Wednesday, June 25, 2014

David and Ellen Leed

When he was in his twenties David Leed was an engineer on the riverboats that plied the Murray River, but that's a story for another day. This blogpost is an account of his first marriage.

Today we visited Kapunda in South Australia and made a point of visiting the Church of England because David,  Phil's great-grandfather, married there in 1884. In the 1800s it was a town that developed when copper was mined in the area. It was also the home of the pastoralist Sidney Kidman. A lot of beautiful buildings from that era survive and the museum is well worth a visit.


In 1884 Ellen Beaumont was 20 years old and living in Kapunda where her father William was a butcher. She married David Leed in the Church of England at Kapunda on the second day of the new year. David was 27 years old. They set up home at Morgan, an important river port on the Murray River. Morgan is about 50 km from Kapunda.

David would have spent many weeks at a time away from home as he worked as crew on various riverboats carrying goods upstream as far as Echuca in Victoria and up the Darling as far as Bourke. David and Ellen's first child was born at Morgan in September 1884, a girl they named Clara Florence, but sadly she died of dysentery three months later. A son, William George, was born at Morgan in March 1886 and some time in the next year the family moved to Eaglehawk in Victoria where David's family was living. (David's mother died in June 1886 so that may have prompted the move.) David and Ellen's second son was born at Eaglehawk in December 1887.


The following year, on 31 May 1888, Ellen died of typhoid. The two little boys were cared for by David's sister Grace until David married again three years later.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sepia Saturday: A wedding at Balmattum


In 1890 William Robert Phelan was appointed headteacher at Balmattum, a rural area north of Euroa in north-east Victoria. He was 29 years old, the son of an Irish Catholic family in Coburg, a northern suburb of Melbourne. He's my husband's great-grandfather.

Seven years later, in 1897, he married a local girl. Maggie was the daughter of Daniel and Christina McKernan, prominent residents of the area. Daniel was also Irish-born but Protestant, as was his Scottish wife. Maggie was 24 and William was 36. They were married at Maggie's home, the 'Royal Hotel' . The Royal was a combined hotel, post office, general store and residence for about forty-five years. It is now a private residence called 'Hawthorn House' and is owned by a descendant of Daniel and Christina McKernan.

Mixed marriages (as in Catholic-Protestant) were unusual at the time so I'm not sure how it came about and I wonder of what their parents and the community thought of it. William was never a practising Catholic so that may have helped.

William Phelan and Maggie McKernan wedding, Balmattum, Victoria 1897
The wedding party includes four bridesmaids and two groomsmen, all of whom are siblings or cousins of the bride and groom. It also includes the parents of both Daniel and Maggie. And this is why I treasure this photo - it's the only photo I have of Jane and Daniel Phelan. And it's the only photo I have of William's brother, Jack Phelan (top left in the above photo), who died 12 years later at the age of 37.

Jane and Daniel Phelan
Christina McKernan (nee Gordon)
Daniel McKernan






















The wedding was reported in great detail. including a list of all the presents. Apparently the wedding was a 'scene of great excitement', there were about 100 guests and the room was beautifully decorated.

Euroa Advertiser, 15 Jan 1897
You can see more delightful wedding photos over at Sepia Saturday.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Rachel operates the rail gates



Today's theme photo is of a train, and I don't have any old photos of trains in my collection.

'Coach scene with train' a watercolour by A Esam c1880-1900 [State Library of Victoria]
But I do have an ancestor who worked on a train line, or rather, a railway crossing. She operated the gates, closing them when a train was due and opening them to allow the road and foot traffic through. The Rock (formerly called Hanging Rock and Kingston) was a small rural town south of Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. The Main Southern railway line was constructed in 1880 and the railway station precinct at The Rock today has a heritage listing.

Emily Rachel Young nee Chaundy
My grandmother's grandmother, Rachel Young, after a long and interesting life including moving to Australia from the city of Oxford when she was seven, was living with her daughter at The Rock in New South Wales. Early in the 1900s, in her senior years, Rachel was employed to operate the gates on the railway line.

I'm not quite sure what this entailed, or how busy the line was. It was and is a passenger line as well as a goods line. Some gate operators had to use semaphore to signal to the train drivers, some worked a wheel in a small building next to the crossing to open the gates, some opened the gates manually. Recently I saw a set of old disused crossing gates at Macedon in central Victoria. Were those at The Rock like these? Did she stay on site all day in some sort of hut (with a fire in winter hopefully), or did she just go down to the crossing when a train was due? Were the gates usually shut to road traffic and only opened when there was traffic? (Was there a bell to ring when you needed to cross the tracks?) Or were the gates usually open to road traffic and only shut when a train was due?

