Some History of its Founders

For its 1995 Centenary

Two Wandering Hawkers

Hawkers were an important part of the life of people living in isolated places in the early days of Australia. They carried many different goods, such as cloths and household equipment. They were often very capable people who could turn their hands to mending of pots and pans, plumbing, blacksmithing, sawmilling and woodworking of many varieties.

The reason for this introduction will become clear as with proceed with a story that starts in Cornwall and Norway, moves to South Australia, crosses in a general easterly direction into Victoria and then more or less north. Here the story tells of a stock route that travels across the Rivers Murray, Murrumbidgee and Lachlan, further north through Bourke in NSW and into Queensland. Just how long a journey of this nature would have taken in a wagon drawn by either bullocks is not known but we leave you to judge for yourselves. We will follow the course of a young married couple around South Australia and into Victoria and New South Wales.

Cornish Miners, Sawmillers and Carpenters in Burra Burra SA

From 1845, enormous finds of copper ore were made in South Australia at Kapunda, then at Burra Burra and later at Moonta and nearby. Many Cornish people had come to South Australia from its foundation in 1836 so that there was an understanding of the importance of copper mining and, for that matter, any related activity such as smelting. Where better to get more miners than by bringing in more miners from Cornwall with their families. Blacksmiths and sawmillers would be another essential group, to fix the tools, to provide mining timbers and to build homes. Advertisements in Cornwall attest to this encouragement to emigrate to South Australia. The miners and their families had to be fed so that farmers and other agricultural people would be an essential component of the immigrant population as well.

Among this broad spectrum of immigrants, we find two family groups from Cornwall and one man of Norwegian origin whose father had been a Norwegian sea captain. Just how they all met led us on a surprising chase around South Australia, before we could follow the young married couple out of South Australia and into the Riverina district of New South Wales, to settle at what became Gilgunnia and ultimately to the foundation of Cobar.

The Woolcock Family in South Australia

Tracing the origin in Cornwall of Sidwell Woolcock has been difficult. She was born c1834 and came to South Australia with her parents in 1848/9. Her father's given name was recorded in one event as Ephraim. The problem with surnames is an awkward one for family researchers because the people concerned were probably only partly literate or not at all. The result of registrations of births, marriages and deaths is that the church and civil dignatories wrote down what they believed they had heard.

With a strong Cornish accent, the spellings of the names were many and varied. The Woolcock surname has been tracked to spellings such as Wil(l)cock(s), Woolcock(s), even Woodcock, Woodcot, Woodcox and Willcox! It was said in some stories that Sidwell Woolcock arrived in South Australia when she was about 14 years of age and the family went to the Burra mining district. After much searching prior to presenting a Seminar talk on "Notable Cornish Women" at the Kernewek Lowender 2005 in Kadina SA, the story is quite different.

We did know also that she had at least one sister Emma (b. c1830). The SA marriage record for Emma and the baptism records of her children helped to trace Sidwell. The family seems to have emigrated from one of the mining centres in Cornwall such as Illogan, though Redruth and Camborne are also possibilities. Sidwell's death certificate indicates that her father was Ephraim Woolcock, a miner from Illogan in Cornwall, and her mother Bessie nee Willoughby. These names and those of their children have been confirmed from records in Cornwall.

Study of the start of the Cobar mine led to the firm conviction that Sidwell had been a bal-girl, sorting ores at a Cornish mine, before she came to South Australia. We also had one piece of sad piece of evidence that linked Sidwell with South Australia. A niece, Sidwell Trevillian, had drowned in the watertank at Sidwell's home in Gilgunnia. The NSW record has her given name as Sydwell. Tracing Sydwell resulted in finding the marriage of Sidwell Willcocks at St Barnabas Church in Clare in South Australia, with assistance from the Clare Regional History Group. It also led to a great deal more history about Emma Willcocks, aged 18, who had married John Trevillian on 1 June 1848 at the Kooringa Schoolhouse in the Burra mining district.

John had moved around in South Australia for some time but had returned to some mining operations in the Armagh district near Clare. He settled there with his family, and had been farming as well. Sydwell Trevillian was one of the children of John and Emma Trevillian, making definite the family relationship with Sidwell Willcocks. The investigation also showed that John Trevillian had been of strong Wesleyan faith and had been a primemover and churchwarden of the chapel which was constructed at Armagh.

Sidwell, the younger sister, must have been helping Emma with her family which by 1858 had grown to at least four children, Emma Jane being born on 19 April 1858. During this time in Armagh, Sidwell must have met Henrik Kruge who had arrived in the Clare district after his landing in Port Adelaide, some time around 1854. His father had been a Norwegian sea captain, Awuna Aaonsen Kruge, and his mother, Johanne Marie nee Reinert. Henrik had been born c1834 at Tandefjord, Norway. We have no record of his means of travel to South Australia. He could have been a crew member of a ship arriving at Port Adelaide, and had signed off from that occupation or just skipped off. He could have been about 20 years of age.

