Thursday, April 19, 2007, 10:24 AMI am on a mission today for Jim who I thank for his Entry in my Guestbook & for bringing to light a most interesting Story I can follow up.
G'day there Jim I am hoping my title to this story as yet to unfold will connect the Yankee who I am hoping was your Great Great Grandfather to the Bushrangers (Outlaws) of the time who visited this area near the Goldfields of Junee....Providing my guess of course is your Ancestor was American. If not I will be only to happy if I can to follow up on any more information you might like.
An early Pioneer from these parts in the name of one James Pratt left a very colourful description of the development of the Junee area from the years 1855 to 1902. Of more importance to you is the coverage concerning the gold rushes of those times. He wrote of this history for publication in the Junee Newspaper The Southern Cross which was put to print in the year 1902. I have a copy of the documents that are interestingly at this time in the hands of the present owners of the Old Junee Inn that was built in 1861 that James Pratt speaks of.
James recalls a time when Bushrangers came to Old Junee & robbed the " poor Yankee " who had the Hotel at the time being the above Inn. One can well assume very few Americans would have been here so the chances of this being your ancestor Jim must be very high if this is the connection. How exciting ! I hope so
I shall undertake an investigation of this history if you like & with your permission post the Story here.
Jim can you please contact me via clicking on the Link in the top right hand corner.
Friday 20th 9.29pm
I have tried today to paint a picture today for those so far away wishing to get a glimpse into seeing perhaps what it was like for their Ancestors who travelled, lived & in some cases died here so long ago. I myself have wondered for a long time just what the bushland was like pre & early post European settlement, after many years I think I can now put my finger pretty much on just what it was like along with how those Pioneers lived.
Ian Lunt from the Charles Sturt University at Albury Wodonga who has done studies on tree densities in this regard has given me a better insight to just how it looked...In many respects the flora once the early roadways such as they were had been surveyed protected the mature Gum trees at least. A lot of natural occuring White Cypress pine sprinkled throughout was milled for construction purposes because of its superior white ant resistance. What then disappeared of course were the under-storey of shrubs,& native species to the mouths of the great numbers of stock travelling those roadways. This was especially the case here as this was the main route for bringing cattle down through this part of the country from Queensland to better grazing in the Gippsland of Victoria or the Markets. Back then we can well say the bushland must have been a far more noisier place with the greater variety of birdlife that existed compared to today, also the Koala is now non existent except for some locations along the Murrumbidgee River. The nights must have been filled with their roaring sounds & those of the OPossums that now are limited in numbers due to the loss of mature tree hollows in which these nocturnal mammals live.
This photo was taken just north of Wallacetown as it is today beside the Olympic Way between Wagga Wagga & Junee...It depicts the mature trees & tracks that meander still in some places through the trees in a way as travellers of those times moved, either by bullock wagon, horseback, or as many did simply on foot. When one place became to boggy or whatever another was made. It must be remembered the whole of the land here was covered mostly in trees like this with long distances between any settlement to speak of providing very limited services to the traveller apart from the Inns. The main track then to Cootamundra went to Old Junee from Wagga Wagga taking in Stockinbingal via Combanning. In this early time of 1855 the township of Junee of course did not exist until much later when the railroad was established and & new town sprang up around it leaving Old Junee to fade into second place.
As mentioned much information to this era was left by the writings of James Pratt to whom I shall refer having sought & been given permission by Peg Pratt a direct descendant for this account. His documentation being extensive does not allow me to cover as much as I would like here & now but it will give the reader a brief insight to some facets of these Pioneering times of the Junee districts.
The Old Junee Inn as seen today being built in 1861 provided a focus point for much of the community of those times. I can only assume the township being surveyed a year earlier at this point was due to Houlaghans Creek passing close by the hills where run off water collected within the creek was sufficent to sustain a community. The original shingles are still located beneath the galvanised metal roofing & cellar remains intact. Brian & Jan Longmore who own & reside in the Inn can recount how the ceilings back in the early years was made out of canvas/hession & suspended in place...Brian commented when the wind blew the ceilings used to float up & down.
It is here I would like to make my first reference to the James Pratt writings &
Mr Harris started to work immediately after acquiring the land and on 1st January 1862 the Hotel and a General Store were opened. I remember there was a race meeting on that day, no beer could be obtained, but there was plenty of Queensland rum, warranted to kill at forty yards, which was sold at a reasonable price of one shilling per nobbler. Mr Hammond, finding that he was to close to the "pub", two months after it was opened removed about three-quarters of a mile down the creek, and built the house and homestead where the family now resides, and which is at present known as "Wyoming"
This out building is all that remains today of the original "Wyoming" homestead site.
