Joseph Douglass 1782-1865:
Ivy Lodge/Lochiel House and cottage, Kurrajong Heights, 1918
(SLNSW, Government Printing Office Collection,
ML ref. GPO 1 frame 18208)
Kurrajong Heights is a beautiful village on the outskirts of Sydney. Explorers and travel writers have extolled its panoramic views over the Hawkesbury valley and beyond for two centuries, while behind it sits the magnificent wilderness of the Blue Mountains National Park.
The landmark of the village, both then and now, is the Lochiel House complex, the oldest building on the Heights, and built by its first settler, Joseph Douglass and his wife Mary Orr Burgess. After a convict beginning Joseph became a respected member of the community. Douglass descendants still live in the Kurrajong district today, and Ivy Lodge, the Douglass home and now called Lochiel House, provides hospitality to visitors of the 21st century as did Joseph and his family 180 years ago.
Dumfries High Street and Midsteeple, where Joseph was locked up in 1814
(Photo: Trish Downes 2001)
On market day, Wednesday 9 March 1814, Joseph Douglass, cottager and servant for two years to Robert Newall at Airdree farm in the parish of Kirkbean, Kirkcudbright, Scotland, drove his master's horse and cart into Dumfries town and put them up at William Potter's inn. He entered the jewellery and hardware shop of James Patterson at 29 High Street, and stated that he wished to purchase a silver watch valued at about four guineas. After being handed a watch he immediately ran with it out of the shop. He next visited the shop of John Berwick, merchant, also in High Street, under the pretence of wishing to buy two pieces of cotton cloth, which he carried out of the shop without paying for them. At Potter's inn, as he was putting the cart to the horse, James Patterson appeared with William Potter. They searched Joseph, and found the watch in a cow manger in the stable, after which they took him to the council chambers where he was committed to the prison.1
When questioned, Joseph denied any knowledge of the watch, and when confronted with the two pieces of cloth which were in his pillow slip, he stated he had purchased them from Berwick's clerk, being one piece for his seven-year-old child and the other for his child of four.
But when he appeared at the assize on 13 April, he evidently had thought again, and pleaded guilty to the two counts of theft. The only recorded evidence in mitigation was a letter from the Reverend Edward Neilson, minister of Kirkbean parish, "attesting to his former good character and representing the misery to which his wife and five children must be reduced by any sentence which should deprive them of a husband and a father". Their lordships stated they must impose the "pain of the law" as a deterrent to others, and sentenced him to seven years' transportation beyond the seas.2
Why did he do it? It is difficult from this distance to understand why Joseph, a family man and reportedly a strict Presbyterian, would risk the disgrace and misery of conviction and transportation for a silver watch and a few yards of cloth. Although no doubt poor, he had work and a roof over his head. Perhaps he was just tired of being so poor, and on the spur of the moment, in the crowded market town, he thought he could get away with it. But a distinctive silver watch would be difficult to sell, and the crime does not seem well thought out, nor his defence convincing.
Site of the Battle of Saintfield 9 June 1798
(Photos: Trish Downes 2003)
Joseph and his wife Mary Orr Burgess had lived in Scotland for about seven years, but they were born and married in County Down, Ireland,3 probably around the Saintfield/Comber/Killaney area where the surnames are found at that time.4 Douglass, Orr and Burgess are Scottish names and their ancestors possibly moved from the Scottish lowlands to County Down in the 16th century along with other Scots immigrants.
Joseph was 16 years old when the 1798 rebellion broke out in Ireland. Saintfield was at the heart of the County Down uprising; the Saintfield Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Thomas Ledlie Birch, was a United Irishman, and the famous Battle of Saintfield, the first insurgent victory in the north, was fought at the bottom of the Presbyterian churchyard.5
We don't know if the Douglass or Burgess families were involved in the rebellion or on what side their sympathies lay. Some of the Presbyterian parishioners disagreed with the Reverend Birch's activities to the extent that in 1796 they broke away and formed their own church, the Second Saintfield Presbyterian Church. Nevertheless, the Presbyterians generally supported the rebels, in principle if not in deed.
After the rebellion and the many reprises which followed, many people left the country. Perhaps the turmoil prompted Joseph and Mary to move to Scotland after their marriage, perhaps they wanted for some reason to return to their original homeland, or perhaps they were simply looking for work. It was common practice for workers to traverse the "Short Sea" (Donaghadee Ireland to Portpatrick Scotland) for seasonal work,6 but Joseph and Mary settled permanently in the heart of "Black Douglas country", the Dumfries district of Scotland, from about 1807.
