Aboriginal History

Memories of Your Suburb: Gledswood Hills

Before white settlement this was the land of the Tharawal and Gundungurra peoples. In 1810 Governor Macquarie granted 400 acres of land to Count Huon who had been a tutor to William and James Macarthur, sons of John Macarthur. Huon named his property Buckingham. He sold the property to James Chisholm, one of the founders of the Bank of NSW, in 1816 after a series of bad agricultural seasons. Chisholm built the homestead and out buildings on the property now named Gledswood by the second James Chisholm’s wife Elizabeth. Chisholm planted vines for wine and ran cattle and sheep. The Chisholms owned Gledswood for 128 years. From 1914 to 1971 Gledswood had a number of owners including Anthony Hordern. In 1971 the Testoni family bought Gledswood and opened the property as a tourist attraction. The present owners the Nasso family continue this tradition.

Gledswood, Catherine Fields. 1997 Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Gledswood, Catherine Fields. 1997 Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

On part of the original Gledswood property bordering Camden Valley Way, El Caballo Blanco school for dancing Spanish Andalusian horses ran from 1979 to 1998. At its height this popular tourist attraction had an indoor seating arena holding 800 people.

Entrance to arena complex at El Caballo Blanco built by Western Australian business entrepreneur Ray Williams. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Entrance to arena complex at El Caballo Blanco built by Western Australian business entrepreneur Ray Williams. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

The new suburb of Gledswood Hills, gazetted on 9th December 2011, is bounded by Camden Valley Way, Raby Rd and Gregory Hills Drive. It includes a 27 hole golf course and will eventually have 3000 houses. The first estate to be released is The Hermitage and includes the historic homestead of Gledswood as a central feature.

Memories of Your Suburb: Gregory Hills

Before white settlement this was the land of the Tharawal and Gundungurra peoples. Located between Camden Valley Way and St Gregory’s College, the new suburb of Gregory Hills is part of the South West Growth Area. It is built on land which was formerly St Gregory’s College farm. This land was given to the Marist Brothers by Thomas Donovan in the 1920s for the development of a boys school to teach young men the skills to have careers on the land.

Gregory Hills.

Gregory Hills.

Gregory Hills includes more than 280 hectares of rolling hills and undulating land with views across the district and beyond to the Blue Mountains. Nearly 300 families have bought blocks in the suburb in the last year and 2,400 homes are planned. Gregory Hills will feature its own primary school, shopping centre and an extensive network of parks linked by bike paths and walkways. Gregory Hills Drive will join Badgally Rd giving access to Campbelltown railway station.

Memories of Your Suburb: Camden South

The area known as Camden South is established on land originally home to the Dharawal and Gundangarra people and acquired by the Macarthur family as part of their extensive land grant in the early 1800s. The area supported the farming of wheat, sheep and dairy cattle. An original house Murrandah is now known as Camden House Nursing Home.

Bicycle track, Camden South, 1998. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Bicycle track, Camden South, 1998. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The expansion in population in Camden in the 1960s and 1970s saw the establishment of two large housing areas to the east and west of the Hume Highway. These were known as Elizabeth Macarthur, honouring the contribution to the development of agriculture by Elizabeth, wife of John Macarthur, and Ponderosa. The new areas were originally collectively known as Benkennie but this later changed to Camden South.

The 3.4km Nepean Cycleway links Camden South to the township of Camden passing under the Camden bypass and along the Nepean River. The flat lands of Camden South are home to a number of sporting fields for local soccer and rugby clubs. Camden Valley Inn is a landmark on the old Hume Highway and a popular gathering place for local people.

Memories of Your Suburb: Oran Park

Oran Park is on the traditional land of the Dharawal people. The area has a rural character with open pastures and rolling hills. The area was originally made up of two principal land grants, one of 2,000 acres, Harrington Park, granted to William Campbell in 1815 and another to George Molle in 1817, Netherbyes, of 1600 acres. Oran Park appears on the pre-1827 map as part of Harrington Park. The Oran Park portion was sub-divided from the Harrrington Park estate in 1829 and acquired by Henry William Johnston in 1852. The Oran Park estate is representative of the layout of a country manor estate with views afforded to and from the manor over the landscape and to the important access points of the estate.

