Tag Archives: William Cox

Governor Macquarie goes on tour

In an order dated 22 April 1815 and published on that day in the Sydney Gazette, Lachlan Macquarie, ‘Governor and Commander of the Forces,’ formally announced his intention to proceed on a tour of inspection of the newly discovered country to the west of the Blue Mountains, and directed that during his absence the heads of the civil and military departments should submit their returns and reports to Lieutenant Governor Molle. The tour would not last more than a few weeks and anyone wishing to submit an application on public business should wait until the Governor’s return.

On the following Tuesday 25 April, as the Sydney Gazette reported in its edition of Saturday 29th, the Governor, accompanied by Mrs Macquarie, left town to visit the newly discovered plains. The Governor took with him a substantial group of dignitaries: the Secretary (John Thomas Campbell); a Major of Brigade (Captain Antill); the Governor’s aide de camp (Lieutenant Watts); Sir John Jamieson; William Cox; the Surveyor General (John Oxley); the Assistant Surgeon (William Redfern); the Deputy Surveyor General (James Meehan); Deputy Surveyor G.W. Evans; and a painter and naturalist (I.W. Lewin).

In the Sydney Gazette of 10 June 1815, the first item is a lengthy report of that date by the Governor describing his tour and acknowledging the contributions of various people to the opening up of the country. A brief history is given of efforts to cross the Blue Mountains, including mention of the attempts by Mr. Bass and Mr. Caley before the successes of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth, George Evans, and finally William Cox who supervised construction of the road.

It was perhaps rather nerve-wracking for Cox to accompany Macquarie on the tour of inspection, knowing that at any point the Governor might be displeased with the methods or quality of the work. But if Macquarie did find anything amiss he does not mention it in this report.

Indeed a notable aspect of the report is the exceptionally fulsome praise of Cox expressed by the Governor. Thus we read that the road was built in six months, ‘without the loss of a man, or any serious accident. The Governor is at a loss to appreciate fully the services rendered by Mr. Cox to this Colony, in the execution of this arduous work, which promises to be of the greatest public utility…’ Given the difficulty of the task and the absence from home and family, ‘it is difficult to express the sentiments of approbation to which such privations and services are entitled.’

It is interesting to observe Macquarie giving credit in this way where credit was due.

Announcement of forthcoming tour: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 22/4/1815, p. 1. The Governor has left town: 29/4/1815, p. 2. Report of the tour: 10/6/1815, pp. 1-2.

William Cox, road-maker

William Cox (1764-1837) arrived in Sydney in January 1800 as an officer in the New South Wales Corps. He succeeded John Macarthur as paymaster but got into financial difficulties when he bought for more than he could afford Macarthur’s Brush Farm at Dundas and other properties. This caused considerable inconvenience as it meant that others had to oversee the process of selling off his estate to pay his debts. He also incurred official displeasure owing to misuse of funds he was supposed to administer as paymaster. He was arrested, and in February 1807 sent to England, but a trial apparently did not eventuate. In 1810 he returned to New South Wales, having resigned his army commission the previous year, and began a rehabilitated life under Governor Macquarie. He lived, farmed and served as a magistrate in the Hawkesbury area, where his conduct won popular approval. He undertook a number of building works for the government, and this gave him a background for offering to construct a road across the Blue Mountains.

By a Government and General Order of 12 July 1814, Governor Lachlan Macquarie declared the construction of a road across the Blue Mountains ‘to the extensive Tract of Champaign Country lately explored by Mr. Evans’ to be ‘an object of the first Importance to the future Prosperity of the Colony.’ Acknowledgment was made of the ‘very handsome and liberal Manner’ in which William Cox had tendered his personal services for the undertaking. The Governor had accepted his proposal, had ‘entrusted to his Care and Judgment the entire Execution of the said Work,’ and was now making it known that the public were to keep away from the road under construction, so that the work could proceed unhindered and be completed as quickly as possible. Any unauthorised persons proceeding to the road or even crossing over the Nepean River to ‘Emu Plains’ while the road was being made would be taken prisoner by the Military Guard to be stationed at Emu Plains and sent to Sydney.

