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Early Hunter Valley Settlers


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Hunter River - Glendon -  Darlington - Singleton - Patrick Plains - Corinda- Glenridding -  Glendon

Benjamin Singleton

 Benjamin Singleton was born on 7 August 1788 in England to William and Hannah Singleton. His father, William, a warehouse porter in London, was sentenced at the Old Bailey on 8 June 1791 to transportation for seven years for grand larceny. With his wife Hannah and two sons, Benjamin (aged 4) and Joseph, William Singleton arrived at Port Jackson on the Pitt on 14 February 1792. Five years later the family settled on a ninety-acre  grant at Mulgrave Place, where another son, James, then aged 30, joined them in 1808.

Benjamin Singleton took part in three expeditions to discover a route through to the Hunter Valley.  The first was when he accompanied William Parr on part of his exploration of the present Bulga Road in October 1817. The second when he led a private expedition in April 1818. These two expeditions were aborted but two years later as a member of John Howe's expedition party, he finally reached Patrick's Plains. The town of Singleton is built on part of Singleton's 200 acres  granted on 31 March 1821 as a reward for his share in this successful expedition. (2)

On the first expedition in 1817 William Parr kept a journal.......

Accompanied by three convicts, who were in the service of Singleton, and two native boys, the party set out from Windsor on 17th October 1817 with provisions for five people for five weeks.  William Parr's journal revealed that on 14th November after many days of harsh country where the hills were too rugged and lofty to pass with horses Benjamin Singleton indicated to Parr that he had been for some time very low in spirits and made known his inability or desire to proceed, however Parr prevailed upon him to try another day. On the following day Benjamin Singleton determined not to proceed further in consequence of which Parr signified to him that he might take any man to remain in their camp while Parr continued on. After he (Parr) had gone as far as his provision would allow he would return to him. Parr continued his journey leaving Singleton with a horse, man and provisions.

Parr found an open tract of land to the North east which had every appearance of a river running through it before returning to Benjamin Singleton. The following day Benjamin Singleton took the black horse and assigned servant Robert Francis with  provisions and returned home leaving about 9am.. On 20th November 1817 Parr indicated that new troubles arose when they found that Benjamin Singleton who had received the orders for rations, took them into his charge. As Parr had the surveying to attend to he left Singleton to serve out the rations. Singleton served three weeks rations out of five - two Parr expected to find left and the rice which had mutually agreed should be kept to the last as it was not so perishable as flour, but Parr found only 30lbs of flour, three pounds of pork which was nearly all bone, one pound of sugar and no rice at all. He was compelled to alter the rations for the two following weeks to lesser amounts. The two assigned servants agreed that if Parr could stand the reduced rations that they would too. And so for a time the expedition continued, however they were soon compelled to turn back, with Parr not realising how close he had come to discovering his way through to the Hunter Valley.  (1)

Extract from the Singleton Argus in 1935.........

Benjamin Singleton married Miss Mary Lane Sherland a young lady who was born at sea (Bay of Biscay) whilst her mother was en route to these shores.  The couple had 10 children and the eldest (Elizabeth) married George Yeomans; William married Jemima Gullege; Hannah became the wife of Patrick Campbell; Ben, Junr., wed Miss Eliza Horne daughter of Mr Samuel Horne, who was chief constable here way back in the forties; Mary married Thomas Lloyd, a native of Bristol, England, and at one time the couple kept an hotel at Belford which place was then named Jump-Up.

Other children of Ben and Mary Singleton were John, who married Miss Jane Rotton, but the union was cut short when the husband died at sea whilst en route to California. Emma married James Solomon, and that union too was shortened, by his premature death, and then the widow married George Vindin.  Sarah married Bourne Russell, and Louisa first became the wife of William Newsham, and after his death she married Dr. Schulzen. George married Miss Sophia Todhunter.

There is evidence that about the year 1822 Benjamin Singleton engaged in farming pursuits in the vicinity of Neotsfield. Why he chose that area instead of his own grant is one of the many incidents of' our early history which is hard to follow. It is known also that in 1822 Singleton and his friend Phillip Thorley brought their wives here, and these ladies were the two first white women to cross the Bulga and become residents of the district.

On the January following Benjamin, Junr., was born, and was the first white child to see the light of day in Patrick's Plains. Later on Benjamin, Senr., brought his aged father to reside here, and in May, 1835, the old gentleman passed peacefully away at the ripe old age of 90 years. It has been stated that he was buried in the plot in which his son's house in John street was situated. There is nothing extraordinary in that, for it was quite a common thing in the long ago, and even at the present time is occasionally practiced.

For a very brief period Ben Singleton took up residence at Clarence Town where he built a flour mill. This, with the one he had built locally, but only had for 10 months, and those at Wilberforce, Kurrajong, and, Wiseman's Ferry, made a chain of five. He also built what, at that time, was a palatial structure for a place like Singleton - the first hotel, and it looked down Campbell-street towards the Caledonia. He named it the "Barley Mow Inn," but it was generally called "Singleton's." Later it was named "The Forbes," after the same gentleman that Castle-Forbes derived its name. In later years the building became the home of the "Argus," till the present offices were erected.

In the thirties Ben extended his field of operations to the north. At Liverpool Plains he acquired a station and installed his son-in-law, Pat Campbell, as superintendent. Another large property of his was named "Pine Ridge,"' and he appointed a Mr Penson overseer. He had another estate on the MacIntyre, which his son-in-law, George Yeomans, managed. Here he established one of the first cheese factories in Australia, and waggon loads were brought here for local consumption and for transit to Sydney. Yeomans was progressive like his father-in-law, and to overcome the difficulty of getting wool, cheese, and other commodities to market he built two small vessels of between 20 and 30 tons each. He also had built an accommodation House at Liverpool Plains, and this was regarded as a boon by the many travellers along that road.

In 1842 Singleton was occupying Glenridding, but whether as an owner or tenant we are unable to determine. His son Benjamin was in charge and had nine employees, all free men, engaged
. - Singleton Argus - 7 June 1935

Some of the convicts assigned to Benjamin Singleton in the early days included:

James Boonham in 1823
John Cruise per Boyd in 1823/24
Thomas Gadbury in 1824
William Burton per Marquis of Hastings
William Taylor per General Stewart in 1825
David Jenkins per Shipley in 1825
George Clarke per Royal Charlotte in 1825
Employed William Lloyd per Hibernia

John Delaney per Ferguson in 1837
Employed emigrant Alexander Campbell in 1837
Employed emigrant Kenneth Finlayson in 1837.


The Maitland Mercury reported Benjamin Singleton's death in 1853 -

Death of Benjamin Singleton on 3rd May aged 65 leaving a widow who had been a faithful companion for 42 years, 8 children and 31 grandchildren. 'One of the first discoverers of Patrick Plains - a man of indomitable energy and perseverance, of frugal and temperate habits; and if he had a fault, it was that he was a greater friend to every body than himself'.



Notes & Links:

1). Benjamin Singleton - Singleton Argus

2). Discovery of Patrick Plains...


The The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser Thursday 30 June 1887, page 3


References:

1).  Colonial Secretary's Papers. Fiche 3271; 2/3623 pp.1-51

2).  Nancy Gray, 'Singleton, Benjamin (17881853)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/singleton-benjamin-2667/text3717, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 13 June 2016.

 

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