Working on the land in Australia can provide many challenges. Farmers and pastoralists can enjoy a run of good years on their properties but they can can also experience severe misfortune in the form of floods and droughts.
Early in the days of the new convict colony of New South Wales some convicts had access to small parcels of land to farm to help support and feed members of the colony. Eight of my family convicts settled near Windsor in the Hawkesbury area where they all farmed land of varying sizes. Although Uriah Moses depended mainly on his bakery and general store for his livelihood, he also owned some land. The Hawkesbury River provided access to large stretches of fertile land but it was also subject to flooding. The 1867 flood, known as the Great Flood, occurred 150 years ago, however the threat of flooding in the area continues.
However, at the other extreme, droughts can dramatically affect the livelihood of property owners in most parts of Australia.
George Hutton purchased his property, The Troffs (near Parkes, New South Wales), largely with money provided by his father. The property was initially run by the Hutton Brothers as his brother, Arthur, also worked on the property from 1883 to 1898. The Troffs was a sheep station and was run successfully until there was a period of years with insufficient rain. Early in the 1890s there was some rain each year but not enough. Then from 1895 to 1902 there was what became known as The Federation Drought.
George tried to run the property with reduced stock however eventually he was forced to concede defeat and sell his land. However he continued to live in Parkes for many years where he worked as a rabbit inspector. Meanwhile his family left the area to live in Sydney.
George was not the only family member to have to contend with drought forcing them to sell their property. Arthur Lord owned a sheep station, Metavale, near Cunnamulla, in south west Queensland from 1924 to 1946. During this time he and his family survived a number of droughts before deciding to sell the property and move to a smaller property, near Toogoolawah, with more reliable rainfall. In contrast to the dryness of Metavale, I have photos of paddocks at this new property, in 1950, covered in flood water.
work, determination, knowledge of how to work the system (usually in
his favour), preparedness to try new endeavours plus the sense not to
give up when a scheme failed to succeed all contributed to Simeon's change in status from convict to merchant, manufacturer, landowner, entrepreneur and magistrate. However luck also played a part.
Simeon Lord started life living with his family on a small sheep farm on the Yorkshire moors near Todmorden. Yet references to Simeon Lord
can be found in most histories of the early years of the colony of New
South Wales as he was a (mainly) successful businessman and
property owner acquiring great wealth for himself and his family.
How did this happen? Simeon was 15 when his mother died while his father died the following year. Although he had relatives living in the Todmorden area, Simeon was at an age when he would be expected to earn his own keep so he appears to have travelled twenty miles to Blackburn, a town whose main industry was the textile industry.
Unfortunately we do not have information about Simeon's time in Blackburn except that when Simeon was 19 he was arrested for stealing a quantity of fabric, including calico, from Robert Peel & Associates near Blackburn, a firm best known for printing calico. This resulted in Simeon being tried at the Manchester Quarter Sessions in April 1790 and sentenced to seven years transportation. He travelled to Australia, with 220 other male convicts, aboard the Atlantic arriving in Sydney in August 1791.
So far luck did not really appear to be on Simeon's side. He was now 20 and lived on the other side of the world from his home and family in a convict colony that was only three years old.
However early in 1792 Simeon's luck did change. He was assigned to Lieutenant (later Captain) Thomas Rowley of the 102 Regiment because Simeon was a convict who was able to read and write while Lieutenant Rowley had difficulty with spelling and grammar. Simeon's new role was to assist Lieutenant Rowley with his paperwork. This allowed Simeon to gain an insight into how the colony functioned, particularly the trade arrangements operated by the military.
Once Simeon had his ticket of leave Rowley helped Simeon with his initial trading ventures including the provision of contacts needed for going into business. There were many opportunities in the new colony for those who were prepared to try something new. Gradually Simeon had enough money to purchase a warehouse and other buildings in what is now Macquarie Place, Sydney. Two years later he began building his three storey house near the Tank Stream.
