It was his name that first caught my attention – such an unusual forename for a boy. Indeed, discounting any mistranscriptions that could ‘skew’ the figures, the Ancestry records for the two England census returns in which Flowers Hutchinson appears – 1871 and 1881 – list only 16 and 6 males respectively who shared his first name.
Flowers Hutchinson was the third son of John Hutchinson and his wife Eliza. John Hutchinson had been baptised at Kegworth on 10 October 1825, a son of James Hutchinson and his wife Sarah (née Pares), and he and Eliza had married in late May 1850.
At Kegworth, Mr. John Hutchinson, organist, to Miss Flowers, governess of the Infant-School.
His bride was Eliza Flowers, who had been born in Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire, and baptised there on 23 May 1830. And it was for her that she and John named their son Flowers when he was baptised at Kegworth on 1 January 1864.
Eleven year old Eliza was at home for the 1841 census at Glen Bank, Pinchbeck, together with her parents, James a labourer and his wife Sarah, and two older sisters. Sometime before 1850, and armed with at least a basic education, she had travelled the fifty or so miles from Pinchbeck to Kegworth, where she found work at the infant school. For their first census as a married couple John and Eliza were living on the London Road, Kegworth. John earned his living as a tailor, and Elizabeth is listed ‘formerly school teacher’. Ten years later, in 1861, the census records a change of address to High Street, Kegworth, and a change of occupation. John Hutchinson was now the local post master, assisted by his wife Eliza. In fact John, as well as his post office duties, still carried on his trade as a tailor, and he and Eliza continued to run the Kegworth post office until their respective deaths in 1900 and 1902. Their 1861 household included four children – three daughters and a son – and a nursemaid, presumably to assist with the latest addition, 4-month old Emily.
Flowers Hutchinson made his census ‘debut’ in 1871, recorded as a seven year old scholar living at home with his parents at 4 Church Gate Kegworth, together with a bevy of siblings ranging in age from nineteen down to two months.
Sarah Sophia, 19, Tailor
John George, 17, Tailor Apprentice
Flora Louisa, 11, Scholar
Emily, 10, Scholar
Leonard, 5, Scholar
Harrold Hector, 2 months
Ernest, another brother, whom Flowers would not have known, had died in March 1863 aged five months. A fine healthy boy, he was found dead in his cradle. The verdict of the inquest was death by suffocation, caused by rolling over in his cradle. Today this would have been recognised as SIDS. The last of the Hutchinson children, Eunice Mary, was born in 1872.
Following the death of John George Hutchinson in September 1874, John and Eliza might have anticipated that their now eldest surviving son might either become a tailor, or perhaps assist in the post office. But Flowers obviously had other ideas. The 1881 census finds him at 48 Bramah Road, Lambeth, in the household of George Kirk, a solicitor who, like Flowers, been born in Kegworth. The Kirk family lived just a few doors along the Kegworth High Street from the Hutchinsons and so they would have been well acquainted and, in the case of the Kirk son George and Sarah Sophia Hutchinson, even more so because on 4 March 1877 the couple was married at Kegworth. By the time Flowers joined the Kirk household George and Sarah had a 6-month old son. Flowers, now aged 17, was working as a clerk, perhaps for George Kirk in preparation for a legal career.
At this stage, he must have given some thought to his future. He was young, presumably unattached, and with few if any family obligations – his sister Flora was by now helping their parents in the post office as a telegraph clerk. Was clerical work to his liking, or did his mind wander while he was sitting at his desk? Would he have empathised with Banjo Paterson’s office worker who bemoaned being trapped in his dingy little office and yearned to escape to ‘the vision splendid and plains extended’? No doubt Flowers was well aware that members of his extended family had left England for a new life in the Australia. He would have heard about his two great-grand aunts Lucy and Sophia who had arrived in Sydney in 1819, courtesy of the government, and who, after serving out their time, had done rather well for themselves. In particular, Flowers was to be a minor beneficiary of Sophia’s estate. Perhaps the Hutchinsons kept in touch with the Flowers’ three cousins, daughters of his late aunt Sarah Barrett (née Hutchinson), and sister of John Hutchinson. Whether after careful consideration, or on a whim, Flowers Hutchinson decided to leave his office job and try his luck in Australia.
Shipping companies, vying for custom, used the Shipping and Emigrations columns to keep the public informed on what ships were sailing where and when, and intending emigrants would have kept an eye out for these advertisements. As an example, on 18 July 1883 the following notice appeared in the London newspaper The Standard.
