L I F E S T O R Y O F A T R U E P I O N E E R
Transcribed hereunder is the biography of a pioneer stockman and early Riverland identity who, orphaned in 1859 at age 11-yrs, spent the rest of his life 'in the saddle' attending every kind of task associated with the pastoral industry in The Murray region of South Australia: - This brief biography, as told to journalist Walter Ogilvy, was first published in The Murray Pioneer on Friday, December 19, 1924 and featured photographs of horse drawn drays and early motor vehicles, circa 1900, at Paringa Punt, originally known a 'Chapman's Crossing', and also of 'Cane Grass Bore' near Lake Victoria; - Bores being the key that opened much of the Murray's hinterland to grazing; - Photographs in the newspaper article are courtesy of the Reiner's Collection (see bottom of this page)..
Material supplied courtesy Renmark, Paringa, Cal Lal Historical and Preservation Society.
Mrs. H. K. EVERINGHAM
PO Box 219;
PARINGA SA 5340;
THE REMINISCENCES OF JOHN THEODORE SCHELL
A TRUE MURRAY LAND PIONEER
INTRODUCTION EARLY RECOLLECTIONS THE SIGN OF THE SWORD ON NED'S CORNER PRIMITIVE CONDITIONS AT COWRA CHAPMAN'S CROSSING SPRING CART GULLY SOME OLD IDENTITIES NOR WEST BEND AT TRURO THE HOME BREAKS UP THE BEND to SWAN REACH ON THE DARLING DROWNED IN THE MURRAY WILD HORSES and CATTLE DROVING DAYS SHEARING DAYS THE BLACKS SHOT IN HIS TRACKS MORGAN the BUSHRANGER THE FIRST WIRE FENCE BUSHMAN and 'PRODUCTS' SCHELL'S WELL A BUSH FIRE LOXTON and BOOKPURNONG OLD NAMES RECALLED THE GREAT DROUGHT KEEP THE POT BOILING THE LONG DAY CLOSES REINER'S PHOTO HERITAGE
Tall and sparse looking, John Theodore Schell at the age of
seventy-six, still has all his faculties about him and there is
not much that his keen old eyes do not note. His hearing is
excellent, and his health has stood, in a remarkable manner, the
strain of a strenuous life spent wholly in the bush.
The name of Schell has been familiar to old-timers on the river for well over half a century, and since the opening up of the Loxton country, it has become well known to the world at large through its association with one of the old wells of the district - almost the sole surviving memorial of the pastoral days when the country through which the Paringa and Pinaroo lines now run, was held by cattle and sheep men.
Mr. Schell first came to the river in 1852. His life's work has consisted of bush riding, mustering, fencing, hut and yard building and woodcutting. He has seen the country covered with splendid grass, and stricken with drought when everything perished. He tells of floods and fires, the murdering of blacks, the coming of the ticket-of-leave men, and the gradual development from their virgin state of the great Murray lands. "I have been particular all my life to speak the truth," said the old man, "and if my life story would prove of interest to folk, it must be truthfully set down. I want no embellishments."
John Theodore Schell was born at Nuriootpa, near
Angaston, on October 16, 1848; His father was a Hanoverian but no
family records have been kept and the family Bible was burnt. His
mother's name was Caroline Hayland and she also came from
Hanover. The father and mother arrived at Port Adelaide during
Catherine Turat, Mr. Schell's wife, was born in Adelaide on May 16, 1854. Her father, a contemporary of Governor Hindmarsh, was born in England during 1822 and left that country for South Australia during the second year of the great potato famine. He used to tell the story of the first execution which took place in Adelaide. A man named Bell was publicly hanged in the Park Lands, and crowds of people, including mothers with their children, went to see the hanging. Mrs. Schell's mother arrived at Adelaide by the Royal Admiral.
Top of This Page
Schell's earliest recollection is of returning in a sailing
ship from Melbourne to Port Adelaide with his parents, who had
been at the Victoria diggings; With the money made at the
diggings, his father purchased bullocks and drays and went to the
Burra mines, where, at that time, numbers of people were living
in dugouts along the Burra Creek.
The father then commenced carrying between Tothill's Belt (district of Eudunda) and the Burra. Five teams of bullocks and two teams of horses were used, and most of the loadings were of heavy gum logs for timbering the mines. Periodically trips were made to Port Adelaide for machinery and supplies. Each team loaded five tons, and it was a common sight to see twenty and more teams stringing along the bad roads together. In wet weather double-banking would be resorted to. The worst place on the road was Logan's Creek, where often three teams would be required to pull the loaded wagon through the bog. There were grog shanties along the track, and many a time the weary teamsters were glad to reach a roadside inn, however rough it was.
Top of This Page
AT THE SIGN OF THE SWORD
Dan Leah kept the Sword Hut inn then. This was a
shingle-roofed old shanty standing half way between Tothill Belt
and the Burra. Dan made plenty of money, and as many as forty
teams might be seen yoking and unyoking outside the 'Sign of
the Sword'. Bullock drivers in those days were much addicted
to drink, and the sights outside, and inside, the shanty were
sometimes not good to look at. There were no police about then.
The teamsters' track, after coming through Tothill Belt, passed Analby Run then managed by Mr. Buchanan, father of the well-known judge. - Buchanan was a keen bushman and a fine judge of stock. (One of his grandsons is now resident in Renmark).
At Truro there were then no more than half a dozen houses. The Crown Inn was kept by Teasdale; -the mail was carried by means of packhorses and a man named Hope secured the first four-horse mail service between Adelaide and the Burra about 1854. Among the packhorse mail riders Mickey Dooley and John Mungooren, are recalled by Mr. Schell.
