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Paterson River history

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The 1,300 acre property "Clifden" was intended to extend John Galt Smith's "Woodville" estate. In late 1823 he received permission to purchase Crown land additional to his "Woodville grant. Consequently in July 1825 a land warrant authorised him to purchase 1,300 acres made up of 600 acres adjoining "Woodville" and 700 acres to the northeast of it.[1]. Loch Goyle separated the two Clifden blocks. The 600 acre Clifden block shared a boundary with Albion Farm.

John Galt Smith paid a £32 deposit and took possession of the 1,300 acres, leaving the balance of the purchase price owing to government. That's where he came unstuck, and he never became "Clifden's" owner. In 1842 the colonial administration finally realised he had not paid and they swung into action.

In early 1843 the Crown Solicitor began legal proceedings against John Galt Smith to recover the amount owing plus interest. In mid 1843 Smith proposed that his brother Jones Agnew Smith, who was based in Melbourne, could pay for it. In April 1844 the Colonial Treasurer advised the Colonial Secretary that Jones Agnew Smith had paid the debt in full, consisting of £325 as the original price of the land and a further £392 in interest accrued since 1825.

John Galt Smith requested the deeds be made out to his brother who had recently moved from Melbourne to Morpeth. Jones Agnew Smith advised government that he intended to name the property "Clifden". The deeds were issued to Jones in July 1844.[2]

Clifden's 600 and 700 acres

Clifden consisted of a 600 acre and 700 acre block. The southern boundary of the 600 acres joined the Woodville estate across the Maitland to Seaham Road (now Clarence Town Road). The road is shown in brown.

Clifden in Butterwick Parish

Clifden comprised lots 52 and 54 in Butterwick Parish. Most of lot 52 was swamp and originally part of Lake Paterson (colouring and "Lake Paterson" label digitally added).

Jones Agnew Smith

Jones Agnew Smith was born in 1800 at Woodville House in Belfast, Ireland, one of eleven children of Samuel Smith and Letitia Bradish. Samuel Smith was engaged in the linen trade and owned the well known "White Rock Bleach Green" near Belfast. "His business was extensive, and he had a number of apprentices ... many years the Smiths were in affluent circumstances, with every comfort, a fine farm, a carriage".[3]

Woodville House Belfast 1860s

1860s map showing Woodville House in Belfast where Jones Agnew Smith was born in 1800.

Jones Agnew Smith was educated at the Belfast Academy before settling in Bolton, Lancashire, where he was involved in the cotton industry and officiated as Borough-Reeve (chief municipal officer) of the town. In June 1840 he sailed for Australia on the Eagle and arrived at Port Phillip in September that year.

Jones Agnew Smith

Jones Agnew Smith (1800-1886). Photo courtesy of Robert and Elaine Wade.

He settled first at Melbourne, taking up a post with Willis & Co. merchants, also acting as agent for Lloyd's of London and a trustee for the Savings Bank of Port Phillip. While in Melbourne he was appointed a Justice of the Peace and Magistrate. He relocated to Morpeth in 1844 at the time he became owner of "Clifden".[4]

Jones Agnew Smith married Ellen Crompton at St Paul's, Paterson in 1846. He had met Ellen in England and their three sons were born before they married (Thomas in 1841, Edward Jones Agnew in 1843 and Samuel in 1845). His daughters were born in 1848 and 1849.[5]

Jones Agnew Smith sailed from Melbourne to Sydney on the new iron steamship Shamrock in late February or early March 1844. He was living at Morpeth in May 1844 when he called for tenders to make 100,000 bricks (a large quantity for a homestead – perhaps he also intended to build brick stables, barn and coach house).[6]

Jones and Ellen Smith and their growing family moved into residence at Clifden in the mid 1840s. One mention in the press in 1847 referred to their "dwelling house at Clifden" and another in 1847 to their "residence Clifden near Cooley Camp".[7] Their new residence, now demolished, stood in the southwest corner of the west Clifden block, on Clarence Town Road at approximate GPS 32° 40.522'S, 151° 37.017'E.[7a]

Jones Agnew Smith was appointed by the NSW Governor as a member of the Paterson District Council (an early form of local government) in 1846 and was reappointed to the position several times over the next 10 years.[8] He was also reappointed a Justice of the Peace and honorary magistrate, and he sat on Maitland Bench and Maitland Circuit Court on many occasions.[9]

To make his land more productive, Jones engaged a gang to drain Lake Paterson, the extensive lagoon that covered much of western Clifden and Albion Farm. "This lagoon, of significance to Aboriginal culture, was one of their favourite fishing places, abounding in huge eels which they caught regularly".[10]

In 1850 Jones decided to lease much of his land to tenants rather than farm in his own right. In February 1850 he advertised the 700 acre block "East Clifden" for lease and in December that year he advertised "a few good farms, of 15 to 30 acres each" for lease at Clifden. So successful was Smith's drainage of Lake Paterson that a number of tenant farmers on west Clifden "for many years grew immense crops, especially maize, which in some instances reached to 100 bushels per acre".[11]

The good seasons and Jones' prosperity were not to last. Between 1857 to 1864 the Paterson district was plagued by a series of floods and wet seasons caused by a prolonged La Niña weather pattern.[12] Although now drained, most of west Clifden was swamp land that originally formed the biggest part of Lake Paterson. In floods and wet season, much of west Clifden went under water and became unusable for agriculture. When his happened, Jones Agnew Smith's tenant farmers could not pay their rents and Smith could obtain little income from his land.

