Blue Mountains, Australia, History

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Crossing the Blue Mountains
3 Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia.

Evans' expedition to Bathurst region, 1814

 

GOVERNMENT ORDER                   Government House, Sydney,
12th February, 1814

It having been long deemed an Object of great Importance by His Excellency the Governor to ascertain what Resources this Colony might possess in the Interior, beyond its present known and circumscribed Limits, with a View to meet the Demands of its rapidly encreasing Population; and the great Importance of the Discovery of new Tracts of good Soil being much enhanced by the Consideration of the long continued droughts of the present Season, so injurious in their Effects to every Class of the Community in the Colony, His EXCELLENCY was pleased some Time since to equip a Party of Men, under the direction of Mr George William Evans, one of the Assistant Land Surveyors (in whose Zeal and Abilities for such an Undertaking he had well branded Reason to confide), and to furnish him with written Instructions for his Guidance in endeavouring to find a Passage over the Blue Mountains and ascertaining the Quality and general Properties of the Soil he should meet with to the Westward of them.

Object been happily effected, and Mr. Evans with his entire Party all in good Health, the Governor is pleased to direct, that the following Summary of his Tour of Discovery extracted from his own Journal, shall be published for general Information.

Mr. Evans, attended by five Men, selected for their Knowledge of the Country, and habituated to such Difficulties as might be expected to occur, was supplied with Horses, Arms, and Ammunition, and a plentiful Store of Provisions for a two Months Tour. His instructions were, that he commence the Ascent of the Blue Mountains from the Extremity of the present known country at Emu Island, distant about thirty six miles from Sydney, and thence proceed in a nearly west direction as the nature of the Country he had to explore would admit, and to continue his Journey as far as his Means would enable him.

On Saturday, the 20th of November last, the party proceeded from Emu Island, and on the 5th Day, having then effected their Passage over the Mountains, arrived at the Commencement of a Valley on the western Side of them, having passed over several tracts of tolerably good Soil, but also over much rugged and very difficult Mountain; proceeding through this Valley, which Mr. Evans describes as beautiful and fertile, with a rapid running Stream running through it, he arrived at the Termination of the Tour lately made by Messrs G. Blaxland, W. C. Wentworth, and Lieutenant Lawson.

Commencing in the western Direction prescribed in his Instructions for the course of 21 days from this station, Mr Evans then found it necessary to return, and on the 8th of January he arrived back at Emu Island, after an Excursion of seven complete Weeks. During the Course of this Tour, Mr. Evans passed over several Plains of great Extent, with Hills and Vallies abounding in the richest Soil, and with various Streams of Water and Chains of Ponds. The Country he traversed measured 98 Miles beyond the Termination of Messrs. Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson's Tour, and not less than 150 from Emu Island.

 

The greater Part of these Plains are described as being nearly free of timber and Brush wood, and in Capacity equal (in Mr Evans’ opinion) to every Desire and which this Colony may have for an Extension of Tillage and Pasture lands for a Century to come.

The Stream already mentioned continues its Course in a westerly Direction and for several miles through the Vallies, with many and great Accessions of other Streams, becomes a capacious and beautiful River, abounding in Fish of very large Size and fine Flavour, many of which weighed not less than 15lbs. This River is supposed to empty itself into the Ocean on the western Side of New South Wales, at Distance of from 2 to 300 Miles from the Termination of the Tour.

From the Summits of some very high Hills, Mr. Evans saw a vast Extent of flat Country laying in a westerly Direction, which appeared to be bounded at a Distance of about 40 Miles by other Hills. The general Description of these heretofore unexplored Regions, given by Mr. Evans is, that they very far surpass in Beauty and Fertility of Soil any he has seen in New South Wales or Van Diemen's Land.

In Consideration of the Importance of these Discoveries, and calculating upon the Effect they May have on the future Prosperity of this Colony, His Excellency the Governor is Pleased to announce his Intention of presenting Mr. Evans with a Grant of 1000 Acres of Land in Van Diemen’s Land, where he is to be stationed as Deputy Surveyor; and further, to make him a pecuniary Reward from the Colonial Funds, in Acknowledgement of his diligent and active Services on this occasion.

His Excellency also means to make a pecuniary Reward to the two Free Men who accompanied Mr. Evans, and a Grant of Land to each of them. To the three Convicts who also assisted in this Excursion, the Governor means to grant Conditional Pardons and a small Portion of Land to each of them, these Men having performed the Services required of them entirely to the Satisfaction of Mr. Evans.

The Governor is happy to embrace this Opportunity of conveying his Acknowledgements to Gregory Blaxland and William Charles Wentworth, and Lieutenant William Lawson, of the Royal Veteran Company, for their enterprizing and arduous Expeditions on the Tour of Discovery which they voluntarily performed in the Month of May last, when they effected a passage over the Blue Mountains, and proceeded to the Extremity of the first Valley particularly alluded to in Mr. Evan's Tour, and being the first Europeans who had accomplished the Passage over the Blue Mountains. The Governor is desirous to confer on these Gentlemen substantial Marks of his Sense of their meritorious Exertions on this Occasion, means to present each of them with a Grant of 1000 Acres of Land in this newly discovered Country.

By Command of His Excellency
The Governor,
J.T. Campbell, Secretary

Comments

Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth had crossed the Blue Mountains and found farming land in the Hartley region, but they had neither crossed the Great Divide nor found any large area suitable for farming. Further exploration was needed, and George Evans wanted to go.

Following Evans' return, Governor Macquarie had his secretary prepare a newspaper article from Evans' diary.

Guns would be needed to hunt animals for fresh meat. They would also have been used for defence, in the event of an attack by aborigines or escaped convicts. Other supplies are likely to have included salted meat, flour, tea, cooking utensils; shoes & other supplies for the horses; writing equipment (quill pens, ink, paper);   compass & sextant for navigation.

Supplies would have been carried in canvas and leather bags, wooden boxes, & glass bottles. No lightweight equipment was available in 1814.

The men wore heavy clothing of wool, cotton and leather. Oiled canvas provided protection from rain.


George Evans

Emu Island, erroneously named, later became Emu Plains.


Governor Lachlan Macquarie

The group would continue west until their supplies ran low. They would need to keep enough for the journey home.
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Evans reached Mt Blaxland, a short distance west of the Cox’s River and Hartley; the termination of Blaxland, Lawson & Wentworth's explorations.

He then crossed the Great Dividing Range, and explored west to a point near Bathurst, before turning back

Evans named the river Macquarie, after the governor.

Australia was thought to have a vast inland sea. Many expeditions attempted to find it before the truth was realised - the "sea" is a sea of desert sand.

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Recognising their need to make an honest living, the Governor granted the freed convicts land on which to make a fresh start as farmers.

Governor Macquarie's liberal practices, which included giving convicts the opportunity to earn a pardon, were frowned on in London. He was replaced by a more disciplinarian governor.

The men had worked hard to earn their rewards, including the grants of Crown Land. But did the Crown really own the land, or was it stolen from the Aborigines?

Sydney Gazette, February 12, 1814 p1.

 

 

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