COLONIAL LINE – STEAM TO AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND. The magnificent full-powered steamship SIKH, 100 AI, 3,750 tons burthen, 1,800 horse-power effective, is appointed to leave the Victoria Docks, London, for ADELAIDE (Semaphore), MELBOURNE, and SYDNEY, on the 11th August. She had excellent saloon and state rooms and unsurpassed accommodation for third-class passengers. Previous passage, forty-two days, steam. Carries an experienced surgeon. Fares: – Saloon 50 guineas; third-class, 15 to 21 guineas. Apply to John Henry Flint, 112, Fenchurch-street, London, E.C.
As it happened, the Sikh, under the command of Captain Scotland, was not ready to take on passengers until 14 August and 19 year old Flowers was one of those who embarked at Gravesend. Hopefully there may have been some family and friends to see him off and wish him well on his adventure. En route the ship stopped at Plymouth, Malta, and Port Said, and then proceeded through the Suez Canal to Aden. Diego Garcia was the last stop before reaching Adelaide. Despite some heavy weather the ship made good time and, having first called in at Adelaide on 3 August to land passengers and cargo and to take on coal, proceeded to Melbourne where it arrived at the Sandridge railway pier on 5 October and where Flowers disembarked. What did he intend to do? Did he have a job to go to or was he trusting to luck? Was he aware, according to “An Occasional Correspondent” who, passing through Melbourne in August 1881, relayed to the Manchester Courier that work might be hard to find in the Australia?
Numbers of young men dissatisfied with their prospects in England emigrate to Australia in the hope of “something turning up,” but unless they understand a regular trade, or are prepared to rough it in the bush, they stand a very poor chance of bettering their positions. Skilled artisans, masons, carpenters &c., and domestic servants command good wages, but there is already quite a plethora of unemployed clerks. Persons of this latter class had much better stay at home, for the colonies do not offer much scope for their abilities.
Apart from knowing that Flowers left Victoria at some stage for South Australia, and did indeed ‘rough it in the bush’ nothing further has been found for him until 1887. In October of the previous year an item in the Adelaide Observer sparked a stampede to a somewhat remote and decided unhospitable place in the north-eastern region of South Australia.
DISCOVERY OF GOLD AT TEETULPA
Messrs. Thomas Brady and Thomas Smith have sent in to Mr. Bedford Hack, Warden of Goldfields, a claim for the reward of £1,000 under the gold-mining regulations of 1885. They state that they have discovered an alluvial goldfield at a point about due east of Waukaringa, and distant about 15 miles from the latter place. It is on pastoral lease No. 1,691, known as Teetulpa; situated about 12 miles from any known payable goldfield – the distance prescribed by the regulations. They further state that having spent two hours in washing dirt from the discovery they obtained in coarse gold 2oz. The Warden has instructed the trooper at, Waukaringa to inspect the place.
Over the following days the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Hon. J.H. Howe, received a number of telegrams. Trooper Biggins reported that he had:
Visited Brady’s alluvial claim, Tonkin’s Well, 16 miles east of Waukaringa. Splendid prospects. Nuggets up to 1 ounce found; nugget over ounce brought in yesterday by Quinlan. Shallow slaking.
Inspector Besley of Port Augusta confirmed Trooper Biggins assessment and added “Nuggety gold, about 4oz. in all, found in few hands”. In a letter to the Commissioner some men on the field mentioned that:
… with two knives they got four buckets of wash dirt, finding one nugget weighing 5dwt. 17gr., and several others of nearly 1dwt. each. In two hours they obtained over 2 ounces of coarse gold.
And Messrs. Brady and Smith forwarded a further letter to the Commissioner, dated 9 October, in which they wrote:
Without doubt the goldfields will be a great success. We have been camped on the field since we found it, and every place we try we have found a better prospect than ever we saw on the Bendigo, and one of us was there in the best of times. The first man who put down a hole out from us got a nugget a good ounce weight at a depth of 3 feet. There was only one man there besides us until this afternoon, when there was a rush, and there are now thirty-six claims pegged out. We feel certain these diggings will equal any ever found in Victoria. The want of water is the only drawback. The sinking will be from 3 feet to 12 feet.
A new ‘find’ always generated great excitement and fired up hopes of fortunes to be won. The Teetulpa gold fields were no exception, prospectors spurred on by the news that a ‘beautiful nugget of virgin gold’ of an ‘extraordinary character’ had been found by a man within days of his arrival. By 20 October there were 400 men on the field, and on that day alone 125 miners’ rights, costing 5s each had been issued. By the end of 1886 over 5,000 miners were ‘in town’, claimed to be the largest number of miners in any field at any time in South Australian gold history. Some had abandoned nearby claims to try their luck on the new field, but many more had made the journey by train from Adelaide (and stations along the way) to Manna Hill, and then by coach to the diggings. Extra carriages were attached to the trains to cope with the rush. Steamers brought miners from Melbourne to Port Adelaide. According to the Petersburg Special Correspondent, “All sorts of people are going – from lawyers to larrikins. The news about Teetulpa was widely covered by the English press, one such item helpfully explaining to readers “back home” where this dot on the map was located – “211 miles north of Adelaide and within 20 miles of the Adelaide and Silverton Railway”.
