Saturday, 19 July 2014

Hawkesbury's First Settlers


Early Colonial Records.

To THE Editor. Sir,-You have frequently referred to James Ruse as the first Australian farmer, and I think you have credited him with being the first Hawkesbury farmer also. Perhaps the following information, which can be considered reliable, will settle the matter, and prove of interest to many of your readers. It is taken from the Historical records of N.S.W., and appears in a document, being an official letter, dated 29th April, 1794, from Lieutenant Governor Grose to the Right Hon. Henry Dundas, an English Statesman. With this letter he enclosed a plan showing the "First Farms on the Hawkesbury," all of which are numbered. He writes: -" I have settled on the banks of the Hawkesbury 22 Settlers, who seem very much pleased with their farms. They describe the soil as particularly rich, and inform me that whatever they have planted has grown in the greatest luxuriance." The owners of these farms (the first settlers on the Hawkesbury) are described in the plan as follows:
1 Giles Moore 12 J. Wright
2 Danl. Barnett 18 J. Feudlow 
8 W. Powson 14 Peter Bond
4 J. Butler 15 J. Owen
5 T. Sowell 16 E. Cunningham 
6 J. Rous 17 R. Davis
7 C. Williams 18 J. Roberts
8 J. Wimbow 19 Thos. Saunders 
9 W. Snailham 20 J. Webb
10 J. Acres 21 J. Welsted
11 W. Douglass 22 Thos. Caldwell

On the plan the farms of Moore, Barnett. Pawson and Butler are shown as being on the McGrath's Hill side of South Creek; J. Rous's farm was situated at the junction of South Creek and the Hawkesbury River (now Hannabus's farm), and T. Howell's was directly at the rear of this : the other farms shown on the plan all face the Hawkesbury, adjoining No. 6 (Rous's) in rotation, all being situated in what is known as Pitt Reach.
In selecting this rich soil, Governor Phillip was evidently alive to the advantages of cultivating the productive land of the colony. In a later dispatch, dated 31st August, 1794, Lieutenant Governor Grose, writing to the same English statesman, says: -" The settlers placed on the banks of the Hawkesbury, being 70 in number, are doing exceedingly well. The ground they have already in cultivation has all the appearance of bearing better wheat than has yet been: grown in the colony; I have caused a very good road to be made from Sydney to the banks of the Hawkesbury, by which we discover that the distance by land is much less than was expected. An officer, who is by no means considered to be particularly active, under took for a trifling wager to walk there from Sydney in nine hours, and with great ease to himself performed a journey in eight hours and; two minutes which formerly required an exertion of some days to accomplish." It will be seen from the above quotation that in the space of a few months the number of settlers had increased by 48, and communication, with Sydney by a good road had been established. Looking over the same records, I find that the James Ruse you frequently refer to was undoubtedly the first Australian farmer, and must have been a man of independent spirit, to refuse Government assistance. Ruse first settled at Parramatta, entering upon his farm of 80 acres on November 21, 1789, but did not receive his grant officially until March 30, 1791. Ruse afterwards disposed of his farm, and went to the Hawkesbury. It is generally understood that he occupied Hannabus's farm. This is no doubt correct, for his name, in conjunction with another farmer named Williams, frequently occurs in history, and the latter's farm (No. 7) adjoined the one originally owned by Rous (No. 6), and it is probable that he parted with it to Ruse.
-Yours, &c., YELDAP.
East Melbourne, June 22.

Correspondence. (1896, June 27). Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved May 14, 2012, from

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