Wollombi is an administration and economic centre with its own courthouse and resident police magistrate. In the 1850s, the population rises to 1500, Cessnock is between 7 and 11 (Crago 1979:38). Mills are established at Wollombi, Millford, Ellalong and Broke (Hoipo 2004:6).

William Bird (“Little Breeches) is educated and baptised by Rev Threlkeld at his mission on Lake Macquarie. In 1840, “Little Breeches” assists to track and capture a gang of bushrangers (possibly the Jewboy gang). Threlkeld recommends him for a “plate with a suitable inscription”. (29 December 1840, Threlkelds letter to Colonial Secretary). After the mission is closed, William Bird works for the Eckford family in East Maitland who support his application to purchase some land. He later works on sheep and cattle stations in the Goondiwindi region in Queensland, marries an English woman with whom he shares children. During 1861, William Bird creates a stir by lodging his fourth application to purchase land. He owns 200 head of cattle. Squatter, Jacob Lowe, complains before the Native Police inquiry. A supporter endorses his application in the press, stating he is well educated, has business talent and honest. Entitled “William Bird, the Aboriginal “Squatter”, the news feature poses the question: should such a man be refused to purchase land because he is an “Aboriginal native”? (Brisbane Courier, 12 November 1861, p3).

The numbers of recorded Aborigines in Brisbane Water District are: 35 men, 12 women, 9 boys, 4 girls: totalling 60. (Blair, 2003, 45)

Aboriginal people move away from Threlkeld’s mission and “come in” to Newcastle. They find work that suits their interests: some work in fishing, as water carriers, messengers, servants, and on board the numerous vessels. Many who became “good horsemen” at Threlkeld’s mission, go to work for other people. Two “lads” track and pursue with the “horse police” a gang of bushrangers who plunder the Brisbane Water district in a daring manner (possibly the Jewboy gang). (Threlkeld’s 1840 report, courtesy of Carl Hoipo, Wollombi Historical Society)

Threlkeld observes that Aboriginal families and tribes within the Brisbane Water district move to areas where the Europeans have not yet reached to prevent white men taking Aboriginal women from their own people by “force, fraud and bribery”, which leads to “bitterness among the aboriginal men”. (Courtesy of Carl Hoipo, Wollombi Historical Society)

22 single blankets are distributed to the Wollombi tribe. (Returns for Aborigines, courtesy of Wollombi Historical Society)

The Wollombi “tribe” from the highlands of the Hunter River catchment visit the coastal catchment as friends of the sea-side and lakes “tribe”. (Ford p79)

Threlkeld records the language spoken by the “Aborigines in the vicinity of Hunter River, Lake Macquarie etc”. He prints some of them during 1850. Many of his recordings are re-printed as the language spoken by “the Awabakal, the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie” during the 1890s. (Threlkeld, Aboriginal Language spoken by the Aborigines in the Vicinity of Hunter River, Lake Macquarie etc, 1850; Threlkeld, An Awabakal-English Lexicon to the Gospel according to St Luke, 1892; Fraser, ed. An Australian Language: As Spoken by the Awabakal, the People of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (near Newcastle, New South Wales); Being an Account of Their Language, Traditions and Customs by L E Threlkeld, 1892)

The Story of Bonrabare (Little Dick) (c1810 – post-1840) Bonrabare was known to the officials in the Brisbane Water area prior to his capture for crimes committed in 1834. In April 1831, the magistrate recorded that Little Dick lived in the district of Brisbane Water. It was known that in 1835 Bonrabare was about 25 years old and had a wife and two sons. Bonrabare, “Monkey” and “Charley Myrtle” were apprehended in early 1835 and sent to Sydney Gaol. Bonrabare was tried in Sydney. He and several other Aborigines were arraigned for burglary in the dwelling of Mr Alfred Hill Jaques of Brisbane Water and taking there from tea, sugar, beef and sundry wearing apparel. Rev Threlkeld acted as interpreter and Messrs Therry and Poole acted as their Advocates. The trial was held before Justice Burton on 11 February 1835. Defendants were: Little Dick, Whip-em-up, Monkey, Charley Muscle, Little Freeman, Leggamy, Major, Currinbong Jemmy, and Tom Jones. Jaques gave the principal evidence. He said that three groups of Aborigines joined together throwing stones and a spear, he presented his fowling piece (small gun) at them, and the spear hit Rust, a convict. Jaques stated he thought there were about 60 Aborigines in the first group and around 20 to 30 joined later. Witnesses said identification was difficult because the men were sometimes called by the place where they were born, and sometimes by the place where they reside, they looked alike and had changed since the time of events. Notwithstanding, Whip-em-up, Monkey, Currinbong Jemmy and Tom Jones were found guilty.

Little Dick, Charley Muscle, Little Freeman, Leggamy and Major were found not guilty. Bonrabare (Little Dick) appeared in another trial on the same day. This time he was convicted of burglary in the dwelling of J Bloodsworth of Duralong, Brisbane Water and “putting in fear” William Barden. Little Dick was found guilty of stealing sugar, tea, gunpowder, two waistcoats, two shirts, one jacket and flour or soap. He received a sentence of death recorded, which usually meant a sentence of transportation for life. The convicted Aborigines were confined on Goat Island in Sydney Harbour where they cut stone and received some education in English and Christian Religion. After completing his sentence, Bonrabare returned to Brisbane Water. His name appears on the Return of Aboriginal Natives taken in May 1840. (Blair, 2003, 57-58).