James Pratt in the year 1864
In August of the same year an event of some importance took place, The family at the station had just finished lunch, and were leaving the table, when in walked the principals of the Gilbert and O'Mealy gang of bushrangers, who were roaming the colony at the time. Each member of the gang was heavily armed, and they ordered the inmates to bail up. The first thing they wanted was all the loose cash in the house. They had a look all through the rooms, but there was no cash to be found. They did not do much damage, took a few trinkets in the shape of a brooch or two, and started to enjoy themselves. Mr Albert Hammond, now residing at "Wyoming", was superintendent at this time, and he was away on the run at the time of the bushrangers visit. He came home while they were there, and unseen by them he saddled a brown cob called Speckled Back, belonging to the boys, and got away. Speckled Back was as good as anything in the district at that time, and in less than an hour Mr Hammond was at the Police Station at Wagga a distance of 21 miles. The bushrangers remained at the station for an hour or so, and then paid the hotel a visit and stuck up the poor Yankee. They also blocked all traffic during the remainder of the day. After securing what cash they could lay their hands on, which amounted to about seven pounds, and some articles of jewellery, they had a spree during the remainder of the afternoon. They departed at sundown, taking a few bottles of Long John whisky and an overcoat or two. After Mr Hammond arrived at the Wagga police station it took the police a considerable time to get their arms and ammunition ready, as well as pack-horse, and it was two days before they arrived at Junee in charge of the Inspector who was stationed there at the time. There were four of them. In the meantime the gang had disappeared, no one knew where, but it was reported that same day the police arrived at Junee they stuck up Her Majestys mail at Cutaway Hill, about 8 miles on the Sydney side of Goulburn, and over some 200 miles in the same time it had taken the Wagga police to get ready and ride 21. The latter, after remaining about three hours, returned to Wagga no doubt well pleased that they did not encounter the bushrangers. The news of Mr Hammond's brother riding to Wagga within the hour spread to all the papers in the colony and the consequence was that the Gilbert O'Mealy gang paid a second visit to Junee, not for the purpose of sticking up the station, but to get the loan of Speckled Back, the horse having become so famous. The owner was loth to part with his old favourite, but the knights of the road would not be put off, and the horse was handed over. About twelve months later Mr Hammond, in looking through the "Gazette", saw that the horse was impounded at Burrowang. He wrote to a friend there to release him, and the horse was sent back to Junee not much the worse for what he had gone through, and was in use many years after.
Further reading of James reveals the yankee referred to was a Harry Williams who was a lesee of the Hotel at the time paying some Two Hundred pound a year rent to Mr Harris who opened the hotel. The lease expired in 1867 so Harry went to Wagga and in a short time became lessee of the Prince of Wales hotel in that town.
Other writings of James reveal gold was discovered at what is now known as Junee Reefs in 1868. In October of that year there was a great rush to Grenfell to the north with thousands travelling up from Victoria to the new diggings. The year 1870 revealed gold at Sebastopol to the north west of Junee Reefs & it proved a better yield to the Reefs. Later in 1877 there was a rush to Urana goldfield, about 70 miles to the west of Wagga, and the diggers from Grenfell and Forbes flocked by Junee in thousands. In 1880 it was the turn of Temora at that time being just barren scrub where heavy gold was found. The writer James paid a visit to this gold field when the first rush set in, and found there a few huts and tents. Returning in a weeks time, he found a street cleared and a town three miles in length. At that time it was estimated that there were twelve thousand men on the diggings
At the original Junee Cemetery at Old Junee one only has to read the plaque of those laid to rest there to realize life in those times must have been hard despite the romantic notions we may have about it.
Grief it seems was all to often at hand for the Pioneer families
In the year 1874 James Pratt in his own words were dealt a heavy blow when his wife Catherine & newborn child departed this life.
Edward Boadin a youngster of 11 years it is known to have drowned when he slipped into a dam at Old Junee when fetching water.
Henry Hamboing could well be the German that James Pratt writes of who fell into the Houlaghans Ck when hammering in a stake & never came up.
Sunrise dawns on the Hwy south of Old Junee where stands a new Inn serving the modern fast moving world of todays traveller. In many ways Toby Bowering the owner of this Inn is a reflection of those days of Old Junee in service to the passing parade. The Jail Brake Inn has been built in old world charm & in the person of Toby who is closely related to Australias most famous Folk Hero & Bushranger Ned Kelly we see a part of our cultural pioneer heritage alive & well.
