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Skilly Creek
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Tom & Tim

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Chapter 18 ~ Back to Skilly Creek

Money Problems    Leasing    Tim    Eviction    Problems    Separation    Sharefarming    Footnotes   

Money Problems

The holiday in Adelaide cost them a great deal. Even though they applied for reimbursement from the government for the expenses of being witnesses to Yates’ trial, their application was turned down. After the trial, Kudnarto and Adams returned back to Skillogolee Creek.

Despite the thrilling interlude of Yates’ trial, little changed at Skillogolee Creek. Poverty still plagued the Adams family. Things appear to have become extremely desperate with the family finances. Little evidence exists of any crops being grown upon the land. The main activity undertaken by the Adams was sheep rearing. It also appears that few, if any, improvements had been made to the land.

In pursuit of this desire and to overcome the family finance crisis, Adams was moved to write to Moorhouse on the 17 th January 1851. The He felt that he could raise funds through renting out his land. This was specifically prohibited for Moorhouse believed that Adams was a drunk and would invest the proceeds in the nearest hotel. Thus when Adams request permission to lease out the property, the reply of Moorhouse details the nature of the request on 30 January 1851 [1] when he replied:

In reply to your letter of the 17 th January requiring permission to let your section and select a spot on unsurveyed ground upon which to settle with your wife I have to state that your application has been laid before His Excellency and His Excellency cannot grant your request.

Two issues clearly stand out in Moorhouse’s response. Firstly, Adams makes no mention of the loss of property that he so feared in his earlier correspondence when inquiring about his position should his wife die. At this point in time, Adams displays no great attachment to his property. He makes it well known to Moorhouse that he is ready to relocate his family to another property. The readiness of Adams to move without any hint of problem tends to indicate that the investment by Adams upon the land was little.

While this letter is a restatement of Adams' application, Moorhouse is a scrupulous interpreter of Adams intentions. He fears the consequences of allowing Adams to gain income without any labour. The purpose of the land was to provide the Aboriginal people with the opportunity to settle upon them. They were not seen as free gifts from the government for opportunistic shepherds. By leasing out this section Adams would be able to reap a rental which would provide him with an income stream. In 1848, Moorhouse already suspected this desire and in his letter to the Governor about the application of Adams, specifically sought to disallow any ability to sublet the land [2] as part of the licence to Kudnarto. [3]

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Never one to accept a decision, Adams sought to obtain a lease through subterfuge. Later on that year, Adams suggested that his friend, George Thomas Green, of Penwortham, write to Moorhouse about subletting some land from Adams. Green agreed and sent an application to lease a portion of Kudnarto's land to Moorhouse. [4]Through bureaucratic ineptitude, in this case, the letter was mislaid, it took over half a year to respond to Green's request. In his response, Moorhouse iterated the conditions under which the land was made available to Kudnarto and denied the request. [5] This was the last known request made to Moorhouse.

The restriction on leasing out the property did not prevent Adams from eventually renting sections of it out to others. However, when he did so, he failed to contact Moorhouse. Consequently, it is unknown how long Adams leased out his land. It is known that the land was already rented without the permission of Moorhouse when Kudnarto died.

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Next year, Kudnarto became pregnant again and gave birth to her second son Tim on 11 October 1852. While there was a three year gap between the two sons, one can only speculate if she miscarried some children, either induced or otherwise. It was not unknown for Aboriginal women to destroy children during lean times or when a male child was still suckling. [6] Usually a child continued to be breast fed until they reached the age of up to six years. Due to their traditional migratory nature, a woman was incapable of looking after two children who were still suckling. In the dire straights of poverty experienced by the Adams family coupled with traditional Kaurna population control techniques, it is not improbable that she may have destroyed a child during this period, especially if it was a female child. [7] It was a practice generally confined to younger women. [8] Neither parent would have raised the issue or reported the death. Instead, with the assistance of nearby Kaurna women Kudnarto especially would have participated the concealment. Maybe this situation was the cause of an implied estrangement that occurred after the birth of Tim.

