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Discovery and Early Pastoral Settlement of New England (part 2)

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The Scone Advocate (NSW: 1887-1954), Tuesday 3 October 1922

Discovery and Early Pastoral Settlement of New England.


(From a paper written by Mr. J. F. Campbell, L.S., and read before a recent meeting of members of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Sydney).

(No. 2).

With reference to the activity displayed by squatters about this time (1842) in the appropriation of the country lying generally to the north of the latitude of Armidale, Abington was first taken up by John Cameron, who was one of the first pioneers to come to New England. Some years later the property came into the hands of Henry and George Morse. Stonybatter was taken up by Tom Hall, of Dartbrook, and Beverley, first taken up by Allan McPherson, of Keera. It passed through many hands, eventually coming into those of Tom Cook, of Scone. Aberfoyle passed from Denny Day to Captain Pike, then to Walker, and Kangaroo Hills become the occupancy of William Dangar, whose agent had secured it on the advice of a local stockman named Joe Brooks. Falconer Plain was taken up by John Falconer for Donald McIntyre, and Guyra by the same man for Peter McIntyre. A bushranger named Cooney, from the Ballarat side, took up Cooney Creek, but when his identity was disclosed, he was hunted out of the district. Cooney was hanged in Sydney, and the run fell into the hands of Mr. Robertson. According to the “Government Gazette” of the time, the following were included among those to take up land between 1832 and 1839: Hamilton Collins Sempill (Walcha), Edward Gostwyck Cory (Salisbury Waters), A. A. Company (Nowendoc), H. Macdonald, (Bendemeer), Henry Dumaresq (Saumarez), J. Chilcott (Kentucky), William Dangar (Gostwyck, from E. G. Gory ) , William j Dumaresq (Tilbuster), William Frederick Cruickshanks (Mihi Creek), John Dow (Inglba, obtained from John McIvor), Allman brothers (Yarrowitch), J. Morse and T. Foule (Balala), Francis Forbes (Yarrowich), Robert M. Mackenzie ( Salisbury, from E . G. Gory), Edward George Clerk and John Rankin (Clerkness and Newstead), John Cameron (Abington), Alexander Campbell (Inverell), Donald McIntyre (Falconer), C. H. and W. F. Buchanan (Rimbanda), Henry Nowland (Guy Fawkes). It was in 1839 that Edward Denny Day came into possession of Aberfoyle. Others to take up land at the same time included Stephen Coxen, Gregory Blaxland, and Charles Windeyer. In 1843 the New England district, which hitherto embraced the Darling Downs, was limited on the north by the latitude of Wallangarra, but it extended southerly to the Manning River, easterly to Mount Sea View, and westerly to the western limits of the tableland. The Downs squatters included Colin Campbell, John Cameron, Patrick Leslie, and John Pike. It was about this time that the craze for land, which had induced men of all ranks and professions to try their luck in squatting, having run its course, was followed by probably the most serious depression the pastoral industry has experienced, and this depression was more apparent on the tableland, than elsewhere, owing to the great disabilities of transit and the adverse climatic conditions of the winter months. When stock became almost unsaleable, excepting for the tallow their carcasses yielded, the upland runs, as a matter of course, also became more or less valueless, and so much was this the case that at auction sales of bankrupt stock the purchaser was frequently given the rights of occupancy, if he so desired., With the authorisation of pastoral holdings in 1848, an opportunity was afforded of ascertaining the extent of many tracts of country taken up by individual holders. For instance, leaving their interests in the Hunter River and other districts, perhaps further south, out of it, the Dumaresq family, controlled approximately 175,000 acres, Morse and Toule 96,000, George Hall 76,000, Henry Dangar 48,000, and John McIvor 20,000. On their different runs, the Dumaresqs ran 31,000 sheep, as well as 3600 cattle. All areas ranged from 10,000 to 100,000 acres.

