Chapter 11 - Richard Hunt & Other Forefathers
The fact that my Father didn't ever so much as hint that my Great-great-grandfather, Richard Hunt, was sent to Australia as a convict proves to me that he didn't know! All I can remember of what Dad told me was that there were two brothers who were brought out from England to help care for the Government stock at The Cowpastures, the area which, until Macarthur's Camden land grant, had been rigidly reserved as a grazing ground for the cattle found there in 1795-the descendents of cattle that had strayed away from Sydney in Captain Phillip's time. This, I was told by my Father, gave them experience in Australian Farming and from there they took up property at Cowpastures, in the Dural district and “out on the Bogan”. I really think that was what he believed and that it was not until a later generation that it was acceptable to talk about one's convict forebears, or even be proud of them!
It was in 1962, four or five years after my Dad had died that a second cousin of mine, Winifred Graham (nee Hunt) was doing some research on the family tree in the Mitchell Library when she discovered that Richard Hunt had arrived in Sydney on the “Morley”. With this information she consulted the Australian Historical Society where the lady who looked up the list of those who were on that vessel said to her, “Now I think you had better sit down and prepare yourself for a shock. The fact is that Richard Hunt was a convict!” Win says that she was very excited and exhilarated at this discovery, but when she reported it to a senior member of the family she was asked not to divulge the information because, for a generation or two the family had rather prided itself on the fact that their “founding fathers” had been freeborn! This request rather put a dampener on Win's family research, but she complied with the request and kept the information to herself. The time came, however, when her Uncle Raymond Hunt, who was Chairman of Hunt Bros asked her to look over a speech he had prepared for the Hunt Family Gathering to be held on 8th October 1976. In it he mentioned the pride with which the family claimed freeborn founders and Win then felt she had to suggest that he omit this claim, telling him the reason why. Win says, he did leave it out, but didn't substitute the real story, probably believing “the least said soonest mended”! But, as is always the case in these matters the true story eventually became known, although Win is not sure by what means.
Strangely, when I did find out, relatively recently, I experienced anything but distress. I must confess that I felt exhilarated at the thought that there was a skeleton in the family cupboard, so to speak. How I found out was when my younger brother, Neil, gave me a photocopy of some family papers that he had got from Richard Manton, to whom we are “distantly related”. These papers, which incidentally were prepared by Winifred Graham, although I didn't know her at that time, revealed that in 1815, when Richard Hunt was eighteen years old, he was convicted of larceny at Old Bailey, sentenced to transportation for seven years and arrived in New South Wales on the “Morley” in 1817. I have been absolutely fascinated by the story of Richard Hunt and his descendants ever since.
By the time I was given a copy of the notes on Richard Hunt and the family tree that accompanied them, other members of the family, and I am not sure who some of them were, had done a marvellous job of putting all this information together. I, and other members of the Hunt Family will be forever grateful to them. I do know that, besides the great effort put in by Win Graham (her charts of the family tree alone are an astounding accomplishment) work has been done by Rev David Manton, Rev Kenneth (Bruce) Roughley and Mrs Dorothy Woodhouse (daughter of Raymond Hunt).
The information that has since been discovered and confirmed by these family researchers is that a William Hunt, of Winchester, England, had two sons. The elder, born in 1792 was also named William, while the younger, born on 29th March 1797, was named Richard. William (the Father) was employed in Winchester as Beadle to Saddlers Company. A “Beadle” is described in dictionaries as “a judicial servant of a trade guild or company” whose function was apparently to keep order and act as a kind of private constable. William Sen. later served in Saddlers Hall in London.
The two young men were apprentice saddle-makers and leather workers and one night when William Junior was deputising for his Father as Beadle, he and Richard during their parents absence stole four silver tablespoons, twelve bottles of wine and twelve bottles, the property of Wardens of the Saddlers Co. One account also mentions some glasses. For their misdemeanour they were sentenced in the year 1815 in Old Bailey Court to transportation for seven years. One cannot help but wonder what sadness this must have brought to their parents: losing both sons to a little-known country on the other side of the world for such a relatively trivial and foolish act. It appears that sentences at Old Bailey were more severe than those at most other courts, but it is on record that people, particularly women, had been sentenced to transportation for even less serious crimes. Sentences for transportation were for seven years, fourteen or for life. One of the researchers has pointed out that there was also a depression in England at the time due to the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815. This caused much unrest due to severe poverty.
