BOOK 2. - AUSTRALIAN DISCOVERY BY LAND

III. GOVERNOR MACQUARIE'S REPORT ON THE COUNTRY BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS

Government and General Orders*.
Government House, Sydney, 10th June, 1815.

[* These form part of Evans's journal in Chapter II; it is available in full on the Project Gutenberg Australia website at Evans' listing.

THE Governor desires to communicate, for the information of the public, the result of his late tour over the Western or Blue Mountains, undertaken for the purpose of being enabled personally to appreciate the importance of the Tract of Country lying Westward of them, which had been explored in the latter end of the year, 1813, and the beginning of 1814, by Mr. G. W. Evans, Deputy Surveyor of Lands.

To those, who know how very limited a tract of country has been hitherto occupied by the colonists of New South Wales, extending along the eastern coast, to the north and south of Port Jackson, only 80 miles, and westward about 40 miles to the foot of the chain of mountains in the interior, which forms its western boundary, it must be a matter of astonishment and regret that amongst so large a population no one appeared, within the first 25 years of the establishment of this settlement, possessed of sufficient energy of mind to induce him fully to explore a passage over these mountains; but, when it is considered that, for the greater part of that time, even this circumscribed portion of country afforded sufficient produce for the wants of the people, whilst on the other hand the whole surface of the country beyond those limits was a thick, and in many places nearly an impenetrable, forest, the surprise at the want of effort to surmount such difficulties must abate very considerably.

The records of the Colony only afford two instances of any bold attempt, having been made to discover the country to the westward of the Blue Mountains. The first was by Mr. Bass, and the other by Mr. Cayley; and both ended in disappointment; a circumstance, which will not be much wondered at by those, who have lately crossed those mountains.

To G. BIaxland and W. Wentworth, Esqs., and Lieutenant Lawson, of the Royal Veteran Company, the merit is due of having, with extraordinary patience and much fatigue, effected the first passage over the most rugged and difficult part of the Blue Mountains.

The Governor, being strongly impressed with the importance of the object, had early after his arrival in this colony, formed the resolution of encouraging the attempt to find a passage to the Western Country, and willingly availed himself of the facilities, which the discoveries of these three gentlemen afforded him. Accordingly on the 20th of November, 1813, he entrusted the accomplishment of this object to Mr. G. W. Evans, Deputy Surveyor of Lands, the result of whose journey was laid before the public through the medium of the Sydney Gazette on the 12th of Feb., 1814.

The favourable account given by Mr. Evans of the country he had explored, induced the Governor to cause a road to be constructed for the passage and conveyance of cattle and provisions to the interior; and men of good character, from amongst a number of convicts who had volunteered their services, were selected to perform this arduous work, on condition of being fed and clothed during the continuance of their labour, and being granted emancipation, as their final reward, on the completion of the work.

The direction and superintendence of this great work was entrusted to W. Cox, Esq., the chief magistrate of Windsor; and to the astonishment of every one, who knows what was to be encountered and sees what has been done, he effected its completion in six months from the time of its commencement, happily without the loss of a man or any serious accident. The Governor is at a loss to appreciate fully the services rendered by Mr. Cox to this colony in the execution of this arduous work, which promises to be of the greatest public utility by opening a new source of wealth to the industrious and enterprising. When it is considered that Mr. Cox voluntarily relinquished the comforts of his own house and the society of his numerous family, and exposed himself to much personal fatigue with only such temporary covering, as a bark hut could afford, from the inclemency of the season, it is difficult to express the sentiments of approbation to which such privations and services are entitled.

Mr. Cox having reported the road as completed on the 21st of January, the Governor, accompanied by Mrs. Macquarie and that gentleman, commenced his tour on the 25th of April over the Blue Mountains, and was joined by Sir J. Jamieson at the Nepean, who accompanied him during the entire tour.

The following gentlemen composed the Governor's suite:—

Mr. Campbell, secretary; Captain Antill, major of brigade; Lieutenant Watts, aide-de-camp; Mr. Redfern, assistant surgeon; Mr. Oxley, surveyor-general; and Mr. G. W. Evans, deputy surveyor of lands, who had been sent forward for the purpose of making further discoveries and rejoined the party on the day of arrival at Bathurst plains.

