Unearth Wyong Newsletter – July 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
Committee Members: Alma Thompson, Pauline House, Chris Hodges

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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.

Construction

Construction has moved along quite quickly recently and the builders, Collaborative Construction Solutions, are pretty much on schedule, even with all the recent rain. This still gives us a bit of time to set up our displays and exhibits for our grand re-opening, scheduled for the long weekend in October.

A blend of the old and the new on the Alison Homestead rebuild

A blend of the old and the new on the Alison Homestead rebuild.

Alison Homestead Build_2015-06_004

The breezeway and kitchen will be a terrific space to hold our meetings and events.

Fundraising

We will be holding another fundraising BBQ at Bunnings Tuggerah on Saturday 31 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 we have plants available for sale, including Agapanthus, Hippiastrums, 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 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.

Plants for sale for as little at $2.50 each. Multiple purchases are negotiable.

Plants for sale for as little at $2.50 each. Multiple purchases are negotiable.

Tours

We will be celebrating our Museum grand re-opening on the October long weekend in conjunction with the Wyong District Pioneers Association which is celebrating their centenary. We anticipate that we will be able to conduct tours, bookings etc after 6 October 2015.

Donations

Edward Stinson’s piano has been kindly donated to the Museum and, very fittingly, was delivered by bullock dray. We have also received a beautiful “Duchess” Empire Ware tea set circa 1930 from Elizabeth McDonald who also donated a piano circa 1911, with piano seat and sheet music.

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Requests

We would appreciate a donation of any old materials or sheets to be used as drop covers over the artefacts being prepared for display. Our gardeners would also appreciate donations of black plastic for the plant nursery.

Alison Homestead Men’s Shed

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Wally at the  Men’s Shed, a cabinetmaker by trade, is hoping to get permission from Council to build our cabinets for the Alison and Stinson Rooms at the homestead. The men have also restored a beautiful tallboy cabinet, which had been donated by Jenny and Peter Cooper. Jenny and Peter came along to look at the restored cabinet and were very pleased with the results.

Don’t forget, if you have, or know anyone who has, an old bicycle they would like to donate, it can be left at the gate to the Homestead for Kerry to restore and donate to various charities.

Re-cycle Bikes

Historical Note

Ezekiel John (Yorkie) Waters

Jack (Yorkie) Waters, was from one of the local Yarramalong pioneer families. He was a timber-getter and an expert in various woods, having vast experience in cutting wood. “Yorkie,” as he was known, won the championship at the Sydney Exhibition in 1908 by cutting a railway sleeper in 4.5 minutes.

Ezekiel John Waters enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in 1916. He served in the 30th Battalion during WW1 and saw action in France. Due to serious injuries during the war, he was later unfit for hard work.

Yorkie Waters working n one of his violins.

Ezekiel John (Yorkie) Waters working on one of his violins.

Yorkie started collecting various pieces of wood and began making violins, his first was made of swampy oak. He made other violins out of woods such as silky oak, white beech, sassafras and honey suckle. Jack also made his own polishing varnish which he mixed from four different species of gum. Many of the violins made by Yorkie were named Coo-ee, except for one that his daughter Jillian Eugenia Peterson [nee Waters] owned, which is called Sadie.

Yorkie often played free for the patrons of Peter’s Cafe at Wyong and also played at many of the local bush dances. After his death Yorkie’s own violin was kept by friends for many years and then generously donated to our museum.

Miraculously the violin is a rare surviver of the fire which destroyed much of museum collection in December 2011. “Yorkie’s Coo-ee violin” will soon be on display in the re-built Alison Homestead Museum to be appreciated by everyone.

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Former WDM&HS President Phil Morley holding Yorkie Waters’ Coo-ee violin in front of the burnt-out homestead in December 2011.

If anyone has any questions about the local area or the Museum specifically, please email us and we will endeavour to answer your questions in our next newsletter.

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Notice of Annual General Meeting

NOTICE is hereby given to all members of Wyong District Museum & Historical Society that the next Annual General Meeting will be held at Alison Homestead,1 Cape Road, Wyong, on Saturday 8 August, 2015 at 11:00 am.