Two years after sentence was passed on these young men they arrived in Sydney. William arrived on the “Almorah” on 31st August 1817. He was then transferred to the “Pilot” which took him to Van Diemen's Land where he served out his sentence. Richard had, previous to this, arrived on the “Morley” on 10th April 1817. The indent papers show that Richard Hunt was then 20 years of age, 5 feet 4 inches in height, of dark complexion, with black hair and grey eyes and his calling was Harness-maker. Notes provided by an earlier researcher show that travel by sailing ship would have taken from four to eight months. This is an awfully long time to be cooped up in a ship, especially if you were a convict, possibly in chains. Nevertheless, conditions including the standard of food had apparently improved by then compared to the earlier fleets of ships bringing convicts to New South Wales. Each convict could bring a pair of shoes, three shirts, two pairs of trousers and other warm clothes, bed, pillow and blanket.
There was a system in use whereby convicts could be granted a “ticket-of-leave” after serving part of the sentence. For good behaviour and industry a ticket-of-leave could be granted after serving four years of a seven year sentence, after six years for a fourteen year sentence and after eight years for a life sentence. A ticket-of-leave man was still a convict in the eyes of the law and subject to police supervision but was free to pursue an independent life without other constraints, especially the horrible system where convicts were herded together in gangs, sometimes chained to each other but otherwise with chains clamped to each ankle. Until 1810 all Government building work was done by convict labour, mostly organised into chain gangs. It Is believed that Richard Hunt applied for and was granted a Ticket-of-leave during 1819 and took up his trade of harness-making. This was all happening at the time that Colonel Lachlan Macquarie was Governor of New South Wales (from 1810 to 1821.) The infamous New South Wales Corps which had been a hindrance to the earlier Governors had been sent back to Europe and settlement was being encouraged in every way. Exploration had also been encouraged, the Blue Mountains crossed in 1813 and by 1817 the country beyond Bathurst was being thoroughly explored by Oxley and others.
Religious activity was mainly in the Established Church, that is the Church of England, in which Rev Samuel Marsden ministered at St Johns, Parramatta. However, Methodist activity, with which Richard was to become associated, had recently commenced in New South Wales with the arrival of Rev. Samuel Leigh on 10th August 1815 and of Rev Walter Lawry on 2nd May 1818. They came to New South Wales as “missionaries” at the urgent request of some earnest Methodists who had formed themselves into “Class Meetings” and desired to have ordained leadership. Prominent amongst this group was Thomas Bowden who had started “Class Meetings” as early as 1812 within five weeks of his arrival in Sydney. Others associated with the early Methodist cause were James Scott and John Hosking; also at a later date, Rowland Hassall who had been a London Missionary Society missionary in Tahiti before fleeing from there with his young family and settling in Parramatta.
It was into this society that Richard was able to enter on the granting of his Ticket-of-leave. There is a record that “R. Hunt” opened an account with the Bank of New South Wales on 8th May 1820, but as no abode is given it is not possible to say that it was “our” Richard. From the Wentworth Papers it is learned that Richard Hunt was paid from the Police Fund for harness work on 31st May 1820 and from The Sydney Gazette of 29th July 1820 that a payment had been made to him by the Government for harness work.
On the 12th of February 1821 Richard Hunt, who was then 23 years old, married Lydia Barber, 18 years old and freeborn in the Colony. The wedding took place at St Johns Church, Parramatta and the ceremony was performed by the controversial Rev. Samuel Marsden already mentioned above. (Although the Methodists were active by then and were to open a little “chapel” on land granted by Governor Macquarie in Parramatta in April that year, marriages, baptisms and funerals were still the prerogative of “The Church” which, in Parramatta meant Rev Samuel Marsden and St. Johns.) Richard's occupation at that time was given as Farmer and Harness maker. Witnesses to the marriage of Richard and Lydia were Richard Wall and Mary Graham.
