On track to Coonamble; Carl’s last hurdle

Coonamble cemetery, 1988. The headstone reads, In loving memory of our dear father and mother, Charles Robert Andriske, died 17 March 1903 aged 37 years; Emma Maria Andriske, died 18 July 1925 aged 54 years, ‘Rest in peace’, Erected by their loving family. I was 16 and fascinated by not only the gravesite but by what story lay behind the man who died at 37. Fast forward 34 years since that day and some 119 years since Charles’ death and I am now finally able to tell the story of this young man’s life. This is Charles’ (Carl’s) story.

The gravesite of Charles and Emma Andriske, my 2 x great grandparents and the grave next door which belongs to their daughter Rachel. Coonamble cemetery, 1988

My maternal grandfather Charles Andriske was named after his maternal grandfather, the Charles Andriske who died in 1903. Pop’s mother Unita had Pop when she was just 16 and unmarried. It had been just nine years since Unita had lost her father and this new baby boy of hers was given the name Charles in honour of him. Baby Charles would be raised in an all-female household, a story for another time. So, who was the Charles Robert Andriske who died aged 37?  Charles was born on the 5th January 1866 to German parents, Samuel Andriske and Anna Rosina Bieske and named Carl Robert. He was their seventh child and two more children would join the family after him. Born in Germantown, an immigrant enclave at Geelong, Victoria, his father Samuel was a vine grower, producing mainly burgundy and tokay varieties. Carl’s early life was interrupted by the death of his mother from a gastro-intestinal complaint just after Carl’s seventh birthday. Carl was raised by his older sisters and father. Carl’s father Samuel was a prominent member of the Germantown Lutheran community and local church. Having arrived in 1849, by 1854 the community had their own school which the Andriske children would have attended, to be taught the German language and Lutheran religious teachings. At some stage however, Carl decided to anglicise his German name and he became Charles, rather than Carl, on official documents. I will continue to refer to him as Carl throughout this story however, to distinguish him from both his son and grandson, both of whom were named Charles.

The first we come to know of Carl is when he was 16 years old. A newspaper article from 1882 has Carl listed as a runner in the Handicap Maiden Race of 150 yards (137 metres) and the Handicap Hurdles Race of 200 yards (183 metres). There is no follow up to say how he went but as he grew older, Carl became quite the athlete, competing at many events in the areas he lived. At age 17 and still in Geelong, Carl attended the Geelong St Patrick’s Sports Day and competed in the Maiden Race of 150 yards (137 metres), the Hurdle Race of 200 yards (183 metres) and the Handicap Flat Race of 150 yards (137 metres). By age 20 Carl had moved to Albury where a sizeable German population lived in nearby Jindera. In December 1886, the Albury German Musical Festival and Athletic Sports day was held where Carl competed in the heats of the Handicap Hurdle race but was beaten by C Keppler in a time of 20 seconds. Keppler went on to win the final heat. The weather was ‘excessively hot’ that day which may have contributed to Carl’s poor performance. He also withdrew from his planned run in the Licensed Victualler’s Prize run. In Albury, Carl took up a farming partnership with his older brother August but in his spare time, Carl continued to compete. Now aged 21, 1887 was a particularly busy year for Carl. In April he competed at the Albury Licensed Victuallers Association Sports Day and won the Handicap hurdle race of 100 yards (91 metres). He also came second in the Sheffield Handicap race of 130 yards (119 metres). In June he won the Sheffield Handicap footrace again at the Albury Fire Brigade Sports Day.

Carl’s second placing in the 150 Handicap Hurdles Race, 1888

In November 1887, Carl married Miss Emma Maria Bennett, the daughter of an Englishman and a Prussian immigrant. From here life became somewhat hectic for Carl, although he continued to compete at athletic carnivals when he could. In April of 1888, Carl competed at the Easter Sports Day in Albury in the Handicap Hurdle Race of 150 yards (137 metres). Slotted for the third heat with only one other lad, ‘Andriske won easily.’ The final heat saw five competitors. E Wunsch ‘won rather easily’, but Carl placed second and ‘only beat Ledger by a few inches.’ The winner’s time was 18 ½ seconds. Carl earned two pounds for his effort.

Just four months after his marriage, Carl and his brother August dissolved their farming partnership and the brothers went separate ways. In July of 1888 Carl and Emma’s first daughter was born in Albury and Carl was working as a manager leasing land to horse owners. Carl also had his own lease of land from a Thomas Jasper, somewhere near Urana. Then in March of 1889, Carl was summonsed to court on account of being declared bankrupt. He was listed as Charles R Andriske of Brookong Station. This is significant as just six months prior, Brookong Station had been the scene of one of Australia’s most infamous strikes when about 300 union member shearers created a disturbance after the owner tried to employ non-union labour. The riot act was read and nine shearers were tried at the Supreme Court in Wagga. The shearing season carried on with 40 non-union shearers employed instead. The fact that Carl is listed as living or working at Brookong Station in March of 1889 could mean he was employed after the riot or he could have been there at the time. The records do not give a clear enough indication to say for sure whether he was involved, but he would certainly have known about the riot none-the-less.

