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EARLY DAYS IN CHINCHILLA ... LITTLEPROUD AND WILKINSON

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

The Littleprouds


My mother's father Henry [Harry] Frear Littleproud, was born in Auckland New Zealand on 13th August 1865. He probably moved to Mangonui in the far north of the North Island, with his parents, in 1875, aged about 10. His obituary, published in the Chinchilla News after his death in March 1960, says that he left school at 15½ years (ie c. 1880) and then served 4½ years apprenticeship as a carpenter and joiner [in Auckland ie 1880-1885].


He told me about buying a 'kauri gum lease'. Maori men dug up the fossilised gum of the kauri trees, and Harry paid for it, using clothes and other stores as trade goods. He also talked of retrieving goods washed up on shore after a nearby ship wreck.


Late in the 1880s, Harry came to Australia. He was employed as a carpenter in the construction of the historic Carcoar woolshed, in NSW. During the 1890s, he was employed in mountainous areas of NSW building timber road-bridges (some of which still stand). But he spent some time in the WA goldfields, without great material success. I still have a few chips of quartz he gave me.


He returned to Sydney, and building bridges. On 22 November 1900, Harry married Agnes Phillips, of Bombala on the Monaro, in St Michaels Church, Surrey Hills, Sydney. Harry and Aggie have their address after the marriage, as the 'Steamboat Hotel, Ryde'.


It seems that Harry may have continued bridge building after the marriage, but the 3 eldest children … George, Elsie and Emma … were born in Sydney between 1901 and 1906, suggesting that Agnes stayed there. Emmie was born in Petersham, an inner suburb. Her two elder siblings, George and Elsie, had been born in St Leonard's, Sydney. In 1906 Harry Littleproud was listed as a builder. Also at some stage he kept livery stables.


In 1908, Harry Littleproud and his brother-in-law George Rochester decided to investigate the newly opened farming land in Queensland. They came to Chinchilla, and chose adjoining properties at Canaga. Harry began building a house for his brother-in-law [reportedly without nails, using only mortice and tenon joints]…while George returned to Sydney to accompany both families to Chinchilla. Harry's property was Hopewood; the Rochester property, on Hopewood's northeast, was Kiora Vale. At some stage, Harry also acquired Watercourse, on the opposite side of the main road.


The families travelled to Brisbane by the Yaronga. They stayed in Marr's Boarding House in Brisbane, before taking the train direct to Chinchilla. They arrived in Chinchilla in 1908, and lived in town in a rented house. Their youngest child, Nita, was born there in 1910. Meanwhile, Harry Littleproud had worked as a builder, among other tasks building Baking Board school in 1909; possibly also building bridges on the railway line as it pushed west. He was a foundation member of the Masonic Lodge formed in Chinchilla in 1910.


At Canaga, by 1911, Harry Littleproud had built the Rochester's house, and his own home. Aggie Littleproud remembered that the building of her own home was delayed by six weeks when the dray loaded with timber was bogged outside their gate. Harry also built the first school on land donated by Rochester, almost immediately opposite his own house, and Elsie, George and Emmie Littleproud started their schooling there when it opened in that year. The school was later moved to its current location.


George Rochester began a mail delivery service to Canaga about 1910, and the first telephone was installed by 1922. But the Rochesters had returned to Sydney by 1920. The Rochester house at Canaga still stood just a few years ago, when I last visited. The house Harry built on Hopewood has since been removed. Canaga school, the first built using cypress pine, still stands, after more than 100 years.

Harry and Aggie had four children George (married Ruth Middleton), Elsie (married Norman Young), Emmie (married Ray Redgen, my parents), and Nita, married Sydney Kerr, one of the Kerr brothers, butchers of Warra. Harry continued to work his farms until about 1937, when he sold Hopewood to his son-in-law, Norman Young.


George Littleproud took over management of Watercourse, and later added other surrounding properties. He served on Chinchilla District Council between 1949 and 1963. His son Brian and Grandson David continued his interest in politics.


Harry and Aggie retired to Brisbane, where they continued to live for many years, making annual visits to their children each Christmas. They celebrated their Golden Wedding in 1950 at the Redgen farm. Both Harry and Aggie continued healthy and active into their 90s. Harry died 21 March 1960, and Aggie died 26 February 1969.


The Wilkinsons


My mother had talked about her 'Uncle Will', but it took me a long time to work out just who this person was. In fact he was Mr John Alexander Wilkinson, of Kogan. And he was a first cousin of Harry Littleproud; their mothers were sisters Emma and Ellen Frear.


Wilkinson was also a New Zealander, and came from the same small locality as did Littleproud. But Wilkinson's family moved to Mildura Victoria, before 1900, and became fruit growers. 'Uncle Will' also visited Chinchilla in 1908, and selected a property at Kogan, named Kainama, a Maori word. In 1909, he married a South Australian woman, and brought her to Kogan.


Wilkinson was very active in community affairs. He was chair of the Committee which built the first Kogan Hall, and was Chairman of Directors of the Kogan Cheese Factory started in 1917. He also served on the Chinchilla Shire Council between 1913 and 1924, and was Chairman in 1916.


This short account leaves me with so many questions. Did Harry Littleproud and 'Uncle Will' meet in Victoria? Did they intend to visit Chinchilla at the same time? Or did someone in Chinchilla introduce them to each other, with the suggestion that 'you two New Zealanders should get to know each other?' I will never know. But I certainly wish I did!

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