Old crossing gates, Macedon, Victoria 2014
Until recently there were manually operated gates at New St, Brighton (a suburb of Melbourne). They've now been replaced by automatic gates - a train crashed through the gates and the government got a bit edgy about the crossing - but I think the locals quite liked their quirky gates.

New St, Brighton
Port Elliott, South Australia c1910 [State Library of South Australia]
I suggest you check out more railway tales over at Sepia Saturday.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

George Smith visits Glentromie and the Spanish Mission

Part seven. Great-grandfather George Smith's diary continues. He leaves Perth to spend several days at Glentromie Station. He seems to have been impressed by the farming country and considered going farming there himself.

5 July 1889 Left for Glentromie. Travelled until quarter to two next morning at Bindoun [Bindoon].
6/7 Left at 8.00 for Glentromie arriving at two in the afternoon. Strolled around the homestead.
7/7 Strolled around. Went riding and turkey shooting and in the afternoon went to the Spanish Mission [New Norcia]. A very interesting place. Our party was showed all over it by the Bishop. There was on the mission 50 monks and 300 natives.
9/7 Morning went to see the station men plowing the ground was very wet but the crop that was in looked well. I and Mr Alpine left for Gilford [Guildford] 11 a.m. came to ... and put up for the night. A pleasant ride of twenty-eight mile.
10/7 Left Wellese [?] at seven a.m. on a fifty mile journey. Passed through some very nice country. Saw some good land which was sold in 1887 for 15/- an acre. Arrived in Gilford 6 p.m. put up for the night at Jutes Hotel. Went to a concert in the evening.
11/7 Started for Perth on the 8.30. Visited Henry Wright, also the government printing office, got the land regulations.


Towns mentioned by George in his diary.
Glentromie is about 120 km from Guildford. Bindoon is about 70 km. George doesn't say in his diary how he travelled. Was it by coach? Was there a train line? For the journey back to Perth he talks about 'a pleasant ride' so he may have had access to a horse.

Why did George go to Glentromie? Maybe he wanted to check out the possibilities of farming there, maybe he'd been talking to someone, maybe he just wanted to see the Spanish Mission. As described in the article below, Glentromie was a very large, innovative and efficient property and the owners welcomed visitors.


The Daily News 18 April 1887
In fact, McPherson died that year, 1887, and the property was found to be heavily mortgaged and had to be sold. Walter Padbury bought it and the new manager was Charles Davidson from Victoria who was married to the new owner's niece, Amelia, so they may have been in residence when George visited. According to this site the homestead still exists. The homestead complex was placed on the state's heritage register in 2013.

'Glentromie' entrance off the Great Northern Highway [Google Maps]
The Spanish Mission at New Norcia is also mentioned in the article. It still operates today and is a very popular tourist spot. It was established in 1847 as a Benedictine Mission and many of the old buildings remain. Many of the monks were Spanish and Bishop Rosendo Salvado's  "original vision was to create, among the indigenous peoples of the Victoria Plains, a Christian, largely self-sufficient village based on agriculture. However, after the decimation of the local populations by introduced diseases in the 1860’s, he concentrated his activity on giving a practical education to the indigenous children who were brought to New Norcia from all over the state. Like other missionaries of the nineteenth century, his aim was to ‘civilise and evangelise’ according to the European ideals of the time, but he did so with sympathy for indigenous culture that was rare in his day." The quote is from New Norcia's website.

George says in his diary that he was shown over the mission by the Bishop so I presume that would be Bishop Salvado. 
Bishop Salvado
One of the many buildings on the New Norcia site.
There is an image of the mission in 1885 at the ANU - I can't reproduce it here but you can go and view it.

To be continued. George goes back down the line to work along the Great Southern Railway.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Neil the fuel agent


Open theme for Sepia Saturday this week had me more indecisive than usual. I think I prefer a theme photo. The family albums hold quite a few intriguing photos so I've selected one from my father-in-law's album that I scanned just a few weeks ago.

Neil understands fuel. When he was growing up in Mitiamo his father had a country store that included fuel pumps and supplied oils and fuel to the local farming community. After his war service, in the 1950s, Neil took over the management of the Vacuum Oil fuel depot in Kerang (and later the Amoco depot). He stayed in the business until he retired.

In the fifties the fuel was delivered from Melbourne to Kerang by train, the steam train shunting the tanker-laden carriages back onto a siding at the depot. The fuel then had to be decanted into tanks at the depot. The fuel and oils were then further decanted into 44-gallon drums so they could be loaded onto a truck for delivery around Kerang and the farms. In later years the fuel was delivered to Kerang by road tanker. This is one of the three trucks Neil and Tom had. It was used to deliver heating fuel. (It still exists - we have it in one of our sheds. It's never been restored but Phil gives the motor a run every now and again.)

