Unearth Wyong Newsletter – September 2015

Published by Wyong District Museum & Historical Society
1 Cape Road, Wyong • PO Box 241, Wyong, 2259
Email: Info@alisonhomestead.com.au • Tel: 02 43521886

President: Greg Denning
Vice President: Liz Hogston
Secretary:Anita McCarthy
Treasurer: Michelle O’Sheades
Committee Members: Alma Thompson, Pauline House, Chris Hodges, Susan Buck

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We would like to extend a warm welcome to all our new members and volunteers both at the Museum and the Men’s Shed.

Homestead Rebuild Complete

All major construction on Alison Homestead has now been completed. Wyong Council has handed back access at a ceremony on 1st September. The occasion was well attended by Federal and State members of parliament, Mayor Doug Eaton and local councillors, the media and members of the Wyong District Museum & Historical Society. A Welcome to Country ceremony was performed and the local Baptist School Choir also sang a couple of songs.

Alison Homestead_2015-09-01_01

Alison Homestead building complete – 1 September 2015

Phil Morley gave an informative running commentary on the history of the area which included the names of all the previous owners of the homestead, some of which were not known to us. Greg thanked everyone and was pleased to have the homestead officially handed back to the Wyong District Museum & Historical Society. He also wondered why the DA had not been sorted out for the new office and Men’s Shed extension, although Council has agreed not to remove the “Lone Pine” memorial.  Consideration is being given to move part of the plant nursery to a new location near the vegetable beds.

Alison Homestead_2015-09-01_02

The hand-over ceremony was well attended – 1 September 2015

Family Fun Day & Museum Opening

Representatives of the Alison family will be attending the official Grand Re-opening of the Museum on Sunday the 4th October from 10.00am, in conjunction with the Wyong District Pioneers Centenary Celebrations. There will be displays in woodworking, sheep shearing, historic & vintage cars, memorabilia and activities to enjoy relating to local history, art, craft with lots of fun activities for the kids, both big and small, as well as raffles, Devonshire teas and sausage sizzle.  There will be a regular free bus shuttle pick up and drop off at Wyong Station, Wyong Christian Community School, Alison Homestead Museum and Wyong Milk Factory as there will be no parking available in the Museum grounds.  So lock in the date and bring the family and tell your friends.

Pioneer Online_Banners-5

Upcoming Exhibition

Award-winning local botanical artist Marion Farley has accepted our invitation to exhibit her work at the first art exhibition at Alison Homestead Museum in 2016. We will confirm the date in the near future.

Botanical Artist Marion Farley

Botanical Artist Marion Farley

Fundraising

As previously advised, we will be holding another fundraising BBQ at Bunnings Tuggerah on Saturday the 31st October 2015. Again it will be all hands on deck and if our last effort is anything to go by, it will be a very enjoyable and successful day.

Don’t forget that we also have plants available for sale, including Agapanthus, Hippeastrums, Bromeliads, Succulents, Canna Lillies, Frangipani (from original homestead stock) plus many other plant varieties as part of our ongoing fundraising efforts. Prices start at $2.50 and for multiple purchases prices are negotiable. If you are interested in purchasing any plants, do not hesitate to either visit us here at the Museum, or ring us for information.

Hippeastrum bulbs in full bloom. Commonly known as Amarylis.

Hippeastrum bulbs in full bloom. Commonly known as Amarylis.

Tours

We will be celebrating our grand re-opening on the Sunday of the October long weekend in conjunction with the Pioneers who are celebrating their centenary.  We anticipate being will be able to take bookings and conduct tours after the 6th October 2015.

Donations

At the handover ceremony on 1st September,we received a donation from Mr Scot MacDonald, Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter and Central Coast. The donation will go toward the cost of printing Max Farley’s book on Wyong history.

We have also received a number of generous donations from J & D Pearce, Judith Faulks, Bev Baldwin, D & P Hooper and Dawn Hooper. These were all received with appreciation and thanks.

Cheers for now, Chris

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Wyong’s World War One treasure survives the inferno

A precious piece of local history has been safely in storage since being rescued from the smouldering ruins of the Wyong District Museum at Alison Homestead in December 2011.

Tea Cloth 1915_0397

For Belgium 1915 from Wyong – embroidered signature teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

On the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW1, and on the eve of work commencing on the Museum rebuild, this delicate piece of fabric sealed behind glass has been cleaned of layers of soot and grime and was displayed at the Wyong District Pioneers Dinner on Saturday 18 October, 2014.

The gold frame is slightly charred and blistered on the bottom edge – evidence of just how close we came to losing this unique item to the fire which claimed so many of our heritage items.

