Sunday, 28 April 2013

4 Develop-ment of 'The Great Western Road'


At first, traffic across the Bathurst Road was infrequent. As previously mentioned, Governor Macquarie held tight rein over the number of land grants issued in the western districts, and any persons wishing to cross with stock or provisions had to receive a pass in order to do so.

Thus, occasionally, maybe once every couple of weeks, one might have seen groups of men droving a mob of sheep or small herd of cattle, or a string of packhorses taking provisions to the settlers who were seeking long term residence near Bathurst. By the time of Macquarie’s departure, 1821, this amounted to 117 souls—insufficient to disturb the livelihoods of the local Wiradjuri people.

Governor Thomas Brisbane--he implemented the Bigge Report, increased the population of Bathurst, and declared 'Martial Law' to put down the Wiradjuri/Windradyne uprising

After the arrival of Governor Thomas Brisbane, however, the Bigge Report began to be implemented. The process of Crown Land distribution to the growing wave of free immigrants was streamlined and expanded—for every 100 acres of land granted, the settler was obliged to provide support and lodgings for one convict labourer. In a sense, much of the responsibility for penal supervision was now privatized.

There was a rapid expansion of population in the next few years: by 1824, the height of the Wiradjuri/Windradyne uprising, the number of white settlers was several thousand, so that natural game and hunting grounds had rapidly diminished. Open warfare and martial law were the result.

Thus, in the early 1820’s our picture of the Western Road around the Lower Mountains changed considerably. Now, the sight of travelers making their trek overland, by whatever means, was more common, as were bullock teams carrying increasingly heavy loads of provisions. These would return after several weeks, having picked up bales of wool (this had to be shorn in sheds at the top of Mt. York) or pelts or salted meats on the other side of the Mountains. Troops and convict gangs too, made the journey back and forth according to governmental order.

This is a famous and commonly used sketch of an 'Ironed Gang'--sights such as this would have been common on the Blue Mountains as such Gangs were used for both maintenance and construction of the 'Bathurst Road'

When the Wiradjuri Uprising was put down, traffic grew even more dense. Not only for those settlers who had legitimately secured further Land Grants west of the Divide, but for those cashed-up speculators who could not wait for official approval. They took their stock in search of fresh grazing-land and formed a new squattocracy flooding outward on  paths blazed by Oxley, Mitchell, Cunningham and others.

These “squatters” were unstoppable, because official supervision could not keep up with them. They occupied the best land: fertile valleys and watercourses, clear grazing plains and sweet grasses, and they occupied hundreds of thousands of acres…

 Thomas Livingstone Mitchell

In 1828, at the direction of the new Governor, Ralph Darling, Major Thomas Livingstone Mitchell succeeded John Oxley as Surveyor-General of New South Wales. He so impressed the British government with his detailed mapping of the ’19 Counties’ (the officially settled European areas of the colony) that he was knighted. One of his first objectives was to improve the access of the Bathurst Road at both ends of the Blue Mountains.

Governor Ralph Darling--replaced Brisbane in 1828 but had a tempestuous relationship with his Surveyor -General

Ignoring Darling’s demands to keep costs low and simply maintain a convict ‘Repair Gang’ on the switchback ‘Zig-Zag’ road up the escarpment (currently called ‘Old Bathurst Road’)—a road, because of its nature, that required constant maintenance, Mitchell commenced construction of a new, more direct, more spectacular road up the mountain (now called ‘Mitchell’s Pass Road’).

Thomas Livingstone Mitchell--Surveyor General of New South Wales and outstanding cartographer. He was another Scot who made a significant imprint upon the Blue Mountains
The only problem was, this road demanded the crossing of a deep creek gorge, and thus a bridge, yet no bridge designers or builders existed in the colony in 1830. At least until Mitchell discovered one David Lennox, quietly constructing a sandstone fence in Macquarie Street. Lennox was immediately ‘snatched’, and was given the task of designing and building bridges across NSW, but first, the one at ‘Mitchell’s Pass’!

'Lapstone' or 'Lennox' Bridge, drawn during construction in the early 1830's...Note the sparser vegetation in those days

Spanning “Brookside” or “Lapstone” Creek, the bridge was a tall horseshoe shape, and required the establishment of a nearby quarry in order to be properly built—it is a tribute to the convict gangs that built it, and is a masterful construction, which rightly bears its designer’s name. It was opened in 1833. Early travelers on this Mountains’ gateway frequently remarked on the spectacular ascent below beetling cliffs, and the picturesque bridge as the road began to level out.

Meanwhile, Mitchell had also addressed the bottleneck at the other side of the Mountains by constructing a new descent of the Western escarpment down ‘One Tree Hill’ (Mt. Victoria). It soon became known as “Victoria Pass”, and was again testament to Mitchell’s vision and stubborn persistence in demanding high quality, well built, stone supported, roads.

With further improvements to the resilience of this “Great Western Road”, the time spent traversing it in horse drawn carriages reduced from two weeks to two days. Indeed, it now became a fashionable thing for ladies and gentlemen of means to take the trip across the Blue Mountains in order to view the countryside of New South Wales in all its forms.

Victoria Pass in the 1920's--it survived to service motor vehicles 100 years after it was built by over 200 convicts. This was part of the NSW 'Gulag'

The newly set up Pilgrim and Valley Inns, sandwiching as they did the bushland of present-day 'Warrimoo', now looked to a healthy future, but it is clear that the changes taking place in the 1830’s threatened to swamp the Darug and Gandungarra peoples, and their way of life.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

3 The Road as it Was

The Road Across the Mountains—What was it like?