For those unaccustomed to the South Australian outback, and particularly the ‘townies’ who had never seen a gold field let alone handled a pick and shovel, their first sight of the desolate, dry and forbidding Teetulpa goldfield must have been a shock. Searingly hot in the summer and bitterly cold in winter. There were no trees for building huts, so the miners lived in make-shift tents – “little white canvas shelters on a desolate plain that stretched as far as the eye could see”. But within a short time the initial lack of supplies and services was overcome with the influx of ‘camp followers’ – storekeepers and tradesmen no doubt happy to oblige (and make their own fortune!). A reporter for the South Australian Weekly Chronicle described the scene as he found it in November.
Upon a low hill which runs along the left hand of the new road, a row of business establishments is being gradually formed. Here may be seen the most nondescript kind of stores, boarding houses, shanties for the sale of cool drinks, butchers’ shops, hawkers’ vans, forges (where the blacksmiths drive a busy trade pick pointing), and last, but not least, a post office. All these establishments are enveloped continually in dense clouds of dust, which are raised by the stream of traffic, and carried over them by a wind which seems unvaried, and appears to blow in the same direction. One consequence of this must certainly be that each customer of the provision stores will assuredly consume considerably more that his orthodox peck of dirt. On the opposite side of the gully, which has been named “Teetulpa –parade,” there are a couple of stores, a greengrocer, who may be heard bawling his wares, which seem to consist of new potatoes and oysters, the Advertiser Office, and several iron tanks, where fresh water is vended at the rate of 2d. a bucket. Here too, an enterprising Wesleyan minister, the Rev. A.J. Bogle, has pegged out a claim on which he has pitched a small tent, on the front of which is nailed a signboard, painted by his own hands, which bears the legend, “Wesleyan Church”.
Other services included a bank, numerous sly-grog shops and a hospital, the latter consisted of a rudimentary shack and some tents. By January 1887 a more substantial building had replaced the first ‘hospital’ the services of which were soon to be very much in demand.
Writing on Christmas Eve, 1886, ‘Our Special Correspondent’ shared his observations of life at Teetulpa with readers of the Evening Journal. He was struck by the ‘mixed community’, made up of ‘representatives of all trades and professions, from the bootblack to the University graduate’ and also by the rapid transformation of this motley group, irrespective of their pre-Teetulpa occupations.
It is amusing to notice the complete change a man undergoes here. He arrives say today, with a clean suit of clothes, a white collar, and apparently possesses all the attributes of a gentleman. Tomorrow he starts work on the surface in a half-dirty and probably ancient costume. A few days hence he is almost unrecognisable. His once clean-shaved face is partially hidden with a fast-growing beard; dust collects thickly on the exposed parts of his body, which parts are also gradually losing their wonted softness and becoming hard and brown his old clothes appear much older. It seems to me that of the two, the men who are used to this sort of work keep themselves cleaner than the clerk or assistant who sinks a shaft. The clerk perhaps endeavours for a while to retain his neat personal appearance, but seeing it is impossible to do so he becomes careless.
Images from the Teetulpa Collection, State Library of New South Wales
It was also in December that typhoid fever made its appearance upon the Teetulpa goldfield, and one death had been reported, that of a young man named John Putt.
He, together with his mother and sisters, lived on the ridge of the hill that divides Brady’s from Goslin’s Gully, and to all appearances no healthier place could have been chosen. But, in being on the outskirt of the main camp, his tent was pitched in about as unhealthy a place as could have been chosen … In the very hot, dry days no great unpleasantness is noticeable, but on the warm, damp days that followed the last rain the stench from the outlying parts of the camp was simply sickening.
