HISTORY

HEADING WEST – PART ONE – THE BEGINNING

The view you can see in this picture is from the sheer drop at the Mount York Lookout and is of the area known as Hartley Valley. To get here you have travelled 120km west from Sydney on the Great Western Highway all the way to Mount Victoria.

Just north of the town is the Mount York Road which will take you to Mount York. This is the point where early the Australian explorers Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth viewed the west and it was this famous ‘first crossing’ which opened it to farming in 1813. (population of Australasia in 1811 was 11,525)

In 1814, William Cox assembled a team of thirty convicts and eight guards to build a road across the Blue Mountains. He started at Emu Plains on the 18th July 1814 and in just four months the team had completed a road covering a distance of 47 miles to Mount York.

In just six months, Cox had crossed the Blue Mountains with a road of one hundred and one miles all the way to Bathurst. My Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandmother (on my father’s side) Elizabeth Mitchell’s husband, Edward Field, provided blacksmithing services and sold produce to Cox.

Edward Field’s background is that he enlisted as a Private in the 102nd Regiment of Foot, the New South Wales Corps, on 27 July 1789, some 7 weeks after its formation. He came to the Colony of New South Wales with the second fleet, arriving in Sydney on the Scarborough on 28 June 1790

Elizabeth Mitchell’s background is that she was convicted on 6 March 1790 at the Assizes. Her crime was aiding and abetting in breaking into a dwelling in Studley, North Wiltshire, and the stealing of 5 cheeses and sundry other articles. She was sentenced to 7 years transportation. Elizabeth was transported on the Mary Ann, arriving Sydney 9 July 1791.

The First Fleet left England on 13th May 1787 for the ‘lands beyond the seas’, Australia, stopping at Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town. The fleet arrived at Botany Bay between 18th and 20th January 1788 so you can see that Edward arriving in 1790 and Elizabeth in 1791 were among the first settlers. (population of Australasia in 1788 was 1,035)

Elizabeth Mitchell was born about 1770 in England and married Edward Field on the 20/2/1805 at Parramatta. She died 24/6/1837 at Castlereagh “aged 67”. She had 9 children however her first child Sarah is my Great, Great, Great, Great Grandmother.

Elizabeth’s children were (by James Wilson) Sarah (by Edward) Mary Ann, Edward, Maria, George, William, Sophia, Thomas, John.

The next generation of my ancestors, being Sarah, her husband James Morris and their 15 children followed Cox’s road to settle in Hartley. Succeeding generations went on to Bathurst and finally ended up 35kms west of the central western New South Wales town of Forbes in the much smaller township of Bedgerabong which is 420 kms west of Sydney.

I am now on my way to trace their journey. My next stop will be Hartley.

HEADING WEST – PART TWO – THE VILLAGE OF HARTLEY

In 1832 Major Mitchell built a road from Mount Victoria to Hartley to replace the dangerous grades of the Bathurst Road built by William Cox. It was this new road that in the late 1830’s took Sarah, her husband James Morris and their 15 children to Hartley a distance of 130km from Sydney.(population of Australasia in 1831 was 79,306)

Sarah Mitchell was born 19/5/1792 at Parramatta and married James Morris on 24/6/1807 at Parramatta. She died 9/8/1876 at Mt York aged 84 her parents were James Wilson and Elizabeth Mitchell. She had 15 children being Elizabeth, Phoebe, Sophia, James, Thomas, William, Anne, Jane, Joan, John, William Joseph, Clara, Grant, George, Edward. Anne is my Great, Great, Great Grandmother.

The Hartley Valley provided the grazing land that the colony so desperately sought, however in the early years settlers faced more than just the enormous task of clearing the virgin bush. They faced the difficulties of not only housing their own families, but also their assigned convicts and this involved a constant supervision of the latter.

The seasons were unpredictable and communication was extremely slow and arduous. Despite these problems, the small township of Hartley slowly grew and in 1852, according to a magistrate’s annual return, the principal agricultural products of Hartley were potatoes, wheat and hay. Apples of a particularly high quality were grown in the Hartley district and the Morris family was involved in the early orchard plantings.

The Old Court House  Hartley

The Old Church Grounds Hartley

The picture you see above is of the last road to the last journey for Annie Morris who died in 1853 aged 31 and for her father James who died in May 1854 aged 91 and for Sarah, her mother, who died in August 1876 aged 84. You can just see the cemetery in the distance at the end of the road.

Anne Morris died aged 31 on the 15/5/1853. Her journey to the West had ended but not for one of her children. Mary Jane Peacock who was born on the 1/12/1844 at Hartley would eventually make it all the way to Forbes   to become my Great, Great Grandmother on my father’s father’s side.

