Rundell & Cousins

 

 

 

Charles Edwin Rundell Catherine Amelia Cousins

Married: 17 Jul 1901     in: Omeo, Victoria Aust.          

Born: 19 Oct 1869     in: Axe Creek, Victoria     Born:  5 Sep 1884     in: Omeo, Victoria  
Died: 12 Jul 1952     in: Springvale, Victoria            Died:  8 Jul 1969     in: Springvale, Victoria,    
Father: Joshua Upcott Rundell  Father: Joseph Graham Cousins 
Mother: Maryann Elizabeth Hodgson Browne  Mother: Annie Reed Francis 

Although it only opened it's doors to visitors for a relatively short time, Rundell's Alpine Lodge established a lasting reputation for it's hospitality.

 

Situated at Flour Bag Plain, on the Omeo side of Mount Hotham, it was the same height as St Bernard and higher than Buffalo Chalet. Charles Edwin Rundell and his wife Catherine Amelia [Cousins] were responsible for it's establishment in 1904. After their marriage, three years previous, they had a small grazing property on the Livingstone River, above the Memorial Bridge. Charles had earn his money from gold and trapping and had enough to lease the land.

 

In 1904, they selected 640 acres at Flour Bag. [It is said that whilst packing flour from the Millawa Flour Mill, near Wangaratta was being carted to Omeo on a pack horse, that one of them bucked, splitting one of the bags of flour and spilling it on to the ground. The flour bag was left hanging in

the tree - hence the name Flour Bag Plain. Charles built a small house about a mile off the road and back towards the Victoria River. As the area was well under snow during the winter months,

the family moved back into their family property, where those of school age could attend the Omeo school. When they returned the following Summer they found the house had been burnt down. That night they all slept under the buggy. Tommy and Henry Morgan had a log hut at Redbank on the Victoria River, about two miles back towards Omeo which the allowed the family to use whilst Charles rebuilt at Flour Bag. As there was a coach service running between Bright and Omeo, Charles and Catherine decided to build on the roadside and provide meals and accommodation for the coach passengers andtravelers.

 

The Alpine Observer, on the 23rd of March 1883 reported that "On Friday evening last, in the company with Judge McFarlane, Mr P Allen, with buggy and pair started for Omeo and was successful in reaching the township without mishap. This is the first vehicle that has been driven across the Australian Alps.

 

Charles built two rooms and two lug cabins on the roadside, where the Rundell sign is today. He cut the logs and split them into paling, for the building from the woolly butt tree's that grew on the property. That was the beginning of the Alpine Lodge. Charles and Catherine had six children, Mathew (Graham), Charles, Rose, Catherine (Ruby), Stanley and Edna. Rose and Stanley died at an early age and the rest of the children were very helpful in many ways, to help with

the success of the Lodge. Ruby's first memories of the Alpine Lodge were when the coaches used to make a weekly trip from Bright to Omeo, calling at Harrietville for lunch then on

to St Bernard Hospice for the night. The next day they would travel to the lodge for lunch and a change of horses, from there to Omeo for an overnight stay. On their return journey they called again for lunch and fresh horses. The horses remained at the lodge for the summer.

The roads across the Alps were very narrow, particularly between St Bernard Hospice and the Higginbothems, the drivers of the coaches requiring great skill as they drove two, three, four or sometimes five horses, depending on the number of passengers traveling. It was a hazardous trip at the best of times and Charles and Catherine often spoke of how frightened the passengers

became, covering their heads with rugs and others getting out and walking over the worst sections.

In 1911, Charles took the Governor of Victoria, Sir Thomas Gibson Carmichael and Dr Fred Bird over to the Bogong High Plains. Dr Bird was a great Naturalist and every available matchbox had beetles and spiders in them. Whilst there, they also made a tour around Precipice and Dinner Plain Creek. There are falls there, two different creeks falling a few feet apart, over the Precipice, to junction a few feet below. With Sir Thomas Carmichael's permission, Charles named the falls after him. They are quite near Dinner Plain Village.

 

During the early days at Flour Bag, and with the Butter Factory in Omeo, Charles and his brother-in-law, Joseph Cousins, decided to try dairying. Due to inexperience, short seasons, unsuitable pastures and short tempers, it was a dismal failure.( In the 1920's oats were grown there with great success.)