The Story of Kendagah (“Little Jack”) (c1811 – 1840?) What is known about “Little Jack” is derived mostly from the “Returns of Aboriginal Natives” taken at Brisbane Water. Little Jack is first listed as living in the district in 1831. His Aboriginal name is not listed, nor whether he is married. Returns for 1835, 1837, 1839 and 1840 reveal that Kendagah was married between 1831 and 1835 and he and his unnamed wife had one son, born around 1841. Kendagah’s name was spelled various ways as Magistrates struggled to render Aboriginal names into English equivalents. Kendagah was involved in robberies during 1834. It is not known if he was apprehended and charged. His name did not appear on lists of men tried before the courts in 1835. (Blair, 2003, 69).

1840c Biraban and Aboriginal Honour. On points of honour, Biraban is very sensitive. One day he tells Threlkeld that he must go to “stand my punishment as a man of honor, though I have done no wrong”. Biraban is responding to a “hostile message” he receives from an offended party via an elderly woman. Biraban accepts the “daring challenge”. The weapons are named (cudgel, shield and spear) and the time is appointed. One day when the sun is one quarter high on a plain near Threlkeld’s mission, messengers are despatched to gather in distant tribes who light signal-fires on mountain-tops to announce their approach to witness the affair of honor. The tribes assemble and an explanation ensues. As is the custom, Biraban) stoops to offer his head for the offended party to strike him with his weapon. He rises shaking blood from his bushy hair, his opponent fairly and honourably bends forward his own head, and presents it in return to receive his blow. This reciprocally continues until assembled parties and combatants are satisfied. Should either strike dishonourably (any other way than on the fairly offered cranium) a shower of well-directed spears is sent against the cowardly assailant who breaches the laws of honor. An evening dance and supper of game peacefully terminates the business of the day.

1840c Biraban and his wife Patty dance at Lake Macquarie. Biraban, Patty with many other Aborigines dance on a moonlight night on Threlkeld’s mission on Lake Macquarie. Preparing for the midnight dance around the “mystic ring” lit by numerous fires, Biraban and Patty reciprocally rouge each other’s cheek with pigment of their own preparing, and impart fairness to their sable skin on the neck and forehad with the purest pipeclay, until their countenances beam with delight at each other’s charms. They lay the garments of the day aside and dance. (Threlkeld, 1850, 89).

David Dunlop officially recognises Boni (Potembo) – like officials in the Hawkesbury recognised Yaragowhy and Yellomundy – as a local “chief”. Dunlop reports: “I have nominated one chief of the Wollombi and given him a [breast] plate”. Dunlop may have also bestowed a breastplate gorget on “Jetto, King of the Wallumbi”, whose breastplate is now in the Australian Museum in Sydney. (Ford)

“King Boni” or “Chief Boni”s Story Boney was born circa 1832 near the Clarence River. His parents are unknown but his wife was a “gin named Old Mary” (Boney’s death certificate). In 1880 he was mentioned in an assault case of Jimmy “King of Patrick Plains” against his wife Mary. Boney worked and received rations at “Lilburndale” near Sackville Reach during July 1883. It is possible that he was “King Boni” from a sub-clan of the Darkinung who lived near Wollombi and was said to be “an immense good natured black”. He died on 17 February 1902 at the “Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville”. He was buried in Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney four months after his body was despatched to the “Anatomical College, Sydney” for medical experimentation. There was apparently no known family to give permission for Boney’s body to be so used. (Brook, 1st edit, 54).

1840s Wallati retires to Moon Island at the entrance to Lake Macquarie where local Aborigines understand his speech. Rev Threlkeld observes that Wallatu’s language is part of a larger language family comprising Darkinjung, Awabakal and Wonnarua dialects. Of Wallati, Threlkeld observed shortly after his death:“This very individual, Wullati, or as the white folk used to call him, Wollaje…lived near to our establishment, he was esteemed highly by the tribes and in an increasing ratio as they were nigh or more distant from this individual. No doubt he formed the delightful subject of the evening Soirees, and also of their midnight dreams. He favoured me several times with his company, and perhaps thought it an honor when he made proposals to me for the matrimonial alliance with one of the members of my family, much to the amusement of us all. He was a very old, thin, small headed, bald man, of a most cheerful disposition, with a smile always on his countenance, except in the presence of strangers; and whenever he came to our tribe, his company was much enjoyed, an evening feast was provided, and the choicest tit-bits were set before the toothless guest. Oft were his gibes wont to set their table, on the green grass, in a roar of laughter, and their festive board, generally the bark of a tree, was enlivened before it ended in the midnight hour with his song and dance, assisted with his own voice and Musical accompaniment of two sticks, beating time to the divine inspiration of the sacred muse. The following song composed by Wullati, translated and published, some years ago by Mrs E.H. Dunlop, is an excellent specimen of the Poetry of the Aborigines, and ought not to be lost, though the Poet…is no more. (Waugh, Waugh’s Australian Almanac, 1858, 70-72; O’Leary, “Giving the Indigenous a Voice”, 2009, 91)


After the military’s sweep of the Hawkesbury, the Aboriginal population of the region never again resisted the white occupiers of their land in force. The remnants banded together in four small groups where they subsisted by living on bush tucker, fish and occasional meals from white settlers. Aborigines tended to live in quiet seclusion 1840-1880.

