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Paterson River history

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Benjamin Davis & Eleanora McGraw

Benjamin Davis was one of the first settlers at Patersons Plains. Tried in 1802 in Warwick (England), he was transported for life and landed in New South Wales as a convict on the Coromandel in 1804.[1] About 1806 Davis went to Newcastle to act as an overseer, probably to a gang of convict timbercutters, and was promised emancipation for undertaking this role.[2]

In 1812 Benjamin Davis joined a team of timber cutters sent to procure a special order of Hunter Valley cedar logs. As reward for a job well done, Governor Macquarie permitted five of these men to establish small farms of their own in the lower Hunter Valley. They were Benjamin Davis (convict), John Reynolds (convict), John Swan (convict), John Tucker jnr (free), and George Pell (convict). John Tucker jnr initially settled on land allowed to his father.

They were the first European settlers outside the Sydney basin. Davis took up land on the west bank of the Paterson River, south of Old Banks (see map).

In 1821 Davis received a conditional pardon[3] and in 1822 he married Eleanora McGraw/McGrath[4] after obtaining government permission to do so.[5] Eleanora had been sent as a prisoner to the penal settlement in Newcastle in 1811[6] as punishment for a colonial misdemeanor. The ship and cirumstances of her arrival in New South Wales prior to her banishment to Newcastle are unclear, with conflicting indications in the records.[7][8]

Davis' farm

Davis' farm on the west bank of Paterson River at Patersons Plains, superimposed on a satellite image.

By 1822 Davis had cleared 27 acres of his block and planted 12 acres of wheat. He was running 32 cattle and a few pigs, but he is recorded as not residing on the block.[9] Dangar's survey in 1823 indicated there was a wattle and plaster cottage on the block along with a barn and huts. Dangar remarked that all of Davis' land was inundated.[10] Davis' land does not appear among the farms at Patersons Plains as finally surveyed and he did not gain title to it. It became part of William Evans' block Bellevue.

By 1828 Benjamin and Ellen's ages were recorded as 48 and 49 respectively, and they were living on 320 acres in the Wallis Plains (Maitland) area, which was probably the land granted to him in 1825.[11]

Notes and references

1. Convict shipping indents, 4/4004 [fiche 631] p193, SRNSW.

2. Walsh, Brian. European Settlement at Paterson River 1812 to 1822. Paterson: Paterson Historical Society, 2012.

3. Conditional Pardon 28 November 1821, 4/4430 [reel 774], 184, SRNSW.

4. NSW on-line index to births, deaths and marriages, references V18222939 3B/1822 & V182220 9/1822.

5. CS 4/3504A [reel 6008], p.241, SRNSW. Listed as Elleonora McGraw.

6. CS 4/3492 [reel 6003], p.50, SRNSW. Listed as McGra.

7. In the 1823-25 muster Davis' wife is listed as Eleanor McCarthy alias Eleanor Donnell. Baxter, Carol (ed.). General Muster List of New South Wales 1823, 1824, 1825. Sydney: Australian Biographical and Genealogical Record, 1999.

8. In the 1828 census she is listed as Ellen Davis, an emancipated convict who arrived on the Rolla in 1809. [Unfortunately the Rolla arrived in 1803 and she is not listed as one of convicts on it]. Sainty MR and KA Johnston (eds). Census of New South Wales 1828. Library of Australian History, 2008 (revised edition on CD).

9. Baxter, Carol (ed.). General Muster and Land and Stock Muster of New South Wales 1822. Australian Biographical and Genealogical Record, 1988.

10. Hunter, Cynthia. The Settlers of Paterson's Plains. Paterson: Paterson Historical Society, 1997.

11. Census of New South Wales 1828 as cited in 8 above. The index to the Colonial Secretary's papers indicates Davis received orders for a grant of land in November 1825.

External links

Index to the NSW Colonial Secretary's papers. There are several papers listed for Benjamin Davis and also for 'MAGRATH, Eleanor'.

See also

An overview of settlement at Patersons Plains up to the end of 1821.

Further research needed

  • Further information on Ellen/Elleanora McGraw/McGrath, particulary her circumstances of arrival in the colony.