Emonson Family HistoryEmonson Family History
The Colonisation Circular program

It was during their courtship that John James and Maria made the bold decision to emigrate to South Australia, taking advantage of the benefits detailed within The Colonisation Circulars. Demand for labour was high in the new colony. Female servants of good character were highly sought after, as were miners, farm servants, agricultural labourers and shepherds.  We should first explain that it is not as generally known as it should be, that the Government gives free passage (including food) to South Australia, to agricultural labourers, shepherds, female domestic and farm servants, and dairy maids; also, to a few blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters, and other country mechanics. The vessels are first-class, and proceed every month to Port Adelaide, in South Australia. The ships sail from London and Plymouth, where depots are fitted up for the emigrants.

The conditions were learned from 'The Colonisation Circular' , issued by her Majesty's Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners. The emigrants had to be of good character, and recommended for sobriety and industry. Each had to provide their own clothing and, on being accepted, must pay the following for passage to South Australia. (£A = $A2 approx.)

    * Passengers under 45 years of age - £1 or £2 pounds depending on their occupations. (A miner's passage for himself and his wife was £1)
    * Passengers between 45 and 50 years - £5 pounds.
    * Passengers between 50 and 60 years - £11 pounds.
    * Single men - £2 pounds.
    * Children under 14 years - £0,10 shillings.

Passengers to South Australia were not required to repay their passage money but they had to sign an agreement that if they went to the goldfields or if they quit the colony within four years of landing they had to repay a large proportion of their passage money.

Under The Colonisation Circulars scheme the fare was subsidized by £A5 per head.  John's income at this time would have been about £A4 per month so the cost of travel, even taking into account the subsidy, was considerable.

During the voyage they are placed under the exclusive superintendence of the surgeon, not only as their doctor, but as their sole superintendent and, on their arrival, a Government Agent gives advice as to wages, and places where they will get work. No repayment is required. The full particulars were furnished at the Government Emigration office, 9, Park Street, Westminster, or by agents in most other large towns. 'The Colonisation Circular' could be purchased for tuppence.

Having made their decision it was important that John and Maria settled all outstanding matters before their departure, as to attempt so later would have been tedious - if not impossible.  To attempt to do so from Australia could have been a very slow task, as to receive a response to a letter could take a year or more.  Being people of modest possessions, this was most likely not an arduous task.  However, being honest people they would have been most uncomfortable having not finalized all accounts and obligations prior to departure.

It is most likely that a final departure date would have been announced at short notice, so they most likely lived an unsettled final few weeks awaiting advice.  During this time they would also collect the clothing and other items provided under their Colonisation Circular migration arrangement.  Participants also had to 'provide bedding and the necessary utensils such as knife and fork, spoon, and a drinking mug - which should be made of tin or pewter.'

Once the ‘call to ship' was advised, they would have quickly gathered their possessions and started the trip toward the dock.  Upon arrival they would have hauled all their possessions aboard themselves and stowed them in their confined space.  This space included a rough hessian mattress stuffed with straw, barely wide enough for the two of them.  There were no walls between them and the next couples.  Near their feet was a narrow, long trestle, at which they would consume their modest meals.


Their ship was to be the Florentina, a three mast, square-rigged vessel of 453 ton.   It was 115 feet long, 29 feet 10 inches wide, being built at St Peters Quay, on the River Tyne, Newcastle (north east of England) in 1821 and was owned by Rutherfords of London and captained by Captain C.S. Tintale.   Contrary to common belief, the tonnage of a ship was not its weight, but more the cubic capacity (space) in which it could carry cargo.  One 'ton' represented 100 cubic feet of space.  Areas such as cabins and crew quarters were excluded from the calculation.  Conditions on board were cramped and harsh by today's most basic standards.  John and Maria were two of 199 passengers and a crew of 39.  In addition, there was at least one milking cow, some hens and either pigs or bullocks for provision of fresh meat.  Of course, fodder would also have been required to feed the livestock. Weekly food provisions for each adult included - 2 to 3 pounds (lbs.) of bread per day; 1lb of preserved meat; half pound of picked fish per week; 3lb of flour per week; 6 ounces of suet; 2/3rds pint of dried lentils; 7 ounces of sugar; 1 ounce of tea; some mustard; 1 pint of oatmeal; ½ pint of preserved cabbage and a daily ration of 3 quarts of fresh water.  Children aged between 7 and 15 received half this amount and younger ones one third.

