‘Mary’ Jemima Johnson, aka ‘Mary the Rainmaker’, was a Wiradjuri ‘clever woman’.
Her ancestry is something of a mystery, although she may have been born around the Bogan or Trundle Country around 1882. Like many other Wiradjuri women of this generation, her birth was not recorded with the NSW Government, and there are few details of her parents. Her father was George Brown and her mother was a tribal woman.
This was the era of squatters and white settlement, which lead to the relocation of many Bogan and Calarie (Lachlan) peoples, with Mary Jemima finding her way as a young woman to the early Mission at Warrengesda on the Murray River near Darlington Point.
It was at Warrangesda, in 1896, that Mary met and married her first husband Jack ‘Moolbong’ Johnson, a traditional tribal Kooragee (doctor and ‘clever man’) from the Calarie.
Mary Jemima soon returned to her home country between the Calarie and Bogan Rivers, with her home at Condobolin, where she met her second husband Cubby Wolfe.
Mary was known to many of the early white settlers in the district. She preferred to live off the land, and camped on the runs. The farmers learned it was important to assist her with some food and supplies, and the story is told that if Mary was not afforded this respect, she would ‘set the reed steer’ after them (i.e. fire). The farmers then needed to call upon her special skills to make rain in order to extinguish the blaze, hence the name ‘Mary the Rainmaker’.
Mary had eight children in total, some of whom used the surname Cook, which is possibly her maiden name. She is buried in Condobolin cemetery, and her descendants still live in the town of Condobolin, on the Lachlan River, today.
Researched and written by Bec Shepherd, Callara Family History Group, Condobolin.
Contributed by Raylene Weldon from Nyngan High School. Published 2015.