Cowra in Days Gone Bye by J C Ryall 4/ (Pages 29 to 37)



Published on 13 December 1923


In my last contribution I dealt with various stores and hotels in existence in Cowra in 1878, hence, before descanting on the few institutions of a public character then in being, I will refer to the various other business concerns in town. There were two bakers, John Arnold, a German, who in his early days was a seaman, and John Lee, a Chinese, who was married to a white woman. Charlie Nathong used to bake a batch occasionally. As the demand for the staff of life was very limited, owing to the hotel keepers and most of the other residents of the town conservatively clinging to the home production, the calling was not by any means lucrative. The dispensers of the commodity nevertheless manifested a spirit of independence, inasmuch as they compelled those who required bread to call at the bakery for their needs.


Arnold’s Bakery

Arnold’s bakery was a small weatherboard building which stood where the Cowra Motor Garage works now are. John Lees’ shop, another wooden structure, also in Bridge Street, fronted the Australian Arms Hotel. Later Mr. Arnold purchased a horse and spring cart with which he delivered bread to customers.  He struggled hard to break down the prejudice that prevailed against baker’s bread, as he produced a really good loaf. He deserved success, yet for lack of support he was eventually compelled to surrender and embark on another enterprise.

He was a man who never minced his words, thus, possibly his too plain speech was indirectly the cause of his failure. That he did not succeed was to be regretted, because a large young family was dependent on his efforts. John Lee found solace in his opium pipe, and with the philosophic indifference of the true indifference of the true Celestial conformed to circumstances and simply limited his supply to the demand, and a similar policy was adopted by Charlie Nathong in Kendall Street.


The Butchers

The butchers were John Moore, James Egan, Starchy Butler, and Skelly. Moore’s butchery and residence was a wooden building which occupied a position on the top of a pinnacle (long since removed near C.K. Rose and Co ‘s office, Kendall Street. The business had been under the control of Mr. Moore’s father and brother prior to him taking it over . Mr. James Egan’ s butchery in Bridge Street had also been established for some years. It stood nearly opposite Daly’s Hotel. Mr. Egan’s business was principally of a wholesale character, his constituents being mainly country residents, whose orders were for quarters of beef, hundredweights of saltmeat, and whole carcasses .of sheep.  Later Mr. Egan became a retailer, and only retired from business a little over a year ago. Mr. J.H. Moore now has the business which was formerly conductedby his father, uncle, and grandfather (three generations of Moores).

Mr. Skelly’s shop and residence, was a dilapidated wooden place near Arnold’s bakery, and on the same side of Bridge Street. Skelly, who was a member of a well known family at Jerrawa Creek,. near Gunning, the most recent addition to the Knights of the Cleaver, discontinued business at the end of twelve months, or perhaps a little more.  “Starchy” Butler was a tradesman of the progressive order, who made a bid to wipe out all opposition, being apparently oblivious of the fact that two of his compeers had succeeded in securing a connection which could not readily won over. Butler, being a vocalist who had a more exalted opinion of his powers in that connection than his audience, was also a performer on the piano, being able to vamp in a fashion, and by such means he sought to win popularity.  His place of business, a wooden rookery in Kendall Street, the allotment nearest where the old billiard room stood, now the property of Reid, Smith Ltd. Butler’s business was subsequently carried on in turn by Messrs. John Hood, Joseph Ousby, Harry Mawby, Fletcher Bros., Muir Bros. ,and lastly by Mr. J. M. G. Tucker.


Smithies & Vehicle Builders

There were several smithies, vehicle builders, and wheel-wrights. These included the establishment of Mr. Hugh McLeod, located at the corner of Kendall and Lachlan Streets, where the Cowra Emporium was later erected by Mr. Peter Murray. Later Mr. McLeod added the business of undertaker to his establishment, and was the first to introduce a hearse to the place, wagonettes, and springcarts up to then being used at funerals.


