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John Frederick Small (1821–1897)

There are few persons whose connection with the Clarence district extended over so long a period as did that of the late Mr. J. F. [John Frederick] Small, whose decease we referred to in our last issue. Deceased was identified with this river and district during the whole of its history, since it became inhabited by the white man, and during his long residence of nearly 60 years he witnessed the great changes that had taken place, and to which he had in no small degree contributed. Mr. Small was born at Ryde, on the Paramatta, about 78 years ago, and was the eldest of a family of nine, the remaining members being Mr. Jas. Small (formerly of Coffs Harbour), Mr. G. Small, Mr. H. Small, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Cowper (the three latter reside on the South Arm, Mrs. G. R. Powell (Byron Bay), Mrs. Howard (Grafton), and Mrs. J. Keogh. Mr. Small's father, hearing of the existence of a big river on the North Coast from Craig, who travelled the coast southwards from Brisbane, embarked hither in the schooner Susan with 24 sawyers and a large quantity of stores and supplies. After an unsuccessful attempt to enter the river, the Susan returned to Sydney; but safely negotiated the entrance in a second essay, and landed her party somewhere near the present site of Maclean. The Susan was engaged conveying cedar to Sydney, that timber being plentiful in the brushes of the Clarence, Not long after Mr. Small's father removed to Woodford Island, where he was joined by his son, then about 20 years of age. There he erected one of the first houses of the district, and here the subject of this notice lived many years. At that early period intense hardships had to be encountered. The banks of the river and right round the island were clothed in dense brush. There were no stores in the district, and the few residents were dependent for supplies on the irregular visits of sailing vessels, that arrived about once a quarter. Stores were brought down by boat from Brushgrove to Mr. Small's, when landed from the coasters. The celebrated dry season that occurred in the thirties was keenly felt on the Clarence, and provisions ran up to famine prices. The first cattle brought to the river were landed from the Susan on the lower end of Woodford Island, and the Small family at a very early period became identified with pastoral pursuits. The blacks in these early days were troublesome, and on one occasion Mr. Small and his brother George had an encounter with a party of natives up the Coldstream. The brothers were each severely wounded, were in fact left for dead, and probably would have perished but for the assistance of Sydney Billy, a friendly native. Mr. Small removed to Ulmarra before the advent of the early settlers, and erected a residence on the open country, about half a mile at the rear of the present township, which was then covered with dense brush. Here he followed pastoral pursuits, combining butchering therewith when the settlement warranted. This he subsequently carried on extensively. During his sojourn at Ulmarra, he was closely identified with most movements that were undertaken by the residents. In the early sixties wheat growing was extensively practised by the farmers, and Mr. Small possessed one of the first threshing machines in use in the district. He, with the late Mr. T. T. Seller, purchased Newton Boyd station, on which the latter for some years resided. Deceased eventually returned to Woodford Island, where he resided till the time of his death. He entered into cane-growing, and erected a sugar mill, which, like too many other ventures of a similar character, was not a successful speculation. His health generally was good, and he visited town about a fortnight before his death, He was attacked by paralysis of the brain, and his medical adviser (Dr. Plummer) from the first held out but little hope of his recovery. Mr. Small was twice married, and his death took place on the same date that his first wife had passed away 37 years before. His first family numbered four, and included Mr. J. P. Small (Macleay River), Mrs. Jas. Havinden and Mrs. Campbell. There are several sons and daughters, the issue of the second marriage. Considering the brief notice, there was a large attendance at the funeral, his remains being deposited beside those of his parents and former wife, on the property where he had long resided. The coffin was of polished cedar, and the material of which it was constructed was selected by deceased some years before his death.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • death notice, Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW), 26 October 1897, p 3

Citation details

'Small, John Frederick (1821–1897)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

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