 

In 1913, because of the lack of schooling, Charles and Catherine decided to close the Lodge and move to the Cobungra Hotel, where a school teacher, Mr Oldday, came every third week. The coach then came to the hotel instead of the Lodge. lt. was whilst they were living at Cobungra that Stanley died. During 1914, the new owners of the Hotel decided to close it down. Seeing they had to leave they moved to Yackandandah. Here they had the Clarence Hotel for three years. During this time Rose died after an operation for appendicitis. They then moved to Stanley where the had another hotel for eighteen months. After leaving Stanley, the family moved to Melbourne, where

the had a Mixed Business. During this period, the extensions of the railways to Bairnsdale, completion of the Omeo-Bairnsdale road, and more decline in the goldfields, had reduced the traffic over the Alps. Sometime over the war years the coaches stopped running and the roads became more hazardous. as far as it is known, there wasn't any other coach or car service until Hambrooks of Bairnsdale ran a weekly, then twice weekly service connecting the the Omeo-Bairnsdale mail and passenger service with the Railway at Bright-about 1922-23. Charles and Catherine returned to the Alpine Lodge in 1921,travelling from Melbourne in a horse drawn covered in Wagonette, camping all the way. Their last camp was near the Diamantina, close to where Catherine's Grandparents and mother had passed nearly sixty years previous. The drive across the Alps was hazardous, very harden the family and horses and very cold.  On arrival at the lodge, they found that the buildings were in a very bad state of repair. Although the land and buildings were leased by Riggall's of Cobungra Station and they had use of the house to camp in, it was still open  to anyone traveling through. The vandals had destroyed the place, flooring   and anything that could be pulled up or off, had been used for firewood.  Charles and his sons Graham and Charlie, restored the buildings and added extra rooms. They built a dance floor in the log cabin, that was used as a dining room. They relined and repapered it all. The outside was painted in Red-Oxide. The fences were built and Charles erected a mileage post, to benefit the travelers and themselves. The travelers realising it was to far to go and would stay at the lodge the night.

 

It was in 1921 that the Royal Auto Club held a small car trial across the Alps, that and an awakening enthusiasm for skiing revived intrust in the roads and it's condition.

The Country Roads Board took control that year and established a road maintenance gang, for the Alpine Road which was based at Whiskey Flat, with Bill Spargo in charge. Four galvanised huts were built, one each at Dinner Plain, Whiskey Flat,  Diamantina and Blowhard. Later there were two more built, one at Boggy Creek and the other at Jim and Jack. The C.R.B. built a small stone cottage on the side of Mt Higginbotham, facing Mt Hotham, which had been named Hotham Heights. It was built by the Italians. ln 1932 it was taken over by the Victorian Railways and run in conjunction with the Buffalo Chalet. Pioneer made history when they made their first tour across the Alps in a Charbancs carrying twenty passengers and their luggage, staying the night at St Bernard Hospice. On their way through they stopped at the Lodge for morning tea and to inquire if they could stay there on future tours. They were told there wasn't enough room, so they asked if there was any tents. So on the next, as requested, tents were erected and the girls wanted to sleep in them as they

had never slept in tents before. The tents were a great success and from then on the Lodge was a regular stop over for the Pioneer tours, the over flow going to St Bernard Hospice or the Golden Age Hotel in Omeo. The Pioneer Motors, which later became Ansett was owned and run by Mr. Withers  and his three sons, Percy, Sydney and Ernie. They played a big part in the promotion of the Australian Alps. The Withers family became good friends of the Rundell's and each year they bought their wives with them on their tours. However despite the improvement to the roads a lot of the folks were petrified when crossing the Alps between St Bernard Hospice and the Higginbotham because all those sitting on the inside of the Charbancs could see was space and those on the outside could see how far down the mountains were. One motorist was positive the road was suspended by poles. The Charbancs had collapsible hoods and on fine days they were put down to give the passengers a wonderful view. Even though there was a big improvement in the road, it was still very rough and on the flats there were only wheel tracks or you could drive where you wished, many getting bogged once the surface of the grass was broken and then had to be pulled out. There were some hills with little or no gravel on them and they were difficult to negotiate, presenting problems to car and driver alike, not to say nothing of the passengers that had to get out and push. It was usually a very muddy experience. Many who became bogged returned to the lodge for help, one being Sir Harold Clapp (he was Mr. Clapp then) when he called at the lodge for information on the road ahead, when told that there was a bad spot about a mile up the road and that you needed a good run up to get through is he said "Oh, my Chauffeur will manage that, that's no trouble to us". It wasn't long before they came back with a request for help. Because of the increasing number of visitors traveling in a variety of ways,  plus two or three more trials, it became evident that there was need for a lot more improvement to the roads. This occasioned several visits from members of Parliament and heads of the Country Roads Board. Charles was very vocal on the necessity to have all the roads formed and graveled and the narrow cuttings and bends widened. During this period Charles and his two sons were responsible for having the telephone extended to the Alpine Lodge, from Cobungra Post Office and then later to Hotham Heights. For the section between Cobungra and the Alpine Lodge, they gave their services free of charge and supplied all the poles that were required. Mr. Chester from the P.M.G. supervised the construction of the line.

 

The Abraham Brothers, Electrical and Radio business men from Melbourne loved the isolation and made several trips to Flour Bag, camping in a tent on the property, but having most of their meals at the Lodge. They never saw a newspaper or had any contact with the outside world during their stay. Sometimes they brought along some friends, but they always stayed at the Lodge. Sir Charles Wheeler, an artist, Dr Clara Stone, the first Australian doctor to go through an Australian University, Mr Arnott, of Arnotts Biscuits, Meldrems, architects of Melbourne were others that stayed at the lodge and enjoyed the seclusion and hospitality, just to name a few. Members of the Melbourne walking club were frequent visitors walking from Harrietville to Omeo. On arrival at the lodge their first request was for hot water to bathe their feet.

 

In early spring, many parties came from Omeo and Bairnsdale for a day in the snow. They would go by car as far as they could, usually to Slatty Cutting, and walk the rest of the way to Mt Hotham. On most occasions one member of Charles and Catherine's family would accompany them, taking the toboggans and skis that Graham and Charles Junior had made out of Woolly-butt, grown on the property. The toboggan was most popular as most found the skis to hard to manage. Everyone loved to snowball and make snow men. after a day in the snow, most people returned to the lodge for a hot meal and a relax beside the fire, before facing their journey home. Pioneer Motors, resumed their tours in the midst of spring. The highlight of their tours, was a two day stay at the lodge with a picnic lunch a toboggan ride and a go on the skis, the guests would return to Mt Hotham for the day.

 

Charles and the children all had their own hacks (horses) and as they were quiet, guests were able to ride them. Most had never been on a horse before and their reaction often caused much merriment for riders and others. The horses were, also used to take folk to beauty spots or on fishing trips, to Dargo, Cobungra and Victoria Rivers. Charles and the boys were keen fishermen and made frequent trips to the river, returning with trout for the  breakfast of their overnight guests. They were also very active members of the Omeo Angling Club and along with others made sure there were young trout released into the streams each year. Because of the falls there were no trout in the upper reaches of the Cobungra River. Catherine and young Charlie transported the cans of young fish on pack horse, walking and leading the horses through the snow from Flour Bag along Dungy's Track to the Cobungra River, then upstream where they released them. Catherine was an excellent cook and up until 1923 did all the cooking for visitors in camp ovens over an open fire. Then there was a stove installed in the kitchen and a stove oven built out side, which looked like an igloo, this was used for baking bread, cakes and meat. The breakfast menu was porridge, trout [when available], bacon and eggs, Eggs to order and always plenty of toast and marmalade. For lunch there would be soup, meat pie, cold meats with salad or vegetables, sweets, scones and cakes. There was always plenty of sauces, jams, bread and butter at all times. Dinner was usually a roast and sweets.

 

Ruby always looked after the dining room, and there was a lot of pride and pleasure put into it. The tables had spotless damask tablecloths and serviettes, gum tips [with wild flowers when possible] in the centre and silver and glass ware which always looked lovely, added to that was a homely log fire. The Dining Rooms in those days had to be First Class and the Alpine Lodge's certainly was. As they had their own cows and poultry, milk cream, poultry and eggs were no problem. The folks in the outlying towns and districts had to be self sufficient in those days and many of the early settlers had the foresight to plant fruit trees, so the Rundell's were able to obtain the fruit and vegetables that were in season. They sometimes bought back apples and pears from Mayford on the Dargo River, where an old orchard had been planted by early prospectors and is now owned by the Treasure family at Dargo.

