Free Settler or Felon?

Hunter Valley Settler

John Hooke
 Map 3


Index to Settlers & Estates | Early Settler Introduction
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John Hooke arrived on the Courier from London in March 1828. The 1828 Census taken in November of that year lists him as age 34 and accompanied on the Courier by his wife Mary Anne aged 28 and their children John junior aged 9 Henry aged 7, Alfred aged 5, Benjamin aged 3, James aged 3. He was a tenant farmer at Cabramatta. There is also a separate entry for John Hooke, farmer residing at Bonago. (1)

He was granted 2560 acres of land in 1828 which he took up near Dungog. By the Returns of the Colony for 1828 this was a primary grant and quit rent was 21 6s 5d. Other settlers on the William River to have received similar size grants were James Dowling, Benjamin Sullivan, J. Lamb and James Black. (2)

Convicts assigned to John Hooke at the Williams River included:

John Wood per Prince Regent employed as overseer in 1828 John Cox per Marquis of Huntley assigned  in 1828
Benjamin Hatton arrived per Ocean assigned  in 1828 Thomas Murray per Mangles assigned servant in 1828
Thomas Day arrived per Mangles assigned servant in 1828 Patrick Doyle arrived per Mangles assigned  in 1828
Edward Byrne per Earl St. Vincent employed  in 1828 Dougall Campbell employed by John Hooke in 1828
George Berwick per Prince of Orange assigned in 1828 Peter Hoey arrived per Sophia assigned in 1829
John Broadbent per Neptune assigned servant in 1828 David Donnolly arrived per Sophia assigned in 1829
Johanna Newman per Forth assigned servant in 1831 Patrick Doyle per Mangles in died in  1832

In 1839 one thousand acres were advertised for lease for a term of ten years at Crookes Park. They were to be let in small farms from ten to one hundred acres each. The land was described as being on the banks of the Upper Williams River with rich alluvial soil that produced wheat and tobacco even in drought. The conditions of the lease were that the first five years would be rent free to compensate for bringing the land into cultivation and the remaining five years to be at a rent of one pound per acre per annum.

 A Flour Mill was erected on the property.

In 1845 John Hooke passed away ...... 'Died this day at one clock at his residence, Crook's Park, in this district, John Hooke, sen., Esq., leaving a large family to deplore his loss. Mr. Hooke is much and deservedly regretted by all who knew him. He was a kind father and a generous landlord. He had a long and severe illness. He will be interred on Tuesday next, in his family vault, on the estate of Crook's Park.

John Hooke junior continued farming in the Dungog district and in March 1847 he was advertising a small farm of 16 acres to let. In May 1847 a disastrous fire destroyed his crop of corn and wheat '

On Friday evening last Mr. Hooke, a farmer near Dungog, lost the whole proceeds of his harvest by an accidental fire. It appears that about five o'clock in the afternoon, a man in Mr. Hooke's employ was proceeding from the house to the field, and in passing along he was lighting his pipe from a brand he held in his hand. He passed close by the pigsty, and went on his way. From the pigsty to the corn shed, a space of some six or eight rods, lay a regular train of corn husks, dropped in carrying corn to the pigs and it is supposed a spark from the brand fell on the husks, and taking fire at length, a high wind assisted the aflame till it ran along the train and caught the shed. Soon after it caught, Miss Hook, who was in the house, saw the flames and immediately gave the alarm, but unfortunately all the men were at work in the field. Before they could arrive, the shed and its contents, and a barn filled with wheat, which stood close by, were burning fiercely, and by ten o'clock the whole was a mass of ashes, into a vestige being left of barn or shed. The house escaped, and no further damage was done. There were about 300 bushels of corn in the shed, and the same quantity of wheat in the barn.'


Notes & Links:

 1). John Hooke's daughter passed away in 1919. The following account of the Hooke family was printed in the Newcastle Sun:

Mrs. J.M. Mackay of Cangon, who died on Anzac Day at the age of 84 was the first white child born in the Dungog district. Her father, the late Mr. John Hooke, one of the pioneer pastoralists, was one of the richest men who settled in Australia in the early days, but, like other men who brought money here in those days, he lost it. Being rather delicate, he was unable to adapt himself to the hard conditions of a pioneer's life. Losses and misfortunes dogged his footsteps from the outset. Before leaving England Mr. Hooke sold four estates, two of which had been owned by the family since 1066, and the two others from 1416. They included Crook's Park, Norton Hall and Croom Park. He first settled in Tasmania but after having the misfortune to be burnt out, losing valuable possessions which could never be replaced, he returned to England.