Toilet and washing facilities were most primitive.  The toilet, for use by women and children only, was similar to the old pan that we knew as children.  Flushing would have most likely been achieved by use of a bucket of salt water.  The stench in these cramped areas, adjacent the open sleeping quarters, must have been most unpleasant.  Women requiring privacy to attend to personal health matters must have felt the confined space, with numerous nearby adults, most compromising.   Men were required to go outside and proceed to the lee side for all toilet requirements.  This could be a very dangerous activity during rough seas and resulted in both injury and loss of men overboard.  Fresh water, not being plentiful, had to cover drinking needs and cooking requirements.  After some time at sea the water would develop a smell that made it most unpleasant for drinking.

Personal washing for most did not include soap and often was limited to a quick sponge down with salt water.  The lack of sufficient fresh water to facilitate a good bath resulted in painful boils developing.  Weather permitting, men and children would shower under the fire hose that was fed by men operating the manual pump.  Men were required to gather on deck at 6am for their daily shower, pleasant enough when in the tropics, but horrible when chilled by the southerly winds in winter.

A common galley with brick fireplace was used for food preparation.  On John and Maria's voyage it was most likely that Maria prepared her and John's meals as this was the system adopted by 1849.  Due to the absence of refrigeration, it was common for most meals to be of the stew or pie varieties.

The Colonisation Commissioners required ships to have a surgeon aboard however this only required the person to have some medical training, not necessarily including surgery.  As most illnesses were due to infection, assistance was most limited.  Death was frequently due to dysentery, which would often spread throughout the ship.  One ship undertaking this voyage in 1850 (the year after John and Maria) saw 21 deaths during the trip.  This represented about 10% of the migrant numbers on board.

Childbirth was a very risky affair during these voyages and could result in death of both mother and child.  Whilst giving birth a mother would only be attended by other experienced women on board.

Outbreak of fire was the greatest danger on such trips, therefore there were very strict rules regarding open lamps, candles and cooking areas.  It is assumed that most of those vessels that disappeared without trace were destroyed due to fire.  One can imagine how quickly fire would spread throughout a wooden vessel that included hessian and straw mattresses for about 200 migrants and a crew of 40.

The Journey Begins

John and Maria departed London at 7am on 9 March 1849, on board Florentina, only 4 days before Maria's 22nd birthday.  The first part of the voyage involved the slow task of navigation down the Thames River.  Upon leaving the protection of the river the ship was exposed to cold wind and heavy rain that inflicted seasickness for the unseasoned travellers.   As they progressed through the Atlantic Ocean the weather deteriorated and passengers found themselves locked below in dark and damp conditions.  Being wet and drudging around in ankle deep water was surely a harsh initiation for passengers.  This water would include food scraps and possibly some human excrement.

Florentina route

The voyage followed an established route travelling in a near straight line South-South West, passing the North West corner of Africa, continuing toward a point just off Rio De Janerio which is on the mid East coast of South America.  At this point Captain Tintale turned due East taking the ship south of The Cape of Good Hope, continuing in a near straight line toward South Australia.  About this time The Roaring Forties would most likely provide both speed and discomfort. These winds could gust to gale force, constantly washing water onto the deck, and of course, into the lower levels. Conversely, days spent wallowing in windless conditions created much tension, days seeming endless and hot.  Humid nights would then make sleeping near impossible in the stuffy conditions below deck.  The female passengers and children remained below deck for many days, sometimes weeks, enduring wet bedding and having to slosh around in ankle deep salt water.  The build up of fowled air became unbearable and it was recorded that the noxious air and gases looked like a cloud rising from a ship following the opening of hatches.

Men were seconded to assist on deck as constant changing winds required frequent changing of sails.  Furthermore, the wear and tear of travel meant there was constant need of repair to equipment and sails.

As the ship neared Australia Captain Tindale needed to be most observant of the numerous uncharted reefs and islands.  In addition, should he be unfortunate to have been driven too far south the ever present icebergs of winter were a constant danger.   Nearing Australia the wind temperature warmed making travel more pleasant for all aboard, especially the women and children who well may have spent most of their time confined to the areas below deck.   One could imagine the mixture of excitement and anticipation they felt as they began to count down the remaining days at sea.  Speculation would have extended to all aspects of their new life.  No doubt many tears were shed during these last few days.