At this point let us leave Richard and Lydia for a while to look at Lydia's family, the Barbers. In 1801 a contingent of soldiers travelled out on the “Earl Cornwallis” to join the New South Wales Corps. On the ship was Private Thomas Barber. Also on board was Lydia Parker who had been born in England in 1766. Parker was not her maiden name, for when this story begins in 1799 she was a widow and was convicted at the Dorchester Assizes of stealing clothing. She was sentenced to transportation for seven years. The ship arrived in Port Jackson in June 1801 and on 9th January 1802 Private Thomas Barber and Widow Lydia Parker, who presumably met on board ship and formed a mutual attraction, were married in St Johns, Parramatta. They had five children including two daughters, one being named Lydia after her Mother and who we have previously reported to have married Richard Hunt. Lydia was born on 13th October 1803. The other daughter was born on 24th December 1809 and named Ruth. She married James Byrnes in 1826. Byrnes had been born in Ireland on 5th January 1806 and lived until 17th September 1886. He was the second Mayor of Parramatta and the Member of Parliament for Parramatta for various periods between 1858 and 1872. We shall hear more of him in his association with the Hunt family at Leigh Memorial Church at Parramatta.
One of Lydia's brothers, Samuel Barber, born 1805, was later to enter a grazing partnership with Richard Hunt about which something more will later be said. Samuel married three times and had a large family. He was one of the early squatters of the Murrumbidgee area. After spending twenty-one years in the army the father, Thomas Barber became a store-keeper in Parramatta. The Barber family plot, about which more will also be said, is in the St Johns Cemetery, O'Connell Street, Parramatta, the oldest Cemetery in Australia.
Before long Richard and Lydia had started the family of which I am so proud to be a member. The first, born on 31st January 1822 was Christened Char1es William at St Johns on 7th April. The next was born on 2nd July 1823 and Christened George Thomas at St Johns on 9th November. He was my Great-grandfather.
In the year that George Thomas was born, 1823, the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, on 30th June, signed the deed for the Land Grant of “76 rods” (a little less than half an acre) which Richard received. It had a frontage in George Street, Parramatta and ran down to the Parramatta River, which would have been a great advantage for the business that Richard established. It was here, no doubt, that he conducted his saddlery and leatherwork business as well as entering into the partnership on 19th May 1825 with the tanner, Richard Wall, who was one of the witnesses at Richard and Lydia's wedding.
Richard must have soon prospered to the point where he could support charitable causes, because it is recorded in the Sydney Gazette of 24th February 1825 that he had contributed to the Parramatta Branch of the Auxiliary Church Missionary Society of Australia. The following year he was listed among the Sunday School Teachers as a Superintendent of the Wesleyan Methodists and was a provisional trustee of the Church that had been opened in 1821.
The third of the children born to Richard and Lydia turned out to be a girl, born on 11th July 1825 and Christened Eliza at St Johns on 7th August 1825. The next child was William, who was born on 9th April 1827 and died on 26th April aged only 17 days. A year later, on 3rd May 1828 another son, Thomas Barber was born and, in turn Christened at St Johns on 14th June. An interesting point about the birth of Thomas is that it took place at Dural. This is the first reference I have turned up to the family's association with Dural, which has continued to this day. It seems probable that Richard, while retaining his associations with Parramatta, had an establishment at Dural as well. This Dural property, also known as Orange Grove, was later taken over by his second son, George Thomas after he was married.
After the birth of Thomas there was a five year wait until 1833 when another girl, named Lydia after her Mother, was born.
But soon tragedy struck. When little Lydia was only two years old her Mother, also named Lydia, passed away. She died on 11th October 1835, aged 32 years and her remains are in the Barber family plot in St Johns Cemetery. On the tablet that records the details of both Lydia's and Richard's deaths there is the name of the baby William to whom I referred earlier and who lived only 17 days.
