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   Land Please
   I have a dream
   The Licence

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   Reality sets in

   Port Henry
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   Skilly Creek


The Trial

Skilly Creek
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   Single Life
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   Loss of Land

Land Claim
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   At One


   Adams' Letters


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1860 Report
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Tom & Tim

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Chapter 13 ~ The Land Grant

Land Please    Lodgement    I have a dream    Opposition    Processing    Approval    The Licence    Notification    Scams    Footnotes   

Land Please

Due to his close professional relationship with Kudnarto, Moorhouse may have advised the Adams of the ready availability of land sections for Aboriginal people to inaugurate farming activities. That would account for both the knowledge of the system and speed at which Adams acted subsequent to his marriage to Kudnarto. According to Moorhouse, the Aboriginality of Kudnarto was the guarantee for their access to the land. [1] While it would take some time for the selection licence to be granted to Adams, they were not estopped from actually carrying on any activities upon the land until such time as the grant was given.

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Adams did not wait very long before lodging an application on behalf of Kudnarto. Not more than 10 days had elapsed after their marriage when on 6 February 1848 the couple made application to Moorhouse to obtain a Native Reserve land for farming. [2]

His application came from "Seymers flat", or Seymours Flat, so named after Hawker's wife Elizabeth Seymour, which dominated the particular area around Bungaree, leads to the conclusion that from the time of the Adams' marriage in Adelaide and the writing of the letter, they had already reached Penwortham. Added to this, prior to arriving at Seymours Flat, he says: "i went hup skilorgyre creek", indicating that he had already spent some time surveying the prevailing conditions around Skillogolee Creek "And Luked At That section of Land" which shows that Moorhouse has already suggested a possible site for Adams to settle. It appears that a land grant of a selection was "wot was promesed" by Moorhouse prior to Adams and Kudnarto leaving Adelaide. At this stage, it appears that the land was to be placed in the name of Adams for he was contemplating the problems of succession when he passed away. He says that any improvements he made "wold be All for govement when i die" indicating that he felt that anything he did would not be passed on to his children. Since the residence of Kudnarto was not implied in this statement, discussions with Moorhouse upon the terms of the selection were that the land would be placed in the hands of Adams for the duration of his life. Adams wanted the land and here was his chance of getting a parcel of 80 acres of prime farming land for free. In addition, he might also receive assistance in working the land. This deal was too good to miss but it was also something he wanted to pass on to his children.

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I have a dream

Looking at the land Adams got very excited and could see its potential. A person raised in a rural environment such as Adams was able to realise the value of the land he had seen. Adams states that he finds the land very fertile and promising for cultivating various vegetable crops when he writes: "And i Thing it wold do verey well As There is plenty of good water And plenty of good Land for culteneshen". Coupled with the rich soil and a permenant water source, half the property was level which allowed for good crop cultivation. It was everything he required to establish himself as a farmer.

Adams could visualise in his own mind the potential of the selected land. When he says "But supose i was To put hup A good house on it And Make A good garden", he is wistfully contemplating the future vista which he hopes to build. Upon the land he sees himself erecting an idyllic cottage where he can live with Kudnarto. Surrounding the cottage would be a pretty garden containing a mixture of vegetables and pretty flowers.

On a more practical level, Adams attempts to explore the different avenues of business he can participate in to ensure that there is sufficient cash flow. He speculates as to whether he should purchase some cattle or sheep when he says: "But soispose i was To get sum cattel, pepel wold com Right hup To The section with sheep". Already understanding the nature of the area, he recognises that people will be moving sheep by his property and thus they would be easier and cheaper to buy. The problem of which to purchase poses a quandary to him.

In detailing his dreams, Adams does understand that regardless of which species he chooses to raise, he required extensive fencing to ensure that the animals wouldn't stray. Since he didn't have the cash to pay for this enterprise, and he needed a bullock dray to assist him to move his fencing materials, he required assistance from the government to lend him one. However, Adams already seems to know the answer which indicates that he had already broached the subject with Moorhouse before, possibly in their preliminary discussions. He understands that: "And my Not A Loue Me Bullakes To fence it in At wonce And culoutnet it" which places him in a serious situation. He needs to have a dray to fence the property before commencing any cultivation of the land but he cannot afford a dray which means he cannot afford to fence the property which thus makes putting in a garden precarious due to the sheep which are free to roam.

