Life in early Palmwoods

Fewtrell family at the homestead: Elise is seated on the veranda, with husband George on her left and their four children are in front of the house at ground level

Fewtrell family at the homestead: Elise is seated on the veranda, with husband George on her left and their four children are in front of the house at ground level

George Fewtrell was a very active community man, described in obituaries on his death in 1914 as the ‘Father of Palmwoods’. With his wife Elise, they were original Palmwoods settlers.

The family had always known some of their stories, and their great grandson, Terry Fewtrell, set out to discover much more and to tell their stories in the context of the times.

These stories include Elise’s tragic earlier life on the courageous journey from Schleswig-Holstein; the town’s role in the early citrus industry, and how opening up of land for yeoman farmers like George contributed to dispossession of the Aboriginal people.

‘George, Elise and a mandarin – Identity in early Australia’, recreates life in early Palmwoods.

It was George’s custom to gather the family on Sundays for a roast dinner at Homestead 4171, on the side of the hill, looking east across the valley towards Woombye. They were events of some occasion.

He would wear his coat and sit at the head of the table. As was typical of the times, it was a very patriarchal household. The women, of course, had prepared the meal. These were occasions George enjoyed.

Many years later it was remembered that the “home was open house for those who sought his companionship and help. Many of the seasonal workers who travelled north by foot enjoyed the hospitality and the meal received at the Fewtrell home”.

George was the man of the house. Had he remained in Shropshire he may have continued to be a seasonal worker, or perhaps a senior farm labourer on a particular property, for a hopefully kind master.

However, now he was the farmer in control of his own land, a role to which realistically he could not have aspired in Shropshire. He would have reflected with some pride on the progress of his community, and his role in its development would have given him great satisfaction.

Elise also had reason to feel satisfied and probably somewhat surprised that, despite her four years of unremitting trauma and sadness, she too had survived and was now content in her new home, surrounded by four children of her own. Family, her first priority in life, was safe and nurtured.

The book will be launched at Palmwoods Memorial Hall, 11am, Saturday  August 5. Published by Ginninderra Press it can be ordered at good bookshops or online from www.ginninderrapress.com.au, Book Depository and Amazon.

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