Cowra in Days Gone Bye by J C Ryall. 1/ (Pages 1 to 8)

Part ONE


Published on 27 February 1908


Retrospect of Thirty Years.

Some thirty years ago, Mr J.C. Ryall. of Grenfell, being much impressed with the possibilities of the Cowra district and the field it held for journalistic enterprise–although at the time wholly inexperienced in the management of a newspaper–determined to launch one more craft on the troubled sea of journalism. Accordingly at the beginning of 1878 arrangements were entered into with Mr W.H. Howarth, proprietor of the Grenfell “Record”, to print the new paper, pending the purchase of a plant later on. Mr Howarth had just then completed purchased of the plant of the defunct Cooma “Free Press”, and acting on the suggestion, it was decided to substitute “Cowra” for ·”Cooma” in the tile heading, and that was how the paper came to acquire its present designation. Mr Joseph Brown, who now occupies an important position on the staff of the “Daily Telegraph “, was engaged by Mr Howarth to assist him in the production of Cowra’s first journal. Surrounding District NewspapersAt that time newspapers were published at Young (2). Grenfell (1), Forbes (1), and Carcoar (1). At the later place the “Chronicle” was printed and published by Messrs. Boyle and O’Brien, and that journal was regarded as Cowra’s local organ, hence the advent of the Cowra “Free Press” was for some time viewed by the proprietors of the senior journal as an encroachment upon their vested rights, hence a spirit of jealousy prompted the prediction that their rival could not possibly’exist more than a few months.

The first issue of the Cowra “Free Press” is dated February 20th 1878, consequently our venture has exceeded in breasting the waves and billows of public criticism for a period of thirty years.  During that time our Carcoar contemporary has changed hands several times, and even for a period was non est.

When we first made the acquaintance of Cowra, its habitations, including bark and slab huts, numbered under one hundred. The populated portion of the town was bounded by Mr James Ousby’s stone house, opposite the water tank in Kendall street, on the eastern side, Mr R. Daly’ s Australian Arms Hotel on the extreme western, Liverpool street on the northern, and Vaux street on the southern.

The Churches

The only Protestant Church, St. Peter’s (Presbyterian) was then used in turn by Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Methodists, the two latter denominations being served from Carcoar.

The Rev. J. Young, the first local Church of England minister, had only a short time previously taken up his residence here. The present Roman Catholic Church (St. Raphael’ s) had its walls only a few feet above ground, and a very diminutive structure which was also used as a schoolroom, had to service as a place of worship. The Rev. Father Philip Ryan, of Carcoar, was the parish priest, Mass being celebrated here every second Sunday.

The Schools

There were three schools–the Public, conducted by Mr W. J . Quick, the Roman Catholic, by Miss Purcell (now Mrs E.J. Collins), and a private academy by Miss Macdonald assisted by Mrs Adams.


The only resident medico was an eccentric old gentleman named Francis Pym Flockton who prided himself on being the son of a Church of England clergyman, and One of a family of seven sons, all of whom adopted the medical profession. An individual who styled himself “Dr” Cherry but whose qualifications were nil, after a stay of a few weeks vanished for other regions. Dr  E. Roberts Smith,of Carcoar, was in the habit of visiting here fortnightly, or when sent for specially, otherwise the place was without a qualified practitioner. Mr C.J. Lewin, chemist, by undertaking the treatment of simple cases of disease or injury did a very good business for some time.

The Law

The first limb of the law to settle here was Mr Frank B. Freehill, M.A., (now of Sydney), and he soon succeeded in establishing a lucrative practice. Mr E.J.C. North, Police Magistrate, of Carcoar, was a monthly visitant to the town to preside over the Court of Petty Sessions, the duties in the interval having to be performed by the honorary magistracy.

Mr J.P. Arkins, an absolute invalid who had been so crippled by rheumatic gout as to be helpless, he having to be wheeled in a bath chair to and from his office daily, held office of Clerk of Petty Sessions and Crown Lands Agent. The police force comprised Sergeant D. McCartie and Constables John Bennett and John Chapman. The present police station was at that time the Court House and office of the C.P.S. and Land Agent.

The destinies of the Post and Telegraph office were presided over by Mr John Church, who had Mr Read for an assistant. Mr A.J.C. Single was the district Road Superintendent, and Mr Robert Stevenson held the position of Forest Ranger. The dual offices of Small Debts Court, bailiff, and pound-keeper were filled by Mr John Muir.

