Next time you’re in Baxter, take a look at the larger-than-life mural donning the side of the Baxter Telephone Exchange. This huge and colourful work depicting the late Benjamin Baxter and a glimpse of Peninsula pastoral life provides a pictorial pick-me-up for residents and future visitors alike.
Remembering Baxter’s agricultural heritage, the impressive mural was painted by Melbourne’s Murals in collaboration with students from Bayside Christian College and was unveiled in early March. Celebrating 100 years since the town was named, the mural includes an impressive portrait of Benjamin, who became Melbourne’s first postmaster after moving from Sydney. His wife, Martha, dispatched the first home mail direct from the Hobsons Bay/Port Phillip area before the pair finally headed south and settled in Moorooduc/Baxter in 1840.
Martha arrived in Sydney on The Hope a day earlier than her husband with two small children – Maria, 4, and baby Barbara Gertrude. Benjamin came to Australia on the Prince George. They eventually had nine children and leased 6070ha on the Peninsula before purchasing 132ha after the lease expired in 1860. The property, known as Carrup Carrup, still exists, and so does the original cottage, which provides a real slice of early settler history.
The township of Baxter was originally named Baxter’s Flat and sprawled out around the Baxter station and the post office. Benjamin became a member of the Mornington Roads Board and served as a shire councillor and president and acted as a JP in the Frankston area. He was a cattle man and drove the beasts from Sydney to his beloved Carrup Carrup, and he also fancied a bit of horse racing, cricket and was a keen member of the amateur theatrical society. He died in 1872 at his home aged 87; you can find his gravestone and Martha’s – who died in 1906 aged 94 – in the Frankston Memorial Park cemetery.