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Reminiscences of the Paterson District

Maitland, 10th September 1898
DAILY MERCURY

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The Hon. John Macintosh, M.L.C., sends us the following interesting communication:

The recent visit of his Excellency Lord Hampden to the district of the Paterson River, reminds me of the visit of Governor (Sir George Gipps) to that district, before the introduction of parliamentary government, or shortly after the time that your predecessor (Mr. R. Jones) began to publish the Maitland Mercury. There have been vast changes in the district since that period of our history: the early pioneers of the district are now all gone over to the majority; they were almost without exception able men, and well qualified to conquer the difficulties besetting settlement in a new country.

Having been a resident of the Paterson River at the time of Governor Gipps' visit, I remember him well walking about the township unattended, making enquiries regarding some grievances that affected some of the residents at that period. There were not many "little settlers" on the river - the farming was mostly carried on by the pioneers who had obtained grants of land, generally from 610 to 2560 acres in extent, some of then having increased their grants of land by purchases, all being subject to a quit rent of one farthing per acre. Narrowgut, or Phoenix Park, was then, with the exception of a few small patches, brought under cultivation, a thick brush with magnificent straight flooded gums, nearly 200 feet in height from say a line drawn from the Paterson close to estate of Dunmore to Bolwarra. Mr. R. Jones' estate of Bolwarra was a well-cultivated farm. A good breed of cattle was herded on the bushland. On the slope of the ridge leading towards the lagoon in front of Bolwarra House, I have seen a muster of aborigines numbering from four to five hundred, armed with their spears and boomerangs, etc.

Mr. Andrew Lang' s estate of Dunmore contained a considerable area of alluvial brush land, part of which be cultivated, and began leasing allotments of from 10 to 20 acres on clearing leases of five years free from rent. On the opposite side of the river was the fine estate of Bowthorne - Capt. Livingston being the proprietor - then, I think, the finest and largest farm in the district. I have seen on that farm, from near the homestead on both sides of the Hinton road leading to Raymond Terrace punt (Mrs. James' hotel), an excellent crop of wheat. Adjoining Bowthorne was the estate owned by the Messrs. Barty. Dr. Scott was the proprietor of the estate of Coolio Camp; John Galt Smith's Woodville farm adjoined on the upper boundary. Major Hobbler had a grant near Green Wattle Creek. Mr. Lee occupied the farm known as Leeholme; on the opposite side of the river was the estate of Bellevue, Dr. Evans being the proprietor; at the Old Banks, the Swan family, I think, are the oldest settlers of the district, most of the others dating from 1820 to 1828. Captain Dunn was an early settler on the river, as was also Mr. Dunn, the coroner, whose farm was on the opposite side of the river to that of Tocal. A Mr. Powel had a farm near Hogg Island.

Mr. Felix Wilson's estate of Tocal was among the best in the district; a considerable area was under cultivation, the cattle run being richly grassed running back along Webber' s Creek towards Lamb' s Valley. Next came the estate of Bona Vista, Mr. James Phillips being proprietor. On the opposite side of the river were the farms of Mrs. Ward (afterwards Mrs. Studdert), Messrs. Kingston, and Mr. Macquarie, while on the township of Paterson Captain David Brown, who kept the Bush Inn, was proprietor of about 700 acres of land. Mr. Brown' s and Mr. Bodwell' s lands are now held by the family of the late Mr. Corner. Major Johnson was Police Magistrate; Mr. R. Studdert was Clerk of the Court; Chief-constable Sullivan was in charge of the police. Adjoining the land of Capt. Brown was the small estate of Cintra, Lieutenant Bedwell, R.N., being proprietor. On that estate was the extensive store kept by Mr. T. Alford, subsequently by Mr. R.C. Gordon and Messrs. J. and N. Andrews, the writer having been in the employ of each in succession for six years.

The Rev. J . J. Smith was the Church of England minister, and who mainly raised and provided the funds for the erection of the church and manse. He was a gentleman of scientific attainments, frequently delivering lectures on various subjects. The Rev. W. Ross was the Presbyterian clergyman. Mr. C. D. Haylock kept the Wellington Hotel, who was highly popular and well patronised, especially on Courtdays.

The large brick building erected by Mr. Wilson was then being finished, and afterwards opened as a hotel by Mr. Brown, who was the contractor for the construction and completion of Tocal mansion. Adjoining the estate of Mr. Bedwell was Tillimby, Mr. T. Boughton, solicitor, being proprietor, who cultivated a portion of his estate and leased small blocks of alluvial land to little settlers. On the opposite side of the river was situated the estate of Gostwyck, Mr. Edward Cory being the original owner. He also at the head of navigation had a flour mill worked by a Mr. Brewner, who went to Queensland. It was afterwards kept by Mr. S. Hopson Dark for many years.

