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Could a button challenge Blackman's discovery of Mudgee?
Wal Ellison Writes:
Let me say right away that I love the site! As a man deeply interested in our local history, I'm glad to see such a bright and informative web site up and running. My main reason for writing, however, is to tell you about something which throws some doubt on just who might have been the first European to traverse the area.
Official records credit Blackman and Lawson with being the first to the area. But a military officer's tunic button found alongside the Cudgegong just south of Mudgee strongly suggests someone was here much earlier. My wife and I are keen metal detectors and during mid '09 were searching an old site. My wife found the gilt button in question and still has it. It's been absolutely authenticated as having belonged to a commissioned officer of the 73rd Regiment of Foot. For a number or geological and social reasons, not to mention my own 30 years of experience in metal detecting, I believe it had to have been lost there by the original owner.
But the Regimental History of that old unit records that they came to the then colony of NSW in 1810 and then took ship for India in 1814. In short, the button had to have been lost there by the original owner, yet he'd left NSW with his Regiment by 1814. An understanding of the duties expected of a sub unit of the 73rd easily explains how it arrived here. Blackman and Lawson were of course well known and respected men, and their explorations would have carried official weight. But a deal of evidence surrounding this button supports a very strong argument that they were not the first Europeans as the record shows.
There's no question that Blackman and Lawson deserve the credit for early officially sanctioned exploration of the district, but whenever something such as this might add to the story, it should be added as a footnote. Not as a concrete fact, but something along the lines of " a recent find seems to strongly suggest that ........."
I look forward to your thoughts on this matter,
The Button Theory
Mr Ellison published his story on the button in the 'Australian Gold, Gem and Treasure' magazine last year.
In the article, he said the button is from the 73rd regiment, an old British unit called the Black Watch. The button has a crown and the number 73 on it, the numerals having the rose of England on one side and the thistle of Scotland on the other, with the Crown above.
Mr Ellison said officers wore gilt buttons and the rest pewter. So the button belonged to an officer of the 73rd unit, which arrived in NSW in 1810 and left for India in 1814, which, if it was lost by the original owner, would place white people in the Mudgee region a lot earlier than Blackman’s discovery. Blackman discovered Mudgee in 1821, 7 years after the 73rd regiment left NSW.
Mr Ellison said the button was found on private property along the Cudegong River south of Mudgee by his wife, but he will not publicise the spot.
His evidence is based on the fact the 73rd Regiment was a foot regiment who arrived in NSW in 1810 and went to Newcastle to be a police patrol in the Upper Hunter, travelling on horseback to seek out escaped convicts and bushrangers. He said the regiment was used to patrolling extensive areas, sometimes out of the known settlement areas and it would have been easy for them to meander more or less west of the Hunter area, where a few days easy riding could have brought them into the Mudgee region, as the country was easy, with plenty of water and game.
Mr Ellison said the patrol could have been led by a junior officer, probably a lieutenant, who, on their return, would simply have reported they patrolled over a certain distance in a certain direction.
Mr Ellison says the spot where the button was found would have made a perfect night camp from a soldier’s point of view. The mountain ridge being heavily timbered, but the small hill about 20 metres above the river would have been very rocky giving a good defensive position, with the open crest providing good grasslands for feed for the horses along the river.
Mr Ellison said he tried to think of other ways the button could have got to its resting place, perhaps in later settlement in the mid 1800s, but the only building there was a church, with a natural saddle in the landscape between it and a couple of higher buildings. The land slopes away from the church to the river below.
Mr Ellison said that either the original soldier lost his button, or someone else brought the button here for some purpose. However, the button was not rare, others being found in the Sydney and Newcastle areas, and if the button was lost and later found, it would not have been kept, because it had no value and keeping crown property was against the law.
If the button was found in more modern times, it would have had small value and probably stored amongst keepsakes at home, with little reason to take it and consequently lose it at the church. However, Mr Ellison says the real clue is the button itself, which is very worn and therefore unlikely to have been kept as a treasured relic, it has obviously been worn by the elements, where it was found at a digging level with other findings dating back to the 1840s.
What do you think? Has any other reader found relics of white population prior to 1821? Click: email@example.com to make a comment.
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