Homes among the gum trees (Part 2)

Hugh and Ettie’s first home was at Kangaroo Flat in a house which was later referred to in the family as “the old kitchen”.  As late as the 1990s some building and garden remains could be seen.

 

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A granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Hugh and Ettie at the site of the “the old kitchen” c1997.  

Presumably there were other rooms than a kitchen.  This property was owned by Kenny McLean. When Hugh and Ettie left the property, the house was bought by Hugh’s half-sister, Ellen Iverson and her husband George Stubbings and moved to their property at Burnt Blanket.

George and Ellen Stubbings 001

George and Ellen (nee Iverson) Stubbings

Perhaps it was during this period that they lived at Koreelah.  They had built a house at Beaury Creek but Kenny McLean and his wife were living there.  When Hugh and Ettie had to leave Koreelah, they moved in with Hugh’s half-brother Donald Iverson’s family at the Little (Tooloom) Falls.

Eventually they were able to move to their house at Beaury Creek and lived there for many years, although with a bit more to-ing and fro-ing.

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Thought to be the Beaury Creek house

During World War 2, oldest son Allen was married and farming nearby, next son John, also married was farming in Queensland.  Two sons, Hughie and Lach, were in the army and the youngest son, Ewan, too young to enlist, was at home with his parents and once he left school working on the dairy farm. Ettie’s brother Emerald was also living with them and lending a hand.  He was not in robust health, having only one kidney as a result of having contracted meningitis as a child, in a tragedy which claimed the lives of five of his siblings.

The oldest daughter, Bell, was living in Newcastle where her husband, Doug Guest, was working in what was considered an essential industry, namely ammunition manufacturing.

Meanwhile Hugh and Ettie had been busy making sure that Hughie and Lach would have a livelihood when they came back from the war and had purchased a property for each of them.  The property secured for Hughie was “Grimstead” essentially across the road at Beaury Creek.  The family moved over to run the dairy farm there until Bell and Doug moved back from Newcastle, soon after which Hugh, Ettie and the children still at home moved into the property on the Falls Road which had been secured for Lach.

People obviously had fewer possession and different expectations in those days.  May went to school in Urbenville that day and the first she knew of the move was as she was riding home from school and was informed by a local family she came across that she was to go to the Falls Road property instead of “Grimstead”. She arrived there to find her parents settling in and trying to build a fire.

After some time, they must have moved back to Beaury Creek.  It no longer stands, having been demolished to provide some of the mismatched building materials for the house at “Windy Hill”.  Hugh wanted to name the house in the Gaelic he had heard his grandfather speak but was unable to remember the words which would convey the idea of a windy hill.

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“Windy Hill”

I was only ever a visitor to the Windy Hill house.  I never lived there but to me it is where my mother came from.  For her, the house at Beaury Creek was her childhood home, which she describes fondly as a beautiful farm. She is working on a map of it.

There are other versions of the order in which Hugh and Ettie’s moves happened.  This is May’s version as told to me.

Heirlooms of a different kind

I come from a long line of people living on the edge of poverty, from factory workers in the “dark Satanic mills” of Paisley, to displaced agricultural labourers trying to scrape by in the big city, to Highlanders cleared from their fertile traditional holding to tiny barren plots, to convicts arriving in a foreign land with nothing but the rotting, filthy clothes on their backs.

There aren’t many heirlooms in my family.  Nobody had the money to spend on expensive items and any goods that were acquired were then divided amongst the large numbers of will beneficiaries in the large families which were common in days gone by.

Here are a couple of non-material things which were handed down the generations.

A love of growing things and the green thumb to go with it

Pictures below show my mother’s courtyard when she moved into her new home just over six months ago and what the courtyard looks like now.  She always has fresh flowers in her house and usually has some greens for dinner and some tomatoes ripening on the kitchen bench.

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One of my aunts was known for her garden and when I think of her I think of dahlias and oranges – the best oranges I’ve ever eaten.  Through two winter pregnancies, her oranges supplied me and my babies with Vitamin C. The bounty of another aunt’s garden kept us supplied with rosella jam.

