Early Morchard.

Early Morchard

After regular and good rainfalls plus the push for more farming land, large pastoral leases were cut up, including many situated well beyond Goyder’s Line. Morchard was laid out on land, ‘of very superior quality’ originally taken up by Price Maurice and John Williams on pastoral leases 80 and 113. Morchard was proclaimed on 9 August 1877 and named by the Acting Governor, Sir Samuel Way, after his father's birthplace in Morchard Bishops, Devonshire, England.

At the same time land was set aside for suburbs, parklands and a public cemetery. A month later a school reserve was declared as well. At the Government land sales in September, half-acre town blocks were sold from £5.5.0 to £33.15.0. Morchard was the only town surveyed in the Hundred of Coomooroo, which had been proclaimed on 8 July 1875.

Among some of the early buyers of farming land was Richard Ellery and his wife Louisa Fanny Cottrell. Originally from Cornwall, Richard was familiar with the area as he had already worked for the Burra, Blinman, Prince Alfred, Sliding Rock and the Spring Creek Mines. He had no farming experience but was willing to give it a go. He bought section 308 in the Hundred of Coomooroo. Malachi Groves, who had worked for the Overland Telegraph Line as a teamster also finished up at Sliding Rock and later moved with his wife Jane Tapscott to Morchard.

A few months later, in November 1877, there were enough people around for Tilley Brothers of Gladstone to open a general store at Morchard. This spoke well, in particular as one of the brothers not only surveyed the township but the greater number of the surrounding Hundreds and consequently had special facilities for becoming acquainted with the country generally. On 5 December J Cummins was granted a publican’s licence for the Morchard Hotel, consisting of 13 rooms, which was yet to be built.

Morchard was making rapid progress and that same month J McDougall was constructing another store. Clipson from Adelaide had opened a blacksmith shop and a Post Office was opened on 1 January 1878. Meanwhile several farmers were reaping while others were missing out as they had put in their crops too late in the season.

The dissolution of the partnership of the Tilley Brothers took effect on 1 January 1878; Robert would run the Booyoolie store whereas Henry would run the Morchard store. By the end of the month harvesting had finished but turned out rather disappointing. It remained hot and water was in short supply as most dams were already empty and most settlers had to cart it in for domestic use as well as for their stock, and pay for it! A little rain fell in March, enough for the grass to reappear again.

The lack of water may have been a problem but it didn’t stop the settlers from playing cricket. In February 1878 a club was established with about 20 members. J McDougall was elected president, J Aitchison vice-president and Henty Tilley secretary. It was decided that they should practice every Saturday. On 14 February town lot 23 was sold for £30 at auction. In March tenders were wanted to plaster the hotel and a ‘respectable youth was wanted as an apprentice or improver’. Plans of the hotel could be viewed at WJ Cummins Yarrowie Hotel at Appila and those interested in taking up an apprenticeship could contact H Tilley at the newly opened Post Office.

Other Post Offices opened during the early months of 1878 were at Walloway, Mt Eyre, Pichi Richi and Mongolata. The Morchard Hotel was completed after some delays in June and when it opened George Richard Dowdy was its first publican. It was hoped that it would be a great boon to commercial travellers and at the same time provide rooms for large meetings. Dowdy soon advertised far and wide that his House had ample accommodation for commercial travellers, farmers and visitors to the district.

He also pointed out that the House had large airy bedrooms, private parlours and sample rooms. There was first claa stabling and he only stocked the best brands of ale, wines and spirits. His main object was to make everyone comfortable that visited his hotel.

The hotel provided an excellent opportunity to attract settlers to come to meetings. During August 1878 there were several, among them one to solicit money for the building of a school room which also could be used as a teaching place for the Bible Christians. Another meeting concerned the building of a railway from Terowie to Pichi Richi which they wanted to go via Morchard and not via Eurelia as the people of Yanyarrie wanted. There would be several more meetings about it, all of them unsuccessful. A few months later it was the need to have one or two local Justices of the Peace appointed. Among those considered were O’Brien, Williams and Cummins.

More land sales were held in June 1878 and suburban sections 149-234 were sold. Among the buyers were; T McAllister, CB Young, D Rattans, M Kingsborough, EH Baker, J Roberts, A Stuckey, CW France, JJ Stuckey and TA McCulloch. Michel Elward though bought section three of 106 acres in the Hundred of Eurelia.

Not everyone was doing well though. At the Magistrates’ Court at Melrose Emanuel Blight was charged by Joseph Hermann of Morchard under the Masters and Servants Act with refusing to pay him the sum of £3.16.10 being outstanding wages due to him. With no Justice of the Peace in Morchard as yet people had to travel a long way to seek justice or get official papers signed.

In February 1880 Andrew Kimbart was sentenced to 8 years with hard labour for defrauding GC Staer of £10 and John Sturm was convicted on 11 November 1880 of stealing £46.10 and securities to the value of £270 the property of George Richard Dowdy. Although most of this was recovered he still got 3 years with hard labour.

