Mary’s Story

Battle for the Cottage

When my father, August Schwerkolt, died in 1887 he left the cottage and surrounds to my mother, Wilhelmina, and on her death to their children.

In contravention of his will, my mother had erroneously sold the cottage and land “Out of Natural Love and Affection” for £10 to her stepson Louis Schwerkolt when she took me and my brother, John, to America in 1900.

In 1903 my mother and brother both died unexpectedly. I was 16 years old. According to my father’s will, I became the sole inheritor of the cottage and land. My uncle John Kruse and I set sail to Melbourne in 1909 to reclaim my inheritance. At 22 I was now of legal age, and fortunately my uncle was executor of the will. Louis sold the land back for the £ten and the title was changed to my name.

In 1914, because I was married to a German national, the property was confiscated and held by the Public Trustee, which had the property valued at £430 in May 1927 as liquidation was possible under the Treaty of Peace.

Prior to WWII, the Australian Government had relented and instructed solicitors to restore the title to me. When the outbreak of the Second World War occurred the property was again confiscated by the Government. Cissie, Louis Schwerkolt’s wife, looked after my cottage and had authority to act on my behalf to get the title restored to me

However, the solicitor died, and so did Cissie. In 1946 my nephew, Charles Schwerkolt, who was executor of Cissie’s will, received all the paperwork from the solicitor’s office EXCEPT the instructions from the Australian Government, which had gone astray.

For eighteen years Charles worked tirelessly to have the title restored to my name. The only legal way was by adverse possession. This meant fencing and maintaining the property as well as paying the rates for 30 years.

On 7th November 1960 the Housing Commission of Victoria issued a demolition order on the cottage as unfit for habitation because of a lack of appropriate toilet and washing facilities. The City of Nunawading gained a stay on proceedings in order to acquire the cottage to restore it, following community interest. In 1963 I attained title to my property. The sale of the cottage to the City of Nunawading was negotiated by Charles and was finalised in March 1964.

Mary Jackschowsky (nee Schwerkolt) passed away 29th April 1966.