John Swan, Mary Lowery & Margaret McKennell
John Swan was one of the first settlers at Patersons Plains. A native of Maiden in Kent, he was tried in 1803, transported for life and landed in New South Wales as a convict on the Coromandel in 1804. His wife Sarah and 12 year old son Richard remained in England. John was initially assigned in the Hawkesbury district where he became an experienced timber worker. In 1809 he was sent to Newcastle where his timber skills were put to good use.
In 1812 John Swan 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 John Swan (convict), John Reynolds (convict), John Tucker jnr (free), Benjamin Davis (convict) and George Pell (convict). John Tucker jnr initially settled on land allowed to his father.
John Swan took up his land on the west bank of the river at Patersons Plains in 1812 and named his farm 'Lemon Grove'. His land was immediately north of Old Banks (see map). Swan delivered his farm's produce to the store in Newcastle and by 1813 sold surplus produce in Sydney.
Above: John Swan's land on the Paterson River.
Above: newspaper report of the drowning of Mary Swan (Lowrey) in 1821.
When Swan moved to his farm at Patersons Plains he took with him a partner, Mary Lowrey, and their son John Allen who had been born in Newcastle in 1811. Mary Lowrey (or Lowrie) had arrived in New South Wales on the William Pitt in 1806 with a life sentence following a conviction in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1803. John and Mary married Mary in 1818, by which time they had five children - Mary born in 1813, Sarah in 1815 and twins Jane and Stephen born in 1818. In January 1821 John's wife Mary and son Stephen were drowned near Newcastle harbour.
Above: Margaret McKennell's trial in the Old Bailey on 15 September 1813.
In 1822 John married Margaret McKennell, a convict who had arrived in New South Waleson the Broxbornebury in 1814 following a seven year sentence at the Old Bailey in London in 1813 for theft (trial proceedings). In 1820 Margaret was further convicted by the Court of Criminal Jurisdiction in Sydney for receiving jewellery and silk handkerchiefs stolen from the warehouse of Simeon Lord. She was sentenced to seven years in the penal settlement at Newcastle (her original sentence expired while she was in custody for the colonial incident) and this is how she came to meet John Swan.
John Swan received a conditional pardon in November 1821, and it appears he had not previously gained a ticket of leave (a 'ticket' was the usual first step towards emancipation for a convict serving a life sentence).
By the end of 1822 John Swan had cleared 55 acres and planted 35 acres of wheat and a small area of maize and barley. He had 2 horses and 21 hogs. According to Dangar's survey in early 1823, Swan and his family lived in a wattle and plaster hut and his farm improvements consisted of a log and thatched barn, stables, sheds and huts. It is interesting that Dangar valued the barn at £20 but Swan's residence at only £3.
By 1828 John Swan had cleared 70 acres of his 100 acre farm at Lemon Grove, and was running 22 cattle and 12 goats. He was assisted on the farm by five convicts assigned to him. Swan was keen to retain his farm at Patersons Plains despite attempts by the Church and School Corporation to remove or relocate him.
In 1832 Swan was appointed pound keeper at Patersons Plains, succeeding Ralph Mills Clarke. John Swan died at Lemon Grove in 1833 aged 64. The first title deeds to his farm were eventually issued to the trustees of his estate. The size was set at 180 acres, comprising the original 100 acre grant plus 80 acres of lagoon. After John's death his son Richard travelled from England with his second wife and 9 children to live at Lemon Grove, and Swan descendants held the estate until the 1950s. An old private burying ground on the farm holds about 14 interments of family members.
Notes and references
2. Walsh, Brian. European Settlement at Paterson River 1812 to 1822. Paterson: Paterson Historical Society, 2012.
5. The Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674 to 1913 (on-line).
- An overview of settlement at Patersons Plains up to the end of 1821.
- Coote, SR 250 Years of Swan Family History. Gunnedah, 1985.
- Hook, Elizabeth. Journey to a New Life - the Story of the Ships Emu in 1812 and Broxbornebury in 1814. Minto, 2000 (book) & 2006 (CD).