The Storekeepers

The leading storekeeper, Mr Peter Murray, occupied premises composed of galvanised iron, which covered an extensive area, on the site on which Murray’s Cowra Hall now stands. The other storekeepers were Messrs. Austin Bros., who succeeded Mr S.G. Alford in the stone building which now forms part of the Imperial Hotel; Messrs. D.C.J. Donnelly & Co., who succeeded Mr Dawson in a weatherboard structure, which has of late years been supplanted by the Imperial Hotel; and Mr Daniel B. Neville, who carried on business in the building now occupied by Mr A.W. Marshall.

The hostelries comprised Mr Robt. Daly’ s Australian Arms, Mr Henry Dennis’ Fitzroy Arms, then a single storied building, Mr N. Challacombe’s Royal, Mr D. Robertson’ s Club House, and Mr Thos Walsh’s Court House. On the Carcoar Road Mr George Lockyer had the Cross Keys Hotel, and at Back Creek, Grenfell road, Mr Robt Chivers presided over the Horse and Waggon. •


The late Mr Andrew Lynch was our parliamentary representative, and in that capacity he had few if any equals. At that period the population of Cowra was between 400 and 500, and the town, outside a very limited range, was comparatively unknown.

 Mail Coaches

The nearest railway station was at Blayney between which town and Cowra’s a daily mail service was conducted by Mr John Fagan. The coaches left Cowra about midday, and, after a trying and wearisome journey, Blayney was reached between 8 and 9 pm.  The trip from Blayney to Cowra was even more trying, part icularly during the winter season, as a start had to be made from the former place at an unconsciously early hour in the morning.

Wayside Inns

The wayside inns en route were Mr James Lynch’s Sheet 0′ Bark, Mr James Bull’s Rising Sun, and Mr John McCloskey’s Lyndhurst.

Wood’s Flat, which was at one time a rich goldfield with a large population, was comparatively deserted, but the greater part of the Crown lands in the neighbourhood had been appropriated by the thriving free selectors. Woodstock was then unknown. Mandurama and Carcoar were busy centres. Canowindra contained one store (Mr Thos. Finn’s), two hotels (Mrs Thos. Clyburn’s and Mr Henry Dawes’), Mr Joseph Kerr’ s butchery, and about half a dozen other Tenements.

Constable A. Mathieson was in charge of the police station, Mr Roger Davis, the noted horse-man was poundkeeper, and Mr Dickenson was the village blacksmith ..

At Belmore, near Canowindra, Mr A. Collis had a store and hotel. Courts of Petty Sessions were held monthly, the local magistracy being the presiding justices, and Mr G.W.H. Dry was Small Debts Court bailiff and general factotum of the place. Cowra could boast of a branch of one banking institution, the Australian Joint Stock, of which Mr W.A. Stokes was manager and Mr E. J. ColIins accountant.

Having said so much by way of introduction we will now refer to our files for further particulars.

From the Files

In our issue of February 20th, 1878, appears the customary initial leader under the head of “Ourselves” and the first of a series entitled “Talks with the Editor,” the letter being contributed by a wellwisher.

In response to a numerously signed petition the Postmaster- General informed Mr A. Lynch, M. L. A. ,that in future mails will leave Cowra for Carcoar and Blayney at 1 p.m. daily (Saturdays excepted), and arrive at Cowra daily (Saturdays excepted) at 11 a.m. A protest is entered against the action of the postal authorities in reducing the Cowra-Grenfell daily mail service to three days per week and increasing the Grenfell-Young three days per week service to six ,days.

“Dr” Cherry announces that he may be consulted professionally at his residence, Kendall-street, and at Mr Lewin’s dispensary.

The bench of magistrates were petitioned to establish the public pound at Goolagong. The petitioners were directed by the presiding justices, Messrs. J. B. Wood and Ralph Halls, to furnish a site, together with an assurance that it is within the Grenfell district.

During a visit to Sydney Mr C. Austin, of the firm of Messrs. Austin Bros., storekeepers, collected nearly sufficient funds for the purchase of an organ for the Presbyterian Church, and the balance was contributed by several townsmen.

Mr A. Lynch, M.L.A., succeeded in extracting a promise from the Government to the effect that a sum of money would be placed on the Estimates for the erection of a new Courthouse and Post Office.