Top of This Page
ON NED'S CORNER
After four years of hard work on the roads. The family
travelled with some of the teams to Walktop Flat below what is
now known as Murtho Park, and his father obtained employment from
Mr. Edward [Ned*] M. Bagot, who then owned Ned's Corner. The run straddled
the border and the head station was at Wal Wal Creek. Jimmy
Mullins, the father of Tom and Randolph Mullins, managed the
3,000 head of cattle then running on the station, and Tommy
Tucker was head stockman. Jimmy Mullins is recalled by Mr. Schell
as the prettiest rider he ever saw, John McIntosh was another
well known rider, and a Spaniard named Can Carcoday helped muster
the mobs. It was not until 1871 that all the cattle were mustered
from the Corner and taken to Adelaide.
*[Not so common nowadays, but in times
past, "Ned" was a frequently used nickname for anyone named Edward.]
About 1855 Bob Donnolly kept a dairy at Walktop Flat and Jimmy Mullins gave him 80 cows to break in and keep quiet. A good trade was done along the river in butter and cheese; and whenever possible supplies were forwarded by steamer down country. The big stockyards at Murtho were just completed then and a good deal of the mustering was done at this end of the run. Jimmy Mullins was on Ned's Corner some ten years before the Schells arrived on Walktop Flat, and so he must have been one of the very earliest stockmen along the Murray. There were no more then 70 or 80 head of horses on the Corner then, and the mobs of brumbies were only just commencing to breed up. A fair number of blackfellows were employed on the run. They worked for their tucker and were not given wages. Once a year there was a general mustering for branding at Wal Wal yards, and a large number of hands from all the different stations would assemble there. The first Sydney overlander remembered by Mr. Schell, was Tom Sheen, who came across with bloodstock, and took a nice lot of cattle back with him.
Top of This Page
Back in the tall fifties and well into the sixties, not many
stockmen ventured more than fifteen miles in from the river, and
cattle generally hung around the frontage. The great majority of
squatter's leases only ran out into the scrub for three miles.
Dams were unknown and only post and rail fences were erected. Wal
Wal hut, the Corner's head station, was a pine hut with a bark
roof. There were no glass windows along the Murray then. Most
people slept on beds made of forked sticks with bullock hides
stretched between poles as mattresses. The women folk used the
same sort of bed. Furniture consisted of a few boxes, and
pannikins and tin plates were good enough for anyone. Boarded
floors were not thought of. The tucker consisted mostly of salt
meat and damper with no vegetables. Butter could be purchased
from the dairy at 5-pence a pound. Jam could not be procured, but
pie melons grew very well and these, stewed with dark sugar
(white sugar was then unknown in the bush), made a capital
substitute for fruit. The shepherd's rations consisted of 10-lbs
of flour, 2-lbs of sugar, a quarter of tea and half a sheep a
week. Their pay was 1-pound per week.
"Pioneers in the bush had but very little chance of schooling", said Mr. Schell. "Most fathers and mothers did what they could to teach their children to read and write, but there were plenty knocking about who had received no education whatsoever." On some of the stations an elderly Englishman might be found, with some learning, and he was known as a scholar. He would help a bit, then sometimes one would find an educated man among the musterers, and he also taught.
Top of This Page
After leaving Ned's Corner the family moved to Cowra, then
owned by two brothers, James and Pat McGrath. The run was stocked
with some 4,000 sheep of superior quality. Huts were erected for
the McGraths, and the place was otherwise improved.
Jim McGrath fell foul of the authorities for killing a black, and was taken by the police to Melbourne, where he succeeded in getting off. McGrath, it was said, molested the young women of nearby tribes, and when attacked by the young men he unfortunately killed one of them.
Top of This Page
In 1856 the family moved down river again, crossing at
Paringa. This was then known as Chapman's Crossing. Chapman is
recalled as a tall man, then about 40 years of age, with long
flowing beard (no bushman shaved in those days). Paringa head
station consisted of 3 bark huts and some yards. There was no
rowing boat there, but about 100 blacks volunteered to put the
party across the river on to what is now the Renmark side, and
the bark canoes were soon paddling backwards and forwards with
the travellers' belongings. The bullock drays were lashed on to
barrels kept at Paringa Station for the purpose, and pulled
across by means of long ropes by the willing blacks, who were
paid by Mr. Schell sr., with flour and tobacco. The Paringa
blacks are remembered as a good lot, giving no trouble to the
Travelling down the river, Spring Cart Gully is remembered and Mr. Schell thinks it was named thus because a horse attached to a spring cart bolted over the cliffs and fell into the river. Discussing these high cliffs, Mr. Schell remarked that it was high time a substantial fence was erected at this spot. Motor cars travelling at 30 miles an hour, he said, only need to make a very little mistake in direction to meet disaster. On the way towards Lake Bonney very larger numbers of blacks were noted, hunting on the plains, camping around the edge of the lake, and fishing in it.
Top of This Page
SOME OLD IDENTITIES
'General T', as Mr. James Trussell was always known,
had ridden the whole of the country around there and already
established himself at Cobdogla. At Overland Corner the police
lived in a bark hut and the trooper in charge was named Beasley.
Joe Hazeldene was employed on Cobdogla at this time and is
remembered as a very heavy drinker. A man called Blades was a
sort of partner of the brothers Chambers, of whom James owned
Chowilla and John Cobdogla station, but he seemed to be a bit of
a scamp and outlaw. Joe Hart was then living at Poogenook,
opposite Waikerie. He had taken up all the country between
Overland Corner and Weston's Flat. He was a regular old bushman,
red-faced and happy looking. Old lady Hart weighed about 15 stone
and favoured a big print sunbonnet. Her figure with this headgear
well filled the bark hut door. Her son-in-law, it is alleged, one
night crawled through a bit of a window and stabbed the cook who
was working there. He was tried for the offence and received 10
years hard labour. Captain Barber, of the steamer Providence, was
very well known on the river.