(1) The principal camp in 1840s was near Windsor at the confluence of South Creek and Eastern Creek.

Others were

(2) Blacktown,

(3) On the northern side of the Hawkesbury: North Richmond tribe or Belmont tribe at North Richmond on land granted to Lieutenant Archibald Bell. His father had been on the committee of the 'native institution' from 1819 and chief police magistrate in the Windsor area 1820. Like his father, Archibald Bell was a magistrate at Patrick's Plains (Singleton) in 1842.

(4) Downstream of Windsor, Sackville Reach. The Barber family was the prominent group. Eventually members of all four communities intermarried. (Brooks, 1st edit, 12).

Bumba (“Bumea”) of the Belmont Tribe, North Richmond is aged 26 years and has one wife. He belongs to the Richmond tribe. But two “Bombis” appear in the 1838 returns – one for Richmond and one for Putty. (Brook, 1st edit, 57).

“King” Deniheny or Duimberry (Billy Green) is affiliated with the Putty tribe (previously the Belmont Tribe, North Richmond).

Threlkeld laments the closure of his mission,`the termination of the mission has arisen solely from the Aborigines becoming extinct in these districts ... The thousands of Aborigines ... decreased to hundreds and have lessened to tens and the tens will dwindle to units before a very few years they will have passed away'.

Jetto appears in the “blanket lists” for Wollombi “tribe” (25 yo). He is designated as “King Jetto”. (Ford p80)

18 single blankets of inferior size and quality are issued for Wollombi. (David Dunlop’s response to Government questionnaire on Aborigines, courtesy of Wollombi Historical Society)

Returns of Aboriginal Tribes in the Hunter Valley record 232 Aboriginal people: These returns indicate that Aboriginal clan groups are dispersing as members gravitate towards different settlements and homesteads:

74 of the “Yarrundi Tribe” reside at Scone,

5 of the “Nana Tribe” at Murrurundi,

1 of the “Castle Forbes Tribe” at Castle Forbes,

22 of the “Patrick’s Plains Tribe” at Singleton,

16 of the “Falbrook Tribe” at Bridgman,

6 of the Falbrook Tribe” at Tookle,

1 of the Falbrook Tribe” at Carmel,

7 of the Falbrook Tribe at St Clair, 19 of the “Wollumbi Tribe” at Wollumbi,

21 of the “Glen Tribe” at Glendon,

15 of the “Patrick’s Plains Tribe” at Glendon,

15 of the “Patrick’s Plains Tribe” at Dulwich,

15 of the “Patrick’s Plains Tribe” at Patrick’s Plains,

15 of the “Patrick’s Plains Tribe” at Wollombi. (Summary of Blanket List returns, in Lucas 47-48)

Returns of Aboriginal Tribes in the Hawkesbury/Lower Hunter districts during 1839 record 19 Aboriginal people:

14 of the “Lower Branch Tribe” [Macdonald River]

5 of the “Putty Tribe” (Summary of Blanket List returns, Jillian Barnes courtesy of Jim Kohen)

Aboriginal anxiety in northern Hunter. Some “natives enquire most anxiously for their blankets” at Stroud. Dungog Magistrate, Thomas Cook, expresses fear that the large number of Aboriginal people in the district – who are without exception quiet and harmless – will get “discontented”. (Aboriginal report, courtesy Wollombi Historical Society).

Members of the Maitland Tribe seek and are given asylum at Singleton from the “Paterson blacks” who are at war with them. (Sydney Herald 1841, in Lucas 37).

December 31. Threlkeld’s mission is officially closed. Threlkeld continues to sit on committees for the welfare of the Aboriginals and to attend the police courts on behalf of Aboriginal defendants. (ADB) Threlkeld later explains that the mission is closed “solely from the sad fact that the aborigines themselves had then become almost extinct…(Threlkeld 1857 in Ford 337)

An account of early customs pertaining to Hawkesbury district: Sam Boughton in Hawkesbury Herald in 1903 recollects that during the “early forties” there was a “blackfellows corroboree held in a paddock opposite a cottage then owned by Mrs Onus at Richmond” He remembered witnessing a fight there with “boomerangs and waddies flying, cracked skulls and blood flowing” and was told it was “a way they had” of showing a friendly feeling “towards each other”. Some of the principle people were Stevy, Emery, Cocky, Whoolaboy, George Merican, Billy Green and Bumba. George Merican and Billy Green were both known as “Kings”. Bumba was the last of the Belmont, North Richmond Tribe. (Brook, 1st edit, 20).


Eliza Henrietta Lock born in Liverpool dies 1919 at Wallsend.

