Our Early History
History of Monte CristoThe original owner, Christopher William Crawley [b1841-1910], acquired two parcels of land in Junee on conditional purchase, one of 400 acres, another 120 acres in January 1876 under provisions of the Robertson Act of 1861 . After years of struggle, farming and the many privations of regional life in a primitive slab hut, his fortunes changed when the Great Southern Railway Line opened in 1878. Perhaps tipped off the year before, he acquired a license and built the Railway Hotel opposite the soon to be bustling railway station. At that time the village consisted of Mr. Crawley's hotel, the adjoining Railway Store run by George Dobbyns, and a few scattered slab houses and bark huts. The township benefited tremendously from the influx of travelers and agricultural trade, fueling the regions explosive growth.
Symbol Of A FounderCrawleys wealth increased dramatically, as did his holdings, acquiring almost the entire area of present day Junee at his peak. Mr Crawley soon became a force to be reckoned with, more than a pillar of society, he became a town founder. His natural generosity and sense of civic responsibility resulted in him being held in high regard by all segments of the community. As a devout Roman Catholic, he donated a parcel of land to the church and helped finance the construction of St Joseph's Church and other important civic projects, at a time when government funding wasn't really available. His hard earned wealth and new found social status needed an omnipresent symbol, so Monte Cristo (literally Mount of Christ) came into being.
Additions and ExpansionPrior to the construction of the new house in 1884/85 the Crawley's lived in a small brick cottage now called the Original Homestead. It was built in 1876 and became the kitchen and servants quarters. Which itself was part of a trend as their original onsite home, a slab hut, had become servants quarters when finances improved and a grander brick replacement was constructed. The slab hut made way for stables to house Mr Crawley's prized race horses, which coincided with the construction of the dairy and preceded a wood ballroom which stood directly behind the Old Homestead and was connected to a carbide gas supply illuminating the main house in 1902.
Home Is A CastleEnvisioned as the grandest home of the regions' landed gentry, Monte Cristo succeeded in becoming the ultimate status symbol. Like a castle in feudal Europe it was the center of local power and sat perched high on a hill so its lord could survey his realm from the second floor balcony. However it was still a farming property, the nucleus of Crawley family agricultural pursuits, and Mr Crawley wasn't above getting his hands dirty. No price was spared in its construction, built of sandstock bricks fired on site and laid on a drystone foundation, in over a century not a single crack has appeared. Downstairs walls are 18" thick, the upper 9" and both made of solid brick, the ceilings are 12 feet high, upstairs constructed of cypress pine, milled locally, and downstairs lath and plaster. The interior plan of the house is simple with rooms opening off a central hallway which runs through the house and contains a staircase.
Living the Good LifeA late Victorian house of pleasing line and proportion, it retains much of the symmetry of an earlier period, with only the applied decoration of plaster work and cast iron lattice adding the necessary touch of opulence so loved by the Victorians. Its charm was in the balance of design and in this, it demonstrates a style of building unchanged since early Colonial days.
The homestead was renowned as one of the regions' social centers, a place where balls were held and local gentry idled away the day in country pursuits, playing tennis and golf on the regions first course. In between these pleasant activities the Crawleys raised seven children, all of whom went on to live happy, productive lives: Helen Ann (Lillian) - Lydia Blanch - Florence Agnes - Angela Christina (Pidge) and their brothers Mervyn Marmaduke - Aubrey Clarence and Alphonse Hilary. All of them were musically talented.
Only The Best SchoolingAs a result of the Crawley's new wealth, the children were sent away to be educated at the best schools they could afford, with the girls at the Dominican Convent in Maintland and St Vincent's Potts Point. All were taught music and painting. Lillian (Mrs. Lawliss) was the great beauty of the family with striking violet eyes, she was an accomplished pianist and composer. She composed the "Scotia Schottische" in 1895 for a ball at Government House and dedicated it to Lady Dunbar. She also taught at the first Junee School known as the Railway Station School. The girls were extremely careful of their English rose complexions and never ventured out in the sun without being completely covered, and carrying a green-lined parasol for added protection.
Angela Christina was a talented artist and enjoyed sketching and would do pen drawings on envelopes containing letters to friends, samples of which still exist.
School DaysThe boys were educated at Riverview and St Josephs in Sydney and St Patrick's in Goulburn.
Mervyn, nicknamed "The Pioneer of Queensland", owned and operated extensive pastoral holdings in the state. Aubrey, who played the violin, became a doctor. Alphonse, noted as the finest pianist of a very musical family became a solicitor and broke the Australian record by practicing for 62 years.