Reedy Flat of Eighty Years Ago

As told by Gavan Mouat and Ted Corbett  to Ted Robson

24 October 1950 The Tumut and Adelong Times 

One day in Tumut I was asked the question: 'Who grew the first apples in Batlow?'

On my confession of ignorance I was told it was Thomas Callaway. It was then that I remembered an old orchard I had seen 50 years ago, said to have been owned by a Thomas Callaway.

I made further inquiries into the history of Reedy Flat and Adelong. the result of which follows: —

Reedy Flat got its name from a flat that was over-run with reeds up to eight feet high, and the same state occurred in the creek which bears the name of Reedy Creek today.

 Thomas Callaway with his wife, Catherine, and family came out to Australia in the ship 'Hero' in the late '50's or early '60's of the last century.

Thomas was a native of Oxfordshire, where his father had a farm, and he was well trained in all that pertained to farm work. 

In England at this time conditions were very bad.

Disraeli had said in 1849, 'In industry, commerce and agriculture there is no hope'.

The Duke of Wellington said shortly before he died in 1851, 'I thank God I will be spared from seeing the consummation of ruin that is gathering around.' 

Such was the gloom and despondency abroad in England at the time, while on the other hand gold had been discovered in parts of the new land, Australia.

No wonder then that the Callaway family, together with hundreds of others, came to the new country, when the old offered them no hope. 

The Adelong Goldfield was pro- claimed in 1853, and Thomas Callaway and his family procured 40 acres of land in the vicinity of Upper Adelong, probably the first land to be selected thereabouts.

He planted an orchard of fruit trees and cherries, and he grew the beautiful and stately elms, oaks, laurel, chestnuts and filberts.

Each year he would pack a couple of cases of the apples he grew and take them over to the school children at Reedy Flat.

Gavan Mouat and Ted Corbett avow that even after eighty years their mouths still water at the thought of those apples. 

Besides the orchard, Thomas had a very extensive vegetable garden, and his vegetables found a ready sale amongst the diggers of Adelong and Reedy Fiat.

It was he who grew the first hops in the district from which many a cask of beer was brewed by the miners.

Even years after, when the Flat, became known as Batlow, one could still see the hop poles about twelve feet high with the vines entwined about them.

Other side lines were honey mead, cider and wines made from the various berries, and for these there was always a ready sale.

Thomas Callaway lived to the ripe old age of 84, and his wife Catherine was 87 when she died. They were both buried in the old orchard, and here also was buried William Carliam Carter, (father of William Carter, later of Gilmore).

There was no cemetery at that time and when a death occurred the usual practice was to bury close to another grave, hence the fact there were several others also laid at rest in the old orchard.

Thomas and Catherine had four sons, John, William, Edward and Isaac, and three daughters Emily Hero (Mrs. Beaver), Pauline (Mrs. W. Carter), and Henrietta (Mrs. H. Hayward). 

John settled at Reedy Creek, William and Edward settled down in the Hay district, and Isaac was, a well known identity around Batlow where he partnered August Eichorn in the snake bite antidote, and lived to a great old age respected by all who knew him.   

Upper Adelong was at this time as big a town as Adelong. Abraham Watson had a store, hotel and butcher's shop at Middle Adelong, where the main Adelong Creek now junctions with the Upper Adelong.

As there were too many “Adelongs” the names were altered from Adelong Crossing to Tumblong, and from Main Adelong to Wondalga.

A great deal of digging was carried out in the two creeks and several reefs were opened up.

Although the prospects were good the heavy inflow of water eventually beat the reefers, and it was a few miles further on to-wards Upper Adelong that became the main business centre.

Watson also had there a store, hotel, butcher's and baker's shop and as a side line he operated a sawmill driven   by a water wheel.

He offered a fifty per cent rise in wages to R. R. Timmis, a lad who was earning 5/- per week. Timmis then did the packing of meats and goods to be despatched to the diggers' camps, when he had saved £50 he started a small store of his own at Reedy Flat. As the result of his keen buying and good business acumen he was able to retire a very wealthy man.

The Chinese had two stores, a joss house, cook house and shoemaker business.

Of a Sunday they would congregate at Upper Adelong for their shopping, and indulge in gambling and the smoking of opium. 

