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People > Life Stories > Michael Manusu. History of an early Greek Migrant.

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submitted by O Kosmos on 16.08.2006

Michael Manusu. History of an early Greek Migrant.

* O KOSMOS, March 1988 * page 15

*IN OUR OTHER LANGUAGE * 10

UNCOVERED BY “THE AUSTRALIAN HELLENIC HISTORICAL SOCIETY”.

In “Young World” today it gives me pleasure to publish a brief history of the early Greek immigrant, MICHAEL MANUSU, along with rare photographs, as supplied to us by the Secretary of the Australian Hellenic Historical Society, Tas Psarakis. As you read through the material, you will appreciate the extensive research that has been carried out by the diligent members of the AHHS.

June 1851, the discovery of gold, by Edward Hargraves Ophir, N.S.W. ushered in the incredible and legendary Australian gold rush and saw tens of thousands of adventurers from all over the world flock to the newly opened fields in search of the elusive ELDORADO. Many found payable gold and quite a few struck it rich, but the majority struggled to make a living. Of the huge number that came to Australia, there included an appreciable number of Greeks. We will never know the exact numbers. There is only a rough estimation due to the scanty records of the time. Approximately 200 Greeks lived in the colonies during the 1850’s, with a progressive increase in each subsequent decade. Of these adventurers, Most left for home after their search for gold but an appreciable number remained and became, Together with a handful prior to 1851, our first Greek settlers.

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One of these gold miners was Michael Manousous, (Manusu), a native of the Island of Mytilene. Born 23rd of June 1826, apparently into a wealthy family, he appeared to have run foul of the local Turkish authorities, his mother fearing the worst for her son gave him an amount of money and told him to leave the Island. In 1849, Manusu arrived in California where he joined the thousands flooding into the Sacramento Valley looking for gold. He appeared to have stayed there for some 3 years but decided to leave because of some trouble with hostile Indians. In 1853, Manusu joined the crew of the General Veazie as a second mate and arrived in Sydney the same year.

He immediately joined the rush to the newly found gold fields on the south coast of NSW, centered on the town of Braidwood and Araluen.

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He appeared to have been moderately successful in his search for gold and on April 3, 1854, he married Sarah Baldwin in the Anglican Church in Braidwood. Michael Manusu certainly was not the only Greek on the gold fields at the time. The Illawarra Mercury, a local newspaper, in 1861, reports of the Greeks being on the gold fields of the period. Generally despised, were The Chinese mainly because of jealousy at their efficient and diligent efforts in obtaining gold. The European miners to have the Chinese evicted from the fields subscribed many petitions. One such petition drawn up at the time appears to have four Greek signatures.

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In June 1862, Manusu became the third Greek naturalized in NSW (after the two ex-convicts, Ghikas Voulgaris and Andonis Manolis) and the Sixth in Australia. By this time, he settled down on a farm of 320 acres he purchased at Eurobodalla, after working as a tenant farmer on the vast estate of the celebrated Thomas Sutcliffe Mort. Manusu prospered during this period. The first of his children, Sarah, Amelia, Christopher, Angelina, Pericles, Achilles, and Themistocles were all born on his farm. During this time, he became the owner of the Widgett Inn at Bodalla and conducted a business at nearby Nerringundah. In 1865, he was listed as the licensee of the “Grecian Inn” at Eurobodalla, arguably the first Greek in Australia to run such an establishment.

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During the years, 1865 - 1897, the Southern districts of NSW were terrorized by the activities of the notorious Clarke Gang of bushrangers. In two years of banditry, this gang of out-laws, held up mail coaches, robbed farms and took over the townships of Michelago and Nerringundah. They were probably the most bloodthirsty, freebooters in Australia’s colonial history and some 7 men; including five police officers fell to their guns. It appears from records of the time that Manusu, knew the Clarke’s and their out-law cousins, the Connell’s, prior to them becoming bandits. It is on record that the gang even payed a “visit” to the Manusu homesteads in 1865. When the gang raided the town of Nerringundah, killing the police sergeant and looting the shops, the police formed a posse to go after the killers; it consisted of a sergeant Hitch and twelve volunteers, including the noted poet Charles Harper and Michael Manusu. When one on the gang, Thomas Connell, was captured by the police during a gun battle some time after the raid, Manusu was called as a witness at Darlinghurst in Sydney, where he made a statement,

Part of which is as follows:

“I live at Eurobodalla. From information received, I went to the Gulph on the evening of April 9. Armed, as were some of the others. We were after some bushrangers. At eight or 9 o’clock, we got into the bank of the Tuross River. Two of our party in front beckoned to me. I got off my horse and advanced in front into the bank of the river. I saw four man on horseback crossing the river towards me. They stopped their horses and looked about. I was about forty yards from them and I fired at them. At the time of the first shot, one let go a packhorse he was leading. At the second shot I fired, I saw the horse one of the men commenced bucking - the prisoner was one of the four men I saw in the river and was one of the first to turn away. One of the men went back and caught the loose packhorse - when Sgt Hitch fired at him and grazed his arm. I know Thomas Clarke, the out-law. He was leading the packhorse - Patrick Connell, the prisoner’s brother was also there and I do not know whom the fourth man was. They were not any of them, disguised… I have known the prisoner and his brother for several years.

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Michael Manusu remained in the South until 1874, when after the disastrous floods of the early 1870’s, He decided to cut his losses and further inland. Packing his belongings in wagons, he and his children on horseback driving the cattle, they headed North-west taking nearly three months to reach their destination. He selected a fine property of several thousand acres, named Biambil Park, in the Mendooran district of Western NSW. He built a very beautiful homestead with a long driveway from the main road. He established a lovely garden with grape trellises, cherry and citrus trees. The property considered the family home and was to be the start of the family dynasty but as each child grew up, they seemed to drift off the property and into other fields.

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Sarah and Michael lived in fine style. They had an elaborate carriage and driven by two police sons of the local police sergeant. Michael Manusu appears to have been an educated man. He was known to spoken four languages; Greek, Arabic, Hebrew and English. He was a very keen player of Chess and would often hitch up the carriage and drive to the main road to wait for the passenger coach, signalling the driver to stop. He would ask any of the passengers if they could play Chess. If any of them would accept a game. He would put them up for the night and drive them back to town the next morning to continue their journey.

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Another regular Chess player and friend of Michael’s during the 1880’s was a Greek Chemist from nearby Coonabarabran. Although we have not established confirmation as to the Chemist’s identity, we suspect that his name may have been Prokopiadis.

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Michael and Sarah had twelve children in all. When the Boer War broke out in South Africa in 1899, three of the Manusu’s sons, Alfred Aristides, Francis Homer and Achilles Strate, volunteered and served with the Australian cavalry units in the Transvaal and Orange River colonies. Francis served as a lieutenant and decorated for valour. He later served as a police officer in the town of Bellinger. Alfred Aristides served as a Lance Corporal with New South Wales Lancers, The elite forces of the armed forces at the time. A number of grandsons of Manusu served in the Great War, one killed in action.

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After a long and eventful life, Michael Manusu retired to his town house in the pretty town of Mudgee, where he passed away in January, 1902. Michael is true pioneer. He was a forerunner for hundreds and thousands of Greek-Australians.

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The descendants of Michael Manusu, still often get together to tell of great stories of our proud, distant, Greek heritage. In addition, one could still fine relatives in much respected positions in the community of today.

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