Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Bells Line of Road

Much has been written throughout this year on the crossing of the Blue Mountains as we celebrate 200 years of the crossing by Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson.
Archibald Bell Jnr (1804-1883) is credited with discovering another route across the Blue Mountains in 1823 when he was only nineteen years of age. He apparently got the directions from an Aboriginal woman and this route (from Richmond to the Coxs River) became known as Bells Line of Road, offering a quicker route from the Hawkesbury over the mountains and westward.

Information about the discovery were published shortly after in The Sydney Gazette 9 October 1823

We are happy to announce that Mr. Archibald Bell, junior, of Richmond Hill, has, after one unsuccessful attempt, at last effected a passage from that part of the country to Cox's River (on the other side of the Blue Mountains), which as the pass across these mountains trends so much to the northward, will not only be the readiest route from the Hawkesbury and Hunter's River, but will be as near from Parramatta as the old road over the mountains by way of Emu ford, and infinitely less difficult and sterile. Mr. Bell is entitled to the sole merit of this discovery; and is now gone to repeat and survey the route accompanied by a Gentleman from the Surveyor General's Office, and with government men and horses. He travels N. W. from Richmond about 14 miles to Picture Hill, and thence due W. to Tomah, which is a round hill seen on the right from the burnt weather-boarded hut on the Bathurst Road. On going West about half way up this mountain he turned to the South, and after proceeding about a mile in that direction, found an excellent passage down it. He then proceeded round the side of an opposite hill, about a mile and a half in a N. W. S. W. direction, and then bore W. for the remainder of the day, and N. W. the next day till he reached Cox's River. He found no rocky ground till after leaving Tomah, and the whole distance of it then did not exceed 8 or 9 miles. The greatest difficulty he had to contend with, was in the thick part of his way to Tomah, so much so that in one place he was forced to cut his way through three miles. He left a good tract all the way he went, and was never obliged to unlade(sic) his baggage horses. The whole of Mount Tomah is covered with ash, and sassafras trees of a prodigious size. It is only after leaving Tomah that the country assumes, for 5 miles, the appearance of the Bathurst Road in point of grass; but even, for that space, the feed is better than near the weather-boarded hut on that road. After that distance excellent grass continues with little variation for the rest of the way;  there is plenty of water the whole way. The distance of this route, from Richmond to Cox's River, may be estimated at about 35 miles; but the return of the Government Assistant Surveyor, and party, will enable us certainly, to lay down and perhaps shorten the road.

Bell kept a journal of his explorations, and descendant (Gt-Grandson) Frederick Douglas Bell donated the journal to the Mitchell Library in 1977 [MLMSS 1706 ADD-ON 1071] The journal was transcribed in the Royal Australian Historical Society Journal in 1980 (Vol. 66 Pt 21 pp. 91-96).

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A burglary in Windsor - Trove Tuesday

In April 1828, William Ford and Samuel Tibbin carried out a burglary in the Windsor district. Stephen Hunter resided in the Cornwallis area and was awoken after midnight and noticed some men trying to enter his home. Shots were fired. Fortunately Jones, a neighbouring labourer, heard the ruckus and ran to Hunter's place to assist. With a pitch-fork he was able to take William Ford as a  prisoner.

Meanwhile, Windsor's Chief constable Benjamin Hodgin, was given some information which led to him going to a house, inhabited by a Mr Pitthouse, and  taking Samuel Tibbin into custody. 

James King, a prisoner employed in the No. 10 iron gang, provide the court with an account, when the case was tried before Justice Stephen, on the 24 May 1828. Published in the Australian, the report on the 28 May 1828, provides interesting reading.

"I absconded from that gang on Easter Sunday, the 6th of last April, in company with the two prisoners, and went into the bush.  On the day following we met with a man named Maloney, and all three went to Mr. Cox's paddock at Richmond, and concealing ourselves, slept there all day.  From thence we went to Windsor, and returning a little time before day-break, again concealed ourselves, and sleeping the whole of the day, went out at midnight and took a direction towards the farm of Stephen Hunter, the prosecutor. Maloney, the two prisoners at the bar, and myself, went in company. 

Maloney opened the window, and the two prisoners went into the house. We had two muskets between us. Maloney had one, and Ford another. Maloney was the first who entered the house by means of the window, and he opened the door to admit the two prisoners. I remained outside on sentry. A good deal of bustle took place in the house. Maloney came to the door, and I saw him discharge his musket into the house.  Our object in going there was to get all we could.  Immediately upon the discharge of the piece there was a cry of murder set up in the house, and we all ran off.  

Prisoner Ford was stopped and taken a short distance off.  The gun now produced was in the possession of Ford on the occasion spoken of. Maloney gave it to Ford.  The piece that was discharged contained small pieces of stone.  I was apprehended on the present charge."

Eventually the Jury found both of the prisoners guilty. William Ford and Samuel Tibbin were sentenced to death and executed on 11 June 1828.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Early days of Windsor

In 1916 the Publishing company Tyrell's Limited published the local history book titled "Early Days of Windsor" The book was originally written as a weekly series which appeared in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette from about 1914. The original series can be access via Trove.

Rev James Steele was the Presbyterian minister in Windsor and obviously took an interest in the history of the Hawkesbury. He spent "much time and labour in gathering his material and in disinterring from the somewhat dusty chambers of the past."

The book was reprinted by the Library of Australian History in 1977 and has been always been in demand. It recently became available under the auspices of Project Gutenberg Australia and Early Days of Windsor is now available to access for free. 

The book is based on Windsor and chapters are included on early settlement, origin of names, history of churches, schools, bridges, Hawkesbury Benevolent Society, local government as well as pioneering families and identities. The book is indexed and illustrated. If you have not consulted this little treasure, check it out.

Cover of  Early Days of Windsor