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Some four months after the birth of Tim there is a strong indication that the relationship between Kudnarto and Adams faced severe problems. Furthermore, the continuous stream of bullock drays seems to have taken their toll. In 1853, Adams was ordered by the Commissioner of Crown Lands to leave Murray 's Section. A report by a disgruntled sheep station owner set in course some correspondence which is revealing as to the basis of the problem. Unfortunately the complaint is unable to be found so the person who initiated the complaint is unknown. It could only be through the report of by this sheep stationer to the Commissioner of Crown Lands that led to the subsequent eviction notice of 26 March 1853 when Charles Bonney wrote to him saying:

Having been informed that you are occupying an Aboriginal reserve, Section No. 3055, without any authority for so doing, I hereby give you notice that if you are found in occupation of the said section after the expiration of one month from this date, and cannot shew proper authority for such occupation, proceedings will be taken against you to compel you to quit the said section and to recover the penalties which you have incurred by trespassing on the crown lands." [9]

The reason for the Commissioner of Crown Lands involving himself in this domestic matter arose from a change in land ownership of the Native Reserves. The consequence resulted in the Commissioner for Crown Lands becoming the sole proprietor of all native lands. In 1849, the Governor ordered that all Aboriginal lands be transferred from the Protector of Aborigines' aegis to that of the Commissioner of Crown Lands. This transfer was effected by order of the Governor on 4 July 1849. [10]

The eviction order incensed Adams. He had discussed the matter with Moorhouse in the previous year. They had come to a verbal agreement that after the birth of their next child, Adams should move his family temporarily to the land that was formerly set aside for George Murray, Adams’ friend. Feeling persecuted and at the receiving end of an injustice, Adams felt that he needed to place his case before Charles Bonney and give his reasons for occupying the land. To this end, Adams sent a letter on 31 March 1853. [11] In it he first wrote:

I received your letter dated 26th instant informing me to quit the Aboriginal Section No. 3055.

Adams here identifies the property in question. This property lies some three kilometres north west of the Adams family lot. Its location is off the main travel routes and thus very quiet. The land lent itself for sheep herding rather than cultivation. As such, it was a very suitable site for Adams to retreat from the constant flow of traffic that passed his property.

He then details his arrangements with Moorhouse prior to the family’s move.

Without proper authoritiy I did not know any land that the government reserved for the benefit of the natives was Crown Land therefor. I thought that Mr Moorhouse had the management of it and when Mr Moorhouse was this way just last winter he gave me leave to go and live on it and though that I have bound myself down until next spring.

His anger is genuine. The visit of Moorhouse to his property in the winter of 1852 had a lot to do with Adams’ ongoing problems. At this meeting, the problems of the bullock drays on the Gulf Road were given full dimension. Adams believed that Moorhouse finally understood his family’s problems as a consequence of this great movement of traffic. Part of their discussions was the agreement to allow Adams to move to Section 3055 for at least a year. It is clear that Adams did not understand the implications of the transfer of authority over the Aboriginal reserves from Moorhouse to Bonney. He thought that his discussions with Moorhouse was all that was required to effect the temporary transfer. His letter states that he anticipated remaining on that site until spring of that year.

From this confusion, he informs Bonney as to the reason for his move.

Sir I beg to say that I have nothing to do with any land only for the benefit of my wife which she can speak for herself and it was her wish to go and live there an time out of the way of the drays and bullocks on the Gulff Road.

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There are three key issues raised by Adams which give a clue to the problems faced by him in trying to eke out a living. The first issue relates specifically to the problem that the bullockies caused Kudnarto. The traffic of drays alone would not have been sufficient to cause anxiety within Kudnarto. An average of sixteen drays passed their property every day. The weather would have influenced the number of drays at any one time. When it rained heavily, there was little possibility for movement. Thus the number of days available for drays to move would have been about 200 per year. This meant that the average number would have been about twenty-four per day.

Port Henry Arms was a popular stopping point for the bullockies on their way to either Port Wakefield or Burra. While the drays themselves would have only caused a nuisance, it was the bullockies who stayed at the Port Henry Arms that would have caused most of the problems. Molestation must have been intense for Kudnarto urges Adams to abandon their land and go to a quieter place. During this visit by Moorhouse, Adams and Kudnarto laid their complaints about harassment to him and requested the ability to effect a solution. As part of the discussions, Adams gave details of a plan to satisfy everyone's needs. That is, that Adams should temporarily occupy the lot formerly held by George Murray . Since Murray had abandoned it some time previously, it seemed to be the ideal solution.

I selected that spot for a man that married one of the natives five years befor it was survied but the nebehours drove him away and now they are trying to drive me away which they will of course as I am but a poor man and cannot stand against the public.

Adams expresses his depression at his inability to fight against the wealthy pastoralists. He feels persecuted by them. It would appear that he was not welcomed as a shepherd to the local pastoralists. Judging from his comments, he leaves no doubt that he was hated within the Skillogolee community. The reason for this hatred is undisclosed although he concludes that it is derived from the fact that he is married to an Aboriginal woman.

