1. Thomas Eather
Surname orginally Heather.
Convicted in Kent of robbery. Arrived on the Neptune.
Over the Blue Mountains.
(BY OUR SPECIAL REPORTER.)
THE first settlers of New South Wales had but very imperfect ideas concerning the regions westward of the Blue Mountains. From what can be gleaned out of early records, it appears that these great ranges were regarded by the explorers of the day as being the western boundary of the colony. The Weekly Entertainer, of the 30th November, 1812, contains an extract from a report of a committee of the House of Commons, which is a curious piece of literature, and must have been highly in- structive to the geographers of the early part of this century. " The settlement in New South Wales" writes the committee, " is bounded on the north, west, and south by a ridge of hills called the Blue Mountains, beyond which no one has yet been able to penetrate the country. Some have with difficulty been as far as 100 miles in the interior, hut beyond sixty miles it appears to be no- where practicable for agricultural purposes, and in many places the diameter of the habitable country is much less. In length it extends from Port Stephens to Port Jervis, north to south, about four degrees. Beyond these places the colony will not be capable of extension, and the land within these boundaries about one half of it is absolutely barren." Such was the know ledge of the capabilities of this country not only in Sydney, but in England and other places sixty years ago.
Mr. D.D. Mann, author of " The present picture of New South Wales," referring to the Blue Mountains, which he also regarded as the boundary of the settlement, said :- " They have never yet been passed, so that beyond these tremendous barriers the country yet remains unexplored and unknown. Various attempts at different periods have been made to exceed this boundary of the settlement, hut none of them have been attended with the wished-for effect. M. Barralier, a French gentleman, late an ensign in the New South Wales Corps, has been further across than any other individual, but he was compelled to return unsatisfied before he had obtained any knowledge of the transmontaneous territory which he longed to behold. I myself made an excursion to these mountains in the year 1807, accompanied by an European and three natives, but after mounting the steep acclivities for four days, until I found my stock of provisions sensibly diminishing, I thought it most prudent to retrace my way to the habitable part of the settlement, and leave the task of exploring them to some person more qualified, mentally, as well as physically, for the arduous undertaking. In fine, from the specimen I had acquired during this journey, of the difficulties which surround this task, I think that after travelling a few miles over them, their appearance, though amazingly grand, is sufficient to deter any man of common perseverance from his design."
Further on in his work, Mr. Mann continues: " In the progress of my undertaking I ascended about four or five stupendous acclivities, whose perpendicular sides scarcely permitted me to gain the ascent. No sooner had I attained to the summit of one of these cliffs, flattering myself I should there find the termination of my toil, than the eye was appalled by the sight of another, and so on to the end of my journey; when, after mounting with, the utmost difficulty the fifth of these mountainous heights, I beheld myself apparently as remote from my ultimate object as at the first hour of my quitting the level country beneath. Some of these ridges presented to the eye a brilliant verdure of the most imposing nature, while others had the appearance of unchanging sterility, relieved by the interposition of pools of stagnant water and running streams. There the shrubs and trees en- livened the scene and encircled the space as far as the eye could reach. On my return, in sliding down deep declivities, I so completely lacerated my clothes that they scarcely contained sufficient power to cover me. I saw no other animals or reptiles during this excursion than those which are common throughout the country."
Six years after the time specified by Mr. Mann, the Blue Mountains were crossed by Messrs. Blaxland, Lawson, and Wentworth, who were the first white men on record to scale the stupendous and awe-inspiring mountains. Two years after - 1815, the settlement of the far-famed city of Bathurst took place, and then the journey from Sydney was regarded as perilous, though the real and reputed grandeur of the country attracted many tourists. Bullock teams followed, to be in their turn superseded after the discovery of gold, in 1851, by King Cobb's coaches. These, in their turn, were deposed by John Whitton, C.E., Engineer-in-Chief of the Railways of New South Wales. It remained for that gentleman to demonstrate how mountains, rising perpendicularly about 4000 feet above the level of the sea, can be safely and speedily traversed; how rocks can be blasted and hills cut away when they interfere with the progress of the locomotive ; how hollows can be filled and underground passes carved; how bridges over bridges can be constructed over steep precipices ; in fact, how every natural obstacle which impedes the highway of progress can be removed by engineering skill.