The Specifications

People can walk the road today. It is signposted and reasonably cleared for all to see


The Governor was particular about the specifications for the road. It had to be at least 12 feet (about 4 metres—Ed) wide and wherever possible, 16 feet. Timber was to be cleared from the sides to a distance of 20 feet and where necessary culverts and bridges built. [1]

Part of Cox's Road as it appears today--4 metres wide with vegetation cleared and grubbed out--enough for a carriage to comfortably pass through

So, were these requirements met as the road passed through the area we now know as Warrimoo? It would seem from the comments made by both early explorers and subsequent travelers, that the landforms and vegetation of the territory between the “first depot” at Glenbrook Lagoon and the Woolpack Inn, held no great obstacles to the task of road-building at that time. The process, according to Mackaness, was as follows:

…An alignment was marked by blazing the trees along the route which presented the least difficulties. A track was cleared and grubbed along this route, the road was graded (by convict, bullock or horse teams—Ed), bridges and small culverts were made where necessary, but no attempt was made to metal it, and in rare cases only was it fenced…All obstacles were overcome; rocks were blown up by gunpowder; boulders were levered out, or removed by block and tackle from the alignment of the road… [2]

The section relating to Warrimoo was reasonably timbered, and apparently a certain species of ‘brush’ caused difficulty in being ‘grubbed out’, but otherwise the road was reasonably straight, marginally hilly, with a consistent sprinkling of what are referred to as “gums and stringybark” (Turpentines?—Ed). It is feasible, because of the degree of burning carried out by the Darug, that the “bushland” was considerably less dense than it generally is today. Such “denseness” did exist, but, it would seem, in various ‘patches’ along the Western Road rather than constantly.

This is a part that might approximate to the Blaxland-Spring Wood section, although the vegetation and tree density is probably greater than 1815

As any Mountains resident knows, dirt roads and tracks can simply become waterways after a serious downpour—no doubt this was a feature of some sections of the first road. Travellers were to complain of “sandy accumulations” and sections where rock and ledge “outcrops” had to be negotiated carefully. The section between Pilgrim Inn and Springwood would have been well worn and hardened into shape by use.

From the beginning, ‘Ironed-Gangs’ were stationed in camps and portable barracks across the Mountains to maintain and improve the “Western” or “Bathurst” Road. They were a common sight as one walked, rode, carriaged, or hitched a bullock-dray across the Blue Mountains in those early years before the Gold Rushes.

A rocky, but smooth section of Cox's Road--it was a great achievement, but would be subject to continuous maintenance and improvement in subsequent years

[2] MACKANESS, G., ed  Fourteen Journeys Over the Blue Mountains, 1813-1815,--PART 1- Number Three--Memoirs of William Cox, J.P., Review Publications, Dubbo, 1978 p.70 ‘Notes and Commentary

Monday, 15 April 2013

2 The Road under Macquarie

Governor Macquarie and the Origins of ‘Spring Wood’

There is not much of note for students of Warrimoo’s history in Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s carriage-ride across the Mountains. Of course he was assessing Cox’s work and was keen to see the countryside so effusively described by Evans, west of the Divide. No doubt his carriage rolled past the bushland that is now Warrimoo on the first day of his crossing, at a consistent jog.

Macquarie as Governor of New South Wales. He is wearing the dress uniform of the 73rd Regiment,
his own unit of the British Army
Yet Macquarie’s journey is pertinent to Warrimoo for one very good reason. His first encampment on the Blue Mountains was amid “…an extensive forest of large lofty trees mostly of stringy and iron bark.”[1] This forest was adjacent to a “…spring where we had been supplied with water, situated about a mile down a deep glen….The water is good, but something of a mineral quality. From this spring and the surrounding forest, the Governor gave the name of Spring Wood to this station.”[2] Such was the description given by Major Henry Antill, a co-traveller in Macquarie’s official party.

Mrs Elizabeth Macquarie, wearing the familiar bonnet and outfit of a 'travelling lady' of the early nineteenth century, the era of Jane Austen and the end of the Napoleonic Wars
Thus Spring Wood became not only a “station” in Governor Macquarie’s journey across the Mountains, but a second depot beyond the first at Glenbrook Lagoon, where troops would be stationed shortly after a barracks had been built there.

His ‘Oblique Purpose’

Macquarie’s purpose in setting up the two stations was somewhat oblique. From the outset, it was clear that he wanted to closely supervise the settlement across the Mountains. The two “stations” would ensure that no traveler on the Bathurst road would pass without the Governor’s express permission. Thus the future of the road would be tightly controlled.

Secondly, Macquarie appeared to be almost fastidiously concerned with the issue of “safety”. Safety from what? The oblique nature of his policy emanates from this seminal question.

The Governors of New South Wales had been operating, from the very beginning, under the clear British governmental order to maintain “amity and kindness” with the Indigenous people of this new land. Any news of uprisings or unfriendly attitudes from the natives that might have contradicted this policy would reflect upon the Governor concerned.

At the same time, the British government had enjoined its Governors to develop the colony by issuing Land Grants to worthy free settlers and emancipated convicts. This, in reality, created a contradiction of the previous policy, and was a difficult juggling act to execute. Hence Macquarie’s fastidiousness about travelers and settlers requiring “passes” to move westward beyond the depots.

Another version of Macquarie the Governor--he took a fastidious interest in all developments in the colony,
and ruled it as a 'benevolent despot'
At the very time Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson returned from their quest to cross the Blue Mountains and Cox’s road was being built (1814), trouble had been brewing along the Southern banks of the Nepean River with the Gundangarra people. The Gundangarra had felt that further settlement along the river was impinging on their lands and resources. Severe drought had driven both Indigenous and white contestants for the land to desperation. Violence had erupted and several deaths ensued on both sides.

