Free Settler or Felon?

Hunter Valley Settler

John Lord
Underbank - Map 3

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In 1836, 2560 acres in the Upper William's River district promised to Archibald Mosman by Governor Darling on 6th February, 1829 was re-advertised in favour of John Lord.(1)

In 1838, 1280 acres of land promised by Governor Darling to George Mackenzie and John McLean on 1st July 1829 was re-advertised in favour of John Lord(2)

John Lord's house was raided by bushrangers in December 1840. The Sydney Herald reported:

On Tuesday last, the 1st instant another posse of these freebooters made an attack on the establishment of John Lord, Esq., at Underbank (sixteen miles above Dungog), bailed up all the servants, Mrs. Lord, and Mr. Craig and after carrying away all the ammunition and fire arms they could lay their hands upon, together with tea, sugar, flour, butter etc., besides 8 or 10 in cash and a horse, they left at about half past four in the afternoon after dining comfortably and pursued their course over the mountains in the direction of the Paterson and have not since been heard of.

In March 1844 the Maitland Mercury reported the following incident that took place on this estate resulting in the death of the superintendent:

'Fatal Accident. A melancholy accident occurred in this neighbourhood on Friday, the 16th February. A day or two previous Mr. John Ashworth, Mr. Lord's superintendent at the Gloucester, had missed some sheep. On the morning of the 16th he, with some other parties, went in search of them. While passing a native camp they saw the aborigines sitting round the fire, and very deliberately roasting some mutton. Mr. John Ashworth called to the party to surround the blacks to make prisoners of them, but they started immediately. The ground was very rough and broken, and Mr. Ashworth putting his horse to speed, he stumbled, and Mr. A. was thrown on his forehead. He was picked up immediately, and medical aid sent for, but on the 21st he died, deeply regretted by all who knew him. He was in the bloom of life. I should have mentioned that previous to the party going in search, the shepherd who had the sheep in charge had come on the blacks while slaughtering them when they threatened to kill him unless he promised he would say nothing of it.'

The following convicts were assigned to John Lord at the Williams River:

Name Vessel
Peter Smith  
John Massey Marquis of Huntley 1828
William Mayer Hive 1834
George Dean Clyde 1832
Richard Nightingale Exmouth 1831
Bryan Galligan Ferguson 1829
John Glass Lady Nugent 1835
Sarah Perring Numa 1834
William Johnson Heroine 1833
Richard Lloyd Batavia 1818
William Chadburn John Barry 1839
William Reading Georgiana 1831
John Southerwood Lloyds 1833
Denis Tuffy Surry 1836
Robert Ward Susan 1834
Richard White Blenheim 1834
William Wright Lady Nugent 1835
George Aldridge Isabella 1832
Martin Burtonwood Heroine 1833

In 1845 Underbank came up for auction....Consisting of 8,320 acres with the House, Offices, Barns, Stockyards, Vineyard, Cultivation and Cattle Paddocks, out stations and other improvements. This estate commands extensive ranges and fertile valleys on both sides of the Williams River. 1208 head of cattle, 24 horses were also auctioned and The Barrington Station on the River Barrington, Gloucester, being section of 640 acres with the Cottage, huts, hurdles etc and forming a very superior sheep station commanding the whole Vale of Gloucester. (The Australian 15 May 1845)

The 1840's were a difficult time - failures of businesses, farms and estates left many colonists bankrupt. Their properties weren't able to be sold and so it was decided that rather than sell such property at give away prices, a lottery at 4 a ticket would be held. This is how the Underbank estate came into the ownership of the McDonald family in the 1840's.

January 1849.......

Partition of the Bank of Australia Properties - The drawing of the lots in the partition of these properties took place in Sydney on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday last, on the plan previously described in the Mercury. The highest prize in the lottery fell to the share of a small settler, named Angus McDonald, residing as a tenant farmer on the Bolwarra Estate, close to Maitland. Mr. McDonald had purchased from Mr. Craig the ticket numbered 3374, and one day last week he offered to Sell to a neighbour half his chance for 2, but fortunately for himself the offer was not accepted. On Tuesday this ticket drew lot No: 1, the estate of Underbank, on the Upper William River, consisting of 8320 acres, with mansion, &c., &c, and, with 3,700 head of cattle, and 40 horses, running on the estate, and on the station named Cryan, on the Barwin River, the right to this station being given in; the whole being valued in the published schedule at 6,000.

Poor McDonald, who was a young man 34 year of age, and who had a wife and family, did not live long to enjoy his newly acquired wealth, for on the 5th of April following as he was riding from Maitland in company with Donald McLachlan and Hugh McFadden to his home at Bolwarra, where he was still residing he was accidentally thrown from his horse and killed on the spot. He had just engaged McLachlan to superintend his cattle and to manage the estate for him.

After his death, the Underbank estate passed to Angus McDonald's infant son. The details of a civil court case heard at Maitland in 1853 give more information about ownership and management of Underbank at that time. (MM 8 September 1852)


(1) Sydney Gazette 24 December 1836

(2) Sydney Gazette 22 January 1838

(3) Maitland Mercury 6 January 1849

(4) Maitland Weekly Mercury 13 January 1894

Henry John Lindeman - Cawarra


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