The family moved several times around the Dumfries farms. Joseph would have attended the annual (Whitsunday, 15 May) hiring fair in Dumfries, where employers contracted with labourers for a year's work, often, if married, in exchange for a cottage and small garden.7 This was where Robert Newell had hired Joseph in 1812. Five children were born at regular intervals between 1806 and 1814,8 before Joseph committed his felony and their world collapsed.
Joseph was moved down to London with the other Scottish prisoners and on 7 September 1814 was placed on board the Retribution hulk in Sheerness harbour. 9 Six months later, on 20 April 1815, he was one of 300 male convicts to set sail in the Baring for New South Wales, coming to anchor in Sydney Cove on 7 September 1815 after two deaths on board.10
The Baring with 298 surviving convicts was one of the largest transports, and it would have taken John Thomas Campbell, the Governor's Secretary, at least two days to muster the convicts on board and complete his documentation.11 One week after arrival, the convicts were disembarked and marched to the gaol to be inspected and addressed by Governor Macquarie. In the meantime, their trades and conduct reports had been examined closely, and the assignment lists made out: 57 of the "mechanics" (tradesmen) and 30 of the labourers were to be retained for employment by the government;12 141 were to be sent to the magistrates at Parramatta, Liverpool and Windsor for distribution to landholders who had applied for them.13 But some were set aside by the Governor himself. It was the era of patronage, and the gentry of the colony, rather than apply for convict servants through the magistrates as was the rule, would approach the governor direct for convicts with special skills such as ploughmen or agricultural workers. Thus it was that Joseph was on the list of three labourers from the Baring to be assigned by the Governor directly to Sir John Jamison, the colony's only Knight, and holder of a large estate named Regentville near Penrith on the Nepean River.14
Regentville c1838 (NLA)
Regentville 2002. The house burnt down in the 1860s but the view remains spectacular
(Photo: Trish Downes 2002)
Jamison had arrived only one year before Joseph, to take up land granted to his father, First Fleet surgeon's mate Thomas Jamison. Sir John, a native of County Antrim, Ireland, had himself been a surgeon in the Royal Navy, and had been knighted first by the King of Sweden and then by the Prince Regent for services to naval medicine.15 He had accompanied Governor Macquarie on his first journey across the Blue Mountains in June 1815 and it was possibly during that time that he solicited the governor for suitable workers.
The relationship between Joseph and Sir John proved to be a happy one. In fact Joseph was the only one of the three assignees from the Baring to remain in Jamison's service for the entire period of his servitude. Sir John had firm ideas on the employment of convicts. He believed in a strictly disciplined environment where the convict was "broken into the severest species of labour" and where
the application and labour necessary to perform a reasonable task throughout the day, so perfectly employs and exercises both body and mind, as to ensure and require the whole of the night for rest. Hence the propensity for nightly depredations and plunder [is] corrected.16
Since 1804 convicts assigned to settlers had been regulated as to working hours and work to be completed during those hours. They were paid an annual wage of £10 including clothing, and then paid at set rates for extra work beyond the stipulated weekly amount.17 Sir John supported these regulations and observed:
By being well trained to perform such labour the very nature of the profligate seems to change, and many of them discover a new pride at the acquired knowledge of being able to provide for themselves by honest industry.18
Sydney Gazette 1 Mar 1817
(Click to enlarge)
With his farming background in Ireland and Scotland, Joseph would have needed minimal training to adjust to Australian conditions. He was employed as a specialist plough and seedman19 and was soon saving his wages for the day when he could set up on his own land, with his wife and family joining him.
