As you can see it is a beautiful mild autumn day with blue skies and a temperature in the low 20’s. I’m in Bathurst and it, along with Lithgow that I have just passed through are two of the oldest settled regions of New South Wales.
Lithgow, 130 kms from Sydney was the western most point reached in the first crossing of the Blue Mountains. It was the centre of the western coal fields and one of the earliest coal mining districts in Australia and the site of the first commercial steel produced in Australia
Bathurst, 200 kms from Sydney was the oldest inland settlement in New South Wales; it was the gateway to the gold rush regions and the National headquarters for Cobb & Co
Whilst having a coffee I am reading a book that says that once the explorers had conquered the mountains, Australia’s future was ensured and so began the natural route to the west. Bathurst and its surrounding areas saw much of the beginnings of the Australian colonial settlement and is Australia’s first inland settlement and Australia’s oldest inland city. It was said at the time that Bathurst Plains had the best grass of all and the new properties across the plains would support cattle and sheep, and grow wheat, vegetables and fruit.
The Australasian population in 1841 was 211,000 but things were about to change. With the discovery of gold rapid growth occurs during the 1850s and ’60s. The population grows from 430,000 in 1851 to 1,250,000 in 1861.
Bathurst has superb examples of early 1800’s architecture
In my journey it is now 1863, just over 70 years since the birth of Sarah Mitchell my Great, Great, Great, Great Grandmother. I am following in the footsteps of my ancestors as they head towards the central west of New South Wales. Successive generations have travelled from Castlereagh, near Parramatta, over the Blue Mountains to Hartley then to Lithgow, Bathurst and finally on to Forbes.
At this stage I’m not even sure that I will be born. Will my Great, Great Grand parents ever meet? How, when and where will that happen? If you consider almost any time in the past and try to calculate the probability of coming into being, even 2 generations ago, your possible existence is so low that it’s almost not worth thinking about.
In gambling, even a chance of 1 to 100 is not worth a gamble. The way things are looking I’ll be lucky to be alive!!
What I do know is that in 1863 Mary Jane Peacock who is my Great, Great Grandmother on my father’s father’s side married John Beatson in Forbes.
William Hodges and his wife Harriett was a farmer at ‘Wyagdon’ in the Wattle Flat District. By 1863 he had the following children: Amelia Louisa Hodges, b. abt. 1852, Lewisham, London, England; Elizabeth Ann. Hodges, b. abt. 1853, Bermondsey, London, England. Esther Matilda Hodges, b. abt. 1856, Chippendale, Sydney, NSW, Richard William George Hodges, b. abt. 1858, William Alfred Hodges, b. 10 September 1859, Peel via Bathurst, NSW; Louisa Hodges, b. abt. 1861, Binalong, NSW and Ellen Hodges, b. abt. 1863, Bathurst, NSW.
William and Harriett were to have 5 more children but the exciting news is that Ellen Hodges, b. abt. 1863, Bathurst, NSW will become my Great Grandmother on my father’s mother’s side. So things maybe looking good for my birth some 85 years in the future.
Meanwhile men rushed to the Australian goldfields on foot and horseback to strike it rich. One such prospector Edward Francois Barbe was born on the 15/5/1841 at Paris, France. Initially he sought his fortune in Ballarat Victoria in 1856 but by the early 1860’s had made his way to the rich diggings in Forbes.
Like Edward I will be making my way to Forbes.
The Victorian Renaissance Court House completed in 1880 is one of the best examples of 19th century public building architecture – it is still fully functional today.