Front facade of Oran Park House, 1991. Cpyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Front facade of Oran Park House, 1991. Cpyright: Camden Council Library Service.

The two-storey Georgian-style house was built in c.1857. The house was acquired by Thomas C Barker (of Maryland and Orielton), who sold it to Campbelltown grazier Edward Lomas Moore (of Badgally) in 1871. The property was later owned by Atwill George Kendrick and then the Moore family who sold the house and land to B Robbins and a Mr Smith operated a golf course with trotting facilities. It was sold in 1945 for £28,000, and in 1963, 361 acres was purchased by ER Smith and J Hyland, farmers. The homestead and stables were sold in 1969 by John and Peggy Cole and purchased by the Dawson-Damers, members of the English aristocracy. John ‘DD’ Dawson-Damer was an Old Etonian and car collector. He was a prominent motor racing identity and was killed in an accident in West Sussex in 2000. After her husband’s death his wife sold the house, with its historic gardens and 107 hectares of pasture, in 2006 for $19 million to Valad Property Group.

Old Silo at Oran Park, 1991. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Old Silo at Oran Park, 1991. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

During World War II Narellan Army Camp was based at Oran Park. Part of the original estate is the location of the Oran Park Motor Racing Circuit. The main grand prix circuit is 2.6 km long with a mixture of slow, technical and fast sweeping corners as well as changes in elevation around the track. Apart from the main racing circuit there area has had a number of subsidiary activities including a two dirt circuits, two four wheel training venues, a skid pan and a go-kart circuit. The racing circuit has been used for a variety of motorsport including club motorkhanas, touring cars, sports sedans, production cars, open-wheelers, motocross and truck racing The track closed in 2010 to become a housing estate. Oran Park Town opened for land sales on March 2010. The suburb is being developed by

The main building at the Oran Park Raceway, 1997. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

The main building at the Oran Park Raceway, 1997. Copyright: Camden Council Library Service.

Leppington Pastoral Company (owned by the Perich family) in a joint-venture with Landcom with an estimated 11,500 dwellings and 33,00 people to reside in Oran Park and Turner Road. Oran Park is part of the South West Growth Area which is eventually planned to accommodate 295,000 people by 2031.

Oran Park Town has seen numerous community facilities emerge, from schools, churches, a retirement home, and the Podium retail complex and business hub. Camden Council’s new Administration Building is now open and a new library and community centre are in the final stages of planning.

 

Memories of Your Suburbs: Mount Annan

The suburb is on the traditional lands of the Dharawal and Gundungurra people. Mount Annan is the name given to a high point in the western part of the locality and is 190 metres above sea level. It only appears on published maps after 1834. This point was part of Glenlee which was owned by William Howe, who built a fine Georgian house (1824) on the property. Glenlee was acquired by James Fitzpatrick in the 1850s and his descendants ran it as a dairy farm until 1978 with associated cropping and grazing.
The first land release for housing at Mount Annan was in late 1980s for first home buyers and low income families. Later land releases such as Garden Gates were aimed at second and third home buyers. The population growth encouraged the establishment of new shopping facilities, a leisure centre and schools.
The Mount Annan Botanic Garden is the highlight of the suburb. It is a native plant botanic garden and arboretum in an attractive garden and parkland setting and is managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust.

Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, 1989. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan, 1989.Ceremonial opening of the memorial sundial in the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan donated by the Macarthur Onslow women in memory of their mother Winifred Macarthur Onslow (nee Owen) widow of Edward Macarthur Onslow. L to R Pamela Harrison; Annette Macarthur Onslow; Phoebe Atkinson. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

On the eastern side of the Mount Annan Botanic Gardens is a little piece of history which was constructed in 1880. It is a water canal (aqueduct) which is partly made of sandstone blocks thought to be quarried from Mount Annan. It is part of the Upper Nepean Scheme which supplies water by gravity from the dams on upper Nepean River to Prospect Reservoir along a course of 62 km. Until Warragamba Dam was finished in 1960 this canal supplied most of Sydney’s water.

Glenlee Coal Washery, viewed from top of Mount Annan, 2007. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Glenlee Coal Washery, viewed from top of Mount Annan, 2007. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

In 2001 Mount Annan had a population of 6,761, and which was an 85 per cent increase from 1996. The demographic profile of Mount Annan is predominantly young families, with 35 per cent of the population under 18 years of age.

Memories of Your Suburbs: Smeaton Grange

Before white settlement this was the land of the Tharawal and Gundungurra peoples. The property later known as Smeaton Grange was originally called Naralling Grange and was a land grant of 283 hectares (700 acres) by Governor Macquarie in 1816 to Captain William Hovell.

Smeaton House Smeaton Grange, 1985. House built by Edward & Elizabeth Sedgewick in 1894. Now Magdalene High School. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Smeaton House Smeaton Grange, 1985. House built by Edward & Elizabeth Sedgewick in 1894. Now Magdalene High School. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Smeaton was also an adjoining land grant to Charles Throsby who was an early settler and town leader in Campbelltown. Both of these landholdings were purchased by James Fitzpatrick who had come to Australia as a convict in 1822 and who worked as a servant of Hamilton Hume. Fitzpatrick accompanied Hume and Hovell on their famous 1824 expedition to Port Phillip Bay. He later became a prosperous farmer. The property first grew wheat, and when rust developed, moved into sheep production and later dairy farming.
During World War Two the house was used as a residence for army officers. The Catholic Church acquired the property in the early 1960s and the Patrician Brothers Order used it as a religious house, retreat centre and novitiate till it was developed as part of Magdalene High School in 2000. In the early 1990s the area of land north of the house was zoned industrial. The new industrial estate has been able to attract a wide range of business both large and small and continues to grow as an industrial centre for the area.

Memories of Your Suburb: Elderslie

Elderslie lies on the land of the Dharawal people. Governor Macquarie made land grants along the Nepean River including one to the surveyor John Oxley, and was named ‘Ellerslie’ in grant records of 1816. The name had changed to its present form by 1828.

It is believed that the first building in the Camden area was constructed in Elderslie, at the river crossing, sometime in 1803. A number of properties, including ‘Elderslie’ were eventually owned by Charles Campbell, who subdivided his land in 1841 to create a village.

St Mark's Church, Elderslie. Luker Street Elderslie. Sunday School gathering, perhaps prize giving. Some names on back of photo. 1955. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

St Mark’s Church, Elderslie. Luker Street Elderslie. Sunday School gathering, perhaps prize giving. Some names on back of photo. 1955. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Agriculture was the main industry, in particular grape growing and market gardening. Grapes for wine were grown by Martin Thurn, a vinedresser from Germany who was brought out by the Macarthur family to Camden Park in 1852. More recent industries include sand mining of the flood plain.

The expansion of the coal industry in the 1950s- 1970s lead to a population increase, with more housing being built in Elderslie, and the construction of a primary school (Mawarra) and a high school. This growth is continuing with new residential subdivisions being created on surrounding remnant agricultural land.
(Information provided by Camden Historical Society, Camden Council Library Service and Camden Council Community Profile)

Memories of Your Suburb: Cawdor

Originally inhabited by the Dharawal, Gundungurra and Cubbitch-barta people, the land became part of the vast holdings acquired by John Macarthur in the early years of the 1800s. Cawdor was the first village to develop in the Cowpastures district. It predated Camden by more than 20 years. The name was given to the area by Governor Macquarie to honour his wife’s family’s connection to Scotland.