                   The Historic Hartley-Vale Cemetery

The Headstones of Annie and her parents Sarah and James Morris.

For many of the early settler families Hartley was a stopping off place along the Western Highway. The gold rush period brought abundant life to the town as miners paused to refresh themselves on their weary trudge to the fields at Turon, Sofala, Wellington and Forbes. The view above to the West is that which they would have seen on any late afternoon.

One such early settler was John Hodges who arrived in Australia on board the ship ‘Aresti’ in 1839 with his brother Charles. They passed through Hartley during the late 1840’s on their way to Wattle Flat just outside of Bathurst.  (population of Australasia in 1841 was 211,095)

John had kept in touch with his family in England and when he received word that his mother had died, he wrote back to convince his younger brother William, who had married Harriet May and now had two little girls, to migrate to Australia. Eventually William and his younger sister, Louise, arrived on board the ‘Anglo Saxon’ on 21 October, 1854. (population of Australasia in 1851 was 430,596)

William Hodges was employed soon after arrival as a stonemason and worked on the construction of  Tooths Brewery on Parramatta Rd,  Sydney, NSW, Australia. By 1858 he too had made the journey over the Blue Mountains, down the Victoria Pass, through Hartley and on to Bathurst where he and his family remained until 1877 before moving to Bedgerabong. William and Harriet Hodges were my Great Great Grandparents on my father’s mother’s side.

My next stop on the journey of discovery will be Bathurst.

HEADING WEST – PART THREE –  BATHURST

As you can see it is a beautiful mild autumn day with blue skies and a temperature in the low 20’s. I’m in Bathurst and it, along with Lithgow that I have just passed through are two of the oldest settled regions of New South Wales.

Lithgow, 130 kms from Sydney was the western most point reached in the first crossing of the Blue Mountains. It was the centre of the western coal fields and one of the earliest coal mining districts in Australia and the site of the first commercial steel produced in Australia

Bathurst, 200 kms from Sydney was the oldest inland settlement in New South Wales; it was the gateway to the gold rush regions and the National headquarters for Cobb & Co

Whilst having a coffee I am reading a book that says that once the explorers had conquered the mountains, Australia’s future was ensured and so began the natural route to the west. Bathurst and its surrounding areas saw much of the beginnings of the Australian colonial settlement and is Australia’s first inland settlement and Australia’s oldest inland city. It was said at the time that Bathurst Plains had the best grass of all and  the new properties across the plains would support cattle and sheep, and grow wheat, vegetables and fruit.

The Australasian population in 1841 was 211,000 but things were about to change. With the discovery of gold rapid growth occurs during the 1850s and ’60s. The population grows from 430,000 in 1851 to 1,250,000 in 1861.

Bathurst has superb examples of early 1800’s architecture

In my journey it is now 1863, just over 70 years since the birth of Sarah Mitchell my Great, Great, Great, Great Grandmother. I am following in the footsteps of my ancestors as they head towards the central west of New South Wales. Successive generations have travelled from Castlereagh, near Parramatta, over the Blue Mountains to Hartley then to Lithgow, Bathurst and finally on to Forbes.

At this stage I’m not even sure that I will be born. Will my Great, Great Grand parents ever meet? How, when and where will that happen? If you consider almost any time in the past and try to calculate the probability of coming into being, even 2 generations ago, your possible existence is so low that it’s almost not worth thinking about.

In gambling, even a chance of 1 to 100 is not worth a gamble. The way things are looking I’ll be lucky to be alive!!

What I do know is that in 1863 Mary Jane Peacock who is my Great, Great Grandmother on my father’s father’s side married John Beatson in Forbes.

William Hodges and his wife Harriett was a farmer at ‘Wyagdon’ in the Wattle Flat District. By 1863 he had the following children: Amelia Louisa Hodges, b. abt. 1852, Lewisham, London, England; Elizabeth Ann. Hodges, b. abt. 1853, Bermondsey, London, England. Esther Matilda Hodges, b. abt. 1856, Chippendale, Sydney, NSW, Richard William George Hodges, b. abt. 1858, William Alfred Hodges, b. 10 September 1859, Peel via Bathurst, NSW; Louisa Hodges, b. abt. 1861, Binalong, NSW and Ellen Hodges, b. abt. 1863, Bathurst, NSW.

William and Harriett were to have 5 more children but the exciting news is that Ellen Hodges, b. abt. 1863, Bathurst, NSW will become my Great Grandmother on my father’s mother’s side. So things maybe looking good for my birth some 85 years in the future.

Meanwhile men rushed to the Australian goldfields on foot and horseback to strike it rich. One such prospector Edward Francois Barbe was born on the 15/5/1841 at Paris, France. Initially he sought his fortune in Ballarat Victoria in 1856 but by the early 1860’s had made his way to the rich diggings in Forbes.