The term ‘Emu Plains’ was expressly used in this Order for that area ‘hitherto erroneously called Emu Island.’ It was from Emu Plains, on the left bank of the Nepean River, that the road was to start. Construction would begin in a few days’ time with the sending out of a working party of thirty men with a guard of eight soldiers. An announcement would be made in the Sydney Gazette when the road became ‘passable for Carts or Carriages of any kind.’

‘Government and General Order’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 23/7/1814, p. 1. Edna Hickson, ‘Cox, William (1764-1837)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 258-259, and online. William Cox, A Narrative of Proceedings of William Cox, Esq., of Clarendon, lately holding a commission in the New South Wales Corps or 102nd Regiment, in constructing a road from Capt. Woodriffe’s farm on the Nepean River, opposite Emu Plains, over the Blue Mountains, and from thence to Bathurst Plains, on the banks of the Macquarie River, in the years 1814 & 1815, Sydney, White, 1888.

A commemoration dinner for the Governor

On Thursday 28 December 1809 His Majesty’s ship Hindostan and the store-ship Dromedary arrived in Port Jackson, with His Excellency Lachlan M‘Quarrie Esquire on board the latter ship. Delayed by contrary winds, they came to anchor in Sydney Cove on the Saturday, and His Excellency the Governor and his Lady landed at ten on the Sunday morning with due ceremony and proceeded to Government House.

The event signalled a new phase in the life of the colony, in which the King’s authority had to be re-asserted after the rebellion against Governor William Bligh. Macquarie was a strong figure, and the public were left in no doubt that it was in the interests of the civil and military establishment and all citizens to remain on good terms with him.

Three years later, in the Sydney Gazette of 9 January 1813, we find a notice announcing that, ‘A number of respectable Inhabitants of this Colony propose dining together on the 29th instant in order to commemorate His Excellency Governor Macquarie’s Landing in, and assuming the Command of this Territory.’ The next issue notified readers that the dinner would take place at No. 11, George-street, Sydney, and listed the names of the seventeen Stewards from whom one could obtain tickets. At the head of the list is ‘Wm. Cox, Esq.’

The dinner duly took place and in view of the warmth of the season was organised as a fête champêtre, with a tent erected in the front garden of Mr. Robert Jenkins, one of the Stewards and Treasurer. The tent was ‘fancifully decorated with various ensigns, together with a variety of shrubs and boughs, formed into wreaths, festoons, and other neat devices,’ and ‘on the outside of the tent the British Colours were displayed.’ There were nearly 150 persons present, ‘among whom were many Gentlemen of the first respectability.’

The company sat down to dinner at six and during dinner the band of the 73rd Regiment supplied musical accompaniment, playing ‘a number of appropriate airs.’ The President was William Gore, Esq., and the Vice-President William Cox. Each of these two gentlemen sat ‘supported by a Clergyman on the right; the Stewards were seated at equal distances from each other; and the rest of the Company placed themselves promiscuously without respect to rank or difference of condition.’

After dinner there were fifteen toasts, ‘all of which were followed by well adapted airs.’ The toasts indicate ideals and preoccupations of the time. The first three toasts were to the King, the Prince Regent, and the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family. After a toast to the success of ‘the British Arms, by Sea and Land’ came the toast to the Governor: ‘Governor Macquarie! May the Anniversary of his assuming the Command of this Territory be commemorated and reverenced by our latest Posterity!’ The next two toasts were to ‘the Founder of the Colony’, Governor Phillip, and the Minister for the Colonies, Earl Bathurst. The eighth and central toast is interesting and perhaps surprising: ‘Mr. Wilberforce, the Friend of the Colony, and of Mankind in general.’ This was followed by a toast to religion and virtue: ‘May Religion and Virtue be the Foundation whereon the Superstructure of our Colony will be reared.’ The next four toasts developed further the theme of progress in the colony, by way of unanimity, commercial and agricultural prosperity, the establishment of an export trade, and an ‘intended Library. May every Inhabitant of our Colony unite in promoting the general diffusion of useful Knowledge!’ The second-last toast, ‘proposed by a Gentleman’, was to Lieutenant Colonel O’Connell and his 73rd Regiment. And the final toast was, ‘Good Night!’

The landing: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 7/1/1810, pp. 2-3. Notice of proposed Commemoration Dinner: 9/1/1813, p. 1. Stewards: 16/1/1813, p. 2. Report of the dinner: 30/1/1813, p. 2.

