BRIDGET EATHER nee HONAN 1833-1886
The wife of James Joseph Eather 1821-1906, son of Robert Eather 1795-1881 and Mary Lynch 1802-1853
The benefits of North Richmond, where normal amenities were close at hand, would have been much appreciated by Mrs. Bridget Eather, an Irish woman of some culture, originating from Limerick. She could read, write, sew and play the piano. All accomplishments which were much appreciated after she left the civilisation of Richmond with her husband and several small children for the barely explored wilds of the Bellinger River district. The date on which that difficult journey was undertaken was in 1863 when the Richmond Bottoms proved as unrewarding to James as it had to his brother.
They arrived at Urunga Heads in a sailing vessel and from there on it was hard travelling with a horse and three slides for twenty three miles up the river to the spot where they settled, at Boat Harbour near the later town of Bellingen.
The attractions of the district to which the Eathers came, among the very first who accepted the invitation of paying off their farms under the Free Selection legislation of 1861, were the lush river flats, temperature climate and limitless expanses of virgin land.
At first, however, the only economic use to which the land could be put was cedar-getting. The earliest settlers cut the cedar from the foothills of the valley, axing their way finally onto the Dorrigo plateau and sending out the precious logs on the boats which brought in their supplies.
The land was in it's virgin condition requiring much toil before crops could be sown and it was 1864 before the first blocks, including the Eather's could be surveyed.
There, on what became the "Orange Grove" property, the Eather children grew to sturdy adulthood, the daughters were taught sewing by their mother who had somehow managed to bring both sewing machine and piano to the little clearing in the frowning forrest, and both boys and girls finding their recreation in the Irish jigs which she taught them. She was obliged likewise to instruct the elder children in reading and writing, for a provisional was not yet established on the Upper Bellinger until 1869 when James Eather became one of the members of the local board.
One of the other members of the board was William Jarrett, reputed to be the first settler on the river. Before many years the link between the two families was made even stronger with the marriage of the eldest Eather daughter, Mary, to Thomas Jarrett.