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Discovery and Early Pastoral Settlement of New England (part 1)

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The Scone Advocate (NSW : 1887 – 1954), Friday 22 September 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).

(No. 1).

The writer commences by touching upon Oxley’s trip to the New England Tableland in the year 1818 and having crossed the southern end, making his way to the coast at Port Macquarie. At this early date, Oxley had good reasons to believe that he was not the first white man to enter the tableland, for from his journal, he reports having encountered natives, who, “from the whole tenor of their behaviour, had previously heard of white people.” By way of confirmation of his surmise, it is significant that upon continuing his journey southerly from Port Macquarie along the coast, he found in Chowder Bay a small boat, half buried in the sand, and the remains of a hut which had evidently been constructed by Europeans; the saw and axe having been employed upon it. From these and other indications, it would appear that adventurous bushmen, free and otherwise, had already explored to some extent the coastal and tableland regions, especially the former, lying far beyond the recognised limits of settlement.


When it became known in Britain that rich pasture lands had been discovered beyond the range of mountains which for a quarter of a century had confined settlement to a limited portion of the coastal region, immigration, especially of pastoralists, became more pronounced. Mr. Campbell incidentally refers to the rapid progress of settlement in the Hunter Valley, and quotes from Assistant Surveyor Henry Dangar’s “Hunter River Dictionary and Emigrants’ Guide,” published in 1828, wherein it is set out that “whereas in 1822 a division of country occupying upwards of 150 miles along the river, which in 1822 possessed little more than its aboriginal inhabitants, in 1826-27 more than half a million acres were appropriated and in a forward state of improvement, and carried upwards of 25,000 head of cattle and 80,000 sheep.” In order the more readily to control this rapid advance of pastoral settlement, and to safeguard the lives and the property of settlers generally, it was decided in 1826 to limit the area within which land could be selected and securely held. The northern limit of this area was fixed as from Cape York in a line due west to Wellington Vale, beyond which land was neither sold nor let. In the meantime, however, pastoralists from the Hunter Valley, whose selections had become overstocked, or were drought-stricken, began to steal over the boundary and squat in favorable positions of the Liverpool Plains. Foremost among these was a Mr. Baldwin, who, actually in 1826, with his stock, ventured beyond the limit. His teams were the first to cross the Liverpool Range and to form the northern road over the gap at Murrurundi. No particulars are given respecting this adventurous squatter, but from official papers of that time, mention is made of an enterprising settler, Henry Baldwin, of Wilberforce and Patrick’s Plains, who may have been the pastoralist referred to. By the end of 1831, the so-called waste lands of the colony had become exploited up to the New England Tableland. The trend of this pastoral occupancy was naturally directed along the main creeks and rivers that drain the open valleys of the Namoi basin, but little information, other than traditional, seems to be available adverting to the personnel and doings of the pioneers outside the limits of settlement. In the case, Eales v. Lang, however, the evidence on record reveals something about the early occupancies on the Mukai (Mooki) River, a branch of the Namoi. Donald McLaughlan (MacIntyre?) informed the Court “that from 1825 to 1831 he was in the service of Thomas Potter Macqueen, of Segenhoe (then in England), and was several times on the Mookl looking out for runs.” In his last years of service he formed a station (Breeza) for Macqueen, which station he occupied himself in 1835. This occupancy, under license, was affirmed by the Police Magistrate, Edward Denny Day, then residing at Muswellbrook. In the same case, John Rotton deposed that in September, 1828, he formed a station at Walhalla, on the Mooki River, and remained there two years. Doona run, which was situated between Walhalla and Breeza, was first occupied on behalf of Macqueen, and formed into a station in 1833. Samuel Clift stated in evidence that he entered into possession of Doona in 1837. In 1832 the Australian Agricultural Company’s exchange grant, Warrah, situated on the northern foothills of the Liverpool Range, displaced the early occupiers of that portion of the Liverpool Plains, and the Peel River part of the grant monopolised about a quarter of a million acres on the upper reaches of that tributary of the Namoi. According to the Company’s Commissioner, Sir Edward Parry, who personally inspected the areas in 1832, the squatters who were wholly or in part displaced by the exchange grant of Warrah were as follows: — Messrs. Robertson and Burns (on Mooki), John Blaxland (Kilcoobil), William Lawson and Fitzgerald (Muritloo), Otto Baldwin, William Osborn, John Upton, George and Richard Yeoman, and Patrick Campbell (Yarramanbah), John Onus and Robert Williams (Boorambil), Thomas Parnell, Philip Thorley and William Nowlan (Warrah) and Major Druitt (Phillips Creek). The above occupiers ran 8200 head of stock, mostly cattle, between them. As to the Peel River exchange, the following were affected: — Messrs. George and Andrew Loder (Kuwerhindi, or Quirindi), Brown (Wollomal), William Dangar, Edward Gostwyck, Cory, and Warland (Wollomal and Waldoo). There were 3800 head of stock held on the properties mentioned.

