“Dear Friends” … Letter From an Emigrant in 1864

So what was life like for those who emigrated to South Australia back in the 1800s? Generally you’re only likely to find this information from letters written to family or friends in the ‘old country’, or otherwise from diaries. So it was a surprise to find an article on Trove about an emigrant who not only came to South Australia, but actually settled in the tiny town of Gumeraka (note the alternate spelling of Gumeracha).

Written in 1864 to some friends in England (or maybe Wales), it was produced as an article the Scotts Circular (Newport, Wales), and then in The Adelaide Express, 22 April 1865 (as reproduced below). The writer details what it was like for him and his family with housing food, work and wages, neighbours and other businesses all getting a mention. What we don’t know is who the author of the letter is. Still, it makes for an interesting read.

In 1864 the town of Gumeracha was not very old, having only been laid out in the 1850s  (for more on that click here).

earliest known photo of Gumeracha, taken c1870 [click for a larger image]

earliest known photo of Gumeracha, taken c1870 [click for a larger image]

The article starts off with “The following interesting letter has arrived from an emigrant who received a passage under Government, to South Australia.”


An Emigrant's Letter, Adelaide Express, 22 April 1865 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207600900

An Emigrant’s Letter, Adelaide Express, 22 April 1865 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207600900

The text below is a full transcript of the article. Note the paragraphs have been added in by me to make it easier to read.

Gumeraka, Australia,
September 18th, 1864.

My Dear Friends, I am glad to tell you that I have got plenty of work the first day that I went on after landing, and the first master that I spoke to I  engaged to go with to go into the Bush a dray-making and waggon-making at the wheelwrighting trade, at the rate of wages I will give you, and you can see whether it is as good as in England. I think there is a better chance for a working man to get on here; the wages that I am going to have is, with lodgings, that is a hut and firewood as much as I like to burn, and all my food, and I have meat every meal, and  eggs and tea every meal, and pudding every day, and £1 10s. per week, if that is not; good send and let me know of it; that was the first chance that I had.

I think it as good as £2 10s per week, and my wife have a good many things gave her, and the children get plenty to eat at the farm which we live close to.

Our hut have got canvas windows instead of glass, but they do out here as there is not many people to see out here, only at the farm house. They keep a blacksmith’s shop and a wheelwright’s shop, but it is about a mile from the farm, and they send our meals down to us; there is another wheelwright that married the daughter which live at the farm; their house is like a cow-shed-in England, but they got plenty of money, they are Scotch people; and they are good people to work with, and my wife and children are quite well and myself in good health.

We can live as cheap as  we could in England, and butter is 8d. per pound; beef, 2 1/2d. to 3d.; mutton, 2d. to 4d. per pound; sugar, 4d.; tea, 2s. 6d. to 3s.; bread now is rather dear Is. a gallon (?) ; beer, 10d. per quart and 1s.

There is plenty of work out here if people will but come out to try. If any body will come out I will go and meet them, and keep them till they can get work, or I will ‘try and see if I could get them a place, but there is nobody out of work here; cloth is about the same as in England.

Please to read this to all of the shop, and tell them that I am very much obliged to them for what they done for me when I were at home, but if I can do anything for any of them in any way, I will do it with the greatest pleasure of doing it to any of my old shopmates; please to tell them all to write to me, and I will write to them in return, and please to send me some newspapers, and I will send they some.—Scotts Circular, (Newport, Wales.)

So there you have it. That’s what life was like in Gumeracha back in 1864, and no doubt similar in other country towns, taken from a firsthand account.

Homeopathy and the Treasures Between the Pages!

Homeopathy: “The study of natural therapy which stimulates the body’s immune system to restore health”. It was something that my great grandpa, J.B. Randell taught himself.

Ever looked through an old book and found something slotted in the pages in between? I have. Regularly. I’ve mentioned before that my mum’s side of the family weren’t one’s to throw things out. Putting it nicely “hoarders”, and for that I’m eternally grateful, as it has meant that we have SO MANY family heirlooms dating back generations, it’s truly amazing.

One thing that seems to have been a ‘thing’ that’s been passed down through the generations of Randell’s, was the habit of putting things in the middle of books. I’ve always known my grandma to do that, and have often discovered random newspaper cuttings, birthday cards, flattened Easter egg wrappers and more in the pages of books of hers. Now this book of her fathers, John Beavis “JB” Randell (to my surprise) has even more bits filed in between the pages.

