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Stock and station agent - James and Ada Peck at Sale

Stock and station agent - James and Ada Peck at Sale

Left: James Peck n.d. (Source: Helen Connell); Right: James Peck and brother-in-law Robert Copland Lethbridge (Source: Hardy, G. (2007) op.cit. p.19.)

James Peck (1833-1884) and Ada Peck née Minter (1846-1918) were both part of the original emigrant party on the ship Brothers, arriving at Port Phillip in 1850. James’ early link with the Snake Ridge run following his sister Mary Anne’s marriage to John King has already been mentioned. Ada’s initial move as a child with her family to Mount Moriac near Geelong has also been referred to, along with part of her schooling which took place with the Hedleys in Tarraville.

After commencing his education in Newmarket and finishing it at about the age of fifteen at a school in France1, James Peck arrived in Port Phillip in 1850 at the age of seventeen. Along with the rest of the Peck and Hedley party he spent several months in Melbourne and may also have helped the Minter family become established at Mount Moriac near Geelong in late 1850. He appears to have travelled to Gippsland to join the Hedleys and his sister Mary Anne during 1851.

Following Mary Anne’s marriage in January 1853 James spent several years living and working at Snake Ridge station with his brother-in-law John King, ultimately becoming superintendent of the station2. Doubtless having grown up in Newmarket, the centre of English horse racing, he was an accomplished rider. Many stables abutted the house he grew up in on the Newmarket High Street.

The Snake Ridge Day Book 1854-1863 makes many references to him3. It appears that James Peck was one of the core group working on the Snake Ridge run in 1854; later he appears to have moved around a lot with cattle, but remained a consistent presence throughout the recorded period 1854-1863. Some examples of entries in the Day Book:

12 May 1854

James Peck returned having purchased Flynn’s mare.

Fri 19 May 1854

ALK, Peck, Redding and Black fellow brought the Cattle from Rosedale crossed them over the river and took them to the yard.

Mon 22 May 1854

Peck, Walker and Robinson went to Rosedale brought in some Cross Calves and branded 22 Calves.

Mon 27 May 1854

Peck, Walker, Robinson and Black Jack making brush fence down the Hill and at the Bridge.

Sun 28 Oct 1855

Peck called on his way from the Port …

1 Nov 1855

R. Lethbridge and … Stagg started for the Port with 84 head of Cattle.

Sat 3 Nov 1855

J Peck here.

Wed 14 Nov 1855

Peck took away Turnbull cattle. Peck here. Stopped here the night.

Sat 1 Dec 1855

Peck came down in the evening.

Sat 5 Jan 1856

[fire at Rosedale [the pastoral run] – all burnt down] Peck came down from Loyan.

Mon 28 June 1858

Dr Hedley arrived.

Fri 20 Aug 1858

JK [John King] and Phillips went over the river…

Sat 6 Sept 1862

Peck returned from Melbourne.

17 Sept 1862

Peck returned from Sale.

Mon 22 Sept 1862

Peck went to Sale on his way to Wooroowoolgen [a cattle property on the Richmond River near Casino, NSW]

6 Oct 1863

Mr Peck and H. Buntine assisting and collecting B’s

12 Oct 1863

Mr Peck … attended a meeting to have the Rosedale bridge repaired.

Around 1858 James built his home Bowarett on the north side of Sale. James, together with his elder brother Ffloyd who had then newly arrived in the colony with his family, appear jointly to have purchased a paddock of some 400 acres. Ffloyd’s house, Grassdale, built for him by his brother-in-law, John King, was on the western boundary (now on the main road from Sale to Maffra) and James’ home Bowarett diagonally opposite on the eastern boundary of the paddock (now on the Sale to Stratford road).

Bowarett, Sale in 2011 (Photo: Helen Connell 2011)

On 22 March 1864 James married his cousin Ada Minter4 at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Barrabool Hills near Geelong.

At the time of his marriage, James described himself as “squatter of Nambrock [sic], Rosedale, GippsLand.” It appears that in the absence overseas of John King and family, James was looking after Nambrok. Ada, at seventeen, was a minor and needed her mother’s permission to marry.

