The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names

The Development of Farming in Victoria

by the SAUL settlers

By Dorothy Hughes

This article was originally published in the July 1998 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.

The research for the history of the SAUL Family, in Australia began some twenty, years ago. Initially, I thought grandfather Martin Saul was the only member of 'our' Saul family, to have migrated from Germany. This has certainly been proved incorrect. As there are no 'older' members of the family to interview and very few historical family documents surviving. the research has largely been a matter of dogged persistence, sometimes in the face of daunting frustrations.


What prompted grandfather Martin's uncle Martin Saul to leave his family and homeland in 1853? We will never know for sure, but we do know that the first substantial numbers of Germans arrived in Port Phillip in February 1849. They came mainly from South West Germany and were mostly small independent farmers and artisans seeking a better life than they had had in a Germany suffering rising prices, a series of disastrous harvests, religious persecution, and to a lesser extent, the disruptions caused by the 1848 Revolution.

Between 1815 and 1866, after the defeat of Napoleon, thirty‑nine German states formed the German Confederation, with Austria as leading state. When Prussia defeated Austria in the war of 1866, Austria left the Confederation and Bismarck, the Prussian Prime Minister, formed the 'North German Confederation', which was later joined by Bavaria, Wurttemburg and Baden in 1871. So the German Empire came into being and existed until 1945. Only after 1871 did the situation of economic misery for the majority of people gradually change.

By the mid 1850s there were about 20,000 German born settlers in Victoria. Perhaps among these, there was a friend or relative of 'Uncle' Martin who encouraged the young man to emigrate. In Maryborough, the German Association was formed in 1857, and apart from being a focal point for the many Gentians on the goldfields and surrounding areas, the association organised sports meeting and provided entertainment for all.

Johann Martin Saul was born in 1830 in Rottenburg unda Fulda Kurhassen, Germany, and  died 7 January 1905 in Bet Bet Victoria. His parents were Frederick Saul (a weaver) and Elizabeth Schaub. Johann married Margaret McDougall Menzies (a widow), who died 1 February 1906 in Bet Bet, Victoria. There was no issue from this marriage.


Martin arrived in Australia sometime in 1854, possibly 6 December, having travelled as an unassisted foreign migrant aboard the J.W.A. Lorenson (Lawrenson), 492 tons and carrying 6 passengers and 27 male steerage passengers. These 27 were all labourers, all German, and contracted to land at Melbourne. This ship left Adelaide, South Australia on 30 November, and following its departure from Melbourne, arrived at Hong Kong on 25 March 1855. As there is no mention of Martin on the passenger list, it is possible that he left the ship in Adelaide ‑ there was and still is, a large number of German settlers there ‑ and made his way across to Victoria with other German friends or relatives. Perhaps he travelled under an assumed name? Could he have been a crew member and simply left the ship in Melbourne? His naturalisation papers state that he arrived in Victoria on December 1854 aboard the Iva (sic) Lorensen. The only ship recorded coming to Australia with a similar name is J.W.A. Lorenson.


Before the gold discoveries, Victoria had been virtually self sufficient in agricultural products. Squatters, by the terms of their licences, were not allowed to cultivate, except for their own use, but a few farmers on land around Melbourne, Geelong and other centres were able to supply almost all the needs of the people. The rush of new people increased demand at the very time when many farmers left to go seeking gold. Wheat had been sown on 29,623 acres in 1851‑2, but only 7,553 acres in 1853‑4. Total areas under cultivation fell from 57,472 acres in 1851, to 34,816 in 1853. In 1854, total non‑assisted immigration to Victoria from Britain consisted of 27,301 males and 12,872 females, one of the highest intakes for the 1850‑60 period. This then was the economic climate that prevailed when Martin Saul arrived in 1854: many requiring sustenance and less and less land being cultivated.


Martin apparently settled in the Carisbrook district soon after his arrival. In 1857 he married Margaret Menzies (daughter of John McDougall and Catherine McNab) at Carisbrook. Margaret was 42 years old, widow of John Menzies. She and her husband had three children, Catherine, George and John, and had arrived from Scotland on 16 June 1853 with the two boys. John Menzies was engaged by H. Jones, Geelong for 3 months, he subsequently died in 1853. For some unknown reason, Martin and his stepson John Menzies never got along, in Martin's will he 'categorically' denies leaving anything whatsoever to John Menzies.

In 1859, Martin inserted a notice in the Police Gazette offering a reward of 10 pound for the conviction of thieves and return of horses stolen from his property at Mt. Greenock, Carisbrook district. A description then follows of horses stolen over a three‑month period. Martin gave his occupation at this time as 'dairyman'. Mt. Greenock is situated north of Mt. Beckworth and was named in 1836 by Major Mitchell after Lieut. Col. Lord Greenock. When Martin resided in the area, it was then part of the Carisbrook parish.