By the end of December 1886 there had been three deaths from typhoid fever, and more cases occurred in January 1887. In February the South Australian Weekly Chronicle reported:
More cases of typhoid fever have occurred during the past week that have developed within any previous three weeks. Thus speaks Dr. Richardson, the Government medical officer of the place, who complains bitterly regarding the sanitary condition of Teetulpa. This is bad enough, but the future the doctor says will be decidedly worse. The fever cases are generally accompanied with some affection of the lungs, which is not to be wondered at when we consider how the dust blows in Teetulpa, and that the germs of disease must necessarily be transplanted in this way. Hardly a coach leave the place but it conveys some poor fellow who is sickening for the fell disease. This should not be, for to be cooped up in a coach on an 80-mile drive with perhaps two or three fever patients is enough to inoculate the most healthy man with the germs, and it is a pity that the Government could not arrange for some special conveyance that would be more comfortable for the sick. Mr. Cheek, of the Post and Telegraph Department, is one of the latest victims, and leave tomorrow by direction of his medical adviser for Yongala, where his friends reside.
The Board of Health responded by agreeing to extend the hospital facilities at Teetulpa by erecting a temporary marquee hospital to meet the present emergency, and also by demanding that the sanitary inspectors on the gold field be far more rigorous in prosecuting those who did not comply with the Board of Health’s regulations. ‘Shipping out’ the fever-stricken patients caused great consternation in the stop-over towns, where it was feared, and alleged, that Teetulpa was responsible for infecting their inhabitants. But now, with the extra hospital accommodation, there would no longer be a need to relocate the fever patients, and contractors, such as Messrs. Millar Bros. were advised accordingly.
In consequence of the complaints which have been made from time to time respecting the carriage by rail from Teetulpa to Adelaide and other stations of persons suffering from typhoid fever, the Commissioner of Public Works has been in communication Messrs. Millar Bros., the contractors for the Silverton railway, and has pointed out that as the hospital accommodation at Teetulpa has been increased, it is unnecessary to convey patients from that place. Messrs. Millar Bros. have promised to carry out the instructions on that point.
Dr. Richardson would have been relieved that his request for the additional hospital space had been approved because by the late April there were 40 cases of typhoid fever in the hospital.
Sickness is very prevalent, typhoid fever almost daily embracing fresh victims within its tenacious grip. The hospital shades close on 40 patients, and scores of helpless and ill are scattered over the fields in tents of all descriptions, the best of which are not either suggestive of warmth or comfort, especially during the cold, blood-curdling nights experienced here lately.
Mortality statistics from infectious diseases was a regular agenda item for meetings of the Central Board of Health. At their 26 April 1887 meeting, the Board members were advised that:
The infectious disease mortuary book showed 10 cases registered during the week, viz., one from typhoid fever at Clare, one at Teetulpa, one at Burra, and three at Adelaide …
The statistic from Teetulpa was Flowers Hutchinson, who had succumbed to the ‘tenacious grip’ of ‘Teetulpa Fever’. The following notice appeared in the Family Notices of two Adelaide newspapers on 6 and 7 May.
On the 22nd April, at Teetulpa Goldfield Hospital of typhoid fever, Flowers Hutchinson, beloved son of John and Eliza Hutchinson, Kegworth, Derby, England, aged 23 years. May his soul rest in peace.
How and when, and in what capacity had the young immigrant from Kegworth found himself in such an unforgiving and desolate place as Teetulpa? Was he there as a miner, a clerk, a shop keeper, or a perhaps even a post office assistant?
Flowers Hutchinson’s death was registered in Adelaide but not until 7 May 1887. The death certificate information is very sketchy and adds very little to that provided by the death notice. We do, however, find out that he was at Teetulpa as a miner and that the informant was C.W Newbon, undertaker, whose residence was given as Teetulpa. I think this must be an error because while Charles Walter Newbon was an undertaker, his business and home address was Nailsworth, Adelaide. Regardless, the death notices beg the question – who placed and paid for the notices in the papers. They would have lodged the notices before the death was registered, and they certainly knew the names of his parents and where they lived? Who else in South Australia would have been concerned, or would need to know about Flowers’ death? Interestingly, I have not located any corresponding death notices for Flowers in the English newspapers.
Who among his friends and acquaintances, and possibly also relatives in Australia, would have known, or indeed even cared that he was at Teetulpa? Were his family in England aware that he was there? Would they have had any understanding of the challenging conditions of the goldfield, or any inkling that there had been an outbreak of typhoid there? While the English press reported frequently on the Teetulpa goldfield finds and yields, very little mention was made of the typhoid epidemic? I am not sure how many people at Kegworth would have read the item ‘Our Australian Letter’, written on 21 March, which was featured in the Freeman’s Journal.
The two or three hot months which close the long, dry Australian summer – January, February, and March – are always the worst for this disease, which is not confined to large towns, but breaks out every now and then on the very confines of civilization. Thus it is raging just now on the Teetulpa gold field, in South Australia, where a few months ago no one but the lonely shepherd ever trod the vast drought-stricken and hideously monotonous plains of sage-green saltbush, but where some 1,500 diggers are now assembled. The field numbered six thousand to seven thousand men a few weeks since, but ill-luck, newer rushes, and the fever has driven many away.
