PASSAGES TO THE NORTH-WEST PLAINS P.10
Into the Liverpool Plains cont.
As the expedition approached Boggabri on 15 May, they entered a swampy plain approximately west of a landmark Cunningham dubbed 'Dunlop's Table Hill', our Mt Binalong, 521 metres. This was afterwards the north-east boundary of the 220 square mile [570 sq km: 24 x 24 km] station 'Ghoolendaadi'.
The natives had been, in the last rains [four or five months earlier], housed under their bark gunyas near the spot - now perfectly dry and hard - on which we erected our tents, it appearing evident from the remains of their fire, and the effects of the heavy rain had left around it, that the season was exceedingly wet when these savages --- [illegible: ?decamped] from this ground.
Cunningham now decided to turn back. He imagined the whole region was made up of marshes (“a perfect quagmire”), not realising that this was just a very wet year, and not knowing that a major watercourse lay close ahead.
'It is curious', wrote Cunningham, 'that I should have met only one small group of native women and children and seven males [ = evidently a reference to the encounter of 15 May] who were prowling about in quest of the scanty subsistence in grubs and kangaroos and opossums afforded by the surrounding country, and from the boundary heights [Pandoras Pass] only perceived two distinct smokes of the Aborigines'.
As noted, he guessed that the 'scouring of the country by the settlers and soldiers' during the 'Bathurst war' of 1824 explained the near absence of blackfellows from the Liverpool Plains and around Mudgee. It is possible however that they had withdrawn from the valley of Coxs Creek and the plains between Coxs Creek and the Mooki River on account of the flood; presumably most could have remained in the hills pending the dissipation of the residual floodwaters, which Cunningham found were still up to 30 centimetres [one foot] deep beyond Mullaley.
'A Few Wandering Families'
As we noted earlier, Oxley’s exploring party emerged from rough country on 26 August onto the flat country towards Coxs Creek, where they found the grass recovering, 'having been burnt early in the year'. 'Three native fires were seen in Lushington's valley [Garrawilla Creek] but the whole of this part of the country appears to be thinly populated; a few wandering families making up the total of its population.' No Aborigines were seen hunting the game which abounded between Coxs Creek and modern Curlewis. Nor did Oxley remark seeing any further smoke until he crossed the Mooki River. On 31 August 1818 smoke was seen a long way off, evidently from Aboriginal campfires along the Peel.
Henry Dangar too revisited the Upper Hunter Valley during 1825. It was he who discovered the easy pass at Murrurundi later rediscovered and pioneered (1827) by William Nowland. Hence ‘Nowland’s Gap’. Proceeding via Kingdon Ponds, Dangar and his party went through the Murrurundi pass (Doughboy Hollow) to Kankool and then east along the northern side of the Range to Hanging Rock, and thence direct to the coast. They arrived barely alive.
Occupation of the Upper Hunter
The next move by the colonists was from 'Ravensworth' north-west to the main stretch of Upper Hunter River itself, where the Forbes brothers took up their grant 'Edinglassie' [Muswellbrook] and Francis Little his grant 'Invermein' [Scone]. William Dangar's 'Turanville', on Kingdon Ponds on the western side of the upper Hunter, and 'Segenhoe', also occupied during 1825, brought the number of British outposts to four by the end of the year.
Above: The Hunter River runs down through ‘Segenhoe’ to join Dart Brook.
Macqueen sent a ship to Sydney in charge of his agent Peter McIntyre and various assistants, including McIntyre's brother John and the overseers Alexander Campbell and Donald McLaughlin. With them came about 20 Scottish families of shepherds and artisans contracted to work for Macqueen for seven years. They were lodged in
76. 15 May.
77. 17 May. Also very short summary in Ida Lee’s book.
78. 18 May.
79. Cunningham, Letters to Col Sec 8-28 May 1825 (AO Reel 6035, SZ17, 84-85), and quoted in Lansdowne Press 1971, ii: 523.
80. Oxley 1820: 277, 280.
81. Milliss 1992: 74; also Atchison 1973: 47-48; Carter 1974; and Rolls 1981. Not knowing of the Murrurundi Pass, Cunningham in 1827 had to cross the Liverpool Range by climbing it: past a shoulder of Towarri Mountain going out, and past Mt Parry coming back (see in McMinn 1970).
82. ‘Martindale’ and ‘Dalswinton’ [named for Peter Cunningham’s birthplace in Scotland] are on opposite sides of the Hunter at its junction with the Goulburn south of Denman: Martindale is on the southern bank; Dalswinton on the northern bank nearer Denman.
83. Peter Cunningham 1827, i: 155 (1966: 81); Wood 1972: 67-68. According to Wood, Greig took some stock to the (lower) Hunter in January 1825, proceeding upstream 'subsequently'; William Ogilvie and his family arrived to become his neighbours in February 1826. The other grantees allocated land at the same time as Pike and Grieg - Bell, Anderson, Allman, Peter Cunningham and Ogilvie - did not take up their grants until rather in 1826.
84. Wood 1972: 72, 73, 99; Gray 1975: 15 and 41. The Surveyor-General himself, John Oxley, went to the upper river in April 1825 to measure the 2,000 acres (8,100 ha) of 'Edinglassie' . The estate was located on what is now the southern side of Muswellbrook township. George Forbes managed 'Edinglassie' while his brother Chief Justice Francis Forbes' gave his time to his official duties.
85. The White family are descended from James White, flock master for the Australian Agricultural Company, who arrived in NSW in 1826. His sons purchased 'Beltrees' from W C Wentworth in 1853.
86. Peter Cunningham 1827 (1966: 82); Wood 1972: 87 ff; Gray 1975: 29; Walker in ADB. Peter McIntyre held authority to occupy 32,000 acres in all, including grants for Macqueen, himself and his brother John. Not all of the 20 families ended up at 'Segenhoe', some staying in Sydney or Newcastle. Cunningham's 'young Scotchmen', the McIntyres, Campbell and McLaughlin, would become the leaders in the push into the interior, particularly New England in the 1830s.