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Mary Ann Zwar (E9)

  • Born: 24th September 1870 Broadford, Victoria, Australia
  • Parents:
    Michael and Agnes Zwar nee Zimmer
  • Lived:
    In Broadford District, Victoria, Australia
  • Died: 26th December 1889 aged 19 years
  • Buried:

Detailed biography

The ninth child and fourth daughter born to Agnes and Michael Zwar.


Mary Ann Zwar was born in the original slab hut on the farm at Broadford on 24th September 1870. Her mother was 35 years old. It was 20 years since her father had arrived in Victoria. I do not know where she was baptized.

I assume she attended the State School 1125 Broadford. We know that her older sister Agnes and a younger brother Henry attended this school from inscriptions in school books handed down in the family and kept by Gavan and Betty Crowl (1993).

They also have a book called “Lessons in the Life of our Lord’ and inscribed:

“Mary A Zwar
 St. Matthews Sunday School 
Nov. 23rd 1885”

Her little sister Ada probably used the book for teaching Sunday School because she added her name to it in 1900.

The Popular One

“Mary Anne was the popular one. She was close to Charles.”
…John Zwar (Canberra 25.8.82)

Mary Anne wrote letters to a close friend Emma Coombs, a sister to John Zwar’s wife. Emma lived at Mangalore and then at Seymour. A few of these letters have survived and they give us a little insight into the outgoing nature of the popular teenager who was known affectionately to everyone as ‘Polly’. The letters also give us a good picture of life for the young folk over a hundred years ago. It is interesting to note that she addresses at the top of her letters are written from ‘Vineyard Hill’, the name the Zwar property must have been known by in those days. A rate notice of the time records two and a half acres of vines on the property.

The First Letter

The first letter is undated as the first page is missing and it does not say to whom it is addressed but I am sure it is to Emma. It shows a young lady with a very responsible attitude to the Scottish minister’s wife. It is written in the stylish upright and large script of a teenager:

“We are going to have another Temperance lecture in about three weeks and have to start practising again. It will keep us pretty busy, as they intend having one every month. Mr. Reid the Scottish minister is a teetotaller & I think he started the meetings. Mrs. Reid held a social thursday evening at her place & only four young ladies were there. I think it was such a shame that they did not all turn up. Some of them have got a great set on Mrs. Reid but they might have wrote an apology after she had gone to so much trouble.
I like her very well.

Do not keep me waiting another six months for an answer or else I do not know what I shall do. You must not show this scribble to anybody. Marie Craig promised to go up to Sunday Creek on the thursday with us but Jack Howden was to be M.C. at a ball at Strath Creek on Friday evening so she backed out of the Sunday Creek programme. Mr. Fothergill wanted her to play the glees and songs for them & she said if she had known she would have come but Mr. F said “it was all my-eye”, Winnie had to play the accom’s for all of us. I think it is time to bring this to a close or else your eyes will get sore.

With love to your mother, dad, George and Yourself

Yours sincerely,


Second Letter

The next letter is undated. It gives a glimpse into the life of Father and some of the uncertainty he brings into the lives of the family.

“Vineyard Hill

Dear Emma, received your note safely. Father is on the spree just at present so we are not quite sure about coming up at all events Maria Craig is coming. I do not think her mother and sister will he able to also George Whyte and Ernest McLiesh. Winnie did not think he would be able to get away but I suppose he will at the last. They are all coming by the five train. Alice wants me to go up with her in the morning so if all is well you can expect us.
 Alice is going to send a boy down to help to milk so I suppose we will be able to go. I am sure I will die if I do not get up.

Mother went to town Tuesday & dad went to the township that morning & that is the last we saw of him as he has not been home since. We heard that he bought a scrap of a horse for 14 pounds from a Jew. The man tried to cash dad’s cheque at McLeish‘s but Mrs. McLeish would not cash it that is how we found out that dad bought a horse.

Charlie is working out at the other farm & so Liz Dick and I are left alone. I got your other glove back from Annie Kenny & will take it up if I do not forget. I got a letter from Bert Whitehead yesterday & Dick wanted me to let him have the letter but Bert said I was not to let anyone see it but he did not say anything about reading it out. I read it to Dick but he declared I left some parts out. He is not going to let me see the next one he gets.

Dick said you asked him up but he does not know if he will go or not he only says it to tease us. Well I must bring this nonsense to a close, as I am sure you will not have time to read it. George need not think he was going to skiff (?) us about Ed Shelton. Leave some of the work for Alice and I Thursday because Alice wanted me to go with her to help, With love to all,

Your ever loving friend


“Vineyard Hill 
Oct 1st 1888

Dear Emma,
I received your much welcome letter and was very glad to hear that you were having such heaps of fun at your surprise parties and so forth, but take care that you will not get surprised. It is very dull down here at present, They have started Mutual Improvement Society classes. John and Charlie are members. I have not been but Alice and I are going next Tuesday week night. There are to be recitation & songs & so Charlie has to take a part as Lawrey Swelter. He is learning the piece now & I can say it just as well as him as he is continually drumming at it till I am perfectly sick. I was reading in bed last night & heard Charlie talking in his sleep & I made him believe he was repeating the piece.
Mother and Ada went to town last Friday so our family is considerably diminished.