For a quarter of a century after its discovery by Oxley, New England remained practically unknown to the Government authorities in Sydney, and it was not until about the year 1846 that any serious attempt was made to acquire a geographical knowledge of it. In 1839, the Government learning of the rapid, progress of squatting on the northern tableland, took action with a view to the establishment of law and order in that region. The appointment of a Crown Lands Commissioner was accompanied by a notification defining the limits of the new district, which was vaguely described as bounded on the east by a line north from the top of Werrikimber Mountain, which is at the head of the Hastings River; on the south by a line west from the top of the same mountain to the Great Dividing Range; on the west by the western extreme of the Great Dividing Range, so as to include the tableland; and on the north the boundary is indefinite.” The name New. England (“Arrabald” by the aborigines), was given to this elevated region because of the similarity of its climatic conditions to those of Britain. . . . When the pioneer pastoralists of New England reached the tableland they found it a vast tract of well-watered woodland country, interspersed with numerous lightly-timbered patches of grassland, but the coarse and sour character of much of the pasturage, together with the inclement winters and the difficulty of access to the tableland from the east, south, and south-west, militated somewhat against permanent or at least perennial occupancy in its earlier stages. It was soon observed that the granite country on the west, and the basaltic ranges on the south and in other places, were unsuitable for the healthy maintenance of sheep all the year round, and especially in wet seasons. The early squatters on these two classes of country had, therefore, to abandon sheep to more suitable pasturage. Hence the frequent changes in occupancy which, being unrecorded, obscure much of the early history of pastoral settlement. All primary upland squattages were usually bounded by leading ridges, and embraced the valley or valleys lying between. They were briefly described as including all the land drained by the main stream and its tributaries. Later pioneers adopted, where practicable, a similar system of boundaries, but in many eases arbitrary lines limited adjoining runs, and the fixing of these lines frequently gave rise to disputes, in the settling of which there was then no jurisdiction, as stated or implied by Governor Gipps in his despatch of April 3, 1844. He writes: “Parties, originally, in taking up their runs were limited only by their own moderation, or by the pressure of other squatters on them, and it is this pressure of one squatter on another, and the disagreements which arose therefrom which in the year 1837 led to the first appointment of Crown Commissioners.” In an earlier despatch, dated September 28, 1840, the Governor describes the conditions under which squatters held their occupancies at that time. The extract runs: “Beyond the boundaries the country is roughly divided into districts in each of which there is a Commissioner of Crown Lands, who is the chief magistrate of it, and has under his control a small force of mounted constables, who, in order that they may be distinguished from the more regular mounted police of the colony, are called by the name of border police. . . . Beyond the limits of location land is neither sold nor let, but licenses are granted, at the discretion of the Crown Commissioners, for the occupation of such portions of land as may be desired by proprietors of stock, on each of which licenses a fee of £10 is payable annually, and an assessment under a local ordinance is levied on the stock depastured there. Each allotment of land for which a license is given is called a station, and the station may vary in extent from 5000 to 30,000 acres.” The troubles which beset pastoral pioneering, especially on the tableland, were many and varied. Apart from the ordinary discomforts of bush life as then experienced, the visits of bushrangers, the destruction of stock by aborigines, and the delinquencies of many of the assigned servants, were causes of annoyance and unrest, and occasionally the loss of life itself. The Legislative Council’s enactment of July 29, 1836, prohibiting the occupancy of ‘Crown lands beyond the “limits,” without first obtaining a license ior such purpose was, more or less, directly the result of petitions from pioneer squatters, who, under the authority of the Governor, had ventured beyond the “boundaries,” but were seriously handicapped by the depredations of lawless men, usually of the convict class. The following extract from a memorial to Governor Bourke portrays the trouble which pressed upon these pioneer pastoralists in this direction: “We beg leave to add our own personal knowledge of the fact that the interior of the colony is infested with gangs of cattle stealers and other disorderly persons, whose depredations are carried out to an alarming extent. These gangs consist of freed men, who have served short sentences, or those of long sentences holding tickets-of-leave, who combine with the assigned servants to plunder the herds of their masters. Many of these men are known to possess large herds of cattle, obtained in a very short time by a series of schemes for stealing them.” — Sydney “Herald,” April 11, 1836.