The First Stage Manager

Mr. McLeod was a good townsman and for a term proved a very useful member of the Municipal Council. He was an excellent tradesman, and at one time had a large business connection. Messrs. Lockett and Crawford, and Seymour and Simpson had their establishment in Bridge Street on opposite sides of that thoroughfare, but they did-not last long. Mr. Lockett was the first stage manager of Cowra’ s first Amateur Dramatic Club. As an exponent of melodrama, Mr. Lockett was equal to any professional, and while he controlled the club a couple of dramas were very creditably staged at the Royal Assembly Room. Of course there were drawbacks owing to the absence of a proper stage and scenic effects.

Mr. Crawford, Mr. Lockett’s partner, was seized with the gold fever, and as a result embarked in a prospecting tour in the district which proved abortive. This brought about the termination of the partnership. Messrs. Seymour and Simpson carried on untiI the temporary hospital sprang into existence. Mr. and Mrs. John Simpson, having been appointed the first wardsman and matron brought about the dissolution of the union. Mr. Jacob Seymour shone on the lyric stage in the role of low comedian, in the burnt: cork business he excelled as a cornerman with the bones. Small as the community then was, little difficulty was experienced in organising a variety show at short notice for any deserving object.

 Mr. George Lawrence’s smithy and residence were in Kendall Street at the-rear of where Mrs. Lewis’ shop now is. Mr. Lawrence made a speciality of horseshoeing and was kept constantly employed in that department. He was an experienced and clever smith who took pride in turning out first class work. Mr. William Aupetin had a wheelwright’s shop for a time, but this he abandoned later and became an employee of Mr. McLeod’s.

We omitted to state that Mr. Lawrence, outside his trade, was a very worthy member of the community. He, too, was always prepared to do his part in promoting an entertainment particularly of the black face order, when his forte was the tambourine at the corner. Messrs. Share and Berry had a saddlery and harness making shop where the local photographer’s studio stands. There were good citizens who always took an active part in every movement calculated to improve the town. Mr. Berry was a prominent member of the Amateur Dramatic Club and excelled as a female impersonator. He also had a very sweet tenor voice which was much appreciated at local concerts.

On the opposite side of the street, on the site adjoining Mr. McPhee ‘s pharmacy, Mr. Charles McCloskey’ s saddlery stood. Mr . C. J . Lewin’ s pharmacy was the premises now occupied by Messrs. Anson and Jackson, confectioners and pastry cooks, represented the only medical establishment in the town. Mr. Lewin was an M.P.S., hence his qualifications could not be questioned. In the absence of a qualified medical practitioner, Mr. Lewin’s skill was largely availed of. After leaving Cowra, Mr. Lewin conducted a pharmacy for some years in Hunter Street, Sydney.


Page and Williams’ Refreshment Rooms

In Lachlan Street, near the Fitzroy Hotel, Messrs. Page and Williams had refreshment rooms where oysters, fresh fish, confectionery and cool drinks were dispensed. Later Mr. Williarns started a similar business on his own account, but it-was not the success anticipated. Mr. Page later conducted tea gardens at Bondi Beach, which were a payable concern from the start. Cowra’s first tonsilorial artist was Professor Bollerby, whose saloon was near Arnold’s bakery. The Professor also acted as town crier. His reign, however, was very brief.

On his vacating the saloon, Messrs. Smith and Moorehouse took possession as proprietor of the “Bathurst Independent”. a few years later became-proprietor of the “Forbes and Parkes Gazette,” which is still controlled by the Smith family.

Mr. R. Stevenson, Forest Ranger, had a monopoly of the news- agency business, and was agent for a couple of fire and life insurance companies. He took a keen interest in journalism, having acquired a taste for it while staying with his uncle, Mr. Ren, proprietor of the “Bathurst Independent.” Mr. Stevenson some years later hecame proprietor of our contemporary, “The Guardian”.