Although not all of Simeon's business ventures were successful, he gradually accumulated substantial wealth and property, usually acquired by land grants. Simeon was one also of the emancipists supported by Governor Macquarie who appointed him as a magistrate. The former convict was now involved with another side of law and justice.
It was in 1814 that Simeon established his first mill and factory at Botany. He now worked in the textile industry. At Todmorden his family had a room where fabric was woven from wool grown on the nearby hills and also, at times, cotton purchased in Manchester. This was small scale textile industry but now Simeon was able to experiment with making textiles on a larger scale. You could say that he was lucky to have learned the basics of the industry at an early age. At the end of the eighteenth century small water powered woollen mills were being built in the Todmorden area and Simeon, no doubt, observed them. Simeon almost certainly worked in some aspect of the textile industry when he moved from Todmorden to Blackburn. He was now able to build on this knowledge and become a pioneer of the textile industry in New South Wales.
Who knows what path Simeon might have navigated if he had remained in England. We do know that both his early education plus his growing up in an area reliant on producing textiles helped establish and then cemented his position as a manufacturer, landowner and gentleman in New South Wales. You could definitely say that he was lucky to have had the opportunity to create a new life for himself in a new land.
Last Thursday (8 March) was International Women's Day and the prompt for the week was Strong Woman. Strong women abound in Australian pioneer history. I suspect that just to survive the convict system and setting up a new life in a strange land required moral and physical strength, determination and a sense of adventure. The person I have chosen for this post, however, is my great, great, great grandmother, Mary Hyde.
This is the only picture that we have of Mary and she was obviously a considerable age when she sat for the photographer.
Mary was sixteen when she was arrested for stealing clothes from her employer in November 1795. She had to wait until the Warwickshire Assizes were held on 21 March 1796 to learn that she was sentenced to seven years transportation in Australia. It was not until January 1798 that the ship, Britannia II, left Portsmouth for Sydney Cove, arriving on 18 July 1798. When 19 year old Mary arrived, the colony was ten years old. She had been in prison on land and sea for more than two and a half years.
Shortly after arriving in Sydney, Mary met a young ship's officer, John Black (also 19), who had travelled to the colony aboard the Indispensable in August. They began living together whenever he was in port. In 1799 John leased some land not far from Martin Place where they kept a few animals. Mary and John had two children, John born in May 1799 and Mary Ann born October 1801. Mary received an absolute pardon from Governor King in September 1801. John had also leased some land from Simeon Lord on which he set up a liquor store. John continued to go to sea from time to time so Mary was left looking after the two children and possibly keeping an eye on her husband's liquor project. Mary and John appear to have been managing reasonably well until, in May 1802, John's ship disappeared at sea. Mary was now alone with two small children to care for.
By 1805 Mary had formed a relationship with former convict, Simeon Lord, who was on his way to becoming a successful businessman and landowner. The following year their daughter, Sarah was born. By the time Mary and Simeon decided to marry on 27 October 1814 at St Phillip's Church, Sydney, they had five children. Edward was born the week before the wedding. They then had five more children, making a total of ten. Add to these children Mary's son and daughter, plus Joanna, an orphan who became Simeon's ward, and there were thirteen children to care for. Fortunately they lived in a large house and no doubt were assigned convicts or hired help to look after them.
Mary also supported Simeon in his business interests for when Simeon died in 1840 Mary continued to manage the factories and mill at Botany where she and her family now lived. Mary was still managing the business concerns, no doubt with assistance from family, in 1855. She was 76 when the government decided to reclaim some of the land, including the stream that supplied the mill with water. Mary considered the compensation offered unacceptable so she sued the government for adequate compensation. Many appeals later the Privy Council in England ordered that Mary should be suitably compensated for the loss of her land and business. Mary was now eighty.
On 1 December 1864 Mary died at the family home at Botany, however when the will was read there was a surprise. Although Mary had allocated property and assets to all her children, which was to be expected, Mary stipulated that the portion given to each of her daughters was to remain their property. It was not to become the property of the daughter's husband. Mary was ahead of her time in making this decision. Unfortunately such actions were not possible in the 1860s.
