ST ALBANS PIONEERS : SETTLERS AND SPECULATORS FROM THE 1860s
The history of St Albans is usually said to have started on the 1st of February 1887 when the station of St Albans on the Spencer Street to Sunbury railway line was officially opened. While this is a valid proposition, it is not entirely correct, because it can also be argued that the genesis of the neighbourhood occurred two decades earlier, on the 2nd November 1868.
In the publication St Albans The First Hundred Years it is stated that prior to February 1887 only an embryo settlement existed, comprising of ‘The Circus’ subdivision, Alfred Padley’s ‘Keighlo’ and a couple of other houses. This is definitely not correct unless one takes a very narrow definition of a neighbourhood. From a broader perspective the settlement at St Albans by the late 1880s comprised about 80 properties and would have included between 100 and 200 people, so it was already a well established though dispersed rural neighbourhood with a twenty-year history. These people who arrived in the 1850s and 1860s were the St Albans pioneers, because they were the first generation of permanent settlers in the area straddling the boundary between the shires of Keilor and Braybrook and referred to as Keilor Plains.
Broadly speaking, the European settlement in the district occurred in three stages related to the time when Crown land was divided and sold to the populace. This first occurred in the 1850s on the Braybrook side to the south of Boundary Road in the area known as the parish of Maribyrnong between Station Road and McIntyre Road; for example, Mary Delahey had several hundred acres between Boundary Road at St Albans and Ballarat Road at Albion. Some of the first pioneers came even earlier but they were few; e.g. Joseph Solomon came to Bray-brook in 1836 and James Watson came to Keilor in 1839, the former being one of the first settlers in Port Phillip and part of John Batman’s syndicate from Van Diemen's Land. These were some of the earliest pioneers and had grazing properties fairly close together but would not have formed a separate neighbourhood at the time. At this stage the Port Phillip colony would have had a population of about 3,500 people and Melbourne about 600.
The population of the colony increased during the 1840s due to an influx of free settlers looking for land and then skyrocketed when the gold seekers who stayed likewise demanded access to land. By 1851 the population of Victoria had reached 77,000 but a decade later it was over half a million and starting to impact on the claims of the squattocracy. The 1850s was a time of growth in Keilor. It was declared a township in 1850 by the colonial government in Sydney and became a major stopping point for hopefuls leaving Melbourne for the goldfields at Ballarat. When the gold rush was over many people returned to Melbourne looking for land and independence. The government’s response to this growing pressure was through the Closer Settlement Scheme to open up the squatting and pastoral land for the benefit of the small farmer-settler – locally it meant that land on the Keilor Plains became available for selection.
This was the basis for the second subdivision, in November 1868, when the land in the old Keilor Commons was sold through the Closer Settlement Scheme. By this stage Keilor was a small village that was growing in influence; it was declared a road district in 1862 and by 1865 it comprised of about 60 houses and 250 residents. The Keilor Road Board governed the district that later became the core part of St Albans when the Commons was sold – it was the land on the Keilor side of Boundary Road from the Saltwater River to Kororoit Creek and included the land between Station Road and Kororoit Creek from Boundary Road (Main Road West) to Kororoit. This drew more of the established Keilor and Braybrook farmers into the St Albans arena, such as the Milburns, Delaheys, O’Neills and Opie families.
The third sale in 1879 was the old Keilor Town Common land from Green Gully between the Sunshine Avenue and the Saltwater River down to Boundary Road east, which attracted buyers such as Charles Stenson, Michael Fox and Patrick McShane. This was a smaller sale than the previous one in 1868 but it finalised the neighbourhood boundaries.
Thus it can be argued that the earliest settlers in the St Albans district go back to at least the 1850s, but the Closer Settlement sale in 1868 brought in a lot more people to the district at one particular time with the specific aim of settling on the land as resident farmers. On 2 November 1868 about 300 persons came to Keilor village to select land on the common that had been available to farmers around Keilor, Maribyrnong, Kororoit, and Derrimut. It had been surveyed into sixty-eight allotments of an average of eighty acres:
“This, no doubt, was the great inducement that brought such a large number from all parts of the surrounding district, through such a miserably wet morning, and at such an early hour. From Gisborne and from Gipps Land, from Melton and from Melbourne, and from every known spot between these places selectors put in an appearance. Yet of the 300 persons present there did not appear to be more than one-tenth who really meant, or were capable, of complying with the spirit of the regulations—bona fide occupation and culti-vation. The well-to do farrier from Melton was not likely to leave his forge and take up his abode on the Keilor Plains, as he no doubt is more useful and better paid shoeing other farmers' horses than turning farmer himself. The storekeeper at Carlton is not likely to leave his shop to hold the plough. The publican at Footscray might possibly be looking out for a good site for a future "Plough Inn" amongst the new landed proprietary nominated yesterday; and the numerous members of the Legislative Assembly that put in an appearance might possibly have an eye to the remarkably easy-going constituency of West Bourke, and wish to qualify themselves as local men.” 