The commencement of the ascent from Emu Plains to the first depot, and thence to a resting place, now called "Spring Wood", distant 12 miles from Emu Ford, was through a very handsome open forest of lofty trees, and much more practicable and easy than was expected. The facility of the ascent for this distance excited surprise, and is certainly not well calculated to give the traveller a just idea of the difficulties he has afterwards to encounter. At the further distance of 4 miles, a sudden change is perceived in the appearance of the timber and the quality of the soil, the former becoming stunted, and the latter barren and rocky. At this place, the fatigues of the journey may be said to commence. Here the country became altogether mountainous and extremely rugged. Near the 18th mile mark (it is observed that the measure commences from Emu Ford) a pile of stones attracted attention; it is close to the line of the road on the top of a rugged and abrupt ascent, and is supposed to have been placed there by Mr. Cayley, as the extreme limit of his tour; hence the Governor gave that part of the mountain the name of "Cayley's Repulse". To have penetrated even so far was at that time an effort of no small difficulty. From hence, forward to the 26th mile, is a succession of steep and rugged hills, some of which are almost so abrupt as to deny a passage altogether; but at this place an extensive plain is arrived at, which constitutes the summit of the Western Mountain; and from thence a most extensive and beautiful prospect presents itself on all sides to the eye. The town of Windsor, the river Hawkesbury, Prospect Hill, and other objects within that part of the colony now inhabited, of equal interest, are distinctly seen from hence. The majestic grandeur of the situation, combined with the various objects to be seen from this place, induced the Governor to give it the appellation of "The King's Table Land".

On the S.W. side of the King's Table Land, the mountain terminates in abrupt precipices of immense depth; at the bottom of which is seen a glen as romantically beautiful as can he imagined, bounded on the further side by mountains of great magnitude, terminating equally abruptly as the others, and the whole thickly covered with timber. The length of this picturesque and remarkable tract of country is about 24 miles, to which the Governor gave the name of "The Prince Regent's Glen". Proceeding hence to the 33rd mile on the top of a hill, an opening presents itself on the S.W. side of the Prince Regent's Glen from whence a view is obtained particularly beautiful and grand. Mountains rising beyond mountains, with stupendous masses of rock in the foreground, here strike the eye with admiration and astonishment. The circular form, in which the whole is so wonderfully disposed, induced the Governor to give the name of "Pitt's Amphitheatre", in honour of the late Right Hon. Wm. Pitt, to this first branch from the Prince Regent's Glen. The road continues from hence for the space of 17 miles on the ridge of the mountain, which forms one side of the Prince Regent's Glen; and it suddenly terminates in nearly a perpendicular precipice of 676 feet high, as ascertained by measurement. The road constructed by Mr. Cox down this rugged and tremendous descent through all its windings is no less than three fourths of a mile in length, and has been executed with such skill and stability, as reflects much credit on him. The labour here under gone and the difficulties surmounted can only be appreciated by those who view the scene. In order to perpetuate the memory of Mr. Cox's services, the Governor deemed it a tribute justly due to him to give his name to this grand and extraordinary Pass, and he accordingly called it "Cox's Pass". Having descended into the valley at the bottom of this pass, the retrospective view of the overhanging mountain is much higher than those on either side of it; from whence it is distinguished at a considerable distance, when approaching it from the interior, and in this point of view it has the appearance of a very high distinct hill, although it is in fact only the abrupt termination of a ridge. The Governor gave the name of "Mount York" to this termination of the ridge in honour of his Royal Highness the Duke of York.

On descending Cox's Pass, the Governor was much gratified by the appearance of good pasture land, and soil fit for Cultivation, which was the first he had met with since the commencement of his tour. The valley at the base of Mount York, he called "the Vale of Clwyd" in consequence of the strong resemblance it bore to the vale of that name in North Wales. The grass in this vale is of a good quality and very abundant, and rivulet of fine water runs along it from the eastward, which unites itself at the western extremity of the vale with another rivulet containing still more water. The junction of these two streams forms a very handsome river, now called by the Governor "Cox's River", which takes its course, as has been ascertained, through the Prince Regent's Glen, and empties itself into the Nepean River; and it is conjectured from the nature of the country, through which it passes, that it must be one of the principal causes of the floods, which have been occasionally felt on the low banks of the river Hawkesbury into which the Nepean discharges itself. The vale of Clwyd from the base of Mount York extends six miles in a westerly direction, and has its termination at Cox's River. West of this river the country again becomes hilly; but is generally open forest land and very good pasturage.

