Thomas Eather 1824-1909
Thomas EATHER born on the 27 September 1824 the son of Thomas EATHER 1800-1886 and Sarah, nee MCALPIN 1805-1884 married Eliza CROWLEY 1822-1897 on the 25 July 1843 at St.Peter's Church of England, Richmond, New South Wales.
Following their wedding, Thomas and Eliza took up residence in the house in West Market Street, Richmond next door to the "Union Inn" where Thomas's parents were residing. There they conducted business as a butcher and baker. Their first child, a son whom they named John William, was born at Richmond on 8 March 1845, but by the time their second child was born in June 1847, they had left the Hawkesbury district and had taken up residence on the farm over the range at Bulga where Thomas had lived when a small boy. He had been given the farm by his father and took over the management from the overseer who had been in charge there.
When his parents had come to Bulga in 1826, the flats along the creek had been open forest country with large eucalypts and very little undergrowth, and therefore attractive grazing land The stream had been known as Cockfighter Creek then, but that name had given way to the aboriginal name - the Wollombi. The district had become known as Bulga, the aboriginal name for a mountain ridge just to the west. The Wollombi Valley had been and still was the territory of the Geawe-gal clan of aborigines. Their territory extended to the junction of the Wollombi Brook and the Hunter River, where it adjoined the most southerly of the Kamilaroi clans. Not much is known of how the Geawee-gal had reacted to the intrusion of the white men into their territory in the 1820's. It had been quite a populous clan then, and though depleted somewhat during the following twenty years, was still able to hold large bora ceremonies from time to time.
In 1848, not long after Thomas and Eliza had settled on their farm at Bulga, a family named CLARK arrived in the district and settled on the farm opposite them across the creek. It was part of the 1,500 acres that Joseph ONUS had purchased in 1825 and lay on the opposite side of the creek from the rest of his purchase. It had been inherited by Joseph ONUS Jnr and he had agreed to lease it to the CLARK's. Mrs CLARK promptly named it "Willow Farm", a name which it retained indefinitely. James Swales CLARK had been born in Yorkshire and his wife Elizabeth, nee McDONALD at Dalkeith in Scotland. They had married at Largs in Scotland in 1835 and had arrived in Sydney as immigrants in January 1843 with three young children. They had spent a while at "Glendon" on the Hunter River, getting experience in farming in New South Wales, and had then started farming at a place called Black Creek. It had been while James CLARK had been out looking for grass for his cattle during drought times, that he had first seen Bulga and found more grass there than anywhere else. By then two more children had been born to them. Over the years that followed Thomas and Eliza became very close friends with James and Elizabeth CLARK and their children grew up as fellow schoolmates at the local school. The farm of 100 acres on the western bank of Wollombi Brook remained the residence of Thomas and Eliza for the remainder of their lives. It was given the aboriginal name "Meerea", said to mean "Beautiful Mountain". The name has been retained down the years and was in use as recently as 1995. The Bulga community had increased in number over the years as more farms had been settled. Most of the folk living there were assigned convicts or ticket-of-leave men employed on the farms. Some of them had wives. The town of Singleton had sprung into being not many miles away. An increasing number of the local residents were cousins of Thomas. Important amongst them were Mary Ann and John EATON, who had been there since 1831, and Thomas's aunt and uncle, Susannah and William Glas McALPIN. Life was not as remote as it had been when Thomas's parents had lived there fifteen years before. Singleton offered services which had not been available a decade before. There was even a resident doctor there. Another five children were born to Eliza and Thomas during their first fifteen years on the farm, and all were born at Bulga. Unfortunately, three of them died in infancy. At "Meerea" Thomas grazed cattle and grew various vegetable and grain crops, and as was the custom on most of the farms, he developed an orchard. When the children became of school age they were able to receive formal education at a small school that John Eaton had established on his farm for Mr WAGSTAFF whom he employed to teach his and his neighbours' children. Eventually, when the little Church of England Church had been built, it was used as the school house. Mr WAGSTAFF was quite an identity in the district. He had been a London Bank Manager until drink had become his downfall. He had come to Australia to be away from his temptations if he could and was at home in the farming district. He used to board in turn about amongst the farmers in the neighbourhood, and those with children attending his school paid him what they could and did not charge him for his lodgings. Therefore he changed his lodgings every week or so. He was a true type of old English gentleman of the day, and always wore a black silk top-hat and a fine black cloth swallow-tail suit. He was kind and gentle to all and lived a reserved and quiet life. He owned a few good horses and loved hunting, probably because it reminded him of his younger days when he had ridden with the hounds. He taught little more than the three 'rs', but what he taught he taught thoroughly and many of his pupils became fine readers and writers. In 1850 Thomas and Eliza lost the EATON's as neighbours, when they left the district permanently and moved to the "Roseberry" cattle station which John had established on the Richmond River. William Glas McALPIN (known generally as Billy Mack) leased the EATON farm and the little school continued to operate. Mr WAGSTAFF often boarded with them. Gradually William McALPIN increased his landholdings by buying adjoining land from Thomas ONUS. It was not an unusual sight to see parties of aborigines moving along the creek during their daily hunting and gathering. Sometimes they fished in the waterholes and sometimes they camped temporarily nearby. In the district was one of their large bora rings where ceremonies were held from time to time. The year 1852 saw a great influx of visitors to the Bulga district. Over 500 aborigines from tribes far and near gathered at the local bora ring on the McALPIN farm for an initiation ceremony. Aboriginal bora ceremonies transcended tribal boundaries. When they were held every few years, tribes from over a wide area were invited to attend and kippas from all of them were initiated at each ceremony. The tribes took turn at holding the ceremonies, so it was only occasionally that any one bora ring was the site of the gathering. Tribes from as far away as Mudgee attended the ceremony at Bulga that year and it was well remembered by the white folk as it was the last great initiation held there. Needless to say, the white people and the aboriginal womenfolk were not allowed to witness all the rites that were involved in the ceremony. Nevertheless the local farmers were interested in seeing so many visitors gathered together and the event remained a vivid memory in the years that followed.
The children of Thomas EATHER and Eliza nee CROWLEY were:-
John William EATHER 1845 – 1915 m. Harriet CLARK 1849-1928
Mary Jane EATHER 1847 – 1847
Peter M EATHER 1849 – 1851
Jane Charlotte EATHER 1851 – 1897 m. Samuel PARTRIDGE 1850-1928
Alexander George EATHER 1859 – 1859
Sarah Elizabeth EATHER 1861 – 1923 m. Ashton CLARK 1844-1925