The Richardson families of Koppio

The Richardson families of Koppio

The first Richardson to show an interest in the lower Eyre Peninsula was John Richardson who bought six half-acre blocks (82, 463, 519, 596, 697 and 980) in the Port Lincoln Special Survey in 1839. He also acquired block 99 of 20 acres. At the same sales F. Richardson bought half-acre block 59 on Boston Island. John had arrived on board the 461 ton Lord Goderich, captained by Andrew Smith, on 15 April 1838. The ship had left England with 126 passengers on 15 October 1837.

A year later, on 7 October 1838, John and Martha Yeates also left England. They and their children sailed on the 432 ton Bardaster and arrived in South Australia on 22 January 1839. Their fifth child, daughter Emily born 23 November 1822, would later marry John Richardson at the Holy Trinity Church, North Terrace, on 12 October 1839.

John (1808 - 27/5/1886) and Emily (23/11/1822 - 3/7/1911).

After his arrival John Richardson did not waste his time. On 14 July 1838 he advertised his services as a land agent followed later by that of auctioneer. By September he had expanded and offered the services of Land, House and Commission Agent, and by the end of the year he also became a money lender and share broker. His rooms were on North Terrace and on 1 December he was in need of ‘a respectable steady man, capable of keeping accounts and to assist in the store’.

In 1839 John became a director of a newly formed Joint Stock Company. By this time other Richardsons had arrived as well. On 7 July 1840 the 388 ton Barque Culdee, captained by J. Campbell, arrived with a William Richardson among her passengers. A Thomas Richardson of North Terrace was buried on 10 December 1840 at West Terrace cemetery.

After his marriage to Emily, John and his wife were to have 18 children. It was child number 11, William Brutton Richardson, born 8 November 1855, who would make his mark on Koppio and surrounding district. William attended St Peter’s College and became involved with the grape and wine industry and lived at Clare and Saddleworth. His brother Charles Houghton lived at Saddleworth where he was secretary of the Church of England Committee and his wife played the organ. There were also other Richardsons living at Saddleworth, among them Elizabeth, Esme, Henry and Vernon, and probably related to him.

On 23 April 1879 William Brutton married Harriet Sarah Filgate in Clare where she was born on 16 December 1857. They were to have five children, Frank St Clair in 1880, Reginald Filgate 1881, William Roy 1883, Daphne Filgate 1885 and Gwenyth in 1887 and eventually moved to Reynella where he found employment as a vigneron. William Roy who attended the Reynella School was the first one to win a scholarship to Roseworthy College. His knowledge gained there would help him later to run the Koppio farm.

While working at Reynella, William Brutton became more and more interested in becoming a farmer on his own land. Good farming land however had become scarce and very expensive. Now many would-be, and even experienced, farmers looked to newly opened up land in the mid-north or the Peninsulas.

It was not until after 1900 that the South Australian Government decided to cut up some of the pastoral properties on Eyre Peninsula and make the land available for closer settlement. In November 1902 the Commissioner of Crown Lands left Adelaide to inspect the Koppio Estate of 19,000 acres, which it had recently bought from Thomas Lansdown Browne, for that purpose.

Although impressed by what he saw, the Commissioner did say that ‘years of labour will be required before full development will be reached’. He went on to say that wire netting would be an absolute necessity as rabbits were very numerous. He thought that the country was splendidly adapted for orchards and vineyards. The Koppio estate, situated for kilometres on both sides of the Tod River contained mainly undulating country with nice flats. It would be divided into 22 blocks varying from 400 to 2000 acres.

Interest in the blocks was high and during December 1902 a party of 6 practical farmers from the Port Pirie area went to have a look for themselves. J. Ward of Nelshaby, who was among them, stated that ‘a man that tackles it must have youth, energy, and capital combined and in the sweet by and by he may be able to leave his descendants a valuable inheritance’.

By the end of 1902 as many as 414 applications had been received for the 22 blocks. W.T. Roberts had been lucky to get the woolshed block of 2000 acres which contained 2 cottages and the large woolshed. However the first price went to William Brutton Richardson who apparently was not afraid of putting in years of labour, and had secured lot 72, a 2088 acre block containing the homestead buildings, for £861. The title for the land was made out on 3 March 1911 after he had made his final payment.

All blocks were leased under covenant to purchase, the applicant having to pay the purchase money for the land and improvements in six half-yearly instalments, including interest. They would then have the right to buy the land if the covenants had been fulfilled.