Three miles to the Westward of the Vale of Clwyd, Messrs. Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson had formerly terminated their excursion; and when the various difficulties are considered, which they had to contend with, especially until they had effected the descent from Mount York, to which place they were obliged to pass through a thick brush wood, where they were under the necessity of cutting a passage for the baggage horses, the severity of which labour had seriously affected their healths, their patient endurance of such fatigue cannot fail to excite much surprise and admiration. In commemoration of their merits, three beautiful high hills, joining each other at the end of their tour at this place, have received their names in the following order, viz.; "Mount Blaxland," "Wentworth's Sugar Loaf," and "Lawson's Sugar Loaf". A range of very lofty hills and narrow vallies alternately form the tract of country from Cox's River for a distance of 16 miles, until the Fish River is arrived at; and the stage between these rivers is consequently very severe and oppressive on the cattle. To this Range, the Governor gave the name of "Clarence Hilly Range".

Proceeding from the Fish River, and at a short distance from it, a very singular and beautiful mountain attracts the attention, its summits being crowned with a large and very extraordinary looking rock, nearly circular in form, which gives to the whole very much the appearance of a hill or fort, such as are frequent in India. To this lofty hill, Mr. Evans, who was the first European discoverer, gave the name of "Mount Evans". Passing on from hence, the country continues hilly, but affords a good pasturage, gradually improving to Sidmouth Valley, which is distant from the pass of the Fish River 12 miles. The land here is level, and the first met with unincumbered with timber; it is not of very considerable extent, but abounds with a great variety of herbs and plants, such as would probably highly interest and gratify the scientific botanists. This beautiful little valley runs northwest and south-east between hills of easy ascent, thinly covered with timber. Leaving Sidmouth Valley, the country becomes again hilly, and, in other respects, resembles very much the country to the eastward of the valley for some miles. Having reached Campbell River, distance 13 miles from Sidmouth Valley, the Governor was highly gratified by the appearance of the country, which there began to exhibit an open and extensive view of gently rising grounds and fertile plains, judging from the height of the banks and its general width, the Campbell River must be on some occasions of very considerable magnitude but the extraordinary drought, which has apparently prevailed on the western side of the mountains, equally as throughout this colony for the last three years, has reduced this river so much, that it may be more properly called a chain of pools than a running stream at the present time. In the reaches or pools of the Campbell River, the very curious animal called the Paradox or Water-mole is seen in great numbers. The soil on both banks is uncommonly rich, and the grass is consequently luxuriant. Two miles to the southward of the line of road which crosses the Campbell River, there is a very fine tract of low lands, which has been named Mitchell Plains. Flax was found growing in considerable quantities. The Fish River, which forms a junction with the Campbell River a few miles to the northward of the road and bridge over the latter, has also two very fertile plains on its banks, the one called O'Connell Plains, and the other Macquarie Plains, both of very considerable extent and capable of yielding all the necessaries of life.

At the distance of seven miles from the bridge over the Campbell River, Bathurst Plains open to the view, presenting a rich tract of campaign country of 11 miles in length, bounded on both sides by gently rising and very beautiful hills, thinly wooded. The Macquarie River, which is constituted by the junction of the Fish and Campbell River, takes a winding course through the plains, which can be easily traced from the high lands adjoining by the particular verdure of the trees on its bank, which are likewise the only trees throughout the extent of the plains. The level and clear surface of these plains gives them at first view very much the appearance of lands in a state of cultivation.

It is impossible to behold this grand scene without a feeling of admiration and surprise, whilst the silence and solitude, which reign in a space of such extent and beauty as seems designed by nature for the occupancy and comfort of man, create a degree of melancholy in the mind which may be more easily imagined than described.

The Governor and suite arrived at these plains on Thursday, the 4th of May, and encamped on the southern left bank of the Macquarie river; the situation being selected in consequence of its commanding a beautiful and extensive prospect for many miles in every direction around it. At this place, the Governor remained for a week, which time he occupied in making excursions in different directions through the adjoining country on both sides of the river.

