History with Brian James: Eastlake's family history

John Eastlake. Photo: contributed

John Eastlake. Photo: contributed

The brothers George and John Eastlake left Plymouth on the Lord Hungerford on December 1,1854 and after a rough and stormy trip sailed into Port Jackson in the colony of New South Wales on March 20, 1855.

The ship had nearly been wrecked three times.

In one storm the ship had lost all her top masts and sails and had her bulwarks and skylights stove in.

The ship and passengers spent 30 hours surrounded by icebergs.

Both George and John could read and write, had good health and were Church of England.

They quickly found work on the Johnson's dairy farm at Annandale.

When they left England John was 23-years-old and George 26 years.

They were ambitious and saw the potential of the gold fields of Burrangong and Lambing Flat.

Whilst setting up the two shops the brothers did some gold prospecting.

About 1862 they each selected 640 acres of land along what is now the Wombat Road.

George selected 'Hillview' and John selected 'Fairfields'.

George married Frances Saywell and brought her to Spring Creek to live. John married Elizabeth Finn in 1871 but she died in 1876 and had no children. In 1880, four years after his brother George had died John and Frances were married.

The Eastlake name is well known in Devon, England and records show people of that name going back to 1655.

Over a century later, in 1763 John Eastlake, grand-father of George and John who migrated to Australia was baptised at Peter Tavey.

John was known as 'Da' to all that knew him, and he lived a long and healthy life.

He died on June 4, 1931.

John's home was called 'Fairfields' and was made from bricks on the property.

The kitchen was separate from the rest of the house and had a big store room attached.

Bill and Leila lived in this house, which is over a 100 years old until they moved into Young.

Whilst John and George had their stores they dealt in gold with the miners and this was an attraction for the bushrangers who frequented the area.

Frank Gardiner is reputed to have had a butchers shop at Stoney Creek or Spring Creek, this would have been supplied with meat duffed from Squatters such as James White.

On September 10, 1863 Ben Hall and John O'Meally rode into the 12 Mile Creek Diggings (Monteagle) and entered Eastlake's store.

The other three bushrangers stood guard outside.

When John came to serve them they asked to see some moleskin pants. John turned to get them and on turning back found he was looking down the barrel of John O'Meallys gun.

The storekeeper immediately put the trousers in front of his face and called loudly for his employee.

One of the bushrangers fired a shot at point blank range but fortunately the ball missed Eastlake and shattered a bottle on the shelf.

Mr Eastlake's employee ran into the shop and fired a shot at the bushranger.

The lamp in the room had been extinguished and it was impossible to clearly see the target.

The alarm had been raised by people shouting "Roll....up', the cry for help amongst diggers.

Realising that the diggers nearby would run to the aid of the storekeepers the bushrangers thought it best to leave.

The incident at Eastlake's store shows that the bushrangers were prepared to kill if it was necessary to achieve their aims.

About half an hour later Ben Hall and John O'Meally arrived at Naemiths store at the 10 mile and performed a similar charade, but this time with better results, for them.

The cheeky pair of thieves after taking what they wanted opened a bottle of porter, a dark brown bitter beer brewed from charred or browned malt.

Then they said that they would have some sardines for supper, whilst they proceeded to fill their pockets with other items.

Information sourced from the Eastlake's Family History Booklet.

  • Historian, Brian James, contributes his column each Tuesday to the Young Witness on behalf the Young Historical Society IncAnchor.