Like Edward I will be making my way to Forbes.

The Victorian Renaissance Court House completed in 1880  is one of the best examples of  19th century public building architecture – it is still fully functional today.

HEADING WEST – PART FOUR – THE ACCIDENTAL MEETING

The sun has well and truly set on the dreams of the many men who made their way to the large tent city that developed after gold was discovered here in 1861. Situated among farmland on the Lachlan River 380 km west of Sydney, Forbes today is an agricultural centre for wheat, sheep, dairy and fruit.

They say that there is no gold left but that’s not true because I know I’ll be looking to finding my own little nuggets of information about my ancestors when I go digging tomorrow at the Forbes Family History Group, and that’s like gold to me.

When gold was discovered in 1861 the district boomed, bringing an influx of some 30,000 people leading to the development of the substantial hotels, churches, civic and other buildings which you can still see in the pictures above.

By 1865 Mary Jane Peacock  who is my Great, Great Grandmother on my father’s father’s side had parted from her husband John Beatson in Forbes. This separation is putting my chance of existence into doubt. Here nearly 400 kms from Sydney and single , is the woman who has to give birth to my Great Grandfather.

William Hodges and his wife Harriett are still in Bathurst working as a farmer at ‘Wyagdon’ in the Wattle Flat District. They have had another son Henry Thomas Hodges, b. abt. 1865 who, along with his seven other siblings including Ellen my Great Grandmother on my father’s mother’s side, enjoy the sunshine and healthy life style on the farm.

I discover in my diggings at the Forbes Family History Group HQ that an accidental meeting happens. I call it an accidental meeting in the sense that it was by chance, unplanned and above all fortuitous.

Edward Francois Barbe was born on the 15/5/1841 at Paris, France and by 1865 had made his way to the Forbes district and during my diggings I have discovered that the “accidental meeting” with Mary Jane Peacock has created a moment of love frozen in time.

It is incredible that Edward from Paris has come all the way to Ballarat, Victoria, Australia in 1856 and then somehow made his way over 760 kms to Forbes in New South Wales to meet up with my Great, Great Grandmother Mary Jane Peacock who herself has travelled the 250 kms from Hartley. Obviously the long walk gave him plenty of time to work out what he wanted to do with his future and thank God Mary Jane was part of it.

They are to have nine children and live a long and happy life together on land they take up at Bogabigal in the early1880’s. The children are Edward Francis Barbe Peacock born 1866 at Carrawobitty, Phillip Barbe born 15/10/1867 at Carrawobitty, Esther Louise Barbe born 4/4/1871 at Forbes, William Barbe born 30/10/1873 at Grudgery, Charlotte Jane Barbe born 30/1/1875 at Carrawobitty, Martha Marian Barbe born 17/2/1876 at Carrawobitty, Arthur James Barbe born 10/10/1877 at Forbes, Charles Henry Barbe born 30/10/1878 at Carrawobitty Island, Elizabeth Gertrude Barbe born 11/4/1881 at Carrawobitty.

The question is who are these people and how are they related to me. Where to next? They say many secrets are hidden in the cemetery so I’m off to the Forbes cemetery.

William Barbe born on the 30/10/1873 at Grudgery is to become my Great Grandfather on my father’s father’s side so after the cemetery I’ll be heading to Grudgery some 30 kms further to the west of Forbes.

HEADING WEST – PART FIVE – GRUDGERY A ONE WORD TOWN

I’ve made my way to Grudgery on the Bedgerabong road about 30 kms west of Forbes and it really is a one word town, that’s it one word, on a wooden sign, “GRUDGERY”. There is not much you can say about “GRUDGERY” – there are no cafes, shops, motels, pubs or petrol stations, so just one word “GRUDGERY”

The farmland hereabouts is flat to slightly undulating with many areas planted with lucerne and clover for stock feed.

The Lachlan River runs through many of the properties, with some wonderful river bends and water holes surrounded by dozens of old river gum trees.

Edward Francois Barbe, from Paris and my Great, Great Grandmother Mary Jane Peacock are in the nearby area known as Carrawobitty. By now they have eight children Edward Francis Barbe Peacock born 1866 at Carrawobitty, Phillip Barbe born 15/10/1867 at Carrawobitty, Esther Louise Barbe born 4/4/1871 at Forbes, William Barbe born 30/10/1873 at Grudgery, Charlotte Jane Barbe born 30/1/1875 at Carrawobitty, Martha Marian Barbe born 17/2/1876 at Carrawobitty, Arthur James Barbe born 10/10/1877 at Forbes.

William Barbe born on the 30/10/1873 at Grudgery is to become my Great Grandfather on my father’s father’s side. He married Catherine Victoria Stanley who is my Great Grandmother on my father’s father’s side . The above photo was taken on their wedding day.

