Sunday, 1 December 2013

DEATH ON THE FRONTIER

A PAINTING OF JANE FARRELL. 1860's. Source: Personal Collection.

Mary Ann Clark, John and Jane Clark’s child was only 3 years 10 months old when she sadly died of scarlet fever in 1865.
 The death of children was an all too frequent an occurrence on the Australian frontier in the nineteenth century. You have to remember that there weren’t many doctors around. If there was a doctor they couldn’t do much for diseases such as diphtheria and typhoid fever anyway.

John and Jane left the station they had been managing and set up a hotel and carrying business closer to Bowen. Thus began the makings of the Clark fortune. If you can’t make money from a pub on the Australian frontier then there’s something wrong with your management style. That or you’re drinking all the profits yourself.

 While Jane ran the Euri Creek Hotel, as it was known, John ventured into the hinterland to carry supplies to the stations and return with bales of wool. At the time many of the early stations had sheep. Growing sheep for wool in the early days in northern Australia turned out to be a disaster. The local Aborigines saw sheep as an easy way to get a meal; a lot easier then chasing down a kangaroo. The sheep were also tended by shepherds who were so frequently speared that it became common for two or three shepherds to be speared every week.  In the end no one wanted to be a shepherd at any price. Homesteads were also attacked so often that many were abandoned. The first settlers savage reaction to the Aborigines will be covered in future blogs.


ABORIGINES ATTACKING A SHEPHERD'S HUT. Source: A History of Aboriginal Sydney.

John Clark would take a bullock wagon full of supplies out two to three times a year inland to the most distant station. A round trip was about 360 miles and a good trip took about three weeks. Yes, I nearly forgot, he also had to go over two mountain ranges. He always took Roddy with him so he could avoid being attacked.
BULLOCK DRAY. Source: ninglun.wordpress.

 A clever ploy that he learnt from the mail man who also travelled the same track, was not to sleep at the camp fire you built but to sleep somewhere else. If the Aborigines saw the campfire they would attack it.