It is believed the square teacloth was made by several local women to raise funds for the Belgian Relief effort. The names on the cloth appear to be signatures as they are not all written in the same hand, and then embroidered over in red thread.

Tea Cloth 1915_0416

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

 

It is likely that people from the Wyong district paid to have their name embroidered on the cloth. The tablecloth was then auctioned by means of an art union prize on Belgian Day, 14 May 1915, to raise further money.

There are over 180 names on the cloth, most are well-known Wyong pioneers and settlers such as: Bailey, Barker, Beaven, Boyd, Chapman, Duggan, Earl, Gascoigne, Gavenlock, Hunt, Sharp, Smith, Tonkin, and Waters to name a few.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

This irreplaceable treasure will, once again, take pride of place in our Museum when the rebuild is completed, we hope by October 2015.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

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SOURCES: Wyong Museum & Historical Society; NLA Trove; Australian War Memorial.

Do you have a local history story to tell?

Story to Tell.indd

To acknowledge the pioneers and settlers of the Central Coast during our Pioneers Centenary year, our members are gathering snippets and stories of our men, women and children from the Wyong District.

We are looking for stories about local families – pioneers, settlers, local soldiers and those who returned from WW1 and settled locally.

We want to hear your memories of growing up on the Central Coast, as well as copies of letters, postcards, photos and any other related stories.

Wyong District Pioneers Logo_Colour

Wyong District Pioneers Association
Alison Homestead, 1 Cape Road, Wyong 2259
PO Box 241, Wyong NSW 2259

Email: wyong.pioneers@gmail.com

Cow of a Trick – 1954

A humorous tale published in The Land, 23 July 1954. Can anyone recall hearing about this game? Do you know anyone who played in the football match?

Guernsey_cow

Cow of a Trick

A couple of weeks ago “The Land” reprinted Spencer’s poem, “How McDougall Topped the Score,” thanks to a trained dog seizing and scurrying around with a ball hit by a batsman at a critical period of the play.

From Gosford comes a somewhat similar story, but with a different angle. It happened during the Gosford High School–Wyong football match.

Gosford was leading when a cow strayed on the field and took a dim view of either the Gosford boys or their jerseys. Anyhow, Gosford boys were not on familiar terms with the animal and stopped at her challenge.

But a Wyong player, running beside the beast, raced 50 yards without interference from boy or cow and scored the winning try.

Gosford boys reckoned it was a cow of a trick to play.

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SOURCES: Trove Digital Newspaper ArchiveAustralian Poetry Library website.

Gold in the Wollombi Hills?

gold_panning_prospecter

This news report of a new goldfield in the Wollomi Hills west of Wyong, was published just six months after gold was first discovered in New South Wales.

1851-08-15_Empire_Gold Wollombi Hills

Gold found in the Wollomi Hills. Source: The Empire, Sydney, 15 August 1851

On February 12, 1851, Edward Hammond Hargraves (1816–1891) discovered gold near Bathurst, at Lewis Ponds Creek. Hargraves had recently returned from the California Gold Rush where he had been unsuccessful in finding the mother load; but he realised that some areas of New South Wales had similar geological features to the goldfields of California. This inspired him to return to Australia to prove gold could be found here.

Edward Hargraves was accompanied on his prospecting expedition by John Hardman Lister and James Tom, he showed them the tricks of the trade and how to pan for gold. When they found five flecks of gold, Hargraves went to Sydney alone and left the others to continue the search. He announced his discovery and received the £10,000 reward for being the first person to find gold and claim it. He was also appointed Commissioner for Crown Land for which the Victorian Government paid him £5,000. He only claimed £2,381 before the funds were frozen after James Tom protested. An enquiry was held in 1853 which upheld that Hargraves was the first to discover a goldfield. Shortly before his death in 1891 a second enquiry found that John Lister and James Tom were responsible for discovering the first goldfield.

Edward Hammond Hargraves (1816-1891)

Edward Hammond Hargraves (1816-1891)

The following news report from the South Australian Register, Wednesday 3 March 1852, gives a progress report on Edward Hargraves’ travels as Commissioner of Crown Lands, and reports his opinion that Wollombi would never prove to be a prospector’s paradise.

We are happy to announce that Mr. Hargraves yesterday reached Maitland on his way to the various auriferous localities disclosed to the northward. As the result of Mr. Hargraves’s prospecting tour southward has been made public by the Government, we need not now advert to it. Mr. Hargraves left Sydney a few days since for his northern tour, overland, provided with two men, pack horses, &c.; and occupying a day or two around Brisbane Water, he ascertained that the Wyong Creek (flowing from the Wollombi Hills to the sea, and on which some time since it was reported gold had been found) was not an auriferous country, and that any gold found there must have been taken there first.

