By Richard Shiell
William was born at Edbury, Oxfordshire UK in 1832. He arrived in Australia on the “Salem” in March 1854 and died at Dunolly (?) on August 18th 1912. He lived at Nuggetty Flat with brothers John Woodman and Richard. None of the brothers married, and all are buried at Tarnagulla.
William claimed he was the first to hatch out chickens without a hen!!
Four kilometres on the left, as one drives towards Tarnagulla from Laanecoorie, is an area of cleared land at each side of Nuggetty Creek, and the ruins of a mud brick residence. This land (A4) was selected by the Gibbs brothers in the 1860’s and titlee to the land was granted on 21st November, 1871.
John Woodman Gibbs arrived in Australia 19th August, 1851, on the ship King William. He must have sent back encouraging reports of life on the goldfields because his brother Richard arrived on the ship Negotiator in September, 1852, and William on the Salem in March, 1854. The brothers came from the town of Edbury in Oxfordshire where their father was a farmer.
Today the most notable feature on their 15 acre block is the ruins of what was once a very well constructed stone and mud brick house. Beside the house there is the remains of a cellar and 100 metres away the creek has been deepened in one area to form a small water catchment. This would have provided stock and irrigation water for some months after the remainder of the creek had dried. The banks have been reinforced for about 30 metres in one region, possibly to prevent flooding of the brothers’ vegetable patch.
The Gibbs’ mud brick house was constructed with stone at the bottom five courses and corners and resisted erosion very well until the shingle roof collapsed about 30 years ago.
Rumour has it that the house once served as a Penny School with Richard Gibbs as teacher. However, other authorities claim this is not so and that the Penny School was a wooden structure in the adjacent paddock owned by John Gibbs (Allotment 1).
Indeed this block was always referred to as the “School Paddock” by Andrew Sturni who bought the land long after the building had been demolished. These small private schools all closed when the State introduced free education in 1871.
The other notable feature of the property is the dilapidated orchard which straggles along the banks of Nuggetty Creek for about 200 metres. There are almond, peach and dozens of quince and plum trees and a multitude of self propagated offspring.
Ruth Ewart, a journalist with “The Age” wrote a piece published on 31st May 1988 in the Gardening Section entitled “Last Gift of Summer Lightens Dark Days”. In this essay she describes this deserted orchard and its homely quince trees which have continued to bear fruit for over a century.
The Gibbs brothers worked as miners in the early days but as they grew older turned their attention to farming their small holding. There was no main road past their home in those days but all the surrounding allotments were populated. so there was no shortage of congenial company.
The Pallots, Wilshusens and Bakers all had large families and lived within a few hundred yards. The nearest shops were some three miles away at Waanyarra but the old timers were extremely self reliant and probably only needed to visit town every month or so or to attend church services.
Richard Gibbs died in 1890 aged 63 and his brother John followed in 1899 aged 71 years. The youngest brother Bill lived on until 1912 when he died of “apoplexy and syncope” at the age of 80. None of the brothers ever married and Bill left his estate to his nephews Henry and John Gibbs of Longton, Staffordshire, England and small bequests to locals, Henry Wilshusen and Mrs. Carrique of Waanyarra.
Article originally published in “The Footsteps Echo” by Lynne Douthat