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Armidale; then to Tenterfield by train in 1887

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The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, Tuesday 21 June 1887

A Journey due North.

Armidale to Tenterfield.

(By Bruni in the Australasian.)

Armidale, the oldest and most important town on the New England plateau, is a place of considerable importance. It is the principal business centre of an extensive pastoral and agricultural district, of which it is considered the capital, and is the residence of a Church of England and of a Roman Catholic bishop. I find it is much smaller in size than I anticipated, and with no appearance of rapid advancement, but it has an air of quiet respectability befitting the leading town of a large and steadily-improving district. The oldest part of the town is situated close by the bank of the rivulet that runs by the place, and consists of a group of extremely quaint old-fashioned wooden houses, huddled together as if for mutual protection. The principal portion of the town is situated on some gently-rising ground on the western bank of the stream. The houses are built in a much more modern style than those of the first settlement, but here and there one meets with one of those homely square brick dwellings, with small windows, low ceilings, high shingled roofs, and attic-windows, that are so frequently seen in all the older towns of the parent colony. Though having no pretensions to architectural beauty, they are generally roomy, comfortable places to live in, and I have frequently found them inhabited by the children, grand-children, or even more remote descendants of the pioneers who erected them. They are solidly built, and though presenting often a somewhat weather-beaten appearance, will yet last longer than the more pretentious run-em-ups of later days. It is quite a noticeable feature in rural life in New South Wales that families should remain on the land taken up by their fathers in the early days of the colony. Sons and daughters may marry and go out into the world but there ever remains a representative of the family at the old home. This is quite different to what one finds in Victoria, where change seems to be the order of the day. Though the country is still so young it is a very rare thing to find a rural property still remaining in the hands of the original settler or his family. Even the farms that have been reclaimed from the stubborn forest change hands as readily as so many chattels. This may denote progress, but I am old-fashioned, and prefer the mode of life which obtains in these pleasant but somewhat sleepy old towns of New South Wales.

At the first view of Armidale one immediately perceives that the climate is entirely different to that of the country lying between Newcastle and Tamworth. The air is sharp and bracing, but with nothing unpleasant in it. In winter the climate is said to be very severe, but in spring, summer, and autumn it is admitted by everyone to be most delightful. A better holiday ground for the sunburnt residents of Queensland and the hot plains of north-western New South Wales it would be hard to find, and when the rail is carried over the short gap between Wallangarra and Tenterfield, New England will doubtless be a favourite place with those who are anxious to escape from the terrors of a Central Australian summer. The streets of the older portion of Armidale are narrow and irregular, but a marked improvement is shown in the newer portion of the town. No attempt has been made to beautify the place by planting trees in the streets, though nowhere have I seen the elm with such a splendid mass of foliage as in the gardens of Armidale. They were just touched by the first frosts of winter when I saw them, and the contrast between the yellow of the outside leaves and the dark-green of the rest of the foliage was very fine. English fruit trees grow well in this district, and so, I believe, would all English flowers, but one sees very few of them. There is a notable absence of cottage gardens, though pocket-handkerchief allotments were not the fashion when the town was laid out. Indeed, in Armidale a cottage garden may be said to be the exception and not the rule, and few of the larger houses have gardens. This is one of the peculiarities of the place that is at once noticed by a visitor. The business portion of the town is of small extent, and to judge by the appearance of the shops, the trade done is a very quiet one. The most attractive feature of the place is the pleasant villas that surround the town, and these have a very pretty appearance, peeping through the foliage of the forest that hems the town round. The little valley in which Armidale is situated is bordered by lines of low hills, composed of a poor white-coloured soil, with frequent outcrop of rock. The forest that clothes the hills is of a very poor description, stunted in growth, and useless except for firewood. These barren hills give one a poor opinion of the surrounding country, but almost immediately beyond them is a large extent of fertile land, scattered over which are many farms, the comfortable homesteads on which indicate well-to-do proprietors.