Carrawobitty today.

Squint your eyes closed, listen to the birds and the sounds of the bush and take yourself back to 1877.  Let your imagination have its way and feel you are in the olden days and you are witnessing a sunny autumn day on the Bedgerabong Road. Perhaps this is what happened.

The sound of travellers on the road outside the Barbe holding interrupts the activities of the Barbe children. They run to the edge of the road to see what’s happening.

It is William and Harriet Hodges arriving with their wagonette and on horse back. The Hodges are with their twelve children including Ellen, then aged 14,  my Great Grandmother on my father’s mother’s side. The family has walked 200 kms all the way from Bathurst to settle in Grudgery at Bedgerabong on the Lachlan River.

The original Hodges home and farm at Grudgery, Bedgerabong.

William and Harriet will spend the rest of their lives at Bedgerabong where they buy a farm and build and manage the Grudgery Hotel which is known as the “Carriers Arms”. The hotel also provided services to the passengers and supplied the horses for the Cobb & Co coach company mail change from Forbes to Condobolin. Their children will become landowners in the area and their descendants still live there today.

The Hodges house in better times.

The Cobb & Co monument outside the location of the Grudgery Hotel.

A very old photograph of the Carriers Arms hotel at Grudgery.

William and Harriet are buried in the Grudgery Private Cemetery on the banks of the Lachlan River behind where the Grudgery Hotel was located. My next place of call is Bedegabong, 5 kms further down the road.

HEADING WEST – PART SIX – BEDGERABONG

I am standing in Rodgers Street one of the two streets in Bedgerabong proper, the other being Noakes Road. If you were several thousand feet up in the sky the picture below shows what you would see. That’s right, from up there there’s not much to see, and from down here there’s not much either.

I have just travelled the five kms from Grudgery where we saw that in 1877 William and Harriet Hodges arrive with their wagonette and their twelve children including Ellen my Great Grandmother on my father’s mother’s side.

I look around and see that it is 1899 some 20 years after my visit to Grudgery. The Barbe family are still in the area and the children of Edward Francois Barbe and Mary Jane Peacock are having children of their own. Some of those children are marrying into the Hodges and related families of the same generation.

The Hodges children also are making lives of their own in the area and in fact Ellen has met William Simon Fraser and married him in 1888. They now have four children William 1890, Isabel 1892, James Roy 1894 and Colin 1895.

Other families now associated with the Hodges include, Ablett, Field, Pasley, McColm, Simmonds, Constable, Young, Burgess, Beddie, Grant, Fraser and Piercy. The interesting thing is that the Field family who we traced from Sydney in 1792 , Elizabeth Field (Mitchell) being my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Grandmother on my father’s fathers side have become related to relatives on my father’s mother’s side.

So my chances of existence are looking up. With all these ancestors getting together I’m bound to be born, but I do have another fifty years of waiting.

Talk about counting your chickens before they hatch: the man I expected to be my Great Grand father William Simon Fraser dies.

Apparently on the 5th August 1897 he has an accident, falling off his horse, he injures his skull and dies aged 46. That could be the end for me, however as fate would have it Ellen, my Great Grandmother is pregnant and on the 21 December 1897 Lexie Fraser is born and she is to be my Grandmother.

I find the graves of William Simon Fraser and Helen Fraser in the Bedgerabong Cemetery and realise just how lucky I am to be here. William Hodges has passed away in 1894 and Harriet Hodges in 1899. I take the time to reflect on conversations I had with Agnes Piercy who helped me when I started out on this journey a few years back.

Agnes was the daughter of Orton Field and Jessie Peasley, her line goes back through Josiah Field and Sarah Morris, Edward Field Jnr.  Esther Lees, Edward Field and Elizabeth Mitchell. The mother of Edward James Piercy, Agnes’s husband, was Emma Mildred Sabina Hodges, my Great Grandmothers sister. Sadly Agnes passed away in May 2005.

Agnes Piercy in carriage outside Lexie Fraser’s home.

HEADING WEST – PART SEVEN – THE UNKNOWN MAN

The concept of love is different for every person. My Grandmother Lexie Fraser had someone special in her life but to those of us that follow he is to be an unknown man.

In my attempt to discover the truth about the relationship between Lexie and the father of her children the question I ask is “Who are you father of my father?”

As the layers of my family background are stripped away I am intrigued by what I learn from the old discoloured and tilted headstones.

Lexie remained in the Bedgerabong district until after the death of her mother Ellen on 6th  Nov 1925,  having four children to her partner and once again luck is on my side. Of the four children only one will survive and he will become my father.

