John Town's Diary
I will now give a brief sketch of a most remarkable man, Mr. John Town. Those who were not acquainted with him may not think so; but those who had dealings with him will tell you even now that he was one of the straightest men of his time. His word was his bond, in the most trifling transaction.
I knew him well myself, and had many dealings with him, and can bear testimony to his honesty of purpose. But there were many things in connection with his life and character which I have learned from others, and also from his diary (kindly lent me), which I will relate, that I think will be highly interesting, especially as they refer to very old dates.
I may state that it was not often you could catch him in a communicative mood, therefore you could not
expect to hear him speak much of himself. But there were occasions when he would repeat some of his experiences of the early days. Some of the most interesting he has written in his diary, which I will quote as I proceed.
He was born in Parramatta. His mother died there, and is buried in the Episcopal burying-ground.
After his mother's death he came with his father to Richmond, when he was quite young. We have no further
record of him until he married, on the 17th June, 1830.
He was among the earliest settlers on the Goulburn river. Here he was once stuck up by Bushrangers, tied to a tree, and robbed. They committed other atrocities for which they were hanged.
He came back to Richmond, and opened the Woolpack hotel at North Richmond (now the Travellers' Rest) which was
built for him. This is one of the oldest hotels in the colony, and has a history.
It was here Mr, North, the Police, Magistrate, used to hold his court, and where many prisoners were sentenced to the lash. It was also the local post office for many years. I remember it in the forties, when the Thompsons, of Pitt Town, had the contract for carrying the mails from Windsor to Richmond, six times a week, and from Richmond to North Richmond, three times a week. It was then the terminus for mails in Kurrajong.
Mr. Town kept the hotel for over 20 years, when he retired from business. But during that time he had many trips over the mountains. His principal delight seemed to be roaming through the bush. I have already stated he was among the first to cross Bell's Line, with others, on a slide, with four bullocks. A slide, remember!- not a dray. But I think I have explained that before.
He was a great friend of old Ben. Singleton's : and if he did not go over the Bulga with Ben, and Mr. Howe, of Windsor, who were the first white men to cross the Bulga, he was not long after them.
I do not suppose I will be contradicted if I say that old Ben. Singleton was the first to build a mill on the
banks of the Hunter river, at Singleton, and that town was named after him. He was well known on the Hawkesbury before he went to the Hunter, and had to do with several mills here. I have a recollection of hearing it said he built those two mills on Wheeny Creek, and another on the Hawkesbury somewhere below Wilberforce.
I have often seen the two mills at
Wheeny Creek. The upper one was what is termed an overshot (I have seen it at work), and the lower one an undershot. They were both owned by the Town family. I think they are now down.
While speaking of Ben. Singleton, I may mention that the oldest-dated memo in Mr. Town's diary is in reference to Mr. Singleton. It is as follows -
"Yarraman Bar Creek, at Liverpool Plains, was first formed into a
station by Mr. Benjamin Singleton, in the year 1826."
Mr. Town seems to have taken great interest in explorers. Here is another memo :
"(Capt. Charles Sturt explored the Darling river, the Murrumbidgee,
and the Murray to its junction with the Darling, in the year 1829. Died 16th June, 1869."
While speaking of Capt. Sturt, I may mention that he tells us that Mr. Cealey, a resident of Parramatta,
is said to be the first who attempted to scale the Blue Mountains; but he did not long persevere in struggling
with difficulties too great for ordinary resolution to overcome. It appears that he retraced his steps,
after having penetrated sixteen miles into their dark and precipitous recesses, and a heap of stones, which
the traveller passes about that distance from Emu Ford, on the road to Bathurst, marks the extreme point reached by the expedition to the westward of the Nepean river.
Another memo from Mr. Town's diary states :
"Captain Howell died 9th Nov., 1875, in the 90th year of his age.
He was one of the explorers with Mr. Hamilton Hume."
And yet another, which shows he still took an interest in the Singleton family:
"Mary Singleton died the 12th August, 1877, aged 84 years. Buried at Singleton."