In the centre of the town is a large square, which has been planted with ornamental trees. Surrounding it are all the leading places of worship. I was shown the cathedrals of the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church. Had I not been told they were cathedrals I would have taken them for well-built, unpretending village churches. The Government buildings are extensive, and each department has a large staff ; Armidale being a Government as well as a business centre for the New England district. There is a large hospital just outside the town on a fine site. The public schools are of considerable size, and are attended by a numerous troop of sturdy, rosy-cheeked, young Englanders. The railway station is situated a considerable distance out from the north-western corner of the town, and, magnet like, is drawing the town towards it. A good deal of building is going on, the material used being invariably brick. A better building material could not be found than the bricks made in Armidale ; they are dark in colour, and almost as hard as flint. My stay in Armidale was a brief one, but I saw much that pleased me. Nature had done much to make this an attractive summer residence for the dwellers in tropical and semi-tropical Australia. The air is pure and invigorating, and nowhere have I seen anything so closely resembling the lovely turquoise blue of the Tasmanian skies as in Armidale. Even in winter the cold is not unpleasant, though the frosts are sharp and frequently last till late in the forenoon. Often in winter one may sit on the leaside of a house and enjoy the genial warmth of the sun, while on the shady side the air will be freezing. On such occasions the different sides of the street have widely different climates. It is a remarkably healthy district, and there is no tonic that I know of like the air of this elevated plateau. To judge by the substantial repasts prepared to satisfy the heroic appetites of their guests, this fact had been forced upon the attention of the local hotelkeepers.

Resuming my northward way, I left Armidale by a goods train after an early breakfast on a bright frosty morning. The train travelled at a marvellously slow rate, and I was thus enabled to have a good view of the country we passed through. About a couple of miles out of town I was shown the fine mansion lately built by Mr F. White. It is on a very pretty site, and overlooks the little valley, which is here of much greater extent than at Armidale. The train for a few miles passes through low hills on which a thin layer of cold poor soil produces only a forest of stunted, worthless trees. Then a welcome change took place, the light coloured stiff clay gave place to a rich chocolate soil, and the country was dotted over with pleasant looking and substantially built homesteads. Stock feeding is much practised about here and every little steading was surrounded by numerous large and well built stacks. I noticed that many of the farm horses in the fields we passed by were rugged, a sure sign of cold climate, and of care on the part of the stock owners. Much of the forest near Eversleigh would be greatly improved by ring-barking, but the practice is not in favour with the residents. Though we were now approaching the highest part of the tableland traversed by the railway, the views were never extensive, and only disclosed a series of low wooded hills in every direction. The formation was now granite, and the cuttings along the line were very heavy. This portion of the railway must have cost a large sum per mile, and for a considerable distance it runs through an almost uninhabited country, in which the natural resources are apparently very small. The line appears to follow the summit of the mountain range ; sometimes the fall is to the east, and then, again, it is to the west. On more than one occasion I saw the fall of the country east and west from the line at the one spot. At Black Mountain we had reached an elevation of a little over 4300ft. ; there was a bright sunshine, but the air was sharp and cold. Like the greater portion of the tableland, there was a large quantity of young timber springing up through the forest. From the appearance of the patches that have been ringbarked, clearing this country will be a very difficult operation, as, owing to the climate, the native trees have a strong vitality. Beyond Black Mountain the country is flat and swampy, and at Guyra the train runs by a very large marsh named “The Mother of Ducks,” but the ducks had deserted their mother at the time I passed. The formation about here is basalt, and if the surface were drained it would make excellent. grazing ground. At Ben Lomond we were 4471ft. above the sea, the highest point reached by any railway in Australia. The station is a pretty one, with comfortable quarters for the railway officials. The hamlet is small, the most noticeable building being a diminutive wooden church. To my surprise I saw a calico poster announcing the fact that there was to be a large sale of business and villa allotments on a day in December last. In a cutting beyond the highest point I noticed that the formation was still basalt. The descent beyond Ben Lomond is rapid, the train running down a narrow valley, and at times I got a view of a forest country extending a long way to the north, with blue mountains outlined against the sky. As we went on, the little mountain glen opened out into a large valley, and I got a fine view of the country to the northward. There were plenty of both cattle and sheep on the hillsides, and the grass was everywhere abundant. The lower we ran down the valley the more extensive became the flats, which were composed of the finest black soil. The temperature rapidly became higher as we descended the valley, and orchards, maize-fields, and small farm-steadings were frequently met with. The prevailing grass all over this country was kangaroo grass. Beyond a place named Glencoe we got into granite country again, and at Stonehenge passed an immense number of granite boulders standing high above the surface of the ground. The granite country lasted till we reached Glen Innes, where I anticipated there would be a halt for refreshments. To my intense disgust, there was a long wait, but nothing eatable or drinkable was to be obtained, and this is a country where the appetite is sharpened by the fresh mountain air.