Travelling down the river with their bullock drays, the Schell's followed the old road from Devlin's Pound to Boggy Flat. This little known inside track crosses seven sand hills and comes out by Broken Cliffs. There were no buildings at Weston's Flat, and Reed's Flat was the overlanders' camping place. The track along the Murray from Blanchtown to Wentworth was very little used, but a packhorse mail passed along it once a week. Bill Crick, the then mailman, was about 5ft 10in tall and a smart looking active man. He had grey eyes, tanned face, and brown beard. He rode in his shirtsleeves, with a knotted handkerchief round his throat, and was a tireless man, well used to horses. His wife was a sister of one of his pack-horse riders, Mungoven; -their son William Patrick, who was born in a tent at Overland Corner, lived to be Minister of Lands in New South Wales. The best horses used by the packers came from NSW; -they were brought across the border by Tom Sheen. It was from this stock that the Murray horse, Nor West Bend, originated.
Top of This Page
NOR WEST BEND
Mr. Schell remembers Messrs. Dillimore and Campbell at Nor West Bend Station, and the death of Campbell from blood poisoning, following from a cut hand. Armitage then owned the run but lived on the Glenelg River in Victoria. He kept about 7,000 head of cattle on the Murray station; After Dillimore left the Bend, Fairbairn took on the managership with Robert Bell as overseer. Charlie Gayter was then head stockman and Dan Rankin was also on the run. Mr. Schell says that the old head station at Nor West Bend was probably the first stone house ever built on the Murray. There were a number of bark huts all around it and the big stockyards were capable of holding a large number of cattle. Below the Bend, Brenda Park was passed where Von Rieben afterwards kept the hotel. Von Rieben is recalled by Mr. Schell as a man about 30 years old. He came from an old aristocratic German family, and his wife was a well known beauty. The name of the first hotel kept at Blanchtown was 'The Whip Stick' and there was a very old police station about 3 miles below the hotel, with three policemen stationed there.
Top of This Page
The family settled at Truro, where 80 acres of farmland were taken up. It was peppermint and gum country and the clearing was very heavy work. The land was broken with an old single-furrow iron plough hauled by bullocks, one acre being a day's work. At dusk the family retired to bed and at daybreak they commenced work. The father died of Bright's disease at the age of 52. He had been a drover all his life. The mother died at the age of 47. Hard work killed her. "Everything we boys had on in those days", said the old man, "was made by mother". There were no sewing machines, and I have seen her sitting up night after night stitching for us, and often it was after midnight before she lay down. She made all our coats, all our shirts, socks and underclothing. - Girls in the bush, as soon as they grew up a little, had to assist their mothers in this work, and as soon as the evening meal was finished and the washing up done. The women used to commence another day's work.
Top of This Page
THE HOME BREAKS UP
Theodore Schell was 11 years old "when the best woman
who ever nursed a baby, died! - The struggle then
commenced," said the old man. "My brother
Ernest and myself cleared out and went to McBean's Pound and took
a job on the station there to look after 700 head of
cattle." - The boys worked there for some 18 months,
and then the cattle were shifted by Ernest to Mt. Gambier. The
two then struck across country to Swan Hill, where they picked up
2,000 sheep and brought them down the Murray; these were some of
the very first sheep that ever came into the Swan Reach district.
The next job was on Murbko run, looking after rams imported from
Germany. Mr. Mallyon was the manager and P. Levy owned the run.
Mrs. Mallyon was the widow of a man named Britcher, who was
killed at the Rufus River massacre of the
blacks. He had two sons, George and Harry. George Britcher was
killed in Queensland by natives and Harry, in 1871, was working
on Thurk Station. In 1877 he cleared out for Queensland.
Mr. and Mrs. Mallyon treated young Schell as their own. They soon found out how the family had been broken up by the death of the father and mother, and, said Mr. Schell, their kindness to me has been ever remembered. They were the finest people I ever knew. They fed and clothed me, gave me the best tucker they had and 5-shillings a week. There were two sons and two daughters by the marriage, and about 25 years ago William and Mary, who were then living at Port Pirie, came up the river to see me and all the old folk. We had a great gathering. Mr. Piercy, who used to be in the National Bank at Renmark, was a nephew of Richard Mallyon.
After a couple of years Murbko Station was sold and young Schell and Harry Britcher delivered all the cattle, from the Gums Creek Station, to P. Levy, who then owned it. - The long ride of 90-odd miles from the Gums station to Murbko and his horse 'Beardy', named after the man who sank the well-known Beardy dam on Paringa, is still remembered by Mr. Schell.
Top of This Page
THE BEND TO SWAN REACH
Next followed a spell on the Nor West Bend Station; and of
this period, Mr. Schell recalls the Weston's Flat hotel was built
by Mackie and William Mallyon. He remembers the historical wine
shanty kept by James Symons at Morgan; -and the old shepherd's
hut on the side of the hill where the Morgan Terminus hotel now
stands; -Tim Collins, a dry old Irishman, was the shepherd,
George Hutchinson was another shepherd on the run and another
character was Murrumbidgee George: In those days there was not a
rabbit in the countryside and both the bush and grass lands were
capable of feeding thousands of sheep. Then came a dry spell, and
because of over-stocking, "You could not find enough
grass to poke your pipe out with".