Ah Chee had a store and a sluicing claim there and later he shifted over to the Flat where he married an English woman. Sometime after he established a big store in Tumut.

One morning the manager of Watson's store discovered that, despite the presence of their savage watchdog, there had been a robbery over-night in the store, and rice among, other things had been stolen.

Apparently there had been a small hole in the bag made off with and a thin trail of rice led the would-be detectives to a Chinese hut, where they caught the two occupants and found the tell-tale rice.

They took the culprits down to Watson's where a “Judge”, one of the diggers, was appointed to try the case.

Evidence of the robbery and its discovery as furnished. The Judge after summing up the evidence gave his verdict, "That each would have to cut the other's pigtails off."

There was  much squealing and jabbing before the awful sentence was carried out, but it proved most effective and   there were no more robberies. The cutting off of a pigtail, at that time precluded a Chinaman from being allowed to re-enter China.

Upper Adelong had a large colony of white diggers as well as hundreds of Chinese who were working ground for the second and third time.

Everything was carried in and out of the town by pack horses, as it was almost impossible to carry goods in any other way.

The roads were mere bridle tracks, and occasionally a bullock dray would struggle through with a good lump of green sapling to brake it coming down a steep hill. 

All horses had to wear cog shoes and many of the diggers had their heel plates turned up a little to prevent slipping. 

About once or twice a year, a parson used to find his way from Tumut or Yass and hold services, and celebrate marriages and christenings. 

Sometimes there would be a double event - a couple getting married and their offspring being christened at the same time - and then there would be a prayer said over the grave of someone departed since the last visit of the minister.

One old timer told me that a way for a couple marrying, was for the bride groom and bride to stand, one on each side of running water, linking hands.

They would each drop a stone into the water and promise to be true to each other so long as the stones would not float to the surface.

The next parson who passed that way (of any sect) would be asked to perform the orthodox ceremony.

It is estimated that, independent of what the Chinese got, there must have been a very large amount of gold won at Upper Adelong.

The names of the various sections denoted the inhabitants, such as Yankeeland, Germantown, Irish Point and Chinkey Town.

Amongst the many diggers were Jackson Kimball, Ned Corbett (father of Ted), Alf Duffy, Johnny and Peter Sullivan, Harpy Fallon, Bob, Dick and Jack Currie, Dick McKay (father, of Bob, Stan and Dick), James Simmers, Big Geo. Westphall, Jack Grubb, Carl Pfnieg, Paddy Welsh and Beardy Jim.

And now to come back to Reedy Flat.

John Callaway, the eldest son of Thomas, built an hotel, store and butcher's shop up at the Mayday. 

W. Beaver was manager of the store, and W. Carter had charge of the butcher's shop.

Reedy Flat was divided into two sections.

The flat was where the present town of Batlow now stands, and the Mayday was about half a mile up the creek close to where the present Mayday orchard is. 

Each section had its hotel, and stores etc., and each had its own ballroom and billiard rooms. These buildings were mostly of stringy bark slabs, and the flooring cut with pit saws, bark or shingles covered the roof.

Whenever a dance or ball was held, Sam, the fiddler, was engaged to play, and he was usually accompanied by his wife, who was known as Brandy Mary. The flat on the Tumut River now bears their name as this was where the couple lived.

John Callaway married Sarah Green, of Tumut, and they had four sons, John (Jnr.), William George and Charlie. John and William are now both dead.

George lives in Sydney, and Charlie is well and favourably known from here to Bega, and up along the Barrier Reef in the winter months. 

Of the four daughters only Annie (Mrs. H. Butler), and Miss Emily survive. Mrs. Harry Butter is, at 88, the oldest native of Reedy Flat, while Gavan Mouatt at 86. is the oldest resident native of the town.   

Charles was the father of Charlie and Walter, one time of Gundagai. 

The Reedy Flat diggings were very rich and carried a large population. 

The syndicate which owned the Reedy Creek claim consisted of J. Callaway, W. Carter, W. Beaver and Gavan Mouat (father of our old friend Gavan).

They also had another claim known as The Mudholes, which was situated about where A. E. Herring now has his orchard. 