Had Mr. Mann been told in 1807 that within three score years the shrill whistle of the locomotive engine would resound through the hills and valleys of the Blue Mountains, and that the journey across them could be comfortably accomplished in two or three hours, he would have stood aghast, and certainly would not have hesitated to say that the mind of any person who would utter such a proposition was not under the government of reason.
The railway crosses the Nepean River, a distance of 35 miles west of Sydney, and about 90 feet above the level of the sea ; then the township of Emu, a very old Government settlement, is reached. On the lower spur of the mountain range, Knapsack Gully is reached at an elevation of 240 feet, and the lower points of the first Zig-zag are reached at an elevation of 420 feet. From this point trains are carried 30 chains, until a height of 470 feet is reached, and from whence a delightful view of the country beneath is obtained, "It is grand!" is the first impulse. The line then cuts along the range to Lapstone Hill. It then passes by Spring wood and other stations, where comfortable villas are springing daily into existence, which are destined to be the summer retreat of several distinguished and wealthy citizens of the metropolis. These villas lend further enchantment to the grand panoramic view which presents itself to the traveller on either side of the line as he is hurried on over hills, precipices, ravines, until the arrival of the train at Mount Victoria, where refreshments are provided, and fifteen minutes to half an hour given to enjoyment and the stretching of one's limbs. Mount Clarence, which is along the route, is given "the go-by" by passing underneath through a tunnel 3658 feet above the level of the sea, 88 miles from Sydney, and 50 miles since the passage of Knapsack Gully, over the grandest country in Australia. Three miles further on the first or upper point of the LithgowValley Zig-zag is reached, and then the view beneath is one which is admired by travellers from all countries ; two viaducts and a short tunnel are traversed, and very shortly the lower point of the Lithgow Valley Zig-zag is reached. Three miles further on the trip over the Blue Mountains is accomplished
To LITHGOW VALLEY,
a distance of 96 miles from Sydney. In the compass of this letter it would be useless to attempt giving in detail the various charming and picturesque spots, all noted for some peculiar freak of nature, which flank either side of the railroad. The railway department, with commendable generosity, has afforded, and affords, every facility to the stranger whether on profit or pleasure bent to view all objects of interest. Special excursion trains are started from Sydney on alternate Saturdays, at 8 o'clock in the morning, which pass over the Blue Mountains and reach Lithgow Valley at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. The fare for the return trip is only eight shillings, with the additional advantage of the ticket being available for three days. The little wooden structure at present devoted to a railway station at Lithgow will soon be dismantled, as provision is being made for' the erection of a building commensurate with the growing requirements of that flourishing township. To those who have examined the mines, and contemplated the value of the many other natural advantages of the district, it does not require any great stretch of imagination to pronounce that " the Valley" is bound to become the largest inland manufacturing town in New South Wales. Its coal measures and other resources may be regarded as inexhaustible. The industries which have sprang, magic-like, into operation during the last 18 months give practical proof that few better fields could be selected for the investment of capital. At present there are four collieries, two copper-smelting works, and an iron mill, in full play on the township. There are brickyards, tile, drain-pipe, and terra cotta factories, which turn out workmanship that need not fear comparison with that of any other country. There are other industries, of which due notice will be taken, as the exigencies of our space will admit. Briefly, it may be said that the country abounds in freestone, in iron ore, in coal, and other minerals which constitute the primary elements for the establishment of manufacturing industries.
There are four or five hotels on the township, and he must indeed he a more fastidious explorer than Robert O'Hara Burke, or a more dainty geologist than Baron Ferd. Von Mueller, C.M.G., F .R.S., &c, &c, who could not make himself comfortable, if not happy at either of them. coals are cheap and during the winter season when sitting before a glowing fire in a snug sitting-room there are those who have been inclined to repeat the words of Shenstone "Whoe'er has travelled life's dull round, Where'er his stages may have been, May sigh to think he still has found The warmest welcome at an inn.
