Aboriginal Encounters

Hornet Bank Homestead 1880

A shadow is cast over our family history through the discovery of some frontier encounters. While some incidents were positive, one displays ferocity and  a mentality lacking in compassion. All reflect the inevitable triumph of the invaders  and the dispossession and degradation of the aboriginal people. In the 1840s and 1850s, Thomas Adam is reputed to have had good relations with Awakabal aboriginals in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie district. They guarded his boat building equipment when he left the Warner’s Bay area to return to Newcastle and in Newcastle he sheltered them at his home on Bullock Island after sailors plied them with rum on blanket distribution days. In 1852 Benjamin Edwards was a stockman on ‘Wyangerie’ below the Tweed Ranges. Armed with a gun and ‘large mastiff dog’, his wife Louisa Edwards, in defence of her son, her own life and their home against an ‘attack by a mob of blacks’, left at least one aboriginal woman dead. Benjamin, in retaliation, ‘cleaned out the blacks’ camp on Lynch’s Creek with a stockwhip’. Locally, Louisa was cast as a heroine and her wound from a boomerang was seen as a badge of courage. On his trek north to the Dawson River Valley in Queensland, Archibald Campbell was armed and apprehensive of an aboriginal attack in the wake of the horrendous Hornet Bank Massacre of 1857. At Wyrallah, Frederick Scrivener dispensed flour to the aborigines from his general store and the family shared Christmas meals with local aborigines in the 1930s, albeit on the steps of their house. However in an advertisement for a Wyrallah Sports Day, inserted by Frederick in the ‘Northern Star’ in 1902, aboriginals were ‘debarred’ from competing. The children of John Adams played and wandered the district with aboriginal children at Alstonville but their mother Mary Ann Adams in fear of attack, reputedly kept a shotgun handy. Kindness to the Cambewarra aboriginals was shown by John Adams’ sister Jane Camps who sheltered an aboriginal man in her farm house during a storm and was later rewarded with a broom made from cabbage tree palms, ‘bound with supple vines’.