The Jefferson Bridge was named and opened on 2nd May 1993 by the Mayor of the Blue Mounatins City Council, Alderman Bob Clarke.
The transcript of the speech given by Mary Reynolds on behalf of the Mt Wilson community is shown below.
I would like to say welcome to the Mayor and distinguished guests who are here today; to my long-standing friends of Mt Wilson; and to my newer friends of Mt Wilson. I am very flattered, indeed very humble also, about being asked to talk about Charles Wilkin Jefferson, who spent so much of his life on this wonderful mountain. Imagine for yourself a striking, remarkable gentleman; broad, large head; bushy moustache; dressed in a cream linen suit and panama hat waving his walking stick and smoking a cigar - the epitome of an English/American gentleman and that was one picture of Charles Wilkin Jefferson. But across that paddock behind me, towards Chimney Cottage, another gentleman, equally a gentleman, would walk in his dressing gown, smoking that cigar - never without it. People smelt his coming, with his walking stick in full flight, along there. So you have two very different pictures of this quite remarkable man.
He was born in 1863 in Yorkshire in England, five miles from where Libby Raines' mother, Mrs Hake, was born too and brought up. So there is an association there.He went to school very briefly at Darlington Grammar School where he learnt about the American War of Independence. This inspired him with the great freedom that document expressed. Some years later, at the age of 17 or 19 (there is doubt about that) about 1880 he went to America with a man named Thomas Hughes who was the author of a very famous book known as Tom Brown's School Days. Thomas Hughes was a student of Dr Arnold of the very famous Rugby school in England. Thomas Hughes took him into the wild hills of Tennessee where he attempted to set up this extraordinary, rather Utopian, settlement for second and third sons of English gentlemen to learn the arts and skills of farming. The first sons of course inherited the name and property and were quite well off; but not so were the second and third and, maybe, fourth sons; and this was Hughes' idea but like all Utopian schemes, it foundered. Jefferson left that little settlement of Rugby in Tennessee in 1885 and went to New York city where he met a certain man called Thomas Edison and became involved in the Edison Machine Works (later known as General Electric). Edison must have been impressed with him as he sent Jefferson to a not so large town, Schenectady in New York state and there he set up the famous works known as the Mica Insulating Works and it was Jefferson who discovered and used Mica as an insulation material.
He stayed there for many years, a much respected gentleman and member of the community. In that period he met Alan MacKerras who may not be known to you but in fact is the father of Charles and Malcolm MacKerras and the many other MacKerras's. The MacKerras family played a significant part in the life of the Gregson's (Bill Smart is very frightened that I will read the whole account but I hasten to assure you that I won't do that; or I will try not to). Jefferson was associated with Alan MacKerras and many other interesting people who will appear in the story very briefly. Thus, he spent many years in that period in Schenectady a much revered and much respected person and a great community worker. He finally retired in 1929, not a very good year for retirement I should think. He was written about with warm approval in the papers and those who knew him were sorry to see him go. May I quickly explain: Edward Gregson who was Helen Warliker and Meg Fromel's father had been in Schenectady and working in the mica factory with Jefferson for about eight years and he met, of course, Margaret, Jefferson's daughter. In 1920 they came out to Sydney, married and came straight to Mt Wilson to live in Yengo for three years before they moved to Wyndham, which is just behind you. Edward Gregson owned all the land upon which you are standing - Wyndham, Chimney Cottage, the paddock behind me, Windyridge, reaching right to Yengo before its sale. The Gregson family had a very strong hold on this mountain.
Jefferson travelled by ship to Sydney. He was not accompanied by his wife, Margaret, because sadly she suffered from tuberculosis and she was in a sanatorium almost permanently for the rest of her life which was a tragic thing. But he was accompanied by a spry, little 'Yankee' woman called Emma Ashdown who had been the nurse to his children, housekeeper/companion and in fact remained with the Jefferson family for thirty years. She accompanied him as a companion. They sailed under the uncompleted Sydeny Harbour Bridge on the ship Aorangi into Sydney and then travelled up to Mt Wilson. They came to Wyndham, and Jefferson was horrifed at the condition that his precious daughter, Margaret, who had been looked after and had had a comfortable and quite luxurious life in Schenectady, was experiencing here. Not that Margaret complained but he thought "I will try to do all that I can for her". This he set about to do.
