Mattei family: From Rovanna to Gippsland and married life

Barb Mullen, Australiaby Barb Mullen, Australia

When Peter Mattei was about 5 years old, the family fortunes changed for the better. What was to become the family home, ‘Rovanna’ was a house on many acres of land where the family had fruit trees such as apple, pear, plum, peach and cherry trees. The chestnut so important as a food source in Cevio, especially in times of hunger, was also grown here and two trees stand today on the property in Green Hills, near Blackwood.

When a young adult, Peter would have been harvesting timber with his brothers, in and around Green Hills. Nevertheless the family left Rovanna by the turn of the century to relocate to Castella in the area around Toolangi.

After a time of working with his father and older brothers, Peter began to branch out on his own. Alessandro Mattei, his father, died in 1905 when Peter was 21. Peter was now fully independent.

Peter as a young adult

peteryoungadult2It was in June 1907 that he started a sawmill at Myers Creek. Then, still in the general area, by 1909 Peter was living in Woodbourne, Yea where he was a sawmill hand. In 1910, he joined with his brothers in establishing a mill at Clark Creek, but this didn’t last long before they moved again back towards Yea.

On 17 Mar 1913, Peter married Elsie May Roberts, a lass of 23 years, from the Melbourne seaside suburb of Williamstown.


The young couple settled in Wonthaggi, a coal mining town, and soon enough a son was born, Kenneth Charles.

Peter had by now given up the timber industry and succumbed to his talents in the hospitality industry. Undoubtedly with the encouragement of his older sisters, Peter was a Club Manager in Wonthaggi, while Elsie stayed at home and cared for their child.

Peter at the head of the table, his brother Frank at his left.

peterbarThe family were doing well it seems. In 1915, the Local Land Board was hearing a case regarding 125 acres in Kinglake held by Peter. (His brother Alex held a further 249 acres) But a few months after this, Peter was in court for selling grog without a licence and for using the Workmen’s Billiard Club for gambling. Perhaps this was a sign of trouble for the young family.

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