Sunday, 1 July 2018

Adding 'Interest' When Writing Family History

'Family history' is one of the most difficult of writing genres. At the very mention, eyes glaze over. People start to yawn and change the subject.

The task generally involves telling a cradle-to-grave story for someone.  You focus a spotlight on the main character, as distinct from the bit players. Word count is a driving factor for the 'output' at the end: extensive research might generate so much useful detail for one individual that it limits the number of people you can cover in any one article or book. You might end up with a biography and not a family history.

The sheer number of courses in how to write non-boring family histories says everything. It's hard to do. Recounting 'the facts' in an interesting way while avoiding the excesses of creative licence or pure invention without any supporting evidence can be a challenge. There is generally no room for purple prose. The key word is 'story'.

Recently, for a meeting of family history writers at the GSV in Melbourne, I had cause to consider how I handle this story-telling challenge and I came up with a few examples from my own published writing. Here they are:

Example 1 - Robert Forrester’s wedding in 1791, from my book ‘Robert Forrester, First Fleeter’.


Facts utilised:
  • Parish Records, St Philip’s, Sydney, SAG Film 90, Mitchell Library
  • The identity of Robert Forrester’s wife remains obscure and this is explored later in the story.
  • There are many spelling variations for Robert’s surname, explained elsewhere in the book.
  • The website of St Philip’s Church notes that the first church service in a building did not take place until 25 Aug 1793, in a wattle and daub chapel built at what is now the corner of Bligh and Hunter Streets. ‘A T-shaped building, with a thatched roof and an earthen floor, it could seat 500’. After the original church burnt down in October 1798, a new structure was commenced in November 1798 and completed in 1809. In turn, it was replaced by today’s old stone church in March 1856.
  • Entry for the First Fleet’s chaplain Richard Johnson in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online.
  • McAfee, Dawes’s Meteorological Journal, Microfiche 2, State Library of Victoria
Sydney, 1793, after Robert's wedding, first church building on left, from Collins' diary
Noting that most of the information about the early history of St Philip’s Church was not relevant to 1791, this is how I eventually utilized my ‘facts’ to embellish the bare bones of Robert Forrester’s wedding ceremony.
On 19 October 1791 the marriage of a Robert Forster to a woman named Mary Frost was recorded in the parish registers of St Philip's Church of England in Sydney.
There being no church structure as yet, Robert was more than likely married under ‘the great tree’ used by the Chaplain, Richard Johnson, for services in the first few years of settlement. The weather for an outdoor wedding that day was very pleasant, being fine and hazy, with a temperature of 73.2° Fahrenheit at noon (around 23° Celsius).

Example 2, from my book ‘Southwark Luck’


Facts utilised:
  • In December 1821 Charles Homer Martin (Charlie) was en route from Sydney to Newcastle as a prisoner, sentenced to serve a 12 month sentence for his part in the building scam at St Matthew’s Church, Windsor.
  • As part of his farewell tours of the colony prior to his departure in February 1822, Governor Macquarie made a trip to the penal colony at Newcastle in December 1821, coincidentally on the same ship as Charlie. This fact was discovered by chance. I'd searched for the name of Charlie’s ship on Trove, discovered the Governor's name associated with this ship at this time and then matched up ‘departure from Sydney’ and ‘arrival in Newcastle’ dates for both men.
  • In January 1822 Charles Martin was being held as a prisoner in Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks, proving he was brought back early from Newcastle.
  • Robert Forrester’s daughter Ann married Charlie at Windsor in April 1822
  • The Martins’ first child was born at Windsor in July 1822, so Ann was in the early stages of pregnancy when Charlie was first arrested.
  • Local magistrate William Cox much later mentioned his long-term next-door neighbour Robert Forrester as a man who had ‘raised his family to habits of industry’
  • All the pictures of early houses at the Hawkesbury show a front verandah as a minimum, often a verandah on two or more sides of the house. Temperatures regularly hit 40F in summer and are subzero there on winter mornings.
Hyde Park Barracks, source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Sputniktilt

This is how I developed the timeline and imagined the likely turn of events and wove this into my story about Ann’s father Robert Forrester in his final few years of life:
The affairs of his children would have absorbed much of his attention, as he sat with Jane on the verandah on warm summer evenings, or by the fire in winter, reviewing the day’s events. Such a discussion involved his daughter Ann. As Macquarie prepared to sail home to England, Ann had finally admitted to her father and step-mother that she was pregnant. With the baby’s father serving time at Newcastle, Robert and Jane probably decided that the crisis warranted an approach to their neighbour and Chief Magistrate, William Cox. His influence was needed to get Charles Martin back to Windsor.

Example 3, from my book ‘Robert Forrester, First Fleeter’


Facts utilised:
  • After he’d taken produce to market in Sydney in September 1822, Robert’s eldest son John Forrester used his musket to kill one of three bushrangers who held him up when he was travelling alone in his cart on an isolated section of the road back to Windsor. John had to explain himself at the ensuing Inquest.
This was in the same year as Ann’s ‘shotgun’ wedding, so I wove the movement of the seasons into the introduction to this incident:
As the wattles bloomed in the spring of 1822, Robert and Jane had another family crisis to worry about.
Wattles

Example 4, from my book ‘Southwark Luck’

This book covered the couple Charles Homer Martin and his wife Ann Forrester (in Part 1) and their 12 children (in Part 2).  Not much could be found on their youngest child Henry Edward Martin, 1848-1939, so his was the shortest chapter.

