The unsung heroes of early days – My Parents.
Friedrich Franz Dodt my father, was born in Lantow in 1867. With his parents Gustav and Henriette Dodt, Emelie his sister, and his brother Karl (who was born on the boat) arrived in Maryborough onboard the ship Reichstag on 18th of July 1873.
Gustav was employed by Henry O’Hara for three months. Two more children were born Wilhelm (1875) and Eda (1878). In 1879 Gustav died. Friedrich, my father, being the eldest, had to go to work to help support his mother. She could not afford to pay (in those days) to send him to school but he could attend the German School at night free.
By that time gold had been discovered in Gympie by James Tash (1867). Supplies to the mines had to come from Maryborough. The roads were rough and treacherous and ropes had to be run around trees attached to the trays to prevent the loads toppling over on the mountains. Fred Dodt got a job – he was employed as a “billy boy” – making tea for the drivers of the teams. He was eleven years old.
An Irish couple Mr. and Mrs. Paddy Manning took pity on him. They had no children of their own and took him to work for them on their farm at Tinana. They taught him religion and a little schooling when he was really tired at night.
Then he married my mother Martha Hoffmann in 1891 they lived in a house on the farm where they grew crops. As soon as Fred went off to work the Aborigines would come and beg for tobacco and food (which she could ill afford), she gave them, and this little wife was very frightened. They worked the farm together and when the good crop was ready to be harvested in 1893 the Mary River flooded and swept away everything. She managed to save the treasured “marriage lines” which she carefully kept in a brown paper parcel tied with ribbon though they were water marked and browned for the rest of her life.
Fred was a strong well built man. It was said that “any beast of burden that belonged to him would not have a lazy bone in its body”. He was about 5’9in tall with a rosy complexion, violet blue eyes and fair curly hair.
My mother had black hair, slightly wavy, with blue-gray eyes and olive skin, brave, timid and shy, and small in stature weighing about 7/8 stone.
They came to Gympie and settled on a small farm at McIntosh’s Creek. Fred acquired a horse team and wagon which he paid off and carried billet wood to the mines. He never had any money to invest in the mines. At one stage he owed 100 pound to the Cullinane’s Store for the horse feed and thought he would have to sell his team but Harry Cullinane Snr gave him credit until he paid off the debt. Till he died, he never forgot that, and would not deal with any other business. He was so grateful for their standing by him when he was in trouble.
As the family grew bigger and they needed more room he balloted at the gympie land office for a farm lot at Bunya Creek in the Mary Valley. He won the ballot – when he walked out of the office another contestor offered him 100 pounds for it but he refused. They happily planned the new house (Queensland style) on the property and called it “Glendelough”. It was built not on the main Imbil road but further back because of the swaggies who might come and molest my mother and the children when my father was away (I was 3 weeks old 1914). As they had little or no money to buy stock etc she and the family worked the dairy farm while he worked for the Widgee Shire Council building roads and bridges which are still used in that area today. It was all done with picks and shovels, horses and drays, all toil and sweat, no modern machinery. On Sundays mother would drive him half way in the sulky (she had to be back to do the milky) with his weeks supply of food, sometimes ten miles to where he was working and he would walk the rest of the way. The men (road party) lived in tents, he was the ganger (boss).
Once a month on a Saturday they’d rise very early and with shamrock the faithful creamy pony in the sulky (they would take me with them) and drive to the shire office in Gympie to pay the men. Eileen did up the pay sheets, he had marked the times worked etc – always articulate – Tutonic thoroughness. All though he could not read or write in all the years he worked there, the shire clerk never knew that, because he had never made a mistake. He had his own way of “accounting”. There was always – a hot dinner at the gympie hotel and drinks, sometimes a few to many with the men after the meeting. He donated a corner piece of his land to the Government for a school and a church which he helped to build and the family attended. He was illerate himself but made sure his children were educated. We always bordered the teacher and supported the school.
Joe Taylor, the Anglican Minister came every Friday evening for dinner and stayed for a service in the church at night. (My mother died on a Friday and he was there). Albert, my eldest brother, had gone to the war and my sister, Ruby Chapple tells me he fought at GALLIPOLI and in Flanders. He came back badly gased and partially paralysed. Was given twelve months to live but survived and worked hard for fifty years or more. Eileen married Norman Blyth. My sister Tilly married Bertie Smith, a timber getter, who hauled logs with a bullock team. Fred jnr worked at Doyles Sawmill in Kandanga. Fred felled the timber for the mill and planted banana trees. He married Lorna Discon the postmistress, built and set up Daviefing and lived there till he died. He worked at home on the farm grew cane as well as bananas, later he joined his brothers and worked at Doyle’s farm in Kandanga. He later married Dorothy McAulay.
My father left the Widgee Shire Council, he stayed at home and worked on the farm. He was always willing to help any neighbour who was struggling and needed help. Mother always rose at four AM to help the boys to work and starting the milking. We all milked by hand, separating, feeding calves and pigs vegetables and winter feed for the horses, cattle and hens. A happy family. Christmas was something special – puddings, hams (from our pigs), tips and ginger beer and cakes. “Dad always got bottles of beer” – my mothers present to him.
Our friends and relatives would come from Gympie for a sing around the piano. My father was musical, he played the accordian, mouth organ and the flute all by ear. It pleased him more than to play his accordian while we sat on the big verandah. Now we like to believe he’s amusing the saints in heaven with his music.
Its always a scrumptous supper. Everyone was welcome with “Auntie Martha”. She worked as a good manager, never sparing herself to make on that our lives would be easier than she had lived. She loved us all so much.
We came when we found out she had cancer of the stomach, it caused intense pain as modern drugs were not invented then. She had an operation and unbelievable deep pay treatment in Brisbane. She kept on striving and died on the 11 March 1927. She was 52 years old. On the farm were two powerful and spirited black draft horses – Nigger and Nugget who seldom, if ever came anywhere near the house but the week when she was dying Nigger came and stood under the high house every day and no way could we keep him out, he’d just come back again. It seemed he knew the angel’s were waiting to take my dear mother’s beautiful soul to heaven. Maybe he thought he’d needed to carry her to god. After she died, Nigger never came back under the house.
My poor father was devastated with grief. She was everything to him and years later he’d fall asleep if I was reading to him and tell me “your mother was here beside me, I put out my hand and she wake up and she was gone”. Theirs was a true and lasting love. Dorothy took charge of the house and members of the family. Ruby was a willing worker, especially on the farm. She went nursing and finished her training at the Gympie General Hospital. Vera worked at an agency and in 1929 Fred leased the farm ad came to live in retirement at Chatsworth Road Gympie. He bought a house from Archie Bradley (Prize Fighter whose antics caused him fear at times) at Tin Can Bay and with his brother Willie built the road to there from Gympie. He loved the bay.
When I finished school at Gympie High. Dorothy married Percy Senhurst, I stayed at home and looked after my father. It was in the big depression years and there were no jobs or money for wages for me. I married my beloved Jim Smith (1936), my father urged me to get married although I hated leaving him. I think he felt satisfied that he was fulfilling my mother’s wishes to see us all settled before he died. Three months later 27 March 1937. We thank god for our good and loving parents who sacrificed so much for us all and helped to make Australia the wonderful country it is today.
May they rest in Peace.
Delphine Smith (nee DODT).