Free Settler or Felon?

Hunter Valley Settlers

George Brooks

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Newcastle - Ash Island - Hunter River - Iron Bark Creek

George Brooks was appointed assistant surgeon by Principal surgeon James Bowman in 1819 and was resident in Newcastle as assistant surgeon in 1822. In these early years he and his convict servant were supplied from the stores in Newcastle and probably lived in the quarters at the Hospital.

In 1824 he had the burden of running the hospital with untrained, inadequate female assistants and convicts and possibly inadequate supplies. He had the usual problems with recalcitrant convict servants – assigned servants George Harwood and Samuel Roe were both sentenced to 50 lashes in 1833 for misconduct. 

George Brooks was held in high regard by James Reid who recommended that Brooks accompany William Carter who was sent by Governor Darling to enquire into troubles with native at Hunter River in 1826. Reid wrote that 'during his residence of several years at Newcastle, Dr. Brooks had taken great pains to civilize some of the natives, and to some extent had made himself acquainted with their language.' Although he was a respected member in the young township Brooks often came under criticism from the editors of the Australian newspaper because of his government positions.

In 1825 he applied for and received a warrant to purchase Crown land.  In 1828 George Brooks married Mary Stephena Cowper, the daughter of  Hannah (Horner) and Rev. William Cowper. Mary brought to the marriage a land grant of 1280 acres to be named 'Maryland'.  They built their family home on land he had purchased nearby.  By 1829 George and Mary had a daughter Hannah. John was born in 1833 and Mary in 1837.

George Brooks participated in town life in the Hunter Valley.  He may have attended social functions such as Balls and Race Days. In the summer of 1834 George and Mary accompanied Sir Edward Parry, riding from Newcastle to Maitland. They called on Captain Aubyn, T.V. Blomfield and Mr. & Mrs. Wood where they dined in the Wood’s new log hut. They stayed the night at Mr. Bloomfield's property and heard the news of the latest devastating floods,  Maitland being in ‘broad sheets of water’ at the time. On a stormy day in 1836 he accompanied traveller James Backhouse around the settlement, acquainting him with the Christ Church burial ground where convicts could be seen toiling as well as other sights around the town.

As Vice President of the Newcastle Mechanics Institute, he was one of the citizens of Newcastle who campaigned to make Newcastle a free warehousing port in the 1840's. Other Newcastle citizens who attended meetings with him were James Henry Crummer, James Reid, Simon Kemp, Dr. William Wilton and Mr. Wallace. 

Around the same time charters of incorporation were issued for Newcastle and George Brooks became a member of the district council along with Alexander Walker Scott, William Croasdill, William Brooks, Lancelot Threlkeld, Simon Kemp and Henry Boyce

In 1841 George Brooks' residence was nearby the Hospital -  Newcomen Street Newcastle -  possibly on the site that Newcomen House was later to be built. He resigned from his position of Colonial Surgeon due to ill health in April 1847.

He died in 1854 aged 57 and is buried in Christ Church burial ground where Mary who died in 1859 was also laid to rest.


Ash Island - Alexander Walker Scott John Laurio Platt Australian Agricultural Company Joseph Weller George Weller William Brooks Jonathon Warner George Brooks Richard Windeyer & Adam Beveridge William Peppercorn Richard Siddons John Maclean G.T. Graham William Sparke Henry Rae Vicars Jacob Francis Shortt Francis Moran John Eales William Bradridge Nobbys Island c. 1910 Black Swan from the Skottowe Collecion. Artist R. Browne Iron Bark Creek 1907 Escape of Convicts - Bushrangers



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