Arriving at South Australia

Once land was sighted they would have strained their eyes in search of features and hoping to sight Port Adelaide.  Nearing the Port, they may well have reflected upon the past 14 weeks and the demands and stresses placed upon them. On many occasions John and Maria must have doubted the wisdom of their original decision to emigrate, however the excited anticipation and warm winds would have resulted in greater optimism and a feeling of general well being. The trip had taken 14 weeks, with John and Maria arriving in Port Adelaide on 20 June 1849.

The Florentina was the 10th migrant vessel of 49 to arrive that year.  At this time arrivals had hit their peak with about four migrant vessels arriving each week.  This must have stretched the resources of the Port and the immigration officers to their limit.  Similarly, accommodation facilities must have found it difficult to meet the ever increasing demand.

McLaren Wharf was a welcome addition at Port Adelaide when opened in 1840.  It enabled new arrivals to step on to dry ground and the safety of a sound, wooden wharf.  By 1849 some temporary accommodation had been constructed at Port Adelaide.  During that same year tenders were called for construction of an immigration shed in close proximity to the Customs House.  Furthermore, an immigration agent was appointed to assist the new arrivals.  About this time an enterprising teamster offered one way travel to and from Adelaide for 5 shillings (50c), a substantial reduction on the previous 20 shillings ($2) fare.  This trip was made on rough gravel tracks and would have been most uncomfortable for all, given that the dray would have been without springs to cushion the bumps.  There were several wayside stops by this time where those on foot, or in the dray, could acquire basic refreshments and beverages.  The new bridge across the Torrens River meant it was no longer necessary to wade through wetlands as they approached Adelaide.

South Australia was originally settled on a different system from any other Australian State, in that it was independent of New South Wales and the convict system.  South Australia was colonized by a company and by free immigrants.  It was the first colony to produce wheat and to mine copper for export.  The boom in copper mining arrived in the late 1840s and consequently attracted most of the settlers at that time.  This included John who commenced development of his mining skills that would later lead to gold mining. Things were tough for the new arrivals as they needed to arrange shelter and employment.  Many farmers were going to the wall, especially those specializing in wool, so John had to be careful in his selection on employer.

"This will be the place for a village”

John Batman, son of a convict, was said to be the first white man to discover what was to become Melbourne. On Sunday, 10 May 1835, Batman set of from Launceston, Tasmania, on the 30 tonne schooner ‘Rebecca', to investigate Port Phillip bay with the view to forming an establishment on this south east point of New Holland (later being renamed Australia). Batman took with him a map of the coastline based on Flinders' - ‘A Voyage to Terra Australis’ and Charles Grimes' 1803 survey of Port Phillip, as well as another map prepared from a sketch of Hume and Hovell's 1824 overland trip.

Batman made the following diary note on 8 June 1835 at the point we now know as Melbourne .

    The boat went up the large river I have spoken of which comes from the East and I am glad to state about six miles up found the river all good water and very deep this will be the place for a village. The natives on shore.

The point for me including the John Batman story is to give greater understanding of the rapid development of the city of Melbourne . Below is a picture of Batman meeting with local Aboriginals on 6 June 1835.

During the 1850s the population of Melbourne increased nearly five-fold - growing from 29000 in 1851 to 123061 in 1861.

Gold is discovered in Victoria

In 1848, a young shepherd named Thomas Chapman discovered gold nuggets in a dry creek bed at Daisy Hill in central Victoria . Thomas, working at Glen Mona run, took the nuggets to Melbourne on the pretext of buying some wethers (sheep). Though no doubt aware of the spasmodic but secret trade in gold conducted at that time between lucky individuals and the local jewellery trade, Chapman could hardly have foreseen that his find would trigger Australia 's first gold rush.

By 2 February, the Argus Newspaper in Melbourne left its readers in no doubt that a goldfield existed in the Port Phillip district, the proof evident in actual gold purchased from Thomas by two Melbourne jewellers. The stage was set for an exodus to the spot, with government disapproval the sole impediment to acquisition of instant fortunes. Before the week was out, it was reported that despite Superintendent Latrobe's absence from town, mounted police had been sent to protect the golden district, but it was too late to stop the flood of hopeful prospectors.