His first break came with the announcement in 1817 that free passages might be available for wives and children of deserving convicts. Wives had been discouraged from arriving since at least 1814 because so many of them and their families in the colony were destitute and supported on the public purse.20 Joseph, with the help of Sir John, was able to provide the necessary proof of income and in March 1819 the Governor's despatch to London named Joseph as capable of supporting Mary and his five children, now living "at Mr Morrison's, Saintfield, Downpatrick, Ireland".21
With Mary and the children hopefully on the way, Joseph's next mission was to obtain a ticket of leave, so all of his work could be on his own account. The Governor accepted memorials (petitions) for tickets of leave only once per year, on the first Monday in December,22 and on Monday 6 December 1819 Joseph humbly fronted with his petition duly signed by his district magistrate (who happened to be Sir John) and his clergyman the Rev Henry Fulton, only to find the audience was deferred. Commissioner John Bigge described the subsequent assembly:
I was present at the government house on the 5th January 1820, the day to which the petitions that were to have been presented in November [sic] 1819 had been deferred, in consequence of the governor's illness. The crowd, upon this occasion, was very great; and observing their impatience, the governor addressed them, and informed them that he would grant no tickets of leave to those who had not been three years in the country, nor any other indulgence, except in conformity to the terms of his proclamation of the year 1813. This address produced no effect. There was great difficulty in preserving order in the presentation of the petitions that were delivered to the governor; who, on perusing the statements, and looking at the certificates, either wrote in pencil, on the margin, the initial letters of the indulgence that was to be given, or rejected the petitions altogether. The petitions presented upon this occasion exceeded 700; they were collected by the major of brigade and two clerks, who, with the superintendent of convicts, were the only persons present.23
The Governor duly endorsed Joseph's petition with the initials "T.L."24 His ticket was finally issued, along with many others, on 31 January 1820.25
Joseph continued in Jamison's employment, as his plough and seedman, until 16 August 1822,26 when he became a tenant farmer of "a few acres" of the Regentville estate. Commissioner Bigge was very critical of the practice of establishing tenant farmers on unimproved estates. He wrote:
the owners of the larger properties find it convenient to get their land cleared free of expense to themselves. For this purpose, they let small portions of it upon what are called clearing leases, for five or seven years, to convicts who have been in their service, or who, upon their recommendation, have received remissions of sentence. The tenant clears as much land as his means will allow during the term, and subsists upon the produce, or occasionally works for hire to the landlord. From the mode of cultivation that is pursued by these tenants (and they cannot afford to make it better) the land is returned into the hands of the landlord in an exhausted state at the end of the term27
Although the situation described by Bigge may have been prevalent, it was unlikely to be the case on Regentville. Jamison, although a hard businessman, was known for the improved state of his land. He was president of the agricultural society and actively promoted the best practices.
Still, life as a tenant farmer was not what Joseph wanted, especially as he might have heard that his family had been granted a passage, and were waiting only for an available ship. Moreover, suitable land was fast running out, and what with wealthy immigrants arriving daily under the new policy of promoting free immigration, and numerous convicts gaining their freedom and clamouring for grants, time was of the essence. On 8 October 1822 he submitted his first petition for land to the new Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane. He knew what he wanted: a particularly choice piece of land "now vacant, situate at the Cowpastures ... containing about fifty acres, bounded on one side by a line of the farm lately granted to Peter Murdoch Esq and otherwise by Mount Hunter Creek". Sir John strongly recommended his petition, as did clergyman Henry Fulton, both attesting to his honesty and industry and Sir John adding that he had been his plough and seedman and thus was a capable farmer.28
Unfortunately for Joseph, his choice of land was right in the heart of Macarthur country, where John Macarthur had been breeding his famous merinos. Macarthur's wool had just brought record prices at the London sales, on the back of which the Macarthur family were lobbying successfully in London and Sydney to have the rest of the Cowpastures granted to them. This was no place for a lowly ex-convict, especially one recommended by Macarthur's enemy, the liberal John Jamison.29 Joseph's petition was unanswered.
Meanwhile, Mary Douglass and her children, at Mr Morrison's in Saintfield County Down,30 were anxious to travel to New South Wales, but there was no ship! Convict families, including boys under 14 years, were given passage in female convict transports, being accommodated with the convicts. Governor Macquarie's letter about the Douglass family whereabouts had arrived in London in December 181931 and details were sent to Dublin in March 1820.32 But the next female transport from Ireland, the John Bull, did not leave until June 1821, and although at least 22 convict relatives were on board, the Douglasses were not amongst them. At least one approved family for the John Bull, Isabella O'Neill and her five children, missed the sailing because the naval agent at Cork gave her insufficient notice to travel,33 and Mary may have had the same problem.
