Most searches for family information on Trove have at least one unexpected and intriguing result. Sometimes it brings up previously unknown (to this generation, at least!) information about a family member. Other interesting side-paths result from the combination of our search parameters and the limitations of the OCR software in dealing with unclear images of old newspapers.
A recent search for ‘Ferres 1898’ looking for responses to the death of John Ferres brought up this unexpected article from the Bendigo Advertiser quoting the Argus as its source. It caught my eye due to the mention of two surnames of interest (Ferris and Ferres) in connection with losses due to the massive bush fires in Gippsland during the early part of 1898.
There is little sensationalism in this article, which describes in a very matter-of-fact way the news from each town and the individual losses of the ‘burnt out settlers’, for example:
“Although there are still fires burning in the district no fears are entertained for the safety of the rest of Foster; provided ordinary precautions are taken, the greater portion of the scrub having been thoroughly burnt out yesterday and to-day. Business is partly suspended, and selectors are still coming in to swell the numbers who have already been housed by the Foster residents. Communication with Toora by road for vehicles will be impossible for some months, as several large bridges have been destroyed.”
In a list of 23 of the “burnt out settlers” in Foster and their “approximate losses”, ranging from Jas. Ingram (£1,500) to John Percival (£100) are mentioned two women: Emily Cooper (£150) and a Mrs. Ferris (£300).
Who this Mrs. Ferris was, I don’t know. Was she a connection to Jacob Ferris, editor of the ‘Gippsland Guardian’ who lived in Alberton or was she a relative of my Ferres ancestors who lived at various places in South Gippsland, including the nearby Alberton and Toora areas?
The Argus reported on 12th February that:
“Northwards along Mirboo-road further damage is reported. Mrs. H.B. Ferris has lost everything; William Cowan, J. Leash, and C. Duncan have lost houses, &c., and it is believed that Caldwell, Rogers, Lushman, Nicholas and Quinn have suffered severely.”
Combining the clues from the two newspapers, it seems that Mrs H.B. Ferris owned a property situated north of Foster on the Mirboo Road. Her house and all her belongings, worth £300, were lost in the bushfires in early February 1898, probably Tuesday 10th.
I can barely begin to imagine how she and her neighbours managed to cope with these destructive fires and the recovery and rebuilding of their lives and their shattered community afterwards.
The Ferres who “has lost 500 acres of grassland ” in the Alberton area will be discussed in another post.