West Ipswich was once known as “Little Ipswich”. John Germain lived there with his family in Moore Lane, now known as Hooper Street. He was a pioneer and very early resident of the West Moreton district, arriving in 1849 from Yorkshire via NSW at about 26 years of age.
Soon after arriving Mr Germain started his tanning business in Little Ipswich. His land extended from Hooper Street to Keogh Street, and from Warrell Street down to the river. John also built his house on this sizeable property in 1852 and basically resided there until his death in 1898. Unfortunately the old home would be a victim of the 1974 floods, requiring demolition.
The tannery was already in existence by May 1867, although it is not clear when it initially commenced operations. John is supposed to have discovered the tanning qualities of locally grown brigalow bark and used it in the tanning process from about 1871. Whatever the truth of this, in the middle of 1874 Mr Germain advertised to sell or let the tannery. He must not have been successful or changed his mind because a few years later in 1886 the cottage and tannery were offered for lease again. Perhaps John wished to retire or his health was failing because within a couple of years (by 1888) his son Lucius was operating the West Ipswich tannery.
When the 1893 flood came John’s house on the bank of the Bremer River was inundated, as was his son Lucius’ dwelling also located at Little Ipswich. Over six feet of water damaged the tannery spoiling a large quantity of hides and leather. Fortunately a considerable amount of unground bark was saved.
It appears that by the turn of the century the tannery had ceased operations.
John Germain and his wife Elizabeth had 3 sons: Lucius who would walk in his father’s footsteps; John who worked as a reporter for the local paper and would become a soldier of the Great War; and T. E. (Theophorus Evangelus) who was a clerk at Cribb & Foote.
L. L. Germain, Tanner and Furrier, West Ipswich, 1895 – Image courtesy of Picture Ipswich
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