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Adamthwaite Archive

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the Adamthwaite family at Quambatook ... continued

The settlers became very resourceful and it was a case of "necessity being the mother of invention".  Later Charlton became the place for shopping and the outlet for produce, etc.  Then nearer still at Glenloth, and finally, the railway came through to Quambatook.  So the old river road from Quambatook to Charlton had many memories and associations for the first generation of the Adamthwaites in Quambatook. It was a slow trip, even when covered by horse-drawn wagons or carts, and the travellers would be pleased to call in on settlers living on, or near the track, to enjoy a chat and a meal.  Very often they would stay overnight and continue their journey the next day.  Friendships formed were very deep and lasting in those early pioneering days, when every settler depended so much upon his neighbours and his neighbours likewise depended on him, in prosperity or adversity.


The railway came to Quambatook in the year 1893 after many months of negotiations with the Government of the day. Joseph was chairman of the local committee which promoted the plan to bring the line from Boort through to Quambatook.  In 1893, there was a great depression in Melbourne, so the Government agreed to send gangs of men to build the line.  It took some time to obtain the consent of some farmers between the two towns to accept some compensation for loss of land and to let the line come through.  Now Quambatook was on the map and from then on the town began to grow. The school and the hall were moved into the new town area, and other businesses were set up.


In the earliest times Quambatook was part of the Swan Hill Shire which extended to the South Australian border.  As more settlers came to Kerang and surrounding areas, there was a strong move for severance from Swan Hill and for creation of the Shire of Kerang.  Here we find that Joseph was a powerful advocate of this change, and a member of the committee which was successful in the year 1896, when Quambatook became part of the Kerang Shire.


A school was built in 1879 near the weir opposite Joseph and Emma's home, and to this school went all the young Adamthwaites of school age.  However, due to lack of numbers, this school was closed in 1891, and some members of the family had to travel to a school along the river south of Quambatook.  They travelled by horse and buggy and their teacher was Mr McDonald.  In those days the Government paid sixpence per week per child as a travelling allowance for any distance over three miles. When the town began to develop after the coming of the railway in 1893, school was held in the old Mechanics Hall building and the first teacher was Annie, second eldest daughter of Joseph and Emma.  She had received her education by winning scholarships, and then returned to be the first teacher at State School 2443.  The first school building in the town was erected in 1900, in River Street, and to this school went the second and third generations of Joseph and Emma’s family.  Now the new school stands on the new site to which the first Quambatook school was moved about 25 years ago and the fourth generation of the family is attending this school today [this was written in 1978 ... are there still Adamthwaite children attending?]


The old hall situated at the weir was moved into the town to become the supper room of the new Mechanics Hall, and it was Edmund, the son of Joseph, who used a team of bullocks to carry out this operation.


Joseph and Emma were Anglicans and the first remembered visit of an Anglican clergyman was in 1885, when Rev. Gordon Hayward of Inglewood made the journey to Quambatook and stayed overnight at the old home.  While there, he baptised three of the family.


The early settlers had to depend for medical aid on a doctor as far away as Charlton.  Many times when the river was in flood, the doctor could not come and the Adamthwaite family, along with other such settlers, had to depend largely on their own resources and on home cures.  Neighbours helped one another, but sometimes in spite of all care, lives were lost be­cause medical aid was so far away.  Medicines found in the family chest included: Greathead's Castor Oil, Senna Tea, Licorice Powder, Zambuck Ointment, Hypol, Olive Oil, Eucalyptus and Fluid Magnesia.


The first crop to be sown on the farm was that of one quarter of an acre of carrot seeds in the year 1882.  This turned out to be a very dry year and the seeds did not grow, but in the following year there was a crop of carrots, enough for the family's own use. The first ploughing of the paddocks was of paramount importance and the furrows had to be straight. One man had to drive and the other strike the furrow.  The plough was drawn by horses; the seed sown by the broadcast method, and it was in 1883 that the first successful corn crop was grown in the forty-acre river paddock.  Although the rainfall was rather light, there was a harvest.  The whole crop was threshed by an old-fashioned threshing machine from the Charlton district (Chambers).  Binding of sheaves of hay was all done by hand and great care and pride was taken in the building of the hay stacks.





