By Chris Kinnealy

THE FIRST HOTEL –the Commercial –was built of wattle and daub about 1850. Two Jews owned it but both were drowned crossing Burchett Creek near the Hexham Bridge. The next proprietor, Bryson, had a stone hotel erected which was built by Thomas Dickson, a stone mason who arrived from Scotland with his wife Janet Dickson on the l7th March 1855. They left Scotland on November 3rd,1854 on the Government Sailing Ship" Athlete" for Portland Bay and arrived there on l9th February, 1855. From Portland bay they sailed to Belfast (Port Fairy) on the Screw ship ''Queen"on the 3rd of March, stayed a few days And then travelled to Caramut per bullock wagon. Before building the Hotel, Thomas Dickson built the first bridge (bluestone) over Muston Creek, which was washed away by severe floods throughout the Western District in March 1946. The Dicksons built a small hut on the flat near the bridge. Their second daughter was born there on 2nd June 1855. She was the first white child to be born in Caramut. Janet Dickson became a friend of the Aborigines and was known throughout the district for her nursing abilities. The new hotel was built at the Southern end of the main street, some years later. The owner T.W. Farmer closed it as a hotel and converted it into a private residence. The site of the present hotel was first started by T.W. Farmer as a store about 1861 and continued as such until 1892 when a stone building, partly two storied, was built by a W.Sheppard and a hotel license was granted in1893.This old building of stone with its balcony was well known, being the rendezvous for all Commercial travellers who in those days travelled in high wagonettes with four horse teams. All their goods were carried in huge wicker baskets.It was with great regret that this old land mark was burnt to the ground some years ago. It was replaced by a very modern building by the late Angus McPhee. The Commercial Hotel (on which site stands the present residence of Mr. Harvey was the first hotel in Caramut). It was made of wattle and daub and kept by two Jews about the years 1850 -1852,.They were both drowned in the flood at Burchetts Creek crossing, near the Hexham bridge and their gravesite between the present rubbish depot and Mr Garvey's paddock. Bryson when he took it over had a stone hotel erected by Mr T. Dickson. He was followed by Geo. Cave who later on went to. N.S.W. Mr Stubling was the next occupant, prior to Geo. Cave on his return from N.S.W. where he lost a great deal of his money in the droughts. Mr Rose, Mr Frost, Mr & Mrs. Mordon. followed, the last named being far-famed for the table she kept. Mr. T.W. Farmer was the next owner and he closed the hotel and made a private residence of it. It was the stopping place for most commercial travellers, who then drove four-in-hand. The Western Hotel. was first started as a store by T.W. Farmer, about 1861, continued as such until about 1892. About 1893 it was granted a license as an hotel. This building was erected by Mr Sheppard. Some of the earlier keepers were Messrs. Frewers, W.W. Farmer, Winklin, Tom Ward, Tom Hayhoe, and Bill Moore (Duff).

Commercial Hotel Caramut. Warrnambool Examiner Advertisements Sat. June 27th 1894:

Samual MacGegor & Co. have Received positive instructions to sell privately. The above well known hotel., containing nine rooms, bar ,parlour, billard room, dining room ,seven stalled stable, large underground tank,good,garden,3 acres of land.


T.W.Farmer begs to inform his numerous friends & the public generally that he has opened the above Hotel , & trusts that by keeping the best of liquers, a good table, & by attending strictly to the wants of his customers to merit a share of patronage & support. The stabling is first-class & a civil & attentive groom always in attendance. All charges strictly moderate.

(Ed., 10/12/99: It is uncertain where this picture of "Farmers Hotel" fits in; David Likar points out that the building is of brick, while the hotel described in the article below is of bluestone and still standing 'commandingly at the Southern entrance of Caramut...'. Please e-mail us if we have got any of this wrong, or if more details are available.)


