Several years ago, our Society had the privilege of interviewing Alva Barrow, A Torquay resident whose family have lived in our area since settling in Grovedale in 1854. Alva’s story started with her Great Great Grandparents John (Johan and Dorothea Schmidt) who settled in Grovedale in 1854. They had six children. Alva’s Great Grandfather, Johan Gottleib, was their fourth child. They first settled in Grovedale which was then called German Town, and Johan was naturalized as an Australian in 1861.

Johan Gottleib Schmidt was born in Zilluchow Prussia in 1838 and died in Australia in 1888. His wife Johana Louisa Paulina Leibhardt was born in Pommerzig Prussia in 1844 and died in Torquay in 1921.

Johan arrived in Australia at Point Henry with his parents John and Dorothea Schmidt on the Williamsburg in 1853. Johana arrived in Australia in 1854. Johan Gottleib Schmidt and Johanna Louisa Paulina Leibhardt were married in Belmont in 1865. The couple settled in Freshwater Creek where they raised their family of twelve children.

JOHAN GEORGE AUGUST SCHMIDT was the fifth born child to Johan and Dorothea Schmidt, and was born in 1874 at Freshwater Creek. He was raised on the family farm at Freshwater Creek where his parents died in 1958.

Johan George August Schmidt was Alva’s grandfather. Having settled in Freshwater Creek, the family lived in a mud and bark hut and drew water from the creek. He was educated at the local Freshwater Creek school and his parents Johan and Johanna Schmidt were on the school committee. They were also founders of St. David’s Lutheran Church at Freshwater Creek.

Their son Johan George Schmidt known as Jack Smith worked as a groom for Morrie Jacobs driving him about in his jinker. It is believed that this is when he met his future wife, Violet Mary Frances Cameron. Violet was born in 1886 and died in 1927. Johan (Jack) and violet were married at Belmont in 1900 and began their married live by building a cottage about one mile from Torquay. They called it Grass Tree Cottage.

Grass Tree Cottage

Grass Tree Cottage was built on what is now the Corner of Combs Road and the main road to Geelong (now Surf Coast Highway). It was opposite to a water hole where travelers and the coaches stopped to water their horses. Violet used to sell the travelers cool drinks.

Jack and Violet’s first child, Ina was born in Grass Tree Cottage. The White family had bought the cottage and used it for their farm workers when Jack and Violet moved into Torquay. It later passed to the Mc Cann family when the White Estate was sold after Alfred G. White’s death in 1952.

In 1950 the Polworth family moved into Grass Tree Cottage with their seven children. It had no power and water and cost the family one pound a week, payable yearly. One year Tom Polwarth went to pay the rent and Mr. Mc Cann gave it back to him. Tom had made improvements to the cottage by adding a water tank that supplied water to the bathroom and kitchen Power was connected to the cottage in approximately 1956. After the Polworth family moved the cottage continued to be rented until it was demolished in 1992 to make way for the duplication of the Geelong Road, now known as the Surf Coast Highway. Alva’s family always referred to Grass Tree Cottage, as the house that Jack built.

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