The Blue Mountains as a challenge to available technology

When the First Fleet arrived from England in 1788, no attempt had been made to survey the region preparatory to forming a new settlement. It must have been both intriguing and disquieting to scan the range of mountains on the western horizon and wonder what mysteries they held and what lay beyond.

For many years the mountains were regarded as an impassable barrier to westward exploration and expansion. The rugged, densely forested terrain with its many spurs, valleys and cliffs offered no easy way forward, and the continuous nature of the mountain ranges to the north and south meant there was no immediate way around.

The credit for finding a way through goes to the expedition of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth in 1813 – twenty-five years after the colony had been established. Following their lead, George Evans made a complete crossing later in the same year. In 1814 William Cox, using convict labour, supervised construction of a road across. The work took six months, from July 1814 to January 1815.

But the road was rough, often steep, and boggy in wet weather. Bullock drays carrying goods found the going extremely slow. A railway locomotive would be more powerful, but could a railway be successfully built across such a landscape? In 1857 Captain Hawkins of the Royal Engineers reported that a direct line could not be built from Sydney to Bathurst for a railway or tramway.

Persistence paid off, however, and ten years later a railway across the Blue Mountains was well on the way to completion. After another ten years (during which a bridge had to be built over the Macquarie River), in a land where hunter-gatherers had roamed the mountains and plains for millennia, a steam train arrived in Bathurst.

‘Railways: The Great Western Extension’, Sydney Morning Herald 21/7/1865, p. 7. The literature on technology includes: Fellows of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (comp.), Technology in Australia 1788-1988: A condensed history of Australian technological innovation and adaptation during the first two hundred years, Melbourne, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, 1988; online edition 2000, updated 21 November 2001.

The five Macquarie towns

Just before Christmas in the year 1810, Governor Lachlan Macquarie issued an Order in which he noted the ‘frequent Inundations of the Rivers Hawkesbury and Nepean,’ the calamitous effects of these inundations on the crops in that vicinity, and the consequent serious injury to the subsistence of the Colony. To guard against a recurrence of such calamities, he had ‘deemed it expedient … to erect certain Townships on the most contiguous and eligible high Grounds in the several Districts subjected to those Inundations.’

The stated purpose of the townships was to provide accommodation and security to the settlers affected by the floods. Accordingly the townships were organised on a particular basis. Each settler was to be assigned ‘an Allotment of Ground for a Dwelling house, Offices, Garden, Corn-yard, and Stock-yard proportioned to the Extent of the Farm he holds within the influence of the Floods.’ These allotments could not be sold or alienated separate from the farms in connection with which they were allotted; they were always to be considered part of these farms.

The five districts concerned, and the names of the townships to be established, were: Green Hills, Windsor; Richmond Hill, Richmond; Nelson, Pitt Town; Phillip, Wilberforce; and Nepean, Castlereagh.

The local constables were to submit returns listing the settlers whose farms were affected by flood, the number of persons in their families, the size of their farms, and the number of animals in their flocks and herds. These returns, on the relevant form, were to go to the Principal Magistrate, William Cox, and from him to the Governor. The Acting Surveyor was then to mark out allotments.

Following this process, settlers were to erect houses as soon as possible and move in. The houses were to be of brick or weather-board, with brick chimneys and shingled roofs, and were to be no less than nine feet high. Official plans for the houses and offices would be left with the District Constable, and each settler had to build in conformity with these plans.

Christmas Day holiday and services

Just before Christmas in the same year, the Sydney Gazette also carried orders concerning Christmas Day (which fell on a Tuesday). ‘By divine Permission’ the church of St. Phillip, at Sydney, was to be consecrated on that day by the Principal Chaplain, Rev. Samuel Marsden. The Governor announced that he ‘is pleased to dispense with the Labour of all the Prisoners, and other Men working for the Government, on Christmas Day and the Day following.’ They were required to work as usual on other days of the week. Moreover, they were required on Christmas Day to parade at the usual hour and place for Divine Service.

Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 15/12/1810, p. 1; similarly, ibid., 22/12/1810, p. 1. Cf. ‘The Macquarie Towns’, State Library of NSW website. St. Phillip’s church: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 22/12/1810, pp. 2-3. Christmas Day holiday: ibid., p. 3.