Historical information

Bennie Simcox first came to the Monbulk area about 1860, following the first important gold discovery at the end of 1858. As the gold rush was short lived Simcox returned to Collingwood but later came back to Monbulk, built himself a hut to live in and become its first known permanent resident. The hut was burnt in the 1913 fires.
Monbulk was thrown open to selection in 1894, and that's when the first farmers including Bennie Simcox went into Monbulk. It was a big, timbered country in those days.
Once Ben had cleared some of his land he started to grow raspberries on it. He would be up before daylight ready to start picking. Ben also picked for a local family, the Camms to help make ends meet.

When Ben Simcox was virtually at the retired stage, he wanted to develop his bit of the gully as a tourist attraction, As his nephew Fred Gay who owned the 10 acres below Ben wanted to farm, he was happy to swap his treed block with Ben.
At a time when most settlers were clearing their properties, Ben Simcox, by contrast, cultivated the native plants and planted most of the large trees seen on the property today. And so Nathania Springs was developed as a tourist resort, and a mini-botanical garden. He diverted the natural water supply to form ornamental garden pools stocked with trout and tame native black fish.

There were many visitors came to the Dandenongs, Some arriving in motor cars others in converted furniture vans lined with seats or charabancs with the long extended chassis and the open canvas roofs. Identities such as Billy Hughes, Madame Melba would often come to look through Nathania Springs.
Bennie sold Nathania Springs to Councillor Ferdinand Thomas Le Juge, a boarding house proprietor and later the town baker in 1909 then in about 1921 Ben’s nephew Fred and his wife and family continued to open Nathania Springs to the public. It was not unusual in around 1924-25 for up to a thousand people a day to arrive at Nathania Springs to go through the gardens. At sixpence a time, that was a lot of money in those days.


This photo is part of a collection of historic and social significance of the early settlement of Monbulk.
Copies of photographs can be purchased from the Monbulk Historical Society.