JANET BOWMAN Boulevard in Beaconsfield, off O’Neil Road is close to the original Bowman’s track.
Janet Bowman left her home in Scotland to come to Victoria in 1840 with her husband David and then to Beaconsfield in the early 1850’s. In 1855 David took up the lease for the title to 200 acres on the Panty Gurn Gurn lease, covering what is now the township of Beaconsfield. Later in the year he was granted a licence for the “Gippsland Hotel” which was known as “Bowman’s Inn”. David and Janet had 6 children and built a homestead believed to be near where Villa Mar now is on O’Neil Road.
Life was not easy for this lady and sadly her son drowned in Cardinia Creek whilst shepherding sheep and later her husband died in 1860. This enterprising woman became the licensee for the Hotel, a remarkable achievement for a woman of her time. Even more remarkable and innovative was her achievement of having a track cut through rugged terrain from Beaconsfield into the Yarra Valley linking to the Jordan goldfields. Her 4 sons and some other men worked on the track. It started behind the Hotel and then travelled eastward to where O’Neil Road is today and then north. The track now has the present day names of Hughenden Road, Telegraph, Split Rock Road, Downey, Bourke’s Creek Road, Paternoster Road and Mt Burnett to Boyd Road, East Beenak to Basan’s corner.
The government wanted to encourage miners and said they would compensate the expenses of those people who had opened up the country to the goldfields. The track cost 1500 pounds and Janet applied to the government for payment for the work and after 20 years, compensation was paid of 300 pounds.
In the April of Australia’s Bicentenary Year, 1988, Pakenham Shire honoured this visionary lady with the marking of the site of Bowman’s track with a plaque and 14 signs along the track. The Shire President Cr Jeune Matthews unveiled the plaque at the corner of O’Neil Road and Old Princes Highway along with other local dignitaries and more than 150 descendants of the Bowman family who had come to a family reunion that day.
Over time the signs have fallen into disrepair or gone missing. So, almost 30 years from the Bicentenary, Cardinia Shire Council are replacing the signs along the track and making a new interpretation plaque with a map and story of Janet Bowman and the history of the track.
The new interpretation plaque will be on the corner of Janet Bowman Boulevard and O’Neil Road on the Bowman’s Track Wall.
Article by Ann Taylor