This violence had escalated through 1815 and 1816, so much so that the Governor felt obliged to set up garrisons like the ones at Glenbrook Lagoon and Spring Wood, and maintain them for the safety of all concerned...

The necessity for establishing, and strictly enforcing this Regulation (ie “passes’”—Ed) is too obvious to every one who will reflect on it, to require any explanation here.[3]

For a man who articulated every order to the letter, this is a very coy explanation of the purpose of the depots. Obviously there was a need for “safety” against criminal depredations such as highway robbery, and for supervision of convict ‘Ironed Gangs’ later on, but taken in context, the main purpose of these “stations” or “depots”, was to protect travelers from Aboriginal attack and provide some degree of security for those daring enough to take a leap into the wilderness.

At first, travelers took refuge at the military depots, which was, no doubt, a growing imposition on the soldiers therein, or they camped alongside the road and took their chances.

Two Inns, with ‘Warrimoo’ in the Middle

This is where the two famous Inns come into the picture. In 1825, a man who had received a Land Grant in the (present) Blaxland area, Barnett Levey, set up an Inn to greet travelers who had just ascended the escarpment. It was close to water, provided grazing for livestock, stables, ‘victuals’ and a warm, safe bed. Soldiers were but a ‘Halloo!’ away, and security was reasonably certain. The name of this first place of rest was the ‘Pilgrim Inn’, the remains of which are found behind the ‘McDonalds’/’Quix’ outlets at Blaxland today.

The 'Pilgrim Inn' as it once was. Note the small building on the left of the picture...
The second was set up near ‘The Valley’, and thus became known as the ‘Valley’ or ‘Woolpack’ or ‘Welcome’ Inn. It was near enough to the water and grazing of Sun Valley, but not too far from the garrison at Spring Wood. It was situated directly opposite the current Valley Heights railway station and began operations in 1832, just two years before the winding down of the military barracks down the road. The famous and long-standing Inn was run by Alexander Frazer.

...and the 'Pilgrim Inn' remnants as they appear today, probably the remaining walls of the building mentioned above.
This meant that the area currently known as Warrimoo was placed almost equidistantly between the Pilgrim and Valley Inns. It was a relatively safe place to camp by the roadside, so much so that early Warrimoo historian, Maisie Lupton, survived long enough to remember an important rest-over site:

The place where they camped later became known as ‘Black Log Hollow’. Teamsters traveling to and from the west used to gather and light their fires at the base of a huge tree which eventually died. The blackened trunk became a well-known landmark.” [4]

So the district around Warrimoo became a popular campsite—in these very early years of European incursion it was an area more commonly inhabited and passed through by white itinerants and Darug groups than others, such as Weatherboard and Blackheath, more remote and further to the west. Already, its geographic and functional identity was being framed.

An Aboriginal campsite--the Gundungarra traditionally built such shelters for guests

A Further Note on Macquarie

The assessment of Governor Lachlan Macquarie remains one of ambivalence towards the Indigenous population he confronted. He was a typically determined British ‘liberal thinker’ who sought to establish a just society in his infant domain. He ruled it as a benevolent despot, but reacted ruthlessly when his authority was challenged.

In 1814 he attempted to address the issue of Aboriginal discontent head on. He called for a ‘muster’ and ‘Feast Day’ of all Indigenous people at Parramatta. Around 60 were there, but most did not show up. He set up the ‘Native Institute’ with William Shelly as its teacher and called for volunteer children to be brought in to be taught to read and write and to assume ‘Habits of Industry and Decency’, but only six attended.

Loyal and cooperative Darug people such as Colebee, Nurrangingy and Bungaree, were given metal plates (called ‘Gorgets’) and promised land grants, but violence escalated in the Cow Pastures when the Gundungarra attacked farms for food, were shot by militia, and then took reprisals among the settlers, including three of Mrs Macarthur’s Stock-keepers at Camden.

Bungaree with the uniform and gorget (metal plate) on his chest, given to him by Governor Macquarie
Now, faced with the collapse of the Native Institute and a frightening erosion of order on the Frontier, the other side of Macquarie emerged. He sent three separate military detachments to different corners of the Nepean-Hawkesbury river system with orders to forcibly ‘arrest’ children and deliver them to the Institute. A list of wanted natives’ names was drawn up, including those of Goondel, Bitugally, Murrah, Yellana and Wallah—deemed 'outlaws' to be hunted down, arrested or killed. If the latter, their bodies were to be

…hanged up in trees in conspicuous situations, to strike the survivors with the greatest Terror. [5]

This was indeed a policy of terror, pure and simple. The hysteria of the pursuit drew an innocent Dharawal group into tragedy, when Captain Wallis’ detachment surprised an encampment on Mr. William Broughton’s farm at Appin. In the ensuing melee shots were fired at the fleeing natives, many of whom were women and children and many of whom were said to have been panicked off a nearby cliff.

According to Wallis, fourteen bodies were counted killed, but there was no estimate of the numbers who disappeared over the cliff. Wallis claimed that two Gundungarra outlaws were among those counted as dead: Durelle and Kanabygal.

The violence did not end with the recall of the detachments and the capture of dozens of Indigenous warriors and children. Attacks and reprisals continued. In 1817, Macquarie imposed rigid restrictions on natives in ‘settled’ areas: they were not to carry weapons, nor assemble in groups of more than six, and ritual battles were ‘wholly abolished’.