After their marriage, James and Ada continued to spend time at Mount Moriac, presumably helping with the management and letting of the Minter property following the death of Ada’s father in January 1864. James and Ada’s first child, Sarah Eleanor, was born at Nambrok, but died aged three months and was buried at Mount Moriac.

Record of marriage, James Peck and Ada Minter, at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Barrabool Hills, March 1864. (Photo: Helen Connell)

James and Ada had eleven children, of whom seven survived to adulthood: Sarah Eleanor (1865-1866); James Ffloyd (1867-1869); Ada Marie (1868-1869); Robert Ffloyd Minter (1870-1887); James Arthur (1873-1944); Martha Woutrina (Mena) (1874-1966); Tom Oswald (1876-1950); Hubert Octavius (Octy) (1880-1952); Ella Gwendoline (Gwen)(1881-1949); Emily Irene (Reenie) Ada (1882-1934); Flora Sybella (Ila) Clay (1883-1971).

Like her father and several siblings, Ada became an accomplished water colour artist, drawing inspiration in her early years from the garden in her home at Mount Moriac. The Minter property was let (and later sold in 1875), with the entire Minter family leaving the Mount Moriac area.

Still life by Ada Peck née Minter, dated Jan 31, 1865. Private collection (Photo: Helen Connell)

In Sale James established himself as a stock and station agent, maintaining close contact with the Kings at Snake Ridge. When in 1866-7 James became a partner with the stock and station agents Pearson and English, the firm became known as Pearson, English, and Peck. With the departure of the senior partner, Mr A. L. Pearson, for Melbourne a couple of years later, the firm became English, Peck & Co. James looked after the firm’s cattle business with considerable success; it became the leading such business in the area.5

James Peck n.d.(Source: Sale Historical Society)

Only snatches have come down to us about James Peck as a person. The first dates from 1863, with a report in the Gippsland Times about an incident on the Port Albert Road at a time when the condition of roads was still poor and bridges few6: “An incident which occurred in crossing the Sale morass [swamp] on Thursday evening ought to be a good precedent in all cases of danger, and show the folly of having too many masters in any undertaking, more particularly if human life is endangered. When the coaches and passengers had arrived at the Hill Top, after their ineffectual attempt to reach Merriman's Creek, a number of passengers, including two ladies, embarked in a boat to attempt the passage to Sale, and one, under the best management in such currents as were running, must be full of dangers. When crossing the morass, the boat was endangered by fouling with a tree, when Mr. James Peck, who was sitting in the bow of the boat, and hearing so many contrary directions being given that there was no possibility of any one being able to steer the boat, he, with considerable presence of mind, seized the tree, and absolutely refused to allow the boat to proceed until a leader was chosen, and all promised to obey him. This, after some hesitation was done, and Mr. Duncan Clark who is a thorough boatman, was appointed captain and the boat was brought through its perilous journey in safety to Sale, which would probably never have been accomplished if the command had not been handed over to some efficient person, whose experience in boat management and knowledge of the intricacies of the way, enabled him to act as guide”.

James obviously threw himself into the social life of Sale, as attested by the following ad in the Gippsland Times of September 20, 1870: “Grand Entertainment at Sale School Room”. The ad indicates various proposed recitals, “…After Which Mr Jas Peck will commit a most UNWARRANTED INTRUSION [emphasis not added] To the annoyance of Mr Allester”. One wonders.

Ada Peck née Minter n.d.; Engagement ring, Ada Peck née Minter, married 1864. (Source for both: Helen Connell)

One of James and Ada’s nieces, Nell Gregson [daughter of Ada’s sister Flora], wrote of this period: “The [Minter] family habit of enjoying a seaside holiday still persisted, and Mrs Peck, Mrs Campbell of Glencoe near Sale, and Mrs Montgomerie [sic] of “The Heart” also near Sale, owned the first three holiday cottages at the Lakes Entrance in the 1870s. These were near Reeves River, just below “Roadknights” where a few necessities might be bought as there were no shops. … There was a very happy social circle of young people in Sale in the 1870s and the Entrance cottages were filled to overflowing at holiday time with parents, children, aunts, cousins and friends. The steamer took them down and sometimes did not arrive to taken them back for two or three months. …