Indeed, the Irish authorities were so concerned at the growing numbers awaiting passage that they applied to have an English female transport touch at Cork to take them,34 but Whitehall decided they must wait for the next ship carrying Irish female convicts.35
Finally, in June 1822, Treasury ordered the Navy to charter a vessel for the conveyance from Ireland of "one hundred female convicts and from twenty to thirty of the relatives of such convicts as have been granted the indulgence of their families being permitted to join them, and that you will provide the usual quantity of clothing, medicines, medical necessaries, hospital furniture, and articles of comfort for the persons aforementioned during the voyage".36 The ship Woodman, 419 tons, won the tender, and after fitting her prison at Deptford in England, arrived in Cobh on 13 September to take on her passengers. Surgeon and Superintendent George Fairfowl takes up the story:
We remained here in daily expectation of the convicts until the 22nd of December, when a small miserable schooner, the Mary of London, brought us from Dublin 22 free passengers and 47 female convicts. They had suffered severely during a passage of five or six days. The weather was more than usually cold and stormy, they had no beds, the straw they slept on was scanty and wet and they were badly cloathed.37
They were indeed so badly clothed that Dr Edward Trevor, head of the Irish convict department, ordered the issue to the free settlers of clothing at public expense.38
Altogether 44 family members presented themselves, and some were off-loaded. The ship finally sailed 26 January 1823 with 97 convicts, three short of complement, and 38 free women and children.39 After an uncomfortable voyage, during which three of the convict women died, the Woodman arrived in Sydney with the Douglass family all alive and well, to a relieved Joseph, on 25 June 1823.
The family joined Joseph on his small holding at Regentville, and Joseph even took on an assigned convict, labourer Patrick Joyce from County Westmeath, who had arrived in the Tyne in 1819.40 In July 1824 he petitioned again for land41 this time successfully, and received an order for 50 acres on 10 September.42 Son Orr quickly followed with his memorial for a grant, taking care to mention his being "bred to agriculture".43 Orr re-petitioned in January 1825,44 to which he received a reply on 2 March 1825 that 80 acres were to be granted to him.45
But where to select! There was no land remaining in County Cumberland,46 and if the farm was to be viable it must be close to markets, so Bathurst and places across the Blue Mountains were out of the question.
In September 1823 Alexander Bell junior had discovered a shorter route across the mountains via Richmond and Kurrajong. Surveyor Hoddle had reported that "the new route is superior in every way to the old Bathurst Road"47 and there was great speculation that it would replace the existing road as the route of choice. Joseph had seen the amount of traffic passing across the mountains at Regentville and the business it generated. Perhaps he reasoned that a strategic stopping place on the new road, similar to the one at Regentville, would provide the same business opportunities. In October 1824 he journeyed to meet with Surveyor-General Oxley to stake his claim. Now he wanted Orr's spot settled. On 24 March 1825 Joseph wrote to Surveyor-General Oxley:
I waited on you to take [my 50 acre grant] at the Kurrajong Brush, when I learned that you were gone to Moreton Bay. I spoke to Mr Cavenagh and told him the place I wished to take it at, being on the left hand side of the New Richmond Road many miles distant from any previous claim or taken by any other, where he gave me leave. I now intrude to hope that you will grant me the favour to let my son Orr Douglass who has got an order for 80 acres in your books to take it beside his father. Trusting that I shall meet your reply to assist a poor man who has been at a great expense coming up and down the Country and being a tenant to Sir John.48
(Click to enlarge)
Joseph and Orr settled beside Bell's Line of Road, and by 1828 had cleared and cultivated 14 of Joseph's 50 acres and had 12 cattle.49 By August 1829 when surveyor James Byrne Richards arrived to measure the local farms, Joseph reported he had felled 30 acres and erected a dwelling house and a barn, at an expense of "upwards of £300". Further, on Orr's grant, 10 acres had been cleared, half of which were under cultivation.50 By February 1830 Joseph had erected a six-foot paling fence on his newly-measured farm, had an orchard and garden, 16 horned cattle and 22 pigs and was requesting another grant.51 This industry is remarkable considering the rugged nature of the bush and the debilitating drought which ravaged the country from 1827 to 1829.