After working on Nor West Bend Schell went to Swan Reach with people called Aldswell and shepherded sheep for H. Haywood: -"It may be interesting," said Mr. Schell, "to those now living at Swan Reach, to know some of the old people's names living there then." Cunningham Williams was managing the Swan Reach Station for Mr. Haywood, who took up the place from Ruscombe, a cattleman. The head station was a bit of a hut just under the cliffs on the Murray; the first shepherd's camp out back was called the Summer Hut, and another one further out in the bush was known as the Winter Hut. South from Winter Hut, on a nice plain, was Bulwar Hut, and not far from Bakhara was Brown's Water Hole. Towards Blanchtown the shepherds, Ted and Ned Oswald, looked after the sheep, and when the droughts came on and the station practically went to pieces, it was Ned Oswald who showed how the stock could be saved and pulled the place together. This man was afterwards made manager.
Top of This Page
ON THE DARLING
Young Schell then left the run and went to Tolarno on the
Darling with his brother Fred and his wife and little girl. This
was in 1862, and the run was then owned by John and Joe Dunne.
While they were there a very sad accident happened to the little
girl. One day the mother was busy boiling sugar beer in a
10-gallon copper. This was placed on the ground inside the old
chimney in the kitchen. The little child was standing some feet
away from it when suddenly some blacks came to the door and the
child, becoming frightened, stepped back suddenly and fell into
the boiling liquid. The little one, who was only five years old,
lingered in the greatest agony for several hours till death
mercifully put an end to her suffering. The horror of this
tragedy had such a lasting effect on Mr. Schell that even today
he hates to see anybody careless with kettles or other utensils
on the stove. The parents were so grieved that they could not
bear the sight of the place and packing up their traps, they left
Mr. Schell can remember Tolarno Station, when Ross and William Reid held 70,000 sheep there. The head station was built of pine with a bark roof. Mick Ford is well remembered as a station hand. All the sheep were shepherded and the upper station was on the Teryawyna Creek with Brown, one of the shepherds there, and Owen, an overseer. When the Darling was low, teams brought all the supplies for the station from Wentworth. Joe Bailey, with his bullock teams, is remembered as a carrier.
When young Schell left Tolarno. Mr. Reid, who had taken him on for a few shillings a week, said he had always done a man's work and paid him off at the rate of 1-pound a week. It was on Tolarno that Mr. Schell first saw apricot jam, and this was the only station on which he had seen South Australian jams used up until then; Netley in those days carried 20,000 sheep.
Top of This Page
DROWNED IN THE MURRAY
About this time Mr. Schell's nephew Fred, aged 21, fell off
the steamer Gem near Moorook and was drowned. Captain King and
his wife were on board the Gem at the time. The body was fond
some time afterwards by Captain Joe Egge of the Prince Alfred,
who tied it to a snag. It was then taken to Overland
was buried just at the back of the hotel. Mr. William Robertson
J.P. signed the order for the burial and William Brand put the
fence up round the grave.
Mr. Schell's next job was on Chowilla Station for Mr. Robertson, who had just acquired the place from Billy Chambers; Together with his brother, George and Ernest, he built a home for the sheep inspector Glenny (Glenie). The building consisted of three rooms and a kitchen. It was made of gum slabs and a reed roof, the blacks cutting and carrying all the material. William Robertson was the first of the family to come on the run, together with Mr. Holland. There were some splendid cattle on the station and these were all mustered and taken to Adelaide. Flash Gilbert, the speyer, is remembered. He operated on some 300 heifers and three parts of them died.
Top of This Page
WILD HORSES and CATTLE
The mobs of wild horses and cattle had now commenced to increase and both scrub bulls and stallions were becoming a nuisance. On Ned's Corner there were about 300 scrub horses and about half that number of cattle. Chowilla carried several big mobs and all along the river, from Wentworth to Swan Reach, the wild stock kept increasing. Mr. Schell built the first big trap yards at Swan Reach, and Billy Teschner was the builder at Chowilla. Brumbie running was hard work and any number of real good horses were ruined in the endeavour to capture poor ones. There were men knocking about who were none too particular how they got their riding horses and meat. Moonlighting the cattle and shooting them was a favourite game, and it was impossible to see if a beast was branded or not. At any rate nobody appeared to care much, and so the casks generally had a bit of meat in them.
Top of This Page
Young Schell was now entrusted with large mobs of sheep and had some interesting droving trips. He delivered 5,000 sheep from the Nor West Bend to Vandovon's station on the Murrumbidgee, and remembers that for weeks at a stretch the drovers never met a white man, but at all the camping places along the river they were welcomed by the blacks, who could be thoroughly trusted and would not steal. Dingoes at times were very troublesome and 50 sheep were killed by them on the trip up. No horses were supplied to drovers then, excepting one to pull the ration cart. The drover in charge received 4-pounds/10-shillings a week and his assistant 1-pound a week. The party crossed over the Darling on the old punt and noticed a couple of hotels and a few people only. The mob had to swim the Murrumbidgee, but thanks to the assistance of the natives not one was lost. The boys looked after that, and if a sheep or even a number of them got into difficulties, the blacks soon had them safely ashore. The drovers rewarded them with tobacco and tea, but the station people did not take much notice of the good work done by them. After the sheep had been delivered, a fencing contract was taken on Vandovon station and 15 miles of basket fence was erected. Things were pretty bad just then and there was little or no work about. Men were glad to obtain employment at 25-shilling a week with a twelve-hour day.