So Carl went to court to fight the bankruptcy charge and it is from here that we can learn something of his life at the time. He was in rent arrears to Thomas Jasper on the land he leased, owing him some 128 pounds, a huge sum for the time, probably worth more than two years salary. In order to retain some of his goods, Carl had moved a pig, a creamy pony, a harness, a saddle and some furniture to his step father-in-law Mr Hamilton’s place nearby and borrowed 70 pounds from him. Carl had sold some wheat to another man for 28 pounds, less than he had wanted due to the crop mainly failing. Some stock and other chattals (goods) were sold on his behalf which brought in 112 pounds. It would appear then that Carl was able to pay back a lot of what he owed. Carl had also been supplementing his income with his racing and just a couple of weeks before his court date, he’d won another hurdle race at Burrumbuttock, winning 3 pounds. These events were also great social events which would have been a bit part of community life in these small communities. On the evening of the race the organiser, a Mr Menz, provided a free supper. The Albury Banner reported, ‘After supper all adjourned to the ballroom, Professor Bellini from Albury supplying the music for the dancing, which was kept up til the early hours of the morning in a very pleasant manner.’

But it seems the bankruptcy charge had ruined Carl’s reputation and so he packed up his family and returned to where his father lived, in Germantown, some 250 miles (400 kms) south. He settled back into life there and the family’s second daughter Rachel was born in Germantown in 1891. Carl also continued racing and won a hurdle race in May of 1892, aged 26. He was still in peak condition, some ten years after first competing. But with his wife’s family still living in the Albury area, Carl and Emma were eventually pulled back there and so in December 1892, Carl announced his decision in a local paper, to open a butchery business in Jindera. Whether he grew bored, got a better offer or the business floundered is not known, but just six months later, another notice appeared in the newspaper stating Carl intended to close the butchery business at the end of June 1893. It is not known if Carl went back to farming or something else but he did stay in the Jindera area for a while longer. Carl is listed as a member of the Jindera Race Club in 1893 and he then turned his hand to playing cricket for Jindera. A game he played in March 1895 did not go so well however, as he was bowled out for 1.

With more children coming along in the family including Charles junior (known as Sonny), Carl’s responsibilities increased and he can no longer be found in any sporting capacity in the newspapers after 1895. He had also decided to make the move from Albury again, and this time landed at Woodlands Station near Dandaloo, in central west NSW, where we worked as a labourer. The family’s third daughter, Unita, my great grandmother, was born at Woodlands in February 1896. Second son Cecil Ruben was also born in the area in 1898. In October of that year, Carl put in a tender to take over the mail run which was accepted. This mail run had been conducted by a Mr William Draffin and Carl was to take over from him on the 1st January 1899. In a sad twist however, Carl probably took over sooner than expected, as Mr Draffin was thrown from his buggy in December and killed whilst on the mail run. So Carl took over and delivered mail for Woodlands Station, Lansdale and Dandaloo three times a week for an annual salary of 50 pounds. The position came with a horse and buggy. The term was fixed for three years during which time Carl and the family are listed as living in Goan St, Trangie. Carl would have travelled from Trangie to Dandaloo and Lansdale via Woodlands Station, a round trip of probably over 100 miles, necessitating overnight stays, perhaps at the Station to rest his horse.

The Andriske family’s life in Trangie would have been comfortable. In 1901, Trangie had a school with 200 enrolments and a ‘Progress Association’ which oversaw the growth of the town. The post office had 15 private boxes with demand for more and new buildings were being put up with regularity including Mosten’s Hotel that year. The private dwellings were of a ‘superior class’ and the local mill could barely keep up with demand for materials. Trangie was a place of stability for the family until Carl probably pushed his luck too far. Sadly it seems Carl was a man who racked up debts without a second thought and in April 1902 he was taken to the small debts court in Dubbo where the judge ruled that he had to pay back 11 pounds to Mr John Lindsay, a storekeeper at Trangie. Perhaps the debt was the catalyst for Carl’s decision to move his family out of town, north to Coonamble. It may also have been a connection related to Thomas Jasper who had land at Coonamble and who had previously rented land to Carl at Urana. Whatever the reason for the move, it was to prove Carl’s last.

Carl, Emma and the children had not long arrived in Coonamble when a typhoid epidemic broke out. Typhoid is a water borne disease and in this case the outbreak was linked to contaminated milk. In early January 1903, a local minister was struck down with the disease and was the first to die, within days of falling ill. By the first week of February at least 15 more cases had gone to hospital for treatment. The epidemic raged on throughout February and into March. However, by the 25th March the Dubbo Dispatch was reporting that the outbreak was ‘practically dying out.’ For the Andriske family, it certainly was. ‘There has been two deaths in the hospital during the week, making the total there 15. The deaths were…on Wednesday evening, a man named Charles Andriskie, who suffered from lung disease as well as fever.’ Still in his prime, and probably still fit, Carl was struck down by a disease which took his life at age 37. He was one of the last victims of the outbreak. The disease started with a fever, but for Carl it progressed and attacked his lungs and hospital treatment could not save him. His wife Emma also contracted the disease but thankfully survived, her youngest child being just four years old.

But Carl’s legacy lives on, particularly in Coonamble. Many of his great grandsons and great granddaughters down the line have been athletic and swimming champions, so some of Carl’s DNA definitely lingers in the Andriske descendants. Sadly, there are no known photographs in existence of Carl or Emma. We are left with just these cobbled together facts and a few memories, a marvellous headstone and a sporting heritage to be proud of. But it is enough nonetheless, in order to know him.