Nominations are invited for election of Committee Members. Completed nomination Forms should be received by the Secretary no later than seven (7) days before the meeting. The positions vacant will be:

  • President
  • Vice-President
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • Three General Members

Nomination forms are available by contacting Wyong District Museum & Historical Society office • Email: Info@alisonhomestead.com.au • Tel: 02 43521886. Please note only fully paid-up members are eligible to nominate, or be nominated for a position and be eligible to vote at the meeting.

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Catch up with you next edition, cheers for now.

Chris Hodges (Writer & Editor)

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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.

Gold in the Wollombi Hills?

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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.

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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.

The Valley’s industries

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

The Central Coast was a by-passed district in its early days with the only realistic access to the Sydney market being by water from Gosford. Yarramalong Valley residents had the additional task of first getting their goods down the Valley to Gosford. The handful of early settlers were, however, subsistence farmers who relied on the few animals they had and on the food they grew for themselves. Trees were only felled to make rudimentary shelters for the family and to clear land for growing vegetables and crops and to make space for animals and poultry.

Timber

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Yarramalong Valley timber cutters

These few words cannot tell the Valley’s timber story in any detail. As more settlers arrived in the latter part of the 1800s the potential to sell cut timber grew. When the Great North Road was developed in the 1850s it became possible to send timber from the top of the Yarramalong Valley to Maitland in one direction and to Wisemans Ferry in the other. By the 1880s the easiest timber to access had been removed and it was not economic to spend effort cutting and transporting timber from higher up the Valley’s hillsides. The industry declined.

The situation changed dramatically with the opening of the railway line from Newcastle to Sydney in 1889. Transporting timber in quantity to those markets became possible. Yards for the loading of timber were established where the road from the Valley met the railway line. This was where the racecourse now is. A town, Wyong, was created. This new phase of the industry peaked about 1910 and began to fade when available trees were again becoming less available in the 1920s. With timber from the surrounding State Forests together with some regrowth, the industry continued for many years but on a vastly reduced scale. There are now no mills in the Valley.

Subsequent Industries

In 1906 it was said “that when the timber is gone, Wyong is done”. Happily this proved wrong.

The 1889 railway was not only a boon for timber. The access to the markets of Sydney and Newcastle in particular could be utilised by other industries which had been developing in the shadow of the timber industry. There were a number of these. Yarramalong Valley residents were well experienced in tending to cows, orcharding and poultry farming. It is not at all surprising those three activities expanded commercially to fill the timber void.

Dairying

WE_Book_Butter Factory

Other dates could be chosen to mark the beginning of commercial dairying in the Valley but the opening of a dairy in about 1890 by Anders Christenson at his home “The Cedars”, known as the “Stone House”, was important. It and its adjacent cheese house still remain at 595 Brush Creek Road. He also had a piggery and produced ham and bacon. From that date on, dairying expanded rapidly. In 1907 a co-operative, the Wyong Butter Factory, was set up near Alison Homestead. Farmers supplied cream to the Butter Factory to make butter which was sold in Sydney. By 1921, 200 dairy farmers were sending both milk and cream to the factory. It became known as the Milk Factory. The best dairying days were the 1950s, 60s and 70s before the industry declined. Land prices in the Valley increased to such an extent that for many it became preferable to sell out and put their capital to better use with less physical effort and a better life style.

Orcharding

WE_Book_24_Apple Orchard_Smith

Orange trees had been growing in limited numbers in the Shire for many years before the coming of the railway made citrus a commercial industry. The Salmon brothers of Wyong Creek introduced citrus into the Valley in the early 1900s and it became a major industry. Crops were not restricted to citrus but extended to persimmon and stone fruit. Both dairying and orcharding suffered a decline in the depression and after WW2 the necessary land areas were being reduced by urban growth. Large scale orcharding had virtually disappeared as a significant industry by the late 1960s.

Poultry Farming

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Early Yarramalong Valley free-range poultry farm

Poultry farming required relatively little land space and became a main industry when the citrus and dairying industries were declining. In 1961 the Central Coast was producing eight million eggs annually as well as large quantities of meat. However this industry lost its commercial significance in the Valley with the advent of egg production and poultry meat in “battery” cages. These practices do not exist in the Valley.