In 1861, Martin applied for and was granted naturalisation. His papers state that he arrived in the Colony of Victoria by the ship J.W.A. Lorenson in the year 1854 and was a butcher by trade. He had been resident in Victoria since 1854 and had married and settled on The Bet Bet (Creek). His application was accompanied by testimonials from notable citizens of the district (George Cook JP, Lewis Cohen, William Henson, Robert Gunn, and John How) who attested to the fact that he was a "man of good moral character and consider him in every way, fitted to become a subject of her Most Gracious Majesty, the Queen!"


In early times, the name The Bet Bet was applied indiscriminately to various areas along the Bet Bet Creek from Cox's Bridge (later Timor) to Rush's Bridge (later Betley), a distance of approximately 12 miles.

The Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser of 4 September 1867 gives descriptions of various farms in the district:

Mayman, Dwyer and Martin Saul's farms lie in close proximity of Dwyer's Bridge. The farm of Mr. Martin Saul, which is parallel with the bridge, comprises about 100 acres, the most of which are under wheat, the smaller portion being sown with oats and barley. Mr. Saul has several agricultural implements and a number of horses, but no land under the 42nd section.

In 1865, the Grant Land ‑ introduced by J.M. Grant, Minister of Lands and one of two MLSs for Avoca that included Dunolly ‑ was the third attempt to open up the land for selection by small farmers. The first two Acts ‑ the Nicholson Act of 1860 and the Duffy Act of 1863 ‑ were failures, leading to dummying and speculation and a lot of land, especially in the Western District, was illegally acquired by squatters. The third act was comparatively, successful and, although there was some dummying, the working of the Act was closely monitored. The most successful part of the Act was the 42nd clause, which enabled selection of 20 acre lots of land before survey, in proximity to goldfields. The initial intention was to encourage miners to combine the uncertain pursuit of digging with a little subsistence farming, but not only miners could select. Applicants appeared before local commissions who were familiar with the locals and could weed out dummies. In this district the commissioners were the District Surveyor and George Cook of Plumstead Grange, Bet Bet.

While living on the Bet Bet at McKenzie's bridge, where now only the remains of an underground well show signs of past habitation. Martin, together with Alexander Anderson, were Managers of the Bet Bet and Wareek Common for the years 1865 to 1868. Commons were initially established under the Nicholson Land Act of 1860 and were continued under the Duffy and Grant Acts. The details of their management were to be decided by the Governor‑in‑Council, i.e. by regulations not defined in the Act. There were three different types of common: town, farmers, and goldfield: the farmers common being administered by Shire councils. It was expected that the commons would be run by unpaid responsible citizens. Farmers' commons were usually managed by farmers, although being a manager was quite a burden and many managers resigned. A fee was charged for depasturing stock and the commoners complained bitterly if it was too high. Stock had to be branded, kept from straying, straying stock impounded, pound fees for release of stock collected or stock sold. All this required employing a herdsman who had to be paid a high salary to keep him in horse. At a meeting at his home in 1867, Martin was censured for "unwarrantable liberty in withdrawing notice of dismissal on herdsman Patrick Doyle". Apparently, Doyle had not reported impounding cattle to Managers (who had been out of the district for some time). He was subsequently given a months notice and a penalty. The discussion between Martin and the Editor went on for some time!

In 1865, James Grant, a determined opponent of the Squattocracy, attempted to close some of the loop‑holes in the 1861 Land Act. One clause allowed occupation licences for small allotments near the goldfields. Martin's first residence was on land very close to a large mine. The Grant Act of 1869 finally introduced free selection before survey and a system of deferred payment. Martin is first shown as owning land in 1869, and we can assume that he had to fulfil the criteria of selection. Once he had made a choice, each corner of his block had to be marked with a stake or pile of stones. Then he had to rush to the nearest Land Office (many miles away) to register the selection.

The great era of selection began in the 1870 s. Young men who had arrived during the early 1850s were then getting into their forties, and were in a good position to take advantage of the easy terms offered for selection. Under the terms of the 1869 Act a selector held his 320 acre block under licence for 3 years. He paid an annual rent of 2 shillings an acre and was expected to make 320 pounds worth of improvements such as a house, fences, clearing, cultivation of at least 32 acres, and he had to reside on his land. After these conditions were fulfilled, he could continue paying rent for a further seven years or pay outright the balance of 1 pound per acre. The land then became his. Thus, cultivation of land rose rapidly, so that by 1882, 2.25 acres per person were under crops of some description.

