KOSCIUSZKO HUTS ASSOCIATION

Cesjacks Hut was built in 1944 as a stockmens’ shelter for Cecil O’Brien and John Bolton. Initially known as Cec & Jacks Hut, the name became abbreviated over time. 1500 sheep and 35 cattle were brought up from near Kalkite to their snow lease each summer from 1943 to 1958, when grazing was terminated above 1370m elevation.

 

Graziers were running stock in the valleys around this site by the mid-19th century. By 1899 much of the area from Tabletop to Dicky Cooper including this site was being leased by Archibald J Rial, who established a homestead at Farm Ridge. Subsequent lessees over this area included MW Robertson (1917) and AS O’Keefe(1931), O’Keefe also building a hut on the north side of Mt Jagungal.

In 1943 crown land across the snowy mountains was split into small snow leases and made available to local landholders, when O’Brien and Bolton acquired Block Z11 of 1900 acres.

The first summer they camped on the lease. Bert Constance and John Bolton built the current hut over their second summer with assistance from Bert’s son Athol and John’s uncle Jim. Noel Clarke transported materials up in a lorry. Over time, the Constance and Hain families also stayed in the hut whilst tending an adjoining snowlease.

Bolton developed fences that could be laid down flat at the end of the season to avoid snow damage over the winter. Early or unseasonal snowfalls were always a problem. On occasions they had to cut snow gum branches to feed the sheep, or get a packhorse to drag a heavy tree limb as a plough so that the sheep could get to the grass beneath.

The Pastures Protection Board used the hut for a few years following the end of grazing, and in the 1970s the Macquarie Mountaineering Society added the floor and sleeping platform.

Cesjacks Hut – Historical Background – DScott 2018

Cesjacks Hut lies at the northern extremity of the Main Range, on the crest of the Great Divide. Graziers were running stock in the valleys surrounding the site by the mid-19th century, and the alpine area of the main range to the south by at least the 1870s.

It is difficult to ascertain who may have been grazing the area in the early years. Whilst the crest of the divide formed a nice theoretical boundary to squatting runs, there were no fences and in practice run boundaries were determined by negotiation between neighbours or simply through occupation. By the early 1880s the headwaters of the Doubtful River supposedly formed the junction between the New Maragle Block B, Snow Vale, Tooma Falls and Agintoothbong squatting runs, and the site of Cesjacks was incorporated within a Camping and Water Reserve (C&WR 2690) on a travelling stock route from the upper Murray to the Monaro, coming over from Toolong Plain (Tooma Reservoir) and descending the spur followed by the present fire trail into the Gungahlin valley. All or part of the C&WR was initially enclosed with a brush fence.

The first definite record of ownership occurs in November 1899 when Archibald Joseph Rial acquired Annual Lease AL 99.30 of 1920 acres over the head of the Doubtful River at a rent of £8 per annum. Rial retained the lease through to about 1917, it being incorporated into an annual Permissive Occupancy of 27,958 acres covering parts of Happy Jacks Plain through to Dicky Cooper peak in 1915 (PO 15-11948). In April 1917 the land was reconfigured into new snow leases and MW Robinson acquired Block P of 6000 acres covering the current hut site (SL 1917-18).

In 1929 the whole area was reserved from sale or lease other than snow lease, and the Block P lease and C&WR were again reconfigured. It is understood that a set of wire yards were erected on the C&WR, to the north of the current hut across the creek, and the reserve became known as “the wire yards” around this time.

In 1929 AS O’Keefe acquired Block X2 on the north side of Mt Jagungal, upon which he would build O’Keefes Hut in 1934, and in 1931 he acquired Block Z4 of 3770 acres (SnL31.6) surrounding the C&WR and including the site of the current hut.

O’Keefe is believed to have retained Block Z4 until 1943 when the snowleases were again reconfigured in response to overstocking, this time the whole of the snowy mountains was divided up into parcels of just 1800 to 4000 acres and made available to smaller local landholders. The following year the Kosciusko State Park was created, encompassing all snow leases and a number of reserves across the snowy mountains.

Block Z4 was split in half, John (‘Jack’) and James (‘Jim’) Bolton with Cecil O’Brien acquired the northernmost part, Block Z11 of 1790 acres (SnL 43.5), whilst the southern Block Q12 was taken up by Constance & Hain. Cecil O’Brien was a grazier and storekeeper at Berridale and neighbour to John Bolton and his wife Irene. Cecil and John had met shearing on Coolamatong, near Berridale and tendered for Z11 as they deemed it superior to land being grazed by the Boltons near the Brassy Mountains.