Sidwell Willcocks marries Henrik Kruge

Sidwell Willcocks (recorded as Woodcock) married Henrik Kruge at St Barnabas Church of England in Clare on 19 June 1858. Both were aged 24 years and the father of Henrik, rather naturally again as a result of Henrik's Norwegian accent, had his given name listed as Andrew. Henrik had adopted the task of operating a hawker's wagon, drawn by bullocks. He and Sidwell seem to have moved over a wide region around Clare. From later evidence, Henrik was a very capable man who would have taken up the multi-skilled role of a hawker quite easily. No definite evidence is available to determine which route they took which eventually brought them on the stockroute which ran from Melbourne, across the Rivers Murray, Murrumbidgee and Lachlan, and on through Bourke into Queensland. It was a very rough track and only became known as the stock route later. Some stories say they travelled across South Australia to Bourke and were moving down towards Victoria. The other route suggested is that they were moving over into Victoria along the River Murray, reached the stock route at some spot where they decided to move north across the Murrumbidgee and the Lachlan rivers.

Whatever route they took, about half way from the River Lachlan to Bourke they stopped to camp at a beautiful area between hills. The season had been a good one, with grass covering the valley, with many trees and a display of many varieties of wild flowers. No doubt, they had met people along the track who had told them of the much more harsh conditions of the land to the north or they had experienced it. It has been written that Sidwell was reminded of home and that could have been either Clare or Cornwall, because it would be true of both places. Furthermore, here was a place where the stockmen with their bullock wagons, their horses and their cattle would find a resting place to camp.

Henry and Sidwell decided that this was to be their place of abode and they selected a site on which to build. It would be a fine place to build a wayside inn or Shanty as such places were called in pioneer Australia. Henry could see that such a place would also be fine for a blacksmith shop, a sawmill and some plumbing equipment. Sidwell would be quite capable of providing supplies to the stockmen and others who moved along the stock route to find a place to settle. Once well known, it would be a place too where people could meet, exchange yarns and stories of the places they had been. We have found no definite date for the construction of their Inn or their first residence. With the drought and the events of 1869 when copper ore was found at what is now Cobar, we can be certain that it was well before that year. It is possible that it could have been somewhere between 1861 and 1863

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Henry and Sidwell Kruge

Before long,they were well established and Henry and Sidwell had taken up a grant of 600 acres. So began Early Gilgunnia. Henry gave this name to his wayside inn and eventually he built a much larger building which was named Henry Kruge's Gilgunnia Hotel. Henry applied for a Publican's Licence for his Gilgunnia Hotel in 1873. It is not clear what the delay in issuing the Licence could have been. The NSW Government Gazette Supplement notes that the application was before the Hay District Court in the financial year 1873/4. At the Hay Police Court on 4 July 1873, Mr Reed on behalf of Henry Kruge, applied for the Publican's Licence but the matter was adjourned until 12 August 1873. It had been granted by October 1873 and was regularly listed in the NSW Government Gazette each year thereafter.

In July 1877, a Petition was presented to Mr James Hoskins MP from about 100 people who lived in and around Gilgunnia, having contact with Henry Kruge and his wife on business matters, or passing back and forth on their own businesses. A note on the Petition draws attention to the fact that every business person in the district had signed. The Petition sought the establishment of a recognised Post Office at Mr Kruge's Gilgunnia as this place was 105 miles from Hillston and 80miles from Cobar. Henry had held authorisation for a postal receiving office for many years before that time. The Secretary of the General Post Office in Sydney requested advice on the suggestion from the postmaster at Cobar, Hillston, Booligal and Mossgiel. It was noted that Mr Henry Kruge was considered a suitable postmaster for Gilgunnia and was qualified to take charge. He was appointed as of 1 July 1878 at a salary of 10 per year. The Post Office remained open until 31 October 1895 when it was removed to the New Gilgunnia.

Meanwhile, Henry had built up a considerable range of supporting equipment to serve the community who lived around and were passing through Gilgunnia. He had a blacksmith shop with a wide range of equipment. He had a sawmill driven by a steam engine. All of these facilities were of great assistance and importance, in such matters as shoeing horses, repairing wagon and dray wheels, family transport vehicles and so on. When gold was found near Gilgunnia, all these facilities became a vital part of the mining operations. Sidwell meanwhile ran the hotel services including accommodation, meals and a store. They really were stalwart pioneers of the district. Henry became known as the Founding Father of Gilgunnia. In 1886, Henry appointed their nephew Hans J. Monkerud as manager of their store and the post office while Henry and Sidwell ran the Hotel.

Henry Kruge died suddenly at his Gilgunnia on 27 February 1888, at the aged of 54 years. He was buried in the cemetery in a lovely grove of trees, near the grave of his niece Sydwell.

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Gilgunnia 1888
Left:  The Headstone to Henry Kruge
Above:  The Grave of Henry Kruge

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