A watercolour of “Cumboo Billy Good-Day” of Patrick's Plains is painted by portrait artist Nicholas William. Nicholas attracts patronage from the colony's social and professional elite. This portrait bears some resemblance to earlier works of “Cambo” at Segenoe by both Thomas Mitchell (1835) and WR Govett (1840). (see Mitchell and Govett at for 1831)

The relative peace that existed in the Brisbane Water District for around five years after the court cases did not last forever. The Sydney Gazette reported in early 1842: “There has been some little disturbance with the blacks here, a few days back”. It appears that: Ten or twelve Aborigines – including Quart Pot, Billy Boy and Jackey Nerang – were found entering a hut on Mr Heley’s “estate”. Six were bound, taken into custody and removed to East Gosford. When Quart Pot came across Heley in the township, he knocked him down while giving the “war cry of his tribe” to arouse the courage of his countrymen, who launched an attack supported by other “blacks” in the neighbourhood. Some townsfolk were reportedly wounded during the “affray”. One was “transfixed by a spear”. When the police arrived, all Aboriginal men quickly “decamped”. (Blair, 2003, 45).

The Story of Bubbya (Quart Pot or “Moroviard Golilm”) (c1814 – post-1842) The earliest record located regarding “Quart Pot” notes him living in the district of Brisbane Water during 1831. Three years later, he and Numbo were gaoled for the murder of another Aborigine. The Australian newspaper, 3 February 1834, reported a delay in their being brought to trial and argued it was “unreasonable, oppressive and impolitic” to impose British law on matters best left for Aborigines to deal with among themselves. It advocated that those in authority should let Aborigines use their own punishments as British laws did not protect them. Quart Pot and Numbo were discharged by the Attorney General and returned to their own district. Quart Pot’s name appears in the 1835 Return of Aboriginal Natives taken at Brisbane Water. He is noted as having a wife but no children. His Aboriginal name on this census is “Moroviard Golilm”. In the 1837 Return, Quart Pot is listed, but his Aboriginal name is noted as “Bubbya” and his tribe designated as “Walkeba”. Bubbya was present in district returns during 1838, 1839, 1840 and 1841. In 1842, a change of family circumstances was noted. Bubbya and his wife had a child, a son. That year Bubbya was involved in a disturbance at Brisbane Water. He was reported in the Sydney Gazette as being one of ten Aborigines who broke into a hut on Mr Heley’s land to steal goods, the leader and a “notorious vagabond”. He and others were caught and taken to the lockup in East Gosford. A small number sought to escape and a fray occurred between captives, captors and others nearby. Bubbya and the other Aborigines escaped. No further information has been located as yet to explain the outcome of the skirmish and Bubbya’s history. (Blair, 2003, 62-63).

The Story of Boio (Long Dick) (c1818 – post-1842) Born in around 1818, Boio (Long Dick) was a Darkinjung man from Brisbane Water. He was tried with Jack Jones, Abraham and Gibber Paddy on 11 May 1835 in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. He had been sent to Sydney Gaol on 2 February 1835 to await trial for his part in robberies at Wyong and Newcastle during 1834. Boio – who is estimated to have been about 17 years old at the time of these robberies – appeared before Judge Dowling and a Military jury:

“Long Dick, Jack Jones, Abraham, and Gibber Paddy, all Aboriginal Natives, belonging to Brisbane Water, stood indicted for stealing a quantity of property, value P50, the goods of Alfred William Jacques, and William Ross [Rust], on the 25th of October, 1834” (Decisions of the Superior Courts of NSW, in Blair, 2003, 55).

The same four men were indicted for “putting in bodily fear” Jacques and Rust. All pleaded not guilty. Despite their denials, the jury in this case found all those tried guilty. All were sentenced to death recorded on 14 May 1835. It is not certain what happened to Potory-Minbee (Jack Jones), Abraham or Gibber Paddy after the trial, but it is certain that some of the young men returned to their country. Boil, Nimbo and Jago were among those present on 5 June 1837 when the Return of Aboriginal Natives at Brisbane Water was taken. Boil remained at Brisbane Water for many years. He is listed as receiving blankets at the annual distribution in 1838, 1841 and 1842. It seems he had not married during these years (Blair, 2003, 55).

“Long Dick” invites John Mann, surveyor to attend a grand corroboree on Wyong Creek at Tuggerah Lake in honour of the visiting Wollombi “tribe” (Ford p79) “Long Dick” is an “influential native” of the Broken Bay tribe and tells his guest that the coastal people “joined the Wollombi tribe who were their staunch friends and allies”. (J.F. Mann, 1842 reprinted in, “Brisbane Water 95 years ago: Wollombi Tribe and Gosford Blacks”, The Gosford Times, 5 Nov 1936, p16; in Ford 346). Mann describes some of the night’s events: “Long Dick” arranged “that I should join my companions at Ourimbah…Creek under the guidance of a black named Emu and his wife Mary Ann…We then followed the creek to its junction with the lake, shooting many ducks enroute…The lake abounded with fish of all sorts…several points of land which extended into the lake were black with ducks and water fowl; they were in the thousands [with] countless pelicans. Well laden with spoil, we arrived at the blackfellow’s camp shortly before dusk, and were agreeably surprised to find that by the forethought of Long Dick, a separate encampment had been prepared for us. It was built of sheets of bark, tent shape, and lined with dry grass; a log to sit on, and wood for a fire…Dick now took possession of us and relieved Emu of his responsibility…A bark canoe, paddled by a very old, grey headed man, now silently approached and drew up close to our camp. The canoe was so laden with fish of all sorts as to be but a few inches above water. The old man, by name ‘Jew Fish’ at once commenced to throw the fish on shore…Dick…selected some of the best for our use and undertook to act as cook. Some few opossums, bandicoots, snakes and iguanas and other items had been secured by these people during the day; so with the addition of fish and…eggs we had found in the swan nests, there was a bountiful supply of food…some of the young fellows were special wits and were listened to attentively. Mimicry they excelled in, and it was just as well that none of the individuals personated were present to recognise their peculiarities in the hands of the blacks”. (John F Mann, letter to Colonial Secretary, 1842, courtesy Carl Hoipo, Wollombi Historical Society).