Macquarie imposed oppressive restrictions on Aboriginal nations, yet retained the respect of many of their number
Yet the stubborn Governor continued his ‘carrot’ approach as well. He handed out more gorgets and land grants and monetary rewards. He heaped praise and awards upon those students in the Native Institute who performed outstandingly. He persisted with the Feast Days at Parramatta, and ironically the number in attendance grew to 300 plus. Wiradjuri groups from Bathurst walked over the Mountains, along the road, past Spring Wood and Warrimoo, just to attend the Governor’s Feast. By 1820, the warfare had subsided.

In 1821 the Bigge Report signaled the end of Macquarie’s autocracy. Now power passed to shorter-term Governors and the ruling pastoral elite. Policies changed. Increased land grants, larger in size and greater in number, flowed outwards from Bathurst. More convict labour was allocated to the big stations, and population grew beyond control. By 1823 the Wandradyne/Wiradjuri revolt was in full swing, and violence returned to the frontier.

Macquarie’s policies went with the man. There was no more ‘carrot’: the Native Institute withered on the vine, Aboriginal land grants were buried, the Feasts faded from view. Only Martial Law remained, and a strain of deadly Influenza…

Another view of Elizabeth Macquarie--she left New South Wales with her husband in 1822. He fought
to restore his reputation in Britain, but died in 1824

[1] MACKANESS, G., op. cit., ‘Antill’s Journal April 26th’ p. 85
[2] Ibid, p. 85
[3] Ibid., ‘Tour Over the Western or Blue Mountains’, Governor Macquarie, p.81
[4] LUPTON, Maisie et al, Warrimoo Public School, The First Twenty-Five Years, magazine published by Warrimoo Public School Anniversary Committee, 1987, p.11

Thursday, 4 April 2013

1. William Cox and the Road through Warrimoo--1814-15

A ‘Questionable’ Past

As with George Evans, William Cox had an unfortunate early association with the NSW Corps, but was, at least partially, rehabilitated by Governor Macquarie’s faith and astute judgement of character.

Cox and his family arrived in NSW in 1800. He was a lieutenant in the NSW Corps and succeeded John Macarthur in becoming its paymaster. He bought a farm from Macarthur at Dundas and began investing in it to build up its stock and improve its overall yield. This included the assignment of skilled convicts and the construction of their quarters. To pay for these capital improvements Cox ‘borrowed from the till’.

William Cox--paymaster of the New South Corps, and embezzler of its funds?

In 1803 he was found to have ‘overstrained his credit’ to the tune of 7,900 pounds and was dismissed from his post. Over the next three years Cox set out to repay his debt, which he largely achieved by selling his property. Nevertheless, in 1806 he was obliged to sail for England to stand trial, despite the fact that the British government was not particularly interested in prosecuting transgressors from its far-flung colonies.

It must be remembered that at this time Britain was embroiled in an ongoing struggle with Napoleonic France and the nation needed all the positive morale it could muster. The NSW Corps was, after all, a ‘volunteer’ detachment formed for the specific purpose of a posting in the penal colony and it really was not politic to have officers in His Majesty’s army being prosecuted in the courts for embezzlement—besides which, the debt had been repaid.


Thus, William Cox was never brought to trial. Instead, he resigned his commission in 1809 and sought to return to NSW to pursue honest civilian life. When he arrived in 1810 the new Governor, Macquarie, showed the extent of his faith in Cox’s good character by appointing him Magistrate of the Hawkesbury, at that time the richest and most productive district in the colony.

Cox repaid his superior with a singular devotion to his son’s extensive property near Richmond, which he called ‘Clarendon’, as well as a notorious dedication to the construction of a new society. He became renowned for freely issuing ‘Ticket of Leave’ passes for deserving convicts, these earning the nick-name: ‘Captain Cox’s Liberties’. He oversaw the construction of a host of new buildings in Windsor and Richmond, focussing on the use of a sandstone for which the region became famous. Schools, churches, gaols and other public buildings were constructed, the most notable being Windsor District Courthouse, designed by Francis Greenway and still standing today.

Getting The Job

As soon as George Evans had returned from his crossing of the Blue Mountains and Bathurst Plain in January 1814, Governor Macquarie was anxious to build a road along the trail he had blazed to expand the colony. In this context, Cox’s name wasn’t simply plucked from the air. Firstly, once hearing of Macquarie’s interest in the project, he volunteered for the task. Secondly, Cox had earned the trust of the Governor for a number of reasons:
·                  he had a demonstrated ability to use resources with maximum speed and efficiency, having already built several roads in the County of Cumberland
·                  he had built a reputation for ‘dealing’ with the local Aborigines. Despite the history of violent resistance that the Hawkesbury District had endured, the level of conflict seemed to have subsided under his watch, and he had developed friendly relations with some Darug people
·                  he had a history of fair-dealing with convicts and extracting constructive effort from them.

Macquarie’s Instructions

So Cox was chosen to build the road. In his official Instructions to him, Macquarie set out the following:

Government House Sydney
14th July 1814

1. Having some time since determined on having a carriage road constructed from Emu Plains, on the left bank of the river Nepean, across the Blue Mountains, to that tract of open country, to the westward of them, discovered lately by Mr. Evans, and having recently received from you a voluntary offer of superintending and directing the working party to be employed on this very important service, I now most readily avail myself of your very liberal and handsome offer of superintending and directing the construction of this road; and do invest you with full power and authority to carry out this important design into complete effect, Government furnishing you with the necessary means to enable you to do so.

2. The number of artificers and labourers--namely thirty--and the guard of eight soldiers you have already selected, or required, shall be allowed and furnished to you forthwith for this service, and they shall be supplied with a plentiful and adequate ration of provisions whilst employed upon it.