Top of This Page
Known on the river as one of the smartest and cleanest of
shearers, Theodore Schell always had his engagement list full for
the season. The first shearing he took on was at Round Flat, now
Catten Holder. Bakenell was then managing Thurk for John White
and the season was 1866, - 58 years ago: There were 5 shearers
and 8,000 sheep were shorn; Schell shore at Round Flat for five
seasons: -During the same season he helped to shear 60,000 sheep
on Lake Victoria station. The boss of the board was Stokes and
the ringer Jim Terry, with a tally of 130. There was no Nulla
then and probably not half a dozen men had been more than 30
miles outback on the run. During the winter shepherds would take
their flocks out about 15 miles, and once a month the station
ration cart would visit them. The steamers plying up and down the
Murray carried very large stocks and these supplied the stations.
Tons of groceries were purchased at a time.
Schell shore at Kulnine for two seasons, and at Moorna for three seasons. Kulnine then kept 17,000 sheep; He was ringer at Para with a tally of 150 in 1870, when 50,000 sheep passed through the shed; John Pile is recalled with 70,000 sheep on Cuthero and Tom Glen, Pile's brother-in-law, was the bookkeeper; Tom, who is thought to have died of heart disease, owned Murbko Station and had 7,000 sheep there. Schell shore for three seasons at Murbko, when McLean and William Barker had the place; a brother to William is the Barker of the well-known Adelaide horse sales yards.
Top of This Page
With most of their country taken from them and their game all
driven away, the clever industrious blacks along the river soon
fell upon evil times. Disease and rum finished them off in a very
few years and it is a standing disgrace to us whites that not one
man ever put out a hand to save them. The blacks remembered by
Mr. Schell when he was a little boy used the stone axe and
boomerang and spent most of their time hunting and fishing. They
never sought to molest any one and both the boys and young women
stood a terrible lot of abuse from degenerate whites who got
amongst them in 1840. These were men who would not work and had
crept away from the coast settlements. The blacks were expert net
makers and used fibre obtained from the gum tree runners and
rushes. Both men and women would squat down and take the end of
the long fibrous roots in their teeth, then rub them gently on
their knees until they became soft and pliable, the nets from the
fibre were beautifully made.
The young gin, before she became used to drunken whites, was a moral girl, but drink amongst the tribes altered all their morals, until the whites who didn't know any better, considered the native the lowest of the low. Before the degenerate white came and knocked about their camps in disgraceful fashion, there was very little immorality amongst the boys and girls. The white man came along, and because he was a white man did what he liked. It was a wonder there were not more killed. The law, says Mr. Schell, did not care a damn and the pubs sold the blacks hell fire stuff that killed them in hundreds. If a native made a complaint to a magistrate it was difficult for him to obtain justice. The white man's faults would be covered up, whilst the native's errors would be fully exposed. Young girls would be raped and nothing said. "And yet", says the old pioneer, "they worked well for us. On the stations they were known as reliable but not as particularly keen toilers." - The Wentworth pubs were considered to have been the worst offenders against the blacks, and the first blacks noticed by the old man, suffering from alcohol, were seen staggering down the Wentworth road, with the Protector of Aboriginals looking at them and the police of the day well in on the joke. Shortly after this the rot set in amongst them badly, and they rapidly died out; "The grog seller made a pile while the niggers died out. There was no one to raise a hand in their defence, and the evidence against us all is that man, woman and child died from the effects of disease, grog, a change of food stuffs and customs, and contact with a poor set of whites."
It is not thought worthwhile to mention names in connection with the slaughter of the blacks, but there is still ample evidence of what happened along the Murray and Darling away back in those times. After a week's spree, the natives were frequently found dying of pneumonia.
Top of This Page
SHOT IN HIS TRACKS
The blacks were murdered too. Shot in cold blood by
Christians. Take the Yatla Lake incident one out of many. A
native was found standing beside a dead bullock, and a stockman
came along and accused the boy of killing the beast. The boy
denied the charge, said he had been away for days. The stockman
shot the boy with his gun without holding any inquiry. There were
many other cases. Mr. Schell states that he has never seen much
dishonesty amongst the boys, and although at times cattle were
killed by them, it has to be remembered that the white man had
taken away all the blacks' hunting grounds. It has been asserted
that they stole sheep, but that this sometimes happened, the
score is heavily against us for making no adequate game reserves
within whose boundaries the blacks could have lived unmolested by
"There is evidence", says Mr. Schell (and the writer knows this statement to be true), "that the shooting down of blacks along the Darling was fairly common"; - Some stations employed the blacks as shepherds and paid them with a piece of tobacco and some tucker. At shearing time the boys received 10-shilling a week, but on some of the stations the storekeepers saw that the boys accounts were 'properly!' kept. In all the years Mr. Schell was shearing, he can hardly remember a boy having any money due to him at the end of shearing time. They soon became adept beggars, but if they had promised fish or fowl they always turned up true to their word; - "I noticed during a certain three years, they died very rapidly", said the old man, 'meaning-ly!' - a certain man is well remembered as one who had a friendly habit of tying the boys up to trees, and flogging them until they nearly died.
Top of This Page
MORGAN THE BUSHRANGER
After travelling with a mob of cattle down the Lachlan, and
from there, on to Melbourne. The Messrs. Schell took a job to
build yards and huts out back from Swan Hill, at a place called
Mulpa. They pitched their camp in a creek, and at dusk one
evening a man rode up to the camp. He was a tall chap, active and
smart looking, with dark hair, and rode a chestnut horse. It was
Morgan the bushranger, who was shot by a station hand not long
They then turned to bullock driving, fencing and mustering on Polia Station and ration carrying to the shepherds, then down river again to Morgan and Blanchtown. Work was obtained on the steamer Grappler and the Devil's Elbow was cleared of snags for the first time. Captain Williams commanded and had as mate Jack Clayson, an old sailor. Here again the natives were found handy for locating the large snags, every one of which they knew. Clayson's sons are working in Mildura. The wages on the Grappler were 30-shillings a week with tucker and a 12-hour day. Bob Hunter was engineer.