Joseph's request for more land was not approved. A family conference and agreement may have been the reason for second son James to try his luck with the bureaucracy. In December 1830, at not quite 19 years, James petitioned Governor Darling, stating he was 21 years of age, living with his father, and requesting a grant that he could "personally cultivate and improve".52 This request was successful, so James initially selected the land immediately west of his father, only to be informed that it had been taken by Doctor Michael Bergin who had recently set up practice in Richmond.53 After much red tape, James's next selection was accepted on 12 March 1832: 60 acres some 350 metres east of brother Orr's grant, with thick steeply sloping bush in between.54
Douglass holdings 1833
(Click to enlarge)
So at this stage, the Douglass family had between them 190 acres, comprising "Ivy Lodge" on the Heights, "Orrville" opposite and "Ardrey" (named after their old Scottish home at "Airdrie") nearby, and "Douglass Hill" was well named. Joseph and Mary were fast founding a dynasty, with four of their five older children married and three more children born in the colony. But the fledgling family seat was not to last. On 30 July 1832 Orr sold out to Samuel North for the very large sum of £52-10-0, probably to his father's chagrin.55 In November 1831 Orr had made an unwise marriage to Catherine Paxman, said to have been colonial-born in about 1807, and in 1828 living at Evan with Ezekiel Thurston as his "housekeeper".56 In 1830 Ezekiel Thurston had married Orr's sister Margaret so family tensions must have been interesting. Orr and Catherine moved to Sydney but by 1834 or earlier the marriage had failed. Catherine disappeared and Orr announced the separation in February 1834.57 Orr married again in 1839, presumably seven years after the disappearance of his first wife, to another local girl, Catherine Staples. After a brief period in Wilberforce he settled in Sydney and established a successful timber business at Douglass Siding, now Quakers Hill, Riverstone.58
James, too, sold his grant as soon as he had fulfilled his bond. But in possibly a pre-arranged deal, he sold to his father, and probably remained farming at Ardrey while his father's family was established at Ivy Lodge.
Joseph bought one more block of land: 50 acres two doors down the Hill, from George Greyburn for £10 on 4 March 1833. This he named Gibbons Hill.59 Meanwhile, he was ready to take advantage of his position on the Bell's Line. Despite Surveyor Hoddle's promising description of the new route across the mountains, the road had not been developed, and all the money was being spent on improving the southern route via Emu Ford. But drovers were using Bell's Line to take their stock to the Sydney markets, and travellers were needing a place to rest and eat before the hazardous trip down the Cut Rock of Tabragar Ridge.
By 1832 Joseph had decided to become an innkeeper. Separate accommodation for travellers was a pre-requisite to obtaining a publican's license and discounts were available in remote locations.60 On 25 May 1832 Joseph wrote his last known petition, to Governor Bourke:
Your Memorialist has in cultivation thirty acres of the above Grant [on Bell's Line] and is now building an addition to his house thereon containing two Sitting Rooms and two Bed Rooms, which will enable him to afford accommodation to Travellers passing that Road.61
Joseph went on to request a license to sell spirits free of license duty, there being no public house that side of the Hawkesbury river. He was supported by the three local magistrates (Samuel North, W Richardson and George Bowen), who thought "a public house in the Kurryjong would be a convenience to the public, and tend to lessen the illicit sale of spirits in that District". The Governor approved a license on payment of £10 for the first year but there is no record of Joseph actually obtaining a license or establishing a public house. Instead, it seems they were distilling and serving their own brandy.
By 1834 Joseph and Mary were in the boarding house business, and Ivy Lodge was listed in the Post Office directory for that year.62 Two visitors in March 1834 were the surveyor Felton Mathew and his wife Sarah, who preferred to camp in their tents nearby rather than stay in Ivy Lodge, but who sampled the fare. Mrs Mathew, newly arrived from England, was not impressed with the almost entirely ex-convict working community of the Kurrajong, although she excluded the Douglasses from her criticism. She wrote in her journal:
Mrs Felton Mathew,63 liked Mary's cooking but disliked her wine.
Tuesday 25th [March 1834] We drove up to the Kurrajong ...The Kurrajong district is an extensive mountainous tract, consisting of branches or spurs from the main range or Blue mountains, and abounds in picturesque and beautiful scenery. It is extremely fertile, and in many parts cultivation is carried to the summits of the mountains. It is of course thickly populated, but the settlers are of the lowest class, and among the most vicious and depraved in the whole colony: there has been a school lately established which in time may work some improvement, and the Chaplain of Windsor visits it occasionally, but there can be little good effected till there shall be a resident clergyman, and regular services performed.
Thursday 27th. Again set off ... The road now ascends the highest and longest of the mountains and is dreadfully steep, we were obliged to walk nearly two miles, and the heat was intolerable; from various points of the ascent, a beautiful and extensive view was obtained. ... This long and terrible ascent is generally called Douglas' Hill from a settler of that name, who lives nearly on the summit; they are very civil people, and we were glad to rest ourselves and horse, by remaining there a couple of hours; Mrs. Douglas gave us some excellent bread and butter, and insisted on making us some tea; she also placed before us some brandy of their own making, distilled from Peaches, being pure spirit, it is of course perfectly white, but the taste I thought execrable, though some people said it was very good.64
Jane, Lady Franklin,65 thought Mary's damper the best in the colony.
