Lillie Gentle JARVIS


Lillie Gentle Harvey was the first child of William Samuel Harvey and Sarah Hannah (nee Gentle). Born in Ballarat, 21st August 1886, she was named after her father's sister Lily Rosa who had died when less than one year old. However when registering his daughter's birth he misspelt the name as Lillie. The family rapidly increased and Lillie eventually had two sisters and four brothers - Ruby, Ernest, Bert, Elsie, Roy and Arthur (who died in his first year).

Records show in 1891 the family were living in South Australia (possibly at Mount Gambier) then in 1892 at Benalla, 1894 at Ballarat, thereafter in Ararat and finally in 1897 settled in Beechworth.

Lillie was in her eleventh year when they moved to Beechworth where she attended the Beechworth State School. When she was twelve years old she was taken from school to assist her ailing mother with the household tasks.

Her parents were far from affluent. In the early years of their marriage, they were both officers in the Salvation Army. As the family increased, being unable to survive on the meagre remuneration, they resigned from the Corps. Thereafter her father's occupations were many and varied. These included: manager of a Boot shop, manager of a Book and Confectionery shop, night-watchman on a barge, working a reef mine, owning and operating a Newsagency and finally Auctioneering - none of which provided for any luxuries.

During her teen-age years Lillie learnt dressmaking. She would have been an eager pupil for therein she had a special talent. Doubtless she made much of the clothing worn by her brothers and sisters as well as her own. In later years when she had two daughters she dressed them beautifully, making all their clothes and hats - often embellished with superb embroidery.

Lillie could best be described as "petite" - a very slight figure, five feet tall with an eighteen inch waist. (Still the same when in her forties, her son's friends all called her Tiny). Her outstanding feature was her beautiful curly brown hair. It was this that first attracted Frank Jarvis when he met her at a Sunday School picnic. He then decided that one day he would marry "the girl with the beautiful curls". This eventuated on 21st November 1907 when Frank and Lillie were married in the Beechworth Methodist Church. During all their years in Beechworth, Lillie's family were members of this church and after the marriage Frank who had been reared a Congregationalist also became a Methodist.

During the first nine years of their marriage they lived in a rented house in Finch Street very close to Lillie's parents. While residing there two children were born: Maxwell Alan in 1911, and Roma Gentle in 1915.

At the time of their marriage Frank owned and operated a grocery shop in Ford Street. The steady success of the business enabled him in 1916 to purchase a home in Finch Street - a somewhat large house known as Wongrabel. They were not domiciled there very long before their third child, Verna Ingrey was born in 1917. For several reasons Lillie must have been delighted with her new home. Apart from being very much larger than the rented house it had a superb extensive garden. Lillie had inherited her father's love of gardening and from him had gained much knowledge which she could now apply. She surely had "green fingers". Her garden was not merely a show piece. From it she gathered flowers and foliage for the many arrangements that always bedecked Wongrabel. Frequently she supplied and arranged the flowers in the church and also shared them with her family, her friends and the sick. Her garden was ever a haven for the many birds who came at her call for the food she daily spread.

Wongrabel was on a very large block of land extending to the street behind and incorporating several house blocks. This enabled her to have a large poultry yard and also to keep a jersey cow. She would have made an excellent farmer's wife for she loved animals and appeared to know no fear of them. It was Lillie, not Frank, who milked the cow and coped with the beast when it became fractious, wielding a stick bigger than herself. She also tended the fowls and for some years also ducks. Never was there a time when she did not have a pet dog and cat.

During the three years when their son Max, after having completed his secondary education, was attending college in Melbourne, Lillie supplied much of his pocket money. These were the depression years of late 1920s. She then milked two cows, selling the clotted cream to her own personal clientele among her friends and neighbours and milk to her relations. She also sold "dairy butter" which she made with a hand operated butter churn. It was through these years she kept ducks and thus sold both duck and hen eggs. Her garden also was a source of income - mainly from the many iceland poppies and gladiolus which she sold privately. Her daughters were always allotted the task of delivering all these items which at times they felt was "a little beneath their dignity".