Facts utilised:
  • His early life at Wilberforce was no mystery, and his life from 1869 to 1872 was discoverable through various 'wild west' droving events and court cases in outback NSW and western Queensland.
  • Otherwise I could track him only a handful of times and in the briefest of ways: in 1877 electoral rolls with a residence at Cunnamulla; in 1888 when he signed a document in Wilberforce after his mother's death there; in 1890 droving a mob of sheep from Congie Station to Bourke; in 1891 electoral rolls with a residence at Thargomindah; in 1905 droving 4,000 sheep from Winton to Roma; in 1919 as a station hand at Banchory in Queensland; in 1925 as a labourer at Cunnamulla; in 1930 and 1936 (now aged 88!) as a labourer at Whyandra, between Cunnamulla and Charleville. 
  • None of his written words
  • No wife, no children.
These findings were mentioned in the book, but this is how I tried to convey him as a man:
After his brushes with the law between 1869 and 1872, Henry kept a low profile as far as the police were concerned. He simply kept on droving. 
His lifestyle is drawn perfectly in the famous poem ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. The scenery and the colours in the landscape satisfied the spiritual needs of men with an intense inner life, communing with their physical selves and with nature. Such men could enjoy Australia’s laconic style of outback mateship, when the barest minimum of words and a few yarns around the camp fire would suffice as communication.
Sunset at Welford, Outback QLD


Example 5, from ‘Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory’


Facts utilised:
  • Frank Flockton (then aged sixteen) and his three older brothers were in Melbourne in August 1852, four rich kids on an adventure from London
  • Margaret Flockton with her parents Frank and Isabel arrived in Sydney in 1888 aboard Massilia
  • As was the custom of the day, descriptions of the Massilia’s passage from London via various ports to Sydney were included in The Argus, Mon 17 Dec 1888, and SMH, Sat 22 Dec 1888
  • The ship spent 3 days in Melbourne and, this being Australia's centenary year, I looked in Trove's newspaper file for events of likely interest happening in Melbourne at that time
  • I was raised in Sydney and have made many trips on the Manly Ferry.
In ‘Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory’, this is how I dealt with the time they spent in Melbourne:
During this three day stopover in Melbourne, Frank would have taken the opportunity to show his wife and daughter the site of his boyhood adventures. He would hardly have recognised the frontier town he had visited almost forty years earlier, during the frenzy of the gold rush. Melbourne’s wealth from gold meant that it was now one of the great and stylish cities of the world, with an international reputation as ‘marvellous Melbourne’. The Centennial International Exhibition was in full swing, marking one hundred years since Australia was settled by the British.
The published timetable for the ship, the time of year and, again, the centennial year of settlement meant that I could add some unexpected ‘minutiae’ to the Flocktons’ arrival at their destination as follows:
The final stage of their voyage of seven and a half weeks from London to Sydney took another two days:
Yesterday the Peninsular and Oriental Company's R.M.S. Massilia arrived from London, via ports. The passage out has been an average one as to weather, and the good name of the boat always ensures her a liberal support by the travelling public … Arrived at Melbourne on the 16th, and left December 19 for Sydney. Passed the Heads at 8.15, and at 4.20 p.m. Wilson's Promontory was abeam. December 20, at 7.40 a.m., Gabo abeam, and Sydney Heads were entered at 4.25 am. 21st.
One hopes that Margaret and her parents were up on deck, absorbing the magical dawn of a summer’s day over ‘the finest harbour in the world’. Thus it was described by Governor Arthur Phillip when the First Fleet arrived only one hundred years before the Flocktons.
S.S Massilia
I hope you agree that my choice of careful wording remained factual but escaped the 'boring' tag so often applied to family histories. For more details of these three books, and the other five books I have written, see my website. If you'd like to keep up to date with my posts on different topics to various blogs, you are invited to 'Like' my Author page on Facebook.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Australia's Pivotal Role in First World War

Sometimes we can't see the wood for the trees. When we Australians commemorate ANZAC Day each 25 April, that's often how I feel. The big picture, 'macro' story can be lost within the mire of various platitudes and the deluge of  'micro' commentary.

Stephen & Nigel Boulton - Brothers in Arms
Should I confess that I was largely ignorant of Australia’s overall role in WW1 when I sat down in 2015 to ‘do something’ with the Great War letters written by my grandmother’s two brothers? The letters cover the whole war, from start to finish. They were saved by their recipient, my great grandmother, who had them typed in the 1920s. She presented a typed copy to the Australian War Memorial (AWM). The originals were immediately requested and have been preserved in Canberra ever since. As a serving Australian, Stephen Boulton's letters were deemed significant enough to be among the first digitised on the AWM website. (His brother Nigel's letters didn't qualify for digital release, as he served as a doctor with the British Army.)

The Boulton letters offer a wonderful primary resource for the times, largely free of today’s interpretations. Working with them I gained a dramatic new insight - that in the Spring of 1918 Germany's 'Spring Offensive' made a Big Push forward and Germany nearly won the Great War.

It was the Australians who played a major part in our side ‘winning’ in the end.

It’s an insight we rarely, if ever, hear in Australia, obsessed as we are with the Gallipoli story.

This week I discovered that I was not alone in my conclusions. The following statement by Dr Ross McMullin on the website of the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne refers:
The immense German onslaught in March 1918 led to Britain’s gravest crisis of World War I. The Australians were rushed to the rescue in this climax of the conflict. The significance of what they did in 1918 is under-recognised today, but they were influencing the destiny of the world more than Australians have done in any other year before or since.
Australians remain largely ignorant about the huge role played by the Australian First Division near Hazebrouck in Flanders in stopping Germany’s Spring advance on the crucial Channel ports, then holding and ‘shoving back’ that front line through the summer of 1918. My Brothers in Arms book referred several times to this practice as 'peaceful penetration', which is explained further below.

We Australians are generally more aware of events down in the Somme valley in 1918. On ANZAC Day that year, other Australian soldiers recaptured the crucial high ground at Villers-Bretonneux. In the late summer and autumn of 1918, with Monash at last in charge of all the Australian Divisions as a combined force, the Australian strategy turned the German advance into a rout in the Somme Valley, pushing them back well beyond St Quentin. Negotiations for the Armistice began.

Lucas Jordan - Stealth Raiders
Today, at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, I heard yet more evidence about the under-recognised significance of the role played by Australian troops in 1918. The evidence came from historian Lucas Jordan, speaking about his new book Stealth Raidersa descriptive term he picked up from researching the first-hand accounts written by soldiers directly involved in these raids.

Stealth raiders went far beyond the standard activities of the 'peaceful penetration' described in WW1 military history books.  Several hundred low-ranking Australian infantrymen took it upon themselves over many months in 1918 to seize the initiative, without any orders from above, and set forth in small groups, often in daylight, to seize enemy positions, guns and troops and push the German front line back.