By the time of Hargreaves' discovery north of Bathurst in 1851, the Government had determined the reward for the discovery of gold, as well as a ruthlessly efficient method of cashing in on its extraction. Diggers were to pay a licence fee and to sell all found gold to the government or its agent within ten days of discovery, a policy which netted an amazing £A 170,860,570 ($A341,721,114) to 31 December 1867 as the proceeds from gold exports totalling 43,236,592 ozs. ( 1,225,737 kilograms)

In his history of Port Phillip colony, Thomas McCombie disclosed that at the time of the discovery of gold at Clunes in 1851, gold was found on Glen Mona run by Dr Herman Bruhn. Newspaper reports of fresh gold discoveries at Daisy Hill began at about the same time as official Gold Commissioner's Reports from there, in June 1852. They disclosed the presence of sixty men on the site.

In 1853, the Daisy Hill diggings were described as a two store place located 35 miles West of Castlemaine across the lava plains, and intermittent reports throughout the year told of new rushes at Daisy Hill, always a favourite diggings”. By June 1855, two townships had been surveyed, with five licensed hotels and many more unlicensed premises catering for the thirst of an estimated 10,000 diggers working in that area. The townships of Amherst and Back Creek continued to grow, with new rushes occurring every now and then as new leads were opened up or old ones profitably reworked. Digging continued with Daisy Hill Flat taking on an air of domestic permanence, however the diggings eventually stopped in 1863. Gold carted from Daisy Hill by escort during 1857 totalled 35,409ozs (1003.83 kilograms) , with one fortunate digger's efforts accounting for 446 ozs ( 12.64 kilograms). In February 1861, an anonymous party found a single nugget which weighed in at 715 ozs (20.27 kilograms) .

John and Maria become parents

John and Maria became parents to John James Emonson (born 24 September 1850), at Nailsworth, an area 3km north of the centre of Adelaide. Their new baby died 17 days later on 11 October 1850.  A second son was born in Adelaide whom they also named John James Emonson (born 15 April 1852).  John (senior) had his occupation listed on the birth certificate as 'Pound Keeper'.

John and Maria relocate to Victoria

The family left Port Adelaide for Melbourne on 2 March 1853, on board the 537 ton, 109 feet long 'Dreadnought'. The ship, Captained by W McDonald, was a three mast barque built in1846 and had arrived at Port Adelaide from England only 11 days prior to the Florentina.  Dreadnought arrived at Melbourne on 9 March 1853.

John initially took a billet as Landing Clerk for an importing firm, later starting his own cartage business.

Their third son, Charles William Emonson, was born 12 June 1854 in Derby Street, Richmond, Victoria.

Having separated from the Colony of New South Wales that same year, Victoria was a thriving Colony with a population of 77,000, which rapidly grew to 411,000 by 1857.

The lure of gold

In the spring of 1854 John and Maria travelled by dray from Melbourne to Daisy Hill.  Daisy Hill is 10km north of Back Creek (renamed Talbot in 1861) - both being just north of Clunes.  It must have been a most arduous trip for Maria, having a two-year-old and a new baby to attend whilst travelling rough dirt tracks in heat for which they would have been unaccustomed.

John mined the gold fields around Daisy Hill and Back Creek for some years.

It was at daybreak on Sunday 3 December 1854 that a short (20 minute), yet bloody battle took place on the Ballarat gold field - that battle is now known as the Eureka Stockade.  Some 30 deaths resulted - 5 police and the remainder being miners.  The stockade was all but deserted as miners did not contemplate an attack being launched on the Sabbath.  The attacking forces numbered about 300, far outnumbering the few remaining miners.  The subsequent inquiry resulted in all of the miners demands being met and the abolition of the repressive License and Gold Commission.  The Eureka Stockade is viewed by many as the birthplace of Australia's political structure.

The Borneghurk and Wautharang people, the local aboriginal tribes, formerly roamed the land around Ballarat.  Pasturalists started to settle the land in 1838.  It is both interesting and sad to note that very few aboriginals survived in that area by the late 1840's.

By the late 1850s farming was depressed as all shepherds and farm labourers had set off to the gold fields.  Melbourne was almost abandoned as men left home and family to get a piece of the action.