Mr. Charles Stibbard, a recent arrival from Grenfell , where he was baker and hotelkeeper, opened a fancy goods shop in Lachlan Street, next to Page and Williams, and a little later he blossomed  into a Stock, Station and Commission agent. In this later he was joined by Mr. A.R. West when the firm was styled, A. R. West and Co. Mr. John Muir, Small Debts Court bailiff, and poundkeeper, also officiated on occasions as Auctioneer and Commission agent.


Whittaker, Watchmaker and Jeweller

The only remaining business concern I can recall was that of Mr. William Whittaker, watchmaker and jeweller, whose shop was next door to Mr. McCloskey’s saddlery in Kendall Street. Later he married Miss Lawrence and built the shop in which Mrs. Lewin conducts her tobacconist and fancy qoods business. He was an ardent disciple of Isaac Walton and after one of his all night fishing excursions he contracted enteric fever and a week or so later, while still quite a young man, ,he passed away. Another business man I have overlooked is Mr. Jacob Welfert, , a German tailor, who later entered the employ of Messrs. D.C.J. Donnelly and Co.


Published on 11 January 1924

Australian Joint Stock Bank

In my last contribution, references made by me to Cowra’ s various business places in 1878, and in that connection I may add that our great financial institutions were then represented here by the Australian Joint Stock Bank only, which branch was then under the management of ,Mr. W.A. Stokes, with Mr. E.J. Collins as accountant. In those Cowra’s small community, having become accustomed to allow matters affecting its weal to run in a stereotyped groove, in which culpable indifference was a prominent feature, it needed a lot of persuasion to induce our townsfolk to keep abreast of the times. This was a task which the “Free Press” fearlessly undertook, and the efforts of that infantile organ were in that connection very ably seconded by Mr. Stokes, who threw himself heart and soul into the promotion of every movement calculated to advance the best interests of the town and district.

He was in every respect an ideal townsman, and one who by his actions succeeded in inspiring in his fellow townsmen confidence as to the possibilities of the place. In this congenial and very commendable endeavour he received the very hearty co-operation of quite a number of recent arrivals, who were imbued with a kindred spirit. In 1870 Mr. Stokes was promoted to the charge of the Parkes branch of his bank. Later he was promoted to Kempsey, and from that town to Coonamble. Some years later he returned to Cowra, and later still, shortly after the bank crisis, he severed his connection with the A.J.S. Bank and embarked in business locally as a financial agent.

Following Mr. Stokes’ departure from Cowra, Mr. Inspector Greville assumed the control of the branch for some months, and he in turn was relieved by the new manager, Mr. John H. Turner, a gentleman of very many excellent parts, whose prominent traits of character soon succeeded in popularising him and making him a potent factor in the launching of new institutions, such as the P., A. and H. Association, Hospital, School of Arts, etc. As a townsman, Mr. Turner succeeded in endearing himself to all with whom he became associated. His promotion to the managership of the very important Albury branch was the means of depriving Cowra of a citizen with a heart of gold, and one whom it could ill afford to lose at that juncture.

At the leave taking, which took place at the Fitzroy Hotel, Mr. D.C.J. Donnelly being in the chair, every prominent influential resident of the town and district being in attendance, Mr. Turner was presented with an address which truthfully crowned the sentiments of the signatories, and the very keen regret that was experienced by the community at losing the companionship of so staunch a friend and so exemplary a townsman. A souvenir in the form of a purse containing 150 sovereigns accompanied the address. The chairman and several townsmen having spoken most feelingly regarding Mr. Turner, that gentleman rose to respond, but he was so overcome with emotion that he was compelled after uttering a few words to resume his seat.

It was certainly a most affecting farewell, and one which could not be otherwise than memorable. After remaining in Albury for some years, Mr. Turner was transferred to Goulburn, and some years later failing health compelled him to retire from active duty. Respite from official duties, however, failed to afford the relief desired, and the end came a few years hack.

