Pioneering Personalities: Matthew James Woodbury – 1838-1921

Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday 1 April 1921, page 10 (re-printed from Gosford Times)




Woodbury MJ_1838-1921_Portrait_01

Matthew James Woodbury (1838-1921)

There passed away at 11 o’clock on Sunday night, 20th March, 1921, a man who will never be forgotten as long as Wyong endures, for he was the father of Wyong, and every inhabitant loved him as a child loves a parent. He truly possessed every virtue in high degree; he was gentleness personified; a man of truth, and his word was his bond.

Born on the Mangrove over 83 years ago, his father being an Australian, he came of long-lived people, for his mother died at about 89 and his grandmother at 100. Remaining on the Mangrove till he was 18 years of age, he then proceeded to the Snowy River gold fields at the very time when the white diggers had made a raid upon the Chinese, gold miners, and cut their long pig tails off.

Some time later he found his way to the Wollombi, and thence to the Cedars, Wyong, where and at his late residence he resided 55 years. Hence he was one of the first pioneers that settled in the Wyong district. For half a century the dear old ‘Cedars’ was his home. In the far away days only two kinds of wood were extensively used, oak and cedar, the former for shingles and the latter for fine cabinet work. The timber and the shingles were carted to Maitland, and even slides were much in use when roads were impassable for drays. Away via Yarramalong and the Wollombi to Maitland was the route. In the bush 50 years ago there were practically no timber-getters, except shingle splitters and cedar cutters.

When about 27 years of age he married Miss Eliza O’Neill, of The Cedars. She was a lady beloved by her husband. Great was his grief when some seven years ago she passed away. He never ceased to mourn his loss, even though his children continually ministered unto his comfort in the most loving manner.

His sorrowing daughters are Miss Woodbury, Mrs. W. A. Chapman, Mrs. W. Baldwin, and Miss O. Woodbury, and his sons, Councillor W. B. Woodbury, and Mr. Edwin Woodbury, to whom we extend our deepest sympathy.

Our late friend was the Chairman of the Directors of the Wyong Butter Factory, and had been Chairman from the inception of the company. His very last conversations were about the re-building of the factory on the ideal old site.

He possessed a wonderful memory, and up to within a few hours of his end, his mental faculties were unimpaired. He knew he was nearing The Bar, and was much comforted to see a number of his devoted children round his bedside.

The remains were brought to his beloved church, where service was conducted by Rev. Father Herlihy, and thence removed, by procession to the Jilliby cemetery, where a very solemn service was followed by a most eloquent address by the priest, which will be treasured in the memory of Protestants and Catholics alike for years to come as a grand tribute to a good man. The immense concourse, testified to the worth and to the nobility of character of Matthew James Woodbury. Numerous wreaths and floral tributes were offered by loving friends.

Memorial to Matthew James Woodbury and his wife Eliza at Jilliby Cemetery [photo source: Susan Buck]

Memorial to Matthew James Woodbury and his wife Eliza O’Neill at Jilliby Cemetery [photo source: Susan Buck 2014]

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SOURCES: Trove Digital Newspaper Archive; NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages Historical Indexes; Photo of M. J. Woodbury from Blue Gum Flat to Budgewoi, Charles Swancott, 1963.


Bush Wives & Midwives

I found this snippet in The Australian Women’s Weekly, Wednesday 30 October 1963.

Blue Gum Flat To Budgewoi,” the latest volume produced by Charles Swancott, the folk historian of Gosford and neighboring parts, reminds its readers that many of the bush wives used to do their own doctoring. They had to.

Consider Mrs Priscilla Waters, of Yarramalong, born in 1859. She is said to have cured her six-year-old Diana’s lockjaw (tetanus) with hot packs and to have saved her niece’s almost severed hand by stitching it and splinting each finger.

Then there was Mrs Isabella Robley, who died at 100 in 1944. From Ourimbah she often rode on errands of mercy on nights too dark to see the tracks over Mangrove Mountain at Kangy Angy and across to Dooralong.