Glen Innes is a small town, but a very “live” one. It is fully alive to the advantages of railway communication with the coast, and the inhabitants seem thoroughly in earnest in their determination that their town shall be the point of departure of the line to the coast and of that for Inverell. I intended stopping at this interesting town on my return journey, but unfortunately had not the time to spare. The soil around Glen Innes is remarkably good, and some of the very best is contained in the Furrucabad estate, lately purchased and cut up into farms by a syndicate. Though granite rock crops out all over the district, the soil is of the blackest and richest I saw in New England. The agricultural resources of the district surrounding Glen Innes are very great. After passing through a large area of rich-soil country, we come into a poorer soil on which there are very few habitations to be seen. The cuttings are numerous, and some of them very deep and long. We were rising again beyond Deepwater, and the incline was so steep at times that the engine could only just keep the train moving. On the summit of the range called the Bolivia Mountains a halt was made to let the brakes down, a precaution we soon found was absolutely necessary. If the hills were steep on the southern side, they seemed to be much more so on the northern side. The train plunged down among a series of wild rocky hills. The sudden curves on this part of the descent showed the necessity for strong brake power. In some respects this place resembles the famous Zigzag on the Blue Mountains, but to my mind is much more beautiful. The hills are wilder and the view more extensive, while below is seen a most charming valley, in which the groups of bright-foliaged apple-trees have a very fine effect. On reaching the valley I found it consisted of a wide extent of rich black soil, on which there was a heavy sward of grass. Here I saw a good many well-bred cattle all of which were in excellent condition. From below, the prospect of the mountain side, with the bold sweeping curves of the railway, was almost as attractive as that from the summit. Soon after leaving the Bolivia station night closed in, and the remainder of the journey was performed in the dark. The train reached Tenterfield a little after 7 o’clock, having taken 10 hours to perform a journey of 121 miles. The line from Newcastle to Tenterfield is 381 miles long, and there are no less than 66 stations on the way, an average of a station to every 5-2/3 of miles. During this long ride I was surprised to see so much good soil, the greater portion of which is as yet unimproved. It is a splendid country, and appears capable of producing all descriptions of agricultural produce in unlimited quantities. To me, the most attractive portion of the journey was the run across the New England tableland. With its immense area of splendid soil and glorious climate it has capabilities that are as yet undreamt of by the inhabitants. When the railway is completed to Sydney, and the carriage tariff arranged on a scale that will encourage traffic, there will be a great awakening all through this important district. In many respects the country resembles the plateau that extends eastward from Ballarat, but it is more than a hundred times larger. For growing all the fruits of a temperate clime, for dairy produce, for agriculture, and for grazing, I know of no district of equal size that can compare with New England, when the great natural resources of the land are fully developed.

Written by macalba

September 18, 2011 at 8:07 am

Shot through the heart

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Tuesday 28 September 1897, The Sydney Morning Herald

TRAGEDY AT NINE MILE.

AN EXTRAORDINARY ACCIDENT.

SHOT THROUGH THE HEART.

A telegram to the following effect was yesterday received at the office of the Inspector-General of Police from the Armidale superintendent of police :- “William White was on Saturday last found dead half a mile from his residence, Nine Mile, Deepwater, shot in the breast with slugs. The post-mortem examination resulted in four slugs being found in the body. One passed through the heart. Death was instantaneous. The shot was not fired from close quarters. White left home on Friday morning, carrying a Winchester repeating rifle, which was found lying at his feet, and contained one empty cartridge. No further information.” Investigations are being made by Senior-sergeant Hicks, of Tenterfield, and Senior-sergeant Travers, of Glen Innes.

