Tuesday, 2 April 2013

2. John Wilson 1770-1800

 John Wilson was an emancipated convict who actually chose to live with Aboriginal people in or near the ‘Mountains, on the Hawkesbury. He learned the languages and customs of his hosts, but maintained contact with colonial society, where he frequently spoke of knowing a way across the ‘Blue Mountains’, as it was (already) commonly known. Even then, it was widely rumoured that Aboriginal people did, in fact, use a route across these mountains. Subsequently it has been claimed that there were two routes used by them: the “Bilpin Ridge” path, no doubt following the current “Bell’s Line of Road”, and the “Cox’s River” route, entered via the Burragorang Valley.

When Wilson was finally commissioned by Governor Hunter to verify his claims, in 1798, he took a party of soldiers and convicts on a south-westerly route, presumably seeking the Cox’s River option. For some reason, the party was spooked, and several soldiers and convicts returned, leaving a small group of three men only. The official reason given was that the task of exploration was too much hard work, but it is more likely that fear dominated their judgement.

It is feasible that the Gundungarra either barred or misled Wilson, who may not have followed proper custom, so that he took a path much further to the south, travelling via present–day Bargo/Avon country, on to Berrima and Mittagong, stopping just 12 kilometres north of the contemporary city of Goulburn. Clearly, Wilson had found a relatively easy, fertile, though somewhat roundabout way across the Great Dividing Range, but he received no accolades from the Governor, and minimal effort was made to follow up on his achievement.

John Wilson continued to live a life close to Aboriginal mores, but he was careless in his relationships with Indigenous women. This ultimately caused his death by spearing shortly after his return to the Hawkesbury. He was 30 years of age.

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