an agreement was entered into between Mr. Robert Steiglitz and Mr. Coppock by which the latter was to acquire three miles frontage to Lake Hindmarsh. An application was sent to the Sydney Government for the Albacutya block, estimated to contain 100,000 acres. It was granted. Blacks were plentiful about Lake Hindmarsh, but very shy. In the course of time, when they found they were not interfered with, they gained confidence and ventured about the camp. Coppock knew a good deal of black’s language, but, as there was a difference between their dialect and that of other aboriginals amongst whom he had been, it was some time before he could converse freely with them. In the lake tribe was a very old man, who said he remembered the lake being dry when be was a little boy. There was water in one hole near the inlet the resting-place of ” the Bunyip,” which, he said, captured and made away with the natives who went there for water, until at last they became so much afraid that they would not go near the place. A great number perished for want of water in consequence. As the teller of this story was the only one who remembered anything of this circumstance his statement was not believed. It was not thought possible that such a vast sheet of water could dry up, Being that it had a large river to feed it. What was supposed impossible then has since actually occurred, as I read of Lake Hindmarsh having been dry not long since. The first shearing was performed at the lake under a roughly-made bough shed, the wool spade-pressed, and sent by the station teams to Geelong. This trip took Five months, as after a fall of rain the country was so rotten that teams could not travel, and had to wait until the ground became hard enough to carry the loads, so that they were in camp most of the time, by which means the bullocks were kept fat An out-station was foolishly formed in the bed of Lake Albacutya, ready for occupation during the cool season, the grass and herbage there being of a superior character to anything found on the Lake Hindmarsh frontage. In the spring of 1850 Lake Hindmarsh overflowed, and the water covered a large area of country. The outlet ran a banker, and the water reached Albacutya. The numerous small lakes and watercourses were ultimately filled, and the water continued its course towards the Murray, reaching Lake Werrengreen, Pine Plains, & distance of 60 miles from Lake Hindmarsh as the crow flies. It was at one time thought that the flood waters of the Wimmera found their way into the Murray, but their course was never satisfactorily traced to connect them. A curious feature in this country was the occurrence of isolated salt lakes on each side, and beyond the possible reach of the flood waters, the salt lakes having neither outlet or inlet, and being situated in some cases in the midst of sandy heath country, in others being almost surrounded by mallee. The water was very acceptable, but there was too much of it. It had submerged all the best fattening country and all the improvements in the lake. Dog proof sheep-yards were found to answer much better than the old Sydney plan of having night watchmen, and as good straight pine timber was plentiful improvements were cheaply made. A woolshed was also built, and the old camp abandoned. The Albacutya clip usually averaged 1s. per lb. for greasy, or 20 d. for washed fleece, prices which were fairly remunerative. The breaking out of the goldfields in 1851-2 fairly revolutionized everything connected with wool-growing in Victoria, and when the men employed on Albacutya heard how easily fortunes were made at Ballarat they wanted to leave in a body at once. By offering a very substantial addition to their wages Coppock induced a sufficient number to carry on the work to stay. By this time the blacks were becoming civilized, and could be trusted with a flock of sheep. Before the gold era men who gladly accepted 10s. a week for their labour could scarcely be induced to stay on the run at any price. As a set-off against this a great demand arose for fat stock to supply the diggers, whose numbers were increasing daily. I have before me now an account of the sale of 1,500 Albacutya wethers, sold in Melbourne by Powers, Rutherford, and Co in 185—, which averaged 32s. 6d. each. A .memo, at foot states that 17 head were sold on the road at 40s. each. Before this time Mr. Egerton, wanting money to develop Mount Egerton, sold his share in Albacutya to Mr. Coppock, who became sole owner. Some years later the Outlet run was purchased, with 2,200 sheep at 20s. per head. The Outlet belonged to Mr. A. Russell, of Melbourne, and was leased to Mr. Thomas Ross, a former employee at Albacutya, who had taken maiden ewes in lieu of wages and leased this country to keep them. The Outlet was not much of an acquisition, as three-fourths of it consisted of dense mallee. Country, which had been looked upon as nearly useless hitherto, was now being eagerly competed for. In 1861 I made my appearance on the scene, having been called over from Sydney. I found the owner living in a two-roomed hut built of pine logs and lined with woolpacks. The furniture, which had been made on the place, was rough, to say the least After a few months, during which time I had learned all I could concerning the working of the property, I accepted the post of sheep-over seer. In the course of time the whole management devolved on me, all, with the exception of the clerical work, which was performed by; Mr. Coppock up to the last About this time rumours reached us of squatters down the country who were fencing their runs with the intention of running their sheep at large. This move was very generally and freely discussed, the general opinion being that, however well it might answer down the country, it would never do here, where dingoes were so plentiful. How ever, Mr. Coppock thought differently, and immediate preparations were made to test the experiment. Lines were surveyed for the proposed division of the run into paddocks, and contractors started to work. Two years later 60 miles of fencing were finished, and the whole of the sheep running at large, when it was found that they did much better than when shepherded. Albacutya was the first station in the district on which fencing was started, but before many years passed the whole of the lessees became converts to the new system. A good many years passed before the New South Wales squatters entertained the idea, and many more before they put it into practice; in fact, I am acquainted with some pastoral tenants in that colony who continue to have their sheep shepherded now. They won’t see the benefits of fencing. Mr. Coppock, who Was now- failing fast, said to me one day very abruptly, ” You know that beautiful pine-tree which stands at the back of the sheep-yards. When I die I wish to be buried underneath it” I looked up, surprised, and said,” Why, you are not thinking of dying just yet, are you ?” ” I can’t say when I shall die, but I am ready when the call comes.” Some months later, when the tree was blown down in a gale, he merely said “Ah, I shall soon be down too, but my choice of place holds good notwithstanding. Our old colonist had not gone through life without his one romance. When he left England he was engaged to a young lady who promised to be faithful and to wait patiently until he had carved out a home for himself in the new country. When this was accomplished she was to come out, but fortune and a home were got together too late, the lady dying of a broken heart and hope long deferred. On the 23rd of June, 1865, the beginning of the end came, and I will relate circumstance in connection with his death showing to what length determination of character may carry a man. At daylight on the second day of his final illness he roused up and said be sure and tell me when it is sunrise. I wish to see it.” I thought this mere rambling, but not so, for when I told him later that the sun was about to appear he stood up, I stepped forward to assist him, but be bade me stand aside; he made his way on to the veranda, steadied himself by a post until the sun came fairly into view, then he turned to me and Said, “There, that will do; that is the last time I shall ever see the run rise.”‘ When he loosed his hold on the post he seemed to lose   all power, and I was only just in time to pre vent his falling. I got him onto the sofa and called the doctor McDonald, who said that that was a final effort, and at 9 o’clock a. m. be passed quietly away. John Coppock was well respected by his workers and made a habit of always eating with the men. John would sit at the head of the table and carve the meat and serve those at the table which usually consisted of boiled mutton. He also got along well with the aboriginals from the Yakkil-Baluk tribe who camped in a stand of Mallee Trees near the homestead. John conversed with them in their own language and on the occasions when game was scarce he would give them a sheep to eat. John Coppock was buried in the location he requested and his nephew commissioned a headstone that read simply