(NLA portrait collection)
Sarah Mathew might have been thankful for Douglass hospitality amongst primitive surrounds, but a later lady visitor was less charitable. Jane, Lady Franklin, wife of the governor of Tasmania, called by in June 1839. She, too, declined to stay, but also liked Mary's cooking. She wrote:
Proceed[ed] above a mile higher, ascending on ridges & steeps. Left carriage, tho' it might have proceeded came to inn by road on [left], Mrs Douglas's, an impudent, ugly woman who was not suppressed by gentry but has neat clean house where we might very well sleep, & good eating also tho' we had brought our own provisions. She put out roast pig, fine potatoes, the growth of her own country here being particularly good for potatoes, beautiful butter & light excellent damper different from & better than any had seen in colony before. The woman was very familiar & communicative as to behaviour of certain young officers who had lately been there. Her husband was originally a prisoner she with family came out to him & Darling gave them 50 acres here. The husband is a sawyer[?] a girl of hers goes to the School why not there to day because she was wanted to clean the house. She wanted us much to stay the night.66
Those early distinguished callers might not have stayed the night, but Ivy Lodge hosted many other guests, who visited both for the scenery and the recuperative powers of the climate.
|Conrad Martens: From the Currajong above Douglass' farm, c. 1853|
The small settlers were not to keep the Douglass hill to themselves for long. Samuel North, the police magistrate in Windsor, took a grant there of 320 acres in about 1829. Although his main residence was in Windsor, he greatly improved his mountain retreat which he called Northfield, and seems adequately to have filled the role of local squire. He gave frequent encouragement to Joseph and his neighbours, assigned them convict servants, wrote references and on more than one occasion interceded on their behalf during their battles with the bureaucracy of the day. North did make one error which has caused confusion on maps and title documents to this day. In 1839 when drawing up Joseph's deeds, the Colonial Secretary asked Magistrate North for the correct spelling of Joseph's surname. North's reply that the spelling was "Douglas" was evidently made without consulting Joseph, who could sign his own name, or his children, who were all literate to varying degrees, and who used the double "s". Thus the names "Douglas Hill" and "Douglas Street" at Kurrajong Heights result from a bureaucratic error in 1839.67
In 1841, Samuel North and Joseph Douglass became developers. They commissioned Windsor surveyor Charles Whitaker to sub-divide Orr's original 80 acres and about eight acres of Joseph's farm, to form a village to be called Northfield, which they advertised for sale at auction.68
The auction was generally successful. Despite the depression which was sending many of the colony's wealthy to bankruptcy, the purchasers, mostly gentry from Richmond and Windsor, paid well for their blocks. According to The Australian the following week:
Charles Whitaker's plan for Northfield village 1841
(Click to enlarge)
A considerable portion of the Estate of Northfield was, on Monday last, brought to the hammer, under the able auspices of Mr. Laban White, at an average price of £20 per acre. This property is beautifully situated on the Malvern Hills, distant from Windsor about fifteen miles, and promises, ere long, to become a favourite retreat. The purchasers may shortly look forward to a cent-per cent profit, should they be inclined to part with their allotments.69
Joseph actually bought two blocks of his son's former grant, right opposite Ivy Lodge. But the largest purchasers were the Bowman family of Richmond, and over the years the village progressively became "Bowman territory".
Samuel North was posted away from the district in 1844 and he leased his estate. At that time he had 40 acres of wheat, potatoes and maize, an orchard, a vineyard and a cottage.70 Charles Enderby of Bathurst took a seven-year lease at £25 per year from 1 January 1848, with an agreement to keep the tenement, barn, stable and out buildings in good repair, prune the trees and vines and not cut down growing timber except for domestic use.71 In 1856 North finally sold all his interests in Kurrajong to James Comrie, who became the next, popular "squire" of the district until his death in 1902.