Mr. E.J. Collins, after being manager of the hank here for a couple of years was transferred to the charge of the Ballina branch, and later to the Grenfell branch, whence, after several years service, he was transferred to Tamworth. while associated with the latter important town he became a very prominent member of the community, being an active member of the various public institutions including the Chamber of Commerce, of which organisation he was president. He is at present living in retirement in the metropolis.


Published on 18 January 1924.


Cowra’s first resident solicitor

Cowra’s first resident solicitor, Mr. Francis B. Freehill, M.A., a talented young Australian with a brilliant academic career, who while at the University, became a very close friend of Sir Edmund Barton’ s, an intimacy, which was subsequently revived and maintained. Mr. Freehill having been associated with city life from infancy, was quite new to the ways of the interior. It was not long, however, before he adapted himself to the altered conditions and became an out and out provincial. At first his horsemanship was exceedingly crude, several of his adventures in the saddle in the initial stages evoking hearty laughter indeed, but with persistent practice he eventually succeeded in being able to pass muster fairly well.

As a conversationalist and raconteur Mr Freehill had few equals. He had a very keen sense of humor and dearly loved a joke. As a mimic he shone out conspicuously, many of his delineations being true to life. To some he appeared to be reserved and distant, but those who knew him best learned to appreciate his versatility and splendid.qualities of heart and mind. Al though thoroughly well grounded in. the principals of law and equity he was an absolute novice in respect to police court procedure, such not having been included in his legal training. Being, however, shrewd, keen, and quick witted he speedily mastered the intricacies of statutory law and general petty sessions procedure, and thus was able to hold his own with all rivals.  

He evinced a very lively interest in public affairs and cheerfully undertook the secretarial functions in connection with many local movements. From the very outset he intimately identified himself with everything pertaining to the welfare of the community and in that connection exercised an influence which materially conduced to the success of an undertaking. By his activities he testified that he was a townsman of the right stamp, one whose ardour was not damped by slight obstacles. On the death of his brother Bernard, a Sydney solicitor with an extensive practice, Mr. Freehill disposed of his Cowra practice to Mr. M.T. Phillips, and went to Sydney to take over the late brother’s connection.

Under Frank Freehill’s guidance the city practice expanded to an extraordinary degree, and eventually our late townsman became a wealthy and influential city magnate. He made one unsuccessful effort to enter Parliament, when he appealed to the electors of Carcoar, of which Cowra was then part, to return him in the interests of Protection. At that time the rival policies, Free Trade and Protection fairly divided the electors in this constituency, Free Traders being,’ if anything, slightly in the majority. Unfortunately, sectarianism played an very important part in elections at that time, all having protectionist leanings being regarded as Roman Catholics. , Under ordinary conditions the contest would have been close and exciting. But when it became generally known that, in addition to being a very strong protectionist, Mr. Freehill was a very pronounced advocate of Home Rule for Ireland his chances of election became very remote indeed. He nevertheless polled well at this end of the electorate.

He accepted his defeat in the best possible spirit but he never again wooed the electors of any constituency. Later he married Miss Maloney, daughter of a Melbourne medico.

With his wife he visited Ireland, the home of his parents, and was privileged while there to take a prominent part in a monster Home Rule demonstration. Towards the close of the return voyage he was suddenly seized with an illness, which necessitated his removal to Lewisham Hospital as soon as the vessel reached Sydney. He never rallied from the outset of the seizure, and a few days later one of Australia’s noblest and most brilliant sons passed away at a comparatively early age, lamented and mourned by a very large circle of friends.


Chamber Magistrate, etc.