War Cemetery Cawdor Road Camden. This Cemetery contains the remains of Air Force personnel killed while based at Camden Aerodrome during World War II. Phil Flack President Camden RSL inspecting. 1998. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

War Cemetery Cawdor Road Camden. This Cemetery contains the remains of Air Force personnel killed while based at Camden Aerodrome during World War II. Phil Flack President Camden RSL inspecting. 1998. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

The area still supports dairy farms. In the 1960s and 1970s, both the eastern & western sides of Cawdor Road were subdivided and sold, but in the early 1990s local residents were successful in opposing proposed higher density developments. Today most of the suburb is part of Wollondilly Shire although the cemeteries remain in Camden Local Government Area. In 2001, Camden High School was moved from the centre of Camden township to Cawdor Road. A development application for a proposed Muslim school in Cawdor was rejected on appeal to the Land and Environment Court in 2009.
(Information provided by Camden Historical Society, Camden Council Library Service and Camden Council Community Profile)

Before Camden: Settlement and Conflict

This section may contain the names and images of deceased people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when reading this section. 

The early 1800s saw an increase in contact between the Aboriginal people of the Cowpasture area and the Europeans. Agricultural development of the area aggravated the deteriorating relations between these two groups. Governor Hunter, King, and  Bligh were all opposed to land grants within the Cowpasture area, wishing instead to preserve it. However, Macarthur and Davidson pressured Earl Camden, Secretary for War and the Colonies in London, to provide large land grants in 1805.

Aboriginal people defended their access to traditional lands. Initially, these were the acts of a handful of individuals against an administration that was set up to remove them from the land. Conflict increased from 1814 onward, when Governor Macquarie gave more land to the settlers and responded with extreme violence against any Aboriginal people who took actions against Europeans.

Despite pleads with settlers, Governor Macquarie was unable to stop the violence that would lead to the Frontiers War.

Despite pleads with settlers, Governor Macquarie was unable to stop the violence that would lead to the Frontier War.

As more land was being developed for agriculture, the single greatest reason for conflict between the Aboriginal people and the Europeans emerged. It is explained by Bruce Elder in ‘Blood on the Wattle’ (2003). The pattern of the Aboriginal people’s relationship with the land was clearly one of foraging. They used what the land offered. When European agriculture was introduced they approached the produce, the livestock, vegetables, and maize, with the same understanding. They approached this food as a communal source rather than restricted to the ownership of the landowner. The fences erected also alienated the Aboriginal people from their traditional hunting areas and sacred sites, and a prolonged flood brought the Gundungurra people to the area, placing even greater pressures on what was a traditional hunting ground.

The farmers saw the foraging by Aboriginal people as theft and responded with force. The retaliation was often severe, with both sides engaging in tit-for-tat killings. Governor Macquarie recognised that many of the killings by Aboriginal people were reciprocal for not only having their clansman killed, but also for sexual violation against women. Macquarie encouraged farmers to allow the Aboriginal people to take some crops and livestock as a small price to ensure peace.

Unfortunately his moderate approach was not followed by those in the area, with killings becoming more regular. With increasing pressure from white settlers, Macquarie relented, and on 9 April 1816 Macquaire issued orders to three detachments of the 46th Regiment to seek out ‘Hostile Natives’ and take others they encountered as ‘Prisoners of War’. The conflict had escalated into a war, now known as the Frontier War. This may seem a strong indictment, but as Michael Organ reveals, it was the British, such as Macquarie and his men, who viewed and fought it as a war (Organ, 1990).

In most cases the Aboriginal people were able to escape due to their great knowledge of the land, although about 30 indigenous people had been killed by May 1816. The local culmination of this period was the Appin Massacre, on April 17, 1816, where 14 Tharawal people, mainly women and children, were killed. Those of the original inhabitants that were not killed were scattered into the mountains to the west and south. The lands were now available for colonial agriculture.