Early in 1903 William Brutton and his family, including Frank who had recently returned from the Boer War, moved from Reynella to his selection at Koppio. Trooper Frank, Service number 81, had served with the Fourth unit of the Imperial Bushmen. Lot 72 turned out to be a choice block with permanent water from the Tod River and the Tatalinchi and German Gully Creeks.

When the government decided to buy the Koppio Estate at 6/6 there were many who considered the step a very questionable one. Another report stated that any farmer in search of land need not think of the Port Lincoln district unless he is prepared for a life of hard work, because he must subdue the yacka in some parts and the mallee in others and cope with the vermin which abounds in every direction.

Not so for the Richardson family. All of them seemed very satisfied with their bargain. The success of the first crop in November put all questions of suitability of the Lincoln District for agriculture to rest. By the end of 1907 it was reported that 'the old Koppio head station, now owned by WB Richardson, shows that life and energy are the main factors in the work going on there. A son of Mr Richardson obtained his diploma at the Roseworthy Agricultural College and he is turning to practical use the training he received. One of the finest crops in the district is to be seen on this property and should give a return of five bags to the acre'.

Father and sons had put in a lot of hard work these past years. The homestead which was made up of a large seven-roomed house with a detached kitchen and outside toilet had been cleaned up and repaired. The garden was fenced off with wire netting to keep out the rabbits, which had been absolutely essential. Rabbits were the biggest problems. Before the use of Myxomatosis there were millions of them. Even with traps, poison baits, fumigation, ripping up warrens and the help of professional trappers it was hard to get rid of them.

Koppio was used mainly for sheep and the family ran some 1200 merinos while Frank had cleared nearly 1500 acres. Drafting yards and some of the fencing was made of native pine from Darke Peak. In 1905 they put in five acres of trial plots for the Council of Agriculture who wished to experiment with certain manures, which could be of value to the district. They also had 160 acres under wheat, reaping 11 bushels to the acre.

That same year they had a visit from a parliamentary party who found it a first class residence with all necessary outbuildings and equipment. By this time it also had a first-class vegetable, flower and fruit garden. A few years later a journalist visiting the place and wrote; 'Everything on this farm is put to best use. A paddock of 14 acres at the back of the house is thickly coated with various grasses and fodder, about six inches high. Here the ewes and lambs graze for about two hours a day. The cattle and horses, mostly of their own breeding, show that excellent stock can be reared in the hills'.

In addition to the sheep they also had paddocks for wheat, oats and barley. Ploughing time, with an eight-horse team started at first daylight and often was not finished until after sun set. Seeding was a little easier but harvesting with the stripper would take many days. After that came the winnowing to separate the chaff from the grain.

In the early days there was all the work with the sheep as well. After shearing the wool would be sorted, graded and baled and finally loaded on wagons and transported to Louth Bay for transhipment to Port Adelaide. Like most other farmers the Richardson family kept a few cows as well. It was the only way to have fresh milk, butter, cream or cheese and fresh meat later. However it also added to the already large workload as cows have to be milked twice a day, every day. Naturally there were also the pigs and chicken.

Regardless of all the hard work and the many hours each day William Brutton and his sons put in, William, now 50 years old still found time to write to the newspapers when something annoyed him or when disagreeing with some new government scheme or regulation. In December 1904 he complained about the mail being late again, which was highly inconvenient for everyone but particularly for himself as he ran the post office from a building near the homestead where the rainfall records were kept and transmitted to Adelaide.

Six months later he complained about having to travel 25 miles to Port Lincoln to vote. He wanted to know why postal voting was not simplified or elections held during off season time. This problem was eventually solved for the Richardson family when the homestead was used as a polling booth for the 1907 elections of the Tumby Bay Council. In 1913 he wrote about the high wages he had to pay for rural labour and the low prices he received for his products.

As William got older he seemed to be more concerned about moral issues. In November 1916 he wrote about the horrors of drunkenness and that the percentage of alcohol in drinks should be reduced. Two years later it was about the horrors of Venereal Disease and the inaction of government to reduce it. In 1921 he urged the government to get on with the Tod Reservoir and pipe laying to supply farmers with the water they were promised.

At the age of 68, William Brutton Richardson and his wife Harriet retired, left Koppio to their sons and moved to Port Lincoln. Although retired he did not stop reading the papers nor writing to the editors if need be. In November 1925 he corrected the Minister when he made an incorrect statement about the rainfall in the Tod River catchment area. And William should know after keeping records for 22 years. William Brutton died on 7 March 1945 and Harriet Sarah on 14 August 1950. Both are buried at the Port Lincoln Happy Valley Cemetery. There are at least 20 Richardsons buried at the Happy Valley Cemetery at Port Lincoln, including two children and four adults in unmarked graves. Frank St Clair is burried in the RSL section of the cemetery.