3. Herewith you will receive a list of the number of artificers and labourers allowed for this purpose, together with a scale on the back thereof of the weekly ration of provisions they are to receive...You will likewise receive here for your information a general list, or schedule, of the provisions, stores, slops, tools, implements and other necessaries intended to be forwarded to you from Sydney by the two separate conveyances or convoys, including one horse, two new carts (with harness), and two yokes of well-broken-in bullocks, it being my intention to send off the first convoy from Sydney tomorrow morning for Emu Plains, and the second convoy in a fortnight afterwards.

4. I am in hopes the provisions, tools, and other necessaries will arrive on the banks of the Nepean in time to enable you to commence the construction of the new intended road on Monday, the 18th inst....

I remain with regard, Sir,
Your most obedient and humble servant,
Governor-in-Chief of NSW [1]

Starting Out
So, with a troupe of thirty selected, trustworthy, hard-working and skilled convicts, all of whom were promised emancipation if they completed the road within six months, Cox commenced a crossing of the Nepean on July 18th, 1814 and thence continued road-building across Emu Plains to the foot of the Mountains.

Accompanying them was a “Guard” of 8 soldiers, assigned for the threefold purpose of ensuring the obedience of the convicts, blocking interference from sticky-beaking colonists and protecting the party from attack by Aborigines—mainly the latter, because Governors since Phillip had been haunted by the possibility of a united rising of Indigenous people, and recently (1813-14) there had been further outbreaks of violence along the Nepean River.

William Cox--roadbuilder, radical liberal, respected landholder, ambitious political commentator--racist?
From the start, Cox’s journal professed high satisfaction with the work of those under his charge. He never referred to them as ‘convicts’, but as ‘workmen’, ‘smiths’, carpenters’ ‘fellers’ (treefellers) or by their individual names. He rewarded them with rations of cabbage which, he told them, would prevent scurvy. The central diet consisted of bread, salted pork, porridge, whatever vegetables Cox chose to use from ‘Clarendon’ as supplements, and whatever game could be found (‘roo, ‘pheasant’—lyre bird or bush turkey--and fish--and this was all frequently gained by dogs, soldiers and Cox himself).

By July 26th the road-builders had begun to ascend the escarpment,

Made a complete crossing-place from the end of Emu Plains to the foot of the mountains, and began to work up them. [2]

Confrontation near Warrimoo?

Subsequently Cox set up his first “Depot” on the Mountains, next to good forest, fodder, and ample water. It was here, at Glenbrook Lagoon, just prior to felling timber in the country towards Blaxland/Warrimoo, that the Superintendant had his first taste of insubordination. The incident is interesting for a number of reasons...

August 2nd
The workmen go on with much cheerfulness, and do their work well. Gave them a quantity of cabbage as a present. After dinner I gave directions to Lewis to inform Burne he was to take the three forward fellers to fire-making. Soon after he came to me and said he would not receive any orders from Lewis, but would obey any I gave him, on which I told him I would send any orders I had to give to him by whom I pleased. He went away, but soon returned again, and said he would leave, on which I ordered the constable to receive his gun and ammunition, and he went away. Ordered him to be struck off the stores, and informed the party he was discharged from being a superintendent under me, and had nothing more to do with me or them. [3]

Firstly it was more than likely that the initial glamour of the project was already wearing off for some of the working party, most notably Burne, a noted kangaroo hunter and guide, who refused to do as Cox’s foreman, Lewis, bid him. A ‘personality clash’ had occurred, but Burne was at pains to point out that he would still take orders from Cox himself. While making it clear that most of the men were ‘cheerful’, Cox was not about to brook any divisiveness and gave Burne short shrift—he was roundly sacked, and his chances of a fruitful future in the colony had just shrunk considerably.

Cox’s authority among the work-party was confirmed in that short confrontation, and little of such trouble was to follow. But a new situation developed as his advance party approached the bush around present-day Warrimoo—were the two occurrences linked? (ie, was Burne afraid/concerned to go further?)

August 3

Sent the two working gangs, with their bedding, etc., two miles ahead. Heard the report of a gun, and soon after heard the chattering of natives, on which they returned and reported the same. Gave notice to the sergeant to provide a corporal and three men to go forward and take up their quarters with the working men...[4]

This journal entry is a fascinating and ambiguous one. Cox said nothing of the consequences of the “report of a gun”—was it a warning shot, contested game, or a confrontation with the Darug? Was one of the natives shot and/or wounded? There is no evidence of spears being thrown. Clearly, the convicts in the advance party were trusted to be in possession of weapons, but generally their attitude towards Aboriginal people was renowned as being hostile. At the same time, Cox could barely afford trouble if he was to complete the road as required by Macquarie. He sent a small military detachment ahead with the men, and tried to make light of the whole incident.

The road-building continued, but this was not the end of the story. The next five entries detail the construction of the road through present-day Warrimoo and Valley Heights (around the approximate “9 mile” distance mentioned in the journal by Cox).

August 4

Removed the depot to seven and a-half miles forward, as also the corporal and three privates. Lewis got leave to go to Richmond and return again on Sunday next. The men at work in a very thick, troublesome  brush. A fine day, but close. The wind in the evening got round to the south.

August 5

Timber both thick and heavy, with a thick, strong brush, the roots of which are very hard to grub up, making it altogether extremely hard work.

August 6

Timber and scrub brush the same as yesterday, but got through it this evening, and measured the new road and found we had completed nine miles. Marked the trees at the end of each mile. Went forward, and found a good-sized piece of forest land, with good water, to the right of the intended road, about one and a-quarter mile ahead. The men all healthy and cheerful. Mr. Hobby joined me last evening. The people all moved forward to the end of nine miles.