Reference is made to the satisfactory progress witnessed in connection with rearing the walls of the new Catholic Church. Under the head of town improvements mention is made of the completion of Mr Sloan’s new villa and the progress that was being made in erecting additions to Mr Robertson’s hotel.

Prospects of a break in the drought which had prevailed for a long period, was hailed with delight.

Mr A. Single, road super, formerly stationed at Grenfell, has been directed to reside at Cowra henceforth. Mr Reid, post and telegraph assistant, has been transferred to the recently established office at Rockley.

Amongst the general news items appears particulars of a most wicket cricket match, in which Mr Harry Nelson, of Young, undertook for a wager to lower the wicket of Mr R. Black, also of Young, in the space of fifteen minutes. Black was bowled off his pad after five minutes play.


Published on 3 December 1921


Old Cowra

The name Cowra in the aboriginal tongue signifies “Rocks”, hence the Town derives its name from the rocky eminence, now styled Bellevue Hill, which overlooks it on its northern side, and from which, by the way, a magnificent view of the surrounding country may be obtained. The surveyor who laid out the town was happy in his selection of a site because in the spring-time Cowra, from the western side of the Lachlan can hold its own in picturesqueness with any town in the State. For many years the little town made little or no headway, its first impetus being acquired from the gold-mining rush to Lambing Flat (Young) in 1860, the traffic through the town at that time to the new El Dorado being very considerable.

Lockyer’s Boat

At that time the Lachlan was frequently in flood, hence the passage of the stream was at times an insurmountable difficulty. The late Mr George Lockyer, then in the employ of the late Mr Ousby, senr., proprietor of the Fitzroy Hotel, perceiving there was money to be made in the conveyance of wayfarers across the river, procured a boat and turned his seafaring knowledge to account, and while so engaged had many unique and hazardous experiences.

On one occasion he actually contrived with his frail craft to convey the mail coach – .mails. passengers, luggage, etc., across the turbulent stream when it was running a banker. The horses were of course compelled to swim across. This was an achievement of which Mr Lockyer was immensely proud.

The First Bridge

Some years later the river was spanned by a narrow wooden structure which was neither ornamental nor very servicable, seeing that the passage of two vehicles from opposite sides was not only exceedingly risky, but attended with positive danger when the equines were timid or fractious. Once a team was on the bridge it had to negotiate the entire distance before it could return, as to turn on the roadway was wholly impracticable. As there was no footway it will be readily understood that pedestrians, particularly women and children often entered on the task of crossing in fear and trembling.

The structure was not very long in existence when the historic 1870 flood submerged the low-lying portions of the town and swept the western approach away, hence for some months it was out of commission, and the crossing of the stream was once more an obstacle difficult to surmount. The bridge referred to was approached from Bridge St, near the Australian Hotel.

In February, 1878, when the present proprietor launched the “Free Press”, Cowra’s first paper, on its journalistic career, the town was dependent on the “Carcoar Chronicle”, then owned by Mr W . B. Howarth and the “Burrangong Argus”, by Mr B. J. Bennett, to chronicle its doings.

The proportions of the place were then confined to very narrow limits, so much so that it was officially designated a village. On the north it was hemmed in by the Redfern Mulyan Estate, on the east by the Waugoola and Jerula Stations, owned by Messrs. Ousby and George Campbell respectively, south by Taragala, Mr Alex Middlemis’ property, and west by the leasehold and freehold land of Mr Campbel1.

Town in the Hands of a Few People

Even the town itself was in the hands of a few people. The late Mr S.G. Alford had a block of 20 acres which extended from Fitzroy Street to the railway line. Mr S. Liddiard owned a block of 10 acres, two blocks of five acres each, and sundry half acre lots belonging to the late Mr H. Daly. Mrs. C. Moore was the owner of of a block of 5 acres in Liverpool Street, also several allotments in Kendal-street. Mrs. Campbell held a 5 acre block and quite a number of other allotments; the greater number of the other allotments belonged to the Ousby, West, Watt, Sloan, Walsh, Challacombe, Ford, Murray and Chivers families.

There were not a hundred habitations inclusive of bark humpies, slab and weatherboard structures then in the town. Cottages owned by Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. C. Moor flanked the northern side, a slab dwelling out Mulyan way being the limit there, while the stone dwelling near the Methodist Church which was the end of Kendal-street, the buildings being close to the river being the starting point of that thoroughfare. The Public School teacher’s residence, Paradise Row, a number of wooden dwellings erected by the late Mr John Marmon, marked the southern boundary, if we except some unpretentious slab edifices occupied by the late Mr Stephen Little, Mr W. Mitchell and Mr John Atkins.