John disappears

Maria gave birth to her fourth son Henry Samuel Emonson (in 1856 at Talbot, Victoria). She had one more son, David Emonson (who was born in Talbot, Victoria in 1863). There are stories within the family that suggest that David may have been conceived out of wedlock, possibly following John senior's disappearance. It is more likely that David was the son of another miner who may have died on the goldfields, resulting in Maria taking him under her wing to raise as one of her own. Detailed study of David's facial shape - his ‘almond' shaped eyes, receding hairline - all caused me to consider the informal adoption explanation. The Emonson men generally had a full crop of hair and suffered little baldness over several generations. John and Maria's other children all had a full crop of hair that they retained throughout their life. It is also interesting to note that David was the only child not given a second name. Furthermore, an admission register note for David in the local Amherst Hospital on the night of 13 March 1872 records his mother as Maria Phipps and a pencil note for father being 'Griffith'. Neither Henry nor David's births were registered in Victoria.

All indications are that John was doing reasonably well mining gold and his disappearance remains a mystery.  There are three explanations worthy of consideration;

- John was killed for his gold between 1856 -1863.  There was a report that he was seen entering a trader's tent to sell gold and was never seen again.

- John left for the new fields of Ararat, with or without Maria's consent, and something caused him not to return.

- As two of his sons had speculated many years later, perhaps their father may have deserted the family, possibly assuming a new name.

None of these stories have been substantiated, however they remain in family folk-law. I have been unable to locate any record of John's death.

What is known is that John's disappearance left Maria destitute in times where no support was available to a widow other than through one's family. The Rate Book for the Borough of Amherst records Maria as owner of a cottage at Rocky Flat for each year from 1866-1869.

One should remember that these were early days in Australia's development and that life was both harsh and primitive.  It was in August 1860 that Robert O'Hara Burke, George Landells and William John Wills set out from Royal Park, Melbourne to attempt the first south to north crossing of Australia.

In November 1873 Maria moved to Litchfield, Victoria with her son David (aged 10 years), joining her sons Charles William and John James who had been there for two years.  Another son, Henry Samuel, followed in 1874 and all boys lived and worked at Litchfield for some years.

David, showing great maturity and sacrificing his own education, left school in his early teens and sought work to provide for his mother.  His jobs included working for The Chaffey Brothers at Mildura, who were the pioneers of irrigation farming along the Murray River in north west Victoria.

In 1881 Henry Samuel Emonson, David Emonson and a Dean Wells went to see the first International Exhibition, held at The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, Victoria.  It was David's first ride in a train.  The Exhibition have had a profound impact upon the boys.  A few months later Henry felt confident enough to leave the plains of Litchfield and go to live at Highton in Geelong.

Some years later Henry became manager of J. Kitchen and Sons soap manufacturing plant at Sydney, living at “Forest Lodge”, 110 St Johns Road, Annandale.   There he lived with his bride Rachel Glanfield, their first child Harry Allen.  Henry's mother Maria joined them early in 1894. 

Maria died aged 68 years on 3 August 1894 whilst still living with Henry and Rachel.  Cause of death was ‘Senile decay and cardiac disease'.  She is buried in the Old Methodist section of Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney, section 4a, row 13, grave 2185.  Sadly there is no headstone on her grave.

John J & Selina Emonson

In 1882 John (born 1852) sold his existing 120 acres at Litchfield and he and his intended wife Selina Croft took up a selection at Birchip West. The reason given was that John could take up a maximum of 200 acres and a married woman could not select. John and Selina were married in 1883 and sometime later went to live on this selection.  They had four children;

Herbert Henry John Emonson (born 23 December 1884)
      Selina Elizabeth Emonson      (born 14 June 1887)
      Albert John Emonson              (born 8 August 1888)
      Winifred Louisa Emonson      (born 12 July 1890)

Selina and John resided on the same land until John's death in 21 October 1901, aged 51 years. John is buried in Birchip cemetery Methodist section 6, graves 29 and 30.

Selina and her family suffered great hardship following John's death. The drought of 1900-1902 was a culmination of misfortunes for people on the land, being the most universal and the severe drought known to that area at that time. Thankfully, following the conclusion of the drought, and right up to the beginning of World War 1, conditions in the rural sector improved somewhat.

Charles W & Annie Emonson

Charles (born 1854) married Annie Elizabeth Cannard (born at Clunes, Victoria on 13 December 1858) at the Wesleyan Church in Donald, Victoria on 14 March 1879.   Annie Elizabeth's mother's maiden name was Elizabeth Wesley, a direct descendent of the famous Wesley family that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, forming the Wesleyan Church and later becoming the Methodist Church.

Charles and his older brother John moved from Rocky Flat which is on the eastern outskirts of Talbot (18km north of Clunes, Victoria) on 4 December 1871, to work as farm hands on a Mr Jennison's selection at Swanwater (15km north west of St Arnaud, Victoria).  Charles also worked as a farmhand at Witchipool, Victoria  (later renamed Litchfield). 

