K for Kellevie

Land near Kellevie 2022

Kellevie is a rural area in the municipality about 28 kilometres east of Sorell. Looking at newspapers mentioning Kellevie, it has certainly changed over time. Before I began the research for this post, I thought Kellevie was a very small place in the back hills of Sorell. I now have a different view of the history of the area. Blue links take you to newspaper articles to read.

In 1853, there was 280 acres of land leased to John Picken in the parish of Kellevie.

In 1862, in the local newspaper Kellevie was mentioned as being in the County of Pembroke and that it was a parish in the area called Carlton Scrub along with Nugent and Canning parishes. It was listed as agricultural land.

In 1871, Kellevie is mentioned often under Crown Lands for rent. Here are some examples of how the land is described by Mr Crawford:

Stony forest land ; steep hills in part, coarse herbage throughout. Not capable of much improvement. Carrying capacity-300 sheep.
Rocky tier land, chiefly, eastern frontage. Rough she-oak hills with coarse edgy flats here and there. Soil poor. Not capable of much improvement. Carrying capacity-200 sheep.

By August 1878, plans were afoot for a school at Kellevie.

Tenders were out by October 1878 and specifications could be viewed at Rochfort Hall, Upper Carlton, the home of Richard Copping, a well known whaling captain.

Builders wanted!

November 1878 saw a very detailed description of Kellevie in the local paper. Mention of the many families in the area.

First school master appointed in 1879. But just over a year later the school is shut and the master removed. Why? A new appointment has been made.

School is ready for pupils
  • Even in 1881, teachers were moved around a lot, but in a five year period all head teachers had been promoted from the Sorell district.
  • By August 1882, just four years after being built, tenders were out for repairing the school premises at Kellevie. By November that year, it was ready to be started and they asked the Board of Education for a fortnight’s holiday while the repairs were done.
  • In August 1883, whooping cough was prevalent among the students and the school was closed for a week.
  • A letter to the editor mentioned the Kellevie school in November 1883, and the teachers held a tea in the evening for students and parents on the day school closed for Christmas holidays.
  • June 1884 where Matthew Burnett lectured on temperance to a very large crowd at Kellevie.
  • August 1884 the school was averaging 60 children each day with Mr and Mrs Miller still in charge.
  • The annual tea meeting in December 1884 includes names of many prize recipients. December 1885
New classroom
  • Discussion of postal service in Coppington and Forcett area including Kellevie.
  • Students mourn death of a school friend at Kellevie in February 1886.
  • The schoolmaster and mistress Mr and Mrs Miller moved to Bothwell. Farewell meeting at the schoolhouse in July 1886.
  • Mr Downie is the new schoolmaster in August 1886 and more trouble re the postal service.
  • Discussion about opening up roads to Kellevie to allow produce to get to Dunalley more easily.
  • Upper Carlton now officially known as Kellevie through the Post Office.
  • Fantastic article with names of children receiving prizes at the Christmas tea meeting in 1886.
  • School numbers still growing, so Captain Copping helps again. But what about the Government?
More room needed
  • Problems with divine service being held in school buildings.
  • May 1887 a large gathering for a presentation to Rev Alex Doctor and Mrs Captain Richard Copping.
  • A parent from the Kellevie community wrote a letter to the paper regarding the surroundings of the school.
  • In August 1887, Reverend Alex Doctor is moved on to a church in Bothwell.
Assault in the district
Visit by Governor
Amputation not needed?
  • Lady Hamilton visits Kellevie school and a great description written up by the correspondent for the local paper. She also presented prizes for the end of the year.
  • Boy’s cricket teams between local schools. Dunalley defeated Kellevie in the first match but the reverse in the second match.
  • Poor school attendance due to illness in the area.
  • The school master Mr Downie was promoted to Scottsdale school.
  • What is attacking the sheep?
Sheep attacked

Readers: Which of the above newspaper articles did you enjoy the most or find the most interesting? Do you know how the parish got the name Kellevie prior to 1853 article in the paper?

Fire in the district

Here in Tasmania, our worst disaster is caused by bushfires or fires that have got out of control. When we have a wet winter and spring, then a dry summer and the lush grasses and undergrowth start dying and going brown, then we know we could be in for a terrible fire season. Much of our land is protected forest or used as farmland with crops and animals. Our forests are predominantly Eucalyptus species which catch alight quickly and the burning leaves and bark leap ahead of the main fire front especially if backed by heavy winds. This will cause lots of spot fires which then develop into larger fires.

pinterastudio / Pixabay

When I was 11 years old, I lived in Glenorchy on the western shore of Hobart and saw the effects of the 7 February 1967 bushfires on the slopes of Mt Wellington. In total, 64 people lost their lives, 900 were injured and about 7000 left homeless across the state. About 1400 homes were destroyed and a further 128 buildings included schools, halls, churches. There were 110 fire fronts burning over 652,000 acres of land within a five hour period. The local paper The Mercury put together a 50th anniversary booklet including memories from the south east of Tasmania. Just today I was shown a link to a Facebook post celebrating the 54th anniversary of the Black Tuesday bushfires. These fires also affected the municipality of Sorell. Read about some memories further down this post.

Another disastrous fire season was in January 2013 when the township of Dunalley in the southern section of the municipality was virtually burnt to the ground. There were 40 fires burning across the state and more than 49000 acres of bushland were burnt out. Dunalley had 65 buildings lost to the fire including the police station, primary school and bakery. People from the Tasman and Forestier Peninsulas had to evacuate as the fire was bearing down on them from the north.

History of bush fires in the district

Researching this topic, I found as early as 1804 (the year after Van Diemens Land was first settled) the Lieutenant Governor was warning people about burning the stubble on their land.

In 1841, one fire was thought to be started by a convict road party but when requested verbally to help fight the fire, the overseer refused as it was not a requisition in writing.

By 1844 many settlers were taking out fire insurance for their houses and property.

In March 1850, a fire in the district affected property owned by the following families: Kearney, Blyth, Glover and Zelly.

January 1854 another conflagration was mentioned in the local paper. Some of the surnames mentioned were: Morrison, Phipps, Wicks, Wright, White, Burslem, Bellett, Grimes and Blyth.

In March 1856, a fire at Carlton mentioned the extra undergrowth that caused the bushfire to burn quickly onto the local property.


Some people lost their lives while helping to fight fires. Mentioned in March 1886 is that of Mr B Reardon, an old resident of Forcett, who while fixing a fence, must have been overcome with smoke and heat, fainted and the fire then went over the body.

In February 1914, there must have been many fires in southern Tasmania, including around Kellevie and Carlton River. Many buildings destroyed and this was the second bushfire that season.

Council meetings such as this one in 1925, often mentioned the role council had in keeping drains, culverts and blocks of land clear in case of bushfires. Another meeting in 1930, discussed the availability of fire plugs in the town of Sorell. Councillor McDermott made an objection and a few comments from other members came straight to the point.

With the temperature reaching 98 degrees in Sorell in March 1940, some buildings on properties were again affected by bush fires.


By 1952, Sorell had its own fire brigade and only one day after being approved by the Rural Fires Board, it was out protecting property from a large fire in the Forcett area.

Memories about Black Tuesday around the Sorell district from members of the Sorell Historical Society

RN: people say the old man (Trakka Newitt) saved Sorell…he back burnt the racecourse before the fire front hit….well before back burning was in vogue…..he learned it from his time on Bathurst Island with an Aboriginal tribe….now that’s a story in itself…… I remember a lot about the ’67 fires……..

LR: my mum told me the circus was in town and the kids from the school were ushered down to the causeway to stand in the water with the circus animals

RN: I remember they took us out of school, we were put onto buses in Forcett street and taken down to the causeway…we got off the bus and sat on the rocks….it was like a movie scene right in front of us…..the smell of burning sheep I remember

LD: The smell is what lingers in my memory too and the mounds in the paddocks that lingered for years

  • LD: My dad was one of the Sorell residents that perished in the 67 fires . Fred Weil aged 39, he would have been 93 this month.
  • GB: Yes, Fred and Geoff Davis(father of Neil Davis) both perished together fighting the fires out Shark Point Road, Penna.
  • LD: I remember being told that dad and Geoff were found together dad facing the flames and Geoff facing away. Apparently dad went back to get Geoff after he had collapsed.
  • LL: Think you will find that Geoff Davis and Manfred Weil died fighting the fires on my father’s property at Penna which was called Preston

LR: My mum was in Hobart and on the bus on the way back, they were stopped at Mount Rumney and told that Sorell and Midway Point was gone. I was 2 months old, my sister was one and learnt to walk that day

KC: I remember the 67 fires like it was yesterday. From being down at Park Beach swimming and getting home at lunch time. After going to the causeway because it was so hot, my friend and I noticed ash falling from the sky, we decided to go to our homes. When I got to the Blue Bell Inn (which was our home, my father was Allan Newitt) I went up stairs to the kitchen and Dad had been eating lunch. You can see Reynolds Hill from the window and dad had seen the fire coming from that direction. So he and Len Tapp who was staying with us went down and lit the race course because the fire would have jumped Arthur St and the whole of Sorell would have gone. I went up to the primary school and found Dad, he could hardly see out of his eyes for the smoke. The fire had come up behind the primary school. Dad asked me to drive him and the local police man back near where the sale yards used to be. We went down Pelham St to the Arthur Highway. I was scared because I didn’t have a licence but when I said this to the policeman he just said that I had done a good job girlie. Then Dad wanted to go to Penna and when we got there, there was all these poor sheep all charred and burnt. There were some local lads hanging about so Dad got them to help him to put the sheep down. The only thing that Dad found was an old railway spike to use to put them down with. It was an awful sight but Dad did the only thing he could to put them out of their misery. That’s what I remember about the 67 fires.

Readers: What has been your memory of bushfires or a disaster in your area of the world?