Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

History Revisited - wool production a chilly business for homestead

Jim Belshaw continues the story of Terrible Vale, the Taylors and the early days of the New England pastoral industry
Soon after bringing Margaretta Lucy Lind  and the children to Terrible Vale in 1844, William Tydd Taylor had built a new woolshed on the property about 100 yards from the newly constructed homestead. That plus the homestead and the nearby barn and men’s quarters made for a small settlement.

The woolshed was needed.

The depression that gripped NSW in the early 1840s made money hard to obtain and yet money was constantly required to develop the early New England runs and to bridge the financial gap between the annual sales of the wool clip.

With scarce capital, the NSW Legislative Council agreed changes that allowed loans to be advanced on the security of unshorn wool and mortgages over livestock. In February 1845, this allowed Taylor to borrow £1,200 pounds from Stuart Alexander Donaldson secured by mortgage over 9,696 sheep.

Donaldson and Taylor would later be in Parliament at the same time, with Donaldson becoming the first Premier of NSW.

With growing sheep numbers, Taylor faced the challenge of collecting the flock, washing them and then bringing them to the new shearing shed where the wool was clipped and baled.

Washing the sheep was important. Grazing, sheep collected grit and burrs that added to the weight of the wool and made it harder to process.  Washed wool attracted a premium, something that was important to cash strapped pastoralists.

But washing sheep was also hard, back-breaking work. Today we forget just how much physical labour was involved in making a living in our very recent past.

This applied as much to women as men. Maintaining a household, especially a large household, required constant work.

On Terrible Vale, washing the sheep was done in October prior to sheering. Sheep had to be collected from across the property and then penned in a specially constructed yard near the creek. There they were driven into the creek.

In the creek, a line of men standing in waste deep cold water would take the sheep and try to clean it before passing it on to the next man. At the end of the chain, the sheep were hauled out onto the bank and placed in a yard to dry.

Have you ever tried to lift a fully grown ewe? In Armidale parlance I’m a townie, but I have and they are bloody heavy. So imagine a scene in which protesting wet wool sheep (wet sheep are heavier because of the weight of the water) are swimming or being pushed along a line while men scrub them.

October can be cold, so following hours of this work the sheep are cold but the men are frozen. To help them continue, men were often given a ration of grog in the middle of the process.

Once the sheep were washed, they had to be shorn. The shearing gangs that would become a feature of New England life did not yet exist, so everybody helped.

Shearing completed, the wool was dispatched to London, first by Port Macquarie, later Morpeth. Now began the anxious wait. Would the wool get there? What price would it get?
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 22 June 2016. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

History Revisited - Terrible Vale grows into expansive lot

QUITE THE FLOCK: There were 7827 sheep on Terrible Vale in the 1840s among 60 cattle, six horses and 26 human residents. 
I don't have a picture of the house William Tydd Taylor built for  his family. This is a much later slab and daub homestead.  
The house that William Tydd Taylor built for Margaretta and the children on Terrible Vale was a timber slab and bark home with some stone foundations built near the creek for easier access to water which had to be carted in barrels from a spring near the creek. Much of the washing was done in the creek itself.

To this point, I have been referring to the run as Terrible Valley, its original name. However, by the time I am writing about, the shortened form of the name seems to have come into popular use.

With the house finished, the family took the long dray trip from Port Macquarie over the ranges onto Terrible Vale. We do not know what the weather was like, the road was absolutely dreadful in wet periods, but it was probably quite exciting for the children if Annabella Boswell’s descriptions of similar trips as a child are any guide.

For Margaretta Taylor, the trip must have been more difficult, for she was leaving the civilisation of Port Macquarie for a remote place with no female companionship.

By 1844, Port Macquarie’s brief golden age was in decline as the penal colony began to wind down, but there were still the stores, church and the regular steamer connections with Sydney. There was still the regular social life centred in part on Lake Innes involving the army officers, the administrators, the merchants and the increasing number of free settlers who had made the Hastings Valley their home.

Margaretta was no stranger to the rigours of settler life. She had experienced that at Oakville, where she was often alone apart from the servants while William was working away on Terrible Vale. Still, there was a considerable difference between a world in which you could purchase supplies after a journey measured in hours, where you could order something from Sydney and expect it to be delivered in a few weeks, to one where the most basic supplies could take many weeks to arrive.

Terrible Vale itself had developed into a small settlement. When Commissioner George James Macdonald, Armidale’s founder and first poet, visited the run early in 1844, it had 30 European residents. There were four cottages and huts 90 acres under cultivation, 33 cattle, one horse and 5,714 sheep.

