Isaac Edwin Challenor became one of the earliest settlers at Trowutta when he purchased his 200 acres of land in 1910. At the time roads and cars were unknown with trips to the township of Smithton having to be undertaken over muddy, unformed tracks on horse drawn sledges.
Isaac was from the Goulburn district in Victoria but settled in Melbourne after he married. Seven months later he became a widow when his first child was born, but the child died a month later. After he remarried three years later, Isaac’s second wife bore him four daughters and a son before they made the move to Tasmania. The possibility of owning fertile land was an opportunity not to be missed.
In 1903, a township reserve was surveyed. In 1911 a post office came into being with mail delivered once a week. Later mail was delivered twice a week, and then three times a week until the early 1920s when it was delivered on a daily basis. In 1919 a railway line was opened for the first time from the port of Stanley to Trowutta.
Three of Isaac’s daughters were married in Tasmania. The first was his eldest daughter, May Elizabeth Challenor, who married Thomas William Phillips at Trowutta on 20 August 1913. It was the first ever marriage at Trowutta, which was celebrated at the residence of the bride’s parents.
The other two daughters were Marie Evelyn and Doreen Harriet Challenor who married John Matthews and Sidney Clarendon Reynolds respectively. His son, Edwin Linton Challenor, married Charlotte Louis Malley in 1915 and continued to remain on the Trowutta farm.
At the very outset in 1910, roads to and from Trowutta was next to impassable and over the next several years funds were allocated by the Local Council to build roads to the new settlements. However, for some reason or other, the proposed road to Challenor’s farm was continually overlooked.
On numerous occasions, Isaac approached the Circular Head Council to draw attention to the state of the road from Creole’s to his farm. It was deemed unsafe and during winter months he simply could not get a cart out.
The Trowutta Farmers League also intervened on his behalf to both Council and State Government to bring pressure on the Government to open the road to Challenor’s property, however, to no avail.
Isaac’s homestead had already been completed in 1916, which was of an Elizabethan style and regarded as “quite aristocratic” among the other settlers’ humbler dwellings. Even then there wasn’t a road to speak of.
In 1919, Isaac wrote a letter to the Council offering the necessary metal free of cost if the Council would make the road to his property safe for winter traffic. Again, it fell on deaf ears.
In the same year, the Department of Public Works allocated 66,404 pounds for roadworks throughout the State, of which 100 pounds was allocated to fund a road to Challenor’s farm. Five years later the road never materialised.
Under such circumstances, many settlers have had to sacrifice their selections and leave the district on account of want of sufficient roads, and Isaac was no exception as he put up his land for sale on several occasions.
In 1927, Isaac gave up completely and the family moved back to Melbourne. They sold all their goods and chattels, farm stock and farming implements and leased the land to Archibald Wells.
A year later, a reporter from the Circular Head Chronicle wrote:
“After an absence of about a year, Mr and Mrs Challenor are paying a visit to their daughters, both of whom reside here. It was with much reluctance that these worthy pioneers left the district. I could relate some of the hardships they endured, but perhaps it is not fair to recall sufferings of the past. Speed the day when Governments will regard it a criminal offence to delay the means of suitable access to its settlers who are clearing their way through the forest.”
Six months later after the Challenor family returned to Melbourne, the Public Works Department allocated 8,850 pounds to the Circular Head Council, of which 200 pounds was to be spent on Challenor’s road.
The Challenor road was finally completed in 1929.
In 1935, Isaac sold the property after successfully seeking a court order to have Archibald Wells evicted.
THE OLD OAK TREE ON TROWUTTA ROAD
While on the subject of Trowutta, it may be of interest to mention Jane Ollington. A few years before her passing, as the oldest resident of Smithton, Jane was given the honors to plant one of two acorns sent to the municipality from the Royal Oak at Windsor Park. She took delight in that it not only germinated but its roots grew through the bottom of the pot into the ground. She was there again to transplant to where it now stands on Trowutta Road at Forest. An inscribed tablet was later affixed to the tree for public information. I visited the site several years ago but the inscribed tablet was simply not there, only a white stump as seen in the image to the left.
This magnificent oak, grown from seedling, came from Windsor Park in England to commemorate the accession of King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth.
The other of the two coronation oak trees planted by Jane Ollington in the 1930s is adjacent to a store where East Esplanade turns to join King Street in Smithton. Unfortunately the tree had been neglected and is not thriving as well as the one on Trowutta Road.