The old Western Hotel stands commandingly at the Southern entrance of Caramut, the intersection of the roads from Mortlake & Warrnambool. Long & Stately the bluestone mansion looms above the Mustons Creek & miles of lush, green grazing country. The Western was the first stone hotel to be built in Caramut the only preceding hotel being a wattle and daub affair, called the Commercial and owned by two Jews. The Western was built in the early 1850’s & was licensed almost until the end of the Century. Mr. & Mrs. Morden were about the earliest occupants. She was famed for food table she kept. The next owner was F.W. Farmer who owned the hotel through its most prosperous years. Farmer was a pioneer storekeeper, of the town. He finally closed the hotel & used it for a private residence.

After the hotel was closed a new "Western Hotel" was opened in 1893.This was a large double-storey bluestone building & was burnt down this century. Consequently a third Western Hotel was built over the ashes. The third building is weather board & still stands to the delight of local residents. After Farmer, Mr. J.J. Garvey became the new owner. Garvey a local farmer pulled much of the original. building down as it was too large for a private residence. He made many alterations. Garvey finally sold the house to Australian Estates. At the present time, Mr Doug Johnson, local manager for ,the company resides with his family in the old building. Built of local bluestone the clean, simple line & honest style of the building blends pleasantly with its surroundings. The long verandas complement the external appearance & breaks any severe outlines. The Western once stood in sweeping gardens which must have made a magnificent sight for guests.

(Ed.,10/12/99: This picture was provided by Malcolm Grant, who wrote an article "Penshurst Motoring Pioneers". The identity of the hotel is uncertain, but it fits the above description of the new Western Hotel 'opened in 1893 and burnt down this century'.)

The old hotel had over guests (12 rooms each with an open fire place. Rooms run off a central passage which ran the length of the building, into a wing at each end. There was a large bar with steps leading to a cellar below, where a large selection of bottles & barrels were kept cool & safe within the thick bluestone walls. All hired-hands were bedded in rooms, at the back of the hotel. The meals were also prepared in an outhouse & carried into the bar to be served.


"Time Gentlemen Please"

The restrictions of opening & closing times for drinkers at Caramut’s first hotel was probably the least of their worries. Caramut’s first hotel, or Inn ,as they were sometimes called was probably little more than a grog shop . It was built in 1850 & stood on the North East corner of the junction of the Hamilton/Geelong Highways. It was built of wattle & daub & was owned & operated by two Jewish brothers. In l852 brothers were drowned while attempting to cross Burchetts Creek (haven't we heard this bit before?) when it was in flood. The crossing was near the present bridge on the Geelong Highway. Their bodies were recovered & were buried on the high ground somewhere near the present school plantation. A Mr. Bryson took over the wattle & daub structure & had a new stone hotel built on the site by T. Dickson. Portion of the building, now a private residence, dates back to this period. This hotel was called "The Commercial" It had a number of keepers, the last being Mr. & Mrs. Morden , who was famous for the excellent meals she served. This hotel closed in 1893 and became a private residence.


The family left Sale on November 10, 1852, for Caramut in the Western District where Ewing practised as Surgeon & was also Clerk of Petty Sessions. He in 1869 of cerebral thrombosis, aged 60 years. His wife having died three years earlier aged 5l years. They left three children, Emily Christine, Henry Willoughby & Louise Alice. The latter two were born at Flooding Creek. There were two other children who died in infancy. Their first born Henry Willoughby & last born, Thomas. Robert Ewing, First Surgeon at Flooding Creek (Sale, Victoria). Biography by Doctor F.M. Foster, East Melb. Dr. Ewings' Residence named "Woodburn".


Education- First school was opened by a Mr W. White in the late 1850’s in a room, now the kitchen of Mr. R.J. McCully's home. Actually it was a private school ; children could only attend by paying a fee. Later the school was transferred to a shed at Dr. Ewing's. In 1861 a common school was built near the present Post Office. In 1872 the present blue stone school was built & became a State School. Many of the scholars were quite young men & women.

Chris Kinnealy, November, 1999


Friday, 28 January 2000

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