When the Commissioner visited eighteen months later, the number of residents had declined to 26, the area under cultivation had dropped to 18 acres, but stock numbers had grown rapidly. There were now 6 horses, 60 cattle and 7,827 sheep.

The small number of horses in these records always comes as a surprise, but horses had been in quite short supply for much of early colonial history. . Horses reproduce relatively slowly, so that even with imports they could be difficult to obtain. People walked rather than rode, often for very long distances.

At the end of 1844, Margaretta Taylor’s isolation was eased by a new arrival, one that will introduce another familiar Armidale name, Marsh.

Eliza (Elizabeth) Merewether had attended the same school as Margaretta. In 1844, she married Mathew Henry Marsh, the owner of the adjoining Salisbury run, coming to live with her new husband on Salisbury.

Taylor and Marsh knew each other. Now with Eliza’s arrival, a deep family friendship was formed. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 15 June 2016. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

History Revisited - 1840s wool crash brings new challenges

KEEPING SHEEP: Jim Belshaw continues his story of the Taylor family, their world and the trials and tribulations of the early wool industry in New England 
As depression gripped NSW, the sprawling commercial and pastoral empire of Taylor's cousin Archibald Clunes Innes came under pressure. 

By 1843, he was in serious financial difficulties. He managed to borrow the enormous sum of £29,000 pounds secured by certain landholdings, his stores at Armidale and Port Macquarie, his household furniture, carriages and other personal effects. That stabilized the position for the present.

Photo: Archibald Clunes Innes as a young man. The commercial empire he founded and the life style at Lake Innes, his Port Macquarie headquarters, provide one of the themes in our story. 
Later in 1843, the large mercantile firm of Messrs Hughes and Hoskings, one of those who had lent money to Innes, failed. The firm owed £155,000 to the Bank of Australia and its failure pulled the Bank down, adding to the economic woes.

In 1844, the commercial, shipping and pastoral empire of Joseph Grose failed. 

We first met Grose when he commissioned the construction of the William the Fourth, the Billy, the first steamer built in NSW (1831) and a familiar sight on the Port Macquarie run. This was followed by the purchase of the Sophia Jane, another familiar ship to those living at Port Macquarie and in the southern New England.

The drought that gripped NSW in the late 1830s affected Grose, as did the decline in stock prices. His Hunter River trade came under pressure from the newly formed Hunter River Steam Navigation Company, while in 1839 his largest and fastest steamer, the newly purchased King William the Fourth, was wrecked. Then came the collapse of the Victoria Mills with a loss to Grose of £5,000. It was all too much.

In addition to the funds borrowed from Messrs Hughes and Hoskings, the £29,000 borrowed by Innes in 1843 included substantial contributions from the Macleay and Dumaresq families. Innes was married to Margaret Macleay, while William Dumaresq had married Margaret’s sister Christiana Susan.

Henry (1792-1838) and William John Dumaresq (1793-1868), were the sons of Colonel John Dumaresq. Both went to the Royal Military College, Great Marlow, and served during the Peninsular War and in Canada.
Photo: The Dumaresq River in Northern New England, Southern Queensland, Armidale's Dumaresq Creek and the previous Dumaresq Creek are just some of the features named after the Dumaresqs 
Between 1818 and 1825, Henry served in Mauritius where became military secretary to General (Sir) Ralph Darling, who married his sister Eliza. When Darling accepted office as governor of New South Wales, Henry became his private secretary. This brought Henry and William to NSW. 

The two brothers each built up considerable estates in the Hunter Valley, while also acquiring the large New England runs of Saumarez and Tilbuster, thus establishing the now familiar Dumaresq name in the Armidale district.

Both brothers established reputations as effective and indeed kindly managers who looked after their staff, convict and free. “The result of such a system is just what might be expected”; wrote John Dunmore Lang, “the men are sober, industrious and contented”

While the loans from the Macleay and Dumaresq families were helping stabilize Archibald Innes’s position, William Tydd Taylor Margaretta Lucy Lind were taking the next step in their own journey.

William had purchased Middleton’s interest in Terrible Valley in November 1843. With full ownership, he began construction of the first Taylor family home on Terrible Valley.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 8 June 2016. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

History Revisited - twist in Taylor's fate with wool price crash

EARLY 1840s. The long NSW pastoral boom ends in perfect economic storm. While William and Margaretta Taylor were able to consolidate their position at Terrible Valley, cousin Archibald Clunes Innes faced possible bankruptcy and the destruction of his business empire. 
The first fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788. Reflecting both the penal nature of the new colony and the difficulties of settlement, the initial growth of the non-Aboriginal population was relatively slow.