In the meantime, Richard was prospering. In the 1828 Census he is credited with owning 250 acres, 20 chains, 100 cattle and three horses. I think it is probable that the 250 acres were at Dural and the 20 chains (= 80 rods) were at Parramatta. By this time Richard, having more than fulfilled his seven year sentence, was listed as a Free Settler. A letter dated 12th September 1828 in the Hassell correspondence also shows that Richard was a man of compassion as the letter returns an order for money on a Mr Walker as he knew Mr. Walker was pressed for money, although he appears to have subjoined a claim for leather which he had presumably supplied. Perhaps the intent was to forgive the debt if Mr. Walker paid for the leather? Evidence of his interest in public affairs and welfare is shown in such things as signing a petition to Dr Sherwin on 26th August 1829, his appointment to a Missionary Committee in Parramatta on 9th October 1829. He was a member of the jury at an inquest on someone called Holland on 25th December 1829 (What a way to spend Christmas Day!), and he signed an address to S. Wright on 19th July 1836. The following year (4th August 1837) he was a Page 1 subscriber to the Parramatta Wesleyan Chapel Fund.
In notes left by Mrs George Henry Hunt (Elizabeth) about her husband's grandfather, Richard Hunt, she wrote: “He was an energetic citizen and an ardent church worker. He had four sons and two daughters. All were musical and had good voices. Mr. Hunt and his sons all belonged to the Parramatta Wind and String Band. Mr. Hunt and three of his sons were local preachers. One son Charles received a call to a large (Presbyterian) church in Sydney but declined to leave the Wesleyan Church.”
By 1838 Richard was in partnership with his brother-in-law, Samuel Barber, at Burragorang. They made a land claim on 29th March that year under case No 777. What became of this partnership and the property I do not know, but as both Richard and Samuel were later to move to the Murrumbidgee they presumably maintained a fairly close relationship.
I promised to say a bit more about Samuel Barber and his family. His first wife, Mary Innes died in 1869 aged 59 years after bearing him nine children. He was married again in 1871 to Sophia Whiteside but she was not to survive long as she passed away childless in 1872 aged 42 and he was married for the third time in 1874 to Margaret Gurney (nee Johnstone) who was 24 at the time while he was 72, and who bore him a daughter in 1876 when he was 74 years old. There is a tombstone in St Johns Cemetery that shows that Samuel Barber died on 12th December 1890 aged 88 years, after what can, no doubt, be described as a full life!
Getting back to Richard Hunt, a year after Lydia's death he married again (on 30th November 1836,) this time to Sarah Bishop Ellison, freeborn in the Colony. Their first child, Sarah Jane, was born on 25th October 1837 but died at the tender age of two years and nine months on 16th July 1840. They had four more children, Emily born 1841, Richard 1843, Caroline 1847 and John 1849. They appear to have lived on at Parramatta until most of the children of the first marriage were able to look after themselves. At the time of the second marriage the children of the first ranged in age from fifteen to three, those in between being thirteen, eleven and eight. It appears that when they did leave the district to start a new life with their second family, the youngest of the first marriage, Lydia, lived with George Thomas and his wife Elizabeth who were married in 1842 when George was only eighteen years old and Elizabeth was only sixteen.
But some time during the 1840s Richard and his second wife, Sarah, moved down to Gundagai to live. Although it is probable that they had connections with the land, it appears that they lived in the town or not far from the Murrumbidgee River fairly close to town. [Local records show that the family lived in the old town-PJH] It is on record that he was the originator and Superintendent of a Sabbath School and that he was responsible for erecting a building for the Sabbath School and other religious purposes. He also appears to have been a writer of sorts because the Gundagai Museum has copies of Sydney papers containing articles written by him during his time at Gundagai. Apparently some of his articles were controversial and he was sued several times by people who took exception to those reports.
Gundagai was, no doubt, a busy little town in the 1840s. Hume and Hovell passed close to the site of Gundagai in 1824 on their overland expedition to Port Phillip. Settlers soon followed their path to establish grazing runs. Following surveys by the Surveyor-General, Major Thomas Mitchell in the 1830s a road from Sydney was pushed through. By 1847 the main southern road passed through Goulburn to Yass where a bridge over the Yass River was completed by the famous David Lennox in 1854.