After she’d returned from one journey her husband gravely announced to the Rev. Mr Moore, who was at the house, “I’m going to divorce my wife.”

The clergyman gasped. “Tut, tut, man. What’s your reason?”

“I can tell you of 28 children she has brought into the world, and none of them is mine.”

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Pioneer Women’s Monument, Jessie Street Gardens, Sydney. Sculptor: Alex Kolozsy

Pioneer Women’s Monument, Jessie Street Gardens, Sydney. Sculptor: Alex Kolozsy

This 3.5 metre bronze sculpture in Jessie Street Gardens at Circular Quay, Sydney was installed for Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988. It was commissioned by the Women’s Pioneer Society of Australasia in recognition of the courage and endurance of Women Pioneers and their vital role in the development of Australia.

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Sources: Wyong Museum & Historical Society ArchivesTrove Digital Newspaper ArchiveWomen’s Pioneer Society of Australasia.

Kennedy’s Flat

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

Kennedy’s Flat, for those who may not recognise the name, is the flat area along Yarramalong Road stretching westwards from Wyong Creek Hall almost to Boyd’s Lane. In earlier times it was a popular place for picnics and sporting events such as horse racing and wood chopping competitions.

Kennedy's Flat, Wyong Creek. [Google Maps]

Kennedy’s Flat, Wyong Creek. [Google Maps]

The name comes from that of William Kennedy about whom little is known other than that he was one of the very first Valley settlers. He came to the Valley in about 1854 and had 100 acres which included Kennedy’s Flat which is now dissected by Yarramalong Road.

The information about him in these notes is based on probabilities rather confirmed fact. What appears to be his death record says he was born in Ireland in 1814. It is likely he came freely to Australia in 1841/42. Why he did so is not known. Beryl Strom’s book History and Heritage (1982) merely says he was “of Sydney”.

Before residing in the Valley he married Margaret McGuire in 1851 when he was 37 and she 32. This marriage is recorded at St Marys Cathedral. Margaret, too, was from Ireland and was born in 1819. The records say she had been here for 56 years when she died in 1908. This suggests her marriage and arrival dates coincided. It is not known (to the writer anyway) what brought her to Australia. William and Margaret had three children – Mary in 1852, Annie in 1857 and a son, Edward Charles “Ned” Kennedy in 1863. Mary’s birth was registered in Sydney and Annie’s in Gosford. There is no official record of Edward’s birth but a handwritten note in the family Bible says he was born in Wyong on 5 March, 1863. For even more reasons unknown, his presumed father, William, seems to have moved alone to Maitland at about the time of Edward’s birth. He reportedly died there twelve months’ later.

In 1865 his widow, Margaret, married Simon Waight whose name was sometimes given as “Waite” or “White”. Margaret was a well respected Wyong Creek resident and known locally as “Granny White”. Historian Charles Swancott (Blue Gum Flat To Budgewoi, page 80) said that she “introduced blackberries to Wyong Creek”. Not something to be proud of but possibly untrue. The weed was introduced to Australia in the 1830s and quickly spread. It is difficult to believe it was unknown in the Valley until 1855 though the Valley’s isolation may have been a factor. Margaret and Simon were to be buried in Yarramalong Cemetery with the headstone showing them as Simon and Margaret Waight. Her death record, however, has her as Margaret White. They had a son, George, who remained in the Valley.

Kennedy family historians still have work to do (some has already been done and is reflected in these notes) to confirm the birth and death details of William Kennedy and the birth information of son Edward Kennedy. Edward was well known and highly respected in the Valley and continued to live at Kennedy’s Flat. In 1905 he and his wife, Nellie Waters, had three of their children die within weeks of each other from what the Gosford Times of 31 March claimed to be cholera though the diagnosis is doubtful. The children are buried in Yarramalong Cemetery. They had other children most of whom retained a connection with the Wyong area. It is believed the original Kennedy home was replaced in about 1907. The very recognisable home, much extended, remains at 878 Yarramalong Road.

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SOURCES: Max Farley; Wyong Museum & Historical Society Archives; Google Maps.