THE NATIVES CALLED IT B’POOTY
Chapter 10 - More New Arrivals and disaster
By 1901, Putty had a recorded population of seventy one people comprising thirty eight males and thirty three females. There were nineteen occupied dwellings. Newly recorded were William J Harris, Henry War Turnbull, Richard McTaggart, George Henry Gibbs, Albert Merrick, William John Merrick and Arthur Barwick whose arrival was especially welcome as he had been appointed the teacher at the Putty Provisional School in 1895.
It seems that Richard McTaggart and his wife Emily (nee Harris) did not stay in Putty very long. Was it because Mrs. McTaggart found the roads a bit too rough? A newspaper report has it that while she and Mr. Oliver Cobcroft were out driving in a sulky it capsized by some means as they crossed a creek near the residence of Mr. Robert Ridge. Both were thrown out of the sulky and with the exception of a shaking and a fright escaped unhurt. Unhurt? They must have had at least a few scratches! Anyway, the horse freed himself from the sulky and galloped home with the harness flaying, leaving a badly broken sulky behind and its previous occupants to fend for themselves. (Singleton Argus 20th August, 1898)
Now living in Putty, George (Henry) Gibbs, married Catherine Harris, sister of William, Ma Harris’ husband. With this marriage came yet another melding of families. George and Catherine had five children, one was (William) George.
George was just eighteen years old when he enlisted to serve in the Great War. George returned home safely in 1919 and in 1934 married (Kate) Merle Orrell. Merle already had three children from a previous marriage so George built a family home at Long Swamp Putty which is still standing at the corner of Putty Valley Road and Bakers Road. It wasn’t long before their daughter Betty was born. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the centenary of Anzac held in the Putty Hall in 2015. A very proud and happy lady, she told me that she came close to dying as a baby saved only by her father’s ingenuity. He would soak a dry corn cob in milk and by sucking the milk from it, Betty survived. She also told me that as a child, she was never far from her father’s side, going everywhere she could with him. As she sat on a little wooden box nearby to where he was working, either alone or with other men, she learnt words a little girl should not. Consequently she got into a lot of trouble at school for saying the wrong thing.
George, Merle and Betty Gibbs
In about 1938
Disastrous fires in January 1905 wreaked havoc throughout the districts of Howes Valley, Springfield, Burrowell Creek and Putty, taking with them buildings, fences and all forms of livestock, leaving many residents in all the areas badly affected.
The Chapmans at Burrowell lost newly bagged wheat and an orchard in full fruit and Mr. Harris and Mr. McTaggart lost sheep and cattle. In Putty the fire came from the direction of Mt. Coricudgy. It broke over into Jacobs Hollow and Long Hollow then leapt Putty Creek, enveloping Mr. Robert Ridge’s residence in flames. The fire raged fiercely on both sides of the creek, attacked Mrs. Harris’ property on one side and at the same time attacked and burnt out two of Mr. Andrew Laycocks four roomed cottages on the other. It was estimated that from Howes Valley to Putty, over 40 miles of fencing was destroyed. During the disaster, Mr. Barwick and Miss P Ridge came close to being trapped by fire. If not for the bravery of Messrs. Chapman, Laycock, Medhurst, Harris, McTaggart and Barwick, assisted by the women who all fought with the energy of despair, more property and stock would have been lost. (extract from an article in the Singleton Argus, 14th January,1905)
The bush fire was a great blow to Robert Ridge Snr. with the thought of rebuilding his “Putty House” and re-stocking his property, too much for him to bear. So he sold his old home and moved back to his farm at Colo where he died in September, 1906, suddenly, from a heart seizure. Standing by his gravesite, a friend recalled stories told by Mr. Ridge which he related - “those wild days when Putty - now a land flowing with milk and honey, then a howling wilderness - was inhabited mostly by aborigines and visited only at rare intervals by passing drovers”.
. To be continued
Margaret Ferguson © 2016