Lillian & John W Horsington with children
Florence Vigar & Lillian Horsington, sisters' reunion 1938
Family History
2013 Copyright Ruzsicska
An article in the Murray Pioneer described the difficulties of running cattle on Chowilla and gives a mention to John Coombs. Chowilla country carried about 1,500 head of cattle, and these, after rains, would ramble far away outback into the then but little known bush. There were no dams. The stock watered at clay pans and natural water holds. It was next to impossible to muster until the hot weather drove the mobs into frontage. Mustering would then take place on the river flats, and mobs were rounded up, sometimes by moonlight. The big drafting yards were at Chowilla. No gates were used then, heavy slip panels being preferred.

In consequence of the great extent of country, the cattle had to roam over, and the difficulties of properly working the mobs, the beasts would become hard to handle and round up. Wild cattle were mostly shot out of the road, so as not to spoil those of a more tranquil nature.

At the back of Coombool Lake, 30 head of very bad cattle were knocked over one day by John Coombs. They could not be mustered, and so orders had been given to shoot them. At other places on the river, it was also found necessary to destroy the very wild beasts
. (21 Dec 1923)

A few years later John left Chowilla and moved to Lake Victoria station to work as head stockman for John McKinley. The family lived at the stockyards eight miles up from the old pub. (John McKinley went broke in 1863 and sold Lake Victoria Station to a Mr Perry but it is believed that John and his family had already moved to Moorna).

John & Sarah had a son Joseph between 1857 & 1862 but no registration has been found for his birth. Another 6 children were born in Moorna/Wentworth area: George b. 1862, William b. 1864, Edward b. 1866, Florence b. 1868, Lily b. 1870 and Albert b. 1873.

The story continues in the Murray Pioneer:
In 1864 a portion of the country round the Moorna hotel was pegged out as a township. Blocks sold readily, but it was afterwards decided to build the town at the junction of the Darling and Murray rivers.

Moorna carried both sheep and cattle then and E.B. Scott, afterwards governor of the stockade, was stockman. The Coombs lived for about five years at Moorna. Their first house was built of reeds. Before they came there, a police station had been established with Carstairs in charge. The supposed protector of aborigines was a man called Perry, who didn't trouble much about anything.

About this time, John was called up to Mildura station to shoot wild cattle for Hugh Jamieson. The job lasted six months and then Mildura was ready for the sheep. His earnings on Mildura enabled him to save sufficient money to purchase the Government building at Moorna and this was turned in "The Bush Inn". The old signboard is well remembered.

The original pub, "The Bush Inn" was composed of slabs and had a thatched roof. In 1869 the building was destroyed by fire and the family lost everything they possessed.

"Seventy Years in the Murray Country - A Story of John George Coombs, Bushman, Stockman, and Mail Coach Driver", The Murray Pioneer, 21 Dec 1923

John held The Publicans' Licences for the "Bush Inn" in Moorna (under Wentworth district) between 1865 and 1874. [Amazing research has been undertaken at the old site of the Bush Inn - see
In the Kitchen at the Moorna Bush Inn by Jeannette hope, Wilfred Shawcross and Sarah Watts.]

Sarah died just weeks after Albert's birth in 1873; the cause of death was Puerperal fever. Her occupation is listed as Landlady and her eldest son, John George (Jack) is the informant on the certificate. Her death notice in the South Australian Register read:
On the 10th June, at Moorna, Sarah Ann, the beloved wife of John Coombs, aged 39 years, after a lingering illness, leaving a large family to lament her loss. (19 June 1873)

Sarah was buried west of Moorna (now Moorna Station), not far from the hotel site.
John and Sarah had 2 children in Adelaide (John George b.1852 and James William b.1854) before setting out for the Murray River where a daughter, Sarah Ann was born in 1857. John began work as head stockman on Chowilla Station for James Chambers. According to one of his sons, the first house the Coombs occupied was at Chowilla. It was a hut made of gum slabs and had a thatched roof.
Although Charles Lambert is listed as the proprietor of the Bush Inn between 1875 and 1880, the Greville's Official Post Office Directory (1875/76) holds a listing for John Coombs as innkeeper at Moorna; this may have only held true for the early part of 1875.

John and the family moved to Ral Ral in South Australia (Calperum Station and now part of the Australian Landscape Trust) and like Moorna, a hotel and mail change station. The Northern Argus (Clare) of 8 Dec 1876 lists
Transfer of Publicans' Licenses Granted: J. Coombs, from W. Perkins, Ral Ral Hotel, Ral Ral. John kept the Ral Ral Hotel until his death on 31st March 1880. The South Australian Advertiser ran the advertisement in March of 1877, 1878, 1879 and 1880 for the Northern Licensing Bench, Clare with John Coombs as the licensee for Ral Ral Hotel.