August 7

Removed to the nine miles on the road. I sent a man from last camp to the depot to draw their rations. Wrote to His Excellency the Governor.

August 8

Timber and brush very thick from ninth to tenth mile. Thos. Kendall ill, unable to work. Mr. Hobby, with R. Lewis, went forward with John Tye about four miles, and marked the trees. Two natives from Richmond joined us; one shot a kangaroo. [5]

It is important to interpret all these entries together, in light of the incident with the gunshot. It would appear that the two to three miles between Glenbrook Lagoon and Sun Valley was some of the slowest and most difficult the road-building party had encountered thus far. Cox was at pains to describe the obstacles in grubbing roots and clearing brush, but did not address the issue of the natives seen earlier. Maybe progress was being slowed by precautions having to be taken to avoid ambush...(?)

Meanwhile, Cox’s trusted foreman, Lewis, was given leave to visit Richmond, and a letter was sent to the Governor, with no suggestion of its content. At the end of the 9th mile, Cox mentioned a valley with a good piece of forest land and good water—this more than probably was Sun Valley, an area now established [6] as an important ceremonial and meeting point for the Darug people, and conceivably a place that they might wish to preserve, and fight for.

Finally, in the August 8th report, “two natives” from Richmond suddenly turned up at Cox’s camp, out of the blue. These men were later identified in the journal (August 27th) as “Coley”, of the Boorooberongal clan—the same clan as Yellomundie (‘Yarramundie’)—from the Richmond/Castlereagh area, and “Joe”, a Mulgoa clan member who came from the area of the same name. It is relevant to note, that as well as his property, ‘Clarendon’, near Richmond, Cox had also acquired a large parcel of land in Mulgoa. Clearly, he had already had dealings with these men over previous years, maybe as employees, and feasibly Lewis had been sent to fetch them.

In most publications Joe and Coley* have been designated as ‘guides’. This is puzzling because Evans had blazed a clear trail and there appeared to be no trouble thus far in establishing the route of the road. Possibly it was due to the loss of Burne (Burns? Byrnes?), who had guided Blaxland’s party, as well as Evans’—but why would these men be capable of guiding the road-builders when their “country” was on the Eastern side of the range?

The incident with Aboriginal people, however, was serious, and it would have been commonsense for Cox to notify the Governor of the encounter, and to take whatever precautions he deemed necessary. Joe and Coley would have been important intermediaries with other Darug people.

At the end of his ‘Journal’ Cox sets out a summary ‘Memo for watering and feeding stock’, and the third of fourteen stops on the road’s route is designated as follows:

…3rd—Nine and a-half miles (from the starting point at the Nepean River—Ed), grass and water in a valley to the right of the road, about a quarter of a mile; entrance to it between two rocks (The Valley) [7]

Already, what is contemporary ‘Sun Valley’ was known as ‘The Valley’ in Cox’s diary. Clearly, it was a valuable stopover for readily accessible grass and water. Being the source of Fitzgerald’s Creek and reasonably close to the Nepean probably meant that white settlers had already found it and used it to hunt wildlife and graze stock when feed was scarce, as it had been in the years  prior to 1813. Cox himself may well have used it thus. We also know that this was important land for the Darug, who had established shelters there. It would surely have been logical for them to be upset at the prospect of an intrusive road being built in their direction and for them to have shown their feelings towards the advance party.

All this is in the realm of supposition because Cox did not elaborate any reasons for the ‘gunshot’ and the ‘chattering’ of the natives. He was not alone in being reticent to explain incidents that occurred between Aboriginal people and British scouting parties—it was a common method of non-description, the reasons for which will be investigated further in this work, later.

The Road is Built—January 1815

Suffice it to say, there were no further incidents involving local Aborigines for the rest of the project. The road-building proceeded apace, and by November 3rd Cox had reached his biggest geographical/logistical hurdle: the descent from Mt. York. Building a satisfactory road down this steep precipice was a challenge indeed, such that Cox had to concede…

I… made up my mind to make such a road as a cart can go down empty or with a very light load without a possibility of its being able to return with any sort of load whatever; and such a road will also answer to drive stock down to the forest ground…It is a very great drawback to the new country, as no produce can be brought from thence except fat bullocks or sheep. The sheep also will be able to bring their fleeces up, and be shorn on the mountains…[8]

Thus, stock would be able to descend and climb the slope at Mt. York, but heavy loads would remain a problem for many years to come—the ‘Road over the Blue Mountains’ commenced its tortuous history of perpetual repair and modification from this date onwards.

On completion of the road all the way to Bathurst, in January 1815, Cox and Macquarie were both good to their word: the convicts who had worked so hard to construct the thoroughfare and its bridges won their freedom. The feat had been achieved in six months, through some of the most difficult terrain imaginable. Careful management of diet and resources had meant no loss of life to members of the working party, the one exception being Sergeant Bounds, who had died of an unspecified illness while Cox was briefly absent back at Clarendon.

The Governor was well pleased with Cox’s efforts and awarded him a further 2,000 acre block, to become known as ‘Hereford’ at Kelso, just outside Bathurst. Here, the renowned Commissioner Bigge visited Cox in 1820 in the process of writing his ‘Report’.

Bigge found 5,000 sheep pastured, farm buildings erected and experimental work with artificial grasses in progress. [9]

He became one of the largest landowners in NSW, erecting mansions across the length and breadth of the colony. However, William Cox never received the 300 pound reward recommended by Macquarie from the British government, and was furthermore denied access to the colony’s Legislative Council, despite his eagerness to pursue a political career.