John Coppock

Who died June 30 1865

Aged 70 Years

An Honest Man


The Grave of John Coppock in the field near Lake Albacutya. In the top right corner there is a stand of trees where the aboriginals camped. The homestead was to the right of the trees. DSC_0342 DSC_0346 This chimney and some foundations and a well are all that remain of the Albacutya homestead. The huts were donated to the Pioneer Museum in Jeparit where they were reconstructed. Each piece was numbered so that the huts could be rebuilt exactly as they were at the homestead. These days I can see John on the porch holding the post to steady himself as he looked out to the east to watch the sunrise for the last time with his nephew John Coppock White standing by ready to catch him should he stumble. John Coppocks sister named her son after her brother and that son travelled to the other side of the world to live and learn from his namesake. It is no wonder that John left the majority of his estate to his nephew.

John Coppock’s huts moved and reconstructed at The Pioneer Museum Jeparit.

In a separate story “A lonely grave by Lake Hindmarsh, Victoria” you will find the tale of the wife of one of John Coppock’s shepherds This death actually happened after John Coppock’s death while his nephew John Coppock White was the owner of the run. While this story is part of the history of Albacutya Run I will not repeat it at this time but rather leave it as a separate story of the hardship experienced by the women in this land. The following page contains the last will of John Coppock. I was surprised when I discovered that it was my Gr. Gr. Grandfather that presided over the will. From the Supreme Court Records (Before his Honour Mr. Justice Molesworth.) PROBATES AND ADMINISTRATIONS. The Court granted probate of the will of  John Coppock.

John Coppock will

Related Images:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!