Mr. Town makes no mention, of his own exploits in the way of exploration. I have already mentioned
a few. He was also one of the first on the Namoi and at Moree, where he formed stations, and was among
the first gold diggers on the Turon.
But I think his greatest exploit was when he started alone from his home on the Goulburn river, with
nothing to guide him except a small pocket compass, and took a bee line to the Bulga, over mountains where
no white man had ever been before or since. He arrived safely at the Bulga at a place called the Cap and
Bonnet. But when there he began to doubt his compass, and was about to retrace his steps when his brother
in-law, Billy McAlpin met him, and they came along together. This journey must have taken weeks to accomplish.
A few other extracts from Mr.Town's Diary may be interesting since it refers to the death of many
old residents, who in their time took a part in the the early history of the colony.
They are as follows:
26 May,1852, old Mrs. Mary Town died, aged 80 years (Mr. Town's stepmother.)
St. Philip's Church, North Richmond, was consecrated 12th Nov., 1861.
The title was presented by
Mr. Town ; he also subscribed liberally towards its erection.
Mrs. Ann Sharp died 7th April, 1865, aged 72 years. Mrs. Sharp was Mr. Town's mother-in-law.
Robert Fitzgerald died, April 7th, same year.
26th May. Judge Milford died.
1866, Feb. Mrs. Hail died.
Feb. 2. Mr. Thomas Tibbut died.
1867. The Rev. H. Stiles died,
23rd June. The same day that the
great flood was at its highest.
1868. Prince Alfred shot, 12th
29th March. The Rev. Thomas
Hassell died, aged 73. Mrs. Stiles
21st April. O'Farrell executed
for shooting Prince Alfred. The
prince restored to health ; thank
God, and all's well.
5th May. William Town died ;
Mr. Town's brother.
Lord Brougham died, 7th May.
Born 19th September, 1779.
18th May. Mr. Edward Cox, of
21st July. Dr. Bland died, aged
20th. August. George Cox died,
aged 75 years.
Red Bank Creek bridge finished,
28th November. The sun heat
was 100 degrees.
29th. 107 in the shade.
30th Nov. St. Andrew's Cathedral
24th Dec. The heat was 115
deg. Fah. in the shade at 12.30 p.m.
The Donally nugget found in
Melbourne, weighing 200lb. nett
1869, 10th March. Prince Al-
fred's second visit to Sydney.
3rd April. William Sharp's barn
was burned down. This was the
second barn Mr. Sharp lost by fire.
10th May. John Hubert Plunket
4th June. George Forbes (bro-
ther to Sir Francis) died, aged 82
27th September. William Kirk
died, aged 87 years. An old friend
of the Town family.
1869, 27th August. The heat was
105 deg. Fah.
1870, 11th January, the thermometer registered 110 ;
12th Jan .110 ; 13th Jan, 112 ; 14th Jan., 113
at 11 a.m. ; 18th February, 100 ; 19th
Feb , 108 ; 22nd Feb., 100.
12th June. First white frost,
38th August. Thomas Simpson
Hall died, aged 62 years.
17th. August. James Cuneen died
aged 62 years. A native of Wind
sor. Mr. Cuneen was a member
the Legislative Assembly, and for a
time was Postmaster-General.
18th November. William Lee
senr., of Bathurst, died, aged 76
16th Nov. Prince Alfred left
Port Jackson, after his third visit to
John Tebbutt died, 20th December,
1871, 10th January. Charles
Thompson, of Clydesdale died, aged
8th April. George' Filks died
aged 80 years. Upwards of 20 years
chief constable of Sydney.
23rd April. William Hall died,
aged 74 years.
1872, 4th January. William
Perry, tailor, of Windsor, died, aged
15th Jan. John King (the survivor of
Burke and Wills exploring expedition) died.