Biraban and Chief Bo-win-bah (“Gorman”) of the Newcastle Tribe guide explorer and naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt from Ash Island on the Hunter River on the first leg of Leichhardt’s overland journey to the north. They take a circuitous route around the swamps towards Maitland. Biraban and Bo-win-bah make camp for the night at Minmi. The following morning, Biraban and Bo-win-bah refuse to accompany Leichhardt any further, possibly because they would be entering the lands of the Sugarloaf Tribe. Leichhardt proceeds to scale the heights of Mount Sugarloaf before heading to Robert Scott’s property at Glendon. (M Aurousseau, The Letters of F.W. Ludwig Leichhardt, 1968, p640, quoted in Hartley, 91).

Returns of Aboriginal Tribes in the Hunter Valley records 167 Aboriginal people:

94 of the “Yarrumundi Tribe” reside at Scone,

4 of the “Waua” tribe at Yarrumundi,

19 of the “Patrick’s Plains Tribe” at Patrick’s Plains,

19 of the “Glendon Tribe” at Glendon,

10 of the “Lower Wollombi Tribe” at Lower Wollombi,

21 of the “KingsKline Tribe” at Falbrook (Summary of Blanket List returns, in Lucas 47-48)

40 single blankets are sent to Wollombi for distribution between three tribes. (David Dunlop’s response to Government questionnaire on Aborigines, courtesy of Wollombi Historical Society)


At a pre-arranged Aboriginal “corroboree” and ritualised sporting fight attended by around 100 m1843. men, women and children near Maitland to coincide with the settlers’ horse racing contest, one participant who had acquired a musket without sufficient skill in its use, shot an opponent dead by mistake. The two teams ceased their contest and left the ground. The opposing teams were identified as Wannungine/Wannerawa and Darkinung from the south side of the Hunter River and the Kattung-speaking Aborigines from the north side. (Ford p446-47).

Betty and Johnny Cox have seven children: Thomas (1822), Jemmy (1828), Eliza (1829), Frederick (1830), Sarah and Sally. Sally marries Andrew Barber, Sarah marries Joseph (John) Lock, grandson of Yarramundi, “chief” of the Richmond tribe in 1854. Eliza becomes John Luke Barber’s second wife after the death of his first wife, Ballandella. It is not known where and when Betty and Johnny Cox die. (Brook, 1st edit, 28-29)

Returns of Aboriginal Tribes in the Hunter Valley during 1843 records 243 Aboriginal people:

15 of the “Patrick’s Plains Tribe” at Patrick’s Plains (recorded at Singleton, Glendon, Wollombi, Falbrook and Patrick’s Plains),

37 of the “Pages River Tribe” reside at Murrurundi,

2 of the “Peel’s River Tribe” at Murrurundi, 1 of the “Dartbrook Tribe” at Murrurundi,

3 of the “Aberdeen Tribe” at Aberdeen,

4 of the “Gum Flat Tribe” at Gum Flat,

30 of the “Segenhoe Tribe” at Segenhoe,

17 of the “Glendon Tribe” at Glendon,

4 of the “Falbrook Tribe” at Bridgman,

1 of the “Falbrook Tribe” at Mount Royal,

9 of the “Falbrook Tribe” at Tookle,

9 of the “Falbrook Tribe” at St Clair,

2 of the “Falbrook Tribe” at Cedar Brook,

3 of the “Halbiaston Tribe” at St Clair,

1 of the “Halbiaston Tribe” at Bridgman,


105 of the “Munmurra Tribe” in the Upper Hunter at Cassilis. (Summary of Blanket List returns, in Lucas 47-48)

Jetto appears again as Jatto in blanket lists, Boney is listed too. This listing shows that “Boney” is the English nickname (alias) for an Aborigine named Potembo. (approx. Ford p79-80)

32 blankets are received for distribution in the Wollombi district. The size and quality are very bad. (David Dunlop’s response to Government questionnaire on Aborigines, courtesy of Wollombi Historical Society)

The relations among Aboriginal tribes are sometimes hostile. While tribes throughout the Wollombi district are: “peaceful people, and too few in number to have fights on a grand scale…occasionally a few heads are broken with the coterie, or a spear wound inflicted in retaliation for some breach of their laws or customs. The rights of the chase are closely looked after, and any encroachment on each other’s boundaries on occasions [stir up] much hostile feelings betwixt the tribes. Sometimes the price of peace must be either a young gin, or opossum cloak”.

There is a battle between numerous tribes on the outskirts of Maitland. A Wollombi man is killed. (Maitland Mercury, 27 May 1843, courtesy of Wollombi Historical Society).

There is also a death reported around this time after a battle over fishing rights to the Ellalong lagoon. (Courtesy Wollombi Historical Society).