To make his distress clearly known to Moorhouse, he also wrote a letter of complaint to Moorhouse. In it he wanted clarification of his right to occupy the land. On 11 April 1853, Moorhouse replied to him advising that:

"I received yours of the 31 st March informing me that you had notice from the Commissioner of Crown Lands to leave the native reserve upon which you are now living. I have seen Mr Bonney upon the subject and I have had my mind satisfied that you have no right there without his permission - you can claim your own section and Mr Bonney cannot interfere, but I find he has the power of removing you from Murray Section and I would advise you to leave quietly and without trouble." [12]

Adams realised that he would have to depart and does so without too much fuss. That conclusion is verified by the silence of Moorhouse's communications in relation to occupation of Section 346 which explicitly required Kudnarto to reside upon the land to retain the claim. [13] It is interesting to note that during this period Moorhouse expresses no concern that Kudnarto is not living upon the land.

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At this stage of their lives, there is an indication that a separation between Kudnarto and Adams occurred. It may have been driven by poverty and Adams’ need for employment. However, over the next two years, from 1853 to 1855, Adams maintained a nomadic lifestyle moving over the region from Port Wakefield to Port Augusta. He worked with his old employer at Crystal Brook and as well as the Hughes brothers. He also travelled north to Spencers Gulf and the North Station where he obtained employment. How often he travelled back to Kudnarto is unknown. The visits, however, would have been very infrequent.

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During the time when Kudnarto was alone, she was not idle. She let out a section of the land for the sum of £25 per year. [14] The tenant, Patrick Murphy, a sharecropper and former criminal who was released from gaol in 1847, [15] cultivated a wheat crop covering some five acres. In addition, there was also a small vegetable garden planted upon the land. [16]

It is unknown whether Kudnarto received permission for renting out the land or that Moorhouse knew about it. However, Moorhouse's silence upon this matter until after the death of Kudnarto seems to indicate that there was approval for Kudnarto to receive the sum obtained from the lease. Because of Moorhouse's frequent country visits it is likely that he tacitly approved of the sub-letting by Kudnarto. With this annual income and money coming from the sheep, Kudnarto lived a quiet life.

Since she was no longer protected by her husband, there would have been many perils affecting her life as a single Aboriginal woman living in an area frequented by lonely shepherds, pastoralists, sharecroppers and bullockies. Patrick Murphy may have taken care of her and looked out for her interests. How strong this attachment was is unknown and a matter for conjecture. No reliance can be placed upon the lack any further offspring by Kudnarto as being an indication of fidelity because of infanticide practises as mentioned above. It is unknown whether she succumbed or was forced to participate in any sensual activities. At 21 years of age and very attractive, her sexual attraction and charm would have been a powerful incentive for men to visit her.

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1. Letter dated 30 January 1851, GRG 52/7/1, p. 272.  Return to text

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

3. Licence issued by Frederick Robe, GRG 24/4 A (1855) 1633.  Return to text

4. Letter dated 8 May 1851, GRG 24/4, A (1851) 1405.  Return to text

5. Letter dated 11 November 1851, GRG 52/7/1, p. 340.  Return to text

6. Taplin, G., "The Narrinyeri", published in Wood, D., et. al., (1879), The Native Tribes of South Australia, E.S. Wigg & Son, Adelaide, pp. 13 - 15.  Return to text

7. Taplin, G., "The Narrinyeri", published in Wood, D., et. al., (1879), The Native Tribes of South Australia, E.S. Wigg & Son, Adelaide, p. 14.  Return to text

8. The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt Printer, q.'s 2002 - 2005, p. 79.  Return to text

9. Letter dated 26 march 1853, GRG 35/25/4, p. 217.  Return to text

10. Letter dated 4 July 1849, GRG 52/7/1, p. 237.  Return to text

11. Letter dated 31 March 1853, GRG 35/4 (1853).  Return to text

12. Letter dated 11 April 1853, GRG 52/7/1, pp. 335 - 336.  Return to text

13. Letter dated 24 May 1848, GRG 24/4, A (1855) 1633. "Provided ... that the said Mary Adams shall and do settle and continue to actually reside upon the said land ...."  Return to text

14. Letter dated 23 July 1855, GRG 24/4, A (1855) 1633.  Return to text

15. Letter, GRG 24/6, A (1847) 1444.  Return to text

16. Letter dated 23 July 1855, GRG 24/4, A (1855) 1633.  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