John Connor worked
in Sydney first, then joined in exploring the area inland from Port
Macquarie until he was employed by
Captain Rapsey on the old storeship, the
St. Michael. Moored at
the end of the navigable reach of the Hunter River, the St. Michael
was the supply depot for the convicts cutting cedar, the soldiers
guarding them, the bush constables and others in the district. As
the settlement developed the quantity of stores passing through the
St. Michael increased. In 1832 the two steam packets,
Sophia Jane and
William the Fourth commenced a regular
passenger and mail service, plying twice weekly between Sydney and
the Green Hills (Morpeth).
Front of the old Bond Stores at Morpeth
It is worthwhile
to quote a description of the site of Maitland as the future
Ullathorne saw it in those early days:
"Riding at Maitland
along the fertile banks of the River Hunter, it was impossible not
to admire the beauty of those primitive forests and the fertile
abundance produced by the deep and rich alluvial soil. Then there
were the varied notes of the birds. I was riding through the woods
with Mr. Walker, the chief supporter of our religion in that
locality, when I heard at some distance first a whistle, then the
crack of a whip, then the reverberation of the lash. I asked: `What
road is that over there?' `There is no road,' he replied. `But I
heard a man driving, and there again'. `Oh, that's the coachman.'
`But a coachman must have a road'. `The coachman's a bird,' he said,
and bird it was, exactly imitating the whistle of a coachman and
the crack and lashing of his whip. Then the bellbird rang its silver
bell, and another species cried like a child in trouble, whilst a
flock of parrots made a croaking din, and flights of black cockatoos
spread over the fields of maize with a noise like the rusty hinges
of an old castle all flapping together in the wind."
well known that the first church built north of Sydney was St.
Joseph's Church, East Maitland and the first resident priest, Father
Watkins, arrived in 1835. The church had a roof of sorts and an
earthen floor, except in the sanctuary, where it was of wood. Often
the Mass centre was at one of the larger farm houses, mostly those
of friendly non-catholics, for the simple reason that the catholics
had for the most part, only small holdings or none at all. The
larger properties were worked by assigned convicts, and these were
the people to whom the priest went to minister. If the master was in
any way friendly he was glad to have the priest offer the Mass at
his homestead for it saved the necessity of, his assigned servants
going out to Mass.
Father Mahony was the resident priest and had set about erecting
chapels at three of his centres, namely Hexham, Raymond Terrace and
Dungog, as well as organising other centres. When Bishop Polding
visited the district in 1840 he was well pleased with what he found.
The convicts were clean, groomed and mannerly and their lives had
improved greatly in the five years that a priest had been living in
This visit of Bishop Polding seems to have
been the first real episcopal visitation of the Hunter Valley and
the Bishop's report shows that of a population of 1,160 there were
365 catholics. On 4th October, Sunday, the Bishop celebrated Mass in
the church at East Maitland, with a crowded congregation including
some protestants. On Monday he celebrated Mass at Raymond Terrace,
having travelled there the evening before, about ten miles distant.
It rained all the time and Mass was celebrated in a tent, the chapel
being not yet completed. The Bishop was well pleased with the
exemplary piety and general good conduct of these people. He then
went on to Hinton, a further seven miles, where again a large group
of catholics eagerly listened to his sermon. He continued on to
Cooly Camp and then to Glenham where he arrived at ten o'clock in
the night. On Tuesday morning he celebrated Mass for the catholics,
about 60 of them in this area, then looked at the site for the
chapel. The land for this chapel was given by Mrs. Chambers. The
Bishop then went on 25 miles to Dungog where he was given
hospitality at the home of W.F. Mackay and next morning celebrated
Mass in this mansion with seventy catholics and some protestants,
being present. The same day the Bishop and party returned to
Maitland arriving there at 10 p.m. These were the people and this
the area of which Moses and John Connor were a part.
Alcorn's Inn stood on rising ground where the
old and the new tracks met on the Singleton (southern) side of Fal
Brook crossing at Dulwich Farm. This was becoming a favourite place
for camping and resting the working bullocks.
Glennie's house was on elevated ground upwards of a
mile nearer Singleton. The present bridge at Camberwell is 3 miles
in a downstream direction from the site of Alcorn's Inn. On lst
January 1832 a Post Office was established at Alcorn's Inn, to be
the most northerly inland Post Office in the Australian Colonies.
Mail was carried up there once a week by the Mounted Police. James
Glennie was the contractor in 1832 for the supply of rations and
forage to Mounted Police operating in the upper districts, and
rations for the lock-ups at Darlington, Merton and Invermein. At
Glennie's store travellers could purchase flour, beef and some other
Catholic Church at Glennie's Creek
Moses Connor married Anne
Farrell at Glennie's
Creek in 1840 and their daughter Mary Anne was born there 21 March,
1841. Then came John in April 1843 and Michael 22 June 1845. Three
more babies were born to them but when John returned from the
whaling trip to the Southern Ocean with a group of men from some of
the ships that had been trading between Sydney and Morpeth he found
Moses and Anne in a sad state. Two of their babies had died and they
believed this was due to the bad climate.
They wanted to
move further north. John and Moses together procured a horse and
dray and began preparations for the journey.
another little boy died and Anne was very distressed. The departure
was delayed but Moses felt they must move away from that area.
Finally the two men with Anne and the three remaining children Mary,
John and Michael set off on the long trek that took them to Ipswich.
Ipswich was the free settlement fifteen miles up-river from
Bay, the former Penal Colony, now becoming a busy
port. Ipswich had a newly developed coal mine and was growing as the
centre for the large land holdings being taken up in the Brisbane
River valley, over the mountains and across the Darling Downs.
It was in Ipswich that John met Mary Murphy, the Irish governess
to one of the families he was welcoming to Australia. They were
immediately attracted to each other, John felt this was the woman
who could, and would as he soon learned, help him to settle down and
build a truly Christian home. They were married by Rev. William
McGinty who with Father Hanly were the only two priests working in
this vast northern section of the Colony. Their marriage was
celebrated on 15 August 1854, in Ipswich.
The Connor men
were not happy with the work and conditions that they found in
Ipswich and did not settle comfortably, so that when they heard of
the successful gold findings at Rocky River (Uralla), they once
again packed their families and belongings into the dray and
traveled south. John having his new bride with him, Mary a little
sad at leaving behind her sister, but Ellen was employed in a good
family and was content that Mary must go.
The journey would
have taken some months for it covers a distance of three hundred and
fifty miles or nearly five hundred kilometers. For most of the way
the track, now the New England Highway, follows the top of the Great
Dividing Range. As soon as they reached Rocky River the men lost no
time in staking their claims and then set up their homes.
Chapter 3 >>
Chapter 11 & O'Connor Genealogy
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