My Great-Great- Grandfather
70 YEARS IN THE STATE
HARDSHIP - PROSPERITY
There died recently at his residence, Sandford House, Milton. Mr. John Thomas, who had been a resident of Queensland for almost 70 years.
A native of Carmarthenshire, Wales, where he was born on November 9, 1838. Mr Thomas, when a youth of 18 years, came to Queensland in the sailing ship Parsee, arriving in Brisbane early in 1857. He went to Ipswich by steamer after some delay owing to the flooded state of the Brisbane River.
An introduction to Messrs. Edward and Arnold Wienholt led to Mr. Thomas securing employment with the latter on Maryvale Station, the journey thither being made on horseback, via Spicers Gap. Here Mr. Thomas got an insight into station work, and her, too, he was initiated into the art of making johnny cake" and damper.
In a diary kept by him, Mr. Thomas relates that while at Maryvale Station his employer and another gentleman came to him one day at the washpool with a request that he should sign a petition that was then being sent round with the object of securing separation from New South Wales. "The other workmen and I signed the petition," Mr Thomas naively remarks in his deary, "merely because we were asked. "I do not believe one of us gave the matter a second thought."
On the arrival in Queensland of the first Governor (Sir G.F.Bowen), Mr. Thomas was one of those deputed to act as an escort for a part of the journey. The entry in his diary reads : "We had refreshments on the top of Cunninghams Gap, and afterwards travelled to Maryvale Station, where the Governor remained for the night.
The employer giving up his room for the night to the Governor. The house was built of bark, and comprised only two rooms. All the other guests had to find accommodation in the woolshed, also a bark building, and here they made the most of things.
Captain Davengy, manager of Canning Downs arrived with a four wheeled buggy drawn by a spanking pair of horses, and in this vehicle the Governor visited Warwick.
INTRODUCTION OF PRICKLY PEAR
Upon leaving Mr. Wienholts employment, Mr. Thomas spent some time in Warwick, where he was married by Rev. B. Glennie in the Church of England. At this time - December, 1861 - land was being opened for selection on Swan Creek and Jack Smiths Gully, and Mr. Thomas worked for his father-in-law, who had taken up a selection, his first house being a tarpaulin tent.
"Later we built a bark house of three rooms," Mr. Thomas narrates in his dairy, "but owing to the bark being unseasoned all the dishes and tubs we possessed were required to catch the rain which came through the roof."
Farm work was varied by carrying with a bullock team between Ipswich and Warwick. When engaged at one time ploughing for a selector named Mauch on Jack Smiths Gully, Mr. Thomas was requested to plough three furrows all the one way outside of the fence.
Writing of this in his dairy, Mr. Thomas says : "Mauch told me he had some splendid plants that he desired to plant here as they would make a fence through which a pig could not pass. His son had made him a present of some cuttings of the plant, which was being grown for ornamental purposes on the station where his son was employed. The plants grew so thickly that it was true a pig could not get through, and in time even a substantial three rail ironbark fence became so overgrown that it could not be seen. The plants were prickly pear. Later, when flood water came down the gully plants from this pig-proof fence were washed down the gully into the Condamine, and took root elsewhere. Thus the spread of the prickly pear in this locality."
A severe attack of sandy blight at this juncture deprived Mr. Thomas of his eyesight, and he was taken to Sydney and Newcastle, where medical treatment over a period of 36 weeks ensued before he was able to return to Swan Creek with his sight restored
BULLOCK TEAM JOURNEY
Wanderlust and the need to achieve flowed deeply in John' blood and In 1872 John Thomas accompanied by his wife Emma and family, and by an old friend, who had been carrying between Townsville and Charters Towers Gold Field and who was on a visit to the Warwick district, set out with a horse and bullock team for Townsville.
On this long trek, occupying many weeks crammed full of hardships, and providing many thrilling experiences, the route followed was via Toowoomba, Dalby, Clermont, Springsure, and Charters Towers, to Townsville.
Some of the country traversed had been in the throes of a drought, followed by a succession of very wet seasons, and consequent heavy stock losses, so much so that many properties were found to have been deserted, among them Carpentaria Downs. Through the windows could be seen the furniture, just as it was left, but no sign of life.
At Townsville, Mr. Thomas remained for some time, following the occupation of a carrier between that town and Charters Towers.
Later he went farther north, this time to Cooktown, and during the heyday of the Palmer River goldfields, he engaged in carrying between there and Cooktown.
Afterwards he acquired Fairview, and Olivevale, two properties on the Laura River, and entered into the business of horse and stock breeding, his efforts in this direction achieving much success.
Mr. Thomas sold out and went to Brisbane to spend the evening of his life. It is related of Mr. Thomas that, unlike the proverbial bullock driver, he neither smoked or swore. Mr Thomas on two occasions revisited his native land, the first time after having been 44 years in Queensland.