Regardless of Governor Macquarie’s enthusiasm for the man and his deeds, which were undeniably impressive, His Majesty’s government in London still retained serious doubts about the suitability of Cox for high office. Possibly this derived from his earlier record as Paymaster for the NSW Corps, or even more likely his professed public attitude towards Aboriginal people, reportedly uttered at Bathurst in 1824 and recorded in Bruce Elder’s Blood on the Wattle:

The best thing that can be done is to shoot all blacks and manure the ground with their carcasses. That is all they are fit for! It is also recommended that all the women and children be shot. That is the most certain way of getting rid of this pestilent race. [10]

In his time Cox the Roadbuilder had the profile of a radical liberal, espousing tolerant policies towards convicts, demanding a widening of the franchise, representative government and trial by jury. Yet this astonishing confession of William Cox’s innermost ambitions requires us all to re-evaluate the uncritical process of lionizing ‘Pioneers’ simply on the basis of being ‘the first’ in achieving this or that—history is also a method of judging the moral worth of our ‘heroes’.

[1] MACKANESS, G., ed  Fourteen Journeys Over the Blue Mountains, 1813-1815,-- Number Three--Memoirs of William Cox, J.P., Review Publications, Dubbo, 1978 p 41 and, Facsimile reprint published 1979 by Library of Australian History, reproduced in, 2004 Chapters 8, 9, 10
[2] Ibid, July 26, p43
[3] Ibid, August 2, p44
[4] Ibid, August 3, p44
[5] Ibid, August 4th-8th
[6] CAMERON, B., Sun Valley and Long Angle Gully—A History Cameron, Springwood, 1998 pp. 2-5
[7] MACKANESS, G., op. cit., ‘Cox’s Journal’, January 6th, p.69
[8] Ibid., pp. 52-3
[9] Ibid., p.41
[10] ELDER, B., Blood on the Wattle, Child & Associates, Sydney 1988, p 50

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

5. George William Evans 1780-1852 and the 'Footsteps in Time'

Part of the reason for Macquarie’s delay in sending Evans had been the fact that his Assistant Surveyor-General had been preoccupied with sorting out the chaotic land dispersals that had occurred in Van Dieman’s Land, prior to Macquarie’s arrival. The Governor’s choice of explorers was an interesting one, given George William Evans’ chequered early career.

 A gentrified English colonial adventurer from Warwickshire, Evans had first tried his hand in South Africa, but moved on to NSW in 1802. As a Free Settler in the new colony, Evans won the favour of some of the key figures in the NSW Corps, most notably the Lieutenant Governor William Paterson, who promptly put him in charge of government stores at Parramatta.

With some training in trigonometry and basic land surveillance, Evans soon found himself Acting Surveyor-General of NSW, plotting an exploration of the Warragamba River to its source in the Mountains. In 1805 the Governor, Phillip Gidley King, dismissed him from his post—the question, of course, is ‘why’? Did he perform his role poorly? His later record suggests he was a better surveyor than most of his predecessors. Was he corrupted by the NSW Corps? It is possible, even though it is difficult--especially during the period of Grose and Paterson’s rule on the Corps’ behalf--to discern the difference between “corrupt” practice and “enterprise”. It would appear on the surface, at least, that Evans conducted himself with greater propriety than most others around him. Most likely King was on a mission to “clean up” the colony of the influence of rum and the NSW Corps—any association that might put Evans in that company would be suspect, and so King replaced Evans with his own man.

George Evans--Government Storekeeper for the NSW Corps, farmer, surveyor, widespread explorer,
landscape artist, schoolmaster,  stationer, family man
Nonetheless Paterson still had the power to ensure he received a land grant near Richmond on the Hawkesbury, feasibly, at that time, the richest farming land in the colony. Yet the Hawkesbury was an area fraught with difficulty for its white settlers, with persistent resistance from the local Darug people, and regular flooding afflicting its shores.

Consequent to the disastrous flood of March 1806 Evans gave up farming and found his old friend Paterson, who had been placed in charge of a new settlement in Van Dieman’s Land, now wanted him to survey the wilderness around him.

The latest Governor (arrived 1810), Lachlan Macquarie, had other plans. He directed Evans to explore the country around Jervis Bay to the south of Sydney. Evans not only did this competently, but struck a path inland to present day Appin, enduring considerable hardship to map quite good rural land for immediate settlement. Evans’ courage, persistence, and hardiness in carrying out this mission must have stuck with Macquarie, for he allowed the Deputy Surveyor-General to go to Paterson’s aid, but then recalled him for the major task that confronted him in 1813.

That task was to push further than all previous explorations and find a passage to the interior, where there might exist adequate pasture for the growing numbers of stock in the colony, as well as arable lands for settlement. This Evans and his party of two free men and three convicts did, and after reaching the most westerly point of the Blaxland party’s expedition, Mt. Blaxland, continued on for a further 98 miles to the present site of Bathurst. Here Evans named a westerly flowing river the “Macquarie” and wrote a glowing report of the relatively flat, sloping and scrubless lands lying between the Great Dividing Range and the area of Bathurst.

I cannot speak too much of the Country, the increase of Stock for some 100 Years cannot overrun it; the Grass is so good and intermixed with variety of herbs. Emu's and Geese are numerous,.. [1]

Evans also had his first encounter with one of the largest Aboriginal nations of NSW, the Wiradjuri people. It was brief, the group consisted of two women and four children, all of whom showed great fear and broke down to weep when confronted by Evans’ party. Evans showed sympathy and kindness towards the group, but gave no indication of why they might’ve reacted in such a frightened way. Had word of the depredations and dread diseases (ie Smallpox) of the new white invaders already spread among Wiradjuri clans? Or was the reaction simply an understandable fear of white ghosts, a traditional part of Wiradjuri belief? Was it rather that the small party had stumbled across totally strange aliens, without the protection of their own menfolk? Where were the men?