But that is exactly what did happen: the medico from Melbourne, the storekeeper from Hotham, the publican from Footscray, and the politician from the Legislative Assembly jostled with the district farmers and land workers for their chance at a lottery win on the Keilor Plains – these selectors were pioneers of St Albans in its earliest stage. Who were they, where did they come, what motivated their interest in the district, and what happened to them? These profiles of 70 pioneer families are an attempt to answer these questions.
The local newspapers of the time seldom included articles about the Aboriginal population who were the traditional landowners, the Marin Balug people of the Woi wurrung clan:
“Their clan estates extended from Sunbury, Kororoit Creek, Jackson’s Creek and the Maribyr-nong River. They belonged to the waa moiety. At the time of contact with Europeans, the ngurungaeta (‘leader of the group’) of the Marin balug was Bungaree. Bungaree was a highly influential man whose country included … the most important source of raw material for stone axes in the region and the centre of a large trading network. Bungaree, as one of the ngurungaeta who was authorised to permit access of strangers to his country, was a signatory on Batman’s 1835 treaty with the Woi wurrung and Bun wurrung. …
“The Woi wurrung people were decimated by a combination of dispossession, massacres and the introduction of European diseases during the 1830s and 1840s. The British colonial govern-ment’s attempts to establish a ‘Protectorate’ for Indigenous people were a failure and, although the Bun wurrung people were granted a reserve at Mordialloc in 1852, most of the remaining Woi wurrung people were left to fend for them-selves on the fringes of white settlement from the 1850s onwards.” 
Other traditional landowners named in local history include William Barak, who was the headman of the Wurundjeri and said to be present at the signing of Batman’s treaty; he died at Healesville in 1903 at the age of 85. Derrimut was another of the local Aboriginal chiefs whose name is recognised in the history of the region, as Mount Derrimut was named after him. Joseph Solomon, one of the earliest European settlers in the district, seems to have established good a relationship with local Aboriginal clans and had written employment agreements with some of their members, so he was a forward-thinking man in many ways. Despite such occasional reference to the Koori inhabitants, their individual stories of life in the district were not recorded in the newspapers of the time.
The following stories about St Albans pioneers are therefore stories mostly about British immigrants and their settlement in what has become one of the most cosmopolitan districts in the nation. These pioneers include:
Arbuthnot, George and Elizabeth
Arbuthnot, Mary and George
Ball, Joseph and Elizabeth
Blackwood, Alexander and Mary
Brown, Thomas and Bridget
Burns, John and Mary
Burnside, James and Rachel
Burnside, James and Margaret
Cahill, Edward, Mary and Margaret
Callow, Henry and Maria Jane
Cavanagh, John and Ellen
Christie, James and Elizabeth
Cranwell, Thomas and Emma
Cummins, John and Bridget
Davies, Benjamin and Emma
Davis, Arthur, Edmund, and George
De Carle, Edward and Annie
Delahey, Mary and Henry
Delahunty, John and Maria
Derham, Thomas Burge and Matilda
Donnelly, Patrick and Bridget
Egan, Margaret and Patrick
Errington, Hannah and George
Farrell, Henry Charles and Jane
Finn, James and Mary
Foley, John and Bridget
Fox, Michael and Rose
Greville, John and Charlotte
Harrick, James and Bridget
Harrison, Matthew and Ann
Hassed, Edward and Ellen
Johnston, David and Elizabeth
Kennedy, Rody and Margaret
Le Fevre, Dr. George and Sarah
Luscombe, Richard Charles
Mansfield, Samuel and Emily
Margrett, Stephen and Maud Mary
McGuiness, Ann and Bridget
McLellan, William MLA
McMahon, Thomas and Mary
McMillan, William Vincent and Elizabeth
McShane, Patrick and Sarah
Milburn, David and Susan
Newell, David and Margaret
O’Connor, John and Catherine
O’Neill, William and Bridget
Opie, Bennett and Ann
Opie, Thomas and Josephine
Padley, Alfred Henry and Mary Elizabeth
Phelan, Patrick and Ellen
Powell, William Hamilton and Mary
Quail, Captain Charles and Christine
Servante, Charles and Emily Eliza
Sincock, William and Mary Louisa
Smith, Dr. Louis Lawrence
Solomon, Joseph and Sarah
Stenson, Charles and Emma
Stenson, Frederick Charles and Eva
Tate, Paul and Hannah
Taylor, William and Helen
Toop, Walter and Elizabeth
Watson, James and Elizabeth
My thesis is that the origin of St Albans goes back to 2 November 1868 and that 2013 marks the district’s 145th birthday. This book has been written to commemorate the occasion.