Published on 7 December 1921.

In the article under the above heading appearing in Saturday’s issue, an error occurs for which the [office devil] is responsible. Mr W.H. Howarth is credited with being the editor of the “Carcoar Chronicle”, which he never was. This is what appears in the manuscript:

Other Newspapers

In February, 1878, when the present proprietor launched the “Free Press”, Cowra’s first paper, on its journalistic career, the town was dependent on the “Carcoar Chronicle”, then owned by Messrs. Boyle and O’Brien, the “Grenfell Record”, owned by Mr W . B. Howarth; the “Burrangong Argus”  by Mr B. J. Bennett; and the “Burrangong Chronicle” by Messrs. Morley and Tremery to record its doings.

We might add here that Mr Boyle subsequently became sole proprietor of the “Carcoar Chronicle”. A couple of years later that gentleman died suddenly leaving a widow and two children.

With commendable pluck and enterprise, Mrs. Boyle, with the assistance of Mr Hector Lamond (now a member of the House of Representatives), continued to conduct the paper, until she married Mr C.L. Garland, by whom she was relieved of her journalistic duties.

Mr. Garland, having been elected the Parliamentary representative of the Carcoar-Cowra electorate some years later, handed over the destinies of the “Chronicle” to Mr. Lamond, who remained at the helm until he took over the management of the “Worker”, the official Labor organ.

While Mrs. Boyle wielded the pen as editress and proprietress of the “Chronicle”, the “Bulletin” facetiously referred to her as “Carcoar Mary”. For some months after the advent of the “Free Press”, it was set up and printed at the “Record” office, Grenfell.

First “Free Press” Printinq

Eventually a printing plant having been purchased from Mr. Howarth, Mr. Peter Murray did the requisite housing by erecting a galvanised iron structure on a site next to where Mr. McPhee’s pharmacy now stands.

On the occasion of the printing of the first issue of the “Free Press”, Mr. and Mrs. Murray and their niece, Miss Mary Caldwell (afterwards Mrs. S.F. Lane) were present, and the later young lady with a great effort, succeeded in pulling over the lever of the Albion double-demy press to print the inside pages of the first copy of the issue, and the very first complete copy printed in Cowra. That copy was subsequently transferred to Mr. W. A. Stokes, who at that time took a very deep interest in the establishment of the “Free Press” and public affairs generally.

The only churches were the Roman Catholic, a diminutive edifice which is now used as a school room , St. Raphael’s being then in course of erection, and St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church, the building which is now used for Sunday School purposes. The later was regarded as a Union Church, being used by all Protestant de- nominations. The late Rev. Father Ryan of Carcoar celebrated Mass fort-nightly, the Rev. Jas. Young was Cowra’s first Anglican incumbent, the Rev. John Adams, and later the Rev. C.W. Philip, Grenfell had the spiritual care of the Presbyterian residents.

The Methodists were occasionally served from Blayney.

Justice was dispensed in a portion of a building now used by the police. Mr. F.J.C. North, P.M., Carcoar, visited Cowra monthly, and during the interval Mr. Arkins (who was an invalid from rheumatic gout, and of a ‘crotchety and irascible temperament), Clerk of Petty Sessions, Land Agent, and Justice of the Peace, with the assistance of Messrs. J.T. West, W.R. Watt, W.P. Mylecharane, S.G. Alford and Rothery, J. P.’s, dealt with drunks and such other cases as might be set down for hearing.

Sergeant Denis McCartie, who resided in a building situated where the State Bank now is, was the officer in charge of Police, then consisting of Constables Bennett (Lock-up Keeper) and John Chapman (mounted). Sergeant McCartie was a most efficient officer, and a part- icularly able man, who was well qualified to hold a much higher position. His ability and worth was later recognised when he was promoted to the position of Sub-inspector and transferred to

The law was represented by Mr. F.B. Freehill, M.A., A brilliant young Australian, who made many warm friends in the district and who subsequently disposed of his practice to Mr. M.T. Phillips and went to Sydney to take over the practice of his deceased brother who had amassed considerable wealth prior to his demise at a comparatively early age.

The late Dr. E.R. Smith, of Carcoar, used to provide his profession services once a fortnight.