Evans repeatedly writes of the smoke plumes, scattered artefacts and sounds of Indigenous people, throughout his journey. He was convinced the local people knew of his movements, and that his party was being consistently watched. Yet at no stage did a ‘meeting embassy’ emerge from the surrounding bush. Was he considered friend or foe, or simply, indifferently?

Deputy Surveyor-General Evans had already determined to do more accurate orientations on his return journey. But it was on his return across the ‘Mountains that he encountered a massive bushfire. Evans was clearly startled, and by his own account, lucky...

Monday, 3rd.
The Mountains have been fired; had we been on them we could not have escaped; the Flames rage with violence through thick underwood, which they are covered with. Bad travelling the stick of the Bushes here are worse than if their leaves had not been consumed; they catch my Chain which makes the measuring very fatiguing; also tears our clothes to pieces, and makes us appear as Natives from black dust off them. The Marks in the Trees are burnt out; therefore am obliged to go over them again; Our Horses now want Grass; the herbage in this spacious Valley is destroyed; we cut some sweet Rushes for them that grow on the edge of a stream of Water which runs through it.
distance, 4 Miles.
Tuesday, 4th.
The Mountains are as yesterday; fired in all directions; at 11 o'clock I was upon the high hill; all objects Eastward are obscured by thick smoke; We stopped where there was feed for the Horses and Water.
distance, 5¼ Miles.[2]

So, was the fire an accident of nature? Evans was travelling in high summer, December and January, a logical time for bushfires to occur. Thus far, his party had encountered heavy rains and parching heat, all factors that might point to a lightning strike, although the order of their occurrence was wrong. Aboriginal knowledge would be too keen to accidentally light a fire in hot, dry conditions that could endanger their own people—their ‘firestick farming’ was generally reserved for milder times of the year.

One has to consider the possibility that the bushfire from which they ‘could not have escaped’ may well have been a hostile act, or at least one that sought to sabotage the advance party’s mission. Evans struggled on for three more days, all of it through burnt out country. However, this was actually becoming an asset, and by the time he approached the country around Warrimoo, the cleared bush was allowing the party to travel faster.

Evans’ historic passage through Warrimoo is today marked by a ‘Footsteps in Time’ Trigonomical Survey Marker, in a small grass square on the eastern side of Warrimoo Citizens’ Hall. It is in the exact spot that Evans took his day’s readings for January 7th, 1814, thus:

                   ‘LAT        33*   43’   22”  E
                    LONG    150*  35’   52”  S’  
The 'Footsteps in Time' obelisk situated near the Warrimoo Citizens Hall, featuring the 'Traverse of George William Evans, 7th January, 1814'

The monument concludes with the names of Evans’ co-explorers, two ‘Free Men’, Richard Lewis and James Burns and three ‘Convicts’, John Cooghan, John Grover and John Tygh. The entry that is both on the monument and in his Journal reads as follows:

Friday, 7th.
The Forest land continues a Mile farther; afterwards the brushy Ridge commences again, the thickest of it is consumed, which I consider fortunate, had it not I should be obliged to have given off measuring; at the end of today's Journey is a Lagoon of good Water, with tolerable grass round the edge of it.
distance, 5¾ Miles.[3]

One of the sides of the 'Footsteps' marker, showing excerpts from Evans' Diary--a little worse for wear. More care and attention to community icons needs to take place in Warrimoo

In summary, Evans had just passed through some of the thickest bush he battled through on his initial trip across, presumably in the country around Valley Heights and Springwood, but most of this had now been ‘consumed’ by fire, thus making it possible to pass through much more comfortably upon return. This allowed him to do accurate measurements which he might otherwise have had to overlook, and to travel some five and three quarter miles—good distance through mountainous bush.

The ‘Lagoon of good Water’ is, no doubt, Glenbrook Lagoon, even now becoming a noted ‘stop off’ point for travellers on their way home from the arduous ‘Crossing of the Mountains’.

Upon his return to Sydney Town, Evans received due praise and reward from Governor Macquarie, moreso than had been given to Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson after their journey. Macquarie had never officially endorsed their expedition, and refrained from allocating their 1,000 acres of Bathurst land each till after Evans’ return.

Evans was awarded 100 pounds and 1,000 acres near Richmond in Van Dieman’s Land, his new destination since Paterson had appointed him Surveyor of Lands there.

Nevertheless Evans was still prevailed upon by the Governor to return to NSW to guide him on his carriage journey on Cox’s road across the Mountains and to assist the new Surveyor General, John Oxley, in his explorations further into the interior of the colony, mainly along the banks of the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers.

In the 1820’s he ran foul of the new Lieutenant Governor of Van Dieman’s Land, George Arthur, who sought to dismiss him through a charge of illegally disposing of Crown Land, despite the previous administrator, William Sorrell, speaking highly of his services to the colony. Eventually Evans settled on a compromise, which meant that he resigned on the grounds of ill-health but still received a pension of 200 pounds.

For the remainder of his life, Evans pursued a range of further careers, including landscape painter, drawing master at the King’s School in Parramatta, bookseller and stationer. He sired twelve children through two marriages and died at the age of 72, in Hobart.

[1] EVANS, G. W. Journal 1813-1814, December 21st, from Historical Records of Australia, Vol viii
[2] EVANS, G. W. Ibid, January 3rd and 4th
 [3] EVANS, G.W. Ibid, January 7th