Unnamed male b Forbes 16th April 1920 died 5 ½ months premature aged 13 hours. Patricia Barbe Fraser b Forbes 1st November 1921 d 15th November 1921 aged 14 days. Reuben Barbe Fraser b Parkes 30 September 1922 d 27th May 1975. Yvonne Fraser b November 1928 d 3rd August 1929 aged 10 months.

My understanding of her life in Bedgerabong consists only of my seeing and imagining but it seems that she was sustained and supported by her mother Helen who was the informant  on the death certificate of the unnamed male child and in fact she describes herself as ‘Grandmother’. As it was in those days the infant was buried at the private house of Helen at Bedgerabong.

I can only feel a degree of sadness for Lexie as a single mother of that time. The 1920’s wasn’t a time of great prosperity for Australians and indeed it was a time of uncertainty; depressions were imminent and there was little economic growth.

Many had lived through “the Great war of 1914” and this had a dramatic and tragic impact on both the soldiers and the civilians alike. The legacy of the war in terms of the long-term effects on human physical and mental health when the soldiers returned home, often only a little older than 18 when they left, was to be experienced by the community for decades after the war had finished.

That time in Australian history came to represent a turning point between the values, attitudes and ways of life of the old 19th century world and those of the new 20th century world.

In the late 1920’s Lexie, having lost contact with her ‘partner’ and having  her mother pass away in 1925, left Bedgerabong to join her brothers, William, Roy and Colin, in Sydney.

My father Reuben Barbe Fraser who then aged about 6 was with her. He was never to see or know his biological father. My father passed away in 1975 aged 52. His mother Lexie Fraser lived a happy life in Kensington, Sydney eventually marrying Frederick Charles Banfield, a horse trainer, in 1944. She passed away on the 25 April 1967.

My time in Bedgerabong is over and I’ll now be heading back to Forbes, perhaps I’ll never return to this place.

Reuben Barbe Fraser and his mother Lexie Fraser about 1942 outside 25a Kensington Road Kensington.

HEADING WEST – PART EIGHT – THE FORBES CEMETERY JANUARY 2005

Each year in January Parkes celebrates the music and the legend of Elvis Presley.  In 2005 I went to the festival with my partner Susan and as there was no accommodation to be had in Parkes we were forced to stay in Forbes some 32 kms away.

Whilst having dinner at one of the Chinese restaurants I happened to mention to the waitress that my father came from around this area. She asked my surname and I replied ‘Fraser’. She said ‘you should visit the cemetery and see if you have any relatives buried there.’

So the next day after we returned from our day in Parkes we headed to the cemetery a few kms out of town. It was a very hot summer day; the temperature was near 40 degrees. There was almost no shade so Susan suggested we park under a small tree and walk back through the grave sites.

As I walked towards a group of graves I noticed a headstone, the one in the picture above  It attracted my attention because my father’s name was Reuben Barbe Fraser and here is a headstone with Barbe as a surname. I continued walking and came across a second headstone. I mentioned to Susan that it was funny that Barbe was a surname and that one of my dad’s christian names was Barbe. We thought no more of it and continued searching for the name ‘Fraser’

I found a John and then a Peter Fraser but their details didn’t seem to match any one in my family. We searched a little more and finally left Forbes and returned to Sydney.

HEADING WEST – PART NINE – THE FATHER OF MY FATHER

When back in Sydney I rang my daughter and discussed my discovery of the surname and we decided to do a Google search. During the search I stumbled across a site described as “From a distant Field”

From a Distant Field, the Early Generations on the Internet

BARBE Catherine Victoria (see WILLIAM BARBE) BARBE Francis Stanley (see WILLIAM BARBE) BARBE William (EDWARD FRANCOIS and MARY JANE)

Initially I thought the site had something to do with World War One and the distant fields were a reference to the battle fields in France where many Australians lost their lives. I was interested so I entered the site and to my surprise I discovered it was genealogical site containing many with the surname of Barbe: including one named Reuben Barbe.

I was gobsmacked especially when I found Reuben Barbe came from Grudgery exactly the same place my Grandmother Lexie Fraser came from. I immediately realised that Lexie had named my father after his father. My search had ended. My father had passed away 30 years earlier and this chance discovery of two head stones in the Forbes Cemetery had uncovered a past that had not been in the open for eighty years.

