FOOTSTEPS BY THE WATER
The Wade Family of Herons Creek
Joyce Robertson and Ettie Bulley talk to Ettie Doolan
Henry and Susanna Wade came from Myall Lakes to Herons Creek, over 150 years ago, to look for an ideal place to settle. With five children they hacked their way over mountains and bushland, the journey by horse and cart taking six gruelling weeks. Formerly a minister in Sydney, Henry had left the city hoping for better opportunities in the country. At Myall Lakes he found unpaid work on a farm with good food and a barn to sleep in. The farmer had three pretty daughters. Henry fell in love with the youngest, Susanna. Their courtship resembled the biblical romance of Jacob and Rachel. Offering to work for one year without pay if he could then marry Susanna, Henry was refused. Susanna should not wed before her older sisters, her father declared. He was unwilling to lose his best helper but he compromised by agreeing that after two years Henry could marry Susanna. However some years passed before he could continue his search for an ideal home site.
Six weeks after leaving Myall Lakes, Henry and Susanna stood entranced as they came in sight of Herons Creek. Flowering native trees coloured the gentle slopes to a lush valley. Rivers and creeks were alive with water birds while others whistled and called from gum trees. They knelt where they stood, thanking God for leading them to their Garden of Eden.
Sleeping under a tarpaulin slung between trees, they worked hard cutting timber for a slab and bark-roofed home. Meals were cooked on open fires, bread baked in a camp oven. They bathed in barrels half filled with creek water. Caring for animals and fishing for bream and mullet, they explored the valley for a suitable building site. Taking up a selection at what later became Box Creek they erected their house. Pens were necessary to keep away foxes from stock. Crops were sown and a well, still existing, was dug to supply spring water.
More settlers arrived at Herons Creek. A barge brought supplies from Laurieton and took back farm produce for sale. Another family settled on land now the junction of the Pacific Highway and the road to the township. This family was Charles Laws, a timber cutter, and his wife Florence, a midwife, and their large family. Florence walked or rode to Kendall, Kew, Logans Crossing and Laurieton to attend patients. Always ready to help others she stayed up to nine days minding children, doing housework anfl "caring for mothers and babies. She took her childriii to Lake Cathie for holidays, walking along bush paths.
Charles Laws and Henry Wade built an eighteen foot long wooden boat. With nets made of string, and steeped with ti-tree bark for extra strength, they rowed to Queen's Lake where they fished for bream and mullet for sale in Laurieton. Their children enjoyed fishing and swimming together.
Charlie Wade, youngest son of Henry and Susanna, admired Florence Laws and often accompanied her on long walks. Her energy and kindness delighted the handsome young man.
Charles Laws died suddenly leaving Florence with eight children including a baby. His gravestone is in the old cemetery at Herons Creek along with other Wade and Laws graves.
Henry Wade built a slab hall on his land. Here the small community met for dances, concerts and social gatherings. Henry played the piano, another farmer the accordion. Anyone with musical ability participated.
Prior to his marriage to Florence Laws, Charlie Wade had an accident while cutting timber. His life was saved by his mother Susanna who took him to Wauchope by horse and cart, but his foot was severed. Against the advice of his parents Charlie courted widow Florence and they were married at Laurieton. On Henry's property and with his father's help, Charlie built a slab house for his new family. It had two rooms and a tin fireplace, a stove with an oven and a chimney. Additions were built later and a well dug to supply fresh water.
Florence's third youngest son, Clarrie, went to Rollands Plains at ten years old to work on Avery's farm. Meanwhile Charlie and Florence had a daughter, Enid. On leaving home Clarrie promised his adored little stepsister, "I'll save up and buy you the biggest doll I can find", and he did. Enid kept that celluloid doll most of her life.
Charlie's other stepsons helped him grow vegetables that they carted to Wauchope and elsewhere for sale. Florence also made butter, jam and handcrafts. Every penny was needed.
With little more than a bedroll, a shovel and a tin of sardines, the older boys left tearful families to find work elsewhere. Nature was not always kind in their Garden of Eden. Following hot, dry summers burning off operations could blow out of control. Then only a wind change could save life and property.
Two of Florence's brothers served in World War I. Sam was killed in action and Eamie returned with injuries so severe they affected his remaining years.
An Aboriginal man, nicknamed 'Nugget', sometimes did odd jobs. Though he'd seldom speak, the bare-footed youngsters followed him to bush and creek and learnt much of nature's diversity through his eyes.
When heavy rain caused flooding one low-lying farm was inundated. With little to spare for themselves the settlers gave shelter, food and clothing to the distressed family. Many crops were ruined but life and work continued.
Florence's daughter, also called Florence, bought property at Herons Creek between the school and the old bridge. Whenever possible children returned to renew ties with people and places dear to them.
Source: "People of the Two Rivers: Hastings-Camden Haven" by "Hastings Writers Group"
FOOTSTEPS BY THE WATER