In reviewing the bushranging and other lawless acts incidental to the convict days, by aid of information gleaned from law court proceedings and Press narratives, etc., one can not fail to realise that “man’s in humanity to man” gave rise to many retaliatory offences of a more or less serious nature, which could readily have been averted. The earliest recorded instance of bushranging on the tableland occurred about the beginning of the year 1836 at Saumarez (Armidale). The bushrangers in this instance were absconders from the service of a few squatters who had established themselves on that portion of the tableland, but their misdemeanours appear to have been confined to robberies only. In the absence of correspondence from the tableland, news respecting the movements of bushrangers, or in fact any other movement, seldom reached the Sydney Press. Traditional tales, however, are numerous, but conflicting, and therefore unreliable. Of the more interesting cases reported, mention may be made of the Port Macquarie road-gang deserters, whose depredatory intentions on the tableland were nipped in the bud; and of Wilson, the leader of the gang that for several years terrorised travellers, chiefly along the Great Northern Road.

(To be continued in Friday’s issue).

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October 19, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Support for a Bundarra to Kentucky railway line.

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The Tamworth Daily Observer (NSW), Wednesday 21 June 1911


(From our Correspondent.)

Farmers and Settlers’ Association. — A meeting of the Bundarra branch of the F. and S. Association was held to-day, at which it was decided to enter a protest against the amended claims of the Rural Workers’ Union, as being excessive, and also to protest against the repeal of the Conversion Act — a copy of each motion to be forwarded on to the respective authorities through the member for the district.

The chairman stated that he understood a Railway League was being formed in Bundarra to advocate that construction of a line of railway from Inverell to Kentucky, as part of the decentralisation scheme. The meeting expressed itself favorable to the idea, and a motion was carried to the effect that “this branch of the F. and S. Association pledges itself to support any public movement aiming at the construction of a railway through Bundarra.”

Railway League. — Immediately after the close of the Farmers and Settlers’ meeting, a public meeting was held to discuss the advisability of urging the construction of a railway from Inverell to Kentucky (on the Great Northern Line) via Bundarra. Mr. A. McGinty (the convener of the meeting) was appointed to the chair, and in his opening remarks said that for years he had advocated the construction of a railway to Bundarra, unfortunately without success. The recently published report of the Decentralisation Commission, however, went to show that a line through here had been suggested as part of the scheme, and he considered the time opportune for the people affected to make an effort 0n their own behalf. The export of wool, stock, and other products from this district was at the present time very considerable, while the splendid resources of the district fully warranted the recognition in the way claimed. Aided by the output from the neighboring tin and silver fields of Tingha and Howell, he contended, it would be one of the best paying lines in the State; while, on the other hand, the construction of a line from Inverell to Kentucky would provide a shorter and more direct route from the North-West to the proposed port at Salamander Bay than the Inverell-Guyra proposal, while the class of country passed through would be in every way superior. It was not difficult to realise the impetus that would be given to the district by being brought into direct touch with the world’s markets, which in itself would prove a strong incentive for the exploitation of other industries such as dairying, agriculture, etc., for which a large portion of the district is eminently adapted. To hope for success they must take prompt and decided action, and not be backward in asking for what they are justly entitled to. Mr. Donoghue then moved that a Bundarra Railway League be formed, and that the membership, to defray expenses, be fixed at 1/-. This was seconded by Mr. Parsons and carried. Mr. A. McGinty was appointed secretary of the League, and was instructed to collect all possible information of the nature required, which will subsequently be embodied in a petition to be presented to the proper authorities. It was also resolved to solicit the cooperation of Inverell, Uralla, and other centres interested, as well as every land holder along the proposed route, and to invite the assistance of the member for the district, Mr. G. R. W. McDonald, M.L.A. It was decided to hold regular monthly meetings of the League to transact ordinary routine business and report progress. The meeting then adjourned.

June 17.

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Uralla. A New England Wool Town

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Saturday 8 December 1928, The Brisbane Courier

By Our Special Representative.

Uralla, situated at an altitude of 3337ft. above sea level, derives its wealth mostly from wool, although the granite and volcanic soils are favourable for the growing of English fruits. Uralla is about 400 miles from Brisbane on the direct route between the Queensland capital and Sydney.

THE first business premises of this New England wool town were established In the early ‘fifties, and since then the township has grown to considerable dimensions. The present population is about 400, and the community is municipally governed. Very keen interest is manifested in Brisbane and its markets, the main line from Sydney to Brisbane carrying much produce, other than wool, to the Northern market. One illustration of the gaze northwards is a big sign at the entrance to the town setting out that the “Brisbane Courier” may be purchased at the local newsagent’s.