The Reedy Creek claim reached from where the swimming pool is to the Mayday, and this claim was owned by Tim Foley, and Con Ducey

The claim owned by Sutton and Workman, where the road crosses to the recreation ground and below the packing sheds towards the little Gilmore, was reputed to be the richest on the field.

There were other claims worked by George Sturgess, Steve Williamson, Johnny Campbell. Johnny Adams, Martin Corbett, Mick Scanlan, Paddy Hynes, Paddy Glynn, Maurice O'Connell, Bob Hobson, Bill Wallace, Harry Webber and a host of others all over the country.

There was a big police camp about where Fred Purcell's home is.   

The Police would patrol from Wilson's Creek, up the Adelong, over to Reedy Flat, and then back to the camp.

Tom Holland was the first school- teacher; and he taught in a slab hut   with a bark roof. He was a well educated man, and in after years his pupils gave evidence of the good training they had received. Pat Hourigan, father of the late J. D. was another well-educated man, and these two men between them, together with a few helpers, did most of the clerical work, assisting their less-gifted workmates. 

Bradstreet was the first official teacher to be appointed, and he arrived in a light trap - the first of its kind in Reedy Flat. It caused a good deal of attention, and was looked upon by the Flatites as a sign of progress.

The Stockwell Brothers had a team of bullocks and a dray and besides carting they used to strip bark and split slabs for the diggers' huts for which there was a constant demand.   

Butter and eggs from - Tumut, Yellowin, Gilmore and Adelong, found a ready market.

There were also several Chinese gardens, and it was always a source of wonder how the Chinese could carry such heavy loads in baskets slung, on a bamboo over their shoulders.

In those days there was no doctor nearer than Tumut, and if medical attention was required, he had to be fetched on horse-back, and then taken back again.

There is a story told of a woman who was bitten on a finger, and the case being urgent her husband chopped the finger off with an axe. The patient soon recovered from the shock and lived to a good old age.

David Emery, who followed butchering, was a keen observer of anatomy, and could set a broken bone in a human as well as any doctor, and better than many of them.   

Another old-timer set her mind on having a special kind of a clock, and you know what a woman is like when she wants anything.

Not being able to get one locally, she walked to Tumut and then to Adelong where she finally got what she wanted, and arrived back at the Flat about 2 a.m. the next morning.

That is an example of what the pioneers could and often did. John Callaway (Snr.) had, in the meantime, sold his hotel and bought two selections for his two sons, John and William. Wm. Carter took up a selection between the Callaway blocks, and lived to be 88 and his wife, when she died some years later was 94.

W. Beaver took his family to Tarcutta where he followed other pursuits.

The Reedy Flat Hotel, kept by Charles Frazer, was where Sheather's Garage stands to-day.

Frazer sold out to Jim Dunston (the Britisher), who remained there some years, and then sold out to Mrs. Dacey.

Later Peter Bourke married Mrs. Dacey, and managed the hotel until it was burnt down some years after. 

During this period Sutton and Workman had sold their claim and had taken up land on the Gilmore. 

To-day a second and third generation of the Sutton family are still living on the farm.

William Sutton (Snr.) also bought property in Tumut, and it was he who built the Royal Hotel, and set Charles Frazer up in it. 

Walter Workman took up the selection known as the Elms. Dick McKay and James Simmers came to Tumut when their claim worked out. McKay went into the Bakery building (now owned by Frank Tweedie), where he carried on business, and with Dave Emery used to manufacture tobacco.

James Simmers went into the flour milling, first at the Tumut Racecourse and later at Gil- more. As their claims were being worked out some of the diggers came to the lower country, and took up farming. 

Steve Williamson and Johnny Campbell bought a farm from Mick Downing later selling it to James and Pat Naughton.

George Sturgess who was digging in the Little Gilmore. afterwards taking up a farm known as 'Woodlands', now owned by A. J. and A. W. Davis.

Dave Emery who followed the butchering business took up the farm now held by Moran Beattie. Johnny Adam's selection is now owned by Jack and Billy Murray.

John Hides, of Pilot Hill, first started cutting timber on a sawpit and gradually increased his power to a big turnover, sending mountain ash timber all over the State.