To me their actions sounded like a prelude to the daring exploits of our highly-regarded SAS forces today, but Lucas Jordan did not make this specific claim in his talk.

Today, once again, I asked myself the question: why are we Australians so scared to claim credit within the 'big picture' narrative of the Great War? Why don’t we hear more big-picture stories at our Dawn Services on ANZAC Day? Why do we focus on the trees and not the wood, dwelling on the successes and more often the failures of individual battles? We continue to seek glory in defeats such as at Gallipoli, often paying scant attention to what various battles meant, strategically.

Maybe this year, one hundred years after 1918, we'll begin to change the narrative. Historians like McMullin are starting to make this point. Today I exhorted Lucas Jordan to do the same when next he gives his talk on Stealth Raiders, as he agrees with me that we've undersold the role we played in the final outcome of WW1.

Nearly everyone I know has made a pilgrimage to the war memorials on the Western Front. The terrain and the futile loss of life on individual battlefields, demonstrated so starkly by the endless rows of war graves, makes an indelible impression. No doubt this will also hit home to me when I visit the Western Front region for the first time next month. However those relentless rows of headstones won't come as a complete shock, as I lived in PNG for five years and at Bomana War Cemetery outside Port Moresby I cried over the thousands of young men's graves. Born just after WW2, I knew their story, I knew the strategic significance of what they had done.  When I visit France and Belgium soon, I'll be grateful that the Boulton letters jolted me into understanding the overall significance of the role played by other Australians in world history, exactly one hundred years ago.

Footnote: I wrote briefly about this topic, plus Australian mateship and Australian nationhood in a blog post two years ago. My website contains details of ‘Brothers in Arms: The Great War Letters of Captain Nigel Boulton, R.A.M.C. & Lieut Stephen Boulton, A.I.F.’  and the book can be purchased online through BookPOD and the usual international online outlets.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

To have, or not to have, a home library?


I bought a quirky book this week, ‘Looking in to a Library’, written by my fellow member of the GSV Writers Circle, William Barlow, known to us as Bill. Reading his short compendium (72 pages for $20, available by contacting the author direct) made me think, which I like to do. His book prompted me to lift my game in managing my own books.

One of the joys of reading is savouring the experience of opening a door into another person’s mind. Thanks to his book, containing 42 sets of observations on the books in his personal library, I feel that I know Bill a little better. We share the love of picking up a physical book and turning the page, each book with its own shape, texture and smell, but we ask ourselves, will books survive the digital age?

Just like Bill, I’ve been wondering what will happen to my books after I draw my final breath. What will my daughter do with them? Bill has inspired me to create an action plan – at least in terms of identifying the books which should be kept within the family. Note to self - I must attach a list of these books to my will!

I discovered a like mind in Bill’s keeping of a list of the books he’s read. But his lists go back decades, while mine started in 2011. His life has clearly been more settled than mine, enabling systems to be maintained more easily.

Like Bill, I enjoy the luxury of having my own writing room containing a small library, but my little study can’t compare with Bill’s generous space. I need to climb the library ladder to reach the top shelf. Many of the shelves are double-stacked. The little desk you see in this picture is the desk I used as a schoolgirl and now use for sorting paperwork. My working desk on the other side of the room has a view over the street. Built-in cupboards on either side of the window store all my family history folders. A cupboard in another room stores numerous photo albums.

Unlike Bill, I don’t know how many actual published books I own, either in total or by genre.

My own attempts to establish a sorting system for the books on my own shelves always fail because I run out of room on the right shelf. I end up shoving a newly-acquired book into any bit of vacant space. Next time I need it, I can’t remember where I put it. I’m sure that doesn’t happen to Bill.

The only books which are easy to lay my hands on when I want them are my cook books, which are stored in a separate cabinet near my kitchen. Every now and then I consult one for a recipe. My collection of children’s books are also easy to find, on a set of book shelves in the room where my four grandchildren sleep when they visit, but I don’t know why I bothered to keep these books for so many decades. The children spurn them, complaining about the small font size and the lack of white space on the pages. However they loved ‘Seven Little Australians’ when I read it aloud to them.

My reading tastes are as eclectic as Bill’s, if somewhat different in specific areas. Bill is obviously a collector, whereas I would describe myself as a simple devourer of reading material. Being of a similar age, we have traversed much the same reading ground in our adult years- the women’s movement, the sexual revolution, the era of pop psychology, travel books. I also share some of Bill’s rather highbrow tastes – books for wordsmiths, philosophical works, expositions of mathematical theories, history books, art and architecture books. We diverge in other subject areas. For example, finance and economics have a place on my bookshelves but not on his. Many of my novels are ‘literary’, and many are written by Australian authors, just like Bill's, but he would not approve of my collection of Lee Child thrillers, or the Mills & Boons I acquired as a member of a romance-writing group.

We share a love of walking into the world’s libraries but Bill goes further and says he can’t resist a bookshop, whereas I become overwhelmed at having to choose from the deluge of titles on offer. Rather than browse, I prefer to enter a bookshop with a specific title in mind.

Thank you Bill, it was good to read the product of an ordered mind. Your black & white pen drawings add a nice architect’s touch to the pages. Anyone who has a stash of books at home will benefit from reading your book and will be inspired to ponder: 'To have, or not to have?'.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Hawkesbury Family History Tour, Part 2

The itinerary for this self-drive tour of the Hawkesbury, outlined below, follows on from my previous post and has been designed for the numerous descendants of my convict forebears Robert Forrester, Paul Bushell, David Brown & Charles Homer Martin. As with Part 1, it requires an early start, and no dawdling along the way, but gives a quick overview of the geographic setting of the lives led by these men and their wives and families. You can 'hop. skip and jump' in their footsteps and later come back again to walk more slowly across particular sites of interest.

Part 2 of this self-drive tour begins at historic Thompson Square, Windsor, on the crest of the hill at the northern end of George St. You will be familiar with the Square from Part 1 of the Tour.

