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Hilder Family

The Hilder family home – circa 1930s, situated on the left of what is now Hilder Road, where Wittonga Park now stands. Photograph courtesy of Jeff Hilder.

The Hilder family roots date back to Richard Hilder who was born in c.1490 in “Dygdones” Chidingley, England. Richard was a Yeoman farmer and father of three sons and five daughters.

The origins of the Hilder family begins in the small farming village of Mountfield, Sussex, England. Thomas Hilder, farm labourer and descendant of Richard, married Leonora Stone and together they had eleven children one of which was John Hilder, the only member of his family to emigrate to Australia.

After a long sea voyage on the sailing ship “Hastings”, John arrived in Moreton Bay on 30 May 1857. On 5 April, 1859, John selected a 35 acre portion of land in the area known as Enoggera (now The Gap) and paid the sum of £1 per acre to the New South Wales government, as Queensland did not become a separate state until 10 December 1859.

John married Emma Gridley in 1861. Emma had emigrated from Clare, Suffolk, England, with her parents Joseph and Ellen Gridley. They arrived in Moreton Bay aboard the sailing ship “James Fernie” on 24 January 1856 and settled in Brisbane. They finally moved to the Eumundi area in 1870. Joseph worked for a time at the Enoggera Waterworks and in 1865 he was granted a licence to operate the Half Moon Inn (hotel) which was situated in Greenlanes Road, at the entrance to The Gap. No doubt the workers from the new Enoggera Dam site would have had a great thirst by days end, as they had hand dug and placed 125,000 cubic yards of material which was compacted with the aid of horses and carts. The Inn was named after Joseph’s favourite Inn in his home village of Clare, England.

I have established very little in regard to the activities of John in the 19th century. John named the property “Mountfield” after his birthplace in England and supposedly had a fruit orchard at some time, growing a large variety of fruits. As late as the 1950s, a row of plum trees still existed on the boundary fence between the crop cultivation area and the morning cattle grazing area, now known as Wittonga Park. As this was virgin land, sold by the government of the day, it would have certain conditions imposed which required the new owner to carry out improvements within a certain period of time, for example clearing of scrubland, fencing and eventually a dwelling.

The original house consisted of only two rooms, a living area and another room for sleeping. A separate out building with only a dirt floor was where normal household activities such as cooking and washing of clothes took place. The area in between was covered by a flat roof and had the usual hand pump for the supply of household water needs and a small room for bathing. To the north east end of the house there was a very large brick lined underground water tank, where water supplied were drawn from, in the early days before bore water was pumped from a location now covered by Kilcolman Street.

Mountfield Dairy circa 1950s, looking across to Gresford Park. Photograph courtesy of Brian Sweet.

I clearly remember several viewings of the inhabitants of the underground tank – and they were not always alive. It was very hard to enjoy a good glass of water knowing snakes and frogs had been flavouring it. The house walls were built of split logs, with no internal lining in the early days to stop the cold breezes. In later years the wooden roof shingles were replaced with galvanised iron sheets and the internal walls were lined. The building also had some major extensions to create a bedroom area at a lower level in order to have the large kitchen inside the main house.

At some time the Hilder family approached the government and obtained Lot 95 – property now occupied by the Hilder Road State School, under a Perpetual Lease agreement and this area of eight acres then formed an important part of the daily farm routine. Early each morning approximately 120 milking cows would be grazing in an area now covering the western half of Wittonga Park, across Kilcolman Street and uphill to Dungory Street. The cows were rounded up by dogs and horsemen for morning milking at 10 o’clock and each one knew to go to the same bale every day. They were fed a mixture of brewery grain, chaff and many other interesting ingredients.

Herb Wilson of Moggill Road at the Mountfield Dairy Auction Day. Photograph courtesy of Brian Sweet.

After milking, the cows were herded across Hilder Road to the afternoon grazing paddock (now the school oval) and stayed there until late afternoon. They were then herded uphill to the night paddock – the area between Dungory and Cloghan Streets. Milking took place again at 12 o’clock midnight, after which the cows were released once more to the morning paddock.

In the early days, milk was sold to warm milk vendors who delivered the milk by horse and cart, and filled their customers own containers, normally a large billy can with a fitted lid. In later years, milk was chilled in a brine cooler, poured into 10 gallon cans and delivered to United Milk Vendors for processing.

After each milking the bales were cleaned out with a high pressure water hose which meant that the area below the bales was very fertile and quite hazardous for those not suitably dressed for the occasion.

Crops were cultivated for cow feed in the area bounded by Kilcolman Street, Hilder Road and Fish Creek (Wittonga Park). In earlier days, the soil was cultivated by means of a horse pulling a plough with the farmer hoping the plough didn’t hit any solid object – which would result in the equipment being wrenched from his steel like grip on the handles. Harrows were also used behind the horse to till the soil. Small Howard rotary hoes were used in later years, the farmer walking behind. The cut was quite narrow which meant it took forever to cultivate a large area. The arrival of the mass-produced ride- on Ferguson tractor cut the cultivation preparation time drastically. Most farmers seemed to hire contractors for this work.

Mountfield Piggery circa 1950s. Photograph courtesy of Brian Sweet.

Joe and his brother John, with the assistance of a hired farm labourer, worked the farm until 1960. When John died suddenly in 1960, Joe decided to bring an era to a close. As you can imagine, they had a very hard working life, up at 7am to get ready for the 10am milking, deliver the milk to the factory, clean out the bales, prepare the feed for the bales, cultivation areas to be prepared, crops to be planted, crops to be cut by hand with reaping hook or scythe and cut up by chaff cutter, pigs to be fed and looked after, chooks to be fed and eggs collected, vehicles to be serviced and repaired, horses to be shod, fences to be mended, building to repair, constant pumping of water from the well, transporting the brewery grain for feed, cows to be shifted to different paddocks and many more daily chores.

We must not forget they were out of bed again at 11pm for the night milking. No such thing as taking a ‘sickie’ in those days! I should also mention the tremendous support of John’s wife Kate, and their son Les for their input into the chores on the farm.

Article by: by Jeff Hilder
Source: Reflections 1, Memories of The Gap, © Copyright 1999 by Richard Speechley