The squatting invasion of New England (according to William Gardner, of Armidale, writing in 1844), commenced in 1832, when Hamilton Collins Sempill, of Beltrees (one l), Hunter River, from his out-station, Ellerstone, crossed the boundary (Liverpool Range) with his stock, and following approximately the Great Dividing Range north-easterly to the Hamilton Valley of Oxley, formed a station in the upper Apsley Valley, which he named Wolka (Walcha), with headquarters on the flat near where Oxley pitched his camp on the evening of September 8, 1818. The precise route is not recorded, but probably he reached the tableland by way of the Nundle spur, a route defined by survey the same year (1832) by H. F. White, Government Surveyor, in conjunction with H. Dangar, the Australian Agricultural Company’s surveyor. About the same time, Edward Gostwyck Cory, a settler, also from the Hunter district (Page’s River and the Patterson, and a squatter on the Page’s River, about where Tamworth is now situated), is said to have passed over the Moonboy (Moonbi) Range, along the route of the Great Northern Road from Tamworth, which route, it is also stated, was previously discovered by him, and, proceeding northerly, he camped for a time on one of the upper tributaries of Carlyle’s Gully. This tributary streamlet still bears the name of Cory’s Camp Creek, and where the camp stood may be seen in the Dog-trap paddock of Rimbanda. A memorial of his ascent to the tableland is also to be seen in the form of a rock at the foot of the second Moonboys, known to the present day as Cory’s Pillow. . . It is not definitely known on what part of the main stream Cory first formed his homestead, but it is surmised that Gostwyck was his headquarters for a time. Later on he established himself at Terrible Vale, about where the present station is situated, while the representative of William Dangar occupied the lower part of the valley with the homestead, Gostwyck, included. In the meantime Colonel Henry Dumaresq had formed a station in the vicinity which he called Saumarez, after the home of his ancestors in the Isle of Jersey. This station appears to have been fully equipped with the necessaries of pastoral life prior to the year 1836, as indicated by the evidence given in the Supreme Court, Sydney, on November 4 of that year in the case, the Crown v. Thomas Walker. In this case, the historic importance of which is obvious, Walker was indicted for the murder of a bushranger near Saumarez, in April, 1836. O’Neil, of the mounted police, “on duty at Colonel Dumaresq’s,” in giving evidence, said: “I heard that bushrangers used to be harboured at Dangar’s station, about five or six miles from Dumaresq’s. The prisoner at the bar was a shepherd there, and he told me that the bushrangers had given him the (stolen) things, and that they were to rob Mr. Cory’s and Mr. Chilcott’s stations the day after. These stations were about twelve miles from Mr. Dangar’s,” etc. Chilcott appears to have been the first occupant of Kentucky run. About this time Cory and Chilcott Had transferred their pre-occupancies. Dr. William Bell Carlyle, about the same time, occupied the valley drained by the creek which bears his name, and Captain William John Dumaresq joined his brother on the north-east. This coterie of adjoining squatters were landed proprietors from the Hunter Valley, where they usually resided. . . Sempill was soon followed by others, including the Allman brothers. The discoveries which led to the pastoral occupation of Cory’s, New England, were continued by Messrs. James and Alexander McDougall, and Alexander Campbell (one of the five overseers who accompanied Peter Mclntyre — he was T. P. Macqueen’s agent — to Australia in 1824), who in March, 1835, started, on an expedition to examine the country now named New England, and at the time unexplored. These explorers evidently followed Oxley ‘s trail to the tableland, their subsequent course being described as due north to Tilbuster, which station was then in the course of formation. From that locality they proceeded easterly, and then northerly, locating suitable positions for stations en route. Some ten years later, Campbell settled on his Macintyre occupancy, which he named Inverell.