But my mother and her sisters didn’t come from a long line of farmers. They came from a short line of farmers who learned to grow things as a matter of necessity.

Recipes

My recipe file includes many recipes from aunts and cousins and even great-aunts (Aunty Ivy’s Stingy Pudding).  I wouldn’t actually recommend the Stingy Pudding.  It’s a recipe for hard times when there’s not much in the pantry but you still have a lot of mouths to feed.

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My grandmother, Ettie, made a pudding (or delegated the task to a daughter) every day and her sister Ivy probably did the same for her family. In Ettie’s case it was ususally a milk pudding of some sort.  They were dairy farmers in the time when her children were young so there was plenty of milk available.

When Ettie was older (probably in her seventies), she started to make a lemon meringue pie.  It was really  a cross between a cheesecake and a lemon meringue.  It was very popular amongst the family and Ettie readily shared the recipe with her daughters but every time they made up the recipe, what was produced was definitely a cheesecake.

Ettie on her 80th birthday

Ettie on her 80th birthday

It remained a mystery for some time how it was that Ettie was the only one who could make this dish the right way until one of her daughters watched her making it and realised that Ettie was not using the amount of cream cheese which was written in the recipe. Ettie was unwittingly using a smaller packet than the recipe called for which was why her version was less cheesecakey and more lemony (enhanced of course by her beautiful homegrown bush lemons). Here’s the recipe:

Crumb crust:

1/2 lb plain sweet biscuits

4 oz butter

Melt butter, stir into crushed biscuits and press into an 8″ tin, lining the base and bringing the crumb mixture halfway up the side of the tin.

Filling:

2 oz cream cheese (not 4 oz!)

1 tin condensed milk

2 eggs, separated

Rind and juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup castor sugar

Beat cheese in electric mixer, beat in condensed milk, lemon rind and juice and egg yolks. Pour into prepared crumb crust.

Whip egg whites. Gradually beat in half the sugar. Beat until stiff. Fold remainder of sugar and spread evenly over filling.

Bake in hot oven for 10 minutes to brown.

Mystery object

This object came to light recently when my mother was packing up her house to move.  It has probably been passed on a few times when houses were packed up because I don’t think it has been in use for a long time and I don’t know who the original owner was.  Suffice to say that many women in 19th and early 20th century Australia would have owned such a device.

Mystery object

Mystery object

JG IngramIt was manufactured by JG Ingram and Sons, London, a company which operated from 1847 until at least 1961.

It’s a pump for expressing breast milk, very different in appearance from the modern version.

My first thought on realising what it was:

What would a 19th century woman want with a breast pump? Women in the 19th century Australia didn’t go out to work, leaving their babies with carers. They certainly worked and maybe they left the baby at the house with big sisters or grandmothers while they went out to milk cows, tend crops or work in the family business but they wouldn’t have gone far enough away from their babies to need to express milk.

Of course there are other reasons for expressing milk, just as there are today. Illnesses like mastitis or milk fever were common enough, babies don’t always attach well, cracked nipples are painful but the short and sad answer is that babies died.

More babies died at or soon after birth than is common in developed countries today.  It’s a tragedy when any baby dies but it wouldn’t have been the absolutely shocking and unexpected event that it is today.

Just to give an idea of statistics, my great-grandmother Mary Ann Smith was one of 14 children.

The eldest sibling (a boy) died as a baby.  Ellen died aged 3. Mary Ann (Annie) had 7 surviving sisters. There is no evidence of children born to her sisters, Agnes, Henrietta, Emma or Louisa dying young but:

  • Rose lost Victor E A Headrick (1907-1908)
  • Matilda lost Mary J Ford (1915-1916)
  • Phyllis lost Lucy Eliza Elliott (1905-1906)
  • And Annie herself lost Maude Ellen Payne (1895-1895), Percival Edward Payne (1913-1913) and Charles Ernest Payne (1915-1915).
  • There is also a family story that Annie gave birth to another stillborn baby whose birth and death were not registered.In Australia in 1901, 103.6 out of every 1000 babies died within the first year of life.  Lack of medical knowledge, distance from medical assistance, and spread of infection through lack of hygiene all played a part.
Matilda Ford (nee Smith) (1878-1921)