The Koppio property had been left in capable hands. All three sons had done their share and contributed to its success. As early as 1906 Frank had become involved with the Koppio Agricultural Bureau and reported on the results of experiments with different manures. All had been very satisfactorily. He was also a member of the South Australian Farmers Bureau and at one of its meeting advised that more care should be taken of implements which were a costly item to the farmers.

According to Frank a coat of paint would preserve both iron and wood work. Regular maintenance would prolong the life of machinery and equipment all of which should be cleaned and put under cover after use. Frank and his brothers regularly exhibited at the Yallunda Flat Show of which their father was president. The Register of 27 October 1909 reported that WB Richardson & Sons had shown some excellent fat lambs and rams at the show and commented on their gardens with its olive plantation which scarcely could look better.

Although the men had eight acres under olive in ’profuse bearing’ they could not afford the production of oil on a commercial scale as machinery, labour and transport were just too expensive. In 1912 when Frank was Chairman of the Koppio branch of the Agricultural Bureau he gained the job of manager of Charlotte Plains near Cunnamulla in Queensland.

As he expected to be away for a long time he transferred his interest to his brother Reginald who was living in Adelaide. Frank eventually returned in 1937 to retire and live with his parents in Port Lincoln. His father who was now 83 still sat on the Bench as a Justice of the Peace. Reginald now decided to return home and become a farmer as well.

In December 1912 Reginald's engagement to Mary Crawford of St Peters was announced. Three years later, on Saturday morning 17 July 1915, they were married at the Brougham Place Congregational Church. In the afternoon they left for a motoring holiday to Victor Harbor. On their return to Koppio they lived in the original cottage to which they added some extra rooms. Eventually they moved to White River near Louth Bay where they bought their own farm and the cottage was then used by the occasional farm labourers employed by his brother William Roy.

On 20 January 1922 Mary gave birth to a son at the Boston Private Hospital Port Lincoln. Eighteen months later Reginald, like his father, was appointed Justice of the Peace. The White River property was used mainly for growing barley.

Meanwhile William Roy who got engaged on 22 June 1912 to Henrietta Marjorie, youngest daughter of Dr WT Angove of Teatree Gully, had a change of mind. While working long days at Koppio he became a Councillor for the Koppio Branch of the Farmers and Settlers Association of South Australia in 1917 and saw little of Henrietta. He did see more of Daisy Warnes, the teacher at Yallunda Flat and on 23 April 1919 he married Margaret Helena Daisy Warnes at St Hugh’s Church Cowell.

Daisy and Roy with sons Robert and Dennis

They were to have two children, both boys, Robert Brutton in 1921 and Dennis Warnes in 1923. Although very busy with the work on the farm William Roy was an active member of Yallunda Flat Sports Committee. He was secretary from 1919-1924 and president from 1925-1932. With the passing of time travelling was now done by car. William Roy had an Oakland Six and in October 1919 he wrote to his dealer; ‘We have had the greatest satisfaction from it and now covered over 14.000 miles. It is excellent in the sand and on the hills, and if anything is pulling better than ever before. Nearly four years later he got his new 1923 model.

Travelling certainly had become easier. Even occasional trips to Adelaide like the one in 1935 when William Roy bought three stud merino rams at the Adelaide Royal Show. From 1939 until 1943 Roy was Councillor for the Koppio Ward. Roy and Daisy stayed on the farm until March 1944. In 1945 they bought a farm near Eudunda. Their son Dennis came with them to help on the 800 acre property.

When they retired they moved to Adelaide where Roy died in 1977 and Daisy in 1987. Their son Robert who had grown up on the Koppio farm and attended schools in and around Koppio did not become a farmer. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force. However his great contribution has been the writing of a detailed account of what it meant to be a farmer’s son growing up in a farming community.

His book Koppio Revisited, a profile of the Richardsons of Koppio, 1903-1944, details all the struggles, trials and tribulations they experienced. The mastering of the rabbit problem, the work involved with the sheep husbandry from lambing, crutching and shearing to fleece grading, filling the wool bales and loading them for transport.

Apart from covering the day to day problems of running a farm he also shows that there was still time for sport, swimming in the Tod, when it had water in it, going to church, attending shows and dance evenings as well as other socials. Nights at home were without radio or TV. Instead they played games, had sing-alongs or read a book. There were also the shopping trips to Port Lincoln or Adelaide and the interaction with neighbours.

Together again.
St Jude's Cemetery Brighton.

Koppio Revisited by Robert B. Richardson
is available for $25.00
To order your copy please


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