Already we have recorded in detail many of the buildings recently erected, and also have given an outline of the contemplated improvements. Amongst the latter, we understand that Mr. Robin- son, stationer and bookseller at Gulgong, intends erecting a suitable building to carry on his avocation, and probably the work in connection with the establishment of a local newspaper. There are three gentlemen of the medical profession on " the Valley," but, strange to say, that none of the legal is yet acclimatised, though there appears to be a fair held, if the fact that twenty-four cases were dealt with at a recent sitting of the local Court of Petty Sessions may be accepted as an evidence of my theory. The legal talent is " feed" at Bathurst. There is room for a saddle and harness-maker on the township, for as yet none of that useful trade has settled in " the Valley." Mr. H. C. Cosier has taken up the useful and lucrative position of auctioneer and general agent, and no doubt he will not regret having cast his lot at Lithgow ; there is plenty of scope for his profession. Mr. E. Burns represents the Victorian Insurance Co., Messrs. J. and J. T. Lonergan, the United Insurance Co., and Mr. H. Porter, the Norwich Union. The Commercial Banking proprietary of Sydney, has established a branch of their business, under the management of Mr. Bawtree. This is recognised as being of much convenience to the residents of the district. Several new buildings are being erected for stores, private dwellings, and public-houses in " the Valley," which I omitted to state was called Lithgow, in honour of the Auditor-General of that nomenclature. The township now presents a picture of industry and contentment.
Leaving Lithgow, a short drive brings the traveller to the township of Bowenfels, which is romantically situate at the foot of the mountain ranges. The scenery is charming and the air invigorating. Two small rivers, tributaries of the Nepean, are crossed on the route before arriving at the hostelry of Mr. James. Eather, which is regarded as one of the favourite inns of the district. It is in every sense a model of neatness, and in the olden days of coaching there was much bustle there when the Bathurst team, laden with thirsty and hungry passengers, was tooled up to the door by Johnny Lloyd, or by some of the other crack whips of Messrs. Cobb and Co., who were ornaments to the profession. Now the business of Mr. Eather's Inn is confined to local requirements, but tourists at times take their ease at mine inn, in that charming locality.
The stranger and other persona unacquainted with the topography of the country will have some difficulty in distinguishing Hartley from Little Hartley, as well as from Hartley Vale. On going from Lithgow to Hartley Vale, the route heretofore was of a most circuituous nature, but now a roadway is made across Brown's Gap, which will pass Mr. Kelly's inn, the Mount York Hotel, and will make the seat of the famous kerosene shale works within a distance of six miles, thereby effecting a saying of nine miles. An agitation is now on foot to prevail on the Government to have this line of road continued to the old Mount York station. Should this be accomplished, it would confer many advantages on the residents of Hartley, Hartley Vale, Little Hartley, Bowenfels, and Lithgow. The expense, as estimated by competent authorities, would not be great, as the old roadway only requires re-opening in some places. There are three storekeepers in Hartley Vale, who are now obliged to travel to the railway station a distance of nine miles, whereas if the old route were re opened, the distance would be only four miles. The present road superintendent, Mr. Cambridge, does his utmost to spend the few pounds devoted to the construction of sixth-class roads to the best advantage, but what can he do with the miserable pittance ? Large sums have been collected in the Hartley district, which have been de- voted to the swelling of the national treasury for the aggrandisement of other parts of the colony and the people of the district, who, as a com- munity, do not clamour for Government subsidies, are fairly entitled to some consideration from the heads of the Roads and Bridges Department.
It is highly gratifying to learn that the Council of Education has at length recognised the claims of the parents of children attending the Public School at Hartley Vale. A substantial building will be erected in place of the present dilapidated barn which for years has been the only substitute for a school-room on the township. There are 70 pupils attending the school, who, from their appearance, indicate that mountain air and mountain fare are not bad ingredients towards the development of a sound mind in a sound body. The teacher, Mr. Chapman, may well be proud of his three-score and ten. It is to be hoped that in after life they will do him and the State credit, and give another exemplification of the words of Pope 'Tis Education forms the common mind ; Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined.
Source: Australian Town and Country Journal 1 Jun 1878
Arrived as a convict on the "Mary Ann" in 1971