Although never physically involved in the shop she carried out some very useful tasks at home. Her surplus hen eggs she preserved in large earthenware jars, which during winter were readily sold in the shop cheaper than fresh eggs. They were quite adequate for baking. Sometimes the large sacks of dried fruit would become weevil infected. Lillie would thoroughly wash and clean the fruit then dry it on trays in the oven, thus making it saleable. She also made the shop aprons, white ones for serving in the shop were made from flour bags, hessian aprons for heavy store-room work from sugar bags and dark aprons for Frank to wear when working in the bike shop. These would be regularly washed in the big wood burning copper. The external work took much of her time but for many years a live-in maid was employed so she was relieved of many menial household tasks.

Lillie greatly regretted her brief education but made a concentrated effort to further it by reading. In her own words she always "read two books at a time, a fiction and a non-fiction" and in this way she greatly extended her knowledge. Her friends inevitably gave her books for presents and for many years she received large parcels of books which were transported by rail to Beechworth from the Melbourne Public Lending Library.

She was a gregarious person making numerous friends, particularly among the school teachers, many of whom lived in the boarding house nearby. The doors of Wongrabel (and there were many) were always open for hospitality. Sunday night there was a sing song around the piano. Saturday night was card night which in the early years was five-hundred and later bridge. There was never formal entertainment. It was just an open friendly home. Lillie loved the company which really did not make extra work for her. There was always the maid and as her daughters grew up they were taught to bake and sew and be generally useful. She was very fortunate that Frank, whose time was almost totally consumed with his business, restricted her in no way either socially or financially. Unfortunately there were some who took an unfair advantage of this but they were a small minority.

Lillie was an excellent correspondent and thereby relationships were strengthened. Nell Chappell (a secondary teacher) and Edith McLeish (a nurse) became her two dearest friends, and as both remained single, were free to make many visits over the years to Wongrabel. This was reciprocal, for many of Lillie's holidays were spent with friends, who, when strangers had accepted her hospitality. Her youngest daughter recalls holidays with her mother at Yea with Edith McLeish's parents who owned a butcher's shop; with Ethel and Charlie Fry a tanner at Footscray; in Glenferrie at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Walter Edwards, and with Mr. & Mrs. Harold Liddelow (he was Headmaster at Beechworth Higher Elementary School for many years) at East Kew and later at Canterbury. Lillie also enjoyed two boarding house holidays with her friend Daisy Peach who was Frank's book-keeper. They visited Belgrave and Lorne, two big adventures requiring much preparation of travelling needs which included many new clothes which Lillie made for herself. On both occasions the entire family farewelled them as they left by the early morning train from Beechworth station.

She loved the bush and spent many hours walking with her children in the rugged hills around Beechworth. From the early twenties Frank owned a car which made possible many picnics in more distant venues in which she delighted.

Lillie became an excellent photographer - a hobby she began about 1920. She became adept at developing, printing and enlarging her own photographs. The bathroom at Wongrabel was taken over for a darkroom, a larger room being fitted out as a new bathroom. Before finally printing a photo she would make a trial print using the sunlight. This gave her a sepia picture which would soon fade. She also tried her hand at painting her photos and although she did not pursue it, she appeared to have a talent in that direction.

She was neither a public person nor a sportswoman but she had some interests beyond the perimeter of her home. For many years a regular church attendant, she worked very hard for their annual fete, spending endless hours doing embroidery for the fancywork stall which she and her friend Daisy Peach always convened. She was a regular visitor to the local hospital which cared for mainly long term patients who were not locals. It was to them she took books, flowers and cookies and more importantly, her friendliness. The Ovens District Hospital was a training Hospital, many of the trainee nurses not being locals. During their three years of training they were provided food and lodging and received the meagre sum of seven shillings and six-pence (75 cents) a week. Lillie befriended many of them taking them tasty plates of food and offering them the hospitality of Wongrabel. The first nurse to come to the house whom her son Max remembers was May Bryant, who's home was at Homewood near Yea. However the trainee nurse who later became a very beloved member of the family was an outstandingly attractive young woman who came from Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne. Of Scotch descent, she was aptly named Flora McDonald. It was at Wongrabel she met George Douglas (Jud - to the family), and later married him. He was the son of a dear friend of Lillieand was six months older than her son Max. From their early years they were close friends and Jud was almost part of the family. After the death of his mother when he was twenty, Wongrabel became his home and henceforth all the family regarded him as an equal member in every way.

