Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sturt Highway in Mildura, and why Johnny's Australia is more advanced than Josh's America

A lot of you, especially those of you who live in Upland, California, know that Mildura, Australia was founded by the Chaffey brothers - the same brothers that founded Ontario, California.

And you've probably heard that there are similarities between Ontario (and Upland) and Mildura, including the fact that Mildura is supposed to have a long, wide, tree-lined street.

Well, thanks to Google Street View, someone like me who has never been to Australia can still see Sturt Highway.

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Now the sharp-eyed among you will notice one goof that the Chaffey brothers apparently made - someone must have looked at the plans backwards, because the people in Mildura are driving on the wrong side of the street.

A New South Wales government site (the border is not too far away from Mildura) tells about the history of the Chaffeys and Mildura. It appears that the Chaffeys' success in Mildura was short-lived:

The creation of Mildura was primarily the result of the enthusiasm of the politician Arthur Deakin and the Canadian proselytiser for irrigation, George Chaffey. Chaffey came to Australia in 1886 after he and his family had founded Ontario on diverted water. He bought Mildura station, eaten out by rabbits and eaten up by drought, because in its garden, under the wind-pump, grapevines still flourished: later in 1886 an agreement between the Victorian government and George and William B Chaffey granted 100,000 hectares around Mildura to establish an irrigation settlement, initially on 20,000 hectares, using Murray water.

Mildura municipality was a corporate reality in 1890: there were already four suburbs, a port, a shipyard. The first dried fruits of the irrigation scheme were sold in 1891. But the bank crashes of 1893 and conflict between the Chaffeys and the Irrigation Trust led to dramatic failure and the dismantling of the Chaffey empire in 1896-7: George went off to irrigate the Colorado desert instead.

But not all was lost. If I ever do make the trip to Mildura, I may be able to stay at the Best Western Chaffey International Motor Inn.

So who or what was the "Sturt" for which Sturt Highway was named? According to Wikipedia, the Sturt Highway actually spans three states, so the Chaffeys probably didn't have a part in naming it. The highway was named after Charles Sturt (1795-1869).

Not sure if the rest of the highway is tree-lined, though.

Oh, and by the way...there is one other thing named after the Chaffeys...a toilet. This information is courtesy the National Continence Management Strategy. I've REALLY got to ask Johnny Worthington about THAT one.

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