Uralla and its contiguous district were discovered by Oxley in 1818, when he was journeying across the southern portion of the New England Tableland towards the coast. The great explorer wrote of the country as beautiful park lands, and to-day the same apt description holds good, for the open forest has been preserved to a great extent in its natural timbered state, wholesale timber destruction not being adopted. The early explorations and discoveries led to an influx of colonists, and notable developments took place in the early ‘thirties. Squatters came forward during these years from the Hunter, including H. C. Collins, who took up the Walcha run, Edward Gostwyck Cory, who took up Gostwyck. Terrible Vale was taken up later. It is rather difficult to follow the actual trend of settlement, or how each squatter worked out his destiny in the shuffle and reshuffle of boundaries. William Dangar took up a run in the same area, and the executors of his descendants’ estate still administer the affairs of Gostwyck. Probably Cory altered his boundaries or sold to Dangar. At all events both family names are now part and parcel of the Uralla district, landmarks and localities bearing their names. Other settlers followed-men of all ranks and professions trying their luck. There came a time of pastoral depression, both land and stock becoming almost valueless. Permanent improvements took the place of haphazardness when the 1847 leasehold system of tenure was enacted, and real settlement commenced. The sour nature of some of the country has been overcome, and the improvement in the breeding of sheep has helped considerably to minimise the severity of the winters. The advance of white settlement gradually caused the depredation by natives and the raiding by bushrangers to cease, and steady development took place up to the present. The call for closer settlement has been so insistent that the big holdings have become shrunken in comparison to their former proportions, but the move has been good, and the small men have made great strides.


The Uralla district also has played its part in the production of gold. The Rocky River field was discovered about the ’50’s, and 538 licenses for mining were issued in 1853. When the search was at fever heat about 5000 persons were on the field. In the first 16 years 118,824oz. of gold were won, of the value of £467,293. These figures were taken from the official escort returns, and do not include parcels taken away by individuals. Up to the present the gold won from the Rocky River field amounts to nearly three quarters of a million sterling. Another field, known as the Melrose, was opened in 1889, samples of ore returning lloz. to the ton. It is claimed that payable gold exists in this area, but requires modern methods to properly work it.


In a country with a climate such as is enjoyed at Uralla the possibilities of agriculture in many branches are evident, and the granite and volcanic soils favour the cultivation of English fruits. It would not be correct to say that the district is free from pests, but they are under organised control, and are a minor trouble compared with some other fruit areas. In addition to fairly extensive fruit production by private enterprise, there is a group of ex-soldier settlers at Kentucky, some 10 miles from Uralla. Passing through their settlement one notes that success has been attained. The homes are comfortable, the orchards well kept, and an air of content is general. Brisbane is a market for much of the Kentucky fruit, which is always in great demand on account of its clean and healthy state.

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March 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm

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Wilson’s gang

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Friday 27 March 1846, The Sydney Morning Herald


MARCH 23.- The notorious Wilson, at the head of seven armed men, robbed Kentucky, in New England, five miles from Mr. Marsh’s, a few days since. The whole district is in consequence in a state of excitement again, and the times of Davis and his gang are revived.

Mr. Gall, of Jerry’s Plains, is in hot pursuit, and Mr, F. Allman, of Liverpool Plains, is out in the neighbourhood of the Barnard Ranges and the head of New England.

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July 2, 2010 at 6:08 am

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General Birdwood visits soldiers at Kentucky.

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Friday 30 April 1920, The Sydney Morning Herald




ARMIDALE, Thursday.

The Diggers on the soldiers’ settlement at Kentucky will not easily forget their day with General Birdwood. It was an occasion which permitted the chief Digger to make himself quite at home.

When the mail train to which the General’s carriage was attached left Wollun the track lay through the heart of settlement. The visitors saw vigorous signs of pioneering on every hand – timber cut and stacked ready for firing, brand new weatherboards standing in clearings, rows of young fruit trees and yellowing fields of potatoes ready for digging.

