Today we continue the stories of John Tyson, a pioneer of our region and fascinating chap, and we ride back in time to appreciate the importance horses played in everyday life.Alex Cameron, a young lad who worked for John Tyson for about six months around 1860, was heading home to Melton one Saturday night, riding “Midnight”, John’s horse. As Alex rode through the Box Forest to the top of Stamford Hill (west of Bacchus Marsh township), he was chased down by one of the three bushrangers camping in the forest. However, it wasn’t Alex they were after – it was the horse, who proved too fast to be caught.
Horse racing was a frequent pastime. John was a proud member of the Bacchus Marsh Cavalry. The Victorian Racing Club conducted a racing program for cavalry horses, with prize money of over £100. John won with his prized horse “Midnight”, a well-bred, jet-black beauty.
Weekly horse races were conducted in early 1867 and the Annual Ballan jumps races were held on 30 March 1867. John, as always, entered his horse “Midnight” in two races, both of which failed to produce a win. Later in the meet, the winner of the fifth race, “Garibaldi” was auctioned off with John being the successful bidder at £20, 2/.
A few years later, Peter Grant, a farmer from Myrniong, went missing. Some of the residents from Ballan, Bacchus Marsh, and Myrniong turned out to see if they could find him. John Tyson was out looking for him on his horse Midnight, on the Eynesbury and Exford estates, when some kangaroos startled his horse, resulting in John being thrown out of his saddle and landing against a tree, hurting his spine. The horse ran off, leaving John to crawl over two miles to Ballarat Road. The evening coach was returning from Keilor Road railway station (now Sydenham). John gave out a “coo-ee” and the driver, Sam Crisp, with assistance from some passengers, lifted John onto the carriage and took him to the Border Inn Hotel at Bacchus Marsh. The doctor was summoned and John found himself bedridden for the next four months before finally being sent home to Myrniong. Peter Grant was finally found at Broadmeadows three weeks after he first disappeared.
John passed away on 22 August 1887 after a long and painful condition known as "dropsy" (possibly the result of an underlying cause of congestive organ failure including heart, kidney or liver). The Plough Hotel licence was immediately transferred to Augustus William Lacey. John's wife, Elizabeth took over the operations of the Myrniong Hotel until she died in 1904.