In 1868 shearing was taken on at Lake Victoria, and 60,000 sheep went through the shed. Then came woodcutting at Pyap, for the Lady Dudley (Capt Sturt). George Schell is said to have been the first man to cut sandalwood for the steamers.
Top of This Page
THE FIRST WIRE FENCE
According to Mr. Schell, the first wire fence ever erected on
the Murray was that between Kulnine and Mildura. This was put up,
under contract, by Ernest Schell and Billy Baldock during 1869
and 70. What with continuous rains and the land fit to bog a
duck, all the posts for the first thirteen miles had to be
carried into position by the fencers themselves. The ground was
too boggy for horse work.
About this time Osborne's old pub is recalled just below the junction of the Murray and the Darling, on the Victorian side. - It was a queer old place of green slabs. During the 1870 flood, Osborne had a small punt rigged up, and this would carry the horses across the Murray and land them 60 yards from the Crown Hotel.
The late Mr. Elliott Crozier is recalled as a nice old gentleman much attached to his family (which was a large one), and of Arthur Crozier, who Mr. Schell describes as, "the finest man I have met along the Murray". - Bill Smith kept the racecourse hotel. Jack Sandford, father of a family long identified with the river, had a wood pile on Ned's corner and supplied many of the steamers with fuel; About a year after this trip up river, Mr. Schell met Jack Sandford in the neighbourhood of Weston's Flat, and that was the last ever seen of him. His disappearance remains one of the bush mysteries. He left Weston's Flat with the expressed intention of making for Boggy Flat, but never turned up there.
Top of This Page
BUSHMAN and 'PRODUCTS'
From Adelaide, which is recalled as a village with a busy
little port full of sailing vessels, and across the scrub from
Melbourne, came the bushmen and the broken ticket-of-leave men;
-a sorry product of our vaunted civilisation. Among the bushmen
of that day were good old Sam, Clem and poor Billy Walker, who
hung himself to the limb of a tree and was found by a
blackfellow. Corporal Ewins and trooper Bleechmore came up to cut
him down. Walker had used a dog chain to do the job and his feet
were just brushing the ground, he had hardly allowed himself
enough drop. He lies buried at Nor-West Bend station: -Then there
was Blake, booze killed him, as it did Edmunds and old Pens, the
father of Billy Pens: -At the scrub hut on the Bend there was
Jack a ticket-of-leave man; -and Tom Smith had 3,000 sheep at the
hut four miles back of Qualco.
Mr. Schell remembers one man of about 50 years of age. In his younger days he must have been a good-looking fellow, but the chains and the lash had broken his health. He had been transported for a minor offence and was well educated, and this was the offence for which his jailers sometimes whipped him. Stripping his clothes off, the poor fellow had often shown his torn buttocks, lacerated small of the back, and long flails across the shoulder blades. (To flog a man across the shoulder blades or across the small is dangerous and is nowadays forbidden). The ex-Tasmanian ticket-of-leave man always lost his head when he showed the scars of the cat, and became excited and almost dangerous when he spoke of the wrongs he endured. "While they flogged", he often told them, "I cursed God and all of them. The treatment we received was hell, and I would kill any of the officials if I met them". The poor devil would then break down and tell them of the convict ship. "He was a good worker," said Mr. Schell, "sober and industrious, quiet and gentlemanly, and none of us could find any fault with him. He never took drink. After some three or four hours of liberty he fairly broke down, and there was no man on the Murray but was sorry for him."
On the Darling and at Wentworth in those days there was a number of old Van Dieman's Landers, as they were called. They were all ticket-of-leave men and as such had sometimes a hard struggle to make a living. An old vixen of a woman employed as a cook at Lake Victoria Station always stuck up for the lags, and her shrill voice would often be heard battling for them, saying they were just as good as many other men and had done their share in helping to open up the country. "As a matter of fact," says Mr. Schell, "we all rather admired the old woman for the manner in which she stuck up for the poor fellows."
Top of This Page
In 1877 (March 23) Mr. Ted Schell was married to Miss
Catherine Hurst of Truro, by Pastor Gillingham; after a short
honeymoon a wire-fencing contract was taken on Popiltah Station,
on the Anabranch. Then again down country where there was plenty
of work to be had from Henry Scott at Quandong, where a trip was
made into Morgan when Guard Clark brought the first train through
from Adelaide. Then nearly 100 miles of fencing was done for
Henry and Thomas Scott of Oakland and Quandong.
With bad times coming, and not much work about, it was decided by the brothers to have a look at the country about 34 miles at the back of Crooked Corner, just below Pyap. Some 300 square miles of this was eventually taken up and Schell's Well put down in seven weeks. At 135ft splendid water was struck; - Then a 130ft well was then sunk at Moolliyabba on Thurk, but the water was very bad.
Top of This Page
A BUSH FIRE
One day Mr. Schell and his two brothers, who were camped close
to the site of Schell's well, which was not then sunk, decided to
go over to Hampton Well, where Mr. Crabb then was. Thomas Smith
(Mr. Crabb's brother-in-law) and his sons were also 'knocking about'
in the backcountry, having taken up a
big area of Murray lands. After travelling some little distance,
smoke was observed by the party to the westward, from which
direction a heavy wind was blowing. - It was found out afterwards
that Harry Townsend, a shepherd who was looking after a flock for
Mr. Crabb, had set fire to the scrub. - It burnt up rapidly and
blazed along a front of 30 miles. The smoke became suffocating
and it was only by burning back that the party escaped with their
lives. The heat at times was so intense that there appeared
little hope of winning through. After the fire had burnt itself
out the Schell's made it to Wigley's Flat, where tools were
procured with which to sink the well.