REUBEN BARBE about 1915

REUBEN BARBE FRASER about 1942

The line of descendants to my father’s father looks like this:

ELIZABETH (SARAH) MITCHELL (1/02) born about 1770 in England married 20/2/1805 at PARRAMATTA to EDWARD FIELD died 24/6/1837 at CASTLEREAGH “aged 67” children: (by JAMES WILSON) SARAH,

SARAH MITCHELL (1/87) (see footnote) born 19/5/1792 at PARRAMATTA married 24/6/1807 at PARRAMATTA to JAMES MORRIS died 9/8/1876 at MT YORK aged 84 parents: JAMES WILSON and ELIZABETH (SARAH) MITCHELL children: ELIZABETH, PHOEBE, SOPHIA, JAMES, THOMAS, WILLIAM, ANNE, JANE, JOAN, JOHN, WILLIAM JOSEPH, CLARA, GRANT, GEORGE, EDWARD

ANNE MORRIS (1/95) born 29/12/1821 at PENRITH married 17/9/1838 at CASTLEREAGH to WILLIAM HENRY PEACOCK died 15/5/1853 aged 31 parents: JAMES MORRIS and SARAH MORRIS (nee MITCHELL)

MARY JANE PEACOCK (3/95.3) born 1/12/1844 at HARTLEY married 1863 at FORBES to JOHN BEATSON partnered to EDWARD FRANCOIS BARBE died 30/10/1905 at BOGABAGIL aged 60 parents: WILLIAM HENRY PEACOCK and ANNE PEACOCK (nee MORRIS)

The family of MARY JANE BEATSON and EDWARD FRANCOIS BARBE

WILLIAM BARBE (4/95.3/4) born 30/10/1873 at GRUDGERY married 21/7/1896 at FORBES to CATHERINE VICTORIA STANLEY died 10/10/1941 at FORBES aged 67 parents: EDWARD FRANCOIS BARBE and MARY JANE BEATSON (nee PEACOCK)

The family of WILLIAM BARBE and CATHERINE VICTORIA BARBE

REUBEN WILLIAM BARBE (5/95.3/4.1) born 1896 at FORBES married 1921 to ETHEL E PEASLEY parents: WILLIAM BARBE and CATHERINE VICTORIA BARBE

External Third Party evidence

* Reuben used the names , Reuben , William, Billy,  Reuben James

*Mrs Ellen Fraser also known as Helen Fraser

HEADING WEST – PART TEN – FOR ME THE JOURNEY IS AT AN END

27th April 2010

A small cool agreeable breeze greets me upon my visit to the Woronora Cemetery in Sydney where my parents are resting. The sound of the whispering wind in the trees could well be the collective spirits of all those ancestors I have briefly brought back to life during my journey of discovery. That journey is now over.

It is just over five years since my “accidental” discovery of the Barbe headstones in the Forbes Cemetery. I’ve been back to Forbes and Bedgerabong three or four times since then my most recent journey, with my sister Sandra, being two weeks ago.

I uncovered past lives, past joys, past sufferings and past relationships that will not go unremembered. I’ve discovered that when looking back, history more than not will judge you kindly. All those that went before us did the best they could under the circumstances they found themselves in and I hope that generations in the future will view the mistakes that I have made with kind eyes.

Some say Reuben William Barbe was a philanderer, some call him the fence jumper others say he could be charming and still others will remember the hurt they felt when he left and for some , the parting is all they know.

All I can say is that without him I would not be here. My father would not have been born and I would not have known the two beautiful children I have, so perhaps the gift of a chance to live is the best gift anyone can give. My father was a kind, generous and loving man and it’s a shame Reuben Barbe did not witness his life.

During my last journey to Bedgerabong I took a small piece of wood from the original home of William and Harriet Hodges my father’s Great Great Grandparents on his mother’s side and today I have placed it upon my father’s grave at Woronora Cemetery.

My dad knew of his sister Yvonne and so thought he was one of two, –  family history now shows that he was perhaps one of twenty, but to my sister and I our father, Reuben Barbe Fraser, will always be one in a million. I am moved to ask myself:

“Can time really separate us when you are still in my heart and my mind?”

Thanks DAD, Thanks MUM.

   

                     

26 thoughts on “HISTORY

  1. Hi Sean,
    What a great history and an excellent way of presenting it. It is interesting that a lot of people who travelled out West of Sydney would have gone through Hartley.

    Your people kept going out strait ahead further out West while my family (on my mothers side) turned right and went to Capertee and settled at “Bandanora” property. Their name is Corlis.

    I am still in Brisbane and actually living next door to the Fachin Units. Doing a lot of work (volunteer) with St Vincent de Paul – was former State President a couple of years ago and doing well

    Great to catch up on your blog
    Cheers John Campbell

  2. “Who are you father of my father?”

    These words touched me deeply. I do not know the identities of either of my Grandfathers. It does make me feel rather sad at times…..only I have no children so will not need to explain this loss of history.

    My mother and grandmother left India after the fall of the Raj and settled in Forbes NSW where my mother met my father. She fell pregnant and they came to Sydney to be married.

    My father is from a large family….9 children. I have discovered that the man whom I believed was my grandfather died before the youngest 3 children including my father were born, It is not some thing that I can ask my fsther about…… he either does not know or is unwilling to talk about.