Post Office directories from 1868 to 1905 list Martin variously as farmer or grazier. In 1868 Martin and his brother (Johann) Paul are listed together as farmers at Timor; at the same time Paul is listed as a carpenter at Bet Bet. In 1876 Martin and Paul purchased land at Werchilleba near Stawell and Martin bought his brother's land at Bet Bet in 1877. This could have been the end of their partnership as there is no further mention, in later directories, of them farming together.


Martin was very active in community life on the Bet Bet. He was a religious man, coming from a Reformed (Lutheran) background, and soon after the Bet Bet Presbyterian church was built in 1863 he took up a position as one of the earliest committee members. He was involved with the Dwyer's Bridge school where he was a committee member as was his brother‑in‑law Anton Berger. He also supported local council candidates and in this capacity is mentioned in local newspapers of the day. In 1865, he is noted in minutes as donating produce to help the Dunolly Hospital Fete. Although he ran a successful 'mixed' farm (sheep and wheat) his main income was from the butchers shop situated at the rear of the main homestead. From this butcher's shop he supplied many farmers, gold seekers, and store keepers with their meat requirements. The original butcher's block, hewn from a single large tree, is still (1998) in front of the original butchers shop, on the farm now owned and run by his great‑great‑nephew Martin Saul.

In 1884 Martin's nephew, also called Johann Martin, arrived from Germany to help his uncle with the butchering trade, but young Martin apparently did not agree with the bookkeeping methods (it is said that too much 'tick' was given) and he moved to Stawell.

When Martin's brother Johann Paul's wife Mary (Moore) died on July 6th 1889 at Stawell, Paul's two small sons, Frederick 2 years, and 'The Lad' Martin 6 months, were brought down to the farm where Martin (then 59) and his wife Margaret (then 73) took over the care and nurture of the two babies. Not an easy task for a woman in her seventies, although a Mrs Dean from Havelock was employed as housekeeper. She witnessed the death of 'The Lad' Martin who, according to Tony Berger (1986), "died in her arms". Both boys were well provided for in Martins' will, although 'The Lad' Martin predeceased his uncle by a few months.


Martin died on 7 January 1905 from heat stroke; the Maryborough Advertiser reported that at the time, temperatures had been over 100 deg F (38'C) for the past week. Martin's estate, after probate, was valued at 4,437 12s 2d. Probate papers list moneys owing to Martin at the time to his death at over 1,650; just over half was recovered, the rest had to be written off. No wonder his nephew Martin thought too much credit was given!

He provided for his wife Margaret, left bequests to his nephews Frederick Saul and Anton Berger (his sister Caroline's child), and left the farm and residue of his estate to his nephew Martin Saul of Stawell. Some time around the time of the changeover of ownership of the farm, Frederick Saul emigrated to New Zealand where he was killed in an accident during the construction of the Otira Tunnel at Arthur's Pass.

Martin's wife Margaret lived another 13 months and died aged 90 in February 1906. They are buried together in the Dunolly Cemetery. Until 1997, their grave site was unmarked. That year a granite boulder emblazoned by a brass plaque was placed on the grave by their great‑great‑nephew Martin Saul, the present owner of the original farm.


Recently, while in Melbourne researching, I picked up a book 'Migrant Sailing Ships From Hamburg', by Ronald Parsons, published by Gould Books (ISBN 0 947284 25 7). It had a very informative introduction, but the most interesting thing for me was the data:

"J.W.A. Lorentzen Wood, 3 mast ship, 615t  B. 1850 ‑ Meyer, Lubeck, as GERMANIA, renamed 1851.

39.18 x 8.95 x 5.74 m.

Owners: Lorentzen & Dreyer, reg. Hamburg. Sold 1871"

I have other sailing details, but I am still unable to find Martin Saul on the list of passengers. I now have two possibilities: that he joined the ship in Adelaide, or that he was crew. So, we keep on!



The 19th century practice of a relative or friend of a squatter selecting land on his behalf

Or to be more exact, "... unintentionally this allowed the practice of dummying, under which established squatters, and successful selectors, obtained the title to selected land by using friends, employees or others to take it up. They then switched the title. The practice was illegal and some large runs lost their licences and the land was then sold off in smaller lots." ‑ The Golden Years of Stawell by Robert Murray and Kate White, Lothian Publishing Company.

(In another chapter of our history, one of the family members working on a large run was used in this way, and not understanding the language, thought he owned the land; the outcome was very sad.)


A right of depasturing cattle or sheep on the land of another, or to consume the produce of land by grazing upon it.

Bet Bet and Wareek Common

These areas of land were owned by the local Shire councils, but in this case two commons had been combined into one because of financial problems. The greater problem was the large distance between Bet Bet and Wareek areas, some 15 miles as the crow flies.

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