Saturday, 31 May 2014

First White Settlers?

Researching this question opens a real can of worms. Some clues, such as the discovery of an alleged ‘Still’ (distillery) on the grounds of Warrimoo Public School point to 19th century bootleggers making moonshine for railway workers[1]. But did they live in the vicinity?

 Other stories allude to timbergetters and orchardists setting up within reach of Karabar station[2], but the presence of such industries is really only certain around the period of the First World War onwards.

 We do know that there was a ‘platform’ at Karabar, opened in October 1881[3]. We also know that a gate was adjacent to the platform to safely close off road traffic when trains came through. There was also a signal box and switches which would’ve had to have been supervised and operated, and nearby tracks required maintenance[4]. Certainly, someone had to live nearby to carry out these duties.

'Warrimoo Historians’ are therefore suggesting, based on the hard evidence thus far available, that a young couple employed by the NSW railways, Thomas and Mary Smiley, were the first white residents to have settled in ‘Karabar’, probably in the 1880’s or 90’s.

 According to immigration records below[5], Thomas Smiley was an English (or Irish?)‘Farm Laborer’ who arrived in New South Wales in 1886. His most likely aim was to gain land or get a job as a railway navvy or both. In the ‘Mountains he hit the jackpot.
Immigration Record from 1886. Thomas' entry is the fifth down. Note that he is English (in this record), 27 years of age, and single
Thomas met and married a young woman whose relations lived in Burns Road Springwood, Mary Corwell. Both of them were able to secure railway jobs, and, presumably, accommodation at Karabar, where they appear to have stayed for some considerable time. They were soon raising a family there.

 Electoral records of the area[6] are proof of their residency: a list of the electors for the newly formed Federal (‘Commonwealth’) seat of ‘Parramatta’ (which covered the whole of western Sydney and lower Mountains) provides the names and township addresses of voters in the ‘Springwood’ district. These figures for the early part of the 20th century make no mention of ‘Warrimoo’ residents, because, as yet, it didn’t exist.
While there are 274 people at Glenbrook, 88 at Blaxland and 724 at Springwood, part of the latter’s resident-count incorporated places like ‘North Springwood’, ‘Bee Farm’,  ‘Valley Heights’ and…’Karabar’. Only two people are registered as electors at ‘Karabar’, and they were ‘Thomas Smiley…Fettler’ and ‘Mary Smiley…Railway Gate-keeper’.[7]

 Of course, we must be careful with an assumption based upon electoral records. Compulsory enrolment for voting in Federal elections did not occur till 1912, so it is possible that other people living in Karabar had not registered to do so. Nevertheless, it is important to note the Australian nation had been swept by a wave of nationalism after the achievement of ‘Federation’ in 1901, followed by the passage of the ‘Franchise Act’ of 1902, making the 1903 elections one of the first globally to extend the right to vote to all women. Mary Smiley had voluntarily taken up that right.
A remarkable photograph of (arguably) the first European residents of Warrimoo, or 'Karabar' as it was at the time. From left, 'Springwood Jacky', an unidentified youth, Bill Lockley, Mary Smiley, Thomas Smiley--the last two on the right are the 'inaugural couple' of Karabar (photo courtesy of BMCC Library's 'Image Collection')
This photograph[8] is surely one of the most spectacular in the BMCC collection. It shows the Smileys with Mary’s cousin (?), Bill Lockley, and one of the great characters of the district, ‘Springwood Jacky’, all holding a captured Diamond Python. Costume indicates the date of the picture is late 19th—early 20th Century, and the location could be anywhere between the Lockley property on Burns Road to the Smileys’ place at Karabar.

‘Springwood Jacky’ was not a ‘local’ man (Darug or Gundungarra), but rather came from either Queensland or Rylstone. He once proposed to the famous Penrith identity, ‘Black Nellie’, but she refused him on the grounds that he was of the wrong lineage for a Darug woman . When he arrived in the district he was certainly working on a farm in Emu Plains but in the mid 1880’s drifted up to Valley Heights to live alone, in a bark hut, by his wits.

Jacky often worked as a handyman for Mrs. Georgina Burns, who owned ‘Wyoming’, the imposing property that had once served as the old ‘Welcome Inn’ at Sun Valley. Renowned as an expert bushman, athlete, tracker, and horse-breaker, it was probably Jacky who had tracked and caught the snake. He could be seen every Sunday outside the Frazer Memorial Church in Springwood, singing and dancing as an entertainment for the congregation. In 1913, he was found dead under a log at Valley Heights and buried in unconsecrated grounds.[9]

It is clear from the picture that the group are readily familiar with each other. After all, their homes were all quite close to one another, and they must have seen each other regularly. At left Jacky, who was self-conscious of a skin disease that gave him white blotches around his neck, wears his habitual ‘necker-chief’ and looks across at Bill Lockley, the star of the show in his white clothes, braces and bowler hat. There is a young boy, presumably a relative of the Lockley family and a dog (a ‘Jack Russell’?), which may have had a part to play in the adventure. Mary stands nursing her baby, close to her brother on her right, with husband Tom looking a little awkward as the more formal English fettler, more a gentleman than the boisterous, knockabout currency bloke with his trophy.
Same group, same day, same angle, minus Mary Smiley and her young babe. Bill Lockley appears in another notable 'pioneer' photograph kept in the BMCC Image Library
The second photograph is taken on the same day, minus Mary and the baby. The way Bill is holding the python suggests it is still alive. They are standing on someone’s property (‘Yelkcol’?—‘Lockley’ backwards, the name of the Lockley property on the corner of Macquarie and Burns Roads, Springwood--)[10] because we can see the fence behind them, in front of half-cleared bush. Tom looks even less comfortable here than in the first photo!

It is appropriate, is it not, that Warrimoo’s first non-indigenous settlers should have been a young couple building a family--both public servants with responsible, worthy, long-term jobs, both conscious of their mutual roles as democratic citizens, and both clearly taking pleasure in their bushland surrounds with an original Australian, though without the overt bigotry frequently in currency at the time.

[1] Ibid—assisted by John Low--Article, Blue Mountains Gazette, 15-4-1987: ‘Whiskey Still discovered at Warrimoo School
[2] Ibid—CAMERON, B., History of Sun Valley and Long Angle Gully, 1988, Springwood, p.21
[3] RICHARDSON, E and MATTHEW, K, Op. Cit.,--Richardson and Wrench ‘Karabar Estate’ map, 1882
[4] Ibid—‘Karabar Estate’ map
[5] RICHARDSON, E and MATTHEW, K, Op. Cit., --Thomas Smiley, Immigration Records, 1886, NLA.
[6] BMCC Library, Local History documents, Electoral Rolls—Springwood Booth, 1903, p.3
[7] Ibid., Local Studies Facts Sheet--Census, 1911
[8] Ibid., Image Library, PF 2301B  donated by Mrs. Lees, Springwood Jacky with the Smileys and Snake
[9] Ibid., The information found in these paragraphs on ‘Springwood Jacky’ is derived from the text supplied by John Low accompanying the photograph found in the Flikr section of the Image Library referenced above
[10] Ibid., Information relating to the Lockley family supplied by Springwood Library’s resident local historian, John Merriman

[1] Ibid.,