General Birdwood received a hearty welcome on his arrival at Kentucky. A guard of honour composed of returned soldier settlers was drawn up outside the little station. The General had words of encouragement for every soldier, and chatted for a few minutes with Sergeant Freame on old Gallipoli days. Sergeant Freame was one of the General’s scouts on the peninsula, and was the first Australian to receive the D.C.M.

The soldiers recounted their experiences to the General, who was keenly interested in the progress made on their farms. The settlement comprises 5842 acres, subdivided into 114 farms, devoted to fruitgrowing and cultivation of vegetable crops. Arrangements are in hand for the acquirement of additional land to bring the total number of settlers up to 200. This land originally supported six graziers. The settlement is 3347ft above sea level, and has an average annual rainfall of over 32 inches. There are about 40 settlers now on their blocks, and each farm is fenced and fully equipped with house and outbuildings. There are also a general store, post-office, and provision for cool store. Settlers’ crops are marketed by the department without commission, and all operations are supervised by an expert manager and inspectors.

The visitors and soldiers made a tour of inspection of the settlement, and the General was keenly interested in the crops and stock seen on the farms. Piper Smith, an original soldier settler, told the General that he hoped to clear the whole of his liabilities this year that is, within two years of his taking up the block.

Major Evans, on behalf of the Minister for Lands, presented General Birdwood with an album of photographs of Kentucky. Replying, the General wished the settlers and their families every possible happiness in their new homes.

The party, motoring thence to Armidale, made a brief halt on the main road, where a little group of pupils from the Arding Public School lined up with their flag to greet the General.

The General and party reached Armidale by cars this afternoon, and were met opposite the New England Girls’ School by a guard of honour composed of the pupils, under Miss Lyons (principal). The welcome in the Town Hall was wholehearted and enthusiastic.

The Mayor of Armidale (Alderman Curtis) extended a hearty welcome to General Birdwood.

General Birdwood expressed his warm appreciation of their welcome. He said he was a country man himself, and the beauty of their district had appealed to him.

General Birdwood afterwards presented the Military Cross to Captain Bootle.

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April 27, 2010 at 8:02 pm

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Car somersaults

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Tuesday 16 February 1926, The Sydney Morning Herald



A sensational motor smash occurred on
the Armidale-Tamworth road on Sunday after-
noon, when Mr. and Mrs. Blomfleld were
motoring from Uralla to Walcha. The car
was descending a hill near Kentucky when,
it is stated, the brakes jammed, and before a
release could be made the car turned a com-
plete somersault, and came to rest with the
wheels in the air. Mr. and Mrs. Blomfield
were in the car all the time, and though the
hood was smashed they escaped injury. Mr.
Blomfleld managed to extricate himself, and
then set about getting his wife from her
perilous position. She escaped with a shak-
ing. The bonnet was smashed, and one of
the front wheels torn from the axle, and
broken glass from the windscreen was lying

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March 20, 2010 at 6:04 am

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Petition for alternative railway route.

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Wednesday 5 September 1923, The Sydney Morning Herald



A petition, signed by about 120 residents of the
Uralla, Walcha, and Salisbury Plains districts, includ-
ing practically every settler at Kentucky, is being
submitted to the Minister for Works and Railways.
It declares that, if the proposed railway from the
Tablelands to St. George were to proceed from a
point near the Kentucky Soldiers' Settlement, via
Walcha, instead of from a point between Wollun and
Walcha-road, via Walcha, it would serve a greater
population and a better agricultural district.
The line between the points mentioned, it is claimed,
would be much cheaper to construct than the route at
present proposed, and would greatly assist the pro-
gress of Kentucky Soldiers' Settlement.

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March 19, 2010 at 6:04 am

Soldiers’ Blocks Reappraised.

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Monday 17 December 1934, The Sydney Morning Herald


Soldiers' Blocks Reappraised.

URALLA Saturday - Members of the Closer
Settlement Board sat at Uralla and dealt
with the reappraisement of orchard blocks on
Kentucky soldiers' settlement and grazing
blocks taken up by returned soldiers in this
and Walcha districts. Sixty-one orchard
blocks were dealt with. The original Crown
value was £79,282. This figure was reduced
to £60,131. Including the grazing blocks, a
total reduction of £21,300 was given.

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March 18, 2010 at 6:10 am

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