The man who could never win
There are people in history that will only be remembered for the strife they get themselves into. Historical newspaper articles remind us of events that the participants probably wished were forgotten. The story starts with a property purchased in Upper Beaconsfield in October 1897 by Theodore Trinkaus, a German farmer and miner, but put into his wife Maude's name. The property was on the northern side of Tower Road (off Sugarloaf Road), and stretched west to meet Morris Road off Burton Road.
By the next February it was advertised for sale, but it appears that it did not find a buyer. Trinkaus had at some time employed Johannes De Goey, a South Melbourne wire importer of Dutch extraction, to find buyers for the property. On 7 July 1900, De Goey and his Chinese servant entered the above block and a scuffle ensued. A Mr Caleb Wheeler, employed by Mr Trinkaus, commenced to eject De Goey by punching him to the head — one blow knocking out several teeth. The Chinese servant — at the order of 'charge' by De Goey — landed a blow on Wheelers head with a piece of bamboo. Wheeler gained the upper hand and literally kicked De Goey and his servant off the land.
Hostilities had begun a month earlier, when Trinkaus, who regularly travelled to Tasmania, returned to Melbourne one Thursday morning, 8 June 1900. He suspiciously found Maude out the back of De Goey's shop. At 1 pm Trinkaus entered the shop and called De Goey a Boer and threatened to shoot him for harbouring his wife. He also threatened to shoot Maude if she did not go with him to Tasmania. Repeated threats were then made by Trinkaus. He was arrested and brought before a police magistrate on Friday morning and fined 2 pounds for making the threats and 1 pound 5 shillings in costs. The fine was paid and he was released. Later that Friday the clerk of the same court, in an effort to keep the peace, issued a warrant for the re-arrest of Trinkaus, for making threats publicly to De Goey. Heard before three justices of the peace on Saturday morning, Trinkaus' lawyers complained that this matter about threatening behaviour had already been heard on Friday and that a further charge was double jeopardy. De Goey levelled new accusations that doctors had labelled Trinkaus, at times, a raving lunatic capable of multiple killings. It was decided that the police magistrate would have to hear the case, and because Trinkaus could not find 50 pounds for bail until Monday, he was remanded over the weekend.
On Monday the case was dismissed on several points. De Goey had no concrete proof that Trinkaus was a potential murderer. De Goey's argument that he was protecting Maude from a violent husband fell flat as a result. Trinkaus' lawyer, Dr McInerney also successfully attacked De Goey's character through referring to De Goey's deeds in courts in the past. This led the magistrate to regard him an 'excitable specimen of humanity' that no longer needed the protection of the court. De Goey agreed not to go anywhere near Mr Trinkaus and his property.
De Goey's interest in 'sheltering' Maude in the shop was also not all altruistic. De Goey 'worried' Maude (her words) into selling the property for 450 pounds to him. Fifty pounds up front, and an IOU for balance. Maude accepted the fifty pounds, but left the IOU note in the hands of De Goey — quite odd. Trinkaus, upon his release demonstrated his knowledge of this 'transaction' by going straight to the titles office to effectively change the land title into joint ownership between himself and his wife by lodging a caveat to that effect. This meant he could veto the sale of the land if De Goey could not prove that a legal contract of sale had been made between De Goey and Maude, before this caveat was placed. De Goey appeared to be unaware of this caveat, and failed to make any such representation of the land purchase to the titles office.
McInerney's attack on De Goey's character in the above case rates further mention. De Goey, a few years earlier, sought a divorce from his wife Murtal, who had betrayed him with his best friend Henry Carr. De Goey was devastated, and the divorce would have been granted, had not Carr's equally angry wife produced evidence that Carr had made the bizarre offer to De Goey of £1,500 as full compensation for the loss of his wife, house and family. To get a divorce in those days you had to be wronged by your partner, usually by adultery. De Goey, by accepting the 'full compensation' to spite Carr, was effectively ruled by the judge as condoning the affair, and the divorce petition was dismissed. De Goey had given the money to a local hospital. The newspapers interpreted that in this case De Goey had done the shameful act of selling his wife to another. (This supports the notion that women were only regarded as chattels in those days). McInerney through legal circles knew of this weird divorce case. And so it was that on 7 July De Goey boldly went up to the Trinkauses to claim his land purchased on IOU. De Goey and Wheeler made claims and counter claims for damages from the previously stated fracas. In the judges' summary, he stated, that "he could find no excuse for the attempts that had been made to bring in much most objectionable and detestable and unnecessary matter. (Defendants) returned to the (courts) again and again, like the proverbial hogs wallowing in the mire. There seemed to be no more sense of shame than ordinary dogs or tomcats." The jury awarded the plaintiff one farthing damages, and the defendant one farthing damages on the counter-claim.
Johannes De Goey died in 1901, aged 45. Ironically, Emerald Road now cuts a swathe through this once highly fought over property. The Trinkauses stayed in Upper Beaconsfield, but for some time leased their property to Mr Simmons. Theodore died in 1932, and Maude having suffered a stroke which paralysed her, died in 1936. Shortly before her death she sold her property to Harry Burton.
Arriving from England in Upper Beaconsfield in the 1880s, Caleb Wheeler bought land in Sugarloaf Road, and built a house called Hillside (now 10 Sugarloaf Road), where he lived with his wife Matilda and daughter Esther. He bought some further blocks of land next to Hillside and on St Georges Road. In 1892 he worked at the Inebriate Asylum as an attendant for a short period.
In 1896 Wheeler took three firsts for apples and won the champion price for the best collection of fruit. He was appointed one of the three trustees of the newly formed Recreation Reserve in 1898. He served on the committee for many years. In 1918, as their secretary, he convened a meeting to consider planting trees in honour of those men lost in the war and those still serving. There seems to be an enthusiastic response, with plans put in place to prepare the ground and people present applying for trees. However, by the 1930s the CWA drew attention to the neglect of the plantings. Today there is little evidence of Upper Beaconsfield's Avenue of Honour.
In December 1922, aged 69, Caleb Wheeler went to visit a friend who lived nearby. Failing to return, his daughter searched for him. She found him 150 yards from his friends' home. He had died of heart failure. His probate states that he owned 5 cows and two old horses, an old jinker and old harness, not of much value.
First published in the Village Bell, Issue 193, September 2013