Very few people are still with us who remember the Hebron Farm and the training college which used to operate there.
Sister Elaine Weymark is one of those people. A retired AUC office worker, she recently celebrated her 90th birthday (in December, 2020). Some time ago we caught up with her to talk about Hebron, and this is what she had to say.
The College at Hebron
Hebron was a gathering place for the youth, and it was purchased in 1943. It is unique – to have that river going right around it until it is almost an island. I don’t think that river flows like that in any other place but where Hebron is.
Classes were held from six to eight o’clock in the morning – we were up at five o’clock. Brother C. T. Stewart used to whistle all the way from his house to the students’ house. As soon as they’d hear him whistling, they’d all get out of bed and run around and be ready.
The subjects studied were English (speech training, descriptive writing), Bible character stories, Prophecy, Physiology, and later on market gardening. I don’t think there was any particular time frame for the course; you just stayed there as long as you wanted—there was always work for you to do! My husband Harry was there for five years, and Brother Brittain was there for three (because they needed him in the clinic).
The Southwell family spent their time there together as a family. During that time, under Brother Southwell’s leadership, the students built the church on the property. They made all the bricks for the foundation from the sand down near the river, and then the church was built on the foundation.
My involvement started with my brother George, who was a student. At the time he was up there, I was already working in the Union Conference centre at Summer Hill. I often went up there for days at a time and joined in with the college education and orchard work, as well as assisting with the treasury work. I was up at five o’clock like the rest. When I heard Brother Stewart stir, I knew it was time to get up and go up with the students to class.
In the winter time there was always such a beautiful big fire in the huge fireplace there. Every student had their place at the big long table. I often sat near the fire. I also helped prepare the meals for them.
The study book for the missionary college was the book Education by Sister White. The motto for all the students was on page 57, where it says,
“The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” Education, p. 57.
Practical Work and Industries
After they had been up there a while studying, they needed their practice. The students became interested in different kinds of missionary work. Some went into health and because we had the clinic there at Summer Hill, they would come to work there. Others went into the various fields around the Union, taking responsibility perhaps in another state. There was a centre in every state except the Northern Territory, and we had New Zealand as well as part of the Union.
As far as industry was concerned, the Hebron Missionary College had established orchards, with several varieties of oranges, many mandarins, and a plum orchard with different varieties of plums. Down at the markets, our oranges from Hebron were always reserved for the military as they said they were the pick of the oranges on the Colo River.
In 1946 it was decided to have a market garden as well as the orchards, to extend the practical education for students. So the land was cleared and an irrigation system set up to pump water from the Colo River. We had acres of cabbages, watermelons and pumpkins.
In the early days all the produce for the markets was picked up by the Surprise, which was the name of the boat that stopped at the jetty near the packing shed. Later we had our own trucks which would take the produce to market.
Brother Stewart had laboured in a sawmill at one time when he was younger, and so he set up a sawmill. They used to make all their own boxes for the oranges for the markets. They also cut timber for building, and they sold a lot of timber as well.
The Debt and Sale
When we first spoke about having a college, many people gave what they could. We began by donations, but it was always hard work to try to clear the debt—we never seemed to get to the end.
Because we could not seem to be free of debt at this period of our history, our GC representative who came to our Union Conference thought it better to be relieved of the debt, and in 1964 the property was sold.
It’s not until you haven’t got it, that you realise what you’ve lost. It was strange now for the youth not to have this property, and it was always talked about to have another one. In 1969, only a few years after the sale of Hebron, Brother Ashmore, from Western Australia, donated $10,000, which was used to purchase the property which would become the Elim Heights Youth Camp at Mellong.
Legacy of Hebron
Brother Brittain used to conduct a musical cantata called “From the Manger to the Cross.” People from the community used to attend that. We had a good relationship with the farmers in the area.
Even today the road from Lower Portland into the property is still called Hebron Road.
I think the legacy of Hebron was in bringing everybody into unity with the same thoughts and the same teaching. You know that wherever you go, we’re all just the one big family. If I hadn’t had that time to establish myself in what I believed, I might not be here. It never leaves you.
Of course everybody enjoyed coming to Hebron for conferences. No matter what state you lived in, you’d come to conference at Hebron, and there’s always that bonding of wonderful times and shared experiences, and encouraging each other just to keep pressing on with the work of reformation. This is what is needed at this time of this world’s history.
It’s always a very happy memory to think about Hebron and all the different people that came there. They’re all a part of my life. I do enjoy talking about the things that I grew up with, and it gives me courage that the work of reformation will continue.