Death of Tumut's Oldest Resident, Mr. James Day

The Tumut Advocate and Farmers & Settlers' Adviser

13 July 1909

Death of Tumut's Oldest Resident.  Mr. James Day.  A Veteran Pioneer.

On June 30, at 4 a.m., there passed away to Shadowland the then eldest resident in Tumut, in the person of Mr. James Day, sr., at the ripe old age of 94 years.

He was born in Limerick, Ireland, on March 6, 1815, and, though of English parentage, his father belonged to a regiment in Ireland. In 1834, when only 19 years of age, he sailed for Australia, and was hired out to Dr. Clayton off the ship ere he landed in Sydney.

Thence he went to his employers' residence in Appin, near Campbelltown. East Blowering Station (now Mr. C. Badgery's) then belonged to Dr Clayton, and it can well be imagined the character of the country as it appeared then. There were more blacks than whites, and roads (?) such as nature left them. Mr Day was told off to proceed to Blowering, and accomplished the journey per foot.

He worked for Dr Clayton until the station was sold to the late Mr. J. C. Whitty. Entering the employ of the latter, he drove his team to Sydney for supplies; and it is a noted fact goods sent from here to Sydney were landed in England, per sailing vessels before the team which carried the goods reached Tumut again. Mr Day brought the first piano to Tumut for Mrs. Whitty.

He remained at Blowering for some years longer, then entered the employ of the brothers Robert and Archer Brougbton, of Gadara and Gocup respectively and stayed there till the diggings broke out at Ballarat.

But whilst with Messrs Broughton he was shepherding on Bombowlee, then part of their run, and he told our correspondent that he remembered at that time Bombowlee Creek was but a chain of waterholes.

The first wheat grown at Tumut was near Mr. Richard Hargreaves', and the subject of this obituary had a hand in cultivating it. In the absence of ploughs, the land was chipped up with a hoe, and sheep were driven repeatedly over it to cover the seed when sown [a more primitive form of agriculture it would be difficult to conceive.]

In those days there were no flour mills, and old residents can tell their early experience of what was then termed "bunging the mill" - a small steel mill screwed to a post, handles on either side, and only one man to drive it. The meal was then sifted, the refuse put through again till all was reduced sufficiently fine. It produced a true brown bread; and to this we may in a way account for the good teeth our veterans show at the present day. Mr Day said the first wheat sown on Bombowlee was on the site of what is known as Darlow's orchard, at the base of Transit Hill, and near the site of the first bridge over the Tumut river, erected about 1848 by the late Messrs F Foord and F Anderson.

The crop grew splendidly, but the heads showed no grain, and as a consequence sheep were turned into it to eat it off. The next year, he said, it was sown again, and on the head lands the same trouble was found as before; but Mr. Day, walking through the crop, came on to good wheat in the centre, which be reported much to the delight of his employers.

The mode of threshing the wheat then was by flail, composed of two good box sticks, connected by a strong greenhide thong between the handle and the flail; the sheaves were placed upon a prepared floor, and the grain beaten out, and then winnowed in the air while the threshers ' prayed for wind ' to blow away the chaff. But we digress.

Leaving Messrs Broughton Bros when the gold diggings broke out at Ballarat, Mr. Day went thither, was fairly successful in his pursuits, and, returning to Tumut, married Miss Jane Harmer (who predeceased him about 35 years). Together they plodded on and started farming operations on Shelley's Plains, near the old woolshed, where they resided for 3 or 4 years.

He then secured some land at Lacmalac, now portion of the Kell Estate, and whilst working the same he burned lime for townspeople. Disposing of the property, he came to town and lived with his then son-in- law, Mr. H W Hoad, for 20 years.

About two years ago Dr Mason performed an operation on him for cancer of the lip, and, getting over it successfully, he went to live with his son, Mr. James Day jr, of Tumut, and, when the latter met with the unfortunate accident which incapacitated him, Mr. Day sr. went to live at Mondongo with his son Benjamin, with whom he remained till the day of his death.

About 12 months ago he fell and broke his thigh, but his pluck and endurance still remained and he survived it, but did not recover to his previous invariably good health, and had it not been for this unfortunate accident he might have been with us to see his century out. He was always a homely inoffensive old man, proud as a pioneer to recount the past and the fact that he had been permitted to be on earth nearly a quarter of a century over man's allotted span.

He leaves behind him three sons, viz: James (Tumut), Benjamin (Mondongo) and George (Yarrangobilly); three daughters, viz Mrs. A Simpson and Mrs. Young (Sydney), Miss Phbe ; and a legion of grand and great grandchildren, to mourn the loss of a kind and affectionate father, grandfather and Great grandfather.

Two sons (Harry and William) and three daughters (Mrs. H W Hoad, Mrs. S French and Mrs. John Harmer) predeceased him.