The first summer was spent camping in the C&WR whilst the lease was being fenced. It appears that Lease Z11 and Q12 where run cooperatively, with no dividing fence between.

The current hut was built in 1944, at the entrance/exit point for the lease. Whilst the parish map indicates the C&WR may have extended over the hut site, this could be a drafting error in the river and its tributaries. It appears the fenceline just east of the hut running north-south was managed as the lease boundary.

The main materials for the hut, the timber frame and iron for the cladding, were bought new in Cooma, cut to size, and transported to site by Noel Clarke on a lorry. Cecil and John arrived on horseback and erected the hut in a couple of days with help from Cecil’s son Tom.

The hut had an earth floor, two rough bunks and some other furnishings. The square windows with their distinctive ‘awnings’ are original features. The stone fireplace was not built until the following year, erected by Bert Constance with help of his son Athol and John Bolton. James Bolton quarried the stone from near the wire yards and moved it to the site with a draught horse and slide. The mortar was mud with no cement, and though intended to be pointed with cement, this was never done. Bert Constance and one of the Hains had a neighbouring lease and used to camp in the hut — if shared use was intended from the outset this would explain the relatively large size of the hut.

The hut was locally referred to as ‘Cec & Jacks’, being abbreviated to just Cesjacks over time.

The lease ran about 1500 sheep and 35 cattle over the summer months. They were brought in from the Boltons property at Kalkite near Lake Jindabyne over 4 days in November, with camps on Kalkite Creek, Willis Yards on Botherum Plain, and the Shooting Ground Reserve (west of Gungarlin) before ascending the spur onto the lease. John Bolton recalled that “We always got away from the high tops before 21st March” to avoid the winter but early or unseasonal snowfalls were always a problem. On occasions they had to cut snow gum branches to feed the sheep, or get a packhorse to drag a heavy tree limb as a crude snow plough so that the sheep could follow and get the grass beneath.

To assist in mustering the stock at the end of the season, rock salt was put out at three points around the lease so stock would congregate at those points. The Wire Yards, situated in the north corner of Block Z11, were used by most of the holders of snow leases in the area for the final muster prior to droving the stock home. By the 1950s the remains of the c1880s brush fence around the C&WR were no longer stock-proof, so Bolton & O’Brien used it for firewood and replaced the part due east of the hut with a wire fence.

Because of the damage done by winter snow to fences at this elevation (1710m) John had erected what he called a ‘let down fence’. The wires ran through droppers, but these were not placed in the ground, instead they were wired to posts fixed in the ground, and at the end of each grazing season the wire tie between dropper and post would be undone so that the main part of the fence could be laid on the ground and so not be damaged by the weight of snow.

John Bolton and Cecil O’Brien renewed the lease for Block Z11, when the original 7 year term expired in 1950. James (Jim) Bolton had passed away and was thus excluded from the new lease. Bolton and O’Brien retained the lease until grazing above 4500’ (1370m) was terminated by the Lands Dept in 1958.

From 1939 to 1952 John Bolton had also been active with a group seeking to rework the Grey Mare Mine, 13km southwest of Cesjacks. They did some trial assays and preparatory works including building the current Grey Mare hut in 1949, but mining never commenced in any seriousness prior to expiry of their lease in 1952 — the last official gold-mining activities in the Kosciuszko National Park area.

In 1961 the W&CR came under the control of the Pastures Protection Board, and over the next decade Cesjacks hut was used and maintained by them. It is believed that they reconstructed the chimney at this time using cement mortar. Following the inclusion of the hut in the newly formed Kosciusko National Park, in the early 1970s the Macquarie Mountaineering Society took on the caretaker role for Cesjacks. In 1974 they built a new sleeping platform and “replaced the boundary fence” (not known which fence this was). In 1976 the Club and in 1976 installed a plywood floor whilst the NPWS painted the exterior of the hut ‘mission brown’, a popular colour that was deemed more sympathetic to the landscape than bare galvanised steel. The pit toilet was added in 1986.

Cesjacks Hut has always been favoured by cross-country skiers as the quickest access route into Mt Jagungal — albeit those with 4WDs capable of driving up the muddy tracks and fording rivers in the Gungahlin Valley.

Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, an escalating development of private ski lodges — including Katingal, Nordheim, Bogong Lodge, Jaanga Lodge — were erected on private grazing land just outside the Park boundary 500m east of Cesjacks. With the Jagungal Wilderness Area having been recently gazetted, NPWS were concerned the encroachment of such development would impact the wilderness/natural values and arranged for the National Park to be extended some distance down the range into the Gungahlin Valley. The whole circumstance was contentious — the land was clearly being used for quasi-commercial purposes other than grazing, the resumptions invoked a very obscure legislative provision linked to railways — and the demolition of the higher lodges in 1987 spawned bitter feelings and even a publication by one owner, Brian Haig.

Early in the debate, Cesjacks Hut had also been proposed for demolition, but a campaign run by the Kosciuszko Huts Association was able to avert this, and the site remains popular with recreational users to this day.

In April 1998 a private Cessna 210 crashed ~400m northeast of Cesjacks when it encountered icing conditions on a flight from Merimbula to Albury. All 6 persons onboard were killed. The wreckage was removed although a small crater and minor fragments were visible in 2003.

The Bolton Family – extract from HAS

The family was extensively involved with mining and pastoral activities in the mountains and built at least eight huts in the area that is now the KNP. John Bolton came to the mountains as a gold miner in the 1860s. He married Rachel Broadhead from Kalkite in 1872 and they moved to the Snowy Plain in 1877. Johns sister Sarah also lived on the Snowy Plain and was married to Maurice (Murray) Napthali. The Bolton family homestead was southwest of Daveys Hut. They had eight children, four boys then four girls, and two more who died in infancy. Rachael died in 1891 when her youngest daughter, also named Rachael, was four months old and when she was thirty nine. Thomas Bolton was their youngest son and he and [presumably his sister] Rachael acquired the properties in the area as well as his brother Con who held properties further south on Digger’s Creek where he was engaged in mining activities. Tom and his father John guided photographer Charles Kerry’s party on the first winter ascent of Kosciusko in 1897 and John was awarded a gold medal as the first to reach the summit. Tom was the mailman for the Grey Mare Mine taking mail from Sawyers Hill to the mine on horseback in summer and skis in winter. He acquired land on the Snowy Plain prior to 1898 and in the summer of 1908-1909 built the homestead now known as Daveys Hut.

Con and wife Grace’s home was a slab and bark hut on Diggers Creek and their eldest child John (nick-named Jack) was born in 1914. They moved to Kalkite 1921 and by 1926 John junior was working with his father, fencing Kalkite station, rabbiting, shearing, and by 1929-1930 driving sheep from Bobundra station, in the Monaro, to the high country. John with his father Con and others built Mawsons hut (south-west of Cesjacks) on Bobundra’s lease in 1930. Con was killed in a car accident c1935 and after his father’s death John bought Con’s property at Kalkite and with his uncle Jim Bolton had a snow lease below the Brassy Mountains as well (Jack Bolton personal comment, lease not found on Parish Map).

Documentary Sources

Cserhalmi, Otto and Partners (Jean Rice): Cesjacks Hut Heritage Action Statement, NPWS 2009.

Higgins, M and Giovanelli, P: Cesjacks Hut DRAFT Conservation Management Plan, 1995.

Hueneke, K: Huts of the High Country, ANU Press 1982, p38; People of the Australian High Country, Tabletop Press 1994, p66.

KHA records, database and images.

NSW Dept of Land and Property Information: parish maps c1880s-1970 (Jagungal & Clear Hill), snow lease plans 1932-68.

Some Nearby Points of Interest

The outline and fireplace stones of the original cottage 10m to northwest

The view from the summit of Far Bald Mountain. Navigable route up ridge from location 100m northeast of hut, then follow fire trail east. 2.5km/~45 mins each way.

Diggers Ck mine workings 1km south of hut. Racelines & hydraulic sluice cuts in opposite/southern bank; excavated pit(s) in creek flats. Large dam with 70m long wall 800m north of Mackeys Hut, plus feeder races to south from Tibeaudo Ck and western tributaries of Diggers Ck.

Amenity

Water – in small creek 100m to south west. Low flow may be problematic in hot/dry conditions.

Toileting – no outhouse. Please go along treeline northeast of hut or spur southeast into plain, keeping well away from the water supply gully to the west.

Firewood – plentiful along treeline to northeast and southwest

Nearest Phone Reception Point in an Emergency – outside front of hut (??)

Nearest Trackhead/Public Road – Happy Jacks Road junction with the Cabramurra-Khancoban Rd ~20km (5.5 hr walk), infrequent traffic and road closed in winter.