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Rediscovering Ginninderra: A database:
Thomas 'Tom' Gribble

Born: 1837; Died: 1927; Married: Katherine Warren

Thomas 'Tom' Gribble

Thomas ‘Tom’ Gribble was a Devonshire cobbler’s son, who migrated to Australia in 1857. He married fellow bounty migrant, Kate Warren, at Windsor in 1860 and then moved to Ginninderra. They farmed a small selection later known as 'The Valley'.

The Gribbles were innovative farmers, always willing to try new technologies and methods. Nnewspaper columnist, James Gillespie, dubbed Tom ‘the boss farmer’. He achieved district-high yields of 60 bushels of wheat to the acre. The Gribbles also invested in the new steam-powered traction engines and did most of the reaping, chaff-cutting and threshing throughout the district. Gribble was also founding member of the Ginninderra Farmers' Union.

Tom and Kate built a stone house and raised seven children. Tom supplemented his income with hay stacking and teamster work. In 1862 near Lake George, when carting a load of wool to Sydney, Tom was bailed up by Ben Hall and his gang. Despite losing his money and valuables, Tom didn’t seem too perturbed, saying: ‘they treated us in a very polite manner’.

Tom’s early activities were often conducted in partnership with his good friend, Thomas Wells. They carted wool from the district to Sydney in the late 1850s and early 1860s as well as working together on the haystacking contracts. Shumack considered Gribble to be the best hay-stacker he had ever seen. However, his partnership with Wells was ended by Wells’ arrest after he took an axe to his wife and her suspected lover.

Shumack says:

Samuel Morley … had a couple of nips with Mrs Wells, and was well under the influence when Wells returned and attacked them with an axe. Morley was killed outright, and Judy Webb inserted thirty stitches in the wounds received by Mrs Wells. Wells was arrested and subsequently convicted on a charge of manslaughter. The testimony of his wife saved him from a more serious charge and he received a light sentence. Upon his release he returned to Ginninderra and was employed by William Davis.

Like many of the smaller farmers of the region, Tom clashed with prominent landowner E. K. Crace over road access and water rights. Unfortunately for Tom, when he pulled down one of the fences which the litigous Crace had erected in 1881, barring access to Tom’s property, he was charged with trespass and fined the sum of ₤44. However, Tom won a subsequent court case in 1885; again concerning an attempt by Crace to obstruct access to the Tea Gardens property.

Gribble was also a prominent cricketer and known in the district as a breeder of fine racehorces and prominent in the early meetings of the ‘One Tree Hill Race Club’. He even hosted race meetings at Tea Gardens. At one event, known as the ‘Harvest Home’ in 1891, big crowds attended, with a licensed liquor stall run by Pooley’s Hotel in Queanbeyan and a travelling American dental surgeon in attendance.

Tom Gribble was also talented in the arts. He played the violin in a three-man band at a Ginninderra dances in the early 1900s. Yet another interest was fossicking for gold. He was particularly active in the Springe Range area, where his son, Thomas Gribble III unearthed the largest nugget found at that site - worth several hundred pounds - a considerable fortune in the 1910s.

Over the years, the Gribbles built up a thriving property. By the time they retired in 1912 and advertised the property for lease in the Queanbeyan Age, they had accumulated 492 acres, of which 200 were under cultivation. The property was fully fenced with rabbit-proof netting and was used to graze sheep, cattle, horses and pigs. As well as farming, they operated a butchering business, for which a slaughtering license had been granted in 1892.

Tom and Kate moved to Yass in 1912. He died in 1927 at the age of 90 years.

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