The Flat was then an important crossing place for the Wentworth mail coach. Harry Brand was living at Wigley's Flat in a hut on the Blanchtown side of the river, and John Hawkes Mules was managing Parcoola Station for Mr. White. Hawke's Nest paddock was named after him, also Mules' sand hill, well known to veteran coach driver Jack Coombes, some six miles out on the stony pinch track. Mules used to live in a bell tent on the run.
Across the river, at Overland Corner, Billy Owen the fiddler played dance music at the balls held there. Parties would drive 40 miles to attend the dances. At the mail change, Billy acted as groom, in succession to a man called Kelly; - George Rayner Kelly, mail contractor Goldsworthy and son Bill, Tom Moore and Jack Coombes are all well remembered; - Ben Griffiths built the old wine shanty at Devlin's Pound. Only the old chimney now remains. Ben was brother-in-law to Harry Hale and married Sarah Hale. The Pound was called after a man called Devlin, who must have been one of the very earliest settlers along the Murray. Weston's Flat derived its name from old Harry Weston, who was the first white man to camp there.
In putting down Schell's Well shark's teeth were found at 100ft and good water was struck at 125ft. The 300 square miles of country was eventually disposed of for 400-pounds, after which a long line of fence was put up for James White between Hampton Well and Schellwood. An American nigger, Souter, and Jack Orchard assisted in the work, and an old shellback, named Lang, acted as cook to the camp.
The fencing finished, droving was undertaken for White of Parcoola, and cattle were brought from down country to the station; - During one of the trips, old Sam Watts the Crown Lands ranger, well known along the river years ago, summoned Ted Schell for not giving due notice of the travelling stock, Ted had to appear at Angaston Court. The law had started to move; - Brush fencing contracts were then taken on Pyap, which then belonged to Robertson Bros., and work was also undertaken on Bookmark station, where Mr. R. Robertson had settled as manager. Away at the back of Pyap the country was little known, but mobs of wild horses watered where the irrigation settlement now is, and at Loxton.
Top of This Page
LOXTON and BOOKPURNONG
In Mr. Schell's young days the hinterlands of Paringa,
Bookpurnong, Loxton, Pyap and Thurk were little known to the
white man. There was no Victorian boundary fence, no definite
water holes, and not a track ran through the scrub. There were a
few people scattered about the Swan Reach district, but not many.
All through the backcountry the cattle roamed at will and soon
bred up into good-sized mobs, difficult to manage and muster in
the thick scrub. Eight or more bulls would be found together, and
these became bad and had to be destroyed. There were practically
no fences and the men who then rode and mustered that great
territory have long since died. One could not afford to get lost
when far outback. A story is told of one man who went out and
never came back. Years afterwards a rusty stirrup iron and a
piece of old saddlery were found in the heavy country to the east
of Beardy. It is presumed that horse and man perished in that
then lonely waste.
The scrub horses watered all along the frontage in the gaps along the cliffs, they had the whole country to themselves from Loxton to Swan Reach. Loxton's hut had not been built when the Schells first saw that country. At Bugle Hut, a mob of brumbies grazed and afterwards a shepherd minded sheep there; In 1864 large mobs of cattle had bred up, and, after the cattle were cleared off, shepherds were put on all over the country; - Charlie Brown is recalled as a cook at Bookpurnong, a shearer named Jack McGregor is remembered, and Anderson the overseer.
Top of This Page
OLD NAMES RECALLED
The first manager at Thurk station was Bakewell who, in 1863,
was killed by a horse named Lunatic. There was a large number of
cattle on the river and some of them hard to manage: -Stockmen
recalled are Harry Matton and John Craigie - Craigie's Hut at
Katarapko Creek is called after him. Other old identities
remembered are John Napper and Pannell who built the Lake Bonney
hotel in 1861. Jack Johnson lived at Yatco Flat Hut and the
country at the back of where Walker's dam is now, or about six
miles to the southeast of it, was called Clem's Plains. Then
there was Clay Pan Hut further back, and after that nothing: -Mr.
Schell and Tom Moore were the first men who felled a pine tree in
any of this country, -and so the tale of pioneering runs on:
-William Robertson is recalled with his good horse Fusiller,
Hurtle Pegler, and many old yard builders, not forgetting old Bob
In 1877 Mr. Schell fenced for Gus Pegler at Wal Wal, and remembers Shaw and Schmidt the police troopers. He recalls Harry Pegler carrying all the women folk, including Schell's young wife, to a place of safety when, by reason of heavy rains, the trap they were all in stood a good chance of being washed away, and how the tired horses of both mail and other vehicles on that occasion, often stuck fast in bogs and had almost to swim creeks, so severe were the storms and badly marked the roads. He remembers Fuller and Martin and John Egge, with their trading steamers; and busy Wentworth in 1877. He fenced on Popiltah before most folk in the district were born, and made camp by the Yellow Water hole. He has run hundreds of miles of fencing, and many a station has awaited his coming because the manager knew the job would be well done if he did it: -He recalls Black Cameron who at one time kept the Lake Victoria hotel. And! he remembers a long hard trip from off the Darling when there was not a bite of feed to be had for hundreds of miles. Joe Goldsworthy came to the rescue with a few bundles of hay at Ral Ral, and thus saved the lives of his worn-out horses. He made yards in the Burra district for Gebhardt and fenced Markaranka. Out Quandong way, he cut the long lines of scrub for Henry Scott, and his work may be seen to-day in the good fence still standing; For Brooks he went into the little known Mack district and worked there when Ted Smith, a lone shepherd, walked through the country with his sheep and camped everywhere with his flock. The only hut in that entire district then was at Quandong, where old Peter Whallin lived; He remembers Tom Scott coming to Oakvale and the partial settling of that country.