There were some who supported the Aboriginal people even during the darkest period. The most vocal supporter was the explorer Charles Throsby. Throsby wrote to numerous officials and local administrators in defence of the Aboriginal people, revealing the brutal treatment of the settlers against the Indigenous owners and pointing out the exaggerations of the crimes claimed to be committed against the settlers. Unfortunately his pleas had little success (Organ, 1990).

Life after the massacre. Some Aboriginal residence adopted European practices, such as 'Nellie' liked to dress in European clothes.

Some Aboriginal people who stayed in the area adopted European practices, such as ‘Nellie’ liked to dress in European clothes.

As a result of conflict and reduction in accessible lands, most Aboriginal people scattered out of the region. Some stayed mixing work on settler’s properties with a traditional lifestyle.  Thomas Hassall, an Anglican Clergyman and owner of the property ‘Denbigh’, supported the Aboriginal people who came to him. He was something at odds with other landowners and his father-in-law Samuel Marsden, who viewed Aboriginal people with contempt. Hassell hosted the Aboriginal people who occasionally worked on his property in exchange for food. His son, James Hassall, also recalled witnessing a corroboree on the property attended by around 200 Aboriginal people (Hassell, 1902), the vast majority of which would most likely have been from other areas.

By 1858, the magistrate in Campbelltown stated that the last of the Aboriginal people in that area had died from natural causes and the magistrate in Picton mentioned that only 67 of the original population remained. Those that survived to the beginning of the twentieth century were placed on reserves such as La Perouse, on the north shores of Botany Bay that was established in 1878.

Recent NAIDOC Week celebrations in Camden.

Recent NAIDOC Week celebrations in Camden.

The number of Aboriginal people in the area has increased considerably since 1970, with the 2011 Census indicating 1118 people identifying as Aboriginal in the Camden LGA. A keen interest in the culture has also begun to thrive. A person of particular impact is Frances ‘Aunty Fran’ Bodkin, a Tharawal Elder who was named as one of the 100 most influential Aboriginal women in the last 100 years by the National Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Women’s Alliance (Armstrong, 2011). She has been particularly active in recent years with workshops to inform residents of the first people of the area. In 2011, the Mygunyah Camden Aboriginal Residents Group was formed, the aim of the group being to raise the profile and awareness of Aboriginal people and culture in the Camden area.

References:

Kerrie, Armstrong. (23.3.2011) Honour a Surpise for Aunty Fran. Camden Narellan Advertiser.

Elder, Bruce. (2003) Blood on the Wattle: Massacres and Mistreatment of Aboriginal Australians since 1788. Frenchs Forest, N.S.W. : New

Holland. Hassell, James Samuel. (1902). In old Australia : records and reminiscences from 1794. Brisbane: R.S. Hews & Co.

n.a. (2010). The Appin Massacre of 1816.

Organ, Michael, ed. (1990). A documentary history of the Illawarra & South Coast Aborigines 1770-1850 : including a chronological bibliography 1770-1990. Wollongong:Aboriginal Education Unit, University of Wollongong.

Before Camden: The Macarthur Region’s Aboriginal Heritage

This section may contain the names and images of deceased people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when reading this section. 

Dating Aboriginal history is difficult, particularly as it deals with tens-of-thousands of years. Estimates vary from 40,000 to as much as 75,000 years of Aboriginal habitation on the continent. Trying to establish figures for a single area, such as the Camden area, is even more difficult.

What is known is that the area was not home to a single language group. This is evidenced by the different names for the region, it being called Baragil (or Baragal) in one language, and Benkennie, meaning the dry land, in another. The region was the intersection of three language groups: the Dharug, the Tharawal, and the Gundungurra. The regions these groups occupied were vast.

The Dharug inhabited as far east as Sydney Harbour to Penrith and the Blue Mountains in the west, and south towards the Macarthur region. They were known as the ‘Climbers of Trees’ due to their hunting technique that involved hollowing out toeholds allowing them to catch possums, birds and collect eggs.