Published 10 December 1921


If He Did Not Cure …. He Never Killed

The late Dr. E.R. Smith, of Carcoar, used to visit Cowra professionally only once a fortnight, the only other man who professed a knowledge of medicine and surgery in the place was Mr. Francis Pym Flockton, who had simply passed through three years of medical course. As the remedies he resorted to were of the ordinary household type, if he did not cure or alleviate suffering, he never killed. He was a most eccentric individual with a loud voice, who indulged in language when in his cups that occasionally brought about a night’s incarceration in the lock-up, and his appearance before the Bench on the following day. He had no fixed fee for his services, preferring to rely on the generosity of his patients. He lived anywhere and anyhow, and eventually came to a miserable end at Canowindra. He certainly deserved a better fate, seeing that many of the residents of the place were indebted to him for a mitigation of their ills and in some instances their lives.

Mr. Chas. J. Lewin was the only chemist in those days. A versatile individual who assumed the prefix of “Dr.”, named Cherry, but who was wholly unqualified, after a very brief stay took his departure for other scenes. Of the four stores, the one conducted by the late Mr. Peter Murray was the senior, but it was anything but an up-to-date establishment. It was a long rambling structure with galvanised iron sides and roof, with additions hurriedly run up without any approach to architectural beauty. The Lyric Theatre now occupies the site. Messrs. C.J. and Ben Austin, who succeeded Mr. S.G. Alford, conducted their business in the two storied stone structure erected by their predecessor, where the Imperial Cafe and Bank of Commerce now stand. The store of Messrs. D. C. J. Donnell y & Co., successors to Mr. Dawson, was a weatherboard building adjoining Messrs. Austin Bros., and the remaining store, conducted by the late Mr. Dan Neville (son of the late Mrs. Challacombe), was in the stone building in Kendal Street, owned by the Robertson Estate.

The Hotels

The hotels were the late Mr. Thos. Walsh’s Court House, then a single storied stone house, the late Mr. D. Robertson’s Club House, only a portion of which had been erected, the new two storied building having been subsequently built over the old hotel, Mr. Henry Dennis’ Fitzroy Arms, a single storied edifice; and lastly Daly’ s Australian Arms, portion of which was two storied and the remainder a straggling antiquated weatherboard erection, that had evidently outgrown its usefulness.  The Great Western Hotel, which was originally conducted by Mr. Lockyer, was at the time we write of, occupied by men with families who were engaged in the erection of the Catholic Church. The other hotels in the district were Chivers’ “Horse and Wagon”, Back Creek; Lockyer’s “Cross Keys” and James Lynch’s Sheet O’ Bark.

The Bakers and The Butchers

The bakers were John Arnold and On Lee, both in Bridge street. In those days the bakers were too inexperienced to deliver, hence those who required supplies of the staff of life had to go to the bakeries. Charlie Nathong, another Chinaman, also baked a limited quality of bread, and in addition conducted a small store. Mr. E. Fitzgerald’s aerated waters and cordial factory was in Bridge-street opposite the the Australian Arms Hotel. The butchers were Messrs. John Moore Butler, Kendal-street and Jas Egan and M. S. Kelly, [corrected to Skelly in next issue- -CWR ] Bridge-street —–four distinct butcheries.

The Blacksmiths and others

The blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and buggy builders comprised Mr. Hugh McLeod, whose smithy was where the Cowra Emporium now stands, Geo Lawrence Kendal-street, Lockett and Crawford, and Seymour and Simpson, Bridge-street. Professor Bellerby was the only barber and tonsorial artist, and he also officiated as bellman and town crier. Page and Williams, Bridge-street, ran an oyster saloon and fruit and sweets establishment very creditably, next the Fitzroy Hotel, and Smith and & Mooreshouse had a fruit shop in Bridge-street.

Mr. Sam. S. Smith subsequently became proprietor of the “Forbes and Parkes Gazette” at Forbes. The saddle and harness makers were Share and Berry and McClosky, both in Kendal-street. The late Mr. Robert Stevenson was the only newsagent. As a stock and station agent, Mr. Chas Stibbard was the sole representative, Mr. John Muir, Sheriff’s Officer, bailiff of the Small Debts Court, Mining Warden’s officer, was auctioneer, and also dealt in second hand goods. The late Mr. Henry Ford had a number of contracts for the erection of school (facilities.)


…….to Part Two.