Change

Much changed in the latter quarter of the 1900s. Timber, dairying, orcharding and poultry farming largely disappeared. At the same time transport to other parts of the Central Coast to Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter improved even more, particularly with the opening of the M1 (F3) freeway.

These changes had significant social effects. It became possible, particularly for Sydney people, to travel easily to the area and purchase full or part-time rural retreats and hobby farms. Land values increased (a mixed blessing perhaps); education and employment opportunities away from the Valley became available to all particularly women and young people. Cultural attractions not available in the Valley drew people to them.

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The Valley now boasts a variety of farm-stays, horse studs and even a few alpaca farms

Notwithstanding these many changes, the Yarramalong Valley has been able to retain much of its valued rural atmosphere. This is partly because a number of turf farms replaced dairies; properties devoted to horse care – breeding, spelling and riding – multiplied and specialist farms (alpaca, cattle breeding and grazing, deer, donkey, goat) appeared. Even bee breeding and, for a time, wine production. Hospitality activities (farm stays, function venues, dining locations) have emerged. There is no limit to the commercial possibilities available within the Valley to those with imagination and enthusiasm.

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

Who are the pioneers and settlers of the Central Coast?

Wyong District Pioneers Logo_Colour

Are you one? 

This is a question anyone can ask.

At the Wyong & District Pioneers Association meetings and dinners, a few lines penned by Lorna Clayton are recited:

They toiled before sun rise,
And long after it had set.

They helped to build the nation,
Our pioneers we should not forget.

This ode echoes the motto of the Pioneers – “No pioneer will ever be forgotten.”

These men and women were our ‘originals’ who took up selections, received grants from the government, cleared the virgin bush to make way for the first farms and settlements in Australia.

In 1914 a group of adventurous pioneering men who had contributed so much to the growth of the Wyong and Tuggerah Lakes District, met at the Grand Hotel, Wyong for the first pioneers get-together. Two informal dinners were held that year.

Then in 1915, the first official Brisbane Water District Pioneer Association dinner was held which included the Wyong area. There were forty present at the first dinner in 1915 and many recalled their experiences of “the good old days”.

There were a few years during WWI and WWII when dinners were not held, but the annual gathering of pioneers and their descendants continued well into the 1950s. The association disbanded after one of the last original members, Gersh Baker died; but was later renewed by his son Mick Baker, as the Wyong & District Pioneers Association, which continues to this day.

These pioneers blazed the way for new settlers who arrived in the early 1900s when land was sub-divided into small farm holdings. These settlers brought with them new names, skills and experiences to add to our rich history.

In every decade since, there have been new settlers who have planted roots and made their mark on our district. Many pioneer and settler family names live on through their descendants.

Anyone moving into the Wyong shire these days is undoubtedly one of our newest settlers – many moving into new estates, schools, businesses etc. They and their descendants will continue to build on our rich heritage, generation after generation.

Where do you fit – are you a pioneer, descendant, or a new settler?

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Written by Faye Maloney

Pioneers’ Dinner – 1923

A Born Raconteur

The Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 13 December 1923

BRISBANE WATER PIONEERS’ DINNER

WYONG. Wednesday.

The ninth annual reunion of the Brisbane Water pioneers took place at Wyong race course dining rooms on Saturday last, there being an attendance of 38, ranging in age from 84 to 70. Many stories of the olden times were unfolded, and Mr. George Taylor (aged 84 years), Mr. Dad Finley (aged 80 years), Mr. Joe Fagan (aged 77 years), and others, related experiences with aboriginals and bushrangers. Old-time cricket matches were re-played, and sports meetings recalled. Old-time songs and recitations were rendered. By common consent, Ned Barden, of Catherine Hill Bay, was voted the pioneers’ greatest raconteur.

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SOURCES: Trove Digital Newspaper Archive; Illustration ‘A Born Raconteur’ from Project Gutenberg EBookMr. Punch’s After-Dinner Stories.