Superintendent Garvan, of the Armidale police district, yesterday evening telegraphed to the Inspector-General as follows :- “White’s death is now understood to be the result of an accident. Thirty yards from where the body lay his hat was found, and 4 ft. from his hat a rifle, fired recently into the face of a granite boulder. Four pieces of lead, believed to be portions of a bullet that ricocheted, and a piece of granite, were found embedded in deceased’s neck by a doctor. The circumstances surrounding the case do not point to murder. Bullet mark on rock was discovered this morning.”

Written by macalba

May 5, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Anzac Day

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Thursday 26 April 1917, The Sydney Morning Herald

ARMIDALE.-Anzac Day was celebrated at Armidale by services in all the churches. A procession, comprising Cadets, Boy Scouts, and returned soldiers leading horses with empty saddles, marched to the Central Park, where addresses were delivered by Senator Oakes, the Mayor, and ministers of the different denominations. Four recruits were secured. Flags on all the business places were at half mast all day.

GLEN INNES.-Great interest was taken in the Anzac celebrations. Stirring addresses were delivered by Canon Kemmis, the Rev. A. P. Cameron, the Rev. Mr. Westbrook, and Ensign Pettit, of the Salvation Army. An honour roll, containing the names of 50 local and district soldiers who have been killed, was read and wreaths were placed on the soldiers monument in the main street. Demonstrations were held at the district school, and an honour roll was read, containing the names of 154 ex-pupils.

INVERELL.-Anzac Day was celebrated by a combined service of the various Protestant denominations in the Town Hall. The Bishop of Armidale delivered a patriotic address. He said that for all time Australian calendars would carry the word “Anzac” opposite April 25. Doubts had sometimes been cast as to whether Australians were fighters, whether they were men fit to hold this fair land of Australia; but the men of Anzac gave an eternal answer to the world. Heaven had sent them the opportunity, and right nobly had they embraced it.

KEMPSEY.-At the district school the children were addressed by Mr. Knight, the head master, the Rev. D. Smith, the Rev. Chaplain Bellhouse, Mr. W. T. Dangar, and Mr. P. J. Arnold, chairman of the Parents and Citizens’ Association. At the post-office corner 3000 people assembled round the honour board, containing 45 names of men of Kempsey who have been killed in the war. The Mayor (Alderman Lane) delivered an address.

Written by macalba

April 25, 2011 at 8:02 pm

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Death Of Mr. E. C. Sommerlad

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Monday 8 September 1952, The Sydney Morning Herald

Mr. Ernest Christian Sommerlad, M.L.C., leader of the N.S.W. provincial Press for 25 years, died at his home at Lindfield on Saturday night. He was 66.

Mr. Sommerlad was past president, past secretary and life member of the N.S.W. Country Press Association, chairman and managing director of Country Press, Ltd., and chairman of directors of the N.S.W. section of the Australian United Press, Ltd.

He was born in Tenterfield, the youngest in a family of 12, and left school at the age of 11 to work on the family farm. He came to Sydney when 21 to train for the Methodist Ministry. He went to Fiji as a missionary in 1911, but ill-health forced his resignation from the Church.

Mr. Sommerlad became a reporter on the “Inverell Argus,” and in 1919 went to Glen Innes to take charge of the “Examiner.” In the next ten years he amalgamated a number of district papers and formed Northern Newspapers Pty. Ltd. He was chairman and managing director of the company from its inception.

In 1929 Mr. Sommerlad was appointed general manager of Country Press Ltd., the Sydney office of the N.S.W. country newspapers. Later he became managing director and chairman.

M.L.C. FOR 20 YEARS

Mr. Sommerlad had been a member of the Legislative Council for 20 years. He was one of the founders of the Australian Country Party.

He was awarded the C.B.E. for his work as chairman of the publicity committee of the 1939 sesqui-centenary celebration.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters, Mrs. Joy Udy and Miss Heather Sommerlad, and two sons, E. Lloyd and David.

A service will be held at Lindfield Methodist Church at 11 a.m. to-morrow, before cremation at Northern Suburbs Crematorium.

Written by macalba

April 12, 2011 at 8:05 pm

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Country air routes

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Friday 30 July 1948, The Sydney Morning Herald

The Minister for Transport, Mr. M. O’Sullivan, yesterday approved the issue of licences for four new air services, to be operated by East-West Airlines.