We believe Mr. H. leaves Maitland this morning for the Paterson, from whence he will make his way over towards the Company’s Stations, Port Stephens, and thence will take the ‘Bridle-Path’ to the New England tableland. Then, selecting Tamworth, or some other convenient place as head-quarters, he will visit the various auriferous localities disclosed to the Mate Maitland Gold Reward Committee, and if which the Government was informed by that Committee, and will also visit the Hanging Rock Diggings, or other new auriferous localities in that quarter, of which authentic information is furnished. Then, proceeding further north, he will make his way to the various auriferous localities stated to be found towards Moreton Bay.

The object of this prospecting tour is, we believe, not so much to discover new fields, as to ascertain and verify the character and extent of those disclosed by various individuals with a view to report thereon to the Government, who are desirous as early as possible of verifying and making public the existence of any profitabe gold fields that may be found in this or any other portion of the colony. Bearing this in mind, it will be seen that Mr. Hargraves’s movements must be necessarily somewhat erratic and uncertain, as at any part of this tour disclosures may be made in the northern districts that may modify the arrangements he has now in view.”

Hargraves was never a gold miner and instead made money from writing and lecturing about the Australian goldfields. He wrote a book about his discovery titled Australia and its Goldfields: a historical sketch of the Australian colonies from the earliest times to the present day with a particular account of the recent gold discoveries., published in 1855.

In 1856, Hargraves purchased 640 acres of land at Noraville and Budgewoi on the Central Coast of New South Wales. He built a large homestead and stockyards, and his property produced most of the food required for his family, his servants and his numerous guests. In 1877, Hargraves was granted a pension of £250 per year by the Government of New South Wales, which he received until his death.

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Even if, in Edward Hargraves’ opinion, the Wollomi Hills are not “auriferous country” – I think I may invest in a second-hand metal detector and do a spot of prospecting next time I am in the area. You never know!

SOURCES: Trove Digital Newspaper Archive; Australian Dictionary of Biography; C. Swancott, The Brisbane Water Story, vol 4; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson. Panning for Gold illustration, Susan Buck.

Wyong Wood Chopping

A meeting of local woodchoppers of the Wyong and Yarramalong district, c1900.

A meeting of local wood choppers of the Wyong and Yarramalong district, circa 1900.

It was like “knocking off work to carry bricks”! The timber cutters would come down from the mountains to Wyong in their hundreds on Saturdays to get supplies and to relax. Many (but not all) would go to the hotels and drink pretty heavily; and they would take plenty of liquor back with them to their camps in the hills to last them for the coming week. It was good business for the hotel keepers.

Wood chopping became a popular sport on Saturday afternoons in hotel yards, or in paddocks, and later at the Warner Sports Ground in Wyong after it was opened in 1907.

The Referree, 14 October 1903

Woodchopping contest at Yarramalong. The Referee, 14 October 1914.

Woodchopping contest at Yarramalong. The Referee, 14 October 1914.

Gosford Times, 15 December 1905

The Axeman’s Club looks forward to giving next Saturday one of the best wood chopping contents that have yet been seen in the district, which is saying a lot considering the successful events we have witnessed during the last year or two. The number of entries totals 60 – a record surely in itself. All the champions are coming so the event will be sure to attract a “bumper house”. Now, Mr Charlton, M.P. has promised to be present, and other representative men are also expected. The squaring contest will probably be one of the best that has ever taken place. The conditions are – the best two sleepers, the time limit being twenty minutes. The winner’s sleepers are to be sent by the Australian Timber Export Co. Ltd. to the Indian Exhibition. All competitors are to be admitted to the ground free. The club has now eighty members, and has prospects which must be very gratifying to those who have worked so hard during the few months it has been in existence.

Singleton Argus, 25 August 1906

1906-08-25_Singleton Argus_Woodchip Singleton Show

Notice of the handicaps for the wood chopping at the 1906 Singleton Show. Many of the names listed are Wyong and Yarramalong Valley identities. Singleton Argus, 25 August 1906.

Wood chopping became a popular event at regional shows. There was often good prize money to be had and our “gun” timber cutters were willing to travel as far afield as Newcastle, Maitland, Sydney and Bathurst to compete.

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 SOURCES: A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson; Trove Digital Newspaper Archive.