In the end Flowers Hutchinson was just a statistic. He was one of so many unremarkable young men who were lured to the diggings, buoyed by a spirit of adventure and spurred on by the prospect of ‘making good’. And like so many of them he fell victim to the cruel realities of life on the goldfields. There is not even a record of where he was buried. No gravestone marks his passing, but if there had been one, a fitting memorial might be “Life cut short – potential unfulfilled”.
The question as to who might have placed the death notices in the Adelaide papers continued to trouble me. From further research I now believe that I may have the answer. Leonard Hutchinson was Flowers’ younger brother. Born in 1865, he was just one year his junior. Both boys were at home with their family at Kegworth for the 1871 census. The 1881 census finds Leonard some distance from home, enrolled as a pupil at St Saviours Middle Class School at Ardingly, Sussex. Originally founded in 1858 in Shoreham by educational reformist Canon Nathaniel Woodard, the school had moved to its permanent location at Ardingly in 1870, and it had been planned,
… with special thought for the poorer members of the middle classes whom the society desired more particularly to benefit.
Parents John and Sarah Hutchinson, with aspirations for their son, were prepared to pay the annual fee of 15 guineas for him to receive an education ‘based on sound principle and knowledge, firmly grounded in the Christian faith’. Hopefully Leonard worked hard to meet their expectations and to justify the expense. The 1891 census should have revealed what line of work Leonard had chosen, and whether in fact his education had paid dividends. But I could not locate him in that census, the reason being that he had decided to follow his older brother to Australia. I wonder how his parents reacted to that decision. When the steamer Garonne left Plymouth on 2 May 1884 on her way to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, she carried over 350 passengers, 221 of whom were travelling steerage. One of these was Leonard Hutchinson. Initially the ship encountered very heavy weather, to the great discomfort of her passengers, but thereafter conditions were favourable, and the Garonne made very good time, arriving at Melbourne on 19 June, where Leonard disembarked. On the ship’s manifest Leonard was listed as a single man, aged 19, and a mason by trade. We can imagine that the two brothers had a happy reunion. It is quite probable that they went together to Teetulpa, two of the many Victorians who made the journey to try their luck. Flowers’ luck ran out on the gold field but, if he did accompany his brother, Leonard survived the ordeal. By 1897 he was in Queensland where, at the age of 32 and a miner by profession, he married Sarah Burns at the Kent Street Baptist Church, Townsville. She had been born in 1864 shortly after her parents, Eugene and Susannah (née Brown), had arrived at Port Denison, Bowen, Queensland, on board the Black Ball Line emigrant ship Wansfell in December 1863. Leonard and Sarah had one child, John Leonard Hutchinson, born at Clermont on 29 May 1899. Leonard was 69 when he died at Sydney, of coronary disease, on 6 October 1934. He was buried at Rookwood four days later. His death certificate confirms that he had been born in Kegworth and was the son of John Hutchinson, Postmaster, and [given name not given] Flowers. He had been in Australia for 50 years, having spent 3 in Victoria, 4 in South Australia, 30 in Queensland and 13 in New South Wales. The informant was his son, John Leonard Hutchinson, who stated that before he retired, his father had been a picture framer.
From the time of settlement in South Australia an outbreak of typhoid fever was ever present threat. In 1887 there were 143 deaths recorded in South Australia from typhoid or enteric fever, an increase of 60 over 1886. Of these, 12 were recorded at Teetulpa, although many fever cases were taken elsewhere for treatment and subsequently died. The 94 males who succumbed to this complaint in 1887 were twice as numerous as females and most victims were aged between 20 and 40.
Teetulpa Gold Mine
Within three years the Teetulpa the goldfield was almost deserted, as reported by “Pencil” of the Kapunda Herald and reprinted in the Petersburg Times.
What generally happens in connection with gold digging in South Australia is happening now at Teetulpa, for the discovery of which two prospectors were handsomely rewarded. In the latter end of 1886 the field was rushed by thousands of men. For several months people thought there was to be another Bendigo or California in our North-East … South Australia’s Teetulpa was talked of all over the Southern Hemisphere.
“Now” a friend writes, “now Teetulpa is as good as dead, as the hearts of the workers have been dead for some time. One cause is the profitable work at the silverfields at the Barrier; another is a bad example set by the numerous mining companies who started to do wonders in the gold reefs, but who now, just when they are beginning to try the ground, have stopped work because of bad management and because the shareholders will not pay calls. Teetulpa, Sir, is done for.
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© Leonie Fretwell, 2017