Halls Gap’s Cherub

There is a special place in Halls Gap which I revisited recently.

Behind the Halls Gap caravan park and just beside a track leading to places with whimsical names such as Venus Baths and Wonderland Range, lies a stark reminder of  pioneering days in the little town.  Halls Gap has few visible reminders of its pioneering past, but  the lonely grave of baby Agnes Folkes, has seen most of the town’s history pass before it. Fire, flood and countless tourists have gone before Agnes.

John and Phoebe Foulkes (later to become Folkes), originally from Worcestershire, arrived in Victoria aboard the “Northumbria“, in 1853.  Ida Stanton, in her book Bridging the Gap, tells of John working as the ship’s carpenter and upon arrival, obtaining work making architraves and balustrades for the new Victorian Parliament House.  They had moved to the Grampians area by the end of the 1850s with son George born in 1858 at Moyston.

By 1870, John Folkes was operating a sawmill in Halls Gap.  The family home, made of logs, was close to the banks of the Stoney Creek.   By this time there were seven children with Phoebe giving birth to Agnes in April of that year at nearby Pleasant Creek.

After a dry autumn, the winter of 1870 saw the weather break.   Heavy rain fell across Victoria, flooding lakes, roads and rivers.  At times of heavy rain in the Grampians, water collects in the mountains, working down the many gullies and into small creeks which quickly become rivers.  One of those is the Stoney Creek.  With the winter rains of 1870, the creek had risen and was impassable as were others which had to be crossed to leave the town.  The following photo is of Stoney Creek close to Agnes’ grave.  Evidence of flash flooding in January this year is still present.

Stoney Creek, Halls Gap

Agnes fell ill with diphtheria that winter, but Pheobe and John could not get through to Stawell and the nearest  doctor.  Sadly, on July 30, 1870, Agnes passed away.  She was buried  close to the family home in a tiny wooden coffin made by her father.  A headstone was added, but a photo on the Museum Victoria website shows that at some time, the original headstone has been replaced with a more substantial grave.

Grave of Agnes Folkes, Halls Gap

Headstone of Agnes Folkes

After Agnes’ death, locals began to refer to the mountain peak behind her grave as “Cherubs Peak”, however it was later gazetted as “Mackeys Peak”, after a Government minister.

THE GRAMPIANS. (1909, December 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 5. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10755530

One heartwarming aspect of the story is that not only have the children of  Halls Gap Primary School tended Agnes’ grave for almost one hundred years, they more recently lobbied the Victorian Government for the name to be changed back to “Cherub Peak”.  The name has now been gazetted as a historical name and a new sign  erected to explain the history of the grave.

Cherubs Peak

Sign near Agnes' grave

Agnes’ siblings grew up and married.  A brother and sister went on to marry children of other Halls Gap pioneering families.  Emily Pheobe Folkes married Edward Evans, while George Edward Folkes married Emma Launder Delley.  Edward and Emily Evans had a son Edward who married Geraldine D’Alton, from another pioneering family.  The names of Evans, Delley and D’Alton are still recognizable in the Gap today.  Would Agnes also have married into a well known Halls Gap family and forged her own piece of history?   Despite her short life, her grave and its reminder to visitors of  the town’s pioneering times, has seen baby Agnes make her mark on the history of Halls Gap.

With the recent arrival of “The Horsham Times” at Trove, I have been able to source this beautiful, almost haunting article originally published in “The Ballarat Courier” in 1909. The words of “H.B” will come to mind next time I visit Agnes.

In the Grampians. (1909, January 15). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved December 1, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72825768

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8 responses to “Halls Gap’s Cherub

  • Fen

    aw what a lovely (& sad) story.

  • Lisa

    Hi interesting to read ,l have a copy of Ida Stantons book , my great ,great grandfather was James Delley whose parents built the Inn

    • Merron Riddiford

      Hi Lisa, thank you for your comment.
      You have true pioneering ancestors! I would love a dollar for every time I’ve crossed Delley’s bridge and Delleys Dell is one of my favourite spots at Halls Gap. There is nothing about Halls Gap’s history Ida doesn’t know. My dad knows her well and she gave the him a copy of her book. Dad had a business in Halls Gap for 20 years, so I know the place well.
      I hope to do more posts on Halls Gap in the future.
      Merron

  • Lisa Ralph

    l remember a lot of visits to stawell as a child to my grandmothers and side trips to halls gap and meeting my great grandmother Emma,theres a great photo of my father Geoff with his father Edward ,grandmother Emma and great grandmother in Idas book ,l think my copy must have been signed by ida for my dad, my aunt and l have been trying to sort alot of old pics we have fro stawell halls gap and callawadda. My friends think its funny that l do so much ned kelly and glenrowan work and l had an Inn in the family around the same time

    • Merron Riddiford

      Hi Lisa
      Thank you for your comment. Well Ralph is a certainly a name I know from around the Halls Gap area. Ida’s history is great, there’s not much she doesn’t know about the area. I am lucky enough to have a signed copy too, which Ida gave to my Dad.
      Merron

  • Peter & Gloria VELLELEY

    As a result of a Google search of the names George FOLKES & Emma Launder DELLEY I clicked on your site & read about the families of Halls Gap area.My husband has a photo copy of his grandparents Marriage Certificate. It reads Emma Jane FOLKES born STAWELL,Father George,Mother Emma Launder DELLEY. Emma Jane married Henry David McKINERY on 23rd June 1910 at the Parsonage 97 Bridge Street RICHMOND by the Rev. John David HENNESSY (Congregational Rites).Henry David McKINERY born SOUTH MELBOURNE,Father Edmund Patrick McKINERY, Mother Maria ?.’Nanna’ told us she grew up in the ‘Grampians’ and spoke fondly of her sister Phoebe.
    Am guessing we are related to these families.
    Thank you for a great story .

    Peter & Gloria VELLELEY
    SYDNEY N S W

    • Merron Riddiford

      Hi Peter & Gloria

      I’m glad your search found Western District Families. I don’t think there is much doubt you are related. George Folkes & Emma Delley had three children, Pheobe, Emma Jane and George. Emma died has a result of the birth of George in 1889. George senior then married Barbara Williams and they had a further six children.
      Emma Delley was the daughter of Samuel Delley & Mary Evans. Samuel and Mary built the first Inn at Halls Gap. The bridge which must be crossed to enter Halls Gap from the east is named after the Delley family. Also Delley’s Dell which is a lovely spot just outside the township.
      You really must try to get a copy of Ida Stanton’s Bridging the Gap. There are photos of Delley’s Inn, the Folkes home and member of the family members. It can be brought online. The cheapest I’ve seen is $22. There is also an address on the Trove website , but I’m not sure if that is still active as Ida isn’t living in Halls Gap anymore. If you do have any problems let me know, I might be able to chase up a copy.

      How exciting to find a link to three of Halls Gap’s earliest pioneers, the Folkes, Evans and Delly families.

      Kind Regards

      Merron

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