The Cottages, Lakes Entrance, by Flora Minter 1872. (Source: State Library of Victoria)

In later years Mrs Peck and Mrs Montgomerie [sic] moved from their original cottages to this ocean side which was known as New Works. Mrs Phillips [née Rosa Minter] and some of their friends also had cottages there…”7

The “Works”, Lakes Entrance 1879 by Flora Gregson née Minter (Source: State Library of Victoria)

Today the “New Works Historic Complex” at Lakes Entrance is heritage listed. A schedule of items designated for registration lists that: Mrs A. Peck had Cottage, Lot 9 and R[osa]. Phillips had Cottage, Lot 11 on the east side of The Entrance.8 In her book Carpentertown: A history of the New Works cottages at Lakes Entrance, Marie Fish traces the history of each cottage, some from fishermen’s cottages, some from cottages of those working on the new and permanent entrance to the Gippsland lakes system to use as holiday cottages9. Cottages have been, and continue to be, leased by the year. Ada Peck had taken out the lease on The Crib before 1898, passing the lease on to Ethel Lloyd (née Walters), a Bairnsdale-based sister-in-law of her son, James Arthur Peck. Archie and Ethel Lloyd kept the licence from around 1912 until 1950 when two of their sons took it over10.

By the 1880s Sale had become a flourishing centre, the recognized capital of Gippsland. It had benefited considerably from the gold rush in the Walhalla and Woods Creek areas in northern Gippsland. “The raw frontier town of the fifties gave way to the well ordered town of the eighties. New buildings sprang up and parks, gardens and sports fields were laid out.”11 But the boom lasted only until the 1890s recession when Sale’s momentum considerably slowed.

While James did not enter public life, he filled many semi-public social positions and was well regarded as “the genial Jimmy Peck”, being noted for competence, zeal and integrity12.

At one of the up-country sale yards around 1880 James was severely hurt by an angry beast charging him. This compounded an already weakened constitution, and a few months later he left his stock and station agent firm, intending to make a home in the warmer climate of Queensland with his sister and brother-in-law, Ella and Robert Lethbridge at Forest Vale, Maranoa. Mr Theo Little took his place in the firm13. After a lengthy period in Queensland James returned to Sale intent on returning permanently to Queensland.

In November 1883 James and Ada’s youngest daughter was born at Bowarett. One month later, in December 1883 they had a clearing out sale at Bowarett: “On Thursday we held the clearing out sale at “Bowarett”, the residence of Mr Peck. The attendance was very large, and everything sold at most highly satisfactory prices. Milkers, 3 pounds 12s 6d to 4 pounds 10s; Alderney bull 9 pounds. Horses 18 pounds 10s to 37 pounds. Pigs …. 1 pound 7s, 2 pounds 2s 6d to 2 pounds 5s, Buggies 29 pounds to 30 pounds 10s, Dray 13 pounds; and all the furniture, &. Pigs very scarce, high prices ruling. Sheep. - Stores in demand, and any coming forward would find purchasers. Horses. - Anything right age and description sell well, and we have sold a great number during the week.”14

In early 1884 James sold the family house, Bowarett, and was making preparations to move to Queensland with his family when his health rapidly gave way.15 Thefamily moved to Sunnyside on Guthridge Parade in Sale, where James died in September 1884 of phthisis (consumption, or TB) at the relatively young age of 5116.

How long the family remained at Sunnyside is not known. At that time, Sunnyside had – according to promotion material - 2 acres of the best soil in Gippsland, a spacious dwelling house with 8 rooms, also outhouses, underground tanks and other advantages17.

