Susanna was born at Fletcher’s Farm Upper Minto, on the 12th May 1815 as the fourth child and second daughter of Henrietta and Edward Fletcher (who was the constable at Upper Minto). We next hear of Susanna in the 1828 Census where Susanna aged 13 is working as a housemaid in the nearby household of Thomas Hassall of
Denbigh. Susanna’s mother Henrietta and baby sister Elizabeth had died a few months before.
While working for Thomas Hassall Susanna met William Chapman who was apprenticed as a bootmaker to Samuel Hassall. Mr. Hassall senior had been a missionary with the South Seas Missionary Society and the Sabbath was strictly observed on the Hassall farms. Everybody was taken by wagon to Sunday worship and Sunday school followed by a picnic lunch, so the young couple would have had ample opportunity to meet one another. It was eleven years before they married. Their parents had been neighbours at Elderslie, near Campbelltown.
Edward Fletcher, Susanna’s oldest brother, had married Eleanor Carrol and lived at Broulee on the south coast near Morouya. Susanna traveled down by ship to visit them. It was a very rough journey, and soon after she landed the ship was wrecked, and Susanna vowed she would not go to sea again . William Chapman and his friend George Taber were also visiting Edward, having recently been to the Riverina looking for land and securing a ninety nine year lease near Hay, so the young couple decided to take the opportunity to get married, and were married by the Presbyterian minister Rev George Macfie at Broulee on 31st July 1839. Susanna’s sister-in-law Eleanor Fletcher was one of the witnesses. The young couple returned overland to Campbelltown. William had inherited his father Robert’s simple home, known as
The Old Farm. It was a slab hut with a shingle roof and an earth floor, divided in two by a bag screen. The bed was two saplings supported by four forked posts set in the ground and the cooking was done over an open fire, with a chimney made of mud bricks . This was Susanna’s home for the next five years, and her three eldest children were born here. Elizabeth on 12th September 1840, Susanna on 26th February 1842 and William Robert on 16th February 1844.
William was busy planting, reaping and doing the odd carrying job, looking after their two cows, but every now and then he would go down to the Riverina to his new selection which he called
Burrahogie for two or three months leaving Susanna to run the farm and look after the two cows. Fortunately her father and family lived close by.
Eventually the time came for a decision to build a house on the selection, which would mean William being away for a longer period of time. William on his journey south in 1842 had been granted another grazing license for 196,000 acres seven miles South East of Urana on the road to Albury. William and George loaded up the wagon with building materials in the autumn and left early one morning. Susanna was most upset that once again she was being left while her husband was away south. With the help of a young servant girl she loaded up a cart, and by midday with all she felt she would need for her young family and with the children and the servant, set off to go south down the track to Goulburn. They trotted into the camp on dusk and refused to go back. Win West says Susanna said
I vowed on my wedding day ‘Until death does us part’ and if the natives kill you they can kill me and the children too. These stories were told to Susanna’s daughter-in-law Charlotte Chapman and passed down in the family.
On the way down the children developed measles and Susanna wrapped them up in dark blankets on the top of the cart. Soon after they passed the spot where present day Wagga Wagga stands, they came on thick pine forests growing in the red soil, growing so thickly in places they had to continually cut a path through. One day the timber was very thick and the weather overcast and there was a lot of rock on the ground so that they had to camp early and hobble the horses. The next morning George went ahead and discovered their previous camp site — they had travelled in a circle! They were to learn later the area had a magnetic field and was throwing their compasses off course. This area today is known as
The Rock and has legendary thunder storms.
As they neared William’s holding, Susanna dreamt that God was directing her and she would know the site they were to build their home, that it was at a bend in the creek and a baby would be buried there. The house was built where Susanna selected, it was a timber house built without screws or nails, but it survived until 1992. Susanna called it
Butherwah . Susanna said the house would be sheltered by God’s love.
Seven children were born at
Butherwah Edward 1846, Henrietta Maria (known as Annie) 1847, Eliza 1848 Thomas 1850, Henry 1854, Alfred 1857, and Robert 1860. Eleven years after Susanna’s prediction, eighteen month old Henry died and was buried by the bend in the river. All the children started their schooling with governesses on the property. There is no record that the two eldest daughters, Elizabeth and Susanna, ever went away to school. The boys came back to Sydney to go to school. William Robert and Edward went to a boys boarding school at Macquarie Fields and later in 1849 William Robert went to Kings School, Parramatta. His brother Edward went there in 1858 to 1859, and Thomas went to Kings 1866 to 1868; Alfred and Robert 1868. Eliza and Annie went to Mrs. and Miss Almond’s School for Young Ladies at Yass, as did Charlotte Fredericka Styles who later married their brother William Robert.
In 1860 William bought Lumley Park at Bungongia and the adjoining property Spring Ponds. William’s eyesight was deteriorating, and he was also plagued with hay fever. Susanna enjoyed the family around her, and the girls often came home to Lumley Park to have their babies. Susanna and William helped all their sons buy properties, and as the sons became established they paid them back. Ethel Smith their granddaughter and one of a large family came to live with them as companion for their lifetime and her grandparents left her Old Farm. Both Susanna and William died within a few months one another in 1902 and are buried in St Peters church yard Cambelltown, as are Susanna’s parents.
Most of the ten children married, and there were 45 grandchildren. Lumley Park belonged to the family until recent years. Grandson Alfred Lumley Chapman was the station manager and four of his maiden sisters and their cousin Ethel Smith lived there in the big old house most of their lives.