Mr. John Arkins, Clerk of Petty Sessions and Land Agent, who also performed the function of Chamber Magistrate, was an official of the antiquated type who had previously been stationed at Hartley. He was much afflicted, having been a victim to rheumatic gout for several years. At the time I refer to he was practically helpless, owing to loss of power in his lower extremities, and had to be brought daily in a bath chair from his residence to the Court House. He retained full possession of his mental faculties and was a facile penman, hence he was capable of discharging his official duties to the entire satisfaction of his superior officers. He was an Irishman and possessed all the characteristics of the Celtic race particularly in respect to humour and impulsiveness.

When in good form, his condition in that respect being controlled possibly by his state of health, it was a pleasure to meet him. He had quite an inexhaustible fund of anecdote and early colonial reminiscences, and these he enjoyed relating to those with whom he came in contact. On such occasions a visit to the afflicted aged mortal could not be otherwise than most enjoyable. When, however, he was suffering from one of his gouty paroxysms he was irascible and querulous and a man to be avoided. He died in harness a couple of years later.

His successor, Mr. Reginald Zouch, son of Captain Zouch, Superintendent of Police, Goulburn , had only been in office a few months, when he was transferred to Temora, which was then a much more important town than Cowra. He was a most courteous and obliging officer, and gave every promise of securing rapid advancement in the civil service. [He was so severely injured in an accident that he died shortly after- wards] .

Mr. W.B. Simpson, who had been a licensed surveyor for many years, was the next occupant of the office, and he held the position for a lengthy term most creditably until he retired from service and went to reside in Sydney, where he died a few years back.

For some years after leaving Cowra , Mr. Simpson held an important position with the Australian Sugar Refining Company. He was an excellent townsman, being one who closely identified him- self with the founding of our young and struggling institutions. He was an uncle of Mr. H.H.S. Francis, our well-known and much esteemed townsman.



Published on 4 February 1924


The Police

Senior Constable McCartie, the officer in charge of the local police station, was a man of very many excellent parts. Having acquired a good sound education in his youth it afforded him pleasure in giving a helping hand to the various Clerks of Petty Sessions.

In doing this he qualified himself for the office, as was frequently evidenced by his able performance of the duties wholly unaided when the occupant of the office absented himself from duty from illness or other cause. While Mr. George Campbell represented the Carcoar electorate in Parliament, the writer brought under his notice the special qualifications of Senior Constable McCartie, and his undoubted claims for promotion. This led to Mr. Campbell interviewing Inspector General Fosberry, and eventually resulted in the promotion of Mr. McCartie to the rank of Sergeant. Some years later Mr. McCartie was further promoted to a sub- Inspector and transferred to Forbes, where a couple of years later, while still comparatively young man, he met with a tragic end through an accident.

Constable John Bennett, a Cornishman, whose temperament inclined him not to take too serious a view of life, was called upon to perform town duty in addition to that of lock-up-keeper. Although· a big, powerful, robust man, he was by no .means energetic, and had a happy knack of evading anything and everything approaching strenuous physical exertion. This was instanced whenever firewood. required to be cut for use in the Court rooms and lock-up. On such occasions he invariably contrived to capture a fairly stalwart drunk, who under ordinary circumstances would have been permitted to escape arrest, and against this offender charges would be multiplied until fines were imposed which could not be met, hence the alternative (imprisonment for a given term) had to be accepted. Then it was not Bennett’s fault if the woodpile was not reduced to usable lengths.

Notwithstanding his idiosyncrasies, Constable Bennett was regarded by those in authority as a good. officer, hence a couple of years later he was placed in charge of the gaol at Bourke, a position he held until the “grim reaper” cast his sickle. Trooper John Chapman was the remaining member of the police staff. Prior to joining the force Mr. Chapman was in the employ of Mr. James Macarthur at Camden as orchardist, hence on retiring from the police in 1880 he assumed control of Mr. James Ousby’s farm on the Cowra-Canowindra road, about three miles out. Here he planted an orchard and vineyard, which did not, however, realise expectations. Later Mr. Chapman became a builder and contractor, a vocation he followed up to the time of his death. a few years back.

