Lake Macquarie History

Evelyn Ruth (Lena) Peterson - Early landowner at Munibung, now Macquarie Hills

photo: home of evelyn ruth (lena) peterson at macquarie hills c1949l

Evelyn Ruth Peterson - known as Lena or Nanna - was an early landowner at Munibung Hill now Macquarie Hills. She owned a large piece of land running from present day Lawson Road up to the northern end of Munibung range. She purchased the land in 1943, built a house, grew food to feed her children all as a single woman with little support from an abscent husband.. A strong woman with a pioneering spirit in a time when that was not common place.

This oral history interview with her daughter Marie Walker was recorded at Macquarie Hills in November 2021. Marie talks about the threat of bushfire to the property and about her mother's method of regular "cool burning" to mitigate these threats. Marie also talks of the harshness of her mother's life and the resilience and strength she displayed to raise her family.

"It is hard to imagine in this day and age what a pioneering spirit Nanna had or the hard work and hardship she endured. A woman of 50 plus years who cleared the land for a market garden by hand.... removing acres of huge trees as well as sapplings and brush, building and maintaining the track/road including Lawson Rd (which was initially at cart track and ended where Nanna's property started) down to Macquarie Rd.... many parts of which were rock that she gathered and placed in the muddier or more difficult parts of the hill. She dug all the drains on her property to stop the water from washing out the road in to the house.... as you can imagine that was a lot of water that ran off the hill. She dug numerous dams on the property to water the acres of garden that she had and she built two dwellings and numerous shed with very little funds and making do with what she could get. ALL BY HAND!!! No machinery just hand tools.... a saw, shovel, mattock, crowbar, hammer, axe etc. Her garden was over acres with orchards of most fruit trees, berries, passionfruits, and vegetables and all kinds of flowers and flowering shrubs....ACRES.... all cleared and tilled and lovingly tended by hand, in the day and often by moonlight. She wore out shovels on a regular basis.... who does that???? She had a cow for milk that she milked by hand. A treadle sewing machine to make or mend clothes and other necessities. No electricity or running water.... she gathered and chopped wood for the wood burning stove to cook, heat water for the copper to wash the clothes or the fireplace for warmth. Life was hard but the property was hers..... and SHE LOVED IT!!! As her kids grew into adults she had seven of them and their families (living in an assortment of quirky and interesting dwellings) living on the property with her. She was a beautiful, caring, generous, funny, capable, resourceful, hardworking and resilient woman.... you rarely heard her complain and she would help anyone.... and respected and LOVED BY ALL WHO KNEW HER! Most people couldn't or wouldn't be capable of doing everything that Nanna did. Nanna lived 102yrs." Sharon Walker, Lena's grandaughter

Acknowledgement of Country

We remember and respect the Ancestors who cared for and nurtured this Country. It is in their footsteps that we travel these lands and waters. Lake Macquarie City Council acknowledges the Awabakal people and Elders past, present and future.

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