Thomas, son of John and Hannah (née Jones) Preston was born on 9 December 1832 at Woodeaton in Oxfordshire. He arrived in Australia with his family at the age of 11 years in September 1844 aboard the Abberton.
He married Matilda Browne in 1855. They had the following children:
John Henry — born 29 January 1856, married Annie Sophie Roll, died in 1856 at Nhill
Harriett Ann — born 1857, died in 1951
Thomas William — born 1860, died 1937
Matilda Ellen Pargeter — born 1863, died in 1938
Sidney Elizabeth — born 1864, married John Henry George Ellis in 1884 at Geelong West, died 18 July 1924 at Geelong West aged 60, buried in the Methodist section of the Geelong Eastern Cemetery
Walter William — born in 1865, died in 1938
Robert Arthur — born in 1867, married Charlotte Ward Hart in 1897 at Lubeck, Victoria, died in 1957 aged 90 at Kew
Hannah Mary — born 1869, married Frederick Challis in 1922, died on 4 October 1949 in Geelong
Ada Caroline — born in 1871, died in 1956
Ernest Edward — born in 1873, married Edith Adelaide Ackland in 1903, died in 1932 in Geelong
Frederick Herbert — born in 1875, married Florence Searle Drew in 1901 at the Ryrie Street Presbyterian Church, died in 1966 at Geelong
Walter Charles — born in 1878, died on 1 October 1966 at Geelong
When Ada was 5 years of age she went too close to a chaff cutting machine and had the tip of one of her fingers cut off, requiring a visit to the hospital.
On 15 February 1891 a disastrous fire swept Mount Duneed causing damage to many properties. It started at the property of Andrew White, to the south of his house, then swept through the recreation reserve and the cemetery to the Preston home which was totally destroyed. The only possessions the Prestons were left with were the clothes on their backs. Nothing was insured except farm implements for £100. Thomas and Matilda's son Robert replaced everything and took over running the farm.
Thomas died on 31 August 1902 at Mount Duneed aged 69 and was buried in the Methodist section of the Mount Duneed Cemetery. Matilda died on 10 January 1911 aged 72 and was buried with him.
The brigade was formed on 17 November 1941. Foundation members were:
Gregor McInryre (Captain)
Jim Mann (President)
Claude Grossman (Secretary)
Mount Duneed was part of the Freshwater Creek brigade from 1946 until 1957, when the Mount Duneed brigade was formed. The original office bearers were:
P McCann — president
GA Baker — secretary
RC Baker — captain
The brigade disbanded in 1966.
St Wilfrid's Church of England, the State School and many homes are reported to have been destroyed in one section of the Mount Duneed area. Men engaged in fighting the fire in that area were of the opinion that other homes were lost in other parts of the district.
The homes destroyed were "Charlemont", the property of the late Mr L Sprague; Messrs AT Blyth, A Hartwick, J Alford, Mrs Hill, Mr L Bufton, E Brown, A Ricketts, P Fischer, J Williams, R Kerger, JH Coombs, Mrs R Foster (house occupied by Mr Law, school teacher), Miss Burville, cottage on the property of Mr D Stewart and the cottage on property of Mr F Stone. A shed was destroyed at the home of Mrs Ellis and all outbuildings at the home of Mr J Wohlers, but the post office at Mount Duneed was saved after a strenuous fight. A fence alongside the office was destroyed.
Other residents who suffered losses of hay and other material were Messrs C Seiffert, A Winkler, E Cleary, G Evans and J Blyth. Considerable losses of stock are anticipated.
From the Geelong Advertiser 15 January 1944 and 17 January 1944
Standing amid the ruins of his home at Mount Duneed Mr WT Hill told a very dramatic story of the fire on 15 January 1944.
"The hedge across the road burned so fiercely in the wind that it was a few seconds only before bits of it set fire to my home. A new verandah went so soon that I had only time to take my wife to the middle grass paddock, already burned over. We just got out of the house as the roof was falling in"
From the Newcastle Sun, Saturday 15 January 1944
It was believed the fire started near Waurn Ponds due to a car using a gas producer. (During the war gas producers were fitted on cars to conserve petrol as rationing was in force). A strong northerly wind soon fanned the red terror through Mount Duneed, destroying or damaging everything in its path, finally to be exhausted at the sea. Lack of water and fire equipment not as efficient as today enabled the fire to dictate its own terms.
From the Mount Duneed Primary School Centenary 1878 - 1978
A new house, at 710 Torquay Road, was built to replace the demolished home in 1946 for Walter Thomas Hill who died on 8 January 1954. His wife Jessie Elizabeth Hill died on 14 May 1955 aged 82 years. Their son Leslie Francis (Lel) Hill lived on the property until his death on 28 January 1999.
On 15 January 1944 Mount Duneed suffered devastating losses when a fire swept through the area.