18th Jan. Nicholls and Lester
hanged for the murder of Walker
and Bridges on the Parramatta river
William Charles Wentworth died
in, England, 20th March, 1872, aged
28th July. Mary Ann Piper
wife of Capt. Piper, died, aged 81
4th June. Sir Hercules Robinson
sworn in as Governor of N.S.W.
15th Oct. Sir Hercules Robinson
crossed the Richmond bridge, on his
way to Douglass Hill.
Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte
died in England, 9th Jan. 1873. He
was nearly 65 years old.
His son was born 16th March,
10th Feb., 1873. John Richard
Rouse died, aged 73.
Mr. John Benson was killed from
a fall from his horse on 3rd March
1873, aged 29 years.
19th April, 1873. Hamilton Hume
the explorer died, aged 76 years.
22nd June. Sir T. A. Murray
died. He was President of the
5th Sept. Laban White died, in
his 80th year. '
15th Sept. Alexander Berry died
at North Shore, Aged 91 years.
14th Sept. Mr. Heath, the tailor,
13th December. Mr. John Winters' two sons were drowned,
while bathing near the Richmond bridge.
1874, 20th January. Mr. John
Hoskisson died at ll p m., aged 79
10th Sept. John Merrick died
aged 82 years.
11th Dec. William Bowman
died, aged 75 years.
23rd Dec. Great fire in Windsor,
About 40 houses burned down on
the south end side of George-street.
1875, 22nd March., Mrs. Elizabeth Armfield died, aged 84 years
and three months. A native of the
Hawkesbury, and first-born child
thereon' of European parents.
1875 10th May. Old Mick the Russian
died, said to be 112 years old.*
1875. Sir Charles Cowper died
in England, aged 69 years.
13th Sept. Thomas Kite, of Bathurst, died, aged 87 years.
William Long (Judge Martin's
father-in-law) died, aged 80 years.
1877, 28th Feb. Luke Stanford
died, aged 80 years.
16th March. Archbishop Polding
died, aged 83. He was 42 years in
28th August. William Price died,
aged 85 years.
6th Feb. Pope Pius the IX died,
aged 86 years
1878, 1st May. Mrs. Mary Chisholm died, aged 81.
8th Aug. Rev. J. Dunmore Lang
died, aged 79 years.
1878, 20th Aug. William John-
ston, of Pitt Town, died, aged 83,
Sir E. Deas Thomson died, aged 80
1879,18th July. Mrs. Ann Dempsey died at Emu Plains, aged 100
years. She formerly lived on
Rouse's farm over the river (now
5th Nov. Mrs Sarah Johns died,
aged 82 years. Mrs. Mary Hughes
died, aged 89 years.
1lst May, 1880. Mrs. Mary Hough
died, aged 87 years .
27th June. Richard Skuthorp
died, aged 90 years, only wanting
4th February, 1881. Mr. John
Cobcroft died, aged 84 years.
Mrs. Ann Hausell (formerly
Copper) died, aged 88 years.
Mr. John Henry Challis, an old
resident of Sydney, died in England
on 28th February, 1880, leaving
100,000 to the Sydney University.
1st March, 1879. Captain Cook's
daughter died last week, aged 104,
so the paper says.
* 'Mick the Russian '
born Michael Evangelist Norton supposedly in March 1763
He was a powerful man who lived in the Hawkesbury District for many years.
When he was just over 70, he performed the almost incredible feat
of carrying, for a considerable bet, without resting, a sack of wheat containing
three bushels (180 lbs.) a distance of thirteen miles, from Richmond over the
steep Kurrajong ranges to the mill.
Towards the last years of his life he was receiving benefit from the
Hawkesbury Benevolent Society for which he would walk 30 miles a month.
He claimed he first came to the Colony as a soldier with Captain Phillip but returned home after 10 years.
Then 10 years later he returned to the Colony. Many thought some of his stories were fanciful.
FROM THE FORTIES DOWN,
Nos. in part 47,48, 49
Friday 19 February 1904 Page 16
Friday 26 February 1904 Page 16
Friday 4 March 1904 page 16.
transcription janilye 2012