Day eight Tuesday 20th March 2007
Today we will visit Wellard homestead which will finish the trip we started out on. Mum & I picked Tim up at 10-00am, while at his place we inspected the earthworks in his front yard. Elsa was waiting at the front of her house as was Don. We drove down the freeway & took the Thomas Rd exit, then left into Johnson Rd. This is quite amazing as we have travelled this road on many many occasions & I never realised the farm was at the end of Wellard road. The house was situated on the corner of Millar Rd & Johnson Rd which meant crossing the road to get to the main farm. The house block has now been reserved for a cemetery which contains four graves & a gazebo, we had lunch in the gazebo & a lot of discussion about where the house was. Elsa, Helen, Pat & Pauline to draw a map of where the house & sheds were situated. Tom felt the site was due west of the gazebo but after much discussion & lots of walking (Tim walked the entire block to plot it into his GPS & sent messages to us via mobile as to his whereabouts) we decided the house was south west of the gazebo. The front fence of the house would have been 65mtrs from the road. We decided on this position due to several factors.
1 – There is a prickly pear bush which would fit with being behind the house in the back yard.
2 – Elsa fell from a tree & broke her arm as a youngster so the trees nearby fit with this.
3 – All the maps show the dairy to be behind the house in a north westerly direction & there is a prickly pear perfectly situated & would have been a likely plant to have growing near the dairy.
4 – We found some very old cement like substance north west of the house which would fit that the dairy would be there.
5 – The girls felt there was a step up to the front of the hose but was flat at the back which fits our location.
6 – When you look west from Johnson road up to the house one can imagine the driveway.
7 – At the end of the driveway it was almost straight across to the main farm.
We drove further down Johnson Rd & followed the farm around to the back drain, so we now have very good knowledge of the house site & the entire farm.
On the way home we searched for the school which is on Johnson Rd. We found the school site 2.8ks from the entrance to the house. The school has some very old pine trees growing & also some more old pines at the school house. Thanks to Tim we several discussions with Pauline while we were there so that made it even more special.
I think we all had a great day, for me it is the end of that chapter but not the end of the book. As a farmer I can see now why Tom would have decided he must seek work elsewhere, the farm was a sandy swamp with a lot of paper bark trees, it would have been almost impossible to grow enough grass on that area to create a viable farm. It must have so heart wrenching for Tom & Paula when he decided to head off in search of riches to feed & school the family rather than battle it out on the farm.
Day Seven Friday 29/09/2006
This is our last day & it will be a big one as we would like to get to Wellard on the way home. It is over 100ks to Narrogin so it doesn’t fit that they would have travelled backwards & forwards to Sylvania very often. Nearly in Narrogin & all the phones went off, I had 26 messages & one of them was Stewart Graham to tell us he was back in town. We met with Stuart who showed us around Sylvania and was a great resource for stories for us.
Day Six Thursday 28/09/2006
Early start today & Tim has changed the fuel filter so we are Cruising along well. At Lake King quite early & the lady at the shop put us onto a couple that run a bed & breakfast. Great value here as she knows a lot of the history. Lake King Townsite was built in 1928 but the Road would have been there. Tom & Paula had to travel through Salmon Gums to get to Kulin after leaving Southern Hills Station. The GPS directed us to Jitarning but we didn’t have the exact location of Jesmond. The East Jitarning School site was marked (1929 to 1936) & a sign posted to say the old School was 4.5ks to the NW. We called at a farm house for directions & the woman new lots about the district of course & told us to look up Cam Robertson as he would be great value. We had a drive around Jesmond but couldn’t find the old house as not sure of land marks. Went & found Cam Robertson, he is a really great bloke. He bought Healy’s farm 40 years ago when he moved from share farming at Merredin, Cam knew Eric & Jean Pustkuchen very well & knows all the children. Cam took us to see the old house & we drove around the farm for about two or three hours, he was so great to us. I asked him if he thought it would be okay for us to camp at Horse Collar Rock for the night & he replied of course but why don’t you stay with me in the house. That was very tempting but we decided our trip was to get the feeling of how they lived.
