Western Downs in 1800s a grocery shopper’s nightmare
GOING shopping is often a carefree weekly chore but for Mrs Katherine Brown back in 1861, it was a strenuous ordeal which lasted several weeks. She lived with her family on Tartha Station which was down the Moonie River. It seems she had shopped in Ipswich before and wanted to go there to purchase her goods. With her daughter Mary and uncle John they commenced the journey. A Mrs Hounslow was to look after the place and her boys were well provided for while she was away. So they started their journey on Wednesday, March 6th It was hot travelling in their cart and after having lunch at Rocky Waterholes. By evening they reached the property “Mulleelee” and found a thunderstorm had just passed through. They stayed the night there and Mr and Mrs Ross did all in their power to make them comfortable. However there was no accommodation for them in the house and the women had to spend an uncomfortable night sleeping in the cart.
“The mosquitoes swarmed in, “she wrote “Though I got up once or twice in the night to smoke them out and thankful I was at the first streak of light to get up” The men got the horses in and about 9am they started for Weranga.
The roads were good and about sundown they reached Weranga which was about 40 kilometres from “Mulleelee.” Katherine’s daughter Kate lived there and was overjoyed to see them. “Mr Moberly was there also. He is a strange looking man, not at all like a clergyman and was amusing Kate all day by reading ‘Punch’ to her.”
“Mrs Mayne had a little son two days before we arrived; she seems a nice person, but I like her most for her great kindness to Kate. The are both very kind people.”
The next morning they started again. “We left Weranga for Hallaford. Kate came as far as the sliprails with us, dear girl her heart was full at parting with us. Mr Moberly was our companion to Hallaford. They arrived there in the evening of Saturday. However the Watson family were all laid up with influenza but that didn’t stop them from showing the greatest kindness and hospitality.
They then set off for St Ruth known then as The Companies.
Katherine later wrote,” Mr Watson made me take a leg of mutton as there is only salt beef at The Companies. Miss Clark cooked chops to take, with eggs, bread, scones and jam and insisted on our staying a few days on our return.”
“It does one good to travel, if it is only for the sake of knowing so much kindness in a world that is called so cold and selfish.”
After travelling nearly 30km they arrived at St Ruth to find it was a bachelor’s camp. However Mr Matthews the superintendent gave up his comfortable room for them to sleep in. It was a busy time on the station as cattle buyers were there and others passing through.
Though Katherine summed up that most of them were good men the superintendent from Rosenthall seemed “a vulgar conceited looking young man.”
As the next day was Sunday, Katherine Browne decided to rest there that day but the men went on drafting and branding the cattle.
The next day they started for Jondaryan and Mr Allcock went with them looking for shepherds. Matthews the drover also started for Ipswich with fat cattle.
They crossed the open plain and that evening reached the creek near the Jondaryan Hotel. The women walked across the waterway and John brought the cart. Unfortunately he put a wheel over the bank and rolled everything. .
“Mary and I came up to the hotel for assistance, and we met a drunken man who seemed inclined to talk with us and put us in no little fright.” Soon help arrived for them and nothing was seriously damaged, They stayed at the hotel that night and the next day set out for Toowoomba nearly 30 kilometres away. They had to walk for six to seven kilometres over bad roads
At the end of Tuesday, Katherine wrote: “We arrived at Toowoomba long after dark, tired and worn out. This has been the most unpleasant day we have had since leaving home, and in passing I lost my best feather pillow.”
It was still a long haul for Kathrine Browne to get to Ipswich.