A disastrous fire broke out at Mount Duneed at two o'clock on Sunday afternoon 15th February 1891. It started in Mr Andrew White's property, a few chains south of his residence, and quickly formed itself into a tongue-like leader, with an attendant on either side, increasing in width every minute. It soon left 70 or 80 acres of that gentleman's property black and smoky, besides demolishing half a mile of fencing. On it went, until the mount was enveloped in flames. Driven across the reserve by the fierce hot winds, the cemetery soon fell a prey to the devouring element, scarcely a vestige of the acacia fence surrounding it being left, wooden tombstone railings destroyed and nothing being left but the white marble tombstones that give a weird appearance to the black desolation. The fiery tongues swept on, attacking the dwelling house of Mr Thomas Preston. In a very short time all hope of saving it was lost; stables, stacks, sheds, and a brand new buggy and harness, waggons, drays, pigs, fowls and the two beautiful horses horribly burnt, are a sickening spectacle. Not a particle of the comfortable home is left; no clothes saved but the light garments the family stand in. On it swept, across the road, and Mr Purdie's wine cellar, stored with wheat, was soon lost in the flames; by desperate fighting they were warded from the house. Through Ganley's wattle plantation, down the valley, and up the hill on the opposite side the merciless leader travelled with fearful velocity. Mr Brown's house was right in the way. His wife, paralysed with fear, was dragged from the burning mass. A high hedge close by assisted the flames, and nothing saved from the sheds but a waggon. Over twenty tons of hay was consumed, and fowls lie everywhere about roasted. Nothing is insured, which makes the loss heartrending. Preston is uninsured, all but the implements for £100. Mr Bell's paddocks were saved with difficulty, and the fire swept on for a full mile, licking up fences and everything in its way, the neighbors, by strenuous efforts, kept it from the dwellings of Messrs Trigg and Johnston...
From the Geelong Advertiser Monday 16th February 1891
This school began in 1877 and was opened on 11th February 1878. The Geelong Advertiser often reported activities at the school in the nineteenth century. The Mount Duneed Improvement Association (known as Mount Duneed Mutual Improvement Association after 1895) and the Mount Duneed Rifle Club met regularly at the school and concerts were often held. Political addresses to voters were held and it was used for polling booths on election days. Later the Mount Duneed Red Cross met there.
After the jubilee in 1928, there were so few pupils at Mount Duneed and Freshwater Creek schools, the teacher Mr H McGregor held two days at Mount Duneed and three days at Freshwater Creek, alternating every week. Finally in 1939 Mount Duneed closed to re-open after 4 years.
In October 1917 a photographic honour roll containing the photographs of 33 old scholars and three district soldiers of the Mount Duneed school and district was unveiled.
This school was destroyed by fire in January 1944. The fire which started near Waurn Ponds swept over Mount Duneed destroying 14 homesteads, 2 cottages and the Church of England. William Preston, aged 66 who was a farmer was killed in the fire.
Abercrombie, Blanch (daughter of Andrew Thomson and Mary Anna Abercrombie)
Andrews, Eliza (mother of John Burvill)
Armstrong, David, James William and Edward John Harkness (no headstones)
Bell, John Wilson (son of John Calvert and Frances E Bell)
Bell, Mary Kathleen Alexander (daughter of John Calvert and Frances E Bell)
Blyth, Ewing and Agnes
Burvill, John and Mary Ann (mother and father of Walter)
Challis, Charles Henry
Dow, Agnes Lamont
Fivash, John (sister of Charlotte Melhuish) and Sarah
Ford (née Tansley), Hester (wife of John)
Graham, Arthur Ernest and Charlotte Matilda
Harkness, James and Rebecca (son and daughter-in-law of John and Janet)
Harkness, James and Helen (son and daughter-in-law of James and Rebecca)
Harkness, John and Janet
Hill, Leslie Francis (son of Walter and Jessie)
Hill, Walter Thomas and Jessie Elizabeth
Hillard, Dorothy and George
Hollingworth, Hannah and Edmund
Hollingworth, John Allen
Johnston, John and Martha
Kenyon, Linda May (née Bone), Cyril Gordon and baby
Land, John and Amelia Toogood (née Mitchell)
Lugg, Joseph Paul
Lewis, Harold Clifford (son of William and Ellen)
Lewis, William and Ellen
Melhuish, John Southwood and Elizabeth Fry (née Mitchell)
Melhuish, John Southwood (son of John Southwood) and Charlotte (née Fivash)
Middleton, Jesse Holman and Sarah
Middleton, William Henry and Louisa Harding
Middleton, Albert, Christina and Lillian (children of William and Louisa)
Moon, Rupert Vance
Parker, William and Margaret Helen
Rainford, John, James and Margaret (children of Joseph and Elizabeth)
Rainford, Joseph and Elizabeth
Roulier, Louis and Bridget
Ward, Betsy (Bone, Melhuish, née Kenyon)
Willson, William Hodgkin Grimley
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