A track continued through Jugiong and Coolac to Gundagai where the Murrumbidgee was crossed by a ford. A ferry service across the river began in 1849 and carried traffic to the goldfields of Adelong and to Bendigo and Ballarat in Victoria. The track was used by bullock wagons, the drivers of which camped at the Five Mile Creek north of Gundagai. This camp became part of folklore with Jack Moses' poem about the dog that sat on the tuckerbox nine miles from Gundagai. Whether it was nine miles or five miles is still being argued about. The road through Gundagai opened up the very rich pastoral lands of the south.
But the present town of Gundagai is not where the earlier one, in which the Hunts lived, used to be. It was built on the wide river flats. One terrible day in 1852 the long drought broke in a deluge when a flood from the headwaters of the river came down and drowned eighty-nine townspeople and all but three of the 78 buildings were destroyed, including the Church building put up by Richard. Richard, his wife Sarah and their four surviving children perished in the flood. The body of one son, Richard, was recovered and was buried at Gundagai, but the rest were swept away. Although his body was lost, there is an inscription on the Barber Family grave in St Johns Cemetery, Parramatta, “Richard Hunt, died 25 June 1852 aged 52, who was drowned at Gundagai.” Actually, he would have been 55 years old, but as one writer has remarked, they didn't seem to worry too much about accuracy in those days in respect of ages and dates and they would no doubt be very surprised at the extent of the interest shown in them by their descendants today.
Another writer has also mentioned that it is of interest that before 1850 there were no death certificates issued in New South Wales, only burial lists were recorded. In the case of the 1852 flood, there exists a partial death certificate for the little boy, Richard, whose body was found, but none for the remainder of the family as their bodies were not recovered.
As I think of Richard Hunt and the things he did and achieved in those fifty-five years I am almost overcome with a strong and emotional affection for him, as if I had actually known him. And then I realise that, in a very real way I did know him through my own Father, George Thomas who also died at the relatively young age of 67, during the last ten of which he suffered very poor health. I only wish I had been able to know them both better. It is too late, when they are gone, to sit quietly with them and let them tell about their lives. Perhaps this is why I am writing this memoir. But of one thing I am thoroughly convinced: that the character of Richard lives on in the lives and characters of a great host of those who are descended from him.
And what of his older brother William, his partner in crime? After serving his sentence in Van Diemen's Land he came to New South Wales and lived with his nephew, George Thomas and Elizabeth at Dural. Tradition is that he had a small house at the back of the property, that he kept pretty much to himself, and “did for himself”. He lived on to the very respectable age of seventy-three and after his death on 9th January 1865 his remains were buried in the Methodist Cemetery at Dural, where a large tombstone bearing his name still stands in the Hunt plot. Research has shown that he was apprenticed on 3rd October 1809 by the Saddlers Co. to Wm Flower, Saddler, James Street, Bedford Row, England for 7 years. He was, of course sentenced at the same time as his younger brother Richard but they arrived in Australia in separate Sailing Ships.
After the flood tragedy there were five surviving children of Richard Hunt and his first wife, Lydia. By this time they were probably all married. Charles William Hunt married Julia Jeffcoat in 1841. They at first lived at Dural where seven of their eight children were born. In 1861 Char1es went to Queensland where the opportunity to take up land in the developing State presented itself. The Colony of Queensland had only come into existence on 10th December 1859, prior to which it had been part of the Colony of New South Wales. They settled at Milora near Harrisville which is a few miles south of Ipswich. The eighth child of Charles and Julia was born in 1864.
George Thomas Hunt was married to Elizabeth Williams in 1842 and continued to live at Dural for many years. More will be said of George Thomas and his family in a later chapter.
Lydia Hunt was married to James Roughley in 1849. There are many families of this name, particularly at Dural and one of the descendants, Reg Roughley married Father's sister Gert.
Thomas Barber Hunt married Sarah Yates in 1850 and settled in Geelong in Victoria. That was the year that self-government was granted to the Colony of Victoria by the British Imperial Parliament and separation from New South Wales was achieved. The story goes that Thomas's parents disapproved of the match with Sarah, who was a servant girl, so the young couple eloped. It is pleasing to report that they later became reconciled.
The older of the two girls, Eliza married George William Barker but I have not been able to establish the date and not much is known to me of that family except that they had five children.