Her parents, two sisters and two brothers all lived in homes just a few minutes walk from Wongrabel. She visited them frequently but she also had a large circle of friends. During her middle years Lillie had suffered several periods of ill health but as she became older she became more housebound with health problems both existent and non-existent (possibly a trait inherited from her mother). When all the family had married and left home, she and Frank continued to live at Wongrabel; having assistance with both the housework and garden and for their latter years there the security of a grandson, Lance, sleeping at the house every night. Frank had long since sold the Grocery business to his son but he had retained the bicycle shop and the taxi service and was still operating the former at the time of his death on 8th August 1964.

Lillie's life now travelled a very different path. She was unable to live alone so she had to farewell her beloved Wongrabel which became tenanted and later was sold. For a time she lived with her son and daughter-in-law, Max and Jean, who had built their home on adjoining land in Last Street. Thereafter she divided her time between them, her eldest daughter Roma (Mrs. H.J.McCubbin) who lived in Taree N.S.W. and Verna (Mrs. H.S.Edwards) in North Balwyn, Melbourne. She always contrived to spend the severest part of the winter at Taree with its warmer climate and to spend the summers in the cooler southern region. Until then she had never flown in a plane but through these itinerant years she always flew back and forth between Taree and Melbourne. In every instance she would be accompanied by her sons-in-law: "Mac" bringing her from Taree to Sydney and Howard from Sydney to Melbourne or visa-versa. This attention she expected. She appeared to be very contented through these years - life held no responsibilities and each family made her very welcome. It also provided her with the opportunity of getting to know her nineteen great-grandchildren of whom she was most proud.

However in 1973 she made the sudden unexpected announcement of her decision to apply for admittance to the Ovens and Murray Home in Beechworth and was adamant in this. Her youngest sister, Elsie Smith had been a resident there for many years. On 3rd September 1973 she moved into residence there. To her credit, she settled very well into this different life-style - spending much time alone. She would often sit on the lawn in front of the building from whence she could look down on "her town" with its familiar streets and old buildings. She could even see the huge silky oak tree that grew in the garden of Wongrabel - sheer gold when covered with blooms and scarlet in the autumn due to the creeper that climbed through its branches. She had the advantage of Max and Jean Jarvis living in the town which meant she not only spent one day a week with them but also was taken for a drive through her beloved bush most Sundays, frequently accompanied by her gentleman friend, Charlie Renolds, also a resident of the home. She still read her books and busied her hands with simple crafts. Many hours were filled making excellent scrap books with pictures she had collected over a long period. These books were greatly appreciated by the staff of the mission hospitals in the Northern territory and New Guinea, whence she had been sending them for many years.

Sadly she was unable to cope with the shock of her daughter Roma's death in October 1975 and thereafter rapidly deteriorated. She passed away suddenly on December 30th, 1975 and following a service in the Beechworth Uniting Church was buried in the Beechworth Cemetery beside her husband.



Ararat, 1

Ballarat, 1

Balwyn, 4

Beechworth, 1, 2, 3, 4

Benalla, 1



DOUGLAS George, (Jud), 3

EDWARDS Howard, 4

EDWARDS Walter, 3

Footscray, 3

FRY Charlie, 3

FRY Ethel, 3

GENTLE Sarah Hannah, 1

HARVEY Arthur, 1

HARVEY Bert, 1

HARVEY Elsie, 1, 4

HARVEY Ernest, 1

HARVEY Lily Rosa, 1


HARVEY Ruby, 1

HARVEY Sarah Hannnah, 1

HARVEY William Samuel, 1

JARVIS Frank, 1, 2, 3

JARVIS Jean, 3, 4

JARVIS Lance, 3

JARVIS Maxwell Alan, 1, 2, 3, 4

JARVIS Roma, 1, 3

JARVIS Verna Ingrey, 1, 3

LIDDELOW Harold, 3

McCUBBIN H.J. (Mac), 4, 3

McDONALD Flora, 3

McLEISH Edith, 3

Melbourne, 2, 3, 4

Methodist Church, 1

Mount Gambier, 1

Ovens District Hospital, 3, 4

PEACH Daisy, 3

RENOLDS Charlie, 4

Salvation Army Corps, 1

SMITH Elsie, 1, 4

Taree, 4