Richard Fitzgerald’s Bathurst Convict Establishment in 1828 (Part 1)


I’ve mentioned Richard Fitzgerald in my recent posts about John Snow and Deridgeree station. I’ve been poking about Ancestry and FamilySearch to piece together his early activities in the Bathurst, Mudgee and Coolah districts in search of further family links. Below are some fruits of my labour.

Fitzgerald was one of the great survivors of colonial New South Wales. The title of his biography,  “From Convict to Millionaire” (by Susan Perrett), reflects this. Due to the pandemic I haven’t read this yet but when I can I’ll update this post. You can read Fitzgerald’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

The 1828 Census

Fitzgerald’s census return for the Bathurst district in 1828 is comprehensive, naming the the 31 individuals working for him under the supervision of his trusted overseer, John Barker. For each individual it gives his age, convict status, the name of the ship on which he arrived, the year of arrival, his sentence, occupation, place of residence and religion. The places of residence are Dabey (Dabee), Woolar (Wollar), Combemelong, Nandowrey, and Carwel (Carwell). The occupations are shepherd, hut keeper, herdsman, blacksmith, bullock driver, shoemaker, labourer and overseer.

To find out more about Fitzgerald’s people see part 2 of this post.

The return also enumerates Fitzgerald’s land and livestock, the land being 1,000 acres at Dabey, 5,000 acres at Nandowrey and 1,200 acres at Clear Creek. No acreage is given for either Woolar or Combemelong although stock were located at both.

Fitzgerald’s Property Acquisitions

Fitzgerald acquired many properties during his long career. However the cessation of his government employment in 1822, following the Bigge Report and Lachlan Macquarie’s recall as governor, probably freed him up to tend to his own business affairs and the acquisition of property further afield than Sydney.

The district or town of Bathurst was established by Governor Macquarie’s proclamation on 7 May 1815. Prior to this date “Bathurst district” was a reference to an administrative district of western Sydney. Both usages occur over the next 10 years or so. In 1819 Fitzgerald received a grant of 1,350 acres in the districts of Bathurst. The survey description of the land includes references to the Harris Farm (at Shanes Park), Richmond Road and the Melville district that point to it being in the vicinity of South Creek.

The management of land grants was a bit of a shambles at this period, and some grants promised took a decade or more to progress to alienation, or conversion to freehold. This didn’t seem to preclude occupancy of the chosen site, “possession being 9/10ths of the law” being the unwritten rule. In some cases “certificates of occupation” were issued for a 12-month period.

Clear Creek

Fitzgerald’s first acquisition in the later Bathurst district beyond the Blue Mountains seems to have been at Clear Creek in 1821. This may tie in with the presence at “Bathurst” of his overseer John Barker as recorded in the 1822 muster, with the occupation of “stockman”, although perhaps Barker was at the western Sydney Bathurst.

A Colonial Secretary memorandum of 17 September 1821 records the Governor’s approval of a grant of 500 acres of land, with 3 government men (convicts) to be victualled from the government store for 6 months. His name then appears on an 1821 list of those who were to receive grants at Bathurst, with 2 entries, one for 700 acres and one for 500 acres.

There was further correspondence with the Colonial Secretary in 1822. It seems Fitzgerald had been asked to provide evidence of the grant promise by the new Governor, Thomas Brisbane. On 8 December Fitzgerald replied saying that the previous governor, Lachlan Macquarie,  had approved the grant of 1,200 acres to him and his eldest son. He refers specifically to the grant being on the “Bathurst Plains”. The evidence provided reads:

“The Governor has received Mr Fitzgerald’s Memorial of this day’s date; and in consideration of his numerous Flocks and Herds, and late great increase thereof, he will receive an additional Grant of Seven hundred (700) Acres of Land as a Grazing Farm at Bathurst. Windsor 17 Septr 1821 A true copy. R. Fitzgerald”

Hmmm! Two memoranda with the same date but mentioning different amounts of land. The first was written at “Government House, Windsor”. Was Fitzgerald entertaining Governor Macquarie at his Macquarie Arms hotel before his departure? Was there one memorandum before the port was circulated and one after?  Did I mention that Fitzgerald was a trusted advisor to the Macquaries, husband and wife, a relationship prolonged beyond the Governor’s departure? Here are the two memoranda for you to judge.