Matilda Ford (nee Smith)
(1878-1921)

Phyllis Elliott nee Smith) 1886-1956)

Phyllis Elliott (nee Smith)
(1886-1956)

Rose Headrick nee Smith) 1873-1962)

Rose Headrick (nee Smith)
(1873-1962)

Mary Ann Payne (nee Smith) (1871-1962)

Mary Ann Payne (nee Smith) (1871-1962)

Baby Donald Mulcahy's death certificate 1879

Baby Donald Mulcahy’s death certificate 1879

Figures from Australians: historical statistics, Broadway, 1987, p58, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Big John Payne

John Payne wasn’t called “Big John Payne” for nothing.

“Big” John Payne (1843-1910)

The man was 24 stone in the old money which is roughly equivalent to 152kg.  He had a special bathtub made for himself because he didn’t fit in any regular one.  I believe it is in the Upper Clarence Historical Society’s museum.

John Paynes bathtub

John Payne’s bathtub

John was born and grew up in the Hunter Valley where his ex-convict father and child-of-ex-convicts mother had been granted land.  Their house still stands near Wollombi at Payne’s Crossing.

He married Mary Ann Sophia Merrick, the granddaughter of four convicts when he was 21 and after a few years and two children they set off north in search of greener pastures or adventure.  Over the next decade and a bit they lived in different towns in New South Wales.  Mary Ann Sophia died in 1885 in her late forties of a mystery condition, recorded as “tetere grave” on her death certificate.

In the next stage of John’s life he moved to the northern rivers area of New South Wales, ran the Australian Hotel in Drake for a while and then opened his own hotel on the Tooloom goldfields in 1894.

The Tooloom Hotel with John Payne at the far left on the verandah

The Tooloom Hotel with John Payne at the far left on the verandah

Because John was such a big man, he could rest his arms on each side of the hallways as he walked through the building.

A hallway in the building which was once the Tooloom Hotel

A hallway in the building which was once the Tooloom Hotel

Tooloom Hotel

Tooloom Hotel

He also had interests in a number of goldmines and claims.  The best known of these ventures was the “Rise and Shine Gold Mining Company”. Family stories say that he and his son, Jack, salted the mine so that its wealth appeared greater than it actually was to attract investors.

In 1889 John returned to the Hunter Valley to marry Mary Eliza Macfarlane and brought her north with him.  There were no children of this marriage.

John Payne's grave

John Payne’s grave

Big John died in 1910 and is buried at Flagstone near Tooloom.

His widow ran the hotel for another ten years or so before she retired.

Mary Eliza Payne's send off from the Tooloom Hotel

Mary Eliza Payne’s send off from the Tooloom Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People say that John’s ghost haunts the old Tooloom Hotel, now a private residence.  The more prosaic explanation is that it is the cedar which the walls are made out of creaking as the temperature changes.

I’d like to marry your daughter

Would you let your daughter marry this man?

I’ve written a little about William Henry O’Connor (1861-1900) before.  I’ve since learned a bit more about his life.

Physical description: 5 feet, 6 and a half inches tall, medium build, fresh complexion, dark brown hair, brown eyes, large scar centre forehead, small scar over left eyebrow, first joint small finger left hand missing, twitching in eyes

A somewhat disturbing description.  How did he acquire all those scars and lose part of his finger by the age of 20?

Gaol Entrance Book 1882

Gaol Entrance Book 1882

When he gained John Payne’s permission to marry John’s daughter, Laura Suzette (1871 – ??), he had the following impressive cv:

  • Learned to read and write
  • Trained as a journalist/compositor
  • 1881: charged with aiding a prisoner to escape, further charged with stealing a watch and chain
  • 1882: imprisoned in Grafton Gaol for theft but acquitted of aiding a prisoner to escape
  • 1884: released from prison
  • 1885: working in Narrabri, New South Wales and seeking permission to marry a thirteen-year-old
Some 19th Century Australian prisoners

Some 19th Century Australian prisoners

I don’t know what John Payne was thinking but he gave permission.