A word of caution: these stories are based on articles included in the Trove database of digitised newspaper and some local references, but the information is likely to have gaps and errors. There may also be mistakes in identifying individuals because of duplication or misspelling of names. This is unavoidable when one is trying to trace links as far back as the 1830s, but hopefully the reader will still get a better understanding of the people and the circumstances that shaped the development of St Albans from the 1850s to 1900.
 This is referring to the history of European settlement in the district. The Aboriginal population had been resident in the district for some 40,000 years.
 St Albans The First Hundred Years
 The Saltwater River was renamed the Maribyrnong River in about 1913.
 The Argus Tuesday 3 November 1868
 http://www.gml.com.au/wp-content/uploads/ 2010/09/ Part-1-Maribyrnong-HMP-July-2007.pdf
 Myer Eidelson; The Melbourne Dreaming: A Guide to the Aboriginal Places of Melbourne; Aboriginal Studies Press, 1997. Barak was born near Croydon and in the 1860s was living at Coranderrk Station, Croydon.
ST ALBANS SETTLERS AND SPECULATORS
William Henry Taylor (1818–1903) arrived from Scotland in 1840. In 1849 he bought 13,000 acres of land which he named the Overnewton Estate. The property stretched from Keilor eastwards to Melton, taking up much of St Albans west of the railway line to Deer Park and the Kororoit Creek. Taylors Road was named after him, of course. The Taylors built their home on the outskirts of Keilor in 1849, and later extended it in the style of a Scottish castle, complete with turrets, chapel, gatehouse, and fifteen servants. William Taylor became known as the ‘Father of Keilor’ because of his very long service as a shire councilor and mayor. In 1868 parts of his estate between Keilor and Braybrook were bought by the Victorian government and divided into small farms. This was repeated in 1900. These farmers and their families were the Pioneers of St Albans.
Charles and Emma Stenson migrated from England in 1855. They settled in St Albans near the river and grew grapes and apricots. In 1888 their nephew, Frederick Charles Stenson, came to help them on the farm. The Stenson family contributed enormously to the district, for over 100 years. Frederick Charles, with the support of his wife and daughters, became a senior statesman and leader within the church and in municipal life. Fred and his wife Eva helped establish the first Anglican church in the area – St Albans The Martyr. He represented St Albans on the Keilor council for 40 years, and was the longest serving councilor we’ve ever had. Mr. Frederick Stenson should be remembered with respect as “Mr. St Albans.” Eva Stenson was from North Melbourne. Their daughters were Alice, Mary, Emily and Winifred.
Alfred Henry Padley was born on 1850 in England, the only son of Thomas Padley and Caroline Jeffs. He came to Australia with his parents in 1852. He started working as a grocer in the 1860s and became a property developer in the 1880s. He subdivided a thousand acres of grazing land around the railway line, paid for a station to be built, and named it St Albans after St Alban the Martyr of England. Mr. Padley played an important part in the development of St Albans. He was a man with a vision and a willingness to take risks, and for a while he and his family were St Albans residents. Padley became a councilor at Keilor and Braybrook. When his business collapsed in 1890 he lost all his money and left the area. His grand house that he built in 1886 became the home of Frederick and Eva Stenson. That grand house is now the Presbytery of the Sacred Heart Church.
Hannah and George Errington came to Keilor in 1860 and bought their St Albans farm in 1868 – it was in Main Road East opposite the Tin Shed. They were some of the earliest pioneers in the district. When they died they left their property to their son William Errington and his wife, Alice Hounslow; they had a son called Bobby. William Errington worked for the railways. Mrs. Alice Errington was a wonderful woman who donated the reserve in Main Road East to the people of St Albans, and that’s why it is called Errington Reserve. The bluestone and steel entrance gates on the Reserve were built in 1937 as a memorial to the family’s generosity. Errington Reserve became the place for many community fetes and bazaars and has been the home for many clubs: tennis, cricket, football, the scouts, and the Tin Shed has run many youth activities, dance groups, playgroups, and much more.