On Sunday, the 7th of May, the Governor fixed on a site suitable for the erection of a town at some future period, to which he gave the name of "Bathurst," in honour of the present Secretary of State for the Colonies. The situation of Bathurst is elevated sufficiently beyond the reach of any floods which may occur, and it is at the same time so near to the river on its south bank as to derive all the advantages of its clear and beautiful stream. The mechanics and settlers, of whatever description, who may be hereafter permitted to form permanent residences to themselves at this place, will have the highly important advantages of a rich and fertile soil, with a beautiful river flowing through it, for all the uses of man. The Governor must, however, add, that the hopes, which were once so sanguinely entertained of this river becoming navigable to the Western Sea, have ended in disappointment.

During the week that the Governor remained at Bathurst, he made daily excursions in various directions:—one of these extended 22 miles in a south-west direction, and on that occasion, as well as on all others, he found the country chiefly composed of valleys and plains, separated occasionally by ranges of low hills, the soils throughout being generally fertile and well circumstanced for the purpose of agriculture and grazing. The Governor here feels much pleasure in being enabled to communicate to the public that the favourable reports, which he had received of the country to the west of the Blue Mountains, have not been by any means exaggerated. The difficulties, which present themselves in the journey from hence, are certainly great and inevitable; but those persons, who may be inclined to become permanent settlers there, will probably content themselves with visiting this part of the colony but rarely, and of course will have them seldom to encounter. Plenty of water and a sufficiency of grass are to be found in the mountains for the support of such cattle as may be sent over them; and the tracts of fertile soil and rich pasturage, which the new country affords, are fully extensive enough for any increase of population and stock, which can possibly take place for years.

Within a distance of ten miles from the site of Bathurst, there is not less than 50,000 acres of land clear of timber, and fully one half of that may be considered excellent soil, well calculated for cultivation. It is a matter of regret, that, in proportion as the soil improves, the timber degenerates; and it is to be remarked, that every where to the westward of the Mountains, it is much inferior both in size and quality to that within the present colony; there is, however, a sufficiency of timber of tolerable quality, within the district around Bathurst, for the purpose of house-building and husbandry.

The Governor has here to lament, that neither coals or limestone have yet been discovered in the western country, articles in themselves of so much importance that the want of them must be severely felt whenever that country shall be settled.

Having enumerated the principal and most important features of this new country, the Governor has now to notice some of its live productions. All around Bathurst abounds in a variety of game; and the two principal rivers contain a great quantity of fish, but all of one denomination, resembling the perch in appearance and of a delicate and fine flavour, not unlike that of a rock-cod; this fish grows to a large size, and is very voracious. Several of them were caught during the Governor's stay at Bathurst, and at the halting-place of the Fish River. One of those caught weighed 17 lb., and the people stationed at Bathurst stated, that they had caught some weighing 25 lbs.

The field game are kangarooes, emus, black swans, wild geese, wild turkeys, bustards, ducks of various kinds, quail, bronze and other pigeons, etc.; the water-mole or paradox also abounds in all the rivers and ponds.

The site designed for the town of Bathurst, by observation taken at a flag-staff, which was erected on the day of Bathurst receiving that name, is situated in lat. 33° 24' 30" south, and in long. 149° 37' 45" east of Greenwich, being also 27 miles north of Government House in Sydney, and 94 west of it, bearing west 20° 30' north 83 geographic miles, or 95 statute miles; the measured road distance from Sydney to Bathurst being 140 English miles.

On Thursday, the 17th of May, the Governor and suite set out from Bathurst on their return, and arrived at Sydney on Friday, the 19th ult.

The Governor deems it expedient to notify here to the public that he does not mean to make any grant of land to the westward of the Blue Mountains, until he shall receive the commands of his Majesty's Ministers on that subject, and in reply to the report he is now about to make them upon it.

In the mean time, such gentlemen, or other respectable free persons, as may wish to visit this new country, will be permitted to do so on making a written application to the Governor to that effect, who will order them to be furnished with written passes. It is at the same time strictly ordered and directed that no person, whether civil or military, shall attempt to travel over the Blue Mountains, without having previously applied for and obtained permission in the above prescribed form. The military guard stationed at the first depot on the mountains will receive full instructions to prevent the progress of any persons, who shall not have obtained regular passes. The necessity for the establishing and strictly enforcing this regulation is too obvious to every one, who will reflect on it, to require any explanation here.