In dealing with the pastoral settlement of the western slopes, of the tablelands, which commenced in the year 1836, the writer quotes from ‘The Reminiscences of Mrs. Susan Bundarra Young,” an author whose father, Edward John Clerk, in partnership with John Rankin, settled at Clerkness (now Bundarra). This lady’s story of the incidents and events of her childhood days, in the then Australian bush, although subject in part to correction, is, nevertheless, of historical value, insofar as it portrays the rise and progress of pastoral settlement on the tableland. Her father, who was born in England, was the son of Major Thomas Clerk, of the Indian Army. He came to N.S. Wales, via Tasmania, about the end of 1835, and with John Rankin, purchased Dr. Carlyle’s Invermein or Cresswell property, on Kingdon Ponds, and apparently his New England occupancy, Carlyle’s Gully, as well. They also formed Newstead Station, which upon the dissolution of partnership in 1842, became the occupancy of Rankin, while Clerk retained the original station, Clerkness. (Looking up records in the possession of the ‘Advocate,” we find the names of Messrs. Rankin and Clerk, both of whom were, as far back as 1838, on Satur, and not Invermein, as stated by the writer. Each subscribed a tidy donation towards, the erection of the original St. Luke’s Church, Scone. After the name of each of the two donors, the word “Satur” is plainly written).

(To be continued).

Written by macalba

October 12, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Duck for dinner; Native bear killed near Armidale

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Thursday 21 January 1864, The Sydney Morning Herald

The Armidale Express of 2nd instant states that in the previous week, Mr. Joshua Scholes and some other parties, who were at the Mole River station mustering cattle, went fishing in a leisure hour, when they caught a codfish weighing 52 lbs., which had swallowed a black duck, feathers and all.

A fine “native bear” – a species of sloth – was killed near Armidale about ten days since. It appears that a young man named Taylor, when near the junction of” Tilbuster with Armidale Creek, saw the bear up a tree, and brought him down after three shots. The animal dead weighed 22 lbs. We are informed that native bears are very plentiful at Duval, but the one in question seemed to have get out of his latitude. Some people are fond of them as pets, and they are staled to be quiet, harmless creatures, subsisting on grass and gum leaves, and generally very fat.

Written by macalba

December 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm

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Bushfires near Armidale

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Monday 12 December 1904, The Advertiser (Adelaide)

Bush fires are raging in the vicinity of Armidale. Yesterday an outbreak started at Mr. J. Bliss’ farm, and travelled in a north-easterly direction through Tilbuster, Ground Creek, Thalgarrah, and Pint Pot. Another fire started at Castle Doyle and burned towards Cooney. Beyond the destruction of several miles of fencing and thousands of acres of grass no serious damage was done.

Written by macalba

June 20, 2010 at 6:07 am

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The prospecting movement at the Rocky River

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Monday 9 March 1857, The Sydney Morning Herald

(From the Armidale Express, 28th February.)

OUR readers will perceive, from the report of the late meeting held at the Rocky, that the prospecting movement is likely to go ahead satisfactorily, so far as that field is concerned. We are gratified to find that a little stronger interest is beginning to be manifested by various classes in the success of the gold miners than has hitherto been customary. However, there is yet too much apathy on the subject, and the gold diggers are not sufficiently supported by either the farmers or the squatters, who have derived more substantial benefits from the discovery of gold-fields in the district than the miners themselves.

If extensive support be desired, it is necessary, both for the interests of the miners and those dependent upon the latter, that prospecting movements should be divested as much as possible of localism. It is of little importance to a digger whether a rich gold-field is discovered in a precise locality, or a few miles off. The experienced miner generally holds himself in readiness to pack off in a very short time to any new “rush” promising superior attractions to the spot where he may then be working at. And the storekeepers, &c, must, of necessity, keep in the wake of the surge of population, however eccentric its courses may appear.

For these reasons, although we approve of the prospecting movement at the Rocky being cordially supported, yet we cannot help thinking that if it could be developed into a project embracing the whole New England district, the change would possess manifest advantages. Purely local movements must depend mainly, if not entirely, upon local support : and any proposals of a general character, which are not restricted to any comparatively small area, must inevitably command a far wider scope of encouragement, and be more liberally contributed to by the people generally, than in the former event.

The originators of the prospecting project at the Rocky are entitled to great credit ; they have taken a step in the right direction, though we trust that they will not stop there, but proceed in the path of extension. We need hardly remind any one that a large […] of […] has given […] good indications of auriferous richness as could have been expected, considering the trifling amount of toil expended in prospecting, that from the two Duvals to the end of Tilbuster Creek a rich gold-field is waiting, almost untouched, for enterprising parties to commence; and that at the head of Cameron’s Creek there are some twenty or thirty gullies that have all been proved auriferous, and where nuggets of four and five pennyweights have been found. It is a marvel to us why Tilbuster Creek and the head of Cameron’s Creek (also called the Guyra River) have not received a better share of attention. At the latter gold has frequently been picked up on the surface, and various prospecting parties have been satisfied with the prospects, while the indications have been pronounced excellent. Unfortunately, the greater number of those who have examined Tilbuster and the head tributaries of the Guyra, have not been practical miners. As a necessary consequence, their explorations were imperfectly carried out, and they also manifested a want of that forethought and that perseverance which are the invariable companions of a trained and duly qualified gold miner. Thus, while the diggings on Cameron’s Creek are only some twelve or fourteen miles from Armidale, where the necessaries (if not of the luxuries) of life can be obtained, it is almost preposterous to hear of diggers deserting a rich field-one which they assert yields the best surface prospects of any in New England—because there are no stores there. Surely some parties having sufficient capital to purchase a dray-load of flour, meat, tea, sugar, &c., ought to think seriously of giving such a place a fair trial.