After Protector of Aborigines, David Dunlop makes several applications for blankets for the Wollombi district, he is forwarded only six blankets to distribute between three tribes. These were given to two very aged women and four gins who were nursing mothers. All from the Wollombi tribe. (David Dunlop’s response to Government questionnaire on Aborigines, courtesy of Wollombi Historical Society)

Naval officer William Ogilvie and his wife Mary settle “Merton” (2,000 acres on Jerrys Plains) where the Goulburn River enters Hunter's River on the Upper Hunter River in 1825. A private village emerges on Merton. It is isolated but largely self-sufficient. Aside from pastoralism, dairying and viticulture were practiced. In 1841 the population was recorded at 137. Merton became the centre of a designated police district (called Merton) and Ogilvie was appointed a magistrate. Merton was a distribution point for blankets to Aborigines and the Ogilvie family developed very friendly relations with local Aboriginal people. This is perhaps best illustrated by the action of William and Mary’s son Edward.

The Aborigines Evidence Bill fails to receive sufficient support at the second reading in the NSW Legislative Council. Its supporters seek to give Aboriginal people “a standing” and permit their evidence in the court system. The Maitland Mercury is especially outspoken in support of reform to Acts of “rank injustice” that hold “the blacks…liable to all the pains and penalties of British law, while the protection they derive from it is extremely partial and uncertain”. A transcription of the Maitland Mercury’s editorial of 1844 is below:


Returns of Aboriginal Tribes in the Hunter Valley during 1844 records 50 Aboriginal people. All are living at Merton.

25 are of the “Gnamocicol Tribe”,

5 are of the “Coorcoo Tribe” and

20 are of undesignated tribal affiliation.

It would seem that the Ogilvie family insisted that the Aboriginal people living on their property (Merton) did not go without their issue of blankets. (Summary of Blanket List returns, in Lucas 47-48)


1845c King James is head of a tribe numbering around 500 Aboriginal people on Patrick Plains. He camps at Cedar Brush at Gowrie which is also home to Dr White. On numerous occasions, King James leads his warriors in battles against a tribe from “over Paterson way”. King James is later employed by John Browne near Dunolly Ford and on Coppymurumbilla Station near Boggabilla. (Singleton Argus, 24 May 1950, p1).

The Aboriginal return for the Brisbane Water district reports: the Aboriginal population is diminishing. The decrease over the past five years is confined mostly to adults. Their present condition is very miserable, their ordinary means of subsistence has decreased, arising from the scarcity of wild animals. There are 47 Aborigines in the Brisbane Water district: 27 men, 13 women, 4 boys and three girls.

Blankets have been issued to the Aborigines during the last fifteen years, they appeared to derive much comfort from their periodical issue, and were at all times willing to assist the Police when required; the giving of blankets has ceased, they have suffered severely (especially the elder ones) from the want of them.

With a solitary exception or two, they are not regularly employed by the settlers; they are occasionally employed in driving cattle, as guides and sometimes as messengers, and at times procure fish and other articles for the settlers.

There are four “half-castes” in the district, two are adult females and are married to white men, and two children who are living after the manner of the Aborigines. (Report from the Select Committee on the Condition of the Aborigines for Brisbane Water, in Blair, 2003, 47, 119).

David Dunlop’s return for the Wollombi/Macdonald River district is most comprehensive. Like the Brisbane Water report, it observes that the local Aboriginal population is diminishing. This effects young and old, with many children seldom living through their first winter and elderly people dying during the last winter of cold and hunger. There are 73 Aborigines in the district across three tribes:

The Wollombi tribe’s hunting ground extends to Patrick’s Plains: 14 men, 10 women, 2 boys, 1 girl (three are disabled: blind, deaf and lame), totalling 27

The Ellalong tribe’s ground joins the Maitland blacks and the Macdonald River tribe: 18 men, 8 women, 1 boy, 2 girls, totalling 29

The Macdonald River Tribe range from the Colo River to Wiseman’s Ferry: 12 old men, 3 women, 2 boys, no girls, totalling 17.

It is only when Aborigines are employed by the settlers during the reaping season, or while pulling and husking maize, that they get good food and clothing. The men refuse to wear slop clothes that resemble convict dress. They explain: slops are “no good, all same like croppy”.

When there is a definite object to or interest in employment, Aboriginal men mostly work diligently and skilfully. They are excellent reapers, do not like servile roles like collecting water or cutting wood, but willingly drive cattle, attend to horses and trace lost animals. Some young men work as household servants.

Since 1840, blankets are of insufficient quanity, inferior size and quality. After making several applications during 1844, only six single blankets were forwarded to Wollombi for the entire district. These were given to two very aged women and four gins who were nursing mothers, all of the Wollombi tribe.

Dunlop identifies the effect of giving blankets as a recognised tie between ruled and ruler. Aboriginal people understand that the Governor sells their grounds to those who cut down trees where the opossum dwells that give them food and warmth, and that in exchange government gives blankets, which they accept from want but always speak of as no sufficient recompense. The miserable dole having ceased, is looked upon by Aborigines as a breach of faith. A spirit of deeper discontent grows and suffering to the trusting beings who look for the needful aid is fearfully increased. The energetic feeling of The Chief when pleading for his very few old women and young ones adds indignantly: “what we do, bail not fight like New Zealand fellow, no! I gave land, and have cold, and very hunger. No, did no bad, we not get blanket! What for?”. (Courtesy Carl Hoipo, Wollombi Historical Society).


