We owe so much to Grayson Dodd, the man who photographed the pioneering days
Grayson Dodd was a very keen photographer who recorded, on glass slides, the original forest in the Dumbalk North area, the clearing of the family selection and the establishment of a fully functioning dairy farm.
Frank Dodd, Grayson’s father, and family were living in Echuca and wanted to move to somewhere with a cooler climate. In Christmas week 1877 Frank Dodd came to Moe by train. He engaged John Gallagher, a guide, to show him the land. They reached the Tarwin River by 1 January 1878 and Mr Dodd pegged out 320 acres, which he then selected officially in Melbourne at the Lands Department. The following September he cut scrub then returned to Echuca for Christmas.
Frank described the forestland he had selected. ‘The blackbutt trees (Mountain Ash or Eucalyptus Regnans) ran up to a height of 300 feet, the blackwood trees 90 to 100 feet and the musk, hazel, pittosporum, blanket wood, jeal wood and several kinds of myrtle, with supplejack and the lovely ferns all combined to make up a dense mass of undergrowth, very hard to penetrate, and one could easily lose their bearings in such a jungle’. From Land of the Lyrebird
After the family had cleared some land and made provision for a house Mrs Dodd and the rest of the Dodd family came permanently into the area
Grayson Dodd was born in 1882 in the home on the family property he subsequently owned. He lived his life on that property at Dumbalk North. As a young boy he developed a keen interest in photography and for this we are eternally grateful.
Commencing his hobby with a simple box Brownie camera, Grayson set about recording the scenery that surrounded his home on the banks of the Tarwin River’s East Branch.
The first stages of forest clearing were recorded, then the burning process, the planting of grasses and the gradual change of the area from dense forest to farmland. All this change was illustrated by Grayson’s wonderful photographs taken on plate glass negatives that he developed himself. The photographs record the living conditions of our pioneers and the enormous task they undertook to clear the land with only saws and axes.
The Dodd’s were leaders in the temperance movement and the Methodist Church. In June 1914 Grayson married Gertrude Trease a member of another pioneering family in the Tarwin Valley. The Dodd family were active in the formation and running of the Dumbalk Cooperative Company, which made butter in Dumbalk from 1894 until 1966 when it was absorbed by Murray Goulburn. During the 1950s when Grayson Dodd was a board director the Dumbalk factory was at its peak of profitability.
Grayson Dodd’s also wanted to preserve the remnants of the South Gippsland forest with its beautiful tree ferns and keep these areas in public hands. He lobbied politicians for an area of the Turton’s Creek mining reserve to be a National Park and this was eventually achieved.
The Dodd collection of photographs became very well known in the district. From the 1930s Grayson was often asked to present the slides with a commentary at community functions to raise funds for local projects. This was especially important during World War II when funds were raised for the war effort. After his death in 1964 his son Doug continued showing the slides on a 70-year-old magic lantern projector and a modern slide projector to show modern slides of the same location years on. During the 70s and early 80s Doug made an annual visit to Leongatha High to show the slides to Year 8 as part of their local history studies.
When John Murphy was writing No Parallel Doug made some of the best photographs available to be used in the book. Grayson Dodd also made a valuable contribution to the religious life of the area. For 42 years he served the Dumbalk and Meeniyan Home Mission Station and continued when it was incorporated into the Leongatha Circuit.
When we look at these photographs and see the changes in the environment over time, we must thank Grayson Dodd for recording this for the future.