The Tharawal occupied from Botany Bay to Jervis Bay in the south, and westward to Camden. The Tharawal were also divided into two groups. One was the ‘Salt Water People’ who were along the coast from Botany Bay to Jervis Bay. The other, the “Sweet (or Fresh) Water People’, lived inland towards Camden.

The Gundungurra could be found from Windsor in the north across to Lithgow and south towards Goulburn, with what is now the town of Camden being within their territory. The Gundungurra group were known as the ‘Mountain People’.

Corroboree around a camp fire by Joesph Lycett (ca.1817). Used with permission from the National Library of Australia. http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an2962715-s16

Corroboree around a camp fire by Joesph Lycett (ca.1817). National Library of Australia, an2962715.

Language groups consisted from a few hundred to several thousand people. These were spread across clans or bands of around 200 people that controlled a particular region. For example, the Dharug group had two clans in the Macarthur region, the Mundingong people of Narellan and the Cubbitch Barta who used a distinct dialect called Gur Gur. These clans comprised what were called hearth or foraging groups, made up of one or two families.

Family groups roamed throughout the various regions and sharing of food and resources was an accepted custom. This made it possible for them to travel without fear of starvation. Inter-tribal conflicts are debated, with some claiming that tribes were hostile to their immediate neighbours but friendly to those further afield. There are others who believe that conflicts tended to be based on individual confrontations, rather than being continuous, deep seated animosities (Organ, 1990).

Baragil was a meeting and hunting ground. One resident tells of numerous sites that had importance, such as Crocodile Creek as it was once called, which is now part of the Stonequarry area in Wollondilly. It was a meeting place between the Dharug and Tharawal people. The interaction between the tribes was not only in terms of goods but also to arrange marriages. Thirlmere Lakes was the meeting place between the Tharawal and the Gundungurra people.  One of the impacts that European settlement had was taking the land that was the traditional meeting place between the Tharawal and the Dharug people, resulting in the the Tharawal trading more with the Dharug people (Learning from the Past, 2007).

Contact between the Aboriginal people of the area and Europeans was gradual. The first traces of the Europeans were supplies, livestock and disease. European goods were traded amongst the Tharawal people of coastal and inland areas. In particular, glass and iron was traded between the Gweagal clan of the Tharawal people who lived on the southern shores of Botany Bay who traded with their inland kin. This clan witnessed the arrival of the First Fleet of 1770 and the 1778 arrival.

Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos by Joesph Lycett (ca.1817). Used with permission by the National library of Australia. http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an2962715-s20

Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos by Joesph Lycett (ca.1817). National library of Australia, an2962715.

The Tharawal people also witnessed the cattle that escaped from the Sydney camp and wandered into the “Cowpastures“. This is evidenced by the paintings that clearly depict the hoofed animals with horns removed in sandstone shelters along the Georges River, with one even being called Bull Cave, located near Campbelltown. The cattle, when discovered by the Europeans, gained a reputation for being quite aggressive. The Tharawal people also observed this aggressive behaviour. According to Governor King, the Tharawal people would climb trees and wait for the animals to pass rather than engage or hunt them. It is also very likely that the cattle caused the direct contact between the Tharawal and the European settlers to increase, as it was on the search for the cattle that led the settlers further inland (Liston, 1988).

Contact between the Aboriginal people of what had become known as the Cowpastures and the European settlers became more regular in the early 1800s. Many comments reveal a degree of admiration of the Aboriginal people. An often quoted remark by Lieutenant Collins describes them as “short, stocky, strong and superbly built” (Wrigley, 2008.). Governor Macquarie too expressed respect for the Aboriginal people of the area, recording during his 1810 tour of the area, a visit of around 15 Aboriginal people who “honoured us (Macqaurie and his companions) with their company and attendance during our stay” (Atkinson, 2008). Macquarie and his party also witnessed the hunting of a goanna and a performance of a corroboree, an event in which Aboriginal people interact with the Dreamtime through music, dance and costume (Mylrea