Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.


Chapter 10 - More New Arrivals and disaster

By 1901, Putty had a recorded population of seventy one people comprising thirty eight males and thirty three females.  There were nineteen occupied dwellings. Newly recorded were William J Harris, Henry War Turnbull, Richard McTaggart, George Henry Gibbs, Albert Merrick, William John Merrick and Arthur Barwick whose arrival was especially welcome as he had been appointed the teacher at the Putty Provisional School in 1895.

It seems that Richard McTaggart and his wife Emily (nee Harris) did not stay in Putty very long.  Was it because Mrs. McTaggart found the roads a bit too rough?  A newspaper report has it that while she and Mr. Oliver Cobcroft were out driving in a sulky it capsized by some means as they crossed a creek near the residence of Mr. Robert Ridge.  Both were thrown out of the sulky and with the exception of a shaking and a fright escaped unhurt.  Unhurt? They must have had at least a few scratches!  Anyway, the horse freed himself from the sulky and galloped home with the harness flaying, leaving a badly broken sulky behind and its previous occupants to fend for themselves.  (Singleton Argus 20th August, 1898)                                              

Now living in Putty, George (Henry) Gibbs, married Catherine Harris, sister of William, Ma Harris’ husband.  With this marriage came yet another melding of families.  George and Catherine had five children, one was (William) George. 

George was just eighteen years old when he enlisted to serve in the Great War. George returned home safely in 1919 and in 1934 married (Kate) Merle Orrell. Merle already had three children from a previous marriage so George built a family home at Long Swamp Putty which is still standing at the corner of Putty Valley Road and Bakers Road. It wasn’t long before their daughter Betty was born. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the centenary of Anzac held in the Putty Hall in 2015.  A very proud and happy lady, she told me that she came close to dying as a baby saved only by her father’s ingenuity.  He would soak a dry corn cob in milk and by sucking the milk from it, Betty survived.  She also told me that as a child, she was never far from her father’s side, going everywhere she could with him. As she sat on a little wooden box nearby to where he was working, either alone or with other men, she learnt words a little girl should not. Consequently she got into a lot of trouble at school for saying the wrong thing.


     George, Merle and Betty Gibbs In about 1938 

Disastrous fires in January 1905 wreaked havoc throughout the districts of Howes Valley, Springfield, Burrowell Creek and Putty, taking with them buildings, fences and all forms of livestock, leaving many residents in all the areas badly affected.

The Chapmans at Burrowell lost newly bagged wheat and an orchard in full fruit and Mr. Harris and Mr. McTaggart lost sheep and cattle.  In Putty the fire came from the direction of Mt. Coricudgy. It broke over into Jacobs Hollow and Long Hollow then leapt Putty Creek, enveloping Mr. Robert Ridge’s residence in flames. The fire raged fiercely on both sides of the creek, attacked Mrs. Harris’ property on one side and at the same time attacked and burnt out two of Mr. Andrew Laycocks four roomed cottages on the other. It was estimated that from Howes Valley to Putty, over 40 miles of fencing was destroyed. During the disaster, Mr. Barwick and Miss P Ridge came close to being trapped by fire.  If not for the bravery of Messrs. Chapman, Laycock, Medhurst, Harris, McTaggart and Barwick, assisted by the women who all fought with the energy of despair, more property and stock would have been lost. (extract from an article in the Singleton Argus, 14th January,1905)

The bush fire was a great blow to Robert Ridge Snr. with the thought of rebuilding his “Putty House” and re-stocking his property, too much for him to bear. So he sold his old home and moved back to his farm at Colo where he died in September, 1906, suddenly, from a heart seizure.  Standing by his gravesite, a friend recalled stories told by Mr. Ridge which he related - “those wild days when Putty - now a land flowing with milk and honey, then a howling wilderness - was inhabited mostly by aborigines and visited only at rare intervals by passing drovers”.

