Hartley, Kanimbla and Ganbenang
By H.C. Dalziell
Nepean & District Historical Society
Naturally, the first settlers secured land as near as possible to the main highway, provided it was suitable for their requirements. Those who acquired land in the back swamps concentrated on the production of dairy products and carried it up Centennial Glen to Blackheath; others took theirs by pack horse up the little zig-zag to Mount Victoria. At both places there was an unlimited demand for all foodstuffs from travellers going east and west. Those who secured land further out on the Cox River and beyond, and produced corn, hay and potatoes, had it carted to Jervis's store at Little Hartley, then the mecca of seller and buyer.
A few of those who settled on the land with larger areas made bacon, cheese and butter. Their butter was made in the summertime and salted in casks, and in winter was carted to the goldfields on the Turon and Hill End districts. Those farmers who grew wheat had it cut with a sickle and thrashed with a flail, then carted to Brown's Mill at Bowenfels, for gristing. When this mill was converted to the manufacture of woollen cloth, the nearest flour mill was Smith and Black’s at O’Connell. Those persons who employed convicts gave them wheat, which they ground in a small steel mill for their own use, and baked into a ‘damper’, in the evenings.
The cultivation land was fenced in with logs removed from the land to be ploughed; this was usually done with bullock teams. The roads were little more than clearings through the timber and were almost impassable for all but heavy teams, until they were placed under the control of a ‘road trust’, which consisted of three local residents having a defined length of road under their control, with a small annual government grant for maintenance and improvement.
To overcome the difficulty of small creeks and wet places, before the introduction of earthenware drain pipes, saplings, with the bark removed, were placed as close together as possible across the road; this was known as ‘corduroying’. The trust was forbidden to make a road within half-a-mile of their own residence. These trusts were dispensed with when the public works department undertook the whole management of roads and bridges.
With the opening of the railway in 1868, and the decreased demand for their products from road travellers, the majority of small settlers abandoned or sold their holdings and went west and acquired larger areas, or found employment on stations being developed on the western rivers.
The major portion of this land was let to farmers, and in 1875 was bought by E. Vickery, who employed J.W. Berghofer as manager. Later, an area of 4,000 acres was bought from the executors of Dr. W. Redfern to whom it had been granted in 1824, but not put to any use by the original grantee. By the purchase of some small holdings the total area was brought up to 18,670 acres of freehold land, and at one period practically the whole of the Megalong Valley was held under lease, but this area was lost in the eighteen eighties when the government land was thrown open for selection.
The whole of the freehold land was fenced and sub-divided with wire fencing, it being the first property in this locality to use wire as fencing material. A new homestead was built of locally made bricks, on a stone foundation and roofed with flat iron, about two miles from the original Norton home, and adjacent to the Cox River Road. The bulk of land was ring barked and generally improved and stocked with cattle; later on sheep were introduced but were never used for breeding during Mr. Vickery’s ownership.
Wethers were bought in the western districts, shorn and then fattened for the Sydney market. The carrying capacity was approximately one thousand head of cattle and ten thousand sheep and the horses necessary for the working of the property. In the eighteen nineties the property was leased to H.G. Lomax, a western grazier, who stocked up with sheep.
|J W Berghofer|
‘Rosevale’, situated in-the southern end of Hartley Valley, was an original government grant made in 1823 to Jeremiah Grant and his wife Rose, hence the name. It contained an area of 1,000 acres and was used for farming and grazing cattle and houses. Grant was allotted assigned servants for improving the property, and in 1841 this land was bought by James Dalziell, who also bought some adjoining lands that had been previously granted to Dr. Redfern, the Rev. Samuel Marsden and John Grant; making an area of 5,000 acres freehold, he also held 2,000 acres of annual lease land.
In 1843 a new homestead was built with stone foundation, locally made bricks and shingle roof, to the design and under the supervision of David Lennox, who was Mr. Dalziell's brother-in-law, and who was brought out from Scotland to design and supervise the construction of stone bridges in Australia.
Lennox was recommended for the position by the Rev. Dr. Lang, the first Presbyterian minister to arrive in the colony in 1823. Mrs. Lennox died before he left Scotland and his two daughters were brought out to the colony when Mr. & Mrs. Dalziell decided to make their home in the new land, and settled first at Parramatta.
