For 40,000 years before European arrival, the Coolebarghurk and surrounding lands were home to the tribes of the Wathaurong people who would hunt, fish and gather plants from along the creek. The remains of stone tools as well as cooking mounds were found in the Police Paddock, reflecting this early occupation of the land. The name Coolebarghurk is believed to be a version of the Wathaurong name Kooly bar ghurk meaning "man's track by the creek".
White settlement came to the upper part of Coolebarghurk Creek in the form of the Scottish-born squatter John Norman McLeod. In 1837 he sailed from Van Diemen's Land to the Port Phillip District where he landed at Indented Head with stock which he used to establish the run which it is said, he named Borhoneyghurk after Barnighurk the local Wathaurong tribe.
McLeod claimed the squatting rights to some 24,790 acres of land stretching from Moranghurk Station a few kilometres south of Meredith to Bungal Station north of Mt Doran. To the east, the run was bordered by the Moorabool River and to the west it followed Native Hut Creek and shared boundaries with the run of that name as well as the Woodbourne No. 2, Cargerie, Narmbool and Lal Lal runs.
Local sources indicate that the homestead built by McLeod on his run was situated on high ground about 5km north of what would become the township of Meredith and about half that distance to the south west of Morrisons. The house is now in disrepair but can still be seen from a distance.
|Ruins of the original Borhoneyghurk homestead, image taken by Margaret Cooper|
|Borhoneyghurk homestead, image taken by Margaret Cooper|
|Rock piles, remains of Borhoneyghurk homestead, image taken by Margaret Cooper|
|Timber remains of Borhoneyghurk homestead, image taken by Margaret Cooper|
|Image believed to be that of George Frederick Henry Read Jnr,|
owner of the Borhoneyghurk West run c1851. Image held by the
Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts
At some point, a second homestead, this one a stone structure, was built on the Borhoneyghurk East run, along the banks of the Moorabool River to the south east of Morrisons township. It is believed that the Morrison family lived here. During the 20th century, the building was demolished and another built by the Miller family who then owned the land.
|Borhoneyghurk East stone house on the banks of the Moorabool River near|
Morrisons township. Photo supplied by Margaret Cooper
Nor perhaps were settlers and the authorities the only ones to establish a base of operations along the creek. Local legend has it that one of Victoria's most infamous bushrangers, Francis McCallum (aka Captain Melville), established a hideout along the banks of the creek. Whilst I can find no mention of Melville being in the area during the time of his "reign" in the early 1850s, it is easy enough to imagine that a hideout along the creek would have provided a handy base from which to prey upon the diggers with their gold returning to Geelong along the track from Ballarat.
Since Melville's death in 1857, rumours have abounded about a secret stash hidden by the bushranger in the Dundas Ranges, however local legend suggests another location for the loot. During a recent visit to investigate an historic bluestone house which sits on the east bank of the creek at Meredith, we were told of a previous occupant of the property (John Davies) who spent time in gaol with the Captain.
|This bluestone house on the east bank of Coolebarghurk Creek dates to the|
early years of the 20th century. During the era of Captain Melville, the
land served as the local pound
Most however, came by their riches more honestly and some even tried their hand along Coolebarghurk Creek. The Lord Kitchener Gold Mine, located on the upper reaches of Coolebarghurk Creek and now part a private property, was another of the sites we visited during our travels. The mine was however, a relative latecomer to the scene dating as far as I can tell, to the early 20th century.
|The remains of the mullock heap at Lord Kitchener Mine|
|The poppet head, Lord Kitchener Mine, image supplied|
by Margaret Cooper
|Concrete footings said to have supported the pumps which kept the mine from flooding|
|This shed, once part of the Lord Kitchener mining operation now stands on the|
corner of McLeod and Russell Streets in Meredith, image supplied by
Another boost to the district came with the arrival of the railway in 1862 and the re-alignment of the road from Geelong to that of the present Midland Highway route. This saw the focus of the town shift away from the banks of the creek to the west, but commerce continued and the township survived. So too did the little path by the Coolebarghurk Creek. From Wathaurong trail, to the rutted bullock track of the 19th century, to today's Ken Middleton Walk; thousands of years on, man's track by the creek remains.
|The Ken Middleton Walk beside Coolebarghurk Creek. During the 1840s and 50s|
bullockies and their wagons followed this track along the creek from
Geelong to Ballarat