James and Margaret McAuley came to St Albans in 1905. Farming was about the only industry in St Albans at the time, or working in the quarry. H V McKays was the only real manufacturing industry in the area, and that was in Sunshine, or else people went to work in Footscray. The McAuley’s farm had cattle, calves, a few dairy cows, horses, chooks and pigs, and they also grew some crops as stock feed. Everyone relied on rainwater for domestic use, so when the water ran out Finlay McAuley used to cart water for local residents because there was no water laid on in the neighbourhood. At first he had to go to Deer Park because there wasn’t even a hydrant in St Albans. He went to Deer Park near the old school in Station Road. Then, in the 1930s after the water was laid on in St Albans, a hydrant was put into Biggs Street just outside the house of Mrs. White, so she had the key to the hydrant.
Jonathan and Emily Boyd came to St Albans in 1905 and lived on their farm “Rockville” on the corner of Taylors Road and the railway line. They helped to build the Presbyterian Church in St Albans On their farm they raised sheep and cattle and grew crops. They had five children: a son William, and four daughters Annie, Dorothy, Eva and Myrtle. Myrtle married Harold Knowles, who was a soldier at Tobruk in World War Two; he became the first real estate agent in St Albans. Harold and Myrtle established several shops along Alfrieda Street and Main Road East and their daughter May Knowles started the first frock shop. The family also built some houses and flats in the district as well a reception centre in Alfrieda Street. Bill Knowles started the St Johns Ambulance Brigade and supported the Scouts. Jimmy Knowles took after his father in becoming a real estate and insurance agent.
James Henry Stevens came from western-central Victoria in 1907 and established his farm in Main Road West. He was a lay preacher, a Sunday School teacher, a Justice of the Peace, a councilor for the shire of Keilor, and he was with the school council for many years. He married Agnes Cockerell, who was from Flemington. She was President of the Mothers Club at the primary school and the Benevolent Society, and organised concerts and fundraising events for charitable causes for decades. If anyone needed help she was the person to go to. She was a wonderful pianist and had a good ear for music. James and Agnes had four sons: Garfield, Horace, Douglas and John. They were all good singers and businessmen. The Stevens brothers established a hardware store, an electrical store and a real estate agency. They were inspiring community leaders.
Lewis and Marion Self were born in Footscray so they were “home grown” Australians. They married in 1911 and came to St Albans in 1928 when Lewis became the manager at the St Albans quarry. He was badly injured in an explosion and never fully recovered, so he decided to build a shop. With his wife and family of three girls and three boys to help the shop grew and grew until St Albans could boast of having the biggest self-service super-market in the southern hemisphere. It became known as Self & Goddard. During the 1950s Self’s became the first business in the area to find out what the many migrants wanted. He listened to them, he talked to them, and he went about getting what they wanted. That was good business sense and that’s why the business grew. Three generations of family worked there for 60 years with a staff of about 100 people. The store was sold in 1988.
John and Elizabeth Perrett, and their son, Eric, came to St Albans in 1923 when they bought the store that Harry Harrison had been running since 1914. Perrett’s General Store became a business hub for the next 30 years. It was a general store in every sense: you could buy groceries and other produce, newspapers, firewood and wheat, it was a bank agency and a post office, and one of the few phones in the district was on the footpath outside. Goods came in bulk, so you brought baskets and containers or would put your order in and it would be delivered to you. During the depression the Perretts supplied many an order that might not have been repaid, but that was part of village support. Eric became a Justice of the Peace and was involved with the Progress Association, the School Board, and the Football Club. He raised money for causes such as the Footscray Hospital. His wife, Effie Hughes, worked all day at the store then rushed home to make dinner. Their son, John, became a local chemist.
Mary Smith’s family was of German background, but she was born in Australia in 1920 and the family moved to St Albans in 1923. Her father, William Ferdinand Stein was born in Germany in 1863 and came to Australia in 1883. Mary’s mother was Selina Hannah Schieferdecke, who was born in 1886 in Collingwood. Fred worked at H. V. McKay at Sunshine. Mary and her mother helped with preparations for the Catholic Mass when it was being held at the old St Albans Hall, because there was no Catholic Church in St Albans at the time. Mary and her sister Elsa also helped with the Sunday School classes. Mary also worked at H V McKays in Sunshine. Mary married Eric Smith in 1943 and they built their house bit by bit as they could afford. Mary is a local history expert who has helped write the history of St Albans. She is one of our living treasures and is still with us at the age of 93.