The property was used for mixed farming and grazing and eventually passed into the hands of a younger son, Alexander, after completing his education at King's School, Parramatta. It was he who first introduced sheep to the locality by the purchase of 300 merino ewes from John See of Bathurst. These sheep had to be guarded night and day on account of the large number of dingoes then roaming the country in search of fresh meat.
As the flock increased in numbers and the locality was cleared of dingoes, The sheep were divided into flocks in charge of shepherds; one lot in charge of John McAviney, and another in the care of Billy Lynch, a well-known half cast, who had left the police force where he had been employed as a black tracker.
After the property had been fenced in, the shepherds were dispensed with. Lynch went to live near the Gibraltar crossing of the Cox River, where his eldest son, Yogi, had selected land. This area was known to the Aboriginals as ‘Meglo’, which leans ‘a hand’, and derived from the formation of the land in that locality; this name has been corrupted by white people to "Megalong".
With further improvements and the increased number of stock, farming was dispensed with, except for home consumption, and the production of wool and fat stock concentrated on. Some small portions of the estate were sold and all the crown land has been selected. The major portion is still in the hands of the Dalziell family.
In the vicinity of the first homestead there are three pear trees, said to have been planted on the graves of assigned servants, still bearing heavy crops. There are also quince trees growing close by that still bear fruit, they were planted by the first owner.
Another well-known property is 'Liddleton’, situated astride the Cox River, adjacent to the town of Hartley, consisting of about 5,000 acres of freehold land and at one time a considerable area was held under annual lease. The first 2,500 acres were originally granted to John Maxwell in 1830, who was formerly connected with the military depots at Glenroy and Bathurst. He was supplied with a number of assigned servants to assist in improving the land, which was used for mixed farming and grazing.
This estate has changed hands several times. Western graziers, in need of relief country for their flocks and herds in times of drought, bought the property and, when rain fell in the west, they re-sold. It was at one time bought by Messrs. Wolseley & Caldwell and it was here that Mr. Wolseley was able to bring his shearing machine to perfection and have the sheep shorn that were running on the property, this was the first instance of machines being used for a general shearing.
In 1885 a demonstration of the machines in action was given in the Goldsborough wool store in Melbourne. The following year the machines were installed at Toganmain and Dunlop stations and also in some Queensland sheds. After forming a company to carry on the manufacture and distribution of the machines, Mr. Wolseley returned to England and engaged in the production of the Wolseley motor car. Later on, D.D. Pye acquired the property and carried out improvements by building a new homestead and wool shed, subdivided the area into smaller paddocks, cleared up fallen timber and planted about ten acres of apple orchard.
Among the smaller settlers was Patrick McAviney, at Chaplo, adjoining the Megalong Valley. He, like most others, was engaged in mixed farming, dairying and the raising of pigs. An elder son, Thomas, acquired land by selection, near the head waters of the Long Swamp, and engaged in the grazing of horses and cattle. After improving the land he transferred to sheep, with good results.
Others to acquire land by selection in this locality were Dominic and Arthur McCauley and Henry England. In later years Peter O'Rielly selected land near the junction of Long Swamp and the Cox River. When his sons grew to manhood they went north to the McPherson ranges, and their property was sold and the rest of the family followed to the boys' home. It was here that Bernard made history by the discovery of the Stinson plane that crashed with such disastrous results in that locality. He afterwards wrote two interesting books, ‘Green Mountain’ and ‘Cullenbenbong’.
Another early pioneer was Patrick Keenan who selected land astride the Cullenbenbong Creek and, with the addition of annual leases, had quite a sizable holding for the production of cattle, horses and pigs. On account of the lack of roads, all that was produced had to walk to market and most of the goods going in had to be taken by pack-horse, unless some venturesome bullock driver could be induced to take the risk. His wife was regarded as the district’s most expert horsewoman. It was she who piloted Lord and Lady Carrington across the Cox River, then in half flood, when they rode from Katoomba across country to the Jenolan Caves. [via the Six foot Track, 1887]
Settlement gradually extended to the area then known as Marsden’s Swamp, where the Rev. Samuel Marsden had received a crown grant of 600 acres, but did not make any use of the land, eventually selling it in two blocks, one to John McPherson and the other to Alexander Dalziell, who cultivated the creek flats and used the other portions for grazing.