Bushell Country

At Thompson Square follow the main road straight ahead at the roundabout, dropping down the hill to the narrow bridge across the  Hawkesbury River and continue along the main road towards Singleton. About 5 km along Wilberforce Road, just before Buttsworth Creek and adjacent to the go-kart track, on either side of the road, is the land first farmed by Paul Bushell, around 1800.

Past Buttsworth Creek, if you drive into the Caravan Park and drive to the end, you can view the Wilberforce Reach of the Hawkesbury River and imagine the flood devastations which visited the area regularly in the early years of European settlement. 
Wilberforce Reach, 2010
Back on Wilberforce Rd, a little further along on the right hand side, on the corner of Rose St where the Veterinary surgery is located, is the higher patch of land bought by Paul Bushell around 1801 as a home site to escape the floods.
Paul Bushell's 1801 home site, in 2018
If you turn into Rose St, behind the hotel is historic Rose Cottage which you can visit (entry fee is payable) if you wish to gain insights into the past, although there are no specific family references here. The Australiana Pioneer Village is also located in Rose St and has great reviews on Trip Advisor. Both places have limited opening hours.

Continuing along Wilberforce Rd, turn left at the supermarket into King St.  The land on your left along King St and across the ridge line in Earle St was farmed by Paul Bushell from about 1804 to his death.  Starting from 43 Earle St (built on the old William Cross grant), Paul gradually acquired the land bounded by Earle Street and the Lagoon. The old timber cottage at 37 Earle Rd is the last visible remnant of Bushell heritage by the Lagoon, being the house built by Paul’s grandson David Oscar Bushell around 1910.

David Oscar Bushell's old house, 37 Earle Rd, Wilberforce, 2002
The site of Paul Bushell’s original house, where he lived for about 50 years and where he and his first wife Jane Sharp raised Isabella Jane Forrester, could be marked by the old trees on the block currently numbered as 29 Earle St. 

As you continue along Earle St and into Argyle Reach Rd, the old Lawrence grant commences on your right at the site, approximately, of 225A Argyle Reach Rd. Stopping here, you obtain one of the few views of the Bushells Lagoon.
Fred Smith's Old House, 225a Argyle Reach Rd, Wilberforce, 2002
Continuing carefully along the dirt surface of Argyle Reach Rd as far as the bridge over Buttsworth Creek and looking more or less in a straight line from there westwards, Paul’s land extended north of this line to the small lagoon near Gorricks Lane. Several vantage spots along the route you have just travelled allow some appreciation of the extent of his holdings. His stepson and four of his children continued to farm in this area for decades after his death – William Brown, David Bushell, Mary Becroft, Paul Bushell Jnr and Hannah Greentree.

Turn round at this point and retrace your path back to Wilberforce Road, turn left and continue to the Singleton Road/Putty Road bend, turn left up the hill, then right into George Road and drive along here until you come to Duke St. 

The town grid is based on ten acre sections, each once comprising three to five small farmlets, but now broken up into much smaller suburban sized blocks.  After you cross Castlereagh Rd, on your right hand side is Hawkins Place, taking up much of the land originally allotted to Paul Bushell, which was the middle farm of 3⅓ acres in this section of the town grid, stretching down to King St. There is no evidence that he ever lived on his town block.  Turn left at Duke St, then right at Macquarie Road. 

At the top of the rise, on the left and opposite the park, is the historic St John’s Church, with the Schoolhouse behind. 
St John's Church & Schoolhouse, Wilberforce, 2004
Spend some time walking around the church and schoolyard environs, then continue the drive to Church St, turn left and head up the hill, turn left again and park at the top of the cemetery, which is actually behind the church grounds but more easily accessed from the top.

Wilberforce Cemetery

There are numerous family graves of interest here, although many have suffered from weathering and from vandalism prior to the fencing of the cemetery. The main Brown/Bushell family vault, comprising an altar monument and the collapsed altar monument beside and below it, was restored in 2015 by a committee of family members. Slightly off-centre to the right in the picture, it is weathering well and blending in with the other headstones. Those buried in the family vault are highlighted in red in the list below the picture. The top slab is very weathered and hard to read and there are plans to erect a separate sign with the names listed.