The cause of John's death (aged 56) is recorded as "excessive drinking". He was buried near Ral Ral (site unknown).

Son, James William took over the Ral Ral Hotel and transfer of the Publican's Licence is listed in the South Australian Register, 4 June 1880. The hotel closed in 1884.

Son, John George (Jack) was a pioneer mailman between Blanchetown and Wentworth (see Characters) . He married Elizabeth Teasdale in 1877 and had 8 children. Elizabeth died in 1926 in Swan Hill (Victoria); Jack died in 1930 and is buried in West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide.

Son, James William as mentioned was the publican at the Ral Ral Hotel between 1880 and 1884. He married Mary Davies (nee Nichols) in 1880 and had 11 children; he first two were born at Ral Ral . The family then moved to Eulo in Queensland in 1884, then Tibooburra, N.S.W. and Charleville, Qld.

Daughter, Sarah Ann married James Bruce Mullins in 1875 and had 2 children. Sarah Ann died in 1902 and is buried in West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide. James died in 1938.

Son, Joseph was said to have worked as a stockman at Wagga Wagga. Nothing else is known of his life, or death.

Son George Moorna married Annie Elizabeth Chalker in 1890 and they had 8 children; the 5th child dying from burns at the age of 5.
George worked as a stockman and was an overseer on Calperum Station for 17 years. Annie died in 1915, George died in 1923; both are buried in the Renmark Cemetery. See Obituaries C.

Son, William married Annie Collins in 1882 and they had 5 children. Annie died in 1896 in Renmark; William had a relationship with Emily Wescombe adn 2 children were born in 1897 and 1900. In 1901, William married Wilhemine Maria Auguste Drogemuller and they had 11 children. He worked as a stockman on Chowilla Station for many years and died in 1932. Wilhemine died in 1967. William and his two wives are buried at the Renmark Cemetery. See Obituaries C.

COOMBS, John George

John George COOMBS was born in about 1829 in Southbroom in Wiltshire, England. Family lore has his emigration to Australia in 1837 to Holdfast Bay, South Australia but this is yet to be confirmed.
On 5 January, 1852, John married Sarah Middleton who had emigrated in 1837 (see Pioneers Middleton),
Son, Edward Ronald married Mary Ann McDonald in 1890 and they had 7 children. Mary Ann died in Broken Hill in 1912; Edward remarried (Helena Stanton) in 1915 and had another 2 children. Helen died in 1936; William died in 1938 and is buried in the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide.

Daughter, Florence was living at Blanchetown at the time of her marriage to Jospeh William in 1891. They had 9 children and lived and worked at Lake Victoria for many years. Joseph died in 1922 in Wentworth and for the last 25 years of her life, Florence lived at Zanci Station with her eldest son. She died in 1861 in Wentworth and is buried there with her husband. (See Obituaries V)

Daughter Lily Hariett married stockman, Henry Martin in 1885 in Thargominda at the age of 15 (although she was recorded as being 17). He left her in the late 1880's and soon after, Lily (who now called herself Lillian) moved from Queensland to work on Cadelgo Station (just over the South Australian border).

Up to and including 1894, Lillian had five children (2 Martins) with two dying in infancy. She moved back to Queensland in 1894 to work on Kerroongooloo Station (south of Windorah) and met John Waygood Horsington in 1895; they had 8 children together and lived and worked on various properties between Windorah and Adavale where she worked as a shearer's cook and a domestic help. John was a well sinker, fencer, opal miner and property manager.

For more information on Henry Martin (John George Coombs' son-in-law) and the Martin family, see Southwark Luck, a highly recommended book by Louise Wilson and winner of the Alexander Henderson Award, 2012]
Lillian died in 1946 in Brisbane and is buried in the Lutwyche Cemetery. John died in 1965 (see Obituaries H) and was cremated in Brisbane. His ashes were interred on his daughter's property west of Quilpie. Also see daughter, Maude McGeorge's book "The Well Sinker's Daughter".

Son, Albert Henry married Stella Susanna Hams in 1907 and they had 7 children in Mildura. Albert died in 1960 in Renmark; Stella died in 1962 in Ballarat.
On 8 July 1938, the Charleville Times reported on a reunion party for Lillian and her sister, Florence Vigar, held by Lillian's daughter and son-in-law at "Regleigh". "....the two sisters had not met for fifty-eight years. Miss Thelma Pannan, of "Renmark," South Australia, was also a guest of honour." [For full article, see Maude McGeorge]