The discovery of gold near Mudgee in 1851 heralded a rush across the mountains to the Turon goldfields and Bell's Line became a busy thoroughfare. But mostly the district was known for its picturesque scenery and its healthy climate. Many "travel" articles appeared in the Sydney newspapers which extolled the delights of the district mostly written by people with vested interests in its prosperity. Thomas Cadell, son-in-law of William Bowman and owner of several Northfield allotments, wrote in 1851 of his stay at Douglass's: "I might also mention that here you get tea, an excellent bed, your horse well cared for, and breakfast in the morning for the very moderate charge of five shillings."72
Douglass grave Kurrajong Heights
(Photo: Trish Downes 1991)
Mary Douglass died at Ivy Lodge on 21 December 1857, aged 75. Presbyterian minister James Cameron was apparently not available, and Mary was buried privately by her family, possibly on Joseph's plot of Orr's old grant opposite. According to a travel writer in the Town and Country Journal of 1871, Joseph and Mary, "each aged four score years, lie interred in a little orange grove at the bottom of the hill, and opposite the house where they lived for many years".73 After St David's Presbyterian church was opened on the Heights, her remains were moved and she now lies with her husband in the churchyard there.
After Mary's death Joseph lived with his youngest daughter Sarah and her husband Cuthbert Cowling, while son John and his wife Ellen managed Ivy Lodge. Ellen was herself the daughter of innkeeper Michael Keenan, late of Keenan's inn at Hassans Walls and then at Jews Creek near Ben Bullen on the Mudgee road, and so was an ideal person to carry on the high reputation of Ivy Lodge.
Sir John Young, Governor of NSW,
stayed at Ivy Lodge 8 Oct 1861
NLA portrait collection Govt 3583
The pinnacle of Ivy Lodge's career in hospitality must have been the overnight stay of the Governor of the colony and his "suite". On Tuesday 8 October 1861 His Excellency Sir John Young, Lady Young and their party of four others were guests for one night.74
In 1862, with his 80th birthday behind him, Joseph was an unhappy old man. He had lost his helpmate of 50 years, and relations with his daughter Sarah and Cuthbert had deteriorated so much Joseph had moved out. In 1850 he had given the newly married couple his property of Gibbons Hill, and had handed them the deeds, duly endorsed that he was transferring them the property, and that they were never to sell or mortgage it but it was "to descend to the next of kin in the family for ever." Cuthbert and Sarah had built a substantial home and garden, in 1853 they had bought WS Bell's 50-acre grant adjacent, and from about 1858 they were operating a boarding house for guests from Sydney. But now Joseph felt they were treating him badly and with insufficient gratitude for his generosity. He changed his mind about giving them the land, and demanded Cuthbert pay him rent. When Cuthbert refused, he instructed solicitor William Walker to obtain a sheriff's order and evict them from the property.75
Cuthbert, sure that right was on his side, counter-sued in the Supreme Court for wrongful eviction. The bitter and costly case lasted about 12 months, and predictably, no-one won. Because Joseph had not registered the land transaction, the Court ruled that the land was his, but he must pay Cuthbert and Sarah compensation with interest for the improvements they had made over the 12 years of occupation. Cuthbert had mortgaged his other land to pay his legal fees and in 1863 when he couldn't meet his debts he had to sell it to Peter Hough.76 Joseph and son John had to mortgage Ivy Lodge to solicitor William Walker, and sold Gibbons Hill to Peter Hough's son-in-law, Arthur Powell.77 Powell continued the boarding house tradition at Gibbons Hill for many years.
Douglass cottage, built by John Douglass in 1867
(Click to enlarge)
On 21 September 1865, at 83, Joseph died and was buried by Rev James Cameron at Kurrajong. John and Ellen kept up the farm and boarding house, with Ellen managing the house while John was away droving.78 In about 1867 John extended the accommodation by building a cottage adjacent to Ivy Lodge.79 The cottage still stands today and has been used as a post office and cafe for many years. A pre-fabricated structure, oral history records that the building was shipped from England.80 It is certainly different from the vernacular style of Ivy Lodge and the other early buildings.