Death of Biraban. His death notice reports: “Died. At Newcastle, on the 14th April, McGill, the aboriginal native well known a few years back at the Supreme Court as assistant interpreter in several cases in which the aborigines were tried for capital offences. He was a living witness against the assertions of the French Phrenologists, “that the blacks of this colony were physically incapable of instruction from organic malformation” (Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May 1846, in Blair, 2003, 54).

In 1846 the Aboriginal population of the Hunter region is reported as sharply diminishing over the past ten years by up to two-thirds. The means of Aboriginal subsistence is almost disappeared. By this time, a relationship of interdependence has emerged. Aboriginal people are attracted to food at homesteads and townships, while farmers and others need their labour (Report from the Select Committee on the Condition of the Aborigines for the Hunter region, in Lucas, 52-57).

The Story of “Long Jacky”: Gold at Dungog “Long Jacky” of the “Grengai Tribe” lives in the Gresford area in the Hunter Valley. He develops a relationship with the son of the pioneering Boydell family, J W Boydell. Jacky tells Boydell “over and over again” that he once stumbled upon a large quantity of gold in the Dungog area: “When I was a wild fellow [prior to 1826] I was getting a drink at a stream between Coback and Wangat…and picked up a lot of heavy yellow stuff, very heavy. I know now it was gold, but at that time I was a stupid fellow and threw it away.” In later life, Jacky becomes blind. Ardell – always believing his story – sets out with some “other blacks” to find the place Jacky speaks of. He fails to do so. After gold finds are reported near Dungog in 1894, Boydell is convinced more than ever before that “Long Jacky’s” rich plot of alluvial will at last be struck. (Maitland Mercury, 26 April 1894, courtesy of Carl Hoipo, Wollombi Historical Society).

Rev William Simpson visits Grace’s settlement up Marra Marra Creek and reports to a parliamentary enquiry on Aborigines that: “I have found a family of half-castes, the children of John Lewis or Ferdinand, a white man employed in the lime trade with Windsor”. He notes there are 7 children born to Aboriginal mother Sarah and an association between the mother and Biddy or Bridget. Later that same year, Rev Simpson again visits Marra Marra Creek. He baptises the younger children (Catharine born 1838, James born 1841, and Charles born 1844). He misses Mary Ann 12 yo, Elizabeth 22yo, John 18yo, and Thomas 15yo as they are away from home. Simpson returns the following month to baptise the eldest children and conduct two marriages: that of John Lewis (Ferdinand) and Sarah Wallace, and their eldest daughter Margaret to Israel (John) Rose. (Ford, timeline p6).

“Pially” of the upper Portland Head Tribe is stabbed on the arm with a knife by a European labourer at Lower Portland Head who is not personally held accountable for his violence. The stabbing occurs at a Licensed House kept by John Cross and “Assaulter Hauttey” of Mangrove Creek is under the influence of alcohol. During a subsequent inquiry, the shortcomings of the legal system and ways that some magistrates overcome them are made clear. Magistrate Benjamin Sullivan explains to his peers why he chose not to take the case to trial:

“from the want of sufficient Legal Evidence owing to the testimony of an aboriginal unconverted to Christianity, not being admissible in a criminal prosecution, I found that it would have been useless to have committed the assaulter Hauttey for trial; nevertheless sufficient evidence was elicited to morally convince me that that offence had been committed by him…and perpetrated whilst under the influence of drink…there were many others at the time who neither assisted the poor Black nor would remember at the examination any thing about the matter…”

Sullivan seeks to attain some justice through other means. He requests The Bench of Magistrates to ensure that henceforth Licensed Public Houses prevent people from getting drunk and committing such offences, and that they not grant anything other than a basic licence to the House to which he “solicits their attention”. (Letter by Benjamin Sullivan, Police Magistrate, MacDonald River to Bench of Magistrates, District of Brisbane Water, 7 April 1847, courtesy of Carl Hoipo, Wollombi Historical Society).

1846 - 1864

By this time, Aborigines are regularly or occasionally working throughout the Hunter Valley as farmhands, stockmen, domestic servants, trackers, timber getters and other such roles on many larger properties. This is especially so for Newcastle, East Maitland, Morpeth, Hexham, Paterson, Falbrook and Jerry’s Plains (near Muswellbrook). (Report from the Select Committee on the Condition of the Aborigines for the Hunter region, in Lucas, 52-57).


Birth of Joseph Goubra at Maitland. He marries Eliza Bowman at Wollombi.