Bushell/Brown Family Vault at Wilberforce Cemetery, 2018
To help you find the different graves, consult the plan of the cemetery affixed to the entry gate near the top corner of the cemetery. 
  • Becroft – Edward 1880 & Mary (née Bushell) 1904, Grave RR 11.06
  • Brown – David 1826 & Eleanor (née Fleming) 1865, Grave RR 07.21 (restored altar monument family vault)
  • Brown – Ann 1819, Grave RR 07.21 (beside & below the family vault)
  • Brown – David 1837 & Mary (née McGinnis) 1895, Grave RR 07.21 (restored altar monument family vault).
  • Brown – Selina 1847, Grave RR 07.21 (daughter of Henry, in restored altar monument family vault)
  • Brown – William (Bushell) 1875 & Sarah (née McGinnis) 1902 & children Phoebe Catherine 1905, Sarah Jane 1864, Paul Benjamin 1861, Alfred Ernest 1866. Only
  • Brown - David Charles, 1853, infant son of William, Grave RR 07.23. He is the only member of William Brown’s family commemorated with a surviving headstone at Wilberforce Cemetery. Possibly other family members are in same grave.
  • Brown - Joseph Walter 1935 & his wife Bridget Mary née Daley 1949, Grave LR01.07
  • Brown - William John 1854 (son of John), Grave RR06.12, next to sister Mary Ann Sarah Brown 1849, Grave RR06.13
  • Bushell – Paul 1853 & Isabella (née Brown) 1883, Grave RR 07.21 (restored altar monument family vault)
  • Bushell – Jane (née Sharp) 1820 (unmarked grave)
  • Bushell – David 1897 & Izetta (née Winton) 1878, Grave RR 08.07
  • Bushell – Paul 1911 & Eliza Mary (née Cobcroft) 1925 and sons Frederick Arthur 1901, Harry Oswald 1906, & grandson Ossie 1902, in adjoining graves RR 22.01 and 22.02
  • Bushell – Corah (née Becroft, first wife of Paul Bushell Jnr) 1865, Grave RR 07.21 (restored altar monument family vault)
  • Bushell - Albert Palmer 1913, Emily Jane 1892, Eleanor Isabella 1910, Charles Paul 1906 (unmarked graves)
  • Bushell – Ellen 1916, Grave RR 01.13
  • Chaseling – Eleanor (née Brown) 1866 & Thomas 1878 (unmarked graves)
  • Daley – John 1884 & Mary Ann (née Martin) 1911, son John Prosper 1882 & daughter Susannah Jane 1888, all in Grave RR 11.05. Son Henry Edward Daley 1931 in adjoining grave RR11.04.
  • Greentree – Robert 1880 & Hannah (née Bushell) 1893, and son Robert James Farlow 1868, Grave RR 17.13 (The headstone lying face down on ground mentions Robert and his son but not Hannah, whose grave is unmarked)
  • Martin – Charles Homer 1886 and Ann (née Forrester) 1888, Grave RR 20.08
  • Martin – Martha 1848 (unmarked grave)
  • Martin – William John 1912 & Mary (née Becroft) 1882, Grave RR 11.06
  • Nicholls – Frederick 1880 and Jane (née Martin) 1915 & daughter Elizabeth Ann 1936, Grave RR 10.03
  • Phillips – Thomas 1836 & Margaret (née Riley) 1838, Grave RR 24.03
Opposite the fenced off cemetery is the Wesleyan section, a quiet reflective place. There are plans to establish a Sacred Circle here, paying tribute to the early settlers whose graves in the Wilberforce Cemetery are unmarked (such as Paul Bushell's first wife Jane Sharp) and to the Aboriginal people of this district. 
Wesleyan Section, Wilberforce Cemetery, 2018
Keeping the Wilberforce Churchyard on your left hand side, drive along the ridgeline towards the Putty Rd, turn left and drive down the hill. Paul Bushell’s old land beside the Lagoon is to your right but mostly out of sight, especially in dry seasons. During her first marriage, his adopted daughter Isabella Jane Lovell also lived to your right, on the block adjoining Paul’s.

David Brown Territory

At the bottom, turn left at King Road along the road to Ebenezer and Sackville. Follow this road to Grono Farm Road, turn right and then immediately right again into Burdekin Road. After a sharp left turn, where the road overlooks Dunstan's Lagoon, all the land on your right was once owned by David Brown. These were the grants originally made to Waring, Fowkes, Baker and Roberts. Where Burdekin Road begins to cure round to the left is the land which was David Brown’s original land grant, stretching away towards the river, which is out of sight. It contains a number of houses and sheds. 
Houses on David Brown's Original Land Grants, c 2004
Continuing round the bend along Burdekin Road to the T-intersection, turn right into Grono Farm Road and continue along to the end. Much of the land on your right, as far as the first gully where it seems that a creek might once have flowed (once called Brown’s Creek), belonged to David Brown, being his second 35 acre grant and the grant of 90 acres for his children. Even today the land looks well situated and productive.

As you sweep around the bend in the road, you pass Sherrard’s old grant on the left and diagonally opposite the adjoining grants of Jacklin and Woodham. It is a scenic drive to the end of the road, at Grono Point, where you turn and drive back along Grono Point Road to Sackville Road, for another look over the expanse of land once owned by David Brown, Paul Bushell’s father-in-law. Turn right when you reach Sackville Road.


Ebenezer Church

The next destination is the little gem of a church at Ebenezer, the oldest place of continuous worship in Australia, and not to be missed. Follow Sackville Road to Tizzana Road. The Ebenezer Church turn-off to the right is well-marked, as is the turn into Coromandel Road where the church is located. 
Ebenezer Church & Schoolroom, c 2008
At the Ebenezer Church, be sure to view the wall plaque containing Paul Bushell’s name (inside the entrance vestibule). I pointed to a few errors on this plaque in a blog article I wrote in 2013. Walk around the church to the side entrance where Elizabeth Fleming’s wall plaque is located. Both can be seen even if the lovely little church is locked. The Church is one of the district's premier tourist attractions and Devonshire Tea is available until 3pm on most days, in an idyllic setting. A modern toilet block caters to the comfort of tourists.

You may care to take a short walk down to the rock platform overlooking the Hawkesbury River, or follow the track down to the river bank.

Only three headstones in the cemetery here are directly relevant:
  • Brown – John (son of David & Eleanor), 1906, wife Sarah, 1906, son Leslie Gordon, 1951, & daughter-in-law Alice, 1982
  • Bushell – Alfred Clendon (son of Paul & Eliza Mary Bushell, grandson of Paul & Isabella), 1954, wife Cora May, 1974
  • Bushell – Bertie William (brother of Alfred Clendon), 1933

None of the headstones are directly relevant to the Forrester or Martin families.

Returning to Tizzana Road and turning right, you will come to Prentis Lane off to the left. Do a U-turn at this point, and look across to your left towards the river. Somewhere on the land to your front left was the stone house once owned by David Brown.

Sackville/Portland Head

Return along Tizzana Road back to Sackville Road and turn right towards Sackville/Portland Head, where Richard and Margaret Ridge nee Forrester lived with their large family.  The specific places relevant to the Ridge family need to be researched by Ridge descendants, but it is always interesting just to visit the general area.  The trip across the Hawkesbury on the punt is not part of this tour.