But problems developed. Ellen was ill with consumption (tuberculosis), and the couple lost three children, two in infancy and young Albert at age 3 in 1868. In January 1867 John partitioned off 18 acres of the Ivy Lodge estate and sold them to William Wright of Drummoyne.81 Wright immediately built the grand Belmore Lodge, named for the new Governor Earl Belmore, and set up a rival guest house managed by James Donnelly of North Richmond.82
Miss Nina Douglass on "Ragtime"
(From private collection)
In May 1867 John mortgaged the remainder of Ivy Lodge for £500 to William Wright, and about the same time leased it to Joe Onus who kept up the guest house for a while.83 Then on 29 December 1868, John sold Ivy Lodge, the new cottage and the remaining 26 acres, to George Bowman of Richmond,84 thus ending the 36-year life of "Douglass's" on the Heights. John and Ellen moved down to their other farm "Ardrey", where Ellen died in 1870 aged only 39.85 Ardrey and adjacent purchases remained in the Douglass family for three more generations, the last of it being sold in 1966 after the death of Miss Nina Douglass of Frankfield, Kurrajong.86
|Joseph Douglass||1782 Co Down Ireland||21 Sep 1865 Kurrajong||c1803 Co Down Ireland|
|m. Mary Orr Burgess||c1782 Co
(dau. of John Burgess, farmer)
|21 Dec 1857 Kurrajong|
|1. Mary Jane||c1806 Ireland or Scotland||1856 Richmond||1. 1825 Matthew
2. 1855 Christopher Norris
|2. Orr||bp 1808 Troqueer parish, Kirkcudbright Scotland||1882 Sydney||1. 1831 Catherine
2. 1839 Catherine Staples
|3. Eliza||bp 1810 Blackshaw, Caerlaverock parish, Dumfries Scotland||1872 Surry Hills||1827 William Norman|
|4. James||bp 1812 Blackshaw, Caerlaverock parish, Dumfries Scotland||1841 Kurrajong||1836 Sarah Sherwood|
|5. Margaret||prob 1813 Airdree, Kirkbean parish, Kirkcudbright Scotland||1901 Sydney||1. 1830 Ezekiel
2. 1848 John McLeod
|6. Joseph||bp 1824 Castlereagh, Windsor parish||1894 Coates Creek Meranburn nr Molong||1849 Mary Elizabeth Howell|
|7. John Burgess||1826 Kurrajong||1904 Waterloo||1851 Ellen Keenan|
|8. Sarah||1829 Kurrajong||1866 Hargraves nr Mudgee||1850 Cuthbert Cowling|
Like most of us, Joseph was full of contradictions. He was hardworking and with the exception in old age, he tried to do his best by his children and set them up in the new colony. Both he and his older children must have found it difficult to adjust after nine years's absence during their formative years. There is no doubt he was ashamed of his convict past, and rightly proud of his achievements amongst his lapses from grace. Samuel Boughton sums him up thus:
I knew the old man well, and had many an interesting chat with him about old times. I remember him telling me he came to the colony with the late Sir John Jamieson, and acted as overseer for him on an estate he owned near Penrith; and when he left Sir John's employ he came straight away on to the Big Hill and started farming for himself.
He was a straight old fellow, and his wife a fine motherly old woman. Both were strict Presbyterians of the old school. I remember getting into serious trouble on one occasion. We had been speaking of Joshua commanding the sun and moon to stand still, and I made use of a remark which the old man thought to be bordering on scepticism. And was I not soundly rated! I began to think of the old poem I used to read at school about the border fights between the Percys and the Douglasses, and wondered if he might not be a descendant of the latter, so I sang low.
However, he was a good old man, and was deservedly respected by all who knew him.87
Walter Mason: View of Douglass Hill near Richmond NSW, 1857
George Bowman, the purchaser of Ivy Lodge, was the brother of William who had bought at the Northfield auction 27 years earlier. Both brothers were members of parliament and great benefactors in the district. George had been instrumental in building the Presbyterian church adjacent to Ivy Lodge in 1867, and when he purchased the Douglass property he possibly had the idea of using it in conjunction with the church.88 A travel writer in 1871 wrote that the house was to be let for a ladies' boarding school should a suitable tenant be found,89 but no such school was established. In 1875, George transferred the property to his daughters Eliza and Mary Ann and their husbands Rev James and Dr Andrew Cameron.90 Mary Ann and Andrew, both ill, lived in "Douglass cottage"91 and died in 1876. Reverend James and his wife appear to have retained the cottage as a manse and sanatarium for visiting clergy, while in "Douglass House" they installed overseer John Liedich, who also took on the role of postmaster.92 When the last Cameron owner, Rev James, died in 1905, both houses and the attached land were sold to the incumbent overseer and postmaster Thomas Walker,93 in whose family they remained until 1949.
At some stage the old house was renamed Lochiel House after the homeland of the Cameron clan and its chief, Cameron of Lochiel.
The old house and cottage still stand as landmarks at Kurrajong Heights, and an award-winning restaurant is housed within the original Ivy Lodge, thus keeping up the tradition of fine hospitality and good food started by Joseph and Mary Douglass in 1832.
Ivy Lodge/Lochiel House and cottage, Kurrajong Heights, 2004
(Photo: Trish Downes 2004)
© 2004 Patricia Downes
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