Richmans Creek, Valley and Gap
Richmans Creek, Richmans Valley, Peak Valley, Richmans Gap, Kingswood and other, even smaller settlements, were springing up in the newly declared Hundreds. Some lasted only for a short time, while others would enjoy the rain, if and when it came. All had to battle the droughts, occasional floods, poor economic conditions, lucusts, dust storms and any other setbacks. Most of the early settlers would eventually sell up and move to better areas with more reliable rainfall or resettle in nearby bigger towns.
With the good rains of the early 1870s, Goyder and his line were conveniently forgotten and the whole area was officially made available for farming in 1878. Richmans Valley was heavily timbered and it was hard, back-breaking and time-consuming work to clear the mallee and pine trees to prepare the land for production. To make matters worse, much of the land was also very stony. The only way to overcome the problem was to remove the stone (rocks) and the remaining tree-roots by hand.
Those who managed to hang on and had access to money would buy out their neighbours, enlarging their holdings, making it more economical to work. Some changed to mixed farming or pastoral pursuits. An excellent example of this is provided by Henry John Richman. Even so, it was not until the 1930s and 1940s that the rapid decline of the area resulted in some kind of stability. By that time though, most of the original vegetation had been destroyed causing massive dust storms in summer and washaways after the occasional floods.
To assist farmers and other settlers, the government had constructed railways, schools, wells and dams, which were a great help, but with a declining population and little freight the railways were all pulled up again. Dams silted up and wells became useless after the drop in the level of ground water. Some of the stone buildings have survived, but most eventually were reduced to ruins which still dot the landscape today. Looking at them now, one can only wonder how families, often large in numbers, could and did survive in these mostly two room buildings.
Most of the schools were one-teacher schools, where different grades were taught in the same room at the same time. Often the teachers were single females as the males found it easier to get appointed to bigger schools in the larger towns. These schools lasted as long as there was the required minimum number of students. A few of them managed to remain open until quite recently. What is amazing is the fact that even with a high teacher turn-over, some students did exceptionally well, both at school and in later life.
In November 1877 farmers were busy haymaking at Richmans Creek, in the Hundred of Willochra. On 11 December the Rev. WW Finch of Port Augusta conducted Devine Service to an attentive congregation at Richmans station where the Bible Christians had been meeting regularly for the past 18 months. As the area became more populated with the Closer Settlement schemes, the hotel soon became a venue for public meetings.
As a result of lack of money, manpower or wood, very few fences had been put up as yet. This gave rise to a common and recurring problem of losing, or the stealing of, stock or horses. One way to get them back was by placing notices in the paper such as; TWO POUNDS REWARD, LOST, from Richmans Greek, Roan MARE, branded BS near shoulder, JT conjoined off shoulder; Brown Horse, branded BS near shoulder, JT conjoined off shoulder. The above reward will be paid on delivery to Cottrell & Fyffe, Richmans Greek, or One Pound as will lead to their recovery, Richmans Creek, June 21,1878.
At a largely attended meeting, chaired by EJ Barratt, at the Itali Itali hotel in July 1878, it was proposed, seconded and passed that they should ask the government to withhold from survey portions in the southern part of Richman Valley as a timber reserve for the benefit of local farmers. Wood was in high demand for building, fencing and fire wood.
Several other meetings were held that year dealing with such issues as the provision of a school, better mail services and an office which could issue licences for dogs, timber and the registration of births, deaths and marriages.
One of the first births after this meeting was a daughter to the wife of Richmans Creek farmer Louis Bandt on 14 July 1878. This was followed on 6 October by a daughter to Mrs John Cottrell. On 29 November, Louis Freck was married to Fanny Lines, second daughter of John Lines of Fairfield Farm, Richmans Creek, by the Rev. Finch. In September 1877, John Lines informed the inhabitants of Willochra, Palmer and the surrounding districts, that he had commenced business at Richman's Creek as a general smith, and having had long experience in agricultural implements in the Colony, customers may rely on having good articles. Ploughs, harrows, scarifiers and horse rakes made to order. Horses and bullocks carefully shod. Meanwhile, Angus Nicholson now a farmer, after he had been declared insolvent recently, selected Section 14 of 464 acres in the Hundred of Pitchi Richi in County Newcastle. He was followed by John Lines, blacksmith, who took up Section 13 of 314 acres in the same Hundred in December 1879.
On 5 October 1878 a much larger meeting was held at the Iklee Iklee to consider various matters connected with the welfare of the district. Obviously, the previous meeting in July had not given any tangible results. This time the meeting was chaired by Mr Wright. Thomas Ellery moved the first motion, which concerned better mail services, followed by several other motions dealing with the roads, a post office and a branch office for securing licences and other matters. Among those attending were TM and JM Kelly, J Bowman, CB Walters, William, T and J Macdonald, E Ellery, J Wright and A Nicholson.
Thomas Ellery had worked in the Burra and the Moonta mines, before changing his occupation and taking his family to Richmans Creek and starting farming. He and many others who had taken up virgin land had absolutely no experience. For many it was trial and error and hoping for the best. Trying they did, and hard too!
A month later, the main subject of a meeting was the provision of a school. To speed up the process and save the government some money, farmers J Havelloy and Walterseach offered a site for the building. They also would like to see the establishment of a Board of Advice who could 'at once forward to the department all necessary information to facilitate the object'. There was some good news as well. The mail would be delivered twice a week, starting in December and a Post Office would be opened in 1879.