In 1884, corn was grown in the eighty acre paddock north of Mildred St.  In the year 1891 a Show was to be held at Doncaster, England.  A request was made by the Victorian Government for samples of wheat and a sample from the 1890 crop grown on Joseph and Emma's farm was chosen.  It was the bearded type, "Champlain Hybrid" by name, and had to be measured by an imperial bushel measure; one was made especially for this purpose.  The grain was very carefully selected by the sons and when measured, it weighed 69½ pounds to the imperial bushel.


The Victorian exhibit won first prize against others from all over the world, and the Quambatook farm sample was part of that exhibit.  The certificate which was sent to Joseph from the Doncaster Exhibition is in the hands of Joseph's grandson, Alfred, today.


The first settlers used the single furrow set plough, the disc, the tyne cultivator with rigid tynes, harrows, etc., to prepare the soil, and reaper, stripper and winnower to harvest.  During the first twenty years of agriculture, the threshing machine travelled from farm to farm after carting in had been completed.  The thresher would have a large team of men for whom the womenfolk would have to cater for all meals, lunches, etc.  This was a very strenuous undertaking in the hot summer months.  The men on the thresher would be just casual labourers, and would sometimes start quarrelling — then walk off the

job.  A story is told of one threshing contractor who pulled out with all his men, because for nine days, they had been fed with twenty-seven stews!


Bullock waggons and then horse-drawn waggons were used for all heavy carting and ploughs were drawn by either bullocks or horses in the early days.  Later, the stump jump plough was introduced, having been used very successfully in the Mallee country.  Until 1896, only the aristocrats among farmers owned a harvester.


There is a story told that a neighbour (Cottrell) purchased a 12-row seeding drill and this was quite a new implement in those times.  Joseph's son, Arthur, who was a good mechanic (self-taught) was asked to assist their neighbour with the setting up of this new drill.  Thanking him for his assistance, the neighbour said he could have a loan of it to sow a paddock on his father's farm.  Both Arthur and Edmund thought this was a great idea, but not Joseph, who was not at all happy that the crop should be sown in this way.  In fact, he insisted that it be done by the broadcast method as usual.  However, Joseph spent a lot of his time up the town with his wheat buying and other agencies, so Edmund and Arthur set to work and sowed the paddock with the drill — taking care to make the furrows run across so that Joseph when walking or driving past would not notice. The crop came up beautifully and Joseph said: "Now if you boys had had your way with that —— drill, there would have been no crop at all!"


Such was the generation gap, even in those days.


It is very interesting to note the prices for farm products in those early years, and the wages paid:

  • wheat realised 1 shilling and 6 pence per bushel;

  • wool, 6 pence to 9 pence per pound;

  • fat sheep, 8 shillings per head;

  • store cattle, £2 per head;

  • fat cattle, £7 per head;

  • Aafarm hand received 17 shillings and 6 pence per week and his keep;

  • shearers earned 10 to 12 shillings per hundred.


When nineteen years of age, Edmund, son of Joseph, built a thatched stable, one hundred feet long, and this stable has been demolished only in recent years.  The old home near the pepper trees, was pulled down in the late 1930s. About that time, a man who was camping in the house found a wedding ring which had been lost by Grandma Emma, many years before.


 Let us now consider just what sort of people were Joseph and Emma. Joseph was a carpenter, and is listed as coming to Australia on the “Star of the East".  He took on contracts building schools while waiting for his wheat farm to come into production.  He was also an amateur veterinary expert, so he was in demand with the other settlers.  His son, Fred, wrote about him in these words: "He was a man deeply committed to public affairs and to the community.  He was a quiet man who never boasted, but was always dependable and strictly honest in his opinion."  He was very fond of horses and brought some race horses with him from Moyston.  The very first race meeting was held in Joseph's paddock in the early 1880s, and there were many other successful meetings held.  A man called Scobie was employed by Joseph to train and care for the horses.  In later years Scobie moved to Melbourne and became a very well-known and skilful horse trainer.  This great love of horses has been inherited by his grandson, Alf, and so the old farm has never been without light horses.  Joseph had an interest in several agencies in the town including wheat buying, so that when the sons Edmund and Arthur were old enough to work the farm, much of Joseph's time was spent with these other interests.

read on ...