When early in 1816 a body of hostile natives “crossed the Blue or Western Mountains”, according to Macquarie, “from this side to the New discovered Country, and attacked and Plundered the Government Provision Depot established in the said Country” the Government stockmen as well as stockmen of private individuals were driven from the depot by the marauders. Macquarie therefore instructed Sergeant Jeremiah Murphy, remembered as the first depositor in the Bank of New South Wales, to proceed to Cox’s River with a detachment of the 46th Regiment and to remain thee for the protection of Government stockmen and cattle and provision depot, and to keep open communication between the coast and Bathurst. A guard was to mounted daily, consisting of a lance corporal and three privates, and one sentry both night and day was ordered to be posted over the arms and depot: moreover a couple of soldiers were to be detailed as convoys to Government stockmen whenever required by the overseer for the Government stock. An escort of three soldiers was to be provided for protection for Government herds or provisions travelling on the road. Murphy was strictly commanded on no account to allow natives nearer than sixty yards to the post, and to send, either handcuffed or with their hands tied with rope, any natives taken prisoner to the depot at Springwood, thence to Parramatta. While the actual outcome of these instructions, is not know, it is certain that military protection was established about this time on the ground at Glenroy.
EXPLORERS HALT AT COX’S RIVER
Under military protection, and with good grass and water, the still popular camping ground at Glenroy first achieved universal favour in the days of Macquarie. It marked the end of a day’s stage in the journey of travellers on the road, and many references are made to it in the writings of pioneers. On April 11, 1817, Oxley’s expedition to the interior pitched tent and camped on the bank of the river for the night. The botanist Allan Cunningham, who was of the party, noticed in the Vale of Clwydd “the very remarkable change of Country differing from that on the Mountains both in the Vegetable Productions and the nature of the Soil:. He gathered seeds and specimens of a shrubby aster with bluish white flowers.
On the banks of the river he found Grevillea acanthifolia and G. asplenifolia in great luxuriance. The afternoon was fine, with light clouds; there was heavy dew in the night, and a slight frost early next morning. At this time the depot and store-house were under the charge of a corporal and two privates. Five months later, in September, the returning explorers recrossed Cox’s River and halted near the depot for the night. The horse that carried part of the botanical collection fell in crossing the uneven rocky bottom of the river and gave Cunningham “abundance of employment in rescuing those of my plants from destruction that had suffered by the accident”. While on this journey he remarked that Banksia conifer [?] “which follows us from Bathurst to the foot of the Pass [Cox’s] is succeeded by Banksia serrata…on the summit of Mount York, and continues over the Blue Mountains…..”.
In December, 1818, a strange exploring party arrived at Glenroy. Sir John Jamison, of Regent Ville, near Penrith, sent his collector of natural specimens, Thomas Jones, with three aborigines, to follow the course of Cox’s River. They crossed the Blue Mountains by the usual route, and arrived at the depot “on the Vale of Clwydd, at the head of the Cox’s River”. Making this their starting point on December 13, 1818, they journeyed down the river with “the blue mountains a considerable distance to the eastward” during the early stages. They identified Cox’s River with the river Warragamba, and after an eventful journey reached Regent Ville on December 21.
FRENCHMEN REACH THE DEPOT AT MIDNIGHT
This newly settled continent held for European scientists an irresistible allure, rich as it was in unique fauna, and guarding a wealth of unclassified botanical, geological, marine and insect specimens. Among the first to realise the possibilities for research in virgin country, the French were encouraged and supported by their Government. In the early part of the 19th century several parties of French scientists sailed into Port Jackson, and as is the case today when world visitors arrive, excursions were made to the Blue Mountains and to the country beyond. In November, 1819, members of Freycinet’s expedition round the world were taken to Bathurst by William Lawson. Their journey was made in three stages from Regent Ville, the first one ending at Springwood, the second at the depot at Cox’s River, and the third at Bathurst. When these French tourists with Lawson reached Mount York it was long past nightfall, and after negotiating the headlong descent, whose depth and extent were invisible in the darkness, they found themselves at the end of a quarter of an hour in the marshy Vale of Clwydd. The solitudes were wrapped in the utter silence of the mild, still night. Not a word was spoken as they went forward singly, the rhythmic beat of the horses’ feet the only sound that broke the religious calm. The barking of dogs at midnight and the sound of a running stream heralded the approach of the military depot on the banks of Cox’s River. Here they spent the whole of the next day to rest their horses and to wait for their impedimenta. In their exploration of the neighbourhood they soon noticed the change in the geological nature of the country, which was of granite in contrast to the sandstone of the Blue Mountains, whose excessive dryness was succeeded by the agreeable freshness of the valley, watered as it was by several streams. Leaving Bathurst on the morning of December 5, it was again after midnight when these Frenchmen returned to the depot at Cox’s River. Everyone was astir very early the next morning and eager to view in daylight Mount York and the bold pass they had descended on the last night in November
COMMISSIONER BIGGE FROM LONDON SEEKS INFORMATION AT COX’S RIVER
John Thomas Bigge, sent to the colony as Commissioner of Inquiry, visited Bathurst in 1820. Evidence given on October 7, at Cox’s River, by corporal James Morland, showed that all men returning from Bathurst, whether Government or William Cox’s, were victualled there, the beef coming from Bathurst and the flour from Nepean, and the carters who brought it were victualled. According to Morland, the huts were very badly put up and were in constant need of repair. The local timber was poor. He stated also that he had taken twenty-five bushrangers in all, including thirteen who had recently attacked the post at Springwood. The detachment, totalling five, was occupied in forwarding letters and guarding Government carts of provisions to Bathurst, one of which arrived every five weeks. The bushrangers were captured by surprise, and the corporal examined every passing traveller he did not happen to know. He said it was a bad cattle river in the winter but good both winter and summer for sheep. Richard Lewis stated at Bathurst, on October 12, 1820, for the Commissioner’s information, that the bridge at Cox’s River ford had been carried away, while William Lawson told Bigge there ought to be a bridge
MACQUARIE PASSES BY AGAIN.