    So I am on the same journey that you have been on…..to find my family.

    I have not mentioned names as not to embarrass or cause pain to anyone.
    If possible I would like to get in touch with you for advice.

    Thanks so much for sharing you quest.

    Best regards,

    Joseph.

    • Hi Sean, It’s been two years since I wrote my last message. I reread your journey and I must say that I enjoyed you story again just as much as the first time.

      My name is Joseph Field; My Grandmother was Easter Mary McMahon married to Edward Owen Field his parents were JOSIAH FIELD and SARAH FIELD (nee MORRIS).
      All of my research shows that Easter Mary had six children born in Bedgerebong.
      JOHN JOSIAH EDWIN FIELD
      PIERCE LESLIE FIELD
      OWEN ROBERT FIELD
      WILLIAM ARTHUR FIELD
      ORTON JOSEPH FIELD
      ALLEN HENRY FIELD
      I know for a fact that she had nine children as one of the other three is my father.
      My mother has always maintained that these three are Hodges. So if this is true I am a Hodges.
      From what I have researched Edward Owen Field died before my father was born.
      As I wrote in my previous message my father avoids the topic and I am unwilling to pressure him about it.
      So the journey goes on.
      Thanks and all the best,
      Joe.

  3. What a wonderful walk through your family history – fascinating and easy to follow. Great to be able you to add in between spaces of my own Dein family tree. Many thanks to Gary Long.

  4. What a great read. I was so excited to see some of the photos. My great great great grandparents were also William and Harriotte on my mothers side. Elizabeth Anne there daughter was my Great Great grandmother. Have just started family tree on that side after just been to Forbes unfortunatley missed going to Grudgery. Maybe next time. Regard Leonie Bullock

  5. What an excellent read and wonderful photos. I am sister to Leonie Bullock so I am also connected to you via Willam and Harriet. We drove past the homestead in the photos not knowing about it. Can’t wait for a repeat visit. Thank you for bringing life to our history for me.
    Regards
    Cheryl Daniel

  6. I also enjoyed your travels and especially the parts about William and Harriet Hodges, they being our Great Great Great Grand Parents. I think you may guest by now that I am the older brother of Leonie and Cheryl, my name being Russell Davidson. Our connection is through Elizabeth Ann who married George Ablett in Grudgery on the 4th of July 1887. Their second child born was Frederick Ablett who is our Great Grand Father who we knew simpley as Parr then Ella Ruby born to Parr and Charlotte Young also of Forbes then Eunice born to Ella Ruby and Victor Kessey in Sydney then as fate would have it along came Russell Patrick and Cheryl Lynette with Leonie Bronwyn coming along in 1955 to Eunice and Bernard Francis Davidson. All born at King George Hospital at Camperdown.
    The main reason for my email is that as the girls mentioned about Bedgerabong trip we fail to call at Grudgery private cementery where I think there are several more of our family interred there (hopefully with headstones) included among same, some Abletts and I was wondering, more hoping that you took a lot more photos at Grudgery then that of just William and Harriet Hodges. If this so we would love to get a copy of same. As I live in Brisbane it would be extremely difficult to get back there being, if I remember correctly over a thousand kilometers there and the same back. A very long trek!

  7. Such an interesting story and it touched me deeply. I have been trying to track down another family who lived in the Hartley district and stumbled on your blog. I’m glad you solved the mystery of who your grandfather was.

  8. I, too, stumbled across the blog while searching In my case it was for one of the Hodges who married into the Stanley family. William and Harriet Hodges were my great grand parents as well. Thanks for making it so real.

  9. What a great story. Have just begun the exploration of my family tree. Elizabeth Mitchell and Edward Field are my great ,great,great,great grandparents on my mum’ s side. Colin Field’s book , ” From a distant field” has been of great assistance.

  10. I have read your journey a thousand times. I am both fascinated and confused. I know I have spoken to you before but there still remains unanswered questions for me. It seems no one ca give me answers but I am now believing my grandfather is your grandfather Reuben William Barbe. I was told it was William Barbe but he would have been 63 when he fathered my father.
    My father was bought up in a family of 11 and apparently the last 4 children he included were fathered by Either William or Reubin father or son? Either way we are related.
    I guess my journey has to end as answers are not coming and like you said Reubin was known as a philanderer and had many children. I think my father was one of them. I don’t know why it eats me up so much but I feel like I have to finalise it for my father as he never knew his dad only to know he passed away when he was very young. It was all shrouded in secrecy and that’s how it was in those days.
    Since my father died and I was given a letter from him telling me to go find the rest of my family it has consumed me a little on and off. I stumbled across your story a few years ago and I joined together the pictures I had with the pictures on your site.
    I pop in sometimes to see what you have been doing in your blogs and just wonder.
    Tracey Elliott…..Barbe
    I have never married so still carry the Fake name of Elliott. I know I am a barbe

  11. My best google find of the year. Elizabeth Mitchell was my 5th Great Grandmother and James and Sarah Morris my 4th Great Grandparents.Love the photography keep it up I will be a follower.