The Land Act of 1869 allowed for selection of a total of 320 acres prior to survey. If the application for land was approved, then a "License to Occupy" was issued requiring certain conditions to be met. This included residing on the land, fencing and improvements be completed, one acre in ten to be cultivated by the end of three years and the payment made of 2/- per acre per year. After three years, if these conditions had been complied with, the selector could either obtain a lease, paying off the remaining 14/- over the next seven years, or he could obtain the title outright by paying the same amount immediately. In either case the Crown received £1 per acre for the land. By 1874 (the most active year of land selection in this district) the rainfall was starting to decline. On 17 November 1875 a license was issued to Charles W Emonson for a selection of 150 acres (allotment 32) in Carron (8km west of Litchfield, which is 15km north west of Donald) in central Victoria .

Charles was one of the earliest people to take selection in the Carron area. In 1877 Charles moved to live permanently on this property, erecting a simple slab or log wall home, plastering the walls with mud and using bark for the roof. This two-roomed house was valued at about £15. Charles selected an additional 170 adjoining acres (allotment 85) on 26 February 1877. His selections were within close proximity of the Cannard and Litchfield families. During the late 1870's further land in this parish was taken up by selectors, particularly on the eastern boundary and along the approximate course of the Dunmunkle Creek on the west. About half of the Carron land had not been selected by the beginning of the 1880's, primarily because the Mallee scrub covering much of this land made clearance for sowing of crop an arduous task.

Charles and Annie were a loving couple who enjoyed the company of children raising nine boys and one girl, all born in Donald, Victoria.  The children were:

George William    (b. 1880)
    Charles Henry      (b. 1881)
    Elizabeth Ann       (b. 1882)
    John James          (b. 1883)
    Albert Joseph       (b. 1885)
    Louis Theophilus  (b. 1887)
    Ernest Edward     (b. 1889)
    Percy Stanley       (b. 1891 - died 22/2/1895)
    Marcus Leonard   (b. 21 April 1892)
    Percy Stanley       (b. 1895

Annie saw to it that the farm was as self-supporting as possible. Butter was made from the cream skimmed from milk, bread baked in the camp oven and assistance given to Charles with most farm jobs, all this while giving birth to babies and caring for any sickness or injury the children suffered.

Local natural supplies of water were difficult to access. Demands upon Charles and Annie's time made it difficult for them to fill their small dams by carting water. However, to avoid stock losses they had to devote a large portion of their time to the task. One can imagine how difficult this was for Annie, having babies arriving each year. Being new to this area they would not have appreciated the dryness of the summer period, perhaps considering the first few summers to be early stages of drought.

Poor conditions meant that Charles and Annie found it difficult to meet the rental required under The Act.

Their sentiments were expressed in an editorial of a local newspaper printed in January, 1880, which stated:

"… for several years past the crops have been poor and the prices low, so that it seems that every evil agency has banded together to drive the farmer from his occupation".

An insight into the conditions of the selection period can be gained from a copy of the "Donald Times'. The reminiscences recorded by the Editor, Mr G W Letts, are those of Cr H J Green of Litchfield:

"In July, 1873 there arrived in this district a mere stripling of a boy. Not being eighteen years of age, he could not select, so he took a situation for 12 months and for working from sunrise to sunset on each and every week day, was pain 20/- a week and his "tucker". On his eighteenth birthday he put in the pegs on his selection and, with his back to the wall, he made his start. There was land to be grubbed, fences to be erected, water to be conserved, stock and implements to be bought. No return was being had from the land, which meant still more outside work, such as the carting of stores from Avoca, the bringing of water from the nearest supply, seventeen miles distant. At last 20 acres were cleared and ploughed with a single furrow plough. Seed wheat was purchased at 2/10 per bushel and sown. The wheat grew; eighty bags of four bushels each formed the first harvest. Then came the five day trip in the bullock wagon to Avoca. The wheat turned into gold, the price being 5/- per bushel, and £27 was paid for a ton of wire, which was carted from Avoca. As time went on, the homestead was built, and the pioneer boy married. Still the 'bullocking" work had to be continued. The balance of the land had to be cleared and more land bought so that the boys would be provided for…"

In 1879, following the past poor seasons, Charles was hopeful of a good return from his crop, which appeared to be doing well. However crop failure meant he had to raise money by paying the 15% interest demanded. This money was necessary for stock, plant and other improvements.

