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Aussie Pioneers - 14. AP Chapter 14

By mid-February, we were about half way with building the school house, when a buggy came up the track, and turned down the new track to the school house when they saw the construction work happening.

“Good day to you all. My name is Augustus Barrington. My family and I moved onto the farm just south west of here,” the man said once he stepped off his buggy and approached.

“I am Shamus O’Grady, and the young man up there is Edwin Cameron. The young chap over by the well is Edwin’s brother, Archie, and this is my oldest son James,” Shamus said making the introductions.

I climbed down the ladder to meet the new neighbour. “Nice to meet you, we heard a few weeks ago that you were settling into the area,” I said as I shook the man’s hand.

“What do we have here?” Mr Barrington asked.

“A school-house. I have another younger brother, my house keeper has three sons and Shamus has a daughter, and at the moment they are doing their lessons at my house, just half a mile up the track,” I answered.

“I see. That is wonderful news that we will have a local school. Who does the teaching?” Mr Barrington asked.

“My housekeeper – Mrs Applegate does, but Mrs O’Grady has been helping a lot lately, now that we have five students,” I replied.

“Well, when this is completed, can I have my children attend too please?” Mr Barrington asked.

“I am sure we can fit your children in too. How many do you have?” Mr O’Grady replied.

“Five in total, 3 daughters and two sons, aged from 14 to 6 years old,” Mr Barrington replied.

“What was your trade before you came to South Australia?” I asked.

“A blacksmith and farrier, but I have always wanted to have my own land someday, and now that I have, I am looking forward to living and working on the land,” Mr Barrington said.

“I was a potato farmer back in Ireland, and with the weather being harsh and life hard over there, we decided that Australia would be a better place to be, so we sold most of our belongings and caught the first ship to Australia, which brought us to South Australia. Maybe you could build a shed for ye blacksmith shop.

That way you can keep ye trade going, as I am sure we will be needing your services at times,” Shamus said. “I will consider that, Mr O’Grady, but where should I build the workshop?” Mr Barrington asked.

“Why not across the road from here? That way it will be fairly central for all of us,” Archie suggested, and Shamus nodded his head in agreement to my brothers suggestion.

“Yes, I will agree to that, and I won’t charge you any rent for it being on our land. We will help to build it,” I responded.

When the school house was finally completed, Shamus said he would see us in a week or two, as he had some work to do at his place, and so for the next two weeks, August, Patrick, Archie and myself started work on the blacksmith workshop, which would have three side walls, and at the front it would have a large forge, with a half wall behind it, to control airflow and light.

Using the local stone, we built a suitable forge, and August who still had all of his equipment and tools including an anvil, brought it all to his new workshop. With an 8-yard wide gap between my south boundary and their northern boundary, a track was now forming, to provide easy access, with both Shamus and August, establishing their homes at the northern end of their property.

With the school completed, it was Helena who decided to take on the teaching duties at the school, with the help of the learning material that Simeon had brought with him from England, along with some of the books that I had purchased in town. With ten students she was kept very busy each day,

When the workshop was completed by early March, including having a wooden floor, I decided that we needed to build a fence around the sides and back of the school house, to keep the children from wandering too far away, and to keep the horses in while school was in progress, and a water trough was added near the well.

With some more free time, Florence was now keeping busy with planting new vegetable crops, cleaning the house, preparing the meals and doing some knitting in her spare time. School was held Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 2 pm, allowing for the children to complete their home chores before coming to school each day, and have time for afternoon chores before it got dark. Once they had settled into a regular routine, all the students were learning very well.

When the school fence was completed, we began work on the northern boundary fence, as I wanted to start dividing some of the land into paddocks as soon as possible. Once I had at least half of the back fence completed, we could start work on the internal fences. I had decided on dividing the western half of the property into 690-acre paddocks, which I thought was a manageable size.

This would give me a total of 15 paddocks, with 3 rows of 5 paddocks, separated by two access laneways to make mustering the sheep a lot easier. On the eastern end of the centre row of paddocks, I wanted to build sheep yards, so that the sheep could be moved to the yards easily from which ever paddock they were in.

When it came to another trip into town, I asked Florence to go, as I needed Archie to help me with building the fences. She was happy to make the trip for me. I gave her a list of supplies that I needed for the farm. This included more fence wire, pliers, gloves, staples for securing the wire to the posts, two more sets of hand sheep shears, another sharpening stone, some more lamps for inside the house, as parts of the house were always quite dark, plus all the basic food supplies that we needed.

This time Florence would be taking just some vegetables, relishes, goat’s cheese, butter and milk, plus 12 balls of wool, so only the buggy would be needed for this trip. She would be taking Mark and Adam with her.

“Mrs Applegate, how nice to see you again,” Mr Harkin said when she and her two boys entered the store in Ceduna. “Hello, Mr Harkin. Just me and my two boys this time, as we are very busy on the farm now,” Florence replied.

“Indeed, it would be with summer nearly over. What have your brought for us this time?’ Mr Harkin responded.

“No as much this time, I am afraid, as we are near the end of the crop for the vegetables, and waiting for the new batch to start producing,” Florence replied, as her sons started carrying in all of the produce.

“I have some more balls of wool - not as much as last time. Oh, and a new item - we have goat’s cheese, which is quite delicious,” Florence announced.

Mr Harkins eyes widened in surprise, “Well that is a nice treat, he said.

After finishing at the mercantile store, Florence went to the book shop next. “Hello, Mr Hiltz. I have come with a special request. We have our own school-house out our way now, and we are in big need of learning books of any kind please,” Florence said after entering the book store.