They will come home with Henry next Thursday. Lucy’s brother was here yesterday to inform us we have another niece. It was born last Wednesday. Lucy is up at her mother’s. Alice and I are going to Emily’s tomorrow to finish the dresses. They will look very pretty. Bella McRae went to town last week for the first time in about four years. Her young man has been coming up for over two years & she never went to see her intended relations till last week. She said she will have enough of town when she has to live there. I think she will be married in the beginning of December so that is a long way off yet. Gracie is getting a bigger cure (?) every day. I was eighteen last Monday. Lizzie sent me a beautiful card & Annie sent me in a needle case with all sorts in but I have not seen it yet. Mother gave Alice a red pair of vases on her birthday. There were two young Germans here yesterday and you would just burst to hear the way they talk half German and half English. One of them was talking about snakes & he said he saw one in India ten yards long and he meant ten feet. They all laughed at him. He told me that he was getting mussels and there was a red and black snake just near him & he dashed over the sharp coral and cut his foots. I think I must bring this rubbish to an end.

Miss Ross was deeply disappointed when she found out that she had left the station a few minute’s before the half past eight came in on a certain Saturday night. George will know. Write a long letter next time & excuse my scribble as I have two very sore fingers. I can scarcely milk and there are about 30 cows for Charlie and I to milk. Give my love to all and tell your dad he was too frightened to say anything to my dad about drying the cows off.

Your esp(?) friend


”Vineyard Hill 
Nov 9th ‘89

My dear Emma,

You must he thinking that I am never going to write to you but I am sure you will forgive me as we have been very busy since we were up at your place. We were so glad that the concert was postponed. You little tricker (?). I think you must have bewitched somebody when he could not pass without seeing you. I suppose you will pretend that you know nothing about it. There must be something in it or he would not be trying to work his way so well at all events. I am very sorry for the other one. Charlie, Miss Barnard, Lizzie, Winnie, Ernest and I went up to a concert & ball at Sunday Creek. There was also a picnic but we did not go to it.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely. I wish George had been there as it was much nicer than the one in the school. We stayed till nearly four and got home about six. There was a splendid floor and also plenty of good dancers there, quite a crowd.

There will be a few more houses blown over tonight as the wind is tearing about like mad. I suppose it is blowing for rain. Jack McRae has just come in so of course do not be surprised if the rest of this is a little peculiar. You remember the day he was here when you went away. I have not worn those gloves yet.

By the bye I must not forget to tell you that Ernest sends his love also wishes you not to forget him & all the rest of it. I was down to the five train tonight. Lizzie Bock was going through to Avenel. Mrs. Kuhn (?) is her grandmother. She wanted me to go to the Avenel sports but I fancy we have had enough fun to last us for a while to come. I slept about five hours on Friday & Miss Barnard the young lady staying at Auntie’s slept all day long. She is a little thing, very pretty also. She has never ridden till she came up here. I was surprised at her riding to Sunday Creek as it is about ten miles. Charlie thought it would take them hours to get up so they started an hour before us but they got there quite early.”

Lucy my sister in law came down last Thursday she is not here just now but is coming next week. Will is also coming down & Lizzie Bock will come next Thursday.

(The letter concludes at the top of the first page, as shown above, as she had run out of room at the end of the last page).

Sudden Death

About six weeks after writing this letter Maryanne (as she signed one of her letters) was dead. It was a terrible shock to everyone. Maryanne suffered an attack of appendicitis, and apparently her appendix ruptured and she died the day after Christmas, 1889.

Members of her family were devastated. She was the most popular member of the family of eleven children, and only 19 years old. Her oldest sister Anna Bidstrup had already completed her family of seven children, and her youngest sister Ada was still only 12 years old.

The following notices appeared in the local paper:


On the 26th December, at her parent’s residence, Broadford. Mary Ann, the fourth beloved daughter of Michael and Agnes Zwar, aged 19 years.”

“ZWAR. In loving remembrance of our dear sister, Mary Ann,

who departed this life 26th December, 1889.
Calm on the bosom of thy God,
Fair spirit, rest thee now.
Even while with us thy footsteps trod
 His seal was on thy brow.
Dust to its narrow house beneath,
Soul to its place on high:
They that have seen thy look in death
No more may fear to die.

Inserted by her loving brothers and sisters.”

“ZWAR. In loving remembrance off my beloved daughter, Mary Ann, who departed this life 26th December, 1889.

Mother, cease your weeping, angels round me smile.
We are only parted for a little while:
In this land of summer, never varied with gloom,
Dewdrops shall be gathered, lilies shall rebloom.
Mother I am happy, though ‘twere hard to part,
Still my spirit lingers near thy aching heart:
Round thy pathways ever, like the light and dew,
Gems of truth I scatter, flowers of love I strew.

Inserted by her loving mother.”


The poignant line of her mother’s verse, “We are only parted for a little while” has prophetic meaning. Within 18 months her mother followed Mary Ann to the grave.

© Kevin P Zwar