On Sunday I intended to go to a heritage event at Anderson’s Mill in Smeaton, on the way dropping in at Castlemaine and Maldon. But I didn’t get there.
The first part of the day went to plan with a last visit to Threadbear in Castlemaine and some time at the Maldon Cemetery. It is not far from here to Neereman and the farm on the Loddon River established in the 1860s by my great great great grandparents. It was easy to find as I had been there as a child when my mother was first researching her family history. I have some small black and white photos from that time and wanted to replace them with colour images. So this was to be a quick call to see if I could do that some time in the future.
When I got to the farm I was made to feel most welcome. Albums of photos and documents came out, including the family tree book my mother had written listing the descendants of settlers who had a farm on the other side of the river. Their son had married a daughter from this farm.
So an hour or two passed very pleasantly with Steven and Margie. The farm has been in his family from the early 1920’s and so he knew all about the alterations and when they happened and Margie had also been gathering information on the early history of the property.
Most of the original outbuilding still stand built mainly from local sandstone, although the cheese room has now collapsed due to white ants working there way through the supporting timbers. The house is brick and was originally three rooms, the rear one the dirt floored kitchen. This is as it was in about 1920 and so how it was in my family’s time.
In the 1940s a whole new section was built parallel to the original so the external doors now open to a passage. The roof pitch was lowered and the attic window is now in the bathroom at the rear. A new wide window replaced the bar door at the front and a return verandah was added to update the whole look of the building. Steve has done a great job inside, restoring timber ceilings, refurbishing the original doors and taking away some earlier ‘improvements’. He obviously loves the old place.
Thanks to a successful court case at the time, a goldmine on the land had to pay substantial annual compensation to my ancestor so there were funds to establish extensive gardens and orchards. Apparently the gardens drew visitors from as far as Bendigo. An ancient olive tree is still productive, the Bunya Pine fruited this year and the Norfolk Pine is enormous. The farm was also famous for its cheese and being on a Cobb and Co route it was a staging post, also the Neereman Post Office, the Exploration Reef Hotel and depot for paying rates and voting at council elections.
Even better, Steve’s family also bought what was May Farm in Baringhup West so I got to see and copy a 1920s photo of that farm too. I think this building dates from 1878 as a tender was called for such a construction on the farm in that year. The roof is looking quite new in the photo and I hope that there were verandahs all around that were just awaiting replacement.
The Loddon River between the two farms is still a place of beauty. The magnificent River Red Gums in the picnic area near the ford would have been witness to many social occasions in the past.