 .                                                                                                       To be continued

Margaret Ferguson © 2016



 Chapter 11 - The Laycock Men ‘removed from’ ** Putty 

Andrew Laycock started his Hereford cattle herd in Putty in 1883 and by early 1908 had a fine herd, renowned for the young bulls which he regularly sold.  Although he managed his cattle well, it seems he did not do as well with his finances.  A Government Gazette notice dated 1896, indicated that the Sheriff was selling eight of his properties to satisfy a mortgagor debt of one thousand, seven hundred pounds ($3400) unless the debt was satisfied previously. The Bank of New South Wales also held bonds and securities given by him for the sum of three thousand, seven hundred and sixty three pounds, eight shillings and nine pence sterling. ($7528). 

Andrew suffered his first stroke in April 1908 and a second one from which he died at his home in Putty on the 12th August the same year.  Was it the stress of these debts and the loss his two four roomed cottages in the 1905 fire which caused the illness?    After his death, his herd was sold very cheaply and did not find their way into any registered herd.   In January 1910, the Bank of New South Wales served a Notice of Demand on Andrew Laycock, or if dead, to his representatives, for the amount due for the bonds and securities given him by the Bank.  (extract Government Gazette 1910) 

When Andrew died, funeral arrangements needed to be made so Mr. Jackson and Mr. Gibbs travelled to Singleton to do so and to purchase of a coffin with which they returned to Putty in readiness for the funeral.  Using a horse and dray for transport, the trip took most of the day and stretched well into the night. 

After Andrew had been laid to rest in the family cemetery at Putty, his widow, (Mary) Jane Thorley presented W.A. Jackson and G. Gibbs with a silver teapot each, in memory of the kindness shown by them to her late husband. They were each inscribed “Presented by Mrs. A. Laycock, in memory of her late husband, who died August 12th, 1908”. 

The original 100 acres, Putty Farm, passed to the nephew of Andrew’s wife, Percy Crossing.  In later years, it was owned by (Henry) Victor Turnbull whose wife Eudora was Percy’s sister. The property changed hands several times in the ensuing years and is currently owned by Steve and Therese Donnelly. 

George Laycock and his brother Thomas also got into a spot of bother financially.  From 1887 to 1890, they had each obtained four parcels of land in the Parish of Gullongulong at Putty under the terms of conditional purchase. In a Government Gazette notice dated Friday April 15th 1898, it stated that the Sheriff would cause to be sold by auction, these eight parcels, subject to all conditions remaining unfulfilled at the time of the writ.  The Bank of New South Wales had called in its debts.  

By 1908, all of George Laycock’s brothers had died and only his sister Emily and his niece May remained in Putty.  With either employment or marriage taking his older children away from Putty and with his properties disposed of, George, with his wife Ada and their younger children, ‘removed from’ Putty to settle in Singleton.  ** ‘removed from’ was an expression used in the 19th century, since substituted by one word, ‘left’. 

Their home “Chateau” in Kelso Street was referred to as the Concertina House possibly getting its name from its eight sided design.  Ada died in 1916 and not long afterwards, George left Singleton to live with his daughter Alma, Mrs. R Aspey, in Arncliffe, Sydney.   With no owner, the abandoned “Chateau” fell into disrepair. In 1934, following complaints from neighbours about “undesirables” moving in and causing problems, the house was demolished by Singleton Council.     

George passed away in 1948 at Arncliffe, aged eighty nine years.  His remains were transported to Whittingham Cemetery to be buried nearby those of his wife Ada.



Top Left: Richard Walker (‘affianced’ to Lily) - Top row: Cardinal, Kenneth, Lillith and Garnet. 

Middle row: Lily, George & Ada (parents)andStanley - Bottom row: Alma and Reginald                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       To be continued

 Margaret Ferguson © 2016



 Chapter 12 - The Jackson’s, Howes Valley and Putty

Thomas and Sarah Eather (nee McAlpin) were the first white settlers at Bulga arriving from Richmond in 1826.  Thomas walked the distance leading bullocks with Sarah riding on one of them holding tightly to their baby son Thomas.  That probably wasn’t so safe but she had no choice as she could not find a baby capsule for little Thomas which fitted onto a bullock.    