Modern day drovers who now sit astride 600 horse power take a break from travelling the roadways & relax over a meal with Toby
The mobs of sheep or cattle loaded within these trailers dwarf the Inn as they wait patiently for the Drivers return to journey on through the trees of Old Junee
The Sun has set over a section of the Pioneer section of the Main Junee Cemetery where I had hoped to place a small American Flag on a grave but could not find the place.
Perhaps then there is a place I know of to put this flag at Old Junee where I am sure in life this man & many like him seeking gold did take companionship & rest at days end.
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Thursday, March 29, 2007, 08:40 PMI had made it to the Bethungra Hills after leaving Wantiool & as I had wanted for a long time to find what the locals call the Wash Pool, decided I would take time to see if I could do it.
In the early days of settlement many properties ran cattle with some sheep, these being washed as was the common practise of the time in an available waterhole to remove dirt prior to shearing. Not knowing what the Wash Pool looked like & going only on a map drawn on the ground with a stick by a young man of the area marking its existence, I set forth into the hills on this mission. Folk lore of the area was that this particular pool always had water so this surely would be the case after the recent rain to make my quest easier & for hopefully some fine photos. This was not to happen that day as I became lost in the many valleys & gulleys. In returning the following day with even more enthusiasm I picked up the trail again.
Trails of a different kind that have become common place with this Drought as at Wantiool can be seen going up into the hills where this place marked the Great Fires end.
Yet another gulley lay beyond the Gums but this was not to be the one. The young man had said it would fall into place when I was there & so I would recognise this when it happened. Then later it did just as he had said & the place of the Wash Pool was revealed. I approached very cautiously with Mo on a lead as this would be a place where snakes would be found & in such isolation it was certainly no place to be bitten. I remembered how quiet it was & majestic with lovely Gums that one can never photograph properly growing out of the stony creek bed. We disturbed a Swamp Wallaby which bounded off making that characteristic thumping of the ground with its feet to warn others.
My first task was to tie his Lordship up in a shady safe spot & to scout about the pool area so any of our slithery friends might depart from our presense. Having done this Mo welcomed a run around with taking in a dip or two in the water.
The pool lay beneath a large natural granite rock wall that stretched across the creek, the upstream part of the gulley gave no clue of its existance as was the downstream parts. One could easily traverse this gully & not find the pool. I suspect that with the driest of times water would find its way into the sands of this pool from beneath the great natural granite wall. It is a pity I had not come here earlier before any rains at all to see if this was in fact the case.
Sitting in the shade overlooking the Wash Pool scene one can only ponder at how it was the sheep were washed here. No evidence seems to remain of any yards to hold sheep but these may have only been a temporary contsruction for the once a year event, or since lost to Bush Fires & does not mean there were ever none. Perhaps the sheep were driven over the wall from above into the pool below, & had to swim out. Perhaps driven across the pool which is in a natural cutting using the rock wall to secure one side of the mob & having a stone fence wall built on the lower side to channel the sheep through with this since been washed away ?
However it was done will probably never be known & will in the future continue to be a mystery of how those souls of earlier times toiled in darker days of the Pioneer era.
In going home I can see we will have to come back here when the rains have returned all is green & the Wash Pool overfloweth.
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Friday, March 23, 2007, 08:38 PMI had been meaning for some time to catch the earthy colours of our ravaged land from this long Drought, so following a general rain of some 15mm I decided the time was right while this wet look lingered over a calm day to go do it. After a hasty phone call to visit a nearby farm where old Peisy (earthen wall) buildings can be found, I set off on a trail of places I wanted to cover leading eventually to the Bethungra Hills.
Very few of these peisy buildings still exist in such good condition as here on this farm at Old Junee. This building consists of two rooms on the left to a large storage room then horse stables at the other end with open eaves for ventilation. The walls were constructed to a thickness of 30cm or more from a mixture of clay & fine sandy gravel that cemented into a lasting & hard material, often being painted white inside with a lime wash.
Workers Quarters seemed to have much thicker walls for possibly improving interior conditions to cold winters & hot summers of the Aus climate.
