Monday, July 25, 2011

Louisville...not the baseball slugger sort but the Gippsland variety

Louisville, Gippsland.
Apparently 100 kms north-west of Bairnsdale in the Gippsland area, on the Dargo in the valley below Sugarloaf and Mount Pyke.
Not heard of it?

Well, let me tell you about Jean-Louis Hubert Hanckar.
Or Louis Hanckar as he was regularly known.
Or possibly plain old Lou.
He first turned up on the Victorian goldfields (aged 31) with his good lady wife, Madame Hanckar, (a mere slip of a thing aged 25) from New York, in 1856.
The fact he was born in Maastricht, Netherlands, right on the border of Belguim (which probably explains the differing birthplaces that are attributed to him) means he'd been exploring the world before he hit our shores.

After working flat out like a lizard drinking Louis founded a gold mine at his self-named township, Louisville, what sprang up with 1500 miners overnight and gradually spawned shops and dwellings galore all along the Dargo River in 1863, which later settled into a calmer 300 bods.
The population was enough to support a polling booth at election time in 1867 when Louis played Little Red Riding Hood Deputy Returning Officer, despite the 'apathetic' turn out of voters.
No sausage sizzle.
After 15 years in The Fair Isle of Oz Louis applied for and was granted naturalisation as an Englishman in what I calculate to be 1871.

By the following year, on March 16, 1872, Louis applied for a new mining lease under the auspicious title of the Louisa Quartz Mining Company for a mere 30 acres.
Noice one, Louis!
But....something or someone whispered sweet nothings in Louis' lughole for that same year he upped stumps and began opening up the nickle mines in New Caledonia.

From reports in the papers old Louis had made his fortune on the Louisville gold field and the nickle mines were another venture that he turned
By 1873 he was back in England before trotting back to New Caledonia where he was the consul for Italy.
He and a business partner, Higginson, displayed their New Caledonian nickle wares at an exhibition at Noumea on March 16 and 17, 1876, for which they won special gold medals.
Our Louis was blinged out even more when he was decorated with many foreign awards including being knighted with the French Legion of Honor in 1880.

Also in 1880 Louis became business partners with Higginson and Garnier, creating the company Société Le Nickel (SLN) which received backing from Baron de Rothschild (and stayed under Rothschild control until 1970s).
Louis was sailing back and forth to The Fair Isle of Oz to which his wife finally said goodbye and sailed off into the sunset with her beloved Louis in 1881.

The last rumoured word is that Louis died as a happy and wealthy bloke in London.
Sometimes the nice guys do finish first.



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