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.