The new routes are: Scone-Sydney; Glen Innes-Tamworth-Sydney; Armidale-Tamworth-Sydney; and Tamworth-Scone-Newcastle.

Mr. O’Sullivan said the services would depend upon petrol being available. That was a matter for the Federal Government.

Chairman of directors of East-West Airlines, Mr. M. Shand, said that the Federal Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr. Drakeford, had assured him recently that the company would receive the fuel, even if on a restricted basis.

The services would “feed” the company’s main route between Sydney and Brisbane.

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March 30, 2011 at 8:09 pm

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Around New England

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Tuesday 27 October 1868, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser

NEW ENGLAND.

(Abridged from the Armidale papers of Saturday.)

The drawing in a lottery in aid of the fund for erecting an Oddfellows’ Hall in Armidale, began on the 19th, and closed on the 20th. There is some complaint about delay and confusion through imperfect arrangements.

Violent Hailstorm.-On Friday night last week there was a thunderstorm at Armidale. The rain fell pretty heavily, and the hail knocked off much fruit and broke a little glass. Along a line from Mr. Markham’s to old Hillgrove the hail was heavier, and did more damage. On Tuesday afternoon a violent thunder, rain, and hail storm swept over Armidale. The hail damaged orchards, but broke little or no glass. The wind was violent, and rain fell in torrents, inundating streets, choking culverts, and sweeping through houses. For twenty years at least so much rain had not fallen here in so short a time. In about 20 minutes the fall in town was 3.28 inches, and in some places out of town about 4 inches. Some damage was done to property, and fencing was carried away. On the upper part of Saumarez Creek, hail, some of which was as large as pullets’ eggs, cut the young wheat to pieces in a belt scarcely half a mile wide, roofs were blown off outbuildings, one house narrowly escaped being crushed by a falling tree, and many trees were torn up or broken off. Some farmers who had been struggling to free themselves from difficulties have lost considerably in positive damage to their property, but it is hoped that the wheat chopped down will spring again to a crop. It did so after the great hail storm of Oct. 21 (last Tuesday was Oct. 20) four years ago. It is fortunate indeed that no loss of life has been reported. Express.

Mr. T. A. Perry, of Bendemeer, has sent the Express some wine, a sample of his first vintage at “Lumala;” a proof of the capabilities of the southern part of the tableland.

The crops about Glen Innes are reported to be in splendid condition.

Thunderbolt is said to have visited Wellingrove on the 14th, and to have spent a few hours there quietly.

MURDER.-A most diabolical murder was committed a few days back, at Furrackabad Station, by a black-fellow, on a half-caste girl about ten years of age. It seems he knocked the unfortunate child’s brains out with either a stone or a stick. An enquiry was held by order of A. F. C. Dumeresq, Esq., J.P., when Dr. Skinner held a post-mortem examination. The body had to be exhumed, and the doctor, accompanied by Constable Lowther, examined the body, when the injuries were found so great that almost instant death must have taken place. The child was well known in the town. It seems also that she had been violated. A warrant was signed by the magistrate presiding at the enquiry.- Glen Innes Cor., Oct. 19

About Inverell the lambing is over ; the average percentage is about 95; the squatters are taking great pains with their sheepwashing. The crops look well, but rain is still wanted.

At Frazer’s Creek, Messrs. Macdonald have been washing their sheep with hot water. Rain has fallen in that neighbourhood.

Written by macalba

December 7, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Vain bid to save mother

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Monday 27 September 1954, The Sydney Morning Herald

A man was forced to stand by helplessly while his mother burnt to death at Lambing Valley, near Glen Innes, late on Saturday night.

The mother, Mrs. Annie Catherine Webber, 76, a widow, was alone in her house when fire broke out in the kitchen.

Her son, Eric Webber, 34, was about 300 yards from the house tending some lambs when he saw the fire.

He tried to enter the house to rescue his mother but was driven back by the flames.

He watched helplessly as the fire destroyed the house built of wood and iron.

Police believe that an overturned kerosene lamp caused the blaze.

Webber told police he had left the house only a few minutes before the fire broke out.

He said his mother was active for her age and was probably overcome by smoke while trying to put out the flames.

Only the two of them occupied the house.

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December 3, 2010 at 8:02 pm

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