Footprints of History Lake George and Tumut

The Farmer and Settler

10 November 1922

Recently an appeal was made to readers of the "Farmer and Settler" that were in a position to tell the stories of the pioneers of the early days, to take part in this most worthy effort to perpetuate the memory of those to whom Australia owes so much.

It is not always realised that here in Australia we are only at the beginning of things, and that the toils and struggles of to-day in helping to make Australia great and prosperous will in time to come be deserving of record. Now, however, it is our concern to gather up the stories of those that served their day and generation in times past.

Uncle Wiseman gladly welcomes a story of valiant effort that comes from a good friend of the paper - Mr. W. E. Wilkinson, of The Retreat, Ewinger, via Tabulam. The story of our correspondent's family in Australia dates back for nearly one hundred years, his father having been born in 1824.

Mr. Wilkinson writes:-  

In response, to your request to furnish particulars of the experiences of some of the old pioneers, I am proud to think that I am a son of one that displayed self reliance and indomitable courage at an early age, in spite of, innumerable disadvantages that few of the present day are called upon to meet.

My father started out to the Interior with the object in view of making a home and he (to use a colloquial phrase), "stuck to it" through good and bad times, with, the result   that many years before his death was able to take it easy, and his sons for fifty years past have managed the place that he settled upon.   Well, if this disjointed biographical sketch is likely to be of any interest to your readers, I will vouch for the facts, as I am supplementing my own information with press notices that were printed shortly after my father's death, which occurred when he was well on to eighty years of age.  

You say that the younger generation might supply interesting Australian history. Well, I suppose that as my experience only carries me back sixty five years, I belong to the generation that should record the events of their parents, although sometimes I tell the young people they have no idea what work means nowadays with improved machinery, short hours and all the other facilities that they enjoy (or should).

The Primitive Ways.

Many days have been spent in the field with a sickle from early morning till dark, or mowing with the scythe all day, threshing with a "flail" or ringing three or four horses at a time on a circle to trample the grain out of the sheaves and turning with a wooden pitchfork or a heavy two pronged English fork that was quite, heavy enough for a boy to handle without a sheaf at the end of it.

Then there was the work of cleaning the grain, shaking in sieves and turning a big windlass or fan with bags attached to it to create a wind sufficiently strong to separate the chaff from the wheat, while another was engaged with a dish   pouring the grain and chaff out of it in front of the fan. Then there was the slow and toilsome ploughing, with bullocks.

No Pioneer Strikes.

I think we grumbled all the same; yet we had no strikes, and I often think that there was more happiness   and real enjoyment in life in the good old days when we all used to ride to the races and knew that the best horse was going to win. There I go, relating my own experiences instead of my father's.

My grandfather was born in England, In County Durham, the son of a Church of England parson, and left home when quite a young man for Australia. He married out here and started farming at Liverpool, near Sydney, and begat two sons and a daughter. His wife was drowned in the George's River   through the capsizing of a log canoe that she was taking across.

My father was then only seven years of age and I might state that his name was Thomas Wilkinson, and he was born 20th January, 1824, at Liverpool. In 1837 his father and family (the two sons and one daughter) removed to Gundaroo, and, lived on a farm twelve miles from Lake George, but the young folk remained only, nine mouths there. Their father re marrying, they decided to work out their own destiny. 

In 1838 my father (then fourteen yours old) rode to Tumut, his sister being in a spring cart with Mrs, Boyd, whose husband was driving a bullock team, taking supplies to his station on the western side of Gilmore County, near Tumut. Soon after their arrival there my father's older brother (John) joined him and they applied for a station on the opposite side of the creek to Boyd's, and held it until 1840, when a dispute arose with the adjoining holder - the boundaries were not well defined in those days.

The commissioner, who was then invested with great power, decided that they must move on, so they went seventeen miles up the Tumut River from where the present town is, and put in an application for 'Yallowin Run.' This was accepted, and they took possession in 1840.

The Trip to Tumut.

I shall now go buck and give my father's account of their trip to Tumut, 320 miles from Sydney. Liverpool contained only two or three business places when he left there. Dr. Hill was in charge of the hospital, which, I believe, is the present benevolent Asylum.

My father did not recollect seeing any houses in Goulburn on his way through to Gundaroo, but on the Mulwary River there was a police station, hotel and store, On a hill on the side of Goulburn there were skeletons of two men hanging on a gallows, and he learned that they had been gibbeted for murdering a man named Roach, an overseer for Broughton, who lived on a Government grant near the present town. It was all convict labor in those days.   The First Governor who visited Goulburn (Bourke) had the skeletons removed. Men were hanged at that time for stealing sheep or cattle.

During 1837 or '38 Lake George was almost dry, excepting for small swamps, where the water was only a few inches deep. Terrence Murray claimed one end of Lake George, whore he, had a large dairy, milking 300 cows, and sending the butter to Sydney. There were numerous wild cattle on the scrubby ridges in the district.

McLeod was the only sheep-owner he knew of about there. On their way through to Tumut, aboriginals were very numerous, but gave no trouble.

The party struck the Tumut River at Darbalara, where Trecilia had a cattle station. Wagra was hold by Osborne; Brungle by Katherine - all cattle country. The travellers crossed the Tumut River above the Tumut race course - the crossing known as Mundong. There was no town then, the first store was opened a few months after they got there by a man called Carns.

Where the police station and court house now stand   there was a large cattle camp. So you can imagine these two boys with their sister, with very little capital, having the pluck to venture far from civilisation to carve a home for themselves. 

In my next (if it is worthwhile), I will relate how they succeeded.