Bechelli - Manoni Updated August 2019

Acknowledgement is made for the enormous research carried out by Jenny Keast for her publication "Valley of Solitude" from which information has been used in this family history.

Andrea Bechelli’s family leased land in the village of Guineugnano, Province of Tuscany. The land was unable to support a large family so, following his army service, at the end of World War 1, Andrea decided to travel to Western Australia where he found work in the timber industry, sleeper cutting. He later called his two sons Pietro and Aristide to join him, leaving his wife, Maria (nee Bertignini) and three children, Felici, Quinto and Sylvesto, in Italy. Aristide went to the goldfields and worked underground in the mines and Pietro went to Treesville, felling timber. Pietro lived in bush camps for a while before moving to Mornington Mill. He cut sleepers until the mid 1930’s when he bought land in Patterson Road, Pickering Brook.

Sleeper cutters were paid two pounds ($4.00) for a 50 cubic foot load equaling 22 sleepers per load. Export ones, nine feet by six inches equalled 14 per load. A good man cut a load a day, which was very good money considering normal weekly wage was two pounds ($4.00).

Pietro preferred bush life and continued cutting wood, this time for the steam pumps at Mundaring Weir. He was in charge of about 30 Italian men who cut wood to supply the boilers. When the steam pumps were closed, the men were employed making forestry roads in the eastern bush areas, between the back of Mundaring Weir and York. As foreman, Pietro was responsible for making hundreds of miles of forestry roads in very difficult terrain. Pietro was a champion timber “squarer”, using a long bladed axe he could square a length of wood so that it looked planed.

Pietro met his wife, Ines, when he was at Treesville. She was a Manoni, from Waterloo, whose family had been in the area for nearly 100 years (their 120th anniversary was in 1986).

Ines was the daughter of Peter and Johanna (nee Tognela). In 1888, at the age of 21, Peter had left his home at Stazzona, Province of Sondrio, and traveled to Victoria. Letters, still kept by the family, show him to have been working at Walhalla, in the mines. In 1903, he came to Western Australia and Joined friends at Waterloo, in the south west of the state. In 1906, he returned to Italy for the third time and married Anna Maria Moratte. The day after their marriage they set sail to settle at Waterloo. Peter and Anna bought a 160 acre block, from John Baldock, for one hundred pounds ($200.00), which they cleared by hand. A small vineyard was planted and the resulting wine sold. As they cleared more land they ran dairy cattle and much later planted 15 acres of vines. Peter also worked for the Dardanup Road Board, making roads as well as providing local timber mills with oaten chaff for their horses.

THE ELDERS OF PICKERING BROOK 1935. L - R: JOE NATTA, CHARLIE DELLA FRANCA, VIC DELLA FRANCA, JACK POLESSI, PIETRO BECHELLI, PETER COMETTI, JACK DELLA FRANCA. #1
PIETRO & INES BECHELLI. 1946 CHILDREN L - R: ERNEST, PETER, ELIZABETH, LESLIE #2

Peter and Anna had 4 sons and 8 daughters, the first 8 children were born at home, Sylvia was the first child of the family to be born in a hospital (St. Rocces, Bunbury).

Pietro and Ines were married on June 30th 1935. When first married, they lived in tents in the bush camps. Their first son was born while they were still in the camp. Ernie says his mother thought these were the happiest days of her life.

When the family moved to Pickering Brook, Ines worked the property while Pietro was away. There were only two acres of land cleared first, Pietro cleared the rest, slowly, at weekends. They grew vegetables and planted fruit trees. Another son, Ernest, was born in 1938.

During the war years Pietro burned charcoal for extra money. There were a lot of charcoal burners in the area during the war years. Some of the others were; Joe Varischetti, cousin of the “entombed miner”, Manolini, Della and Bob Flamiatti who lived in an old shack at Pickering Brook.

Pietro was a very strong man who, one Christmas, carried a ten gallon keg of beer from the Pickering Brook station to his home, a distance of 3 kilometres. He was cheered on by Primo Urbinatti, Tony Altinier and the Della brothers. When he arrived home the men drank the warm beer and were rather ill afterwards.

Following World War 11 the price of fruit and vegetables dropped considerably. It was very hard to make a living on the land so Pietro still cut wood and worked for the Forestry Department. When he was old enough Ernie left school and took over the orchard, but when all the family were grown the property was sold. Ernie retained two acres and is still living there with his wife and family.

All the Bechelli children attended the Pickering Brook School. Ernie can remember an occasion when the 108 pupils were caned by the headmaster. The whole school disappeared during one lunch time and three hours later were found on Mr. McCorkill’s orchard, engaged in a huge apple fight. The apple crop had been completely stripped during the “war”. Mr. McCorkill stood and watched joyfully as the children were caned.

Ernie, along with other catholic children from the area, attended the Bushies School at Mary’s Mount, Gooseberry Hill, held each August school holiday. The children were sure they would be starved by the nuns and smuggled extra supplies into the school. Ernie can still remember the terrible smell in the dormitories as hidden home made sausages and cheese ripened under mattresses.

The community spirit, so strong in the early days of Pickering Brook, became less as the area grew and the sports club was built. Local dances had always been well supported but with the advent of the club and easy travel to Perth, social gatherings declined, and in 1986 the hall at Carilla was demolished.

When the orchard was sold Pietro and Ines retired to Kalamunda to live. Pietro died in 1974 and Ines in 1981.

Ernie continues working in the timber industry and is employed by the Pickering Brook Sawmill. He is a “log chop” enthusiast, winning many trophies, although he has recently changed to using a chain saw.

Family Information.
Manoni

John Manoni married Johanna Tognela. Their son Peter born 1867.

Peter (7.03.1867 – 25.09.1938) married Anna Maria Moratte (24.05.1883 – 23.08.1965, daughter of Orazio and Maria (nee Bignotte) at Stazzona, Sondrio in 1906
Children; John peter, Charles Alexander, Albert Louis, Mary Anne, Christina Lucy, Kate, Ines, Rosie, Sylvia, Rene Olive, Ernest, Alma Violet.

Ines married Peter Bechelli.

Bechelli

Andrea Bechelli married Maria Bertigini.
Children; Felici, Quinto, Sylvesto, Pietro, Aristede.

Peter married Ines Manoni.
Children; Andrew, Ernest, Peter, Elizabeth, Leslie.

Ernest married Julie Carter.
Children; Laurence, Pauline, Leanne.

Every endeavour has been made to accurately record the details however if you would like to provide additional images and/or newer information we are pleased to update the details on this site. Please click here to email us at info@pickeringbrookheritagegroup.com We appreciate your involvement in recording the history of our area.

References: Article: Valley of Solitude by Jenny Keast

Images: 1, 2 Kalamunda & Distreicts Historical Society