Christopher (Kit) Bolt

Christopher (Kit) Bolt

This branch of the Bolt family traces its roots to soldier Christopher Dart Bolt who had fought under Wellington to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo. Owing to hard times in England this Bolt family, consisting now of Christopher, wife Nancy and their five children, decided to migrate to Australia where already some Bolts had settled.

To secure the Government grant to intending settlers in Australia in those early days, it was necessary to form a party of emigrants. This was done by Christopher who induced two sisters by the name of Susan and Martha Lane to join his wife, three sons and two daughters, in seeking a new home in South Australia. The youngest son, and subject of this article is their ten year old son Christopher, better known as Kit, born in Devon on March 8 1837.

Just for the record; there was another Kit. He was AC Bolt who served in the Boer War and later took up land with his brother J Bolt at Murtho. When AC Bolt was 45 years old he enlisted to serve in WWI. He was killed in 1917.

The voyage started in January 1847 from Plymouth Sound on the 495 tons sailing ship Theresa, captained by Thomas Bacon. It arrived at Port Adelaide on Monday 3 May 1847. Kit’s parents went to work as soon as they got to Adelaide and set up a large lodging house at the back of the Devon Arms Hotel, Adelaide and a large yard was provided for the bullock drivers from the country who boarded at this place.

Ten years old Christopher’s first job was grubbing a large part of the present city park lands. He received very little schooling, being required to mind his father's cows on parklands near the Torrens. When milk ran short he was required to go to Unley for extra supplies, riding a large black billy goat or driving a pair of these in a specially constructed cart. When only 12 years old he was employed by Johann Martin of Unley. He had to drive bullocks in a single furrow plough. All the ploughs in those days were single furrowed and without wheels.

In the following year his father took up land at Mount Torrens and moved his family to that district. Here Christopher learnt all the art of good farming under his father's supervision. The father taught his son reliable farming, the knowledge gained remaining a valuable asset in later life.

In 1852, and all of 15 years old, Kit gained his first glimpse of the River Murray, when he was employed to muster cattle for George Dunn, of Caloote Station, near Mannum, The station stock consisted of oxen, a few horses, but no sheep. Mannum at this date was very unpretentious. A one-room pine shack stood approximately on the spot where the shelter housing the boiler of Captain William R. Randell's Mary Ann (the first steamboat to go up the Murray) now stands. Edmund Bowe occupied this; his son, Godfrey, went with John Bolt to the Victorian gold diggings with a bullock waggon loaded with cheese and bacon. John afterwards went to Snowy River diggings, but was not so fortunate.

Supplies for the station mostly came from, or via Tailem Bend and were delivered by John Hunt of Cooke’s Plain at £2 per ton. Years later Christopher remembered that there were many aborigines in the vicinity and they were always friendly if fairly treated. In 1862 accompanied by his brother, John, Bolt took 11,000 head of cattle, owned by John Baker, from Lake Albert near Wellington, to Angepena Station in the far north. During the drought years of 1868-69 John Baker lost 14.000 head of cattle and horses. About 1863 Christopher was engaged on a temporary job, shearing at Booborowie station, near Burra, owned by Dr Browne.

In 1871-2 Bolt managed Purnong Station, on the site of the present township, for Henry Scott. Then he founded Granite Rocks Station for the Hon. John Baker, three miles upstream from Mannum. On 19 January 1873 the now 35 year old Christopher married 18 years old Mary Ann Finn, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Finn, of Keyneton who was already very pregnant at that stage. The ceremony was performed by Dr Esau at the Registry Office in Woodside. Bolt built his first home and all the homestead buildings and was ably and devotedly assisted in all his endeavours for 42 years by Mary Ann who died at Semaphore on 25 November 1914 aged 59.

After the wedding Bolt went to Granite Rocks and managed the station for Mrs Isabella Baker, the widow of John Baker for three years. Their first daughter, Maryann Elizabeth, was born on 16 April 1873. This was followed on 9 November 1874 by the birth of John Robert at East Wall near Mannum. After Granite Rocks Kit proceeded to the Pinnaroo country, where he was in charge of a station for the same lady for 10 years.

Kit claims to have been the first man to go through the scrub from Loxton to Pinnaroo. The task was an achievement, considering that in 10 days he drove 5.000 sheep through the scrub with a small hand, of helpers. More sons were born on 29 December 1876 at East Wellington, named Christopher Albert, Walter on 30 March 1879 and Richard on 9 November 1881, both at Wellington. A daughter, Elizabeth Nancey, was born on 17 December 1883 at Garra Station near Wellington.