At another meeting at the hotel on 11 February 1879, it was agreed to build a place of worship. This resulted in a Trust being formed on 1 March consisting of William Wright, Thomas Ellery, GF Havelberg John McColl and John Lines. It was decided to build it near Mrs Cottrell's store on section 109 in the Hundred of Willochra. John Cottrell had previously been in partnership with Fyffe to operate a store in Quorn, but after the dissolution of the partnership now concentrated on his own store.
The contractors for the church were Quorn based GS Shepherd and Baker Brothers. The total cost amounted to 164 pounds, which meant that 100 pounds had to borrowed. Finance was provided by M Oldham at 10% over three years. The foundation stone was put in place by M McDonald while the Rev. JA Burns conducted the service.
The Bible Christian Church was opened on 25 December 1879 when as many as 300 people attended and set down for a dinner and tea. More than 100 pounds was raised, which removed the outstanding debt. Early in 1880 the building was used for a provisional school with Miss Sara McDonald as its first teacher. That same year a Sunday School was started, followed by a library, which soon had about 400 books for loan.
It proved to be an eventful year. Apart from the usual ploughing, scarifying, sowing, harvesting, winnowing, bagging and transporting the heavy bags to Quorn or Wilmington, there were also the jobs of milking the cows, making butter and cheese, feeding the pigs and chickens, fetching water, often from long distances, maintenance of farm machinery and equipment, attending all kinds of meetings and many other jobs.
While helping their husbands as much as possible, women had even more jobs and responsibilities. They had to provide three meals a day for the whole familie, without the help of most modern conveniences we are used to today. There was also the regular child-bearing, the constant looking after the babies and young children, washing, making and mending clothes, acting as nurse or doctor, or teacher when the school was too far away or the roads washed away. Some tried to maintain a vegetable garden or even did washing, ironing and mending for others to add to the meagre income between the harvests. They had to make ends meet.
Somehow families did find the time and means to brighten up their lives. They always found an excuse for having a party or just a gathering. Sport was just as important as church going and church meetings of any kind, although the last one was more often than not a woman's business, who also provided meals for visiting clergy. Whereas men had their meetings mostly in hotels, women had theirs at home with tea and cake.
On 9 June 1880 there was a good reason to wind down when a complimentary dinner was given to WH Bickerstaff at the hotel as he was going on a visit to his native land, Scotland. Mr J Bodiner occupied the chair. After justice had been done to the good things, provided by host and hostess Walters and the table cloths removed, the usual toasts of The Queen and Royal Family was given by C Bray. The toast of the evening, The Guest, was given by one of the partners of the firm with whom he was connected in business.
Bodiner was presented with a gold chain and locket in recognition of the good services rendered by him. Several other gentlemen expressed satisfactory remarks on the ability and character of the guest. A toast to The Host and Hostess was given by C Bray and responded to by McColl. An enjoyable evening was brought to a close by singing Auld Lang Syne.
More festivities were celebrated a week later on 16 June when James Maywell, eldest son of Henry Kelly, JP of Glenelg was married by the Rev. GF Bullock, to Ruth Alice, daughter of William Wright at Ightham Farm, Richmans Creek. Three months later the same clergyman married Peter Errick Colson, a migrant farmer from Sweden, but now limeburner of Quorn to Ellen Amy, eldest daughter of John Lines. Nine months later, their first of 8 children was born on 3 June 1881. His name was Edmund Albert Colson, educated at the Yatina one-teacher-school and eventually became a miner at Kalgoorlie, bushman and explorer. He was the first to cross the Simpson Desert in 1936.
Not everything was rain and sunshine though. Once again, a meeting had to be called in July to get some long-standing issues sorted out. There was still a problem with the mail and the roads and it was decided that a memorial should be drawn up and forwarded to the Postmaster-General.
A few months later, on 31 December 1880, the Port Augusta Dispatch and Flinders Advertiser gave an account of much better and more interesting happenings, which read; 'Christmas day here was one with rather more than passing interest. At about 11 o'clock the cricket clubs of Stephenston and Richmans Creek met on the ground of the latter and a brisk game ensued which resulted in the easy victory for the Richmans Creek eleven, they winning the game with one innings and eleven runs to spare. At 4 o'clock a public tea was provided in the Bible Christian Church to which all the cricketers and a large gathering of friends sat and did justice to a splendid spread.
On Monday evening at 8 o'clock according to previous announcement, the public assembled again at the church to hear the Rev. JA Burns lecture on 'Heroes and Heroism'. The chair was taken by the Rev. F Bullock who briefly introduced the lecture and lecturer. The Rev. Burns on rising was greeted with applause which was heartily repeated at intervals throughout the lecture which lasted an hour and ten minutes, and we feel sure proved highly gratifying to every listener.
Musical selections were given at intervals throughout the proceedings by Mr Harris and one or two young gentlemen who came from Quorn for the purpose. Mr. Harris was the harmonist (Mrs. Walters being the one kindly lent for the occasion). The usual vote of thanks to the lecturer and singers brought the proceedings to a close. Collections which were taken up at all services, in aid of the Chapel funds, were very satisfactory.'