I found a total of 25 items in amongst the pages of the book, and I have scanned each one of them, and that’s what I wanted to share with you today. Some are interesting, others not. But from there there are clues which could lead to further research …

[espro-slider id=9875]

As you will see there’s a collection of all sorts, from receipts, to newspaper cuttings, to bible verses, envelopes, hair, leaves, a bookmark and other printed items. I’ve noted them below, as the caption on the slider was so tiny it wasn’t readable.

1. Gumeracha Town Hall Concert, 9 August 1924
2. Receipt from Norsworthy’s store, Gumeracha, dated 9 September 1924
3. Dried leaves
4. Hair or fur
5. More dried leaves
6. front of homeopathic remedies brochure
7. advert for Nurse Grace’s ointment
8. Receipt of the sale of rabbit skins by Restyn Randell, dated 2 May 1922
9a. Front of bible verse card for Restyn Randell
9b. Back of bible verse card for Restyn Randell
10. advert for Dr Ricords Interesting Book for Men
11. “Forget Me Not” bookmark
12. Coats crochet cotton wrapper
13a. Front of Pulteney Street parking station ticket
13b. Back of Pulteney Street parking station ticket
14. British and Foreign Bible Society, Gumeracha, 15 September 1918
15. Journal of Department of Agricultre, Victoria addressed to J.B. Randell
16. Good citizenship leaftet, dated 11 February 1925
17. Envelope addressed to J.B. Randell, Kenton Park, Gumeracha
18. Birks Pharmacy letter
19. Handwritten notes
20. Postage paid envelope
21. ‘By Grace Ye Are Saved’ card
22. Readers Digest letter to D.A. Randell
23. Tag with list written on it
24a. front of Fruitgrowers Association of Gumeracha envelope
24b. back of Fruitegrowers Association of Gumeracha envelope
25. Receipt from Norsworthy’s Store, Gumeracha, for J.B. Randell dated  November 1942

Now excuse me while I head off to the bookshelf, and start paging through more old books, to see what else I can find.

There’s History in Those Walls!

Let me tell you the incredible history of a small town pub in the Adelaide Hills that very few know of …

The tiny town of Gumeracha is currently best known for being home to the World’s Biggest Rocking Horse, the place the Medieval Fair is held each year, and of course the local wines. However up until around the mid 1900s the local pub was a tourist attraction, and not just for the beer, it was for the thousands of names written on its walls. It was so well-known that it even gained the reputation of being Australia’s largest “visiting book” hotel in the process.

The town, which was founded by William Beavis Randell in the 1850s, has had a pub there almost as long. The map below is a portion of a town plan of Gumeracha dated from 1860, and shows that the corner block (where the hotel is) was owned by A Vorwerk, who is also listed as the first owner of District Hotel from 1861.

portion of town plan map of Gumeracha, dated 1860

portion of town plan map of Gumeracha, dated 1860

Here’s an extract from the Gumeracha 1839-1939 book:

“The main front walls of the District Hotel are composed of a local chalkstone, and probably on no other walls of a building in any other part of Australia are engraved so many names and initials. From ground level up to the top of the balcony roof there are a thousand or more of them, many of them representing people who in later years became very prominent in the State. As is only natural, callers at this old hostelry scrutinise the names on its walls with the very greatest interest.”

And from a newspaper article on the History of Hotels dated 2 June 1951:

South Australia has a hotel with the largest “visiting-book” of any in Australia. It is the District Hotel at Gumeracha, a two-storied corner building of very soft sandstone. From pavement to roof the outer walls are covered with names and initials so that there is hardly a square inch vacant. Thousands of penknives must have scraped away busily over the years. Some names are dated back to 1876.

looking down the main street of Gumeracha with the District Hotel on the right, 1888/1889

looking down the main street of Gumeracha with the District Hotel on the right, 1888/1889

the District Hotel at Gumeracha, c1910

the District Hotel at Gumeracha, c1910

Initials and coats of arm engraved into the bricks of the hotel at Gumeracha c.1936. [photo source: State Library of South Australia, PRG 287/1/4/4]

Initials and coats of arm engraved into the bricks of the hotel at Gumeracha c.1936.  [photo source: State Library of South Australia, PRG 287/1/4/4]

What a treasure this would have been – not just to see, but also for historical purposes. Sadly the walls were covered over around the 1940s-1950s I believe, and with it, so much history simply disappeared.