Their 1885 marriage entry is the last public record to be found for Laura.  William managed to stay out of jail but seems to have been down on his luck when he died of opium poisoning on the banks of a creek in Moree in 1900.

I’m not sure if this is the same William O’Connor (but I kind of hope it was) who in 1892 was travelling with Samuel Coutts Rinder who was wanted by the police. This O’Connor was described as “a frequenter at billiard rooms and racecourses, and sings comic songs when drunk”.

Disproving family stories

Disproved family story 1.

My grandmother’s brother, her closest sibling in age, died of appendicitis.  It was actually meningitis and he died in the same epidemic which claimed the lives of a brother and a sister and almost took another brother and a niece.

Disproved family story 2.

May Payne (1895-1925)

May Payne (1895-1925)

Two other sisters – twins – were blue babies.  This medical term refers to a blueish tinge to the skin caused by either a congenital cyanotic heart defect or the ingestion of water with a high level of nitrate contamination.  One of the twins, Maude, died at three months of inflammation of the lungs so it’s possible that she had some sort of heart condition.  The other twin, May, died at the age of 29 of Bright’s Disease.  This was a term used to cover a variety of kidney diseases which are now referred to separately.

 

The death of May Payne, 1925

The death of May Payne, 1925

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I’m talking about historic medical terms, I would love to know what it was that the grandmother of these twins died of, a condition named as “tetere grave” on her death certificate.

 Disproved family story 3.

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

My great-grandfather John Mulcahy died in a mining accident when a tiny rock fell down into the shaft and hit him on the head.  He did die in a mineshaft but his death was caused by him falling into the 40-foot shaft.  His death came two months after the death of his third son and the birth of his fourth.  The family story goes on to say that the third son, Donald, died of whooping cough and that his mother was also very ill.  That can’t be proven or disproved now because Donald’s death certificate is very short on detail.

The best story I’ve disproved so far involved a bushranger, a fire and a betrayal.

Vanished

Perhaps the reason my great-grandfather, Jack Payne, was so strict with his daughters when it came to keeping company with young men, was what had happened to his sister, Katey Ann. In 1884, 16-year-old Katey Ann took strychnine when her parents refused to consent to her marriage to one Henry Tee. Stories passed down through the family indicated that two sisters had committed suicide but I have found no evidence of this.

Payne Family Bible

Payne Family Bible

However I don’t know what became of the next sister in the family, Laura Suzette Payne .  She seemed to vanish from the face of the earth.  In 1885 at the ripe old age of 14, she married William O’Connor.  Perhaps Laura’s parents didn’t want to risk losing another daughter so consented to the marriage. Perhaps Laura was pregnant.  Laura’s mother, Mary Ann Sophia (nee Merrick) died in June 1885, the same year Laura married and the year after Katey Ann died. Laura might have been feeling a bit confused when she agreed to marry William O’Connor.

William O’Connor died of opium poisoning in the Moree hospital in 1900 but I have not managed to find any trace of Laura after her marriage.  The two were obviously not living together at the time of Henry’s death.

Death William O'Connor

 

There was also a story that Laura may have joined a travelling circus or performing troupe but I have found no evidence of that either.  Family stories can be a bit unreliable.

I’ve disproved at least three passed-down-through-the-generations family stories since I started genealogy research.  I’ve also uncovered a member of parliament, two bigamists and an ancestor who was convicted of conspiracy.  Oh and then there are the seven convicts.

 

Lock up your daughters

When my grandparents, Hugh Mulcahy and Ettie Payne, announced their intention to marry, Ettie’s father accused her of marrying an old man for his money. Hugh was 10 years younger than his father-in-law and 17 years older than his bride.  Despite her father’s misgivings, they enjoyed a long and happy marriage.

Ettie (Payne) Mulcahy

Ettie (Payne) Mulcahy (1893-1987)

Mary Ann (Payne) Bodley

Mary Ann (Payne) Bodley (1890-1974)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ettie and her sisters were kept on a tight leash by their father when it came to their interactions with men.  That was not unusual for the times but there were suggestions that some of the girls in the family may have married the first man who came along in order to escape their father’s rules and personality.