Charles and Annie endured further difficult years. Lack of water for their home and for sustaining stock was the greatest problem to overcome. Seasonal conditions did not improve during 1881 and 1882. Despite the extreme hardship, Charles was a reasonably successful farmer, as he acquired a further selection in 1882. Yields were generally poor and low grain prices made it hard to make ends meet. This was compounded by the developing rabbit plague. During 1880 and 1884 Charles would have taken his dog to patrol his land at night, lighting fires in an attempt to dissuade rabbits from destroying his crop.
To better understand the harshness of the climatic and pest impact upon their crop, perhaps I can make this comparison. During the late 1870's and early 1880's Charles yielded 3 to 8 bushels per acre. These days that same land would yield in excess of 45 bushels per acre.

In 1886 seasonal conditions were again so poor that his crop suffered total failure. Most other farmers suffered likewise.

By the 1890's many of the original selectors had been forced to surrender their holdings. The "Donald Times" in 1893 recorded that;

Some, by good management, very hard work and the exercise of severe thrift, have not only held their own, but also added to their holdings …."

By 1894 the average holding in this area was 450 acres and more than half the blocks had changed to new ownership in the parishes of Witchipool and Carron.

As the children grew they were required to assist on the farm by driving stock to the nearest water, which at times was many miles away. At the same time Annie needed to balance the necessity of the children's assistance with the need for them to maintain their schooling.

Life can be terribly cruel, as evidenced by this entry in the Donald Express (later to be renamed The Donald Times), dated 26 February 1895;


A little boy named Percy Stanley Emonson, aged 3½ years, son of Mr Charles Emonson, Witchipool, met with his death by drowning on Friday evening last in a very sad manner. At the end of the front veranda of the house there stood a 300-gallon iron tank about half full of water. It would appear that the little fellow had stood on an empty box to reach water from the tank in a pannikin when he overbalanced and fell in, and was drowned. His mother was engaged at the back and did not see the accident. Her attention was arrested by seeing the box at the side of the tank and on looking into the latter she saw her son headfirst in with his feet sticking out above the surface of the water. She drew the poor little fellow out and tried to restore him, but life had fled; it was too late. She thinks he might have been in the tank about half an hour. The pannikin was found in the water. An inquiry into the death was held at the Donald Court House on Saturday afternoon before Mr P E Carne, JP when evidence which brought out the above facts was taken. Dr Lewis said that death had been caused by asphyxia through drowning and a verdict of accidental death in accordance with the evidence was returned. The funeral took place shortly after the inquest, the Rev E O Knee officiating at the graveside.

An entry in the Donald Times, of 14 October 1902 noted the tragic passing of Annie Emonson, aged 43 years;

DEATH. Emonson

- On Sunday 12th October 1902, at St Arnaud, Annie, the beloved wife of Charles Emonson, of Witchipool.

We regret to announce the death of Mrs Emonson, wife of Chas Emonson, of Witchipool, which took place at St Arnaud on Sunday last. The cause of death was blood poisoning following a premature birth, and much sympathy is felt with Mr Emonson in his sad bereavement. The funeral took place at the Donald cemetery yesterday afternoon, after the arrival of the train, and was largely attended. Deceased was a daughter of John Cannard, of Witchipool.

An entry in the Donald Times, of 31 July 1903 stated;

On Monday last a painful accident happened to a young man named George W. Emonson of Massey. While out shooting his gun accidentally discharged, and the top of his small finger was completely blown away. He at once visited Donald and consulted Dr Lewis and upon examination it was found necessary to amputate the shattered fragments of the second joint. This was successfully performed and the sufferer is now progressing well towards recovery.

An entry in the Donald Times, of 31 December 1915 stated;


Mr CW Emonson met a severe and painful accident at his farm, “ Rosedale ”, near Litchfield, on Tuesday. Mr Emonson, who is a gentleman of advanced years, was carting water, and the horses became suddenly frightened and bolted.

Mr Emonson was thrown off the lorry and knocked down, the wheel passing over the unfortunate gentleman's neck. He lay in the sun for some time before being found by a child.

Dr WM Lewis was summoned, and after medical aid had been rendered, Mr Emonson was removed to Nurse Hoare's hospital at Donald. On inquiry at Nurse Hoare's on Thursday, we learned that Mr Emonson was progressing favourably , though his neck was severely bruised and the sinews strained.