Florence came out of the store with two crates of books, including rolls of maps, and map books, plus books on Algebra, History, Geometry and Latin. Her next stop was to get all the supplies for the farm that were needed, but first she needed to stop at a tea room for some refreshments for her sons and herself.

When they stepped out of the tea room, a gentleman came rushing towards Florence and her boys. “Excuse me, are you Mrs Florence Applegate?” he asked as he approached at a fast walk.

“Yes, indeed I am,” Florence replied, seeing now that the gentleman was a man of the cloth.

“My name is Reverend Daniel Forrest. I am the Methodist Priest for this region. I understand that you live on a farm north west of here,” the minister said.

“Yes, that is correct, sir. These are my two youngest boys, Mark and Adam, and I have an older son James who remained on the farm. We settled in the area with my late husband, but when illness struck the family, we lost my second daughter and soon after my husband. Our nearest neighbour has been kind enough to take us in and I am their housekeeper,” Florence replied.

“You neighbour, is he an older gentleman?” the minister asked.

“No, Mr Cameron is 22 years old, eight years younger than me, and he and his two younger brothers own and run a large farm, two days north west of here. I am doing our regular supply run, which we do every 6 weeks,” Florence explained.

“I see. I have just learnt from Mr Harkin, that you have a school-house up your way. Is that correct?” the minister asked.

“Yes sir, that is correct. We were doing lessons in the dining room at Mr Cameron’s house, but there was a need for a more suitable place for the children to do their schooling. You see, as well as the Cameron boys, we have a new neighbour, Mr Barrington, who has 5 children, so we got together and built a school-house,” Florence explained.

“Today is Wednesday, and you say it is a two-day journey to the farm. May I come to your school-house this Sunday to hold a church service for you folk out that way?” the minister asked.

“Yes, I see no problem with that. I will let Mr Cameron and Mr Barrington know. We will be leaving town this afternoon, and you will need to leave no later than the day after tomorrow morning to get there by Sunday,” Florence said.

“Thank you, I will. God bless you and your boys,” the minister said before dashing off again.

“What a funny man,” Mark said and Florence chuckled.

“That is just him being busy all the time with his ministry. Now come along. We have lots to do before we set off for home again,” Florence said as they made their way to the farm supply store.

“Mrs Applegate, how are you this fine afternoon?’ the man at the counter asked as they stepped inside.

“Better now we are indoors, as it has been so warm today, hasn’t it, Mr Overton?” Florence replied.

“Yes, it has, but summer is nearly over for another year. Now what is it that Mr Cameron requires for his farm?” Mr Overton asked, as Florence handed over a list of items.

“More fence wire, my word. He must be working very hard on building those fences,” Mr Overton said after scanning the list, and starting to gather the items. Some sounds caught the attention of the boys and they went to investigate, where it was coming from. Soon after, there were some screeching noises, and the boys returned with a piglet each in their hands.

“My word, boys! Put those down so they stop that dreadful noise,” Florence said to her sons.

“There are nine of them piglets, back there Ma. Can we have some for the farm?” Adam her middle son asked.

“Well, I don’t know what Mr Cameron will say. They are not pets. They will be slaughtered for meat someday,” Florence said to her boys.

“Since Mr Cameron is a regular customer, I will give you two piglets at no charge. They are 6 weeks old and have just been weaned from their mother,” Mr Overton said.

“Well, if you are really sure. That is very generous of you,” Florence replied, as the front door opened.

“Mr Overton do you…? Never mind. Mrs Applegate, you are just the person I am looking for,” the man said as he approached. Florence was trying to remember who he was.

“I am Mr Gregory from the Lands Registry,” the man said to Florence.

“Oh yes. Sorry I couldn’t remember where I had seen you before. What can I do for you?’ Florence said.

“Well, I heard you were in town, and I wanted to let you know that we have been getting a lot of interest in the land out your way. We decided to split your former farm into halves, and the 12 square-mile block east of there has just be acquired. Their name is Frankston, I think,” Mr Gregory said.

“Oh good. We have a school house and blacksmith workshop in the area, and we met Mr Barrington recently. His 5 children are attending the school,” Florence responded.

“Oh, good. You did get to meet him. That is wonderful, and a school-house you say. Well that is progress for such a remote part of the state,” Mr Gregory stated.

Copyright Preston Wigglesworth January 2019 All Rights Are Reserved

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Chapter Comments

This was an excellent chapter. I think it’s great that they thought enough ahead to think it was time to build a school house so that the children would have somewhere other than the dining room of the house to hold their lessons. Especially since they met the O’Grady family the students have grown from 3- 4 students to 5 then they meet their other neighbors the Barrington family who has 5 children more for the school. Mr Barringtonis a blacksmith by trade so they decided to build a work shop with a forge for Mr Barrington across the track from the school. There’s now a school and a blacksmith on the Cameron property, while Florence, Mark and Adam were in town a Methodist minister came up to them to see if they would be willing to hold a service on Sunday morning, she said she didn’t see a problem with that but would ask Edwin about it, it was decided that he would use the school to hold the service in. Then while they were waiting for Mr Overton to get their order ready the boys heard some squealing and went to investigate the sound and returned shortly with each holding a squealing piglet asking if they could get some to take back to the farm with them, Florence said they would have to talk to Edwin about it and Mr Overton said that since Edwin was such a good customer he would give them a few free of charge. Florence told the boys that the piglets were not pets and they would be slaughtered for food. She was also told that the land office had decided that the property her family had gotten when they first arrived would be divided in half as they were getting new neighbors again. To me I think it’s great that they’re getting more people moving in around them which is a reason to possibly need to expand the school house. 

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