Mr. John Muir, who held the dual position of pound-keeper and Small Debts Court bailiff, and by virtue of the latter office should be classed as a court official, was a shrewd Scotchman with a good. share of natural ability. He, in addition to his medical duties, carried on the business of auctioneer, commission agent, and general dealer. Being quick witted and sharp, he proved a most successful wielder of the hammer. He was also a good. dealer and possessed very keen business instincts. As a townsman he was ever alive to the best interests of the community, as instanced by the prominent and active part taken by him in connection with such institutions as the Progress Association, School of Arts, P., A. and H. Association, Hospital, Rail- way League, and kindred bodies. He was some years short of the allotted span when called upon to pay the debt of nature.

Mr. John Clinch, Cowra’s first post and telegraph master, was a son of Captain Clinch, commander of the old-time steamer, “Tasmania”, which traded for many years between Sydney and Tasmanian ports. In fact she was kept in commission until she was pronounced by the Maritime authorities unseaworthy. Mr. Clinch’s tenure of office here was very brief, his strong protest against unsuitableness of the temporary postal and telegraph quarters and the inadequacy of the housing for his family, leading to his transfer to Blayney. His assistant, Mr. Read, had been previously transferred to Cooma. Mr. Clinch’s departure was much regretted, he having given promise of being a progressive and useful townsman.

After Mr. Clinch’s departure Mr. St. Aubin, a recent importation from England whose special function was to install a new system in connection with telegraphy, was sent to Cowra as relieving official, the Department not being just then prepared to proceed with the proposed innovation. We understand that this gentleman was subsequently instrumental in introducing the system referred to and making it a thorough success. Under its influence it enabled telegraphists to deal with double the volume of business they did formerly and with greater ease.

On the arrival of Mr. Frank Fowler, Mr. Clinch’s successor, Mr. St. Aubin left for Sydney. About this time Mr. Single, Road Superintendent, who was the first occupier of Mr. E.J. Sloan’s cottage in Brisbane street (Mr. W.A. Stokes’ present residence) went to reside on his property on the Carcoar road, near what is now known as Holmwood. The vacant cottage was immediately secured by the postal authorities for the accommodation of the new postmaster and his family, and here the post and telegraphic business of the town was transacted until the present post office was erected, a couple of years later.

As the principal business places were nearer the river a protest was lodged against the selection, hence for the convenience of the objectors a letter pillar was erected at the corner of Kendall and Lachlan streets. Mr. Fowler, as an official was all that could be desired, and his stay in Cowra might have extended over a lengthy period had he not been afflicted with a taste for indulgence in ultra scurrilous and vindictive lucubrations.


Weekly Diatribes

The “Sentinel”, Dan Mayne’ s indecent and wretched organ was at that time published in Bathurst, and in the capacity of local correspondent Mr. Fowler vented his spleen on all and sundry with whom he disagreed in the vilest terms. As a result his weekly diatribes of indecent scurrility annoyed a considerable section. Eventually information came to hand which associated Mr. Fowler with the authorship of these very objectionable contributions. Following a report to the postal authorities an official was sent to Cowra to investigate the complaint. The charges preferred were then proved right up to the hilt, hence the culprit, in addition to being severely reprimanded and cautioned as to his future behaviour, was removed to another town.

Mr. John J. Richards , the next incumbent of the position, was a totally different type of man, his geniality and obliging disposition rendering him deservedly popular. He was an experienced and thoroughly capable official, and one who took an active part in all public movements. His removal from Cowra to Bourke (then a very important office) was very keenly regretted by the entire community. He was afterwards in charge of the post office at the markets, Sydney, and several years later held a similar position at West Maitland, where he died in harness a couple of years back. Jack Richards will long retain a green niche in my memory. He was a staunch and true friend and one whom it was ever a genuine pleasure to greet. He was regarded at one time as one of the ablest officers in the postal service.


…………………to PART FIVE.