Discovery and Early Pastoral Settlement of New England (part 2)
Discovery and Early Pastoral Settlement of New England.
PIONEERS OF UPPER HUNTER PLAY LEADING PART.
(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).
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).