Martin Coutry

Returning down Sackville Road towards Windsor, at Wilberforce turn right back up along the Putty Road. At the top of the hill turn left into Kurmond Road. You are now driving through the area of Wilberforce known as ‘Highlands’. Continue past Blacktown Road and Vollers Lane on your left and then turn left into Martins Lane.  (If you keep going along Kurmond Road you pass the Tennyson Road turnoff to the place once known to settlers as Currency Creek and you will eventually reach the Kurrajong area. Kurmond Road basically follows the alignment of the old Grain Road, used by Charles Homer Martin and his bullock team to travel from his home at the bottom of Martins Lane to his bushland work sites as a sawyer.)
Martins Lane, off Kurmond Rd, 2010
Martins Lane leads directly to a 35 acre block at the bottom of the hill where the Martin family squatted for decades on part of the Wilberforce Common. The land is basically bounded by Vollers Lane and Blacktown Rd and today has been broken up into smaller holdings. (The photo is taken from a better vantage point in Blacktown Rd, on the opposite side of the old farm to Martins Lane.) After stopping at the junction of Martins & Vollers Lanes to view the area, turn right into Vollers Lane. 
The Martin land at Wilberforce, 2010
Directly opposite the T-intersection where Vollers Lane joins Blacktown Rd is the general location of the 20 acre block once farmed by Alfred Bushell. Turn right and drive along Blacktown Rd towards Gorricks Lane. You will pass on your left the old Mary Reiby property where Hannah Bushell lived for some years with her husband Robert Greentree. Turn left at Gorricks Lane. As you return to Windsor, coming down the hill towards Bushell’s Lagoon, Mary Reibey’s rather palatial old house is visible on the left, overlooking the wetlands. 
Reibycroft, c 2004
After you cross the flats and turn left at Freemans Reach Rd, you will drive beside the Hawkesbury before reaching Wilberforce Rd again, close to Windsor. Back across the river and up the hill, you reach your original starting point, Thompson Square.

Pitt Town

At the roundabout, continue straight on through Windsor towards Sydney, turn left at Pitt Town Road (the main intersection at the top of the rise on the other side of the flats), and drive 5km towards Pitt Town. On the river side of the town, in Bathurst St, you will find St James Church and Henry Fleming’s old house. David Brown’s town block was located between them.
Henry Fleming's old house, Pitt Town, c 2004
Continuing straight ahead along Bathurst St past the church, the high ground on your right was once the large area owned by Benjamin Jones, step-father of Henry Fleming. You will eventually come to the Old Manse Farm on the left, and at the end of the dirt road (Punt Rd) was the old punt which crossed the river to Pitt Town Ferry Rd at Wilberforce. Turn round here.

For a different return journey, turn right just past The Old Manse, down Pitt Town Bottoms Road and across Bardenarang (Bardo Nerang) Creek, where Henry Fleming was granted land, following the road along until it eventually rejoins Pitt Town Rd. You have just traversed the land where the first 22 settlers at the Hawkesbury were granted land in 1794. Robert Forrester also came to the Hawkesbury in 1794 but settled with the slightly later group at Cornwallis, on the river flats below St Matthews Church at Windsor.

Turn right at Pitt Town Rd, then left at the main intersection with Windsor Road, and you are headed back to Sydney. Further along, on your left, you will see a sign to Maraylya, where Robert Forrester's sons Henry and William were promised land in 1821, which was not advertised as theirs until 1831 but title was not issued until 1841. The suburb was originally called Forrester, until the 1920s, but it's not clear that the Forresters ever had much to do with these grants.

So ends a satisfying day in the scenic Hawkesbury valley, exploring the areas of historical significance to the thousands of descendants of Robert Forrester & Isabella Ramsay, Paul Bushell & Isabella Brown, David Brown & Eleanor Fleming, and Charles Homer Martin & Ann Forrester. If you've not yet read my books on three of these early Hawkesbury pioneers, they are available for purchase through the BookPOD Bookstore.
Louise Wilson's 'Hawkesbury Pioneer' Books
NOTE: If you don't wish to navigate this route yourself, you're invited to contact Carol and Geoff Roberts who live at Windsor and operate Hawkesbury Valley Heritage Tours. They will be happy to discuss your request to be shown around personally.


Saturday, 10 March 2018

Hawkesbury Family History Tour, Part 1

Thousands of Australians have traced their family history connections back to the Hawkesbury district on the north-west outskirts of Sydney.  A tour of this historic district, including the churches and graveyards where family members are buried, provides great insights and turns aimless tourism into a purposeful day’s outing, discovering one’s past.

This particular itinerary for a self-drive tour has been designed for the numerous descendants of my convict forebears Robert Forrester, Paul Bushell, David Brown & Charles Homer Martin. It requires an early start, and no dawdling along the way, but gives a quick overview of the geographic setting of the lives led by these men and their wives and families. You can 'hop, skip and jump' in their footsteps and later come back again to walk more slowly across particular sites of interest.

Thompson Square

The most meaningful place to start this tour is at historic Thompson Square, Windsor, on the crest of the hill at the northern end of George St, just before the road drops down to the old bridge across the Hawkesbury. Turn left at the roundabout for parking. [If you turn right instead of left, you’ll see the site of the Old Government House and signposts for Tebbutt’s Observatory, not part of this tour guide.]

At Thompson Square is located the memorial to the Hawkesbury Pioneers. Robert Forrester is listed as a 1788 arrival, Paul Bushell who arrived in 1790 is listed incorrectly as a 1792 arrival and David Brown is listed correctly as a 1792 arrival. Charles Homer Martin, who arrived late in 1818, is not mentioned at all. Women's names are always missing! Robert's wife Isabella Ramsay arrived as a convict in 1791, Paul Bushell's first wife arrived as a convict in 1792 and David Brown's wife Eleanor Fleming arrived free in 1791.

Pioneer Memorial, Thompson Square, Windsor, c 2005
The Government Stores where it is believed Paul Bushell worked for a time once faced this Square, approximately in the location of the old building you can see on the left hand side of the picture. Beside the Square is the old Royal Hotel (now the Macquarie Arms Hotel), operated for many years by Paul Bushell’s eldest son George Thomas Bushell with wife Jane. For a time George’s sister Isabella was involved until she became licensee of the Royal Exchange Hotel further along George St, on the corner of Johnston St.

Macquarie Arms Hotel, formerly Royal Hotel, c 2005
At 5 Thompson Square is the old Pioneer Museum, behind which and accessed from Baker Street is the new and impressive purpose-built HawkesburyRegional Museum, open from 10am-4pm, closed Tuesdays. The Museum Bookshop sells copies of my three books on early Hawkesbury pioneers.

Louise Wilson's 'Hawkesbury Pioneer' Books
However too much time spent in the Museum will cut down available time for visiting the family-specific sites, so a leisurely viewing of the Museum might be an activity for another day.