It was in this accident that Charles suffered permanent damage to his neck. All photos of him after that time show his head being in a stooped position

Annie Elizabeth Emonson died (aged 43) of acute mastitis following the birth to her 11th child on 12 October 1902, at the St Arnaud hospital.  She is buried at Donald Cemetery, grave number 46.  Sadly, this marvellous person and very special mother has not had her final resting place acknowledged with a headstone.  Two of her sons are buried at Donald.  They are Percy Stanley (died 22 February 1895) grave number 3 and Charles Henry (died 25 October 1964) grave number 83.

In about 1921, Charles shifted to Werribee, living with his son Louis who had established a grain farm. In 1922 Charles married once more, this time to Elizabeth Richards, a strong, determined and very supportive partner, who is remembered as being a lovely lady. Elizabeth had been housekeeper for Louis' wife, Laura.

Charles died of bladder carcinoma (aged 84) at Railway Avenue, Werribee, Victoria, on 22 October 1938 (some 36 years after his first wife).  He is buried in Werribee Cemetery, compartment G, grave 490.  There is no headstone marking his grave.  I am informed that his family could not afford a headstone as life for most, in particular farmers, was most difficult during the recession years.

Henry S & Rachel Emonson

In 1881 Henry (born 1856) moved to Geelong, Victoria.  In 1891 he married Rachel (Glanfield) whilst still living and working in Geelong.

Some years later Henry became manager of J. Kitchen and Sons soap manufacturing plant at Sydney, living at “Forest Lodge”, 110 St Johns Road, Annandale.   It was here that their first child arrived Harry Allen Phipps Emonson (born 16 July 1892).  Their other children were;

Keith Glanfield Emonson (born 18 January 1895)
      Hilda Irene Emonson (born 12 February 1897)
      Norman David Emonson (born 1898 - died 1898)

Henry's mother Maria, being in poor health, moved in with them early in 1894, only to die in August that same year.   Following his mother’s death Henry relocated to Launceston, Tasmania to manage the J Kitchen and Sons factory. At a later date he managed their factory in Strickland Road, Bendigo, Victoria (now the site of Carlisle Bros. Pty Ltd - Wool and Skin Merchants).  It is interesting to note that their son Keith Glanfield later managed the same business.

Henry and Rachel never owned their own home, living the greater part of their married life with their daughter Hilda Irene Emonson, who had married her cousin Ernest Edward Emonson (son of Charles W and Annie E Emonson).  I am informed that Hilda and Ernest built a larger home in Sylverly Grove, Caulfield specifically to accommodate themselves, Henry and Rachel.

Henry died in Caulfield, Victoria on 21 December 1943. Rachel died in Caulfield in the mid 1950's.

David Emonson

Nineteen year old David (born 1863) left Litchfield setting off in 1882 to travel around Australia. He visited all Australian states, with the exception of Western Australia, finally settling down to mine sapphires at Rubyvale, Queensland (60km west of Emerald which is 280km west of Rockhampton). He staked a claim and started his mine Sapphires at Scrub Lead which is between the Rubyvale and Sapphire leads. This was baron, harsh landscape that attracted very private men who often were escaping some issue in their life.

One of the local characters who knew of David, Frank Burridge, lived there until passing away mid 2006.  He, like many from that area, remained guarded, protecting each other's privacy and appearing most reluctant to divulge information.  A local historian informed me that some local characters were 'remittance men', a term given to young men who were admonished by their English, Irish or Scottish well-to-do family for a minor indiscretion.  The matter may be as small as having a brief, somewhat innocent, encounter with a maid that brought embarrassment to the family.  They were then sent to Australia 'never to return', being provided with a very small annual remittance to ensure that outcome.

It appears David lived at Rubyvale for approximately 36 years (see: ..."for 2 or 3 generations", notation in 'The People' page).  One can assume he was a well regarded and honourable person - given that he became a Justice of the Peace.

David never married and lived his final year/s at 108 Glenhuntly Road, St Kilda with his nephew Marcus and his new bride Isabelle. David died on 4 June 1923 (aged 60) at the St Kilda home. He is buried at Brighton Cemetery, in the Methodist section compartment M, grave 300. The inscription reads - David Emonson J.P. of Queensland.
David the miner.
David in his senior years with nephew
Keith (on motorbike) and David's brother Henry.