Convict, mother and businesswoman, Mary can be considered a strong woman, not only for the life that she lived and survived but also for her belief that women should be entitled to equal ownership of property and possessions with men.
Towards the end of her life Mary used a bell ear trumpet to improve her hearing. This item is now part of the collection at the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney). There are also other items at the museum relating to Mary and Simeon.
there's a will should ensure the smooth transition of possessions after
the death of a family member. However this was not always the case.
The Public Record Office of Victoria has digitised many Victorian wills and probate records in its collection and made them freely available online.
National Archives (UK) via their Discovery website is also beginning to digitise wills in their collection. In Victoria these can be accessed from the State Library of Victoria website. Some Australian wills can now be accessed on Find My Past. A Google search should assist in locating whether wills and probate documents from a particular area have been digitised and are available.
Wills and probate documents can be useful resources for family history research. Wills can provide valuable information relating to a family, sometimes supplying clues which may assist further research. However not all wills are straight forward.
The intentions in the will of William Forbes Hutton, who died in 1896, were clear. Most of his land and possessions were left to his wife though he did leave a portion of the land (clearly described in the will) to two of his sons. A codicil added that the buildings and vineyard on this parcel of land were also left to the two sons. His eldest son, George, was not mentioned in the will. This confirms the belief that George was previously provided with money to assist in the purchase of a property in New South Wales. The Statement of Assets and Liabilities indicates the value of land and other assets.
When William's wife, Eleanora MacKillop, died in 1900, her will stated that the remaining family property was to be sold with the proceeds distributed between designated family members. A codicil requested that an inheritance she was about to receive should also be divided between members of her family.
Not everyone made a will of course. When John Pendergast died in 1833 he had already distributed his land among family members.
One of the challenges encountered when reading nineteenth century wills is being able to read the writing and also understand the legal terminology. The wills of William and Eleanor Hutton are relatively easy to read however I have a copy of the will of Henry Brougham Hillcoat which is written in small closely spaced writing and is almost impossible to read - a future project.
Although probaby written with the best intentions, wills could sometimes make life difficult for those left behind. John Pendergast's son, William Pendergast,
died in 1850 and left a fourteen page will detailing his plans for his
estate. Some of the land was to be kept in trust for his children until
they turned 21. The remaining land was to be sold and the money
distributed to the children once the youngest had attained 21 years. His
youngest son was one when William died. It is probable that William did
not anticipate his death arriving so close to writing his will.
Separate arrangements had previously been made for his eldest daughter.
Provisions in a will could also be challenged by family members. When the wealthy merchant and land owner, Thomas William Birch, died in Hobart in December 1821 there were complications with his will and the final sale of some of his land was delayed until 1839. The validity of the will had been questioned and the matter was taken to court to establish when and how the properties could be sold.
Provisions within a will may not have been acceptable to the general population at the time the will was written. When Simeon Lord died in 1840 his will ensured that his large family was well provided for and his wife, Mary Hyde, continued to operate much of the family business until her death in 1864. In her will Mary divided the family assets among all children, but she stipulated that property inherited by her daughters was to remain in their name and was not become the property of their husbands. Today there would be no problem with such a request however, at the time, there was no way to legally enforce this wish.
A will was therefore normally used to distribute a person's property or possessions equitably among family members after death, unless prior arrangements to individuals had previously been made. Usually the process worked smoothly unless, as we have seen, the will was contested.
A friend from primary school days has sent me a photo that she took recently of wallpaper on the wall of the public toilets at Campari House in Hardware Lane, Melbourne. The wallpaper in the photo was a page from The Argus newspaper 24 November 1956 page 3 in the Olympic Games liftout. One assumes that the newspaper has been coated or it would have disappeared long ago. The article is about the mens' 100 metres where the first three place-getters were expected to be American athletes.
Why was this image sent to me? The journalist who wrote the article was Ken Moses - my father.
NB: Checking Trove, another article by my father, published in The Argus on 26 November 1956, reported that although American sprinters came first and second in the race, Australian runner Hec Hogan won the bronze medal.