Five months later, in November, 1813, Governor Macquarie equipped a party under George William Evans, who led his men over the Blue Mountains, through the extensive valley beyond, over the Main Divide and onward to the Bathurst Plains. In Evans’s Journal interesting references are made to the valley beyond Mount York. On November 24 he “came to the end of the Range from which the Prospect is extensive and gives me sanguine hopes, the descent is rugged and steep….we got into a Valley of good feed and appears a fine part of the Country; I have no doubt but the points of Ridges or Bluffs to the N.W. and S. (the Country seems to open in the form of this Angle) are the termination of what is called the Blue Mountains and that we are now over them; at 1 o’clock I stopped on the bank of a Riverlett, which is a rapid stream from the N.E.”. Evans camped by the River Lett, in the same locality as his predecessors, north-westerly from the site of Mount York Farm and here the party remained the following day that the horses might benefit from the abundance of grass.
On November 26 they moved off along the left bank of the stream for two miles when the forest ground began to rise and form a steeper bank. A short distance above the present township of Hartley, Evans crossed the stream and by way of the higher ground skirted by the present Jenolan Caves road beyond the River Lett bridge, below Hartley, came to the locality – Glenroy – where “at 4 Miles”, he wrote, “the stream alters its direction to the South, at which place the main Run joins from the West forming a considerable rapid Riverlett (Cox’s River); the land here gets better and the Country has a fine appearance;
Glenroy lies in the extensive valley separating the Blue Mountains, terminating abruptly in the foreground, from the high ground of the Main Divide
[Diagram by F. Craft]
It resembles the hills to the Eastward of the Cori Linn at Port Dalrymple, and put me in mind particularly of that part; the Trees are thin and light, the flats clear of Timber, a few Honeysuckles on the Banks of the ridges, the Lockett Bird singing, and the seed of the wild Burnett sticking to our legs, neither of the two last are to be seen on the East side of the Mountains; the soil still continues sandy but the feed is good, and better than any I have seen in New South Wales; I stopped this evening near the foot of a very handsome Mount, which I take the liberty to call Mount Blaxland, also two Peaks rather North of it, and which the Riverlett separates Wentworths and Lawsons Sugar Loaves”.
G.W. Evans, while surveying in 1813, left an interesting description of the Glenroy locality. William Cox bridged the streams at Glenroy in 1814.
The favourable account Evans gave of the country he explored called forth from Macquarie a Government Order dated February 12, 1814. Part of the Order reads: “On Saturday, the 20th November last, the party proceeded from Emu Island; and on the fifth day, having then effected their passage over the Blue Mountains, arrived at the commencement of a valley on the western side of them…proceeding through this valley, which Mr. Evans describes as beautiful and fertile, with a rapid stream running through it, he arrived at the termination of the tour lately made by Messrs. G. Blaxland, W. C. Wentworth, and Lieutenant Lawson.”
THE ROAD MEN COME WITH WILLIAM COX
Now the road-makers followed the surveyor. In 1814-1815 William Cox and his men took a primitive highway across the Blue Mountains, and passing over the ground at Glenroy in the valley beyond proceeded to the Bathurst Plains. Early in November, 1814, before this road had reached the western escarpment of the conquered barrier, Cox found “the mountain at the end of the ridge” much worse than he had expected; the descent at Mount York was steep, and for two-thirds of the way down was covered with loose rock. On reaching the foot Cox got into “very pretty forest ground”. This valley became the scene of kangaroo hunts – not the first held here by white man, for members of Blaxland’s party had hunted the kangaroo in the locality in May, 1813. While road work continued on the mountain the ground and streams in the valley were examined as far as Mount Blaxland “to find out the best passage across the water, as also to mark the road to it”. While so engaged on November 20, Cox’s assistant, Thomas Hobby, was thrown into the swollen stream by his horse stumbling while crossing ‘the lower rivulet…at the junction”. Cox himself had a similar experience of immersion the same day in a bog near Mount Blaxland. In this examination they were not successful, and Cox returned to the camp on Mount York completely knocked up from fatigue.
On December 3 Cox wrote that the ‘men worked extremely hard on the mountain….to admit my caravan to come down to-morrow”. As the road was not yet fit for animals to draw on it, at ten o’clock the following morning, Sunday, Cox’s caravan and a bullock cart – the first wheeled conveyances to pass the Blue Mountains – were taken down by men. Cox “measured down the mountain to the valley to the 50th mile from the ford” over the Nepean River at Emu and then began reckoning the mileage afresh, making it five miles ten chains to the first of his bridges at Glenroy – that “on the east branch of a river running to the east not yet names”. Cox lost little time in progressing. Without waiting for the passage down Mount York to be finished, which was not for nearly two weeks later, he began the road through the valley on December 5, and the following morning caravan, horse and bullock cart were shifted to the junction of the streams. Although previous examinations had been made here at Glenroy to find the best passage across the water, Cox this day, December 6, “examined the river and rivulet up and down, and fixed on a spot over each as being less trouble and more convenient than making one bridge over the river”. Progress on the five miles of valley road from the mountain to the river was such that by the evening of December 8 it was finished, the thin timber facilitating the work.
BRIDGE BUILDING AT GLENROY
Of the early bridges west of the blue Mountains, those at Glenroy were the first built. December 9, 1814, dawned fine there, with a west wind blowing. All hands were at work before breakfast at the bridge over the River Lett. At nine o’clock all hands were taken to the second bridge, that over Cox’s River above the junction, and before dinner one of the side pieces, forty-five feet long, was got about one hundred yards down the river and fixed in its place. The other side piece was got by falling a tree across the river, about sixty feet long, and securing it in position. After dinner the men were served with a gill of spirits. Several who seemed ‘inclined to give in and shirk work” were given a “reproof in earnest” which Cox thought would make them all well by the morning. Next day the bridge over the east branch was finished. It measured twenty-two feet long by thirteen feet wide, and the “carpenters, etc., made a good, strong job of it”. The remains of a bridge, possibly Cox’s, are still to be seen at this point on the River Lett, and the old road may be followed along a ridge leading down to it.
December 11 was a Sunday, and at 6 am six men were sent back to complete the road down the mountain while Cox himself rode forward, making for the Fish River, to examine the ground. Next day men were at work getting timber for the second bridge, and were obliged to bring most of it down the river by their own labour. Six of them who were in the water nearly all day were given a gill of spirits each. During the succeeding days while men worked well at the bridge and causeway leading to it, the pass at Mount York was nearing completion, and at one o’clock on December 15 it was reported finished. This marked the completion of the Blue Mountains section of the road made by Cox, and after inspection of the pass six married men were discharged and allowed to return to the Nepean. At two o’clock on December 16 the second bridge was finished. Measuring forty-five long by fourteen feet wide, it was a good, strong job, with a causeway on each side filled up with stone and covered with earth.