Top of This Page
THE GREAT DROUGHT
During the great drought, which lasted for 4 years and
culminated in 1902, Mr. Schell held 2,488 acres in the hundred of
Cadell. He put most of his savings into improving the property,
only to be burnt out by boys who were rabbiting. Most of the
fencing was destroyed by the fire and there was not a blade of
feed left. A fine mob of ewes that had been bought in the Kapunda
district had to be taken up river for depasturing purposes; a
shepherd then had to be put on to look after them and the lambing
turned out poorly. Five pence a pound was the price of the best
Australian wool that year. The original price of the ewes had
been 6-shilling and sixpence a head. They were sold at
3-shillings and threepence, with the lambs given in. Stock
throughout the river districts grew desperately poor and died
off. Some farmers had hardly any cattle or horses left, and many
people became destitute. Although Mr. Schell never actually saw
such cases, he was told that some settlers made their clothes
from hessian during that trying period.
When the drought was at its worst a thunderstorm passed over the country at the back of Boggy Flat, and a little feed came up there. The few remaining horses in the district were taken out there. Mr. Schell's last muster showed that out of all his stock, he had two horses left alive.
Top of This Page
KEEP THE POT BOILING
With practically nothing left. Mr. Schell, like many others,
resorted to woodcutting for the steamers at 3-shillings and
eight-pence a ton stacked on the riverbank. As a horse had to be
fed, there was not much left for the cutter. Word came down the
river that Mildura was a good place for work, and so with two
horses and a dray, the journey up river was once more commenced.
The highest price paid for wood then was 2-shillings and
eight-pence a ton, and about 3 tons could be cut in a day; or
about 8-shillings for a man, dray and two horses. Afterwards wood
was supplied to residents of Mildura at 8-shillings a ton for two
foot wood. The cutting and carting of this load occupied all day.
A four-roomed house could be rented for 4-shillings and sixpence
Whilst in Mildura Mr. Schell suffered a great loss in the cancellation of his lease in the hundred of Cadell. He wrote to the Government explaining his position and the straits the long drought had reduced him to. He appealed personally to Sir Jenkin Coles, but was informed that the land could not be held by him unless he could find 20-pounds. The lease was cancelled, and with it went Mr. Schell's chance of establishing himself.
Top of This Page
THE LONG DAY CLOSES
The story is told, and as the old pioneer finishes his yarn
the afternoon sun has dropped low. The hand, which gripped axe in
the earliest days of settlement along the Murray, is still hard
and strong, and the face keen and alert. The tall figure is
stooped, but still retains much of its grace of movement. One
finds oneself looking up at all the Schells. They are like the
great Voortrekkers of another land, and their stock was bred
quite close to the place from which the Voortrekkers originally
came. They are of the same type as those very great men were.
The old pioneer's life work is done. Up to a couple of years ago there had never been an idle day in it. Many of us in Renmark remember the grey-bearded old axeman, with his sturdy team of horses, going out day after day for his load of wood. In the very early morning, long before many men by 30 years his junior were out of bed, the noise of his wagon passing down the street could be heard. A load of wood every day was his tally when he was well over 70, with a ten-mile drive to get it. Then in the evening the load would be carted home, ten miles in; and everyone in the little bush town will tell you, it was always a good load that he brought, beautifully cut, and neatly stacked in one's back yard.
The long day's work in the bush is over at last, and the ninety-mile ride on good Beardy is but a memory.- Away out at the back of Bugle Hut his axe, steel against wood, first broke the stillness of the virgin forest. The old-time river skippers never knew him fail with the fuel for their boats, and every station had a job for Ted Schell and his brothers. Fighting a bush fire, tending stock, droving, yarding, building - any work, every work, from sunrise to sunset. Happy in the bush with his good wife and family, making the best of everything, and hearing no animosity against any man - surely this is a great lesson for some of us.
The old man gets up and straightens himself. It is time to go: -The dusk has fallen across the road.
Top of This Page
A P P E N D I X #
A REINERS' HISTORY ALBUM
From "The Murray Pioneer", Wednesday, April 2, 1997; - (Pg.10)
A collection of historic photographs of the district will be on display for the first time in Renmark, this Sunday, to mark the beginning of Heritage Week for the National Trust. The display will be part of an open day at the Olivewood Homestead, Renmark, from 1 to 4pm.; - Recently developed prints from the Reiners' Collection, some of which may not have been seen by the public before, document the region's early settlement days. Mr. Johann Clemens Reiners was a Renmark photographer of the early 1900's. During his years as a photographer, he took thousands of photographs. - 'Olivewood' has many of Mr. Reiners' original glass plate negatives and, with a grant from the Federal Government acquired by Mr. David Showell on behalf of Olivewood, has been able to get them developed. Local historian Mrs. Heather Everingham, with the help of Mrs. Mary Ann Dyer, has spent many hours over the past four months cataloguing the prints into various categories. Every photograph has been captioned and stored in special plastic folders so they will not deteriorate in the years to come. After the photographs have been used for the open day, they'll be stored away as a record for the future. - "If we do a special subject display, we'll have the photographs already catalogued and they'll be easy to access," Mrs. Everingham said, "Mr. Reiners took photos everywhere, not just in Renmark. He took them from Cal Lal, and the Lake Victoria area, to Bookpurnong, Loxton and early Cadell."
JOHN THEODORE SCHELL. - MURRAY LAND PIONEER.
P J Reilly ... SchellJT.doc - 1999;
Top of This Page Return to Murray Heritage Homepage