The First settlers to acquire land in this area, either by ticket of occupation or by selection, were Michael Ryan, Terence and Hugh Flanagan, Delaney, Michael and James Kelly, John O’Connor, John and Isaac Taylor, James Farrell, James McPherson and others with small holdings. All were engaged in agriculture, mainly maize and potatoes. The name of this locality was changed to ‘Ganbenang’, derived from the large number of gang-gang cockatoos in this district when the early settlers arrived.
There is an area of land on the eastern side of the Ganbenang creek, approximately three miles long by one mile wide, on which all the native trees have died, it is generally agreed the cause was from grubs eating the sapwood and, in turn, the gang-gangs eating the grubs; very few native trees have grown on this land since.
‘Duddawarra’, an Aboriginal word meaning 'dirty water’ [actually 'Big Bend in River'] , on the Cox River, was a crown grant to John Grant in about 1822. It was leased to the Commens family who eventually bought the major portion of the land and put it under intensive cultivation. It was they who introduced ‘pise’ for home building to the locality and which was followed by other land holders, to their advantage. It has proved to be the most substantial, economical and comfortable home, if properly designed and constructed. This property is now owned by the fourth generation of the Commens family. Others to settle in this locality were J.J. Hughes, who received a crown grant of two hundred acres at Buckamall. Others who selected land were George Marriott, Denis O’Connor, Robert Duff, James Simpson and James Carroll.
Moyne Farm, [called Tunumberee by the Aborigines] adjacent to the Cox River Road, was a crown grant made to John Grant in about 1819, and named after his home in Ireland. He built the present homestead and lived there a short while, eventually selling the property and securing land in the Lachlan Valley near Canowindra. The buyer was Thomas Delaney, senior, who increased the area by selection. After his death the property was taken over by his son, Thomas jnr, who further increased the holding by selection and purchase. For a number of years he supplied milk to Mount Victoria. His five brothers were well-known for their interest in butchering businesses in the district. On this property there was a small cemetery in which some of the pioneers are buried.
Adjacent to this property in Grant's creek the only gold in the Area under review was discovered but in such small quantities that the cost of recovery was greater than the return and had to be abandoned.
Hugh Brady selected approximately 600 acres astride the Cox River Road about one mile from its junction with the main highway. The area west of the road was bought by V. Parkes, son of Australia’s great statesman - Sir Henry Parkes. The land was divided into two blocks, one was bought by N.D. McKillop, who established the Bonnie Blink apple orchard, the remaining land was bought by W.S. Cripps who planted the Cranbrook orchard of 120 acres, which is the largest in the district. Orchards have been planted on the northern side of the main road and, by careful selection of suitable fruit from the various plantations, the Hartley growers association secured a first prize at the world-wide Wembly exhibition.
After the opening of the railway to Bowenfels in 1869, practically all the traffic to and from the west ceased to go through Hartley, causing the then flourishing township to collapse, both from a business and structural standpoint - most of the houses were of a very temporary nature. It was also a big loss to the man on the land, to be deprived of a ready market for his products. They concentrated on wool and livestock until the opening of the shale mine at Hartley Vale and the coal mines at Lithgow attracted sufficient population to warrant a revival of farming.
In the eighteen eighties and nineties, pastoral products were bringing very low prices, mainly on account of the western stations being stocked to capacity, and the advent of the rabbit plague in that area. The export of frozen meat to European countries was then only in the experimental stage. Fat cattle were being sold for from £4 to £6 per head and fat sheep were worth from 5/- to 8/- each, according to the amount of wool they carried.
Old store sheep were on offer at 1/- each; best combing wool was selling at from 6d to 8d per lb. There was always a good demand for all classes of horses, especially heavy draughts, coach and Indian remounts. There was a gradual rise in the price of fat stock, until the peak was reached after good rains had fallen over the state. Quoting from the, ‘Stock and Station Journal’, dated 20th June, 1920, ‘Sheep were sold the previous day at Flemington fat stock sales at from £3 to £4 each, with extra prime at £5 and fat cattle to £25.13.0 each’.