At the crossing place on the road leading to Dungog, was the farm and hotel occupied by Mr. Thos, Jones, and to whom the "Jew Boys" gang of bushrangers paid an unfriendly visit during 1842. About 10 miles distant on the Dungog road was the beautiful estate of the Grange, belonging to Mr. N. Chapman, who subsequently met his death from an accident at Stony Creek. Dr. Nind occupied a small area of the Tillimby estate with his residence and hospital he kept for the convenience of the settlers to send their Government men to when sick. The next estate upwards from Tillimby was Vacy, Mr. Gilbert Cory (lately deceased), being the proprietor. At the junction of the Allyn and Paterson Mr. W. Cardow had a large farm. Mr. Jones had a farm adjoining Vacy. The large farm of Lennoxton owned by the Messrs. Adair came next. A considerable area was under cultivation. The farm, Cardoness, occupied by Dr. Park, was to the right of Clark's crossing place. Two brothers named Barker also had a farm adjoining Lennoxton, while on the opposite side of the river were the farms of Messrs. R. Clark, E. Kiely, and Lee. The next estate was that of Elm Hall, Mr. W. W. Bucknell being the owner. This estate included the Brecon Mountain, the foot of which was laid out as the site for a village in allotments during 1839. The advertisements of Mr. R. Stubbs, auctioneer, of Sydney, drawing attention to the attractions of the scenery, etc. ,have not yet been excelled by the glowing notices that appeared during the late land boom.

Opposite the farm of Elmshall on the Paterson, Mr. Westmacott was the proprietor of about 1200 acres. On that side of the river was the estate of Norwood, Colonel Gibbs being the proprietor. Next came the large and valuable estate of Trevallyn, belonging to Mr. G. Townshend, which also had a frontage to the Allyn River. Adjoining on the Allyn was the large and valuable estate of Lewinsbrook, belonging to Mr. Alex Park. Adjoining were the farms occupied by Messrs. Dalgleish and Messrs. Durbin and Way. Higher on the Allyn were the large estates of Camer Allyn, belonging to Mr. Charles Boydell, his brother (Mr. W. Boydell) being the proprietor of a farm on the upper boundary. Near Gresford were the farms occupied by Dr. Campbell (subsequently in charge of Gladesville Asylum) and Dr. Lindeman.

Higher up the Paterson were the farms of Messrs. Roebuck, Fenwick, Massie, and Co, Captain Patch, Williams, and Webber. A Mr. G. Bolton had the farm of Couls ton, afterwards occupied by Mr. Brown, the father of the ex-M.L.A. Mr. James McCormick had a farm near Gresford, and was a manufacturer and grower of tobacco on a large scale.

Most of the gentlemen whose names are mentioned had a number of assigned servants allowed them by the Government. With very few exceptions they were kind and considerate to them. All now have passed away: few of their names are connected with the lands that their parents had granted to them.

The first time the writer visited West Maitland, then more frequently mentioned in conversation as `Molly Morgan' s Flat," there was a gang of man dressed to variegated clothing, forming the street opposite the Rose Inn. The roads generally were in a very bad plight in those days - the only bridge I remember in the whole district was a log bridge over Wallis' Creek - the approach on either side not good. There was a punt at Hinton, worked by Mr. Graham, a similar punt at Morpeth. The Falls at West Maitland was the crossing place on the Hunter. Except in time of floods, the river was always fordable, and I have frequently crossed it on foot, the water not reaching above the knee. I remember seeing William the Fourth, steamer, plying in the river about 100 yards.

The road from Hinton to Maitland led through an archway, and the yard of Captain Anlaby' s hotel to the lower road from the steamer`s wharf. The upper road was not then formed. During the years 1840 to 1844, the settlers of all classes suffered severe privation from the effects of drought and the low value of produce. The distress then was more general and acute than what the colonists have been passing through during late years. The causes were the same - drought, land boom, and low prices for produce, and yet there were no beggars or sundowners roaming the country as of late years.

During the years 1842-3 produce was sold at very low prices, I have known settlers bring a team of six bullocks down the river a distance of thirty miles loaded with 70 bushels of maize and dispose of it to my employer for 7d a bushel of 6Olbs, the wholesale price in Sydney being 1s per bushel. The cost of freight to Sydney being 5d per bushel. A good sample of wheat was only valued at from 2s to 2s 6d per bushel. I have seen bullocks then sold for less than 20s per head and sheep at from ls to 2s each, with station and improvements given in. Those prices prevailed until the system of boiling down took place on the Hunter, which had the effect of raising the value of a good bullock to 45s, that being the export value for their hides and fat. The value of sheep rose in the same ratio to 4s 6d per head. Yet we struggled through those hard times and look back even with pleasure and pride that we were successful in overcoming the difficulties then prevailing unaided. There were at the time in question several industries on the Hunter which do not now prevail, a considerable proportion of the consumption required by the people was produced on the Hunter, among which may be mentioned the items tobacco, arrowroot, mustard, earthenware or crockery, and salt.

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