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Paterson River history

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William Evans & Mary Ann Kirk


William Evans was the sixth European to take up land at Patersons Plains (the first five were John Swan, John Reynolds, John Tucker jnr, Benjamin Davis and George Pell). Born in Wales in 1779, Evans trained as a medical practitioner in London before sailing to New South Wales as Surgeon Superintendent on a convict ship, the Indispensable, in 1809.

In 1811 Evans was appointed Colonial Assistant Surgeon at the penal settlement of Newcastle and moved there with his wife Mary Ann (nee Kirk) who had arrived in Sydney from Britain a few months before his Newcastle appointment (they had married in London in 1808).[1]

In 1813 Governor Macquarie gave William Evans permission to occupy 100 acres of land at Patersons Plains. Evans' established his farm on the west bank of the Paterson River to the south of Benjamin Davis' block (see map for details).[2] Evans continued to live and work in Newcastle.

In 1817 Evans' left hand was severely injured by the accidental explosion of a gun, and at one stage Evans thought it might require amputation but managed to keep it. He returned to duty at Newcastle although the injury restricted his ability to practice. In mid 1822 he retired and took up residence on his farm at Patersons Plains.

On his farm by the end of 1822 Evans had cleared 68 acres and planted 30 acres of wheat. He had 32 cattle and 170 sheep.[3] According to Dangar's survey in early 1823, Evans and his family lived in a log and stone cottage and his farm improvements consisted of a log and thatched barn, pig sties and a peach orchard.[4]

Just prior to retirement Evans had requested his 100 acre farm be converted to a land grant of 1,000 acres. His request was successful and Evans' grant was finalised in 1825 as 1,070 acres that he named Bellevue. His enlarged grant included the land previously held by Benjamin Davis and George Pell (see the 1812-18 map).

Evan's land grant

Above: Evan's land grant on the Paterson River. See also the district map c1830.

By 1828 Evans had cleared 310 acres, cultivated 127 acres and was running 134 cattle and 104 sheep. His age in 1828 was recorded as 48 and Mary Ann's as 40. Residing at Bellevue with them were their son William aged 16 and daughter Sarah aged 14. They were assisted on the farm by 11 convicts assigned to the estate.[5]

Mary Ann died in 1852 at the age of 72 and is buried at Campbells Hill, Maitland. William died in 1860 at Bellevue at the age of 80 and is also buried at Campbells Hill.

Bellevue Homestead c2002

Above: the old Bellevue Homestead, photographed c2002 by David Brouwer.

Notes and references

1. Elizabeth Guilford, "Dr. William Evans: Colonial Surgeon and Settler", in Early Newcastle - The Fettered and the Free. Newcastle: Newcastle Family History Society, 2005.

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

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

4. As cited in The Settlers of Patersons Plains (see 2 above).

5. Sainty MR and KA Johnston (eds). Census of New South Wales 1828. Library of Australian History, 2008 (revised edition on CD).

External links

Index to the NSW Colonial Secretary's papers. There are several papers listed for William Evans (per Indispensable, 1809).

See also

  • Guilford, Elizabeth. "From Convict's Surgeon to Settler: The Life and Times of Dr. William Evans", Journal of Hunter Valley History 2, no.2 (1988): 50-86.
  • An overview of settlement at Patersons Plains up to the end of 1821.