In 1856 he mortgaged the whole of Clifden to obtain a loan of £3,000 at 10 per cent interest per annum, but was unable to meet interest payments which by 1861 exceeded £1,250. The lender, William McQuade of Sydney, began legal proceedings to foreclose the mortgage but in December 1861 he and Jones Agnew Smith agreed to settle out of court. Jones voluntarily surrendered Clifton in exchange for release from the mortgage and a payment to Jones of £100.[13] He had lost Clifden due to La Niña, Lake Paterson and debt.

In July 1876 McQuade sold all of Clifden's 1,300 acres to John Graham who was living there at the time, probably leasing before purchase. The price was £3,500, which was only a partial recoup of losses for McQuade arising from his loan to Jones Agnew Smith.[14] John Graham was still living at Clifden in 1892.[15]

From Clifden to Carrington, Port Stephens

In the 1860s Jones Agnew Smith and family moved to Carrington at Port Stephens. Carrington was established in 1826 as the first settlement of the Australian Agricultural Company and was virtually abandoned in 1834 when the Company moved its headquarters to Stroud. In 1849 the Company tried to attract small farmers to the Port Stephens estate. In the 1850s the Company auctioned small lots at Carrington, but with little success and by 1856 the planned settlement was almost a ruins.

When Jones Agnew Smith and family settled at Carrington in the 1860s he "bought several town allotments. His son, Jones Agnew Smith, bought all remaining unsold lots in 1905 and later acquired both Carrington Cottage and the Watchhouse land".[16] Jones jnr began oyster farming at Carrington, Port Stephens, taking out his first official lease of 600 yards in 1886.[17] He built an oyster shed on the land north of the Watchhouse site. The business remained in the family until it closed in World War II.

Plan of Carrington, Port Stephens 1908

Plan of Carrington, Port Stephens 1908 showing the extensive land holdings of Jones Agnew Smith jnr.

Ellen, the wife of Jones Agnew Smith snr, died at Carrington in 1878, followed by her husband in 1886. They are buried in Carrington cemetery.[18]

Headstone of Jones Agnew Smith snr and Ellen

Headstone of Jones Agnew Smith snr and Ellen in Carrington cemetery (photo: Australian Cemeteries Index).

After the death of Ellen and Jones Agnew snr, four of their now adult children continued to live together at Carrington and in time became the sole residents of the historic spot. They were Thomas, Jones Agnew jnr, Mary Ann and Letitia. "The ruins and foundations of the old settlement stand around their lonely little home". Jones Agnew jnr never married. He died at Carrington in 1930 and was buried in the Carrington cemetery. He was survivided by his two sisters and his then 89 year-old brother Thomas.[19]

Headstone of four of the five children

Memorial in Carrington cemetery to four of the five children (photo: Australian Cemeteries Index).


1. NSW Colonial Secretary's correspondence, 2/1925 page 20, SRNSW. Re 1823 warrant – NSW Government Gazette 1844 page 979.

2. NSW Colonial Secretary's correspondence, 2/7973 letters received re land, SRNSW.

3. Written by a great grandaughter of Samuel Smith in the Londonderry Sentinel 06 March 1954 [thanks to Jackie Hewitt for transcription in 2020]. See also – The Smith Family of Belfast and Tingha by Robert Wade.

4. Re departure and arrival – "The Smith Family of Belfast and Tingha by Robert Wade, pages 93-96. Obituary – Maitland Mercury 31 July 1886 page 4. Re Trustee of Savings Bank, Justice of Peace and magistrate – NSW Government Gazette 1844 pages 244, 301 & 447.

5. For a detailed explanation of the family situation see The Smith Family of Belfast and Tingha by Robert Wade. Edward Jones Agnew Smith II was born 28 November 1843 and baptised at St James, Sydney on 9 May 1844 – NSW birth 1843/388 vol. 28. NSW Index of births, deaths and marriages: marriage 543/1846 vol.31c, early church code NM (C of E, Houghton); birth of Mary A, 2693/1848; birth of Letitia 2617/1849.

6. The Smith Family of Belfast and Tingha by Robert Wade, page 120. Maitland Mercury, 11 May 1844 page 3.

7. Maitland Mercury, 14 April 1847 page 2 and 17 April 1847 page 3.

7a. My thanks to Robert Wade for identifying the location of the homestead in his book The Smith Family of Belfast and Tingha page 123.

8. Maitland Mercury, 6 June 1846 page 4, 9 August 1848 page 4, 12 July 1851 page 4, 7 June 1854 page 4.

9. Maitland Mercury, 20 October 1851 page 4 and 7 July 1857 page 4.

10. Writings of Harry Boyle from a feature on Woodville in the Maitland Mercury, courtesy of Elisabeth Smark.

11. Maitland Mercury, 20 February 1850 page 3, 4 December 1850 page 3, 31 July 1886 page 4.

12. pers. comm., Cameron Archer.

13. NSW Old Systems land title document, book 76, number 37.

14. NSW Old Systems land title document, book 162, number 206.

15. Maitland Mercury, 5 November 1892 page 7.

16. Damaris Bairstow, Carrington Watchhouse, Report to the Heritage Council of New South Wales, 1988.

17. NSW Government Gazette 1886 page 1383.

18. Maitland Mercury, 14 May 1878 page 1 and 1 July 1886 page 1.

19. Raymond Terrace Examiner, 17 April 1930, page 3.


Robert Wade, The Smith Family of Belfast and Tingha, self-published, 2019.