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At this particular point in time, even though being promised this land should he desire it, Adams met with stiff opposition from the local people already farming in the vicinity of the land. Squatters were in the area with their flocks of sheep. One squatter, "Mr Hayden is got sheep There". Hayden's sheep used the area of the selection to run his sheep. Consequently, he became very hostile to any intimation that an interloper like Adams, a person married to a lubra, should have any proprietary claims over his run. Hayden would certainly look askance at such a proposition and request proper documentation to establish the claim: "And he will Not A Low Me To go There with out A wreten A oder from you or goverement". This he requested from Adams who was incapable of producing any evidence relating to his alleged claim. When this happened Adams realised that he needed something more firm that just the goodwill of Moorhouse. He needed written evidence of his claim and "if you can get it for Me i hope you will As soon As possebel" since he needed to quickly overcome Hayden's objections. And just to ensure that Moorhouse got the message, he repeated his entreaty to Moorhouse when he said: "And if you doe Aney Thing i hope you wold Luke To that And plese To have The kindness To send Me the petkilers As soon As possebel".

Since Adams had a very well known alcohol problem, he hoped that his reform subsequent to marrying Kudnarto would hold him in good stead. His conversion to abstemiousness was highlighted to positively sway Moorhouse in his favour. In the confession of a true alcoholic, he writes: "you Need Not Thing That i shall drink Aney More for i have seen My foley in that And it is All over". He hoped that Moorhouse would buy that line and forgive his past.

To ensure that he received a reply from Moorhouse, Adams gives him the address of the house where he was staying at Penwortham when he states: "And ples To drecket To penwortham velege Thos Adamas At Mr Jones". At this stage, even though he was out working for Hawker as a shepherd, his mail would at least arrive at a settled location. [3]

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Upon receiving the letter Moorhouse examined its contents. He viewed the claims of Adams with a great deal of scepticism. However, Moorhouse passed the application on to the Colonial Secretary with a great deal of enthusiasm. [4] His enthusiasm was more for Kudnarto rather than Adams. He always speaks highly of Kudnarto while he rarely refers to Adams in any other terms than with disdain. Moorhouse made recommendation that the Governor should consider this application very favourably.

While Moorhouse was keen to promote the application for land by Kudnarto, he had severe reservations about Adams. He was adamant that title to the land remain with the government and held by Moorhouse in trust for the Adams family. Moorhouse expressed his disdain for the motives of Adams and ties any settlement to protect Kudnarto from Adams' previously acknowledged drinking problem. Even though Adams has firmly stated that he has renounced the demon drink, Moorhouse seems to think otherwise and believe that this repentance was more provoked by the possibility of a land grant rather than a definite renunciation of a lifetime habit. The timing was far too coincidental for Moorhouse to conclude anything else. In his letter to the Colonial Secretary, Moorhouse spells out his reservations when he says:

"There might be legal difficulties in granting her a lease, but even if there were none, I think it would not be desirable, as Adams might possibly sub-let the property and spend the proceeds." [5]

In accordance with his strict humanitarian views, Moorhouse was keen to see a change in the Aboriginal economic production by using role models to pave the way. The Adams were excellent role models and consequently Moorhouse was keen to promote them. Also with an eye to the future, Moorhouse wanted to see the children of these associations become well acquainted with the life on the farm.

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On 26 May 1848, Moorhouse received a reply from the Colonial Secretary approving of the application for land by the Adams family. [6] Added to this letter was a Licence drawn up by Governor Robe which granted Kudnarto the legal right to occupy Section 346 at Skillogolee Creek and a further right to carry on any commercial and agricultural activities.

Although the land remained in trust with the Protector of Aborigines, the Licence gave Kudnarto full and free usage of the land on the condition that she in reality resided upon the land. Furthermore, Kudnarto was not entitled to sub-let the land for any purpose nor was she allowed to assign the land by way of mortgage or other instrument to any other person. Finally, among the conditions was the good behaviour bond. It made their behaviour as citizens a condition for continued occupation of the land. Thus neither she nor her husband was allowed to be convicted for any criminal offence. Should she fulfil these conditions, Kudnarto and her family and descendants were allowed to remain upon the land in perpetuity.

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The Licence

The License received assent on 24 May 1848. [7] The Chief Secretary then transmitted all the relevant documentation to the Native School Establishment for safe keeping by Moorhouse. Following the receiving of the licence, Moorhouse sent a letter to the Adams family informing them about the availability of the selection on 30 May 1848.