Kit eventually relinquished his position at Granite Rocks to his brother John and proceeded to found Garra Station (for the same employer) of 880 square miles extent, now known as Lameroo. Altogether 24,000 sheep comprised the stock' of this station. Settlers had occupied this territory before, but had withdrawn owing to the cost of freight of implements and food and the ravages of dingoes. Most of this station was fenced during Bolt's 10 years of supervision.

While at Garra, Kit grew his own horse fodder very successfully but was discouraged by his employer who feared the loss of his land if farmers were to find out. Kit took up land for his own use at Scrubby Flat in the Hundred of Forster in 1884 and has remained in the district ever since. He secured section 74, a block of 315 acres. With a Mr. Riddle, he obtained another two blocks of 700 acres. Kit was one of the first to open up the Forster district. One acre of his land at the extreme north-western corner he donated to form a local cemetery.

In was on Section 74 that Kit built a four roomed house using wattle and daub and hessian for the ceilings. A dairy was later built into the cliff face close to the river. The river was their life line. They relied on the paddle steamers for the delivery of most of their needs and for taking produce to the markets. While at Scrubby Flat several more children were born. Phoebe on 28 May 1886, George Murray on 27 June 1888 and Martha on 9 July 1890.

When James Sears came to Forster in 1884 he named his property Rossawella and donated a section of his land for the building of a Methodist Church. This was completed in September 1888 with Christopher Bolt as one of the trustees. It was the first Methodist Church on the Murray. In 1938 it celebrated its golden Jubilee.

Chronicle 17 November 1938

A meeting of the selectors in the Hundred of Forster was held on Saturday 2 October 1886 and Kit Bolt, of Scrubby Flat was elected chairman. Several questions of local interest were discussed. It was proposed by T Sears and seconded by T Coon, that the chairman writes to the Post-Master-General with respect to obtaining postal communication with Forster. After that H. Goesch proposed and I Sears seconded that a memorial be obtained for presentation to the Surveyor-General that a punt for crossing the river be obtained for the Hundreds of Forster and Ridley, as the distance between Mannum and Blanchetown crossings is great and the roads very heavy. This causes a great deal of unnecessary travelling and expense. All proposals were carried. After some further discussion upon the rabbit problem, a very orderly meeting came to a close with a hearty vote of thanks to the chairman.

In June 1892 Kit was elected Councillor representing the Forster Ward in the District Council of Caurnamont. During his first thirteen years he was absent for only one meeting. He laid the foundation stone of the Forster Hall on 14 October 1914. He did all he could to exterminate the rabbits and improve the roads. However he was against the building of locks across the river. He served the Council for a total of 26 years.

Laying foundation stone. Christopher seated left of door frame.

By this time most of the children of Christopher and Mary Ann had attained adulthood and found partners. Mary Ann Elizabeth had married Frances Johns on 24 March 1898, John Robert married Elizabeth Jane Johns on 5 March 1902 and Walter married 21 year old Grace Bridget Johns, daughter of Anthony Johns at Forster on 27 September 1904. In 1908 Christopher Albert married 27 year old Emily Ricketts, daughter of William on 7 April at Southwark and Richard married Eda Pauline Selma Kluge, daughter of Carl Ernst Kluge and Martha Tschirpig, at Forster on 21 October. In 1910 they had a daughter Elsie. Richard enlisted in 1916 and served with the AIF, 3rd Light Horse in Egypt. On 15 January 1942 when 60 years old, he once more enlisted to serve in Australia.

After the death of his wife at Semaphore on 25 November 1914 at the age of 59, Christopher’s daughter Martha continued to keep house for her father and brother George until she married in 1918. From then on he was looked after by his daughter Phoebe. Kit planted his last crop in 1914 at the age of 77 and rode his horse until his mid-eighties. Christopher died 14 December 1928 and was survived by all nine children. There were a further 16 grandsons, 14 granddaughters, and two great-grandsons at the time of his death. Both Christopher and his wife Mary Ann are buried at the Bow Hill cemetery.

B/W photographs courtesy Fred Tyler. Much more information about the family
can be found in the book Bolt from Devon, 1760-1994.

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