  12. Such a cool way of tracing their steps, bringing them to life and still having the wonderings about the odds of you being born… I thoroughly enjoyed this journey.

  13. Hi Sean
    I’m a writer and came across your site while researching the Forbes area for my third novel, which is set around the Central West. My great-grandfather on my mum’s side was Colin Fraser, son of Ellen (Helen?) and William Simon Fraser. He died before I was born and I have only ever seen a photo of him as an adult. So it was great to see that old photo of him as a child and also the one of his parents. As an adult he looked a lot like William, very tall and big and dark. We have very sketchy information about our family history all told but I know we have Hodges in our direct background and that my mother Isabelle Fraser grew up on a farm near Bedgerabong with her father Colin Fraser during the Depression. We have descendants still farming there, at Bogan Gate (“Caraboblin”) and in Forbes. Link here to some other Frasers – Colin married Alice Maud Fitzgerald, my grandmother, who was descended from the Gaggin family and John Brabyn. http://boards.ancestry.com/topics.cemetery.australia.australia/633.3.1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1/mb.ashx
    Cheers, nice to meet a lost relation…!
    Kate Lyons

  14. My son stumbled across your site and passed it on to me. William and Harriet are my great grandparents, my father Arthur (born 1903) was one of nine children of Richard William George Hodges and his wife Jane (Constable) who settled at ‘Harrietvale’, a property between Bedgerabong and Bogan Gate where their descendants still farm today. The names you mention are all part of the web of relationships that my dad spoke of frequently and I recall him talking of Lexie, who was his cousin. My father died in 1998 at 95, still with an extraordinary stock of memories of his aunts, uncles and cousins and anecdotes of those early days. We visited ‘Wyagdon’ 20 or so years ago and the owner showed us where the old Hodges home once stood, with a fig tree still growing next to it. I have one of the hand made bricks from there sitting in my bookcase today.

  15. Hi Sean,
    Great to hear your story and to see that we are related! My great grandfather is also William Barbe. My grandfather is Reginald Barbe, William Barbe’s 5th child of 10 (your grandad, Rueban William, being the first child). My dad is Neil Barbe. My father was born in Bedgerebong and moved to Oatley as a teenager. I guess your dad and he were 1st cousins. We were brought up in Engadine, but I have lived in London since 1987!
    My dad is now almost 87 having been born in 1928. Be really good to hear from you.

  16. Hi
    My Name is Glenn Constable
    I live in Bedgerabong
    I am a Constable decedent
    I am tracing history of the Bedgerabong area
    I believe the old house pictured was named Ki-ora and Walwane that was the Fraser Property and the Hodges Property was where the Pub was at Grudgery
    It is also believed that William Fraser was Buried at the back of the house when he was killed in the accident and some years later his remains were moved to the cemetery at Bedgerabong
    According to Parish maps after William Fraser Died Helen Fraser owned a Property on the edge of Bedgerabong up Noakes Road.

    Thanks Glenn

  17. Hi Sean
    What a great story. I hope one day to a very similar trip to your journey of discovery as I too am a direct descendant of Edward and Elizabeth of Castlereagh down my Fathers fathers fathers fathers fathers farthers fathers line. I have only been researching about a month or so and its ironic I grew up approx 5 klms from Edwards original land grant at Castlereagh and the graveyard and had NO IDEA that the roots of my family tree went from Castlereagh to Forbes and back. I am sure I will find your site valuable in my search to piece it all together before my trip back into history…….. Thanks……. Craig Edward Field

  18. Annette Piercy on behalf of Brian Piercy.
    What a colourful way of tracing back your history and so glad you found so many answers. Brian is the Grandson of Edward James Piercy and Emma Mildred Hodges. He visited and spent holidays with his Uncles (Malcolm-Mac,Charlie,& Ralph ) at Bedgerebong during school holidays in the 1940’s and cannot find out who took care of the four sons of Emma Mildred after her early death in 1911. He is also curious about who owned which house as he remembers the Frasers only after going to Manly. He thought originally it may have been Alice Fraser or her mother in law Helen Hodges who cared for the children as their father Edward James Piercy left the district for the Shoalhaven a few years later. Would appreciate any light shed on this.
    Regards A & B Piercy

  19. hello hope you can help .. my great great mother was Theresa Field who married jack mehan…. i know she was forbes……..

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