Life on the Richmond in the Early Days
WHEN Jacob Flick and his bride, Mary, arrived at Lismore Station in 1855 after a long voyage from England they must have had some misgivings.
Many years later their son, William, wrote of the life they encountered. Jacob was a vine dresser but was set to work cutting down trees for the boiling-down works at the Station.
Cattle prices at the time were low and cattle were killed on site and boiled down for tallow, which was bringing a good price. Hides were also selling well.
The young couple lived in a slab hut with an open fireplace outside on which Mary prepared meals. It was a lonely existence for the young bride, and sometimes frightening.
The surrounding scrub was dense and one could easily get lost there.
The trees were massive, tall, and vine-entangled. Very little light penetrated the darkness. The early cedar cutters had cut rough tracks through the scrub.
The cedar tree is about the only deciduous native tree in Australia and can easily be distinguished from a distance when its leaves turn brown.
Cedar cutters would cut the tracks from one tree to the next when these trees were spotted.
There was much wildlife in the scrub and an amazing number of birds.
Apparently the noise of the birds was almost deafening, especially at dawn. There was no possibility of sleeping in after they started their morning chorus!
There were patches of native grass within this great mass of trees.
Some said they were caused by a different soil type, others that the Aboriginals had deliberately burnt patches to encourage kangaroos to graze and so make hunting easier.
The larger patches of grass were a boon to bullock drivers who used them to feed their animals.
Many of these places have kept their original names such as Calico Grass, Chilcotts Grass, and Lagoon Grass.
Local historian, Dr Brett Stubbs, has made a detailed study of the grasses.
Each of these natural grass patches or plains was often separated by creeks which fed into the main river system. There were larger grasslands at East Lismore and Gundurimba.
Although there was a loneliness in the surroundings there was also a great beauty, with the light shimmering on the trees, the thousands of animals, and the vast array of birds with beautiful plumage.
Echoes could travel over a vast distance and a man's voice could be heard for miles. No doubt this was a good thing if one became lost in the bush!
Cedar was floated down the streams to Lismore where it was loaded on to sailing vessels.
Saw mills were built and some of the timber was cut into flitches for easier transport. Ships could not sail all the way up the River but were towed by a tug in convoys.
Initially the tug was rowed but later steam tugs were used. William Flick states that he had seen the tug boat "Challenge" rowing six vessels up the river at the one time, each fastened to the other by a strong line.
It was a wonderful sight to see the ships passing through the scrub challenging the natural forest with their own forest of masts and yards.
Sometimes an overhanging tree hit a mast and the mast would crumble. If this happened a tree was cut down and used to patch the mast until it could be replaced in Sydney.
The "Saucy Jack", a Nicoll's ship, survived with a spar cut by Jacob Flick.
Supplies, including such things as flour and sugar, were dependent on these vessels and sometimes there were shortages. To survive, settlers had to be inventive, and adaptive, in those days!