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Great memorial to the pioneers and early settlers of Underbool

Underbool Pioneer and Early Settler Memorial

Underbool & District Pioneer and Early Settler Memorial

In honour of the pioneers who, through vision, courage and strength, triumphed over hardship to settle this district.

Officially opened October 19, 2002.

Design Features

  • Railway segment leading to the rock signifies rail preceding opening of the district making settlement possible.
  • Circular 'wheel' around the rock remembers the importance of wagons for transport of early settlers, their supplies and produce.
  • Paved coloured segments in the wheel represent fallow land and golden crops.
  • Gypsum reminds of the importance of the salt industry for employment and income so many during drought/depression years of early times.
  • Shadow figures recall early images.

A brief history of early settlement...

Early pastoral runs in the district were operating from the 1860s (the Salt Lakes ran may have been taken up as early as 1847) but uncertain land tenures and lack of reliable water did not encourage permanent occupation.

1891 Railways Standing Committee recognised successful agricultural settlement of the mallee lands must be accomplished by rail and water. In 1907, the Mallee Select Committee recommended that Kow Plains be opened and linked with rail. The line from Ouyen was chosen from several possible routes, a detailed survey from Ouyen began in 1908 by A.S.Kenyon and by May, the Ouyen to Underbool section was defined.

1909 January - construction of the rail line began and as it proceeded, blocks of 600-700 acres of land were surveyed four miles either side of the line and town sites reserved. The cost of establishing rail, water supply and roads was added in the purchase price of the settlers, property.

Land: From August 1910 land was gazetted and successfully applicants announced for allotments in parishes of Nyang and Underbool, followed by Boinka, Worooa, Daalko, Manpy, Gnarr, Mamengoroock, and Purnya Settlers began arriving early 1911 to clear land and establish dwellings.

To clear land in readiness for sowing the crops, a heavy roller, pulled by bullock or horse team, smashed mallee scrub to the ground; other trees felled by axe or cross-cut saw.

The felled scrub was left to dry, then burned, while stumps remained in the ground. the stump-jumped plough was a welcomed invention to aid cultivation. From the late 1920s when several farmers purchased tractors, horse teams were gradually replaced. Sheep were introduced later.

Water: 1910 - Public bores were sunk at Boinka and Underbool township and later in other parishes, some proving too saline. Government Tanks were constructed as 'insurance' against drought but it was drought that rendered these useless. Special water trains were run from Hattah Lakes. Survey of the open channel systems to Underbool - the largest gravitation system of its type in the world - began in 1926, with water first reaching Underbool in 1930. A pipeline system was proposed as early as 1935, special meetings in 1984 revived the plan; in 2000 the dream was realised with water piped from the Murray River.

Rail: was the pivot of transport from 1911, carrying passengers, grain, general merchandise, salt and livestock; special trains transported people to football matches and agricultural shows.

When stacks dominated the rail yards until the silo was built in 1939. Passenger trains ceased in the late 1960s. Transport of stock gradually deceased and by 1988 Underbool station was demolished and the cellar filled in.

In 2002, only grain is railed out from Underbool.

  • First store - 1911 where settlers could obtain food supplies was set up by J. Cotter in a tent in the railway yard.
  • Earliest schools - 1913 Linga, Boinka and Underbool; by 1934, 12 schools had opened in the district.
  • Postal service - 1914 J. Cotter was the first appointed Post Master opening the service from his store in the main street.
  • Bush Nursing Centre - founded in 1917.
  • Police Station - local service began in 1920.
  • Salt - harvesting commenced in 1916, continuing until the declaration of the area as a State Park in 1979.

Memorial Wall

At a community meeting in February 1999 it was suggested that a memorial honouring pioneers of Underbool district be established at the highway rest area. Initially plaques naming pioneers were to be displayed within a native tree plantation. Later it was proposed that a monument to district pioneers be erected featuring a large local rock.

Families were invited to donate the cost of a plaque which would identify the pioneer with brief details of arrival time, occupation/land selected. Response from descendants of pioneers was outstanding and it was obvious that a large structure would be necessary to accommodate all plaques.

Community consultation with artists Karen Harris was possible through a grant from Arts Victoria. Her design, modified to suit available funding, represents significant features of early times; the central large local rock displays the dedication plaque to all the pioneers.

Acknowledgements of the memorial

  • Public donations
  • Arts Victoria
  • Mallee Arts Council
  • Ms Karen Harris
  • Mildura Rural City Council
  • Dedicated local volunteers and tradesmen
  • Local History Resource Centre
  • A Vision Realised

A list of all pioneers are named on plaques.


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