"I have to inform you that the Lieutenant Governor has granted permission to your wife Mary Adams to occupy the Section numbered 346 on Skylogolee Creek for and during the term of her natural life with full power to clear, enclose and cultivate the said Section. It is distinctly stated however that your wife will have to settle and continue actually to reside upon the Section and will not be permitted to assign or underlet it." [8]

He also indicated that the Licence was being held by him for safe keeping. If either Thomas or Kudnarto wished to view the document, the were entitled to do so if they saw Moorhouse personally.

"The Lieutenant Governor's authority to me will be kept in my office and may be seen by you whenever you wish." [9]

Finally, Moorhouse dealt with the issues relating other owners using the reserve to graze their sheep. Since Adams needed authority from the government to expel trespassers, Moorhouse spoke to the landowners and secured the integrity of the property. Moorhouse passed this news on by saying:

I have seen Mr Cakden and he informs me that his station is not upon the native reserve section. [10]

In view of the speed of the mails, Adams would have received this notification a few days later.

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When the Adams family received their notification, their hearts would have beat with the excitement of a new adventure. All the dreams that they had worked for would now unfold before their eyes. They had their own land and success would come through the sweat of their brow. Only a couple much in love who believe the future is rosy would embark upon an adventure so ill equipt as they were at that moment.

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This licence granted to Kudnarto set a precedent as a method for unscrupulous white landless men to attempt to gain land through marriage to an Aboriginal woman. After the marriage of Adams and Kudnarto, a further two white men followed their lead and married Aboriginal women. Each couple also received land from the bank of Native Reserve lands. One of these was a friend of the Adams family, George Murray and the other was George Solomon who married Rathoola at Rapid Bay.

However, always on the alert to a scam, Moorhouse became concerned at the growing trend. Over the months after the marriage of the Adams family, Moorhouse had received several enquiries by interested people wanting to gain access to land through marriage to an Aboriginal woman. When the school master from Myponga, Mr Fred August Struve requested land without even performing the perfunctory ceremony of marriage, Moorhouse saw red. In anger, Moorhouse wrote to Struve in an effort to disabuse him of any illusions that the mere presence of an Aboriginal woman in his life would be tantamount to getting a land grant. He writes:

I have no authority to marry any girl contrary to her wish. Two Europeans have married native girls, [11] but in both instances, the girls expressed an attachment to their respective husbands. It is usual for the government to grant a section of land to the girl when married but the land is never intended to become the absolute property of the husband.

If you really wish to carry out your views, it will be necessary for you to gain the affections of a girl and when this is done bring her up to town and the affair will be settled. [12]

These letters and exhortations seemed to have the desired effect for there appeared to be no further requests for land received by Moorhouse subsequent to that of Struve. When the reality of the proposition sank in, the aimless men who sought to gain land the easy way soon realised that this was not the boon it promised to be. Thus they ceased to use marriage as a way of gaining land.

In relation to the Adams family, they were divorced from the desires of others to follow their lead. The reality of life pressed firmly upon them as they packed their belongings and moved to their selection. It is unknown as to whether Adams gave up working as a shepherd or continued to do so while getting the property established. It appears that initially Adams did indeed cease working as a shepherd and dedicate himself to establishing the Adams family farm. This was no easy task.

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1. Letter dated 15 February 1848, GRG 24/6 A (1848) 196, "With the present applicant Thos. Adams I have nothing to do but wish only to represent his wife who is an Aboriginal native of the province."  Return to text

2. Letter dated 15 February 1848, GRG 24/6, A (1848) 196.  Return to text

3. Letter dated 15 February 1848, GRG 24/6, A (1848) 196.  Return to text

4. Letter dated 15 February 1848, GRG 52/7/1, pp. 209 - 210.  Return to text

5. Letter dated 15 February 1848, GRG 24/6 A (1848) 196.  Return to text

6. Letter dated 26 May 1848, GRG 24/4, A (1855) 1633.  Return to text

7. Letter dated 26 May 1848, GRG 24/4, A (1855) 1633.  Return to text

8. Letter dated 30 May 1848, GRG 52/7/1, p. 214.  Return to text

9. Letter dated 30 May 1848, GRG 52/7/1, p. 214.  Return to text

10. Letter dated 30 May 1848, GRG 52/7/1, p. 214.  Return to text

11. At the time of this letter, the two men referred to were Thomas Adams and George Murray.  Return to text

12. Letter dated 6 December 1849, GRG 52/7/1, p. 250.  Return to text


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Section 346
Skillogolee Creek
The house that Thomas Adams built
Skillogolee Creek
The first letter of Thomas Adams from
Skillogolee Creek