 

Once a year they would get a large order from a Melbourne firm, which was railed to Bright. Graham and Charlie would drive the wagonette with three or four horses in hand to pick up the goods and buy anything else that was required, taking three or four days to do the trip. Edna looked after the bedrooms, they were large to today's standard, but not as well furnished. The rooms were lined with hession and paper. The floors were covered with linoleum and had a bedside rug. They had the usual furnishings of that era, dressing tables with mirror, wash stand with bedroom set, iron or brass bed with wire mesh base. The mattress was either kapok or feather as were the pillows, the blankets were woolen and then covered with a very pretty eiderdown which was similar to the doona of today. All the sheets, pillow cases, quilts, table and washstand covers were all white. Most of the washstands had a hard marble top. Because there was an increase in the number of tourists traveling it became necessary to provide more accommodation, Graham and Charlie built four very large bedrooms, a hall way and a bathroom as well as making other improvements. The timber used in all the buildings was cut out of the woolly butt trees growing on the property They loved to ride to various beauty spots and their favorite of all was along Dungeys track to the falls, where they were always sure of hearing the lyrebirds [they had a nest about half way along the track to the falls). Dungeys Track was blazed through from Bright to Cobungra by a policeman of that name. The miners department cut the track and followed the same route. On one of their trips they caused a bit of a panic when, with a friend of the family, they went over to the Bogong High Plains, going down by Sharps Hut, up onto Niggerhead and along Pretty Valley. They wanted to come home via Cobungra Gap [then known as Dungreys Gap]. Charles had told them to follow the snow poles, they did, but they were the one's that brought them out on the West Keiwa River, several miles on the Bright side of the Gap. Their friend, Percy Radcliff, was a keen fisherman and as the stream was teaming with trout, they spent more time than they should have, watching them and also admiring the magnificent woolly butts which grow in that area. However after traveling upstream and reaching the Gap, they took the wrong turn and this lead them to some very rough terrain. They had to dismount and lead their horses over a large area of small rocks to where they could cross the river and get on to Dungreys Track again. By this time it was getting very late and Ruby's aged mare was tired, so they decided to take the shorter way home via Dinner Plain Spur which brought them out on the road to Dinner Plain, finally arriving home at nine o'clock. The family and Percy's wife Emily were very relieved when they heard Ruby's laughter as they rode down the road.

 

In 1927, Ruby married David John Staples. It was to be the only wedding to be celebrated at the Alpine Lodge or in the area. The minister, her grandparents and other relatives traveled to the Lodge for the ceremony and breakfast. Catherine sewed the wedding frock, all by hand, done all the catering for the breakfast, as well as making the cake. David was a mechanic and when he and his father were unable to get work in Melbourne, David and his parents took over the C.R.B. Roadhouse and Post Office at Cobungra.David obtaining work as a patrolman on the road. As the Alps became even more popular and the number of tourists were even greater, many of the regular visitors were urging them to make the necessary improvements and apply for a liquor license. They finally decided to do so and as there was still plenty of woolly butt on the property, it was decided to cut a road into the area and put their own sawmill in. Unfortunately before they could put their plan into operation, the lodge was destroyed by fire. They had only been back a short while, after the winter, when on November 79th 1928,their second home at Flour Bag was burnt out. It was at midnight that Graham was awakened by something falling, then he smelt the smoke, he called Charlie and went to the dining room and opened the door, only to find it full of flames. They called the rest of the family and they only had time to grab a few clothes and flee as it was alight overhead. That was the end of the Alpine Lodge, it was a very sad time for the whole family. There was pressure put on the family to re-build, but it was financially impossible as they had very little insurance on the building.

                                                      

Mathew Graham Rundell         

Born: 24 Dec 1901     Omeo, Victoria        

Catherine Ruby Rundell 

Born: 02 Jun 1907     Omeo, Victoria 

M  Charles Hodgson Rundell

Born: 10 Jul 1903     Omeo, Victoria 

William Stanley Rundell  

Born:  2 Feb 1909     Omeo, Victoria

Rose Amelia Rundell                  

Born:  3 Jun 1905     Omeo, Victoria 

Edna Margaret Rundell   

Born: 31 Dec 1911     Omeo, Victoria Aust. 

  SUBMITTED BY  Dianne Carroll