Sunnyside, 216 Guthridge Parade, Sale. Proposed to be added to the Heritage Overlay of the Wellington Shire Council in 2007. (Source: Tourist information brochure, Sale)

At some point before 1890 Ada Peck moved to Urania Cottage, 6 Dundas St, Sale opposite the Market Reserve [the present Sale State School grounds] and closer to her sisters-in-law Mary Hedley and Menie Peck. Until her death in 1890 Mary Hedley lived at Urania Cottage with Ada. Ada’s son James Arthur was based there in 1897/8 while he was a stipendiary reader during his theological training.

The former Urania Cottage, now 6 Dundas St, Sale. (Photo: Helen Connell 2011)

From 1906-09 Ada and her youngest daughter, Ila, joined James Arthur in Myrtleford, northern Victoria, to keep house for him while he was a deacon, then priest, before his marriage in 1909. At the time of her death in 1918 Ada lived with her daughter Reenie Nethercote in Melbourne.

Left: Ada Peck (née Minter), son James, his wife Ada Peck (née Lloyd) and daughters Eleanor & Margaret. Kilmore, 1917; Right: Ada Peck née Minter 1915. (Source of both: Helen Connell)

In her unpublished memoirs, As I remember it, Margaret Connell née Peck described her grandmother as: “small and round with a beautiful smooth complexion. She used to come and stay with us in Kilmore and she used to wear a lace cap on her white knob of hair”.

Click on the following link to read the next section of the story: Another doctor arrives in Gippsland - Ffloyd Minter Peck, Anna Maria and Menie in Sale

1 Possibly northern France with his baptismal sponsor and the former medical practice partner of his father, Dr Andrew Ross and family – who lived for a few years during the 1840s in France, including at St Omer near Calais and in Paris.

2 Gippsland Times Fri 19 Sep 1884.

3 Day books, 1844-1863 [manuscript] King family. Day books relating to pastoral runs owned/ managed by the King family in Gippsland: includes Fulham, Rosedale and Snake Ridge. The first covers the period 1 April 1844 to 30 August 1846, and 10 February 1848 to 4 May 1849; the second 19 April 1854 to 8 November 1863. State Library of Victoria. As the Day Book covering the years 1850-1853 is missing, it is not known when and how James Peck began his association with Snake Ridge.

4 James and Ada were first cousins, James Peck’s father, Robert James Peck 2nd (1789-1848) having married Sarah Minter, an older sister of Michael Minter, Ada’s father.

5 Gippsland Times. Fri 19 Sept 1884.

6 Gippsland Times, 27 Feb, 1863

7 Nell Gregson (1954) Notes on Sketches by Mr WH Gregson and Mrs Gregson (née Flora Minter) La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. Provenance File.

8 File No. 86 3320N. Historic Buildings Act 1981. “New Works” Historic Complex, Lakes Entrance. Owner: Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands.

9 Fish, M. (2008) Carpentertown: A history of the New Works cottages at Lakes Entrance. Lakes Entrance. Lakes Entrance Regional Historical Society.

10 Ada Peck née Minter’s eldest surviving son, James Arthur Peck, married Ada Lloyd, then of Bairnsdale, in 1909. Ada Peck née Lloyd’s brother, Archibald and his wife Ethel, ran the Bairnsdale shop of the family hardware business.

11 Medew, N. (1987) The Story of Sale. Sale. Sale Historical Society. p.15

12 Gippsland Times. Fri 19 Sept 1884

13 James Peck retired in 1881 because of failing health. Theodore Little, who joined the business in his stead, was the eldest son of William Little of Inverbroom near Stratford. Theo’s younger brother, Frederick, married Grace Lloyd, elder sister of Ada Lloyd who, in 1909, married James Peck’s son James Arthur Peck (my grandparents). Was the stock and station business the link between the Pecks and the Lloyds? Mum wondered how they met.

14 Gippsland Times 24 Dec 1883. Commercial Gippsland Stock Reports..

15 Gippsland Times. Fri 19 Sept 1884.

16 The house Sunnyside is believed to have been built in the 1860s by Philip McArdell, steamboat captain, sawmiller and timber yard owner. (“More reminiscences by Mr W.D. Leslie” Gippsland Times Mon 19 Nov, 1928.)

17 Description given by English Peck & Co when Sunnyside had been put up for sale in 1879.