Word got back to Richmond about the fertile land at Bulga and as the route between both passed through Putty and Howes Valley the pristine lands there did not go unnoticed.

Hannah and Samuel Laycock headed straight for Putty in 1824 onto the land promised to her in 1813 but members of the Merrick, Jackson and Medhurst families decided to give Howes Valley a try first.  

I have already introduced you to Caroline, the daughter of Joseph and Maria Merrick who settled in Howes Valley and her first son, William Henry Merrick.  It was he and his wife Catherine, who established themselves at Putty in 1888 and lived in those little slab huts still standing, lovingly restored, on Putty Valley Road. In 1860, Caroline married Henry Jackson from “Glendon”, on the Hunter River. They remained in Howes Valley and established a dairy farm where along with this pursuit they raised thirteen children. Several of their sons, including William Henry had quite an impact on Putty and Howes Valley.

While Henry Snr. was running the farm, Caroline was kept busy not only working by his side but also performing her role as the local midwife, soon earning the nick-name of Granny Jackson. She would travel on horseback day or night, along the tracks she got to know, to reach the imminent birth and was responsible for bringing a very large number of babies into the world at Putty, Howes Valley, Bulga, Martindale and Wollemi. Henry and Caroline continued to run their dairy farm until old age overtook them.  They both died in the winter of 1933, ten days apart. Henry was ninety seven and Caroline was ninety two.   

Another son of Caroline and Henry was Henry Jnr. born in 1863.  Henry Jnr. bought Putty land, a two hundred acre parcel, which after Putty Hall was built, was located across Putty Creek behind the hall.   Henry Jnr. established a horse racing track on this land which continued to be used for the sport and athletic events up until about 1950.  Henry Jnr. married Agnes Ivory and they made their home at Howes Valley with their three children, Horace, Arnold and Ella.  Horace and Arnold had the same sense of caring for others as did their grandmother.  In 1918, during the Great War, they served as stretcher bearers at Peronne, France where they worked continuously for forty eight hours until utterly exhausted, saving the lives of the many wounded.  Ella married George Cyril Medhurst, a son of Edward and Maria’s Medhurst.

The third son, William Albert Jackson was born in 1865. He was a carpenter, a builder of houses, bridges and any other thing which needed building.  He was one of the first contractors on the old "Darkie Creek" Road, now the Putty Road.

William Albert arrived in Putty in about 1887 securing land in 1888, the same year as his brothers Henry Jackson and William Henry Merrick.  He was responsible for the building of George Gibbs’ house at Long Swamp and his brother William’s house at “Hillview”.  He rebuilt Henry Laycock’s old house, “Fairview” and if its similar design has anything to do with it, possibly built Wilfred and Eva Cobcroft’s home on Box Gap Road as well.

William Jackson married Amelia Wells at Darkey Creek in 1891 and they settled in Putty and in the ensuing years became the parents of seven daughters.  William was particularly community minded and would devote himself to anything which brought advancement not only to Putty but also to Howes Valley and Bulga.  He was the Secretary of the Howes Valley and Putty Cream Co-operative Society Limited for many years and when the society was forced into voluntary liquidation in 1913, he accepted the appointment of liquidator.  By 1915, the telephone had come to Putty.  William, along with several others, had major input into bringing this service to fruition.  The amazing details of this achievement will be told later. 

William, Amelia and their family spent twenty seven years in Putty.  In July 1914, a number of Mr. Jackson’s friends from Bulga, Howes Valley and Putty assembled at his residence at Putty, to bid him farewell on the eve of his departure for Denman where he hoped to better himself.  Speeches made were testimony to the high esteem in which Mr. Jackson was held by his friends and acquaintances.  After supper was partaken of at 12 o’clock, a presentation was made by Mr. Frazer of Putty of a handsome tea service inscribed with “Presented to William Jackson by his many Putty friends”.  (extract Singleton Argus 16th July, 1914) As was always occurred, dancing and singing were indulged in until the early hours of the morning.