If you need your early morning caffeine hit, try any one of a number of cafés at Thompson Square before setting out, but be quick about it. (I like the Bridge Café.) Bushell’s old hotel will be a good stop for refreshments at the end of the day.


St Matthews Church, Windsor

Then drive down the road on the Hotel side of the Square and turn left along the River. You’ll pass Baker Street on your left, and then a park with public toilets. Keeping to The Terrace and Moses St, this road leads you eventually to the historic St Matthew’s Church with its distinctive tower and its fascinating cemetery.

The magnificent Francis Greenway-designed church of St Matthew, in its marvellous setting, was the scene of many family weddings, baptisms and funerals. The photo below was taken close to the bottom corner of the churchyard where Robert Forrester is buried, flanked by headstones for close family members, two on either side.

St Matthews Church of England, Windsor, c 2005
The main headstones for the family to look for are:
  • Bushell - George Thomas, 1892, & his wife Jane, 1909 (in a Vickery grave)
  • Bushell – Isabella, 1918 (with her Turnbull family)
  • Bushell – Beatrice Maud, 1951
  • Bushell –Joshua Herbert 1926, Rosehannah Ellen 1952, their children Joshua Aubrey 1928, Ethel Gwendoline 1960, Claude William 1961, Wallace 1967 & Joshua’s sister Mary 1922
  • Chapman – Elizabeth (née Forrester), 1814
  • Daley – Charles, 1886, second husband of Isabella Jane Forrester (who is buried in Melbourne)
  • Forrester – Robert, 1827
  • Forrester – John, 1875, with his second wife Hannah, 1856
  • Forrester – Henry, 1873, and his second wife Maria, 1868
  • Forrester – Lucy, 1823, first wife of Henry
  • Forrester – Robert, 1835, son of Henry
  • Forrester – William, 1869 (not with either of his wives)
  • Forrester – George, 1878, his estranged wife Louisa, 1897, sons Robert Henry, 1915, & William James, 1913
  • Lovell – Thomas, 1839 (first husband of Isabella Jane Forrester)
  • Ridge – Margaret, 1873, son Richard, 1892, & daughter-in-law Mary Ann, 1860
Note the distinctive style of some of the Bushell graves at Windsor (and later at Wilberforce), with low square-built encasement and plain headstones, compared with the more decorative style of the Forrester graves.

Cornwallis

Next stop is to view Robert Forrester’s 1794 land grant. Beside St Matthews Churchyard, turn down Greenway Crescent into Cornwallis Rd, crossing the old bridge built by William Cox. Just past the bridge turn right into Deerubbun Park and drive to the parking area at the end, where it is possible to stand on the levee bank and survey the Argyle Reach, the the stretch of river where Robert Forrester and others first farmed in 1794, before levee banks were built. Whilst standing there, imagine the flood devastations they would have suffered.

Argyle Reach, Hawkesbury River, Windsor, 2008
Continue along Cornwallis Rd towards Richmond. Stop when you reach the memorial to the Eather Family, 15 members of which were drowned in the 1867 floods, the worst ever in the history of the Hawkesbury. The next block you pass, for approx. 200 metres on BOTH sides of the road, is the land where Robert Forrester first farmed in 1794. From here his wife Isabella Ramsay was rescued during the 1806 floods.

Eather Memorial, with Robert Forrester's 1794 Land Grant in Background, 2016
The driveway on the right hand side of this picture is today’s entrance to Robert's old block, 104 Cornwallis Road. It is private property.

Entrance to Robert Forrester's 1794 Land Grant (driveway on right of post), 2016
As adults, his sons John, Henry and William continued to favour Cornwallis as the location for their farms but the specific locations of their farms have not been identified.

To find Robert Forrester’s second land grant at the Hawkesbury, continue along Cornwallis Rd, passing the sign to Gorricks Lane which shows where the river was once crossed to gain access to Freeman’s Reach. Proceed along Cornwallis Rd and turn left into Cupitts Lane. As you approach the slope along flat ground and then head up the slope, the land on the right hand side of Cupitts Lane was Robert Forrester’s second grant.

View of Robert Forrester's 1804 Land Grant, c 2008
At the top of the slope, the corner of land on the left hand side of Cupitts Lane was part of this same grant, and the flat area of land on the right hand corner of Cupitts Lane was where Robert’s house was located and is possibly the farm where Bella Ramsay was buried. Today’s address is 1 Cupitts Lane.


Richmond

St Peter’s Church of England at Richmond is next. Turn right from Cupitts Lane into Dight St, and travel past the Air Force Base (on your left). The road becomes Jersey St. Cross Francis St heading slightly to your right and then immediately turn left into Bourke St and turn right at Windsor St (the main road). At the end of Windsor St, on your left, is St Peter's, another Francis Greenway-designed church. Opposite is the graveyard, with two headstones of interest:
  • Forrester – Robert, 1870, against the hedge to the left of the entrance gate
  • Griffiths – Thomas, 1826 (first husband of Mary Brown), to the left of the entrance gate, towards, the far right hand corner
  • Mary Griffiths/Waterford née Brown is also buried here, but her grave is unmarked.

Kurrajong

Now it's time to head for the hills, at Kurrajong. Continue past St Peter’s Church down the hill along Old Kurrajong Rd, turning left where it meets Ridge’s Lane. At the intersection with the main Kurrajong Rd, turn right towards North Richmond and cross over the Hawkesbury. In North Richmond the name of this road changes to its more famous name of Bells Line of Road.

Follow Bells Line of Road up the hill for some distance, past Kurmond and past the left turnoff into Old Bells Line of Road and the village of Kurrajong, heading still towards the west. On the upward slope of the main escarpment you will eventually come to a large roadhouse on the right hand side of the road, on the corner of Hermitage Rd, where you should turn right. 