N K Phelan and T Henderson, Kerang. The 1948 Morris Commercial
 truck that was used to deliver Amoco heating oil around the town.
It was all a lot of physical work and at each stage the fuel had to be dipped to measure quantities, drums had to be cleaned and painted and labelled, paperwork had to be filled in, accounts prepared, cheques banked. Neil is a very meticulous person by nature so everything was done properly. Neil and his partner delivered fuel out to the cereal farmers - on roads that were unsealed so it was often a slow, bumpy, muddy, slippery, hot or dusty process. They also delivered heating oil to homes in Kerang, they delivered fuel oil to the local power station (in the 1950s before the power came through), they sold fuel at the depot and they refuelled light planes and helicopters at the Kerang Airport.

We don't appear to have any photos of the depots and I checked online to see if there are any other photos of small-town fuel depots, and failed, so this photo probably has historical merit. Neil is the tall bloke in the centre and  he is preparing to load avgas into the helicopter. He had a storage shed at the airport where he kept the hose reel and trolley, several drums of avgas, signs and other equipment. The trolley had four wheels, the front ones on a swivel and the back ones fixed, and had a hand pump attached. The handle that you can see on the ground was used to pull the trolley.

Neil Phelan refuelling a helicopter at Kerang Airport c1960
We have this metal sign (below) from those days - we mounted it on the wood. It was on the wall of the shed at the airport to remind Neil and others of the correct safety procedures when they were fuelling the aircraft. They probably didn't need to read it as they knew the procedures backwards, but... 

...I notice that the sign doesn't mention other OHS (Occupation Heath and Safety) issues such as refuelling when there is a whole class of children clustered around! There are children in the helicopter (who knows what switches they're touching), the trolley handle is in a dangerous position and they are in an extremely volatile work environment.
Aircraft Fuelling Drill. Vacuum Oil metal sign
In the 1960s Neil had the contract to refuel the SEC (State Electricity Commission) helicopters. They were used to check the powerlines. Neil's daughter, Kay, remembers occasionally riding in the helicopter from the airport to the local motel where the pilot and the SEC employee were staying the night - and the helicopter being landed in the grounds of the motel!! It wouldn't happen today. We don't know whether the helicopter in the photo is one used by the SEC.

Now it is all much easier. The roads are in much better condition and the big fuel tankers deliver directly to the farm storage tanks. But Neil is 90 years old and in good health so the physical work doesn't appear to have been damaging.

Click on any image to view larger. You can see other significant photos over at Sepia Saturday.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Trove Tuesday: George Smith attends court in Perth

Part six. The diary of George Smith continues. Great-grandfather George has left the work gang on the Great Southern Railway and travelled by train to Perth.

1 July 1889 On the train for Perth and very thankful to God for his Grace. Stopped at Pingelly Station road up from Broome Hill with witnesses on a murder case they all being drunk. At Pingelly worked one half day sinking trial holes for a dam.
2/7 Started for Beverley 8 A.M. arrived at 9 P.M.
3/7 Left Beverley for Perth 8 A.M. passed through York and Guildford arriving in Perth at 2 P.M. rode with farmers most of the way. nearly missed the train at Guildford. The country the Darling Ranges between York and Guildford very pretty. Perth also favorably  impressed me.
4/7 Called on Henry Wright. Attended the morning Perth Sessions. Afternoon went to Fremantle had a look around its jetty's and streets returning with the six o'clock to Perth.
5/7 Attended the Session. Jury returned a verdict of manslaughter.

Fremantle, 1898
I wondered why George would have gone to visit the Perth court sessions. He doesn't provide any names in his diary but a search through the newspapers on Trove gave me a few answers. It turns out that the drunk witnesses from Broom Hill George had met on his trip to Perth were involved in the case he went to see. It concerned an altercation (that ended in a death) among some members of a gang collecting sandlewood along the railway line near Albany. George had probably heard or read about the case before he met the witnesses and then decided to attend the court sessions.

Western Mail, 20 Apr 1889
Old Supreme Court, Perth (now the Burt Law Museum)
The Perth newspapers published the proceedings of the court case in great detail but I'm only posting the summary here. The sentence of 15 years for manslaughter seems a bit tough to me because the sandlewood cutters were all drunk at the time and gave conflicting witness accounts at the time. And, according to George, were still drunk three or four months later on their way to the trial!! I hope they had sobered up before they attended court. It would be interesting to know what happened to William Kelly after he got out of jail.

The Inquirer and Commercial News, 10 Jul 1889
The Argus, 8 July 1889
And for our George? He left Perth the next day to explore some other areas of Western Australia. 
To be continued.