Free Settler or Felon?
Hunter Valley Settler
Map 2

James Phillips
Bona Vista
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Captain James Phillips, veteran of the Peninsula wars and free settler to New South Wales, arrived in Port Jackson 20 May 1822 on the female convict transport Mary Anne. Accompanying him were his wife Lydia, and four children.

The Mary Anne had departed Portsmouth on Christmas day five months before with 102 female convicts, the Phillips family and another free settler Dr. Francis Moran. There were a total of 12 children on the ship.

In correspondence dated 30th May 1822, James Phillips was granted 2000 acres of land and assigned six convict servants to work the land. On that same day he received permission, with Francis Moran and John Cordeaux, to take a passage to Newcastle on the Elizabeth Henrietta (2). He probably selected his land at this time.

Lydia Phillips and their children may have resided for a time at the female orphan school at Parramatta, where their good friend Susannah Matilda Ward had been appointed matron, while they waited for the location of the grant to be settled.

On 27th July 1822 James Phillips received permission to proceed to Newcastle with seven men. Others given permission on that same day included Dr. William Evans, Mr. Rhode, Mr. Robert Dillon, Mr. Alexander Livingstone and Ann Matthews (3) It is not clear when James Phillips proceeded to the Hunter, however he was absent from Parramatta by 15th August......

In correspondence dated 15th August 1822 and written from the Orphan House, Parramatta, James Phillips' wife Lydia applied for a Government position for him.......

Sir,
Understanding that a vacancy has lately occurred in your Office in consequence of the resignation of the Assistant Secretary Mr. Atkinson, I have taken the liberty to solicit your kind interference with His Excellency the Governor to have Mr. Phillips appointed to the situation, hoping the strong testimonials he has received from those under whom he has had the honour to serve and his having been so many years accustomed to Duty of that nature and likewise the strong recommendation to the protection of His Excellency and yourself may influence you in his behalf - I hope you will pardon the liberty I am taking in addressing you. Mr. Phillips being at present at the Coal River consequently cannot have the honour of waiting on you himself to ask the favour and the anxiety I feel for the welfare of a young and helpless family has induced one thus to trouble you, which if you will be pleased take into your favourable consideration will confer a lasting obligation on myself and family, I have the honour to be Sir Your Obedient servant Lydia Phillips.
(1)

After reaching Newcastle, James Phillips would have sailed up the Hunter River and then to the Paterson. He selected land on the banks of the Paterson River naming the grant Bona Vista. The town of Paterson now adjoins this land. He later arranged for his belongings to be shipped to Newcastle also.

James Phillips was allowed 20 head of cattle from the government herd and soon had wheat and corn crops planted. The following prisoners were assigned to James Phillips in the years 1822 - 1825 and were therefore the among the first convict workers at Bona Vista:


Samuel Catterall per Guildford, assigned 17th August 1822 William Evans per Guildford, assigned 24th July 1822
Patrick Flannagan per Mary, assigned 11th April 1822 Robert Johnson per Elizabeth, assigned 8th October 1822
Thomas Ounan per Lord Sidmouth, assigned 30th May 1822 Patrick Hardiman per Three Bees, assigned 30 May 1823
George Berwick per Prince of Orange, assigned 30th May 1823 John Fitzgibbon per Minerva, assigned 16 June 1823
Ralph Deane per Eliza, assigned  30th May 1823 John McNamara per Minerva, assigned April 1823
Charles Watkins per Speke, assigned prior to 1824 William Shepherd per Asia, assigned 1825
Charles Fowler per Speke, assigned 29th June 1825 Edward Hughes per Glory, assigned  8 July 1824
Patrick Boyle per Mangles, assigned on arrival in 1826  


In correspondence dated 20th March 1824 he requested that government assign him a carpenter in place of Charles Watkins. His frustration in having been assigned Charles Watkins is apparent in the following correspondence...

{Extract}.....Charles Watkins assigned to me as a Carpenter has never worked as a carpenter until he went into the Lumber Yard at Sydney, where he was only about nine months before he came to me. I have suffered great loss and inconvenience by his not knowing the trade. After he had been with me six months I was obliged to employ another carpenter who found it necessary to pull down all the buildings which he (Watkins) had erected, as they were considered unsafe. He is incapable of making a Door or a window, nor can he even stick a common moulding.....Before he came to this country he was a servant and in that capacity I have found him most useful. I have the honour to request a most particular favour that you will have the goodness to permit me to pay what I may be indebted to the Government either in wheat or corn, to be delivered into Stores at Newcastle, for I most solemnly assure you I have not the means of paying it in any other manner. I have expended on stock and improvements on my farm even to the last shilling - The stores here are completely shut against us by the Merchants in Sydney(4)

He had the usual problems with assigned servants and in 1825 requested that he be assigned six convicts to replace those that had absconded. One month later he requested that servants assigned to him but presently in Sydney gaol, be returned to his service. The following convicts were among those assigned to James Phillips at Bona Vista in 1828:

Patrick Brennan per Isabella Charles Fowler per Speke
Thomas Briant per Marquis Hastings Samuel Freestone per Marquis Hastings
William Briggs Charles Hollowell per Hercules
Hanna Warren per Elizabeth Roger McNamara per Mangles
John Williams per Mangles Patrick Moran per Morley
Henry Singer per Hadlow Thomas Phillips per Mangles
William Finch per marquis Hastings Ann Kennedy aged 13 employed as house servant


In 1840 James Phillips subdivided part of his estate to sell by public auction.

Among the crops he grew was tobacco. This proved successful and he also commenced tobacco manufacturing. The tobacco factory on Bona Vista was a large slab building with the slabs set into the ground and not sunk in sleepers. It was divided into three apartments. The overseer slept in one and tobacco leaf was stored and the manufacturing process carried out in the other two. The Factory was broken into in 1849 and approximately 1000lbs of tobacco was stolen. The chief suspects were later found not guilty and were discharged from court.

James Phillips died at Bona Vista in 1851 and the estate was auctioned in 1855. Two of James Phillip's daughters married medical practitioners - Isabella Phillips married David Sloan in 1840 and Lydia Phillips married Richard Ryther Steel Bowker in 1858. Another daughter Jane married John Skottowe Parker who was Coroner for the district for many years having taken over from William Dun in 1840.


Notes & Links:

1).  The Asiatic journal and monthly register for British and foreign ...1829




2). Rovings in the Pacific, from 1837 to 1849 was written by a young adventurer Edward Lucett who came to Australia as crew on the convict ship Mangles. He describes a voyage from Sydney to Bona Vista in 1837......








References
:

(1) Ancestry.com. New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825 (NRS 897) Main series of letters received, 1788-1825 Item: 4/1761 Page: 110

(2) Ancestry.com. New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825. Series: (NRS 937) Copies of letters sent within the Colony, 1814-1825 Item: 4/3505 Page: 352

(3) Ancestry.com. New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825. Series: (NRS 937) Copies of letters sent within the Colony, 1814-1825 Item: 4/3506 Page: 90

(4) Ancestry.com. New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825 Series: (NRS 897) Main series of letters received, 1788-1825 Item: 4/1810 Page: 68-9  



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