Matters went from bad to worse for Joseph Hermann, a builder by trade, who was in financial trouble in 1878 and Robert Tilley, storekeeper, of Gladstone was appointed as trustee. On 25 June 1878 JC Wilkinson, on instructions of C Sabine offered for sale the St Peter’s Boiling-Down works without any reserve price. The property, mostly in ruin, included 600 new casks, Huon Pine heads, boiler, vats, fittings and machinery used for boiling-down. These had been used for the disposing of surplus sheep during times of drought or plenty. The fat was collected in 80 gallon casks and shipped to Port Augusta.

To show that the town had come of age it was decided to have the Morchard Races. They were held on the suburban land on 15 August with beautiful weather as an extra. It was all very official with F Staer as starter and James Cummins as judge. Among the owners of the winning horses were M Cummins, F Conrad, C Bartlett, Schramm and Hamilton.

October 1878 proved to be a hot month. Farmers were making hay but there was a lot of red rust. Not only that, the rabbits were becoming a nuisance too. On the bright side there was some good rain at the end of the month. Better still was the opening of a saddler’s shop. On 11 October Wilkinson was in town again. This time he sold 35 head of draught stock for Mr Davies at a good price. November opened with some good rains and to brighten things up even more Ashton’s circus came to town.

The Bible Christians had enough money now and started building their chapel. It was still raining during the early days of November, so much so that farmers had to stop their hay making, which had been the chief employment for the past weeks. The Rev. John Thorne preached a morning and evening service and next day gave a lecture on “America and the Americans” followed by the usual tea making. Church services were few and far between. The last time it was the Rev Alford who had preached to a good audience but he had moved to Wallaroo to take up his new appointment in the Bible Christian Circuit.

By the end of November reaping was in full swing and although there was some rust in the crop the final result was good. All they wanted now were carters to take the wheat away. One of the last meetings at the hotel was held on 7 December to consider what to do about the terrible state of the roads, including the one to Wilmington. For Christmas Day a sport programme was organised. The weather was beautiful and several prizes were won. J Sheridan won a cigar holder for winning the running high jump, J Cummins won several prizes and the 'Pig With Greasy Tail' was caught by Andrew Fergusson.

After the festivities of the New Year it was back to work. During, and after, 1879 there were a few changes in the local population. On 17 March, AS Avery, the wife of Robert of Morchard Farm, had a son. They named him William but they were only to enjoy him for some five weeks as he died on 24 April 1879. They had a daughter on 15 May 1880. On 22 May 1879 William Rawling died at the Brown’s Hotel in Port Pirie. This left his wife and children to fend for themselves at Morchard.

There were happier days at the Toop family when Mary was married by the Rev. GH Paynter to William Hamilton Graham, late of Undalya, on 22 March at her parents, Jane and Abner Toop’s residence. They were to have 8 children. On 4 July 1879 the wife of FC Staer had a daughter and on 28 December 1882 a son. John McDougall’s wife had a son on 13 March 1880 and a daughter on 10 February 1882. Abner Toop, ‘an old and respected colonist’ died on 27 March 1882.

In July 1879 the Bible Christian Chapel was opened, which resulted in a large congregation turning up to celebrate for two days. In October sermons were preached by the Rev. J Thorne in aid of their missions and Henry Tilley was appointed agent for the Christian Colonist. Alfred Schultze, builder, was not in the mood to celebrate as he was in financial troubles and soon would be declared insolvent.

Prospects still looked good as far as farming was concerned and during the land sales in Adelaide on 7 August 1879 several Morchard farmers bought land in the Hundred of Coomooroo. Among them were R McDougall and the widow E McDougall. J Kemp of Rhynie also bought a section. Land was sold at an upset price of £1 per acre with 10% deposit. On 3 June 1880, C Row of Morchard bought sections 10, 14 and 94, a total of 353 acres in the Hundred of Wonoka at £1 per acre. At the land sales of 10 February 1881 C Bartlett, storekeeper’s assistant, bought 326 acres and JA Leahy, farmer of Morchard, bought section 676 of 352 acres in the Hundred of Davonport, which had been proclaimed on 23 February 1860.

Meetings were still held at the Morchard Hotel. On 30 September 1879 there was a large gathering to discuss the wants of Morchard. First on the agenda was the need for a school as there were at least 30 children of school age in and around the town. A polling booth was also wanted, which would save long walks to vote. They also wanted the boundaries of the northern electorates re-drawn. FC Staer proposed the formation of a District Council but this was not supported by everyone. At the end of the lengthy meeting a committee was formed and Aitchison, Cummins, McDougall, Anderson and Dowdy were elected to get things moving.

