Fine timbers but a tough life for settlers at The Channon

The Channon Hall, c.1912
The Channon Hall, c.1912

THESE days the place known to us as The Channon is probably best remembered for its experiments with multiple occupancy of land.

However, it has had an interesting history over the years, not only because of its importance to the Indigenous peoples, but also because of settlement by the white invaders.

The first white men were the cedar-cutters who found the area full of fine timbers.

However, the hillsides were steep and the more open areas were out of bounds because they were held by squatters.

The cutters did, however, persevere for some time and logs were floated down the creeks as in other places.

Although timber-cutters remained in the area until a more commercial timber industry was established and sawmills were built it is said that timber-getting nearly cut out overnight in 1849 because of a huge flood.

Terania Creek rose so rapidly and so high that all the timber waiting to be floated downstream was lost and there was much other damage.

Many were lucky to escape drowning. Quite a few gave up and left in disgust.

Pauline Barratt has written a fine history of the area entitled "Around the Channon; a history of its places and people".

It is probably one of the best local histories we have, and it is well worth reading. She tells us that the first Europeans to select land in the area under Conditional Purchase after the Robertson Land Act were brothers Don and Jim Thorburn. This was in 1882.

The next selection was not made until 1900 when William Hall took up a lease-holding which was changed over to Conditional Purchase in 1910. Other selectors soon followed these pioneers.

Because of the many streams and creeks often running through steep terrain conditions were difficult and isolation was a big problem.

Bridges were few and most streams had a narrow footbridge or causeway which was often difficult to cross.

Flying-fox cables were also used in some places. In this way products could be carried across streams and on to market.

Getting goods to market was always a problem, however, and the early settlers were more subsistence farmers than anything else.

As the population grew small community activities were organized. Church services were initially held under trees in Wallace Road. Picnics, often organized by church groups, were held on various properties, and there were regular sporting activities.

Gradually churches were built on land donated by parishioners.

Pauline tells us The Channon has had two halls and that the present one has had two different sites.

The first hall was built on donated land situated on or near the original Thorburn selection.

The timber for it was donated by Ben Funnell and milled free of charge by Edwin Roach. This was in 1907.

Unfortunately, its life was short as it was burnt down in 1911.

The fire also destroyed irreplaceable historical documents which had been stored there for safety.

Luckily, however, the building had been insured and so the Progress Association was able to start building another hall soon afterwards.

The much bigger new hall was opened in 1912. It was moved to its present site in 1924.

Over the years The Channon has been active in welcoming new arrivals, especially those from different cultural backgrounds.

Indians and Italians were among those who were employed to work the land and then purchased their own holdings.

Perhaps it is not surprising that our experiment in multiple occupancy began there.

Topics:  history the channon

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