In 1798, ten years after the first fleet, the non-Aboriginal population had reached 4,588. By 1808, it had more than doubled to 10,263 including the new colony in Van Diemen’s Land. It more than doubled again over the next ten years, reaching 25,859 in 1818. Growth now accelerated.

By 1828, the population had increased to 58,159 and then to 151,808 in in 1838. By 1840, the year that William Tydd Taylor and Margaretta Lucy Lind arrived in Port Macquarie, the population was 190,408. The following year it grew to 220,908.

This long growth cycle has been supported by British Government spending on the penal system. Early fortunes were made by supplying the commissariat or, indeed, appropriating stock from the commissariat to build personal herds. Convicts supplied the labour required to develop estates.

This early growth was replaced by one based on pastoral expansion. High wool prices provided a value product that could support high transport costs. Settlement exploded as people sought new land. Demand for stock to meet the needs of an expanding frontier made sheep, cattle and horses valuable property.

The merchants and ship owners such as Joseph Grose prospered, supplying both the settler and growing urban population. Money was made from real estate as land values increased. Growing wealth was invested in mansions and the trappings of civilized life. It was a real boom.

In the early 1840s, the boom went into reverse. Wool prices collapsed. This added to a collapse in the value of stock associated with the end of rapid pastoral expansion that had supported stock prices as settlers bought stock to fund their new runs.

A practical man, William Taylor seems to have focused on consolidating his position as depression emerged. By the end of 1842, he owned Terrible Valley in partnership with Joseph Middleton as well as Oakville in the Hasting Valley, splitting his time between the two. 

Taylor had become a magistrate soon after his arrival in 1840. With Commissioner Macdonald, the nearest legal authority, some distance away in Armidale, Taylor was required to dispense justice.

He built the first woolshed on Terrible Valley, while the station store became a source of supplies for settlers further inland whose drays were delayed bringing supplies up from Maitland and the nearby river port of Morpeth on the Hunter.

In November 1843, he was able to make a major advance, buying Middleton’s share of Terrible Valley for £400. The price was a sign of the difficult times, for Taylor and Middleton had paid £3,500 for the run just three years before.

William and Margaretta now had a relatively secure base. That could not be said for his cousin, Archibald Innes, who was facing possible bankruptcy. Its resolution will introduce a new and very familiar name to our story, that of Dumaresq. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 1 June 2016. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The History Carnival 156

Welcome to the 156th edition of blogging's The History Carnival. I have has a significant computer crash, losing emails. If I miss anybody, please accept my apologies.

Drusilla Modjeska begins her book Stravinsky’s Lunch, a biography of Australian painters Stella Bowen and Grace Cossington Smith, with a story about Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It appears that Stravinsky required total order and quiet when working, and it was his wife’s business to deliver this.

I mention this as an introduction to the first post in June’s History Carnival, Cath Feeley’s rather nice short piece on Misplaced Habits, Where are the women? Rewriting the history of Marx’s Capital. Floored by a question in her mock viva discussing her thesis on the British publication and reception of Karl Marx’s Capital about the absence of women in the story, Cath later investigated and found out that there were indeed women involved with the production of the book. It might well not have come out without them. I leave it to you to read the story.

Frog In A Well’s Alan Baumler’s Visual Digital History looks at the rise of internet recording including the digital archive and the implications for our craft. I was especially interested in the photos because of their Chinese content, interesting because I am interested in China, although it’s outside my primary field.

I think that we all wrestle a little with this one, the rise of the internet. It is just so convenient, but it does influence selection. For those of us who want people to be able to follow up our sources or who want to find things again, the constant loss of links and the shifting patterns of ever changing search algorithms also makes life hard.

In another post linked to history method, Dr Lucy Noakes MASS OBSERVATION AND THE CENTENARY OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR looks at current UK perceptions of the of the First World War. In a way, this is not history at all, these are current views, but the post links to history at several different levels.

If you know what views are at point in time, then you can ask how those views evolved. Some of the most valuable modern historical sources are anthropological and sociological studies of culture, attitudes and social structures. Then the post provides a perspective on the history and work of the Mass Observation organisation. I must admit to not having heard of it. However, its research carried out for other purposes now provides a valuable historical source.    

Architecture is part of physical and visual history, something that stands in the landscape that we can see.  Influenced by the availability of local materials, its also reflects the ideas and character of particular periods. Adrian Yekkes' Picture Post 54 - Stanhill Flats, Melbourne provides a fairly spectacular example of the Australian Art Deco style.  