In 1831 free grants of land were abolished and the upset price of all crown land fixed at 12/- per acre, until 1843, when the capital value of all rural areas was raised to £1 per acre, and remained at that price under the Free Selection Act introduced in 1861. This act permitted a person to acquire a minimum of 40 acres conditional purchase and 120 acres conditional lease, or up to 1280 acres with residential and improvement conditions. These lands were, generally, second class and were held previously by large holders under annual lease and in most cases, were selected by sons of small farmers, thereby increasing the joint holding and permitted the grazing of stock in addition to farming.
During 1902 the whole state was under the spell of one of the most severe droughts known, when hundreds of thousands of stock in pastoral areas died from lack of feed and water. Hordes of rabbits came into the valleys from the west, eating everything edible, and in the summer of 1904-5 the whole of the southern portion was swept by bush fires, reducing the carrying capacity of the land to practically nil. Sale of the land has not yet recovered.
The problem of getting rid of the rabbits was one of the most difficult the landholder had ever undertaken; all modern methods were used to exterminate them, but with little success. Mr. Vickery had a freezing plant erected at Kanimbla and exported the carcasses overseas. It employed a large number of men trapping the rabbits but had little effect in reducing their numbers. Property owners were forced to realise that wire-netting their boundaries and having all rabbits dug out within their areas was the one and only solution of the menace.
Until near the end of the last century the ruling rate of wages paid to stockmen and other rural workers was 15/- per week, with food and accommodation provided for single men; married men received £1 with rations, which consisted of 10 lbs. of flour, 10 lbs. of meat, 2 lbs. of sugar, 1 lb. of tea, with hut provided and, generally, a cow to milk. Their hours were, in most cases, from daylight to dark and usually six days per week. Shearers were paid 17/6 per 100 sheep, with food and accommodation provided, or £1 per 100 without food.
As in all early settlements the women of this area nobly played their part in pioneering the bush lands. The rearing of their families under the most primitive conditions was a problem they cheerfully undertook. Fortunately, there was a strong bond of friendship between the settlers in most cases, and they did not hesitate about going to the assistance of a neighbour in distress. Invariably all were good horsewomen and thought little of carrying their youngest child on horseback when going to render assistance to anyone in difficulties. Few were fortunate enough to have a wheeled vehicle to transport their children needing medical attention, if such was available.
Dr. Rygate was practising his profession in South Bowenfels about 1855. During the construction of the Zig-zag in 1869, Dr. Flatau was the government medical officer to those employed on the work; he was also available to any local resident needing his services. After the completion of the railway to Bowenfels, Dr. Tualli started practice in Hartley, but did not stay long before transferring to Mount Victoria.
Another problem was the education of their children. It generally fell to the lot of the mothers to give their children instruction in educational and religious matters, as far as they were capable and until they were old enough to send away to a boarding school. In about 1880 a half-time school was established at Duddawarra and Ganbenang in charge of C. Neave. The buildings were erected by the parents of split slabs with a thatched roof. Five years later the government built schools at each centre, that at Ganbenang was put in charge of Hassan Mylecharane and that at Duddawarra under the control of Miss. G. Poyitt.
The settlers' wives generally spent their evenings in the making and mending of the family clothing, which had to be done with a needle and, when time permitted, they also plaited hats from rushes that grew in the creeks; these were known as "cabbage-tree" hats and were in general use until the introduction of felt made from possum fur. The light was supplied from homemade tallow candles, until the introduction of kerosene. The camp oven was in general use for baking bread and roasting meat.
Aboriginals came up to this locality from Burragorang by the Black Dog track for seasonal work in the summertime, such as shearing and harvesting. One, Billy Russell, was regarded as an expert with the boomerang. The natives always returned to the warmer climate of Burragorang for the winter. On the highest point of Tinker's Hill, adjacent to the road leading through these valleys, there is an Aboriginal burial ground. The last two natives buried there were George Miranda and his wife Black Bet.
Printed and published by Blue Mountains Historical Society
Note - this is an original source document and may contain a number of inaccuracies. Minor corrections to spelling and expression have been made. Explanatory notes in square brackets are by the Local Studies Librarian, based on more recent research.
All images are from the Local Studies collection.
Blue Mountains City Library, 2014.