Migration in Own Ship

Later on Mr. Hooke decided to come to New South Wales, He had booked passages for his family, and a large staff of servants, when one of his children died. The Captain of the vessel refused to bring the body out so Mr. Hooke forfeited the whole of the passage money and purchased a vessel for himself, which he came out in. He brought out blood horses and other stock, though many of them died on the voyage out, among them his favorite carriage horses. One of the latter, which was purchased for 800 guineas survived until Sydney harbour was reached, and then died.

On arriving in Sydney Mr. Hooke settled at Liverpool, where he left the management of his estate to a manager in whom he had such unbounded confidence that he signed all documents he was asked to without reading it. Finally this man brought forth a document for signature in the presence of a lawyer, and two other witnesses transferring the estate and all possessions thereon, to him (the manager) by deed of gift. A law suit ensued but the case, which was tried before the late Sir James Dowling was won by the manager.

Mrs. Hooke's Heroism

After losing this property Mr. Hooke settled in Dungog where his wife quickly adapted herself to the conditions of her new life and not only managed her family of nine children, and her servants but extended her activities to the tenants and surrounding settlers. When neither doctor, chemist nor nurse was available she did all she could to alleviate suffering. She could set a limb, dress a wound and assist the arrival of the 'Best colonists". To render that assistance she was known often on dark, stormy nights to walk through scrubby country, crossing the William River on a slippery log. In many cases she supplemented her assistance with delicacies, and clothing instructed the mother in the management of children, how to cook and to make the home more comfortable. The settlers in those days needed help and encouragement for they fought against terrible hardships. - Newcastle Sun 1 May 1919.  

2). Select here to head an interesting account of the Hooke family in England and Australia from a document entitled, “Records of the Hooke Family, Dungog, NSW”, Miss Ruby Mary Doyle, of Dungog, N.S.W, and great granddaughter of Mr. John Hooke, of Norton Hall, Worcester, England  

3) Another account of the Hooke family printed in the Dungog Chronicle on 1 June 1945 -

The Hookes came from landed gentry of England and were said to be direct descendants of a knight who came over to England from Normandy with William the Conqueror nearly nine hundred years ago. John Hooke came to Tasmania in his own ship with his liveried servants He had everything destroyed by fire and went back with his wife and family to get another supply. On his second trip out which took about nine months his third son Benjamin was born in the vessel at Table Bay, South Africa. He then came to the Dungog district and resided at what was then known as Wirey Gully, a grant of 2000 acres. He brought horses and sheep from England with him and always claimed to have brought the first sheep and the prettiest woman to this district. His daughter Emily afterwards Mrs. J.K. Mackay was said to be the first white child born in the district. The family were John (Dingadee), Henry (Rocky Hill), Benjamin (Wirragulla), James (Crook's Park), Alfred (Morpeth), Augustus (Walcha), Mrs. Hill (Bungay, Wingham), Mrs. J.K. Mackay (Cangon), and Mrs. D.F. Mackay (Minimbah) A son Charles Albert died in Sydney and was buried where the Sydney Town Hall later stood. Things were very bad in the grazing business between 1840 and 1850 and cattle and sheep were worth practically nothing. The Hookes started a boiling down works at Wirey Gully which made a fat bullock worth one pound five shillings for hide and tallow and a sheep eighteen pence. They bought 300 store bullocks from Matthew Chapman of the Grange, Wallarobba for twelve shillings and sixpence a head and took them up to the Pignumbarney Station at the Manning to fatten. Of course there were no fence and these cattle left and tried to get home and got as fare as Pine Brush, Brookfield where the river being in flood stopped them. They took them back and before they were fat gold was discovered and the rush of people to Australia sent the price of cattle up and they were sold at 6 per head. My father told me that the night news came through that gold ha been discovered Mr. James White was staying at the Station and he was very put out, as he said we would be all ruined as all paid men would leave; but instead of being ruined, White made his fortune out of the better prices.    



(1) 1828 New South Wales, Australia Census (TNA Copy) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 21-28); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England.

(2) State Records Authority of New South Wales; Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia; Returns of the Colony ('BlueBooks'), 1822-1857; Collection Number: Series 1286; Publication Year: 1828.    

Henry John Lindeman - Cawarra


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