SARAH HANNAH GENTLE (1862 - 1951)
Sarah Hannah Gentle, one of nine children of Thomas and Emily (nee Ingrey) Gentle was born in 1862 at Beechworth. Five of the children having died in very early childhood, Sarah grew up the second youngest in a family of four - comprising two boys and two girls. In order of age they were George, Ann, Sarah and the youngest, Mark.
In 1867 the family moved from Beechworth to Eldorado where they lived until circa 1880. Then they made their final move to Tangambalanga where Thomas settled as a farmer. The farm was situated beside the Kiewa River near Mt. Murraburrabong. It was there Sarah lived through the years of her childhood to young womanhood, but in her own words she "hated the farm" so whilst still single she left Tangambalanga. Where she moved to and where she met her future husband is currently unknown.
In 1885 she married William Samuel Harvey in Ballarat. Through their early married years both served as officers in the Salvation Army which entailed moving every six months. (This was the policy of that denomination.) They were stationed both in South Australia and Victoria, some of the towns being Mt. Gambier, Korumburra, Port Fairy, Benalla, Ballarat and Ballarat East. In later years Sarah referred to their constant housing changes, saying it took her six months to get their living quarters spotlessly clean and tidy, by which time they would again be moved and she would be faced with the same problems. The Salvation Army supplied housing for their officers but it would have been very basic.
During their years of service Sarah gave birth to five children; Lillie Gentle 1886 (Ballarat), Ruby May 1887 (Ballarat), Ernest William 1889 (Ballarat East), Arthur Leslie 1891 (Mt. Gambier) - who died that same year and Bertie Samuel 1892 (Benalla). Two more children, Elsie Emily 1894 (Ballarat) and Roy Collington 1904 (Beechworth) were born after William was obliged to resign from the Salvation Army - the meagre remuneration being insufficient to support his family.
They made their final move in 1896 to Beechworth. from which time until she died Sarah never again had to shift house. She was thus able to put down her roots in the weatherboard house now 11 William Street where she lived for the rest of her life.
Her husband William died 31st December 1937, predeceasing Sarah by thirteen and a half years. Sarah was eighty-eight when she died on the 8th April 1951 and was interred beside William in the Beechworth cemetery .
Her Grand-daughter describes her thus:-
Although it is 41 years since she died - I can still visualize my maternal grand-mother (whom I called Ma) as clearly as if I saw her but yesterday. To me she looked exactly the same through all the years I knew her. She was a small featured lady of medium height and slim build with slightly faded red hair drawn into a tight "bun", from which a few wispy curls always managed to escape. She had a very fair skin, which because of her lifestyle, was never blemished by the sun.
She always wore a long sleeved, black or dark brown dress, buttoned to the throat, and long enough to reach the top of her black button up boots. When a very young child her mother had been told Sarah had weak ankles which would strengthen if she wore boots. As an adult this was neither necessary nor fashionable but she wore them all her life making great problems for those who were designated to purchase them no matter how difficult they were to procure. Her dresses never altered in style. I well remember being sent to Ma's house for several consecutive days to make a couple of new dresses for her - each time cutting out the new garment using an old one for the pattern. When doing the housework, she unfailingly protected her dress with a long black sateen apron.
She was always referred to as "frail". I know from before I was born (1917) she ventured beyond her gates only once - to visit our home. Although only about five minutes walk - my father drove her each way. To my knowledge that was the only time she rode in a car or visited "Wongrabel", which must have been a grievous disappointment to my Mother, who was so proud of her magnificent garden. As a child, I could never understand why she didn't try to "go out", but later I realized it was by choice rather than dictated by her health. It was thus so much easier to live her desired lifestyle - almost like living in a cloister.
She really was not a "frail lady". Every day, weather permitting she would sweep the backyard and the wide lane that extended from the front fence to the backgarden. The large grapevine trained to cover a trellis across the back of the house and also the big oak tree in the backyard gave her valid excuses for sweeping. She surely pushed that straw broom with gusto! For many years my sister and I were given the unenviable task of delivering a billy can of milk to Ma on our way to school each morning. No matter what the season or the weather, she was always in full flight at that early hour.
Outsiders always referred to her as "a sweet old lady". She gave the impression of being "fluttery" but she was really a very strong willed woman, who in her own quiet and invincible way ruled the household. The rocking chair beside the wood-fired kitchen stove was Ma's chair which no-one dared to occupy if she were in the room. No piece of furniture ever changed position. Her widowed daughter Elsie pleaded constantly for the sewing machine to be placed in a more lighted situation but never did she achieve a victory in this or any other matter.
Ma was certainly very devout. Her only diversions were to read the Bible, the War Cry (the Salvation Army periodical), and the daily paper; in that fixed order!Although she no longer attended services, she remained a member of the Salvation Army till the day she died. From the time I remember them, the rest of the family were all staunch Methodists - but never Ma.
She was very nervous of "modern inventions". I remember very clearly when in June 1927 electricity replaced the gas which had previously provided light to Beechworth. I was at Ma's home when the electrician finished the installation, and clearly remember the persuasion required for Ma to switch on the electric light in the kitchen. I can still hear her little nervous giggle as the light came on. On the other hand she had coped with her youngest son Roy going to Queensland as a jackaroo (admittedly he was not permitted to do so until he was twenty-one), and another son Bert marrying a Roman Catholic lady who smoked a great deal, and used much make-up. To her credit, she played her parental role well in both of these instances.
I am sure she was never lonely, nor desired any different lifestyle. She was fortunate that of her six surviving children only Bert did not remain in Beechworth. He however resided in Albury and was thus able to pay frequent visits to Beechworth. The widowed daughter Elsie lived with her parents. (Elsie had been married only one year when her husband was killed in the 1914 - 18 war.) Lillie, Ruby, Ernest and Roy all duly married but each were domiciled a few minutes walk from the family home and thus were frequent visitors - specially Ruby who spent almost every afternoon with her mother. My mother Lillie, who visited less regularly, remarked later in life that she found the conversation somewhat limited!
I cannot remember ever hearing Ma speak an angry word, or on the other hand display any great affection. She was the matriarch of her tiny domain; loved and respected by all her family.
Beechworth, 1, 3
Gambier Mt, 1
GENTLE Ann, 1
GENTLE George, 1
GENTLE Mark, 1
GENTLE Sarah Hannah, 1
GENTLE Thomas, 1
HARVEY Arthur Leslie, 1
HARVEY Bertie, 1,3
HARVEY Elsie Emily, 1,2,3
HARVEY Ernest William, 1,3
HARVEY Lillie Gentle, 1,3
HARVEY Roy Collington, 1,3
HARVEY Ruby May, 1,3
HARVEY William Samuel, 1
Kiewa River, 1
Murraburrabong Mt, 1
Salvation Army, 1,2