Pioneering Personalities: James “Jimmy” Waters (1834­‐1903)

These history notes are contributed to Valley Ventures by one of our members, Max Farley.

James “Jimmy” Waters, destined to be known as “The King of Yarramalong”, was a 21 year-old when he arrived in the Yarramalong Valley in 1856. He was with his parents, Ezekiel and Jane, together with his five surviving siblings. He had been born in Ireland and was the eldest. Ezekiel, a “stone cutter” had come to the colony from Northern Ireland in 1838 as a free settler. He was to work on building Darlinghurst Gaol. It seems government money temporarily ran out and Ezekiel was given a grant of land at Hexham. The frequency of floods in the Hunter caused him to come to Yarramalong with his family.

James very soon acquired land in the Valley in the vicinity of 304 Ravensdale Road. He called it Ravensdale Farm after a pretty valley of that name near the Waters’ home in Northern Ireland.

He appears to have been an imaginative and innovative person with a lively mind and a wide range of interests. As a farmer, he introduced “Planters Friend”, a sugar cane from which he made molasses. To crush it, he made a small mill with a wooden roller and powered by one horse. Another innovation was growing arrowroot, which he exhibited internationally and won a First Class Medal in 1876 at the Philadelphia Exhibition. In 1880 he expanded significantly by opening the first steam-powered sawmill in the district, the nearest other being at Ourimbah. It was initially at Sandy Flat below the Cemetery. He specialised in cutting “felloes” for which he designed a “Dished Circular Saw”.

James was by no means restricted to rural activities. He took great interest in the political and economic affairs of the day and presided over or actively participated in public meetings at which issues of the day were debated. Such controversial questions as Free Trade, Protectionism, Land Tax and Federating the State colonies were on the agendas. On these and other matters he was a frequent writer of “letters to the Editor”. Religion was a topic on which he had firm opinions. Though his father was a staunch Presbyterian, James himself was always ready to argue in favour of his own atheism.

Community questions received his attention. When the route of the coming railway was being considered he was active in stirring up action to have it travel through Gosford rather than Windsor as was being proposed. At a public meeting in Gosford in 1878 James “in a very able speech, MOVED: That the most direct route, and the one possessing the most general benefits, is from Newcastle, passing through Brisbane Water, and terminating on the north shore of Port Jackson”. Having in mind the bad state of Yarramalong Road, particularly in wet conditions, it was important to the settlers that the Bumble Hill Road be improved. James took part in a deputation to the Government seeking funds for this purpose. On a different topic altogether it was James who seconded a motion at the public meeting where it was resolved to open a subscription list to support the Irish Famine Relief Fund.

James was a Magistrate, a member of the Public School Board of Education for the sub-district Wyong and a Trustee of the Yarramalong General Cemetery.

There were no doctors in the Valley and James provided basic medical aid. Not only did he pull teeth and stitch cuts – he also set broken limbs. It is told that when a daughter, Stella, was badly scalded he took skin from other of his children and grafted it on to her.

He was a genial soul who enjoyed spending time with his contemporaries. An item in the Gosford Times recorded that in later life “After tea the irrepressible ‘Jimmy’ Waters makes his appearance on the scene (and) at once strikes up a controversy. He is never happy unless he is arguing the point, and he will converse with mysterious wisdom on any subject from the affinity of atoms to the immortality of the soul”. The “scene” referred to was the Yarramalong Inn, owned by his younger brother William “Billy” Waters. It was burnt down in 1917 and the publican’s son, Cleve Waters, built Linga Longa Guest House on the site. The building remains today.

James Waters and his wife Pricilla Woodbury. Photo source: Steve Waters.

James Waters and his second wife Pricilla Woodbury. Photo source: Steve Waters.

Though it is painful to record information about a person who in all other ways would be seen as an outstanding individual no matter what the century, it is necessary to do so to present a rounded picture. Social values and the expectations of women, and men too, in the 1800s were vastly different from those of today. And reliable birth control was not available. 21st century eyes would be aghast to know he fathered 17 children from two wives. He married the 16 year-old Barbara Thompson in 1854 and they had 9 children in the following 18 years. She died in 1872 in childbirth bearing the ninth. Her age was 34. He then married 22 year-old Priscilla Woodbury in 1881 and they had eight children in the next 18 years. James died in 1903 and Priscilla outlived him by 53 years.

To conclude on a positive note: at the 1929 Annual Pioneers Dinner, the 97 year old William Pescud said that “he knew all the pioneers of the district and that in his opinion no kindlier man than the late James Waters ever lived.”

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 SOURCES: Max Farley; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson.