History of the Kroezen Family in Australia

Jan (Wolter) Kroezen was born on 16 Jan 1878 in Hoogeveen, Drenthe, Holland. His parents were Wolter (Jans) Kroezen, b. 29 Dec 1840 and Geertje (Geerts) Zwiep, b. 30 Aug 1843.

Unfortunately not a lot is known of Jan's younger years.

Jan served in the Cavalry in Holland (a certificate exists depicting Jan in uniform on horseback, this will eventually be published in the Photo Gallery).

Family myth has it that Jan, was not averse to making a little bit of extra money by helping supply local demand with imported goods that he brought in to the country by avoiding normal channels and therefore not paying the appropriate taxes upon them (smuggling). Jan had sabre cuts on his left cheek. It is believed that he received these in a Tavern where he was challenged by a constable/law enforcement officer. When challenged, Jan at first ignored the constable, on being challenged again it led to a verbal altercation, with Jan telling the constable in no uncertain manner that he should leave, the constable drew his sabre, threatened Jan, pointed the sabre at his face and cut his cheek. Jan is alleged to have then grabbed the sabre by the blade and pulled it from the constables hand, he then used it as a club and beat the constable with the handle. Jan is said to have left Holland and travelled overseas immediately after this incident. (This story was confirmed by his son John who verified that Jan not only had the cuts to the cheek but also cuts on the palm of his hand from where he grabbed the sabre. His "Certificate of Naturalization" notes "Two scars on left cheek.")

Jan migrated to Scotland in about 1906. There he met and married Agnes Ferguson (born 7 October 1886 to Joseph Ferguson & Agnes Gardiner) at Kilmarnock on 10 July 1907. All of their children were born in Scotland (Walter, Joseph, George, Agnes, Gertrude, Mary and John).

They lived at Mosside of Dundonald, South Ayrshire. The children of school age attended the Montgomery St School, in Irvine, North Ayrshire.

The children had to walk 3 1/2 miles each way to get to school each day. They did this all year round in the heat and knee deep in snow. School life was really pleasant, during the winter months school was closed early to allow the children to get home before dark. At lunch time they were allowed to go to the "Soup Kitchen" to be fed hot soup, as they lived in the country side and could not go home for lunch as the local children did. The girls never played sport, they would spend most of the free time learning sewing and knitting. The boys played soccer.
Sometimes after school they were lucky to get a ride home on one of the farm carts instead of walking the 3 1/2 miles back home.
After school they milked the goats and had to bang tins to bring down the swarm of bees for their father, when he came home he would put the bees back into the hive boxes.
After all the chores were done they would spend the rest of the evening mucking around in the heather with the local kids.
Many a time the children were found around Dundonald Castle playing and were often getting into trouble for climbing around the old castle wall. Dundonald Castle was located a few minutes walk from the home and could seen from their backyard.

Jan cut peat for a livelihood. (see footnote)
Shortly after his marriage to Agnes he evidently went to Ireland to teach some Irish people the method he used to cut peat.
Jan leased some land where he had goats, ducks, pigs and bees. He grew all of their own vegetables.
After he left school, Joseph worked for the Laird at Troon.
During World War 1, while in a Tavern, Jan overheard some Germans who were unaware that he could understand them, planning a raid. He reported this to the Police and they were arrested.

One of Jan's passions was Canaries. In 1923 Jan won a Special Award at the National Cage and Aviary show which was held at the Crystal Palace in South London (The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire on November 30th 1936 and the show is now held at the Birmingham National Centre). The medal he was awarded was marked BFCC on the back, this stands for Border Fancy Canary Club. Evidently the Border Canary was very popular throughout the border countries of Scotland and England. This was a special breed of canary and became very popular in the 1800s and 1900s. The first Border Fancy Canary Club was established in 1891.

When work became hard to get after the war, Jan and Agnes considered migrating to either Australia or Canada. The decision to come to Australia was influenced by the fact that Agnes's brother, Stewart Ferguson and his wife Grace were already in Australia. In 1925 Jan travelled to Australia (S.S. Oronsay) leaving Agnes and the children behind. He went on alone to determine if work was available before bringing the family out. Jan stayed with Stewart and Grace Ferguson at Kingsville and quickly found work at the Australian Box Factory who manufactured Butter Boxes. Jan sent money back to Scotland for the family to live on. In February 1926 the family joined him in Australia (S.S. Otranto). On the trip out to Australia, John came down very ill with Pneumonia and required constant care. Agnes would not leave him unattended and the daughters took turns with their Mother in sitting with John. When the ship arrived at Fremantle an Ambulance was waiting to take him to hospital. However he had recovered enough to continue on to Melbourne on the ship. They stayed the first few nights with the Fergusons and then moved to a house in Williamstown Rd Yarraville, where they lived for about 12 months. During this time, Walter found work at the Australian Porcelain Co, George started to work as an apprentice at a Bakery and Joseph went to a property in country Shelford called Golf Hill to work as a Gardener.

Jan was advised to go share farming.

The Family shifted to a property called Mayfield at Oxley Flats near Milawa (about 12 km from Wangaratta). This property was between the Ovens River and Maloney's Creek and was owned by a Mrs Shaw of Reedsdale at Tarrawingi. They were here for three years. (Approx 1927-30.) John, Mary and Gertrude attended School at Oxley Flat. This was a typical rural single classroom school. The Schoolmaster was a Billy Johnson who was an excellent gardener and spent much of his time in the garden after setting his students work to do. He would keep an eye on the class by looking through a knot hole in the timber walls.
Walter and George helped on the farm.
Agnes went to work for Mrs Shaw and when Gertrude left school she went to work for Dr Godbey at Wangaratta.
From here they went back to Melbourne for a short time where Jan once again worked in the box factory.
They then went to another farm at Bena in Gippsland which was between Corrumburra and Bena. The Owner was an Irishman named Cosgrave. They were here for about three years. Approx 1930-33. The family all worked on the farm. Elizabeth Valmae (Betty) was born at Bena.
They then went Share farming on another property at Toora near Welshpool.
Gertrude went to Fish Creek to work for Mrs McCall as a domestic.
George worked in a gravel pit digging gravel.
Mary went to Melbourne Hospital and worked as a wards maid.
Agnes came down very ill with an infection to her knee. The knee was not improving. The Doctor was reputed to be a bit of a drunkard, however, after he was threatened by George that if his sister Agnes was not sent to Melbourne for proper treatment that his future was uncertain. Agnes was put on the train and sent to Melbourne. Agnes took several months to recover and at one stage Doctors suggested that they should amputate her leg. Agnes refused this option. After her recovery Agnes walked with a limp for the rest of he life.
Gertrude then went to Ripponlea to work for Mrs Bernard. Here she met and married Stanley Frank Boulter.
The family then went to Gembrook share farming.

With the outbreak of war Walter and John enlisted in the Army. Walter saw service as a Staff Sergeant with the Victorian Scottish Regiment. John served with the Artillery and saw service in New Guinea as a Lance Bombardier. John met and married Norma Chadwick while home on leave on August 5 1944.

Jan and Agnes shifted to Irene St Yarraville where Jan worked at a tannery until after the war.
Agnes worked at Rogers the Tailors in Melbourne.
Jan and Agnes retired to Morwell to live out their final years. Jan died at Morwell in 1960. Agnes died at Yarraville in 1962.

George Kroezen took some peat to school for "Show and Tell Day", it was displayed in a show case in the main entrance of the Montgomery School. As far as we know the PEAT BLOCK (a peat block is the size of a square loaf of bread) was still on display in the late 1970's.