Memorandum 1 for 500 Acres
Memoranda 2 for Additional 700 Acres

I’ve sighted a record of the grant of the 700 acres, in the County of Roxburgh and Township of Peel with the date of grant being 30 June 1823 with quit-rent of £14 to commence after 5 years. The survey description of the grant mentions Clear Creek. The land is portion 14 in the parish of Peel and fronts Clear Creek.

The Australian, 14 Jul 1825, Page 1

The 1828 census showed that Fitzgerald had no employees or stock at Clear Creek but that his overseer John Barker had 500 sheep, 19 horned cattle and a horse there whilst 2 others also were running cattle. It’s likely that Barker was being paid his wages in livestock and their grazing as was common at the time.


I’ve been unable as yet to tie Combemelong to any subsequent identifiable place although the return says it was 55 miles north of Bathurst. In 1823 Fitzgerald had applied to the Colonial Secretary for approval of temporary occupation of  a piece of land “two geographical miles in each direction” 58 miles to the north-west of Bathurst and 10 miles from Dabey and known by the name “Combemelong and Merumegal”. These directions and compass bearings are incompatible but my “best guess” is that the place was in the general vicinity of Lue.

(Thanks to Virginia Hollister, who tells me that the Aboriginal locality names still exist in much modified form. Combemelong is the vicinity of Cumber Melon Mountain, which overlooks Kandos. The Geographical Names Board describes it as ” Mountains about 1 km SE of Kandos and about 1 km E of Charbon.” It appears on the topographic map 8832-2N Kandos but is only designated with the name “Baldy Peak” which is the name of a feature on the mountain. The trig. station Cumber is coincident with Baldy Peak and is also named on the map.

Likewise, Merumegal is the area immediately east of Cumber Melon Mountain  and almost due south of Dabee homestead. It has the locality name Merry Angle, which is not recognised by the Geographical Names Board. However the property name of Merri Angles appears on the topographic map 8932-3N Olinda.)

The application was approved, as was a renewal on 27 February 1824. These applications name the employees to have charge of the stock. John Barker was named as overseer in 1823.

The 1828 census records only 2 shepherds and 758 sheep at Combemelong, plus 1 horse.

Dabey (Dabee)

Parish maps show that Fitzgerald had 2 large portions of land at Dabee, in the parish of Rylstone, portion 2 of 1,000 acres and portion 3 of 1,066 acres. Portion 1, of 2,000 acres, bears the name of Elizabeth Macquarie, the Governor’s wife. Fitzgerald’s grandson Robert Marsden Fitzgerald acquired further property surrounding these grants in later years.

A record of the grant for the 1,000 acres says that it was not alienated until 17 May 1838, with quit-rent commencing 1 January 1831. In the survey description of the land it says:

“Being the land promised to the said Richard Fitzgerald on or before the 1st August 1824, and advertized as lot 87 in the Government notice dated 15th August 1836.”

This makes it difficult to say when actual occupancy of the land commenced. According to one writer, “By January 1823 he was running 600 cattle and six flocks of sheep and employing eleven stockmen at Dabee.” A Colonial Secretary minute of 6 January 1825 addressed to the Deputy Commissary-General is an order for Fitzgerald and 3 named convict servants to be victualled from His Majesty’s stores at Bathurst for six months. Was this Fitzgerald on a scouting trip for new land, or to commence operations on existing grants? Perhaps both.

The Monitor, 15 Dec 1826, Page 8

The 1828 census shows that Fitzgerald had 22 of his 31 employees based at Dabee as well as most of his sheep (3,045), 144 cattle and 25 horses.

Neighbourly relations were strained in Dabee in October 1828 when Fitzgerald found it necessary to write to the editor of The Monitor complaining of the unneighbourly behaviour of Edward Cox, who was another large landholder at Dabee. Cox had impounded Fitzgeralds’ straying sheep, thus causing Fitzgerald to have to pay a significant amount to recover them from the pound.

There is a hint in this of social tension between Fitzgerald, the experienced emancipist made good and the young Cox, son of a Lieutenant in the NSW Corps and born free in the colony. Edward Cox had obtained his first grant of 300 acres at Mulgoa at the age of 4 in 1810!

Nandowrey (Uarbry/Tongy/Coolah)

This massive grant of 5,000 acres, with later additions, became the jewel in the crown of Fitzgerald’s landholdings. A record of the grant states that it was approved on 24 September 1834 with quit-rent to commence on 7 May 1828.  The survey description of the grant mentions that it was made in accordance with Sir Thomas Brisbane’s warrant of 3 May 1825 that set the purchase money at 5 shillings per acre.

