James Henderson fought in France until 1917 when he was repatriated back to Victoria due to injury. He and his wife Ruby Dowler leased a block of land on Ercildoune Road which was subdivided from the Ercildoune Estate near Beaufort. He harvested oats and potatoes and appeared to survive the depression quite well by producing food on their block. James was a breeder of Clydesdale horses, and he and his family took part in local and Melbourne equestrian events, which was a common pastime during this era.
His four daughters were surrounded by 12 other soldier settlement families. Listen to James Henderson’s remaining daughter Shirley share her warm memories of growing up on a soldier settlement farm on Ercildoune Road.
Under the soldier settlement scheme the families that moved onto these newly subdivided blocks rebuilt their lives from scratch: building their own homes, erecting fences to manage stock and harvesting crops as best they could with the land they’d leased. Often their success as farmers relied on help from their fellow soldier settler families, particularly during the harvest when transporting stock or crops to train stations or markets. These groups of settlers and their families contributed greatly to the establishment of new town services, in particular volunteer labour and fundraising to build schools, dance halls, public roads and, at times, new hotels.