Eliza Jane (Payne) Connell (1891-1952)

Eliza Jane (Payne) Connell (1891-1952)

One of Ettie’s younger sisters made an unhappy marriage and one day left the district with another man.  Her children came home from school and found her gone.  They never saw her again.  A niece was sure that she saw her several years later in Newcastle but didn’t approach her. Whenever Ettie went anywhere away from her home district she was always looking at the people around her, just in case she saw Grace.

Breaking news

My mum has been reading my blogs and correcting and adding to a few stories.  So here’s the update on Ettie and her sisters. They were indeed kept on a tight leash by their father.

The eldest sister, Mary Ann, frustrated by not being allowed to see the young man she liked, ran off with him.  Mary Ann’s father went after them and brought her back. Mary Ann was probably already pregnant by then so her father, Jack, allowed them to/insisted that they get married.

After that, Jack decided to send the next two daughters, Jane and Ettie, away to work.  Both had suitors and it seems that Jack was trying to put some distance between them and the suitors.  They were both employed at “Gordonbrook” Station, Jane as a housemaid and Ettie as a nursery maid.  They were required to send their earnings home to their parents but after a while Jane refused to, bought herself a wedding dress and eloped with Peter Connell.

Meanwhile Ettie’s suitor, Hugh Mulcahy, had sent her a ring, got her father’s permission and set up house for her, covering every detail down to the milk jugs, and married her.  It was her mother, not her father, who accused her of marrying an old man for his money.

Some fifteen years later Jack decided that he needed to get his two youngest daughters married and more or less arranged their marriages.  Grace didn’t want to marry Bill Turner.  Jack got Bill Mulcahy drunk on overproof rum and got him to agree to marry Ivy.  Both marriages were disastrous.

Ivy (Payne) Mulcahy (1900-1998) and William Mulcahy (1903-1979)

Ivy (Payne) Mulcahy (1900-1998) and William Mulcahy (1903-1979)

Grace Payne (1909-1976) and William Turner (1906 -?)

Grace Payne (1909-1976) and William Turner (1906 -?)

Gold is running in my veins

The mists rose slowly out of the valleys, as first the Clarence, and then its tributary, the Timbarra or Rocky River, were discovered by the cedar-getters and squatters.  While the squatters were still busy establishing their empires, the magic cry of “Gold, gold!”, echoed down the valleys, and almost overnight the scene changed.  Mining camps and townships sprang up on lonely parts of the runs, and roads became alive with hopeful diggers.  This is the scene of our story. (Wilkinson, 1980)

"On the Timbarra" by Tom Roberts from the NSW Art Gallery

“On the Timbarra” by Tom Roberts from the NSW Art Gallery

My mother was born in northern New South Wales.  The various branches of her family tree met there because the country began to open up for timber-getting, farming and grazing in the 1830s as settlement gradually spread away from the areas first settled by the British around what is now Sydney.  Then in 1857 gold was discovered at Boonoo Boonoo (pronounced Bunna Bunnoo by the locals) and in 1858 at Timbarra, in 1859 at Tooloom and Pretty Gully.  The early history of the area is covered in Isabel Wilkinson’s brilliantly detailed but sadly unindexed book, “Forgotten Country” published in 1980.  More recently (2009) Brett Stubbs has published “The Gold Digger’s Arms.  Pubs of the Upper Clarence River district, New South Wales”, a useful and interesting read about (unsurprisingly) pubs, their owners and lessees and their local area history.

Payne ancestors

Mum’s Payne ancestors were convicts who received land grants in the Hunter region once they had served their sentences.

"Big" John Payne (1843-1910)

“Big” John Payne (1843-1910)

John Payne and his wife, Mary Ann Sophia (nee Merrick) left the Hunter around 1870 and worked their way through New South Wales with children born in Inverell in 1871, Tingha in 1874, Pallamallawa in 1876 and 1878, Bininguy in 1880 and Narrabri in 1884.

Mary Ann Sophia died in Narrabri in 1885.  Their oldest son, John Edward (Jack) was settled in the Upper Clarence by the time of his marriage in 1889.  Gold was still being discovered and in fact there was a new boom in the early 1890s.  The Paynes capitalised on this boom by opening the Tooloom Hotel in 1894.