Where does the bridge come into it? It was in 1930-1931 and I must say thank you to Helen Warliker and Meg Fromel; to Mrs Valder; and to Tom Kirk who were wonderful fountains of information and I cannot take any credit for this at all. But the land here was Gregson land and that land too, belonged to Gregson. "We need to get across the creek so we put a couple of planks across'' Tom Kirk says. They were flooded pretty often so that wasn't good enough. "We will get a couple of tree trunks across'' said Tom and put the large trunks across the creek. Emma ventured across carrying scones. Emma fell in, scones and all" says Tom. This created quite a sensation. ''This is no good to me", says Mr Jefferson. "We must have a proper bridge." Out of these little episodes so came this remarkable little bridge - the Waterfall Bridge. I am not a great expert in the construction of bridges ("You look horrified at the way I am explaining it'' - an aside to the builder of the bridge), I will try not be too technical.
Actually Sam Hall on the other side i.e. the waterfall side built a basalt wall 12' long x 4' high. I was wondering if there were any remnants of that left as at would be quite an archaeological find and relic. Tom & Cecil Kirk were involved in the timber work structure of the bridge and Peter Kirk is here looking at me and I know he had something to do with it too. The bridge was built. Tom will say, it was to get to Chimney Cottage; some tell me that it was built to get to the Post Office more quickly; and others say it was to save Emma from falling into creek with the scones! We have to be flexible about these things in history. As said to someone recently, I feel that I am walking on a tight-rope. If I move one false step either way I will hurtle off completely! The building of the bridge was quite an achievement due to the encouragement and money of Charles Jefferson.
May I tell one little story about Mr Jefferson and Tom Kirk who worked for him for about 2 years. Mr Jefferson asked Tom ''How much are you being paid?" Tom says ''A shilling an hour." Remember this is 1930. ''That is not good enough'' declares Mr Jefferson, "I will give you two shillings!" Well - that upset the whole wage structure in Mt Wilson. A certain gentleman came roaring down the hill to Mr Jefferson demanding to know what right he had to pay his workers 2/- an hour anyhow instead of the 1/- or even 9d paid elsewhere. There followed quite an altercation and I believe the walking stick was used to great effect. These are some of the wonderfully colourful stories that come out of all the information you collect on the way.
May I say this also of Daddo, as he was so lovingly called, not only by his grandchildren but many I think who knew him. He was a loveable, charming man; there was no doubt about that - a remarkable story teller of tales to his grandchildren about the gruesome events in the Tennessee backwoods with the hill-billies; of mad women being kept in cages and all sorts of lurid stories which they loved hearing.
He loved living it up. He went down to the Metropole Hotel Sydney in his panama hat and cream linen suit and loved the life down there. Always a fanatic about his food, he gave Helen a book on that subject, ''The Food We Eat Makes What We Are". Also he was a an avid reader. Mrs Valder said to me that he told her once, "You will never live long enough to do all the reading you need to do".
C.W. Jefferson was a cultured fine person with a vision and a great humanity about him throughout its life. He lived till 1956 and died in Sydney at the age of 93 and I say that this bridge being named after him is just one small gesture of the recognition of this outstanding person by this community and by the people who knew him and spoke with him. He lived in Wyndham, in Campanella and he ended his days for the last ten years or so after the death of Emma in 1943 in a little cabin behind the main part of Chimney Cottage which was built at his behest for his daughter, where she served teas with great flourishes and gentility. She was a magnificent musician Mrs Gregson, possessing this talent amongst many others.
Note: since this talk was presented, a correction must be made on one point. Charles Jefferson's wife died in 1906 from tuberculosis, hence well before Charles' departure from the USA.
(Speech given by Mary B. Reynolds at the opening of the new bridge over Waterfall Creek. Without the contributions of C.W. Jefferson's grandchildren Meg Fromel and Helen Warliker, Tom Kirk, and Isa Valder it would not have been possible.)