In one way the prison labour of the district could certainly be employed to advantage, viz., in prospecting for new gold-fields. We have frequently seen a man perambulating the streets of Armidale with an empty barrow, and close at his heels a constable, to watch that the prisoner duly performed his sentence of “hard labour.” At other times we have been amused to see an athletic fellow trotting about with a bundle, followed by the usual vision of one of her Majesty’s “blues.” Thus the country finds rations for a man who is kept in unproductive idleness, and pays for another man to watch him. Now we see no difficulty whatever in organising small prospecting parties composed of men who have received short sentences to hard labour. We ask any man of common sense whether these prisoners would not be better employed in sinking a shaft or cutting a sluice than in wheeling empty barrows or carrying bundles in the street? If the benches will not take the responsibility of changing the system, we make no doubt that an application to head quarters would be attended with success. Any gold found in a shaft or sluice might be given to the prisoners, and as soon as a locality could be proved payable, they should be shifted to another place. We do not imagine that any increase in the constabulary force would be necessary, and we are sure that the requisite tools might be supplied by private subscription, and left in charge of the chief constable.

With regard to the theory of a second bottom, about which so much is being said, we are not at all sanguine. Of course we only give our opinion for what it is worth when we state that we do not believe any great results at all probable from piercing deeper into the granite bed-rock. But even if this view should prove to be founded in error, we are still perfectly warranted in maintaining that, until places which give first-rate indications of an abundance of gold on the surface of the granite are properly tested, theoretical views in reference to a second bottom ought to be kept a secondary question. While labour is valuable and provisions are high, it is as well for diggers who are not possessed of much capital to keep as near the surface of “terra firma” as possible. When the gold-fields become exhausted, and first bottoms are found wanting, a second bottom can then be searched after at far less expense than at present, and with an energy that would be spurred on by necessity.

Written by macalba

April 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm

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The New England gold fields

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Saturday 22 November 1856, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser


A gentleman who has had many opportunities, during several years past, for acquiring sound information relative to the auriferous localities in New England, has favoured us with the following particulars, which we doubt not will be found interesting to the public and useful to the miners :—

Rocky River.

The first licenses issued to diggers at the Rocky took place in December, 1858. Since that time, nearly 15,000 have been issued, giving an average of a trifle under 310 per month.

McDonald River.

The McDonald, near Bendemeer, has been prospected to pay about 10s. per day each man. There is no one working there at present.

Carlisle Gully.

This gully has been prospected to pay about 10s. a day per man. No one working there at present.

Tilbuster Creek.

This creek, which is quite convenient to Armidale, has been prospected to pay from 10s. to 15s. per day each man. In 1853 about twenty individuals were working in this locality; but there is no one at present.

Cameron’s Creek.

On this creek, as many as thirty persons, at least, have at different times been working. Generally speaking, the average yield has been considered about 10s. per day each man, but patches paying over half an ounce per diem to each digger have been found. This locality will, in all probability, prove to be alike a rich and extensive gold field. The gold is coarse and scaly.


During the last few months, from 50 to 100, and lately a much greater number of diggers, have been working on this gold field. The average yield is not accurately known, but experienced miners have great faith in its eventually turning out an exceedingly profitable gold field. It is only reasonable to expect, from the number at present there, and which is rapidly augmenting, that the Government should place a force on the field for the protection of the miners, under the charge of a resident commissioner.

Mount Mitchell.

There have been a few parties working here for the last few months. It is not known to a certainty what the average yield has been, but probably from 10s. to 20s. per day.

Glen Elgin.

This is a very promising locality. A few men have prospected there, and state the yield at about 20s. per day each man. The principal difficulty on this field is a superabundance of water, combined with a substratum of sand in many places.


This locality has been very indifferently prospected. It is generally believed that 10s. per day each digger could be readily obtained, with every prospect of a more remunerative field being soon discovered.

Various other localities.

Parties have prospected and found gold at Rock Vale, Ward’s Mistake, Dundee, Salisbury, Yarrowick, and various other localities, not omitting Armidale township, but from a deficiency of particulars that can be depended on, I will not hazard an opinion respecting their auriferous capabilities.

Written by macalba

April 8, 2010 at 8:08 pm

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