Before setting up camp we went for drive to find the old School as Tim had plotted it 4.5 ks NW of the East Jilakin site but we were disappointed the site was not marked at all. We were able to locate the site Tim has marked but we are not sure of exact location. That will be a job for one of us in the future. When we had set up camp at Horse Collar Rock Don came over to me & said you know I feel as though Norah is about six years old & all the Aunties are here with us. I had the feeling Tom & Paula were also with us & it was like a big family gathering. We decided the spot we camped must be basically in line with the school as the girls watered the horses on the way home. We spent hours talking tonight because we can’t understand how Tom & Paula ended up apart. We have seen all the hard work the two of them endured & we feel they would developed a wonderful bond over the years. It was such a shame they sold Jesmond as they were developing a wonderful property, I guess we will never know the real reason why they sold but one thing is for certain it would have been terribly tough & perhaps the school closing was the last straw.
Day Five Wednesday 27/09/2006
We have left quite early today as it is a long way to Salmon Gums by horse & cart, very sad to say cheerio to Southern Hills but we feel great now as we have been able to step back in time.. The run back to the Telegraph line was really quick as we had shifted all the trees on the way in but what a trip we are having on the Fraser Range Rd. Hundreds of trees, I had a drive today, Tim & Don took turns riding Shotgun on the back as we have to stop every couple hundred metres for a tree. Very rough also, top speed about 20kph (fast for a horse).
Eventually came through the burnt bush & then the fallen trees stopped. Not too late at Salmon Gums so followed the computer along a gravel Rd to get to our camping spot as per itinerary, road not yet built as stopped at a farm so into the farm we go to get permission to travel through the property, nobody home so off the other way to cut across but no road again. Tim decided Barry driving too slow & darkness closing in. Poor Cruiser, it didn’t like his driving & started spluttering so we need a camp site real soon for some maintenance (probably a bit of fish or chips in the filter). Stopped beside the railway line on the Esperance Road, plenty of wood & no prickles. We are experts at setting up camp now & it takes no time at all.
Day Four Tuesday 26/09/2006
All up early as so much to see & do, at 6-30 a B double road train came driving down Southern Hills road heading for the mine & then at 6-30 a 4WD drove past the homestead so we guessed that would be Derek. We virtually followed him to the mine as he hadn’t seen our camp. Had a good chat to Derek, he was arranging to truck out a load of granite so said to come back about 3-00pm & he would have more time to talk. We went back to the homestead for more of a poke around & we almost trod on the guardian (quite a big python).
Derek came back to chat with us for a bit as he needs some stuff from the shed, he was most interested in our knowledge of the past as it differed to what he had found out. He thought the shearing quarters had been erected after the house burnt down but Marcus Wood told me all about that. Marcus & his wife went for a holiday to South Africa & arranged for people to stay in the homestead, the people weren’t happy with the 32 volt so bought a 240 volt lighting plant, the wiring couldn’t take the high voltage which burnt the place down leaving the shearing quarters virtually unscathed except for very singed rafters. It looks to us as though the laundry would be the original as it is very close to the house along with the thunderbox which is now septic. We decided to visit Fraser Range Station so set of quite early on a nicely graded road but it didn’t fit our directions so came back & went along a bush track past Healy`s dam. The latter part of that track, near Eyre Hwy was very very rough so not keen on going back that way. Met Teen Ryan at Fraser Range but they all seemed to be under pressure there so didn’t gain much information from her or her husband. The Caravan Park Manager reluctantly talked to us for a while before we left. Tim asked Teen if we could shower but she wasn’t too keen as they had just cleaned them although a bit later she did offer as long as we paid, we didn’t bother. They did give us permission to drive through their property though so that we could go back to the homestead past North well. Not a bad track back & we decided to have lunch at the dump. This was paradise for Don he found so many things to fill up the nooks & crannies in the Cruiser. Found the remains of an old Sunshine Harvester, real old cars, all the burnt iron from the house, just amazing how much stuff was dumped, it was just behind the House Dam.
Went down to see Derek & decided to climb Mt Malcolm first as we were a bit early. Fairly easy climb & it gave us a very good idea of the Station as it is the highest point. Back to see Derek & he was good value, the mine is not in receivership but stopped mining in January as there is a large wastage with cracks in the Granite. He has been trying to arrange sales for the smaller Granite blocks & once that is fixed they will start up again. He told us that North well was really interesting as they had dug a well which was about 35 mitres deep. Amazing how things get out of proportion as we measured how deep the well was & it is about 10 feet. Perhaps the original hole was 3.5 metres not 35 metres. We found an old camp not far from the well & we could imagine Tom camping there as it is quite a distance from the homestead. There was a real old table in the camp & also big steel buckets used to lift the dirt from the well. Long discussions around the campfire tonight as we are starting to get the feel of life at the Station & the amount of effort required by both Tom & Paula, they are an amazing couple.