Our First Farmer - Colony of New South Wales
The claim on the headstone of James Ruse 1760-1837 that he sowed the first grain in the Colony is not accurate. Ruse certainly was the first person to cultivate the ground for his own benefit, but he was not our first farmer. That distinction belongs to Henry Edward Dodd, Governor Phillip's servant, who was instructed by him to cultivate an area of ground near Sydney Harbour on part of the present Botanical Gardens, called Farm Cove to the present day. That was during 1788.
The Farm Cove attempt failing, Phillip turned his attention to Rose Hill, afterwards called Parramatta, and Dodd was instructed to commence operations west of the present town. This area became known as the Government Farms, and was situated between Westmead and Wentworthville. Here was gathered the first harvest in the colony during December, 1780, It consisted of two hundred bushels of wheat, sixty bushels of barley, and a small quantity of flax corn and oats. This was a few weeks after Ruse entered into possession of his grant and twelve months before he reaped his first harvest.
This, of course, does not detract from the credit due to Ruse as the first to cultivate the ground on his own behalf, but it is not an historical fact to assort that he sowed the first grain.
Henry Edward Dodd died in 1791, and is buried in St. John's Cemetery, Parramatta, his grave being marked by a large flat stone inscribed with his name and the year of his death.
In "The History of New South Wales" we read, "The first farm in the colony was at Farm Cove, whence its name." And there nine acres were laid in corn soon after the settlement was formed. But nine acres were not enough, and Phillip had to explore the country for bettor soil. The only available land he found, was at a place which he had named Rose Hill, not knowing at the time that the native name was Parramatta. Here in November, 1788, he commenced operations on a large scale, In a foot note to page 142 we read that Phillip, "had luckily brought out with him. from England a man servant who, joined to much agricultural knowledge a perfect idea of the labour to be required from and that might be performed by the convicts. This man was said to be the only free person in the colony who had any knowledges of farming."
Thirty years ago I often found military buttons, old coins, portions of old farming tools, and, on one occasion, a pair of leg irons in the paddocks just west of Hawkesbury Road, Westmead, when part of this area was cultivated by the late Richard Houison (d:1922). Subsequently the timber on the portion near the railway line was cut down by my old friend, the late William Garner.
In the early records reference is made to the sufferings of the convicts working at Toongabbie. Large numbers died every week from overwork, exposure, and insufficient food, I remember many years ago a round flat stone being found close to the railway at Wentworthville, which had been the floor of one of the sentry boxes, and there is a similar stone near tho railway close to the bridge in Parramatta Park, east of Westmead.
Saturday 21 January 1933
Transcription, janilye 2012