Along picturesque Hermitage Rd, which follows a ridge line, Robert Forrester’s sons Robert and William were granted land in the 1820s. From 1827 Paul Bushell owned these two Forrester blocks and also purchased two adjoining blocks as part of a sawmilling business. The two Forrester brothers and their brother-in-law Charles Homer Martin were all sawyers and probably cleared these blocks of timber. The approximate location of the land drops below both sides of the road beyond the charming old house at 49 Hermitage Rd, extending approximately from 82 Hermitage Rd to its intersection with Douglas Farm Rd.

49 Hermitage Rd, Kurrajong
Turn around when you reach Douglas Farm Rd and return to Bell’s Line of Road and turn right, still heading uphill. If you are lucky the roadhouse might be open and you can seek refreshments combined with spectacular views. 

The other land granted to three of the Forrester brothers, in 1816 and 1821, is located to the left of the steep climb up the escarpment (known as Douglass Hill or Bellbird Hill) to Kurrajong Heights. Before you reach North Kurrajong village (where a small café may or may not be open), the north-eastern corner of Robert Jnr’s old block commences at the intersection of Bell’s Line of Road with Queen St. He and his brothers John and Henry obviously held land that dropped down the escarpment and was not of much practical use to farmers.

Turn around and retrace your steps, heading back down the mountain. Turn right from Bell’s Line of Road into Old Bell’s Line of Road. At the T-intersection in Kurrajong village turn towards the right into Grose Vale Rd, and follow this road along the ridge line and down the hill. (Note that in Kurrajong village there are several cafés side by side, with panoramic views over the Hawkesbury district below, and a toilet for patrons. The cafés are found by turning left at the T-intersection in Kurrajong Village). 

GroseVale

Near the intersection of Grose Vale Road and Cabbage Tree Road, at the end of the short road behind the Grose Vale Community Centre, is ‘Rosemount’, where George Forrester’s estranged wife and family lived.  It has been subdivided into ten acre allotments, offering spectacular views across the Grose Valley.

Further down Grose Vale Road, off to the right hand side at the bottom of the hill, where the Grose River meets the Nepean and becomes the Hawkesbury, were the later farm holdings of John and Robert Forrester Jnr.  Turn right at Grose River Road and follow it down to Navua Reserve by the river, just to soak up the atmosphere of the general location.  After he returned from Tasmania, Robert Forrester Jnr lived upstream from here, his old place more easily accessible from Springwood Road.  John Forrester’s later grant known as ‘Jane’s Farm’ was just downstream, directly below ‘Belmont Park’ St John of God Private Hospital.

Return to Grose Vale Road, noting almost immediately the hospital’s private road to your right, leading down towards the old location of ‘Jane’s Farm’.  Grose Vale Road will eventually bring you back into the village of North Richmond.  At the main cross roads you should take the right hand turn, towards the Richmond Bridge over the Hawkesbury River. 

To find Robert Forrester Jnr’s old stamping ground, if you have the time and he is your special interest, turn to the right in Richmond, at Bosworth Rd, which becomes Castlereagh Rd, and then right again at Springwood Rd and recross the river at Agnes Banks, to Yarramundi, where the Hoskisson massacre occurred.

View of Hawkesbury from Springwood Rd at Agnes Banks, 2005
Just along here, on the right hand side, is Mahons Creek Rd.  Robert Forrester lived in this general vicinity for about 30 years after he returned from Tasmania.

Catholic Cemetery, Windsor

Return to Windsor along the main road, and turn right at the sign to Windsor Railway Station at George St. Here on the corner of the main road is the Roman Catholic Cemetery. The Catholic Church in Windsor, rather confusingly called St Matthews, is located in Tebbutt St, opposite the same McQuade Park faced by St Matthews Church of England. 
  • One family grave is of interest here, that of William Norris, husband of Susannah Martin, almost in the centre of the cemetery.
On the opposite corner to the Catholic Cemetery is a car yard which was once the town land attached to Forrester’s Lower Farm. 


Presbyterian Cemetery, Windsor

Continue on along George St past the railway station, under the railway line, and take the first turn to the right into Bell St, where can be seen, behind the station in Church St, the small Presbyterian Cemetery. The Presbyterian church building succumbed to the ravages of white ants, was declared unsafe and closed in March 1966 and no longer exists.

  • The Bushell graves in this cemetery are for Paul’s grandson David Oscar Bushell 1931, his wife Mary Alice, 1941, and their children Arthur 1955 & wife Barbara 1927, Bruce Oscar 1953 & wife Kate 1987, James Joshua 1963 and Linda May Crothers née Bushell, 1958
  • Of interest to the Brown family is the Smith headstone for Robert Smith, 1852, his wife Sarah (née Brown), 1894, children Mary, 1838, James 1839, James, 1907 and Ellen 1913. Sarah was a sister of Paul Bushell’s second wife Isabella.

George Street

Retracing your steps to George St and turning right, you will soon come to the house ‘Glenroy’, at 465 George St, where Gertrude Cobcroft née Bushell (Isabella’s daughter) lived in fine style.

Retrace your path along George St, crossing over the main road and continuing along George St towards Windsor. You may wish to turn right at Christie St and enter the underground car park for the Hawkesbury Central Library, located at 300 George St, Windsor. The Library has an excellent Local Studies Department and extremely helpful and friendly staff. But if you wish to have enough time complete the ‘sites tour’, you will need to return to the Library later if you wish to browse through local history books, or conduct your own research. The Library has public toilets and is open most weekdays until 7pm. An adjoining café may be open, depending on the time of your visit. If you wish to visit the Library briefly, the exit route from the Library car park brings you back into George St, where you turn right.

Further along George St you come to Catherine St, where Robert Forrester once owned Catherine Farm, and then the Royal Exchange Hotel on the left hand side, at the corner of George and Johnston Sts, operated for many years by Paul Bushell’s daughter Isabella Bushell.  Then turn right at Fitzgerald St to avoid the pedestrian mall section of George St, and turn left at Macquarie St, the main road to Sydney. Turn left again at the T-intersection and head back up the hill to your starting point at Thompson Square.

The next stage of this Tour is described in Part 2.

If you don't wish to navigate this route yourself, you're invited to contact Carol and Geoff Roberts who live at Windsor and operate Hawkesbury Valley Heritage ToursThey will be happy to discuss your request to be shown around personally.