But wouldn’t it be fascinating to know the stories of those who visited the hotel? Did locals etch their name into the walls? I’m sure many were visitors from Adelaide or beyond. And who were the ones ones who went on to become prominent in the state? So many questions …

While the hotel has been through many, many owners, the hotel itself has surprisingly only had two name changes in its long history. Beginning as the District Hotel back in 1861, this continued though until 1959, when its changed name to the Gumeracha Hotel, which is still is today.

the Gumeracha Hotel in the 1950s

the District  Hotel, c.1950

Gumeracha Hotel, 2013

Gumeracha Hotel, 2013

The following is an extract from the book “Hotels and Publicans in South Australia 1836 to 1984”, by J.L. “Bob” Hoad

Owners of the District Hotel, Gumeracha
1861 – 1861 Vorweck, A.
1862 – 1864 Williams, J.
1864 – 1865 Pearce, S.
1866 – 1866 Jahn, H.
1867 – 1868 Day, E.
1869 – 1873 Hewish, H.
1873 – 1875 Cobb, J.H.
1875 – 1878 Rundle, John
1879 – 1880 Rundle, James
1880 – 1881 Scheck, Charles
1882 – 1889 Scheck, Carl
1890 – 1891 Scheck, L.
1892 – 1892 Scheck, Mrs L.
1893 – 1902 Gerhard, Mrs E.
1903 – 1904 Humphries, W.J.
1905 – 1914 Finch, Mrs H.
1915 – 1919 Tidswell, Mrs F.
1920 – 1921 Tidswell, H.R.K.
1922 – 1926 Coe, Mrs Ethel
1927 – 1927 Corcoran, P.M.
1928 – 1931 Corcoran, Mrs Catherine T.
1931 – 1935 Jonas, John D.
1935 – 1936 Clarke, John C.
1936 – 1938 Bruggemann, Fredk. E.
1938 – 1944 Venner, Mrs Nellie Emily
1944 – 1945 Simpson, Thelma Josephine
1946 – 1947 Cosgrave, Patrick Thomas Joseph
1946 – 1947 Walkom, Colin Douglas
1947 – 1952 Cosgrave, Patrick Thomas Joseph
1952 – 1953 Cosgrave, Jessie Eileen

Owners of the Gumeracha Hotel, Gumeracha
1953 – 1/1963 Roden, Mostyn John Anthony & Mary Geraldine
1/1963 – 3/1963 Childs, William Albert Edward
3/1963 – 5/1963 Roden, Mostyn John Anthony & Mary Geraldine
5/1963 – 1966 Hayes, Sydney Walter & Marie Teresa
1966 – 1969 Kessner, Jessie Josephine
1969 – 1970 Caon, Luigi & Roma Pearl
1970 – 1973 Kennedy, Robert Angus & Alexius May
1973 – 1976 McDonald, Stanley Richard & Fay Doris
1976 – 6/1983 Shields, Graham Edward & Barbara Marion Joyce
6/1983 – 6/1983 Cooper, Malcolm George
6/1983 – 1984 Shields, Graham Edward & Barbara Marion Joyce

Patriotic Day, Gumeracha, 1918

Isn’t it funny how you learn history through ‘things’?

My history lesson this week has been about Patriotic Day. I admit that I hadn’t heard of such a day, but thanks to a purchase of the badge (as shown above) on ebay, I was inspired to find out more.

But what’s interesting is that I found very little on it. Wikipedia and Google both let me down, so I headed to Trove, but even they didn’t have much.

It doesn’t seem to have been an Australia-wide thing, or even a South Australia-wide thing, but rather something the townsfolk have decided to do for themselves. Held in 1917 and in 1918 (at  least that’s all I could find), it seems that in 1917 it was used to raise fund for the war effort, and in 1918, was used to support the returned soldiers and the families of those who didn’t.

COUNTRY NEWS GUMERACHA. (1917, October 17). Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA : 1910 - 1924), p. 8. Retrieved August 21, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article105435537

Daily Herald, 17 October 1917 p. 8 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article105435537

GENERAL NEWS. (1918, October 4). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 7. Retrieved August 21, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5595919

The Advertiser, 4 October 1918, p. 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5595919

Advertising (1918, October 9). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 2. Retrieved August 21, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5597340

The Advertiser, 9 October 1918, p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5597340

If anyone has further information about Gumeracha’s Patriotic Day, please leave a comment below, as I’d love to know more about it.

And don’t you just love the image of the Gum weir on the badge … how cool is that? And for those that are unfamiliar with the region, here is a actual pic of the weir (below).

Gumeracha weir

Gumeracha weir