Another meeting was conveyed in October to form a branch of the South Australian Farmers’ Mutual Association. Among those present were J Cummins, J Hutchens, J Brown, J Aitchison and JW Reinstein. It was decided that meetings should be held every month, the first one on 8 November. A representative from Morchard was at the main meeting in Adelaide on 27 February 1880.

Every farmer's dream

Many of the farmers employed extra labour at the busiest time of the year. They expected a good harvest this year and it was reported that ‘One of the finest crop we have seen is cut for hay by McLennan, although grasshoppers were increasing rapidly. Not all labourers were impressed with the conditions they experienced. An interesting letter to the editor of the South Australian Register of 14 November 1879 gives some details.

It read; Sir, I have been only a short time in this colony, but quite long enough to experience the treatment farm labourers have to undergo. In the first instance all handbills and emigrants’ handbooks that are issued in England says that you will receive so much wages per year or per week as the case may be and 'all found'. Now what is the meaning of all found? I understood it to mean board and lodgings, but such is not the case, as many a poor man has found out after it was too late.

The farmers when they engage you have the audacity to tell you besides your wages you will receive board and lodgings. But on arrival at the farm you soon find out your mistake, especially when you happen to be a ‘new chum' without the necessary swag blanket. You are either shown into an iron shanty as hot as an oven after the sun blazing on it all day, or else into an underground hole like a rabbit warren, or sometimes by way of a luxury you have the comfort of a reaping machine with a few dirty wheat bags to serve as bed and blanket.

This is not board and lodging. Board and lodging includes, besides food, bed and blankets, soap, towels, &c. It is high time the farm labourers of this colony should make an attempt at some reformation for their own comfort. In a large agricultural country like South Australia I consider they are the bone and sinew of the country. I think man after toiling fourteen hours per day under a boiling hot sun ought to have a decent bed to rest his weary bones on instead of lying down amongst a few old bags like a dog. I am, Sir, BUCHAN JOCK. Morchard, November 12.

Early in 1880 farmers were busy cleaning and carting wheat, but prices were very low, even for high quality wheat. It was hoped that the harvest would add badly needed income for the local community. Later the Bible Christians held Harvest Thanks giving service. A public tea and meeting realised £10 for the support of the local ministry. The meeting was chaired by the Rev. W.W. Finch and a start was also made with the much needed school. It was a wooded structure and was opened later that year.

The first government school teacher appointed was Alexander Robertson. He served as a Provisional Teacher from 1880 until 1883 when he was appointed Head Teacher. On 21 April 1884 James Frederick Davey, born on 2 January 1860, was appointed. He had previously taught at Baroota. He only stayed for a very short time and was replaced later in the year by Richard Wren. In 1885 it was David Manson who tried to educate the youngsters. He resigned on 31 January 1886. The next appointee stayed a little longer. Ellen Sophia Shepherd, born on 15 May 1862, stayed until the end of the 1888 school year when she was transferred to Salt Lake.

On 2 February 1880, James Aitchison wrote to the Register that he had petitioned the Treasurer about farmers wanting to use the Government Jetty at Port Augusta but he had not received a reply yet. He thought it an insult to the hundreds of local farmers who had signed it. Another meeting was held in February about chartering one of Elder, Smith & Co.’s vessels to send a trial shipment of wheat to England. More than 3000 bags of wheat were awaiting transport. Four years later he still had no reply and once again wrote to complain. This time he also mentioned, among other issues, the higher prices charged for handling the wheat; being 3 to 5 pennies per bushel more than in Port Adelaide.

The Morchard Hotel, which was now run by DA Mackay, had found a new use when recently appointed Justice of the Peace James Aitchison used it to inquire into the cause of death of Thomas Garnett, a 44 year old stonemason in April 1880. The verdict given by the jury was that he had died of natural causes. It would have been highly probable that members of the jury and other interested town’s people stayed on for a drink or two. In June, FC Staer, pound keeper, made it known that he would sell all the impounded stock which had not been claimed.

By 1881 the weather, as today, was the major topic of discussion among the farmers and other settlers. Without irrigation they were solely dependent on rain. Being beyond Goyder’s line rain didn’t fall too often and when it did it was at the wrong time of the year, too little or far too much, resulting in heavy erosion. Pastoralists could move their stock during drought but farmers had no choice in the use of land. They could cart water, if available, but this was both expensive and time consuming.

Annual Sports were held on Christmas Day 1880 in B.H. William’s paddock about 4 kilometres from town. ‘A better place could not have been fixed as it was well timbered with nice shady pines, which afforded great convenience and comfort to all on the ground. The attendance was fairly good considering the intense heat. Major prize winners were John Mannion, who collected £2.15 for winning the Coomooroo Farmers’ race, the Hurry-scurry and for putting the Shot. ED Fels made £2.10 for winning the Handicap Flat Race and the Maiden Race. Among the smaller prize winners were F Scriven, W Loftus for winning the boys under 15 events and James McDonald, G Tapscott, J Timmins and H Bambrick.

Morchard Part 2

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