Joseph Stevenson and his Bullock Named Diamond

September 23, 2022
Kirk's Bazaar Melbourne (now Hardware Street) built by Joseph Stevenson in 1840.

There has long been speculation about the naming of Diamond Creek the creek, and Diamond Creek the place, with more than one story developed over the years. Which one is the more likely – Diamond the bullock’s drowning in the creek; clear water running over stones looking like diamonds; or the naming of the Diamond Rivulet running into the Yarra River during a survey of the wider district in 1839? Recollections recorded in a newspaper article may go some way to adding more weight to one of those stories.

Joseph Stevenson

Joseph Stevenson was an early resident of Diamond Creek district who later moved to Christmas Hills. A meeting of local residents was held at Christmas Hills in April 1918 following the passing of Mrs. Sadler, Joseph’s daughter. That sad event seems to have prompted the gathering to share recollections of the district.

At the meeting Joseph’s son Robert produced a ledger that detailed much of his father’s achievements and history in Victoria and his work as a carpenter and joiner. It showed that Joseph purchased blocks of land in Collins Street, Melbourne at the Victorian Government’s first land sale. He was the builder of the first pun across the Yarra River that preceded the original Princes Bridge in 1839, Kirk’s Bazaar (now Hardware Street) in 1840, and the Royal Mail Hotel on the corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets in 1848.

Royal Mail Hotel on the corner of Bourke and Swanston Street - built by Joseph Stevenson in 1848.

When Joseph Stevenson came to Diamond Creek in the 1840’s he took up a small station and began sheep farming. He also had t team of bullocks one of which was named Diamond who it is reported ‘during the dry part of the season, went to the creek, got bogged, and was found there dead. Afterwards when Mr. Stevenson ordered the bullock driver to seek the bullocks for any work that was required at the station, the driver often asked “Where do you think I will find them?” The reply frequently was “Down about the creek where Diamond was drowned;” and this in time the creek and surrounding district came to be known as Diamond Creek.’

The article also provides information from the ledger about the naming of Christmas Hills, so we thought it would be beneficial to include it here too. Joseph Stevenson ran sheep on land in the area in the early 1840’s

‘Mr. Stevenson engaged a shepherd named David Christmas. Christmas set out alone from Melbourne for the station. The road was only a bush track through virgin country, and after crossing a creek some four or five miles from Mr. Stevenson’s homestead, the shepherd lost the track. He wandered aimlessly about through the night and became completely bushed and ill. … Christmas lay down one night, after he had become very much exhausted, expecting to die of starvation. Awakening in the morning, the sound of bells reached his ears, and when he had become conscious enough he sprang to his feet, clapped his hands, and cried out with delirious joy : “There’s the bells of St. Paul’s.”

He went in the direction from which the sound came, and stumbled on Mr. Stevenson’s working bullock, some of which had bells on them. Christmas still had sense enough left to stop with the bullocks until someone came for them. Eventually he was found in the hills, following the team ; and Mr. Stevenson named the locality Christmas Hills.’

This has been a very interesting find and an important addition to our historical knowledge. It is anecdotal, but is also only one generation removed from the family’s experience of the events.

If this is the reason we have our creek named the Diamond Creek, it flows directly to the name of our township of Diamond Creek. In its earliest days our township was known as Nillumbik and Nillumbik on the Diamond Creek. These two names were interchangeable into the 1890’s and sometimes in the early 1900’s when Nillumbik on the Diamond Creek and Diamond Creek were used.


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