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Rushworth Eucalyptus oil - our liquid gold!

Another family of Jones’ was living at Inglewood in the early 1900s. The progenitor of this family in Australia was William Alexander Jones, who arrived in Inglewood as a gold miner in the late 1850s. William married Mary Anne Quinn, a lass of Irish descent, at Inglewood in 1862.

William and Mary’s son Thomas married Anne Eliza Freeman in 1887, and they raised a large family of five boys and two girls, all born in the Inglewood area. Thomas was a mine manager, who unfortunately succumbed to “miner’s disease” in 1909, at the age of only 46. This was also a common fate of men who worked in the gold mines of Rushworth and district.

For the family to survive with the loss of the major breadwinner, third son Arthur Freeman Jones (Art) had to go out to work. The family knew the other Jones family. In fact, as a teenager, Art was working at the Jones’ eucy factory in Inglewood. He moved to Rushworth to work for Phil Jones Senior in the eucalyptus oil production industry in Parramatta Gully.

Eventually, he was followed across to Rushworth by his mother and siblings. The two girls married into Rushworth families (Locke and Schumann), and all members of the family made their homes in Rushworth and surrounding districts.

The matriarch of the family, Anne Eliza Jones, died in 1953 and is buried alongside her seven children in the Rushworth cemetery.

Over six generations, various members of the family have been in continuous occupation of the site at Parramatta Gully since 1909. Acquiring the eucy business from Phil Jones Senior in 1911, most of the family were engaged in the industry and/or associated forest industries over the ensuing years.

Eucy at Parramatta Gully

Remember, Art Jones had come to Rushworth from Inglewood in 1909, to work for a bloke called Phil Jones Senior (no relation). He rode the 130 km on his pushbike. Art took over the business in 1911 when his widowed mother and siblings followed him over to settle in Parramatta Gully. The site had been established by William Begg in the early 1890s, well after the gully had been worked over by the gold miners. (There is still plenty of evidence of alluvial mining between the present-day site of the eucy factory and Whroo Road, and up the gully from the dam)

Arthur Freeman Jones

A 1970 story in the Shepparton News, in which Art was interviewed, says he was “the original member of the family who began distilling eucalyptus at Rushworth in 1912…and “he is a member of the old school.”

In other words, a skilled bushman who could turn his hand to anything. We have mentioned that back in the day, he cut all the eucalyptus leaves by hand. Three men using sickles could cut about two tons of eucy leaves in a day.

In those days, the stumps were left “protruding about six inches above the surface” of the ground, so there would be a lot of bending and lifting to be done. The leaves had to be loaded onto a dray or trailer to be taken back to Parramatta Gully for processing.

When the leaves were processed, the oil content could vary dramatically, depending on a range of factors. In the Shepp News story, Art’s son Kevin said the best yield he had got from two tons of leaves was 80 pounds (36 kg), but it could be as low as 6 pounds (under 3 kg). In 1970, Kevin was receiving 63 cents a pound for his considerable efforts.

Living at Parramatta Gully

When the family first set up at Parramatta Gully, their home was a tent, before “the boys built their mother a tin shed.” Living conditions were basic, with no electricity or running water. Water was carried from the dam in buckets and cooking done on an open fire.

Before the Rushworth railway line was extended to Colbo, just before the Great War, buildings (including the original Mechanics Institute) had to be demolished or removed so that the line could be extended across High Street. The Jones boys bought one of the shops, moved it and altered it to form the basis of the first proper home on the site. (This house was destroyed in a fire 80 years later, in 1994.)

Brothers Alec and Tom joined Art in the family business, which later included a sawmill at Rushworth station as well as the eucalyptus oil distilling at Parramatta Gully. Trading as Jones Bros, they “had contracts with chemical companies and the 44 gallon drums of oil were taken to the Rushworth railway station and transported to Melbourne by rail.” Their two other brothers worked with them on occasions.

Later generations

There is a direct link from Art Jones to the current generation of Jones’ operating in the eucy industry at Parramatta Gully, Rushworth. Art and his wife Doris had three children, and their son Kevin, and Kevin’s wife Amy, continued the family tradition.

Kevin and Amy had 11 children, but Kevin’s life was tragically cut short in a car accident in 1981. Amy continued to live at Parramatta Gully, surviving Kevin by nearly 30 years, and now her son Jim, still living at Parramatta Gully, with his family takes responsibility for continuing the production of eucalyptus oil there, a tradition now extending for well over 125 years.

(Thanks to Tony Ford for information for these articles.)