Glenroy saw Macquarie again in 1821, when in December, accompanied by Judge Advocate Wylde, he made a second tour to Bathurst before he left the colony after his long governorship. Cox’s River was reached on the afternoon of December 18, and the old camping ground taken up for the night. At six o’clock the following morning the party set out and crossed the river “at a very bad ford for wheeled carriages”. Travelling by tandem, they returned this way on Sunday, December 23, and encamped at the foot of Mount York.
"A TILTED CART, WITH MOTHER, MYSELF, AND SEVEN CHILDREN”
Officials and scientists were not the only travellers to record descriptions and impressions of the ground at Glenroy. Mrs. Elizabeth Hawkins has left a most interesting account. Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins, R.N., with his wife and eight children and his wife’s mother, Mrs. Lilly, arrived in Sydney from England in January, 1822, and the whole party set out on April 5 for Bathurst, which they reached safely seventeen days later.
The ages of the children ranged from one to twelve and a half years, while Mrs. Lilly was seventy. “We had a wagon with six bullocks”, wrote Mrs. Hawkins, “a dray with five, another dray with three horses, a cart with two, and last of all, a tilted cart, with mother, myself and seven children, with two horses. Hawkins and Tom rode on horseback.” A very good journey five miles beyond the foot of Mount York brought the party to the River Lett, where they descended the steep bank to the bridge. Unlike that over Cox’s River, it was still standing, although when there was much mountain rain it was impassable owing to water running over it. The Hawkins party got safely over and came to the camping ground.
“We had now reached the spot we had looked forward to from the time of leaving Emu as a place of rest”, wrote Mrs. Hawkins, “as here it is customary for all drivers of cattle and luggage to rest for a day or two, as there is good grass. We were all much fatigued.
In 1822 Mr. And Mrs. Hawkins spent a day at Cox’s River during an eighteen days’ journey from Sydney to Bathurst.
We pitched our tent in a field in front of the houses which was inhabited by a corporal and his wife. She was both clean and civil. Hearing of our coming, she had procured a bucket of milk, and never was anything more enjoyed.”
“In the evening Mr. Lowe, a Chief Magistrate, arrived, a traveller like ourselves. He commenced his journey in the morning but we remained. I took this opportunity of giving the children all a good washing and change of clothes. This, as the day was extremely sultry, and not a tree to shade us in the tent, made it, instead of a day of rest, one of great fatigue to me. Being all now so completely sick and tired of the journey, we decided on setting off the next morning, more particularly as the weather was showery, and from the season of the year heavy rain might be expected. We were reinforced by a cart and two horses from Bathurst, accompanied by Mr. Rile, as he had promised.”
“we again ascended our cart on the twenty-first [April, 1822]. We had been sitting for some time on the banks of the river [Cox’s] seeing the whole cavalcade cross, and when it came to our turn it was with many fears we entered the water nearly up to the horses’ bellies, and the bottom covered with large pieces of rock and stone, enough to overturn the cart and jolt us to death. A man offered to carry little Neddie over in his arms. With anxious eyes I watched him through fear his feet might slip and our darling boy have his head dashed against a stone. With talking, swearing, beating our poor bullocks, we got safe on the bank on the opposite side.”
After a toilsome journey over the hills of Clarence’s Hilly Range and those beyond the Fish River these settlers reached Bathurst on April 22, 1822.