                                                                                                    To be continued

Margaret Ferguson © 2016



Chapter 13 – Putty, a Popular Destination

John and Sarah Ann Medhurst (nee Diplock) were married in 1854 and settled in Howes Valley raising ten sons and two daughters. Their sons would often go hunting and on occasions with friends from Putty. Money could be made selling tanned animal skins at the markets or by claiming rewards offered by the Government for bringing in dingo scalps and crow heads. Each crow head brought  a bonus of six pence.  This bonus was offered when the Singleton Pastures Protection Board declared crows a pest after many farmers reported severe losses of sheep and lambs which had to be destroyed after crows had picked their eyes and brains out. (By 1936, ten shillings was being paid for a dingo scalp.) 

A disastrous drought in about 1882 forced sons John, Walter, Laban and George to seek emergency grazing land for their stock. Searching to the north of Howes Valley, and travelling through extremely difficult country, they settled on land which was ‘beyond their expectations’ at Greig’s Creek, near Denman. This area is now known as Martindale. Settlers already in the area tried to dissuade the Medhurst men from moving in but they were not to be put off. 

Having chosen their land, the men needed to go to Lands Department at Parramatta to register the selections.  They found the New Windsor Road south, built by convicts, to be a tiresome journey even for such hardy men as themselves. However, the trip proved worthwhile as on arrival, they found that Governor Bourke had passed an act in 1825 that allowed a person of good character to squat on a parcel of land not already granted to someone else for the payment of ten pounds ($20) per annum.  Their land at Greig’s Creek was secure.

After John Snr. died in 1905, Sarah with her younger children, moved from Howes Valley to Greig’s Creek to be with her sons who had settled there.  Another son Edward, who was newly married to Maria (widow of Thomas Café), remained in Howes Valley with his family on their “Bungarraby” property.  

It was time for the remaining Medhurst sons to set up home.  It was only a two day ride by horseback from Martindale to Howes Valley or to Putty, so Jonathan with his wife Eliza (Café) and Joshua with his wife Ada Clara Martha (Merrick), (step-sister of George Henry Gibbs), took up their selections at Putty. 

Putty had become a very popular place.  Land for selection, conditional lease, conditional purchase, or annual lease was being highly sought after. During 1905 and 1906, over 18,000 acres had been officially allocated to more than twenty settlers bearing the names Chapman, Cobcroft, Gibbs, Gosper, Hall, Knodler, McTaggart, Medhurst, Merrick, Ridge, Smith and Sylvester, their names, settlement dates and land size recorded on at least seven of the local parish maps. 

John Café, son of Maria, ventured south to Putty in 1907 and married Oliver and Emily Cobcroft’s daughter Mary.  Their son Geoffrey Ernest was born in 1908.

John was the driver of the Howes Valley-Putty cream van which he would take regularly from Putty to Singleton and return. There was a cream depot at the Cobcroft’s Condon Clear property; the furthest most pick up point on the cream route. On reaching Mt. Thorley during one of his deliveries, the horses pulling the van were startled by men working on the road and took off at a run. They broke away from their harnesses and the van toppled over an embankment.  It was only slightly damaged but the contents of twenty five cream cans were lost.  John was thrown a considerable distance and amazingly only got a few bruises. Fortunately the horses were caught, reharnessed and the journey continued.  (extract Singleton Argus-Tuesday 28 November 1911)

In 1919, Oliver and Mary Cobcroft’s son Wilfred married Eva Medhurst., (step-sister of John Café) and built a home for her on Box Gap Road Putty. Although showing its age now, the building still exists.  Wilfred and Eva had no children of their own but raised Geoffrey Café from about the age of fourteen years after both his parents had died in their early forties, John in 1918 and Mary in 1922.  Geoffrey married Pearl Bates and with children Ronald, Enid and Maureen also lived on Box Gap Road.  

Settlement in Putty was now wide-spread, a vast difference from its beginning described by Robert Ridge, as “a howling wilderness, inhabited mostly by aborigines”.  By 1920 is had become a thriving village with about one hundred and fifty residents spread from one end of the valley to the other.

                                                                                                     To be continued

Margaret Ferguson © 2016