Wantiool was my next stop where I had been before & knew of a scene I thought would prevail which was not disapointing to say the least. It happened on arriving that I came apon old Bert Mees at the head of a Gully that in 1865 saw some 5,000 Pioneers rush to this place on account of Gold being found. Bert was droving his cattle for the sparse feed that existed & had fallen asleep in his van
Berts dog made not a sound of my approaching & so it was timely I thought to have a cup of tea & ponder the situation...After all he might wake up & we did not want to give him a Fright ! I must confess though while the half hour past I did wonder what mischief I could get up to like taking the vehicle keys & connecting them to the dogs collar or tying his shoe laces together...I did neither instead taking time to chat with Mo & his new aquaintance friend to remain quiet.
The last time I had seen Bert was shortly after the Great Fire of Junee on New Years day 06. I remembered him saying how he viewed the approaching Fire Storm leaping & jumping into his valley & decided it was no place for man to be so fled by car leaving all of home & belongings behind to join the fight against the fire at another place.
Some Kangaroos came out of the nearby burnt out scrub & grazed cautiously watching my every move...Mo had seen them to but I had said "No" to his look of wanting a chase. Berts cows meandered about & as for a moment time stood still & became a thief to my mission.
A short distance away on the crest of a hill lay the prize in the form of an old seeding drill affording all of the earthiness a Drought can muster with a grand view to boot of the Bethungra Hills....There seemed also to be the scent of a rabbit busying little legs.
Beyond this old seed drill & at odds with the previous long conditions of dust being in the air mist is seen once again in the valley as hungry sheep feed eagerly on a trail of grain put out to sustain them.
I took time to pay a visit to the Beasleys at nearby "Bimberdong" to see what remained of the historic old cottage much loved by Brian as an open air venue where he so eagerly worked in teaching others the skills of wood work.
When the Firestorm swept over the hill Brian had come down here from their home above to save his cottage & timber store but to no avail as Wantiool was the place that day the fire was at its most savage ferocity. It was a gallant but vain attempt by Brian who then had to fight his way back to their house through thick smoke & sparks to rejoin wife Heather in defence of their house. He did this with a wet bag over his head for protection from the embers & fearing getting lost in that smoke... Many harrowing & heroic acts happened that day
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007, 02:19 PMI thought today was it I was going to get a great photo of one of these Eastern Grey Kangaroos jumping a fence that would surpass anything so far which mostly have been too late in capturing the event at its best. However this was not to be from what we see here with this large Male being on the way down after clearing this fence of 1.2m or 4'. I will gather some of my other attempts at this to enter here then add new ones as they come to hand. One day it will happen !
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007, 02:25 PMWhat a week it was with the Weather Bureau forecasting an Official end to this devastating El Nino & having Dust Storms & Flooding Rains holding up Australias tradition for this type of Drought breaking weather.
Little did I know when taking photos of Eastern Rosella birds taking a shower under the garden sprinkler on a hot dry Weds last week that the day would end the way it did. A Major Dust Storm developed later in the afternoon that would engulf the town of Junee bringing isolated heavy falls of rain that would fill empty dams & wash away fences not so far from here. Only a meagre 2mm of rain would fall out of that dust for us.
I always like to place a sprinkler under an overhanging branch where the birds can dangle to take a much welcome drought shower.
At about 4pm the Rural Fire Service two-way radio chatter alerted me to an approaching Storm front at Wagga Wagga so I grabbed my camera to go out as lightning starting fires are always a worry with summer storms. I was able to then take a series of photos showing a Dust Storm developing, growing & sweeping over the landscape to the town of Junee & beyond.
The Farmland here to the South of my farm where the dust is seen is now bare of any vegetation being eaten out by hungry livestock who's feet have broken the surface of the dry soil. Strong uplifting winds preceding a storm front can bite in to take up this topsoil in the form of dust.
Other effects came quickly into play with mini twisters tearing up more & more dust for this now forming Dust Storm
This Dust Storm born is now growing larger by the minute with the uptake of dust continuing as it rolls over the landscape towards the township of Junee. I tried to outrun it in my Nissan the 6 kilometers along the Aerodrome Lane to town for more photos but could not.
I managed to get out in front of this Dust Storm after it had engulfed the township & was continuing across the countryside. It was then decided with Mo on board to end this storm chase & get back home to see what had happened.
After the dust came this heavy downpour of 25mm within 15 minutes to the homestead end of Keith & Debra Lords farm "Homeview" Aerodrome Lane on the outskirts of Junee. Two dry dams were filled to overflowing with one fence being washed away. The township itself received only a few mm's like at our home such is the fickleness of these rains following a Dust Storm.
The Lords property featured in the Entry :
Prowler at the Window Heralds Lightning Strike
See : Archives November 14 2006
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