Following a parliamentary enquiry, it is recommended that mounted military police be stationed at North Richmond (on the northern side of the Hawkesbury River). (Nichols 75)

1847c Joseph Goobra (Goubra) is born at East Maitland. He marries Eliza Bowman at “Wallendbine”, probably near St Albans on the Macdonald River where the swamp lands of Mogo Creek are known as the Wallambine. He dies at the Coast Hospital, Little Bay, Sydney on 9 January 1897 when 50 years of age. His occupation is given as farmer. In 1897 only one of the Goobra children is alive, Martha (born circa 1871). Two males and ten females are deceased. (Brook, 1st edit, 55)

Johnny Goobra, is probably a relative of Joseph Goobra. Johnny gives evidence in a Singleton Police Court against a white publican charged with supplying liquor to Aborigines against the law in 1884. In 1886 he is reported as being nearly blind and infirm on one knee, and mentions Dolly Goubra who died in mid-1887. Johnny spends time at Sackville, being at Windsor during May 1898 with his friend Tom Dillon. At that time, he and Tom applied for railway passes from Windsor to Singleton but the APB decide that the men do not belong to Singleton. In 1903, Johnny is arrested near Sackville on a charge of being of unsound mind. Johnny “vent[s] his spleen in rather a novel fashion…by flooding the ear of one of his captors with…saliva”. Johnny is sent to the Hospital for the Insane, Parramatta. (Brook, 1st edit, 55).

1847c John Luke Barber (born c1825 son of convict John Barber and a Darkinung woman from the Macdonald River) marries a young Wiradjury woman Ballendella and lives on the Hawkesbury River near Wiseman’s Ferry. Ballendella is the daughter of Turandurey, a “Wiradjury Princess” who Major Thomas Mitchell takes to Windsor after he returns from the Lachlan River in 1836. Ballandella is a “welcome stranger” to Mitchell’s children. Upon his departure to England, Mitchell places Ballandella in the care of Dr Charles Nicholson. She is baptised at approximately 8 years of age in the Parish of Wiseman’s Ferry. Ballandella becomes a nurse for Nicholson’s children. At about fifteen years of age, Ballendella gives birth to a daughter “Mary”. After Ballendella’s pregnancy, her employer probably guides the family nurse into a settled relationship with John Luke Barber. Ballandella eventually leaves John Luke Barber for another man. (Brook, 1st edit, 45-46).

The first son of John and Ballendella, Andrew, is born about 1850 on John Smith Hall’s property, “Lilburndale”, West Portland Road, Sackville Reach. (Windsor & Richmond Gazette, 31 Oct 1924, in Brook, Aboriginal history, p73; Ford p157)

Their second son, Harry, marries the sister of Tom Dillon from Wollombi, Annie Dillon. Annie, like Martha and Mildred, retains her Aboriginal kinship name, Butha from Wallambine, even after she and Harry Barber move to La Perouse, where she is known affectionately as Grannie Barber. (Ford, 157, 163)

John Luke Barber’s second partner is Eliza, daughter of Betty Cox. Descendants of Barber and his third wife, white woman Elizabeth Ann Morley, form an extensive community at Hawkesbury River. (Ford p157-58).

The Aboriginal Clark(e) family, travel back and forwards from valley to valley. Aborigine Tilly Clark, sister of Hiram from a Sackville family, is a source of Darkinjung language for Robert Mathews. Mildred “marries” Aborigine Joe Clark at the Hawkesbury after her first partner John Everingham dies in 1875. Clark children are born to Aboriginal mother/s of the Hawkesbury-Hunter Ranges. Along with “full blood” Joe Goobra, Robert Mathews’ friend “halfcaste” Charlie Clark is one of the last to undergo traditional male initiation. (Mathews, Burbung of the Darkinung, in Ford p157).


Edmund Kennedy Expedition. A Wonnarua man known by the English name of Jacky-Jacky is the real hero of the ill-fated Edmund Kennedy expedition. Jacky-Jacky returns south to a hero’s welcome, before returning to his people around Singleton. (Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association, ACRA)

We don’t know under what circumstances Jacky is persuaded to join and guide an expedition so far from home. He is probably aged 14 at the time, but highly valued for his hard work, excellent bushcraft and prudence. When conditions get tough, Jackey is the strongest and most reliable member of the expedition. He is one of the five men of the advance party, attempting a desperate march north for a distance of about 1000 kilometres, to reach the Albany Island to meet the supply ship. He and Kennedy nearly complete this journey. Entangled in the swamps of Escape River they are attacked by local Aborigines. Jackey nurses mortally wounded Kennedy, who dies in his arms only 30 kilometres from their destination.

Subsequently Jackey guides a rescue party which fails to recover Kennedy’s remains. Jackey is honoured for his fortitude and loyalty to the explorer. Sir Charles Fitzroy, the governor of New South Wales, presents him with a silver breast-plate. (Source: Australian Museum, 2014).

65 Aborigines are counted in Windsor. They probably gather for the blanket distribution (Brooks, 1st edit, p13).

Census in Brisbane Water District records 47 to 50 natives. (Blair, 2000, 12)

Three Aboriginal people assist Wollombi resident, Mr John Foley, search for his missing step-son, eight year old Richard Moore. The boy is employed near home to keep the cockatoos away from the maize. One Aboriginal man dives into a deep waterhole in the bed of Sugarloaf Creek (now South Creek) and finds the boy’s body. (Maitland Mercury, 13 May 1848, compliments of Ian Webb, Maitland Historical Society).

“King Jacky” and “Queen Biddy’s tribe” camp at Nectar Bank near Gundy. Members of this tribe also visit Dartbrook, and the Bora Ground at the junction of the Page and Isis Rivers. (Lucas, 36)

1848c Tom Twopenny (famous cricketer) is born in the Bathurst area. His traditional name is Jarrawuk but during his cricketing career his Aboriginal name is Murrumgunariman. (Brook, 1st edit, 56-57; Nichols p6-7).