Tooloom Hotel

Tooloom Hotel, 1910 or earlier

“It was said that ‘neither money nor brains have been spared’ in the building of the hotel there; ‘a building quite fit for [Tenterfield] stands up quite grandly over the Tooloom River, and the hospitality to be found there is indiputable’.” (Stubbs, 2009, p.27)

Wherever the Payne family was living in 1889, it was obviously not the spacious establishment of the Tooloom Hotel for the story goes that when “Big” John Payne (so called because he weighed 23 stone) married for the second time in September 1889 and brought his new bride home, his son and daughter-in-law, married only two months themselves, were required to vacate the only double bed in the house.

Smith and Merchant ancestors

There are some mysteries surrounding George Smith but he was born in Buckinghamshire and arrived in Australia in 1857, maybe in the wake of the gold rush. He married Eliza Jane Merchant whose family switched from laying railways in England to digging for gold on the other side of the world.  Their daughter, Mary Ann (Annie), married Jack Payne.

McLean and Mulcahy ancestors

Donald McLean and his wife Ann Matheson arrived in Australia in 1837.  The highland clearances and economic changes in Scotland had impacted their families on Skye and in Inverness and the newly married couple joined the wave of immigration to Australia, America and Canada.  Their daughter, Mary, married John Mulcahy the son of Irish immigrants who had also travelled north from the Hunter region.  Farming opportunities and gold brought these families to the north of the colony.

The branches meet

The Tooloom gold diggings was the place where in 1893 a 17-year-old Hugh Mulcahy (son of John Mulcahy and Mary McLean) heard the news that Jack Payne’s wife, Annie (nee Smith), had given birth to a daughter.  No doubt he congratulated the proud father but can’t have known that he would one day marry that daughter. The 35-year-old Hugh married the 18-year-old Ettie in 1911, and they were my grandparents.

Hugh and Ettie (Payne) Mulcahy and family, 1949

Hugh and Ettie (Payne) Mulcahy and family, 1949

Losing pieces of your heart

Annie Payne (nee Smith) gave birth to at least 15 children.

Mary Ann Payne (nee Smith) (1871-1962)

Mary Ann Payne (nee Smith) (1871-1962)

She was just 18 when the first was born and 44 when the last child whose birth was registered was born.

Apparently there was another baby born after that but it was either stillborn or lived only for a short time. They didn’t bother registering the birth or death and her husband, Jack, buried it.  When you lived in an area somewhat remote from the authorities sometimes it was just easier to do things yourself.  If the neighbours did ask or notice, they weren’t likely to report you because they were in the same situation.

Of Jack and Annie’s 16 children, five died as babies or children and two in young adulthood.

In the terrible year of 1913 my great-grandparents lost four children: six-year-old Violet in April, 14-year-old Bertram and 19-year-old William in May, and three-month-old Percival in October.  An inquiry into the deaths and a post-mortem on the body of William found the first three deaths to be caused by meningitis.  A fourth Payne child and a grandchild also contracted the disease but survived. No photos of the deceased children survive (if they ever existed) but the inquest reported that William was “a splendid stamp of a young man and crack shot”.

"Tenterfield Star", May 1913

“Tenterfield Star”, May 1913

"Tenterfield Star", May 1913

“Tenterfield Star”, May 1913

The newspaper report on the inquest does seem to indicate that Jack was questioned as to whether he had sought medical advice.

In later years when more was known about sanitation, a daughter of Jack and Annie attributed the spread of the disease amongst the family to poor hygiene.  There was of course no plumbing or sewerage on gold diggings dwellings.

We live in an age when parents invest considerable time, money and emotion into their (probably few) children.  Did parents in days gone by allow themselves to be as attached to their children?  Wouldn’t you hold a part of yourself back from getting too attached to a baby who might not survive its first year?  The author Elizabeth Stone said that to have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.  Annie’s heart must have been damaged beyond words after losing so many children.

Jack and Annie (Smith) Payne with their first three daughters and a couple of photobombers, c1893

Jack and Annie (Smith) Payne with their first three daughters and a couple of photobombers, c1893