The location of Nandowrey can also be found written as Nandowey and Nandowa. The name survives in the parish name of Nandoura, near Uarbry, that encompasses some of the Tongy lands. The 1897 edition of the parish map includes a location named Nandowry adjacent to Fitzgerald’s portion 34.

Michael O’Rourke has written the following note on the origin of the name:

referred to the tribelet (band) of the upper Goulburn River as ‘the blacks belonging to the Nandowa Plains’. This was no doubt the same as ‘Nandowey’ plain in the Talbragar headwaters near Cassilis, first occupied by employees of the Cox family in c. 1825

The grant locates the land as “At Uarbry, Nandowa Plains, commencing on the Talbragar River at the junction of the Turee Creek …”.

The 1828 census shows only two assigned convict at Nandowrey, John Moors (Mangles, 1820) a herdsman and Archbald McDougall (Shipley, 1818) as hutkeeper. Of the 5,000 acres 4,000 had been cleared and there was 1 acre of cultivation. Present were 372 cattle and 1 horse.

Woolar (Wollar)

The 1828 census return doesn’t show the acreage of Fitzgerald’s Wollar land. The parish map for Wollar show his name against portion 1 of 1,235 acres and portion 2 of 1,000 acres. The grant for portion 2 was approved on 17 May 1838, the same date as for the Dabee grant mentioned above. It also mentions that it relates to land promised to Fitzgerald on or before 28 February 1824.

Three of Fitzgerald’s employees were present at Wollar at the time of the 1828 census as were 587 sheep, 434 cattle and a horse. Three acres had been cleared for cultivation.


The 2 portions of land comprising Crowie, one of 780 acres and one of 1,240 acres were not taken up until after the 1828 census.  They comprise portions 1 and 2 on the parish map of Munmurra, and both front the Goulburn River, or Reedy Creek as it was often called then.

In the deeds of sale from the Government there is no suggestion that these had been promised grants and the two lots appear to have been advertised for sale as lots 49 and 50 on 4 May 1835. The deeds were signed by Governor Bourke on 3 December 1835.

The adjacent property named Deridgeree, in the parish of Durridgere was purchased just 3 months later by someone called John Barker – surely Fitzgerald’s trusted overseer.

Crowie was not held long by the Fitzgerald family, being sold to Thomas Lennox. Anecdotal evidence says that “On arriving in Australia Thomas worked at “Dabee” Rylstone where his three eldest sons were born. In1849 he took up land on the Goulburn River at “Crowie” where 5 more children were born prior to the death of his first wife Anastasia.” (

Elizabeth Macquarie’s Grant at Dabee

According to Rebecca Geraghty:

Prior to Macquarie’s recall, Elizabeth gave the power-of-attorney over her affairs in the colony to the Macquarie’s ‘intimate friend’ Richard Fitzgerald and Henry Anthill. Elizabeth left her livestock on Anthill’s property in Picton, while Fitzgerald extracted from the new Governor, Brisbane, a promise of 2,000 acres of land for the use of her stock, subject to Lord Bathurst’s approval. Unfortunately, nothing came of this request.” (Rebecca Geraghty, A Change in Circumstances – Individual Responses to Colonial Life, BA(Hons) thesis, Sydney University, 2006)

The promise appears on a register of promises as having been made on 4 November 1825. It took until 1837 for the promise to be kept and by that time Elizabeth had died and the grant was made instead on 11 February 1837 to her sole surviving child Lachlan Macquarie junior. It’s his name that appears on the Rylstone parish map although the land was subsequently acquired by Fitzgerald’s grandson, Robert Marsden Fitzgerald.

Who made use of the land whilst all this was being sorted out isn’t clear to me although the 1828 census shows that overseer John Barker was running 376 cattle there as was another person who had 20.


Having established the properties mentioned above, Fitzgerald, who was to live until 1840,  seems to have resisted the push onwards beyond the Uarbry/Cassilis/Coolah district to the Liverpool Plains, as were others such as the Cox and Lawson families. He focused instead on augmenting his existing properties.

At his death his estate was valued at  £34,000, a fortune at the time, his sole heir being his son Robert Fitzgerald (1807-1865). It was Robert who extended the family empire onto the Liverpool Plains and beyond. Ownership of Dabee and Tongy persisted through the life of Fitzgerald’s grandson, Robert Marsden Fitzgerald (1835-1910). His grave memorial at St Matthews Anglican Church Windsor, the construction of which was overseen by his grandfather, proudly refers to him as “Robert Marsden Fitzgerald of Dabee and Tongy”.

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