While I always had an interest, I became really interested in Canadian history on a visit  a few years ago when I bought some histories and started reading.  To an Australian, there are obvious connections because of the two countries shared history and connection. However, excluding the Aboriginal people, Canadian history is both longer and more complex.

I was reminded of this by Anya Zilberstein's piece, Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia: The politics of climate and race. Canada's Caribbean connection continues to this day.  

On Friday 20 May,the remote Atlantic British Island of St Helena celebrated both  her new airport and her 514th discovery anniversary.

St Helena's long history includes her role as a British East India company base, although is the Island is best known now as Napoleon's place of exile. In a post, Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène: La conquête de la mémoire (6 April to 24 July 2016), on  Reflections on A Journey to St Helena, John Tyrrell reports on a joint exhibition by St Helena and the French Government on Napoleon's exile there.

John Hawks Weblog remains a good source on paleoanthropology, genetics and evolution. His Neandertal stone circles at Bruniquel Cave discuses the problems involved in using archaeological evidence to evaluate the past, especially the distant past.

Helen Webberley, a former host of the Carnival, has a nice eye for a good story, Her Robert Capa - Hungarian-American-world citizen photojournalist is a case in point. Perhaps he should have married Ingrid Bergman after all. She was clearly very keen and it might have kept him at home and alive! But then, perhaps not. He was a wanderer.

Mike Dash's Sorcerers and soulstealers: hair-cutting panics in old China traces the story of an outbreak of superstition in late Imperial China, setting it against the backdrop of Imperial power and structures. It's an interesting read.

At Musings, George Campbell Gosling wonders Am I a Contemporary Historian? I note that he is referring to his subject area, the history of medicine and charity in modern Britain, rather than his position in our craft. What is the dividing line between modern and contemporary history and does it matter anyway!

A remark by Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast VC Patrick Johnston - Society doesn't need a 21-year-old who is a sixth century historian. - really got up the nose of Charles West. His Sorry, Vice-Chancellor. We need more historians of the sixth century was quite a stinging response. You will see where my sympathies lie!

That's all folks. The next edition of  the History Carnival will be at the many headed monster on 1 July. Usual nomination form.

History Revisited - establishing the Terrible Valley base

To earn extra money, William Taylor acted as a carrier between the Tablelands and Port Macquarie
September 1841. While Margaretta and the children stayed at Thrumster, William Taylor worked to develop Terrible Valley. Two drays were included in the equipment Taylor and Middleton had acquired when they bought the run. Now William Taylor became a carrier between Port Macquarie and the Southern New England.

The move made sense. Taylor needed to bring supplies in and send wool out. He had the drays, so why carry for other people as well.

In 1842, cousin Archibald Clunes Innes was able to arrange convict labour to build a new road from Port Macquarie onto the Tablelands.

Innes still wished to build Port Macquarie into a major centre, while the “better” road made it easier (and cheaper) for him to access his own properties. I have put better into inverted commas because older New England residents will remember the roads to the coast before tar. It would be the early 1960s before the first tarred road to the coast appeared.

Still, the new road did shorten the long journey. To celebrate, Innes, always the showman, made a considerable production of the first load of wool from his own properties to reach the new wool store he had constructed on the Port Macquarie waterfront for loading onto the steamer he had chartered for the occasion.

Upon arrival in Port Macquarie, William Taylor had first looked to acquire land in the Hastings Valley but without success. It was not until December 1842 that he took over the mortgage on 1,062 acres of land near the junction of Piper’s Creek with the Maria River, about fifteen miles north of Port Macquarie. The new property was named Oakville.

There is a problem with dates here, for some dates suggest that the Taylors were living at Oakville before the formal acquisition.

William Tydd Taylor and Margaretta Lucy Lind’s first child was born at Thrumster. The next three children were born at Oakville.

Conditions for Margaretta were not always easy. When one of her daughters was born, for example, William was away. The convict servants were generally drunk, and it was left to a female convict to help Henrietta through the birth.

Drunkenness among convict (and other) staff was a major issue.

In her diary, Annabella Innes records that went they went to tap a barrel of port laid down by Major Innes, they found it empty. The cellar could only be entered via a locked door. Investigation showed that the frequently drunk cook and another convict servant had cut a hole through the kitchen floor to allow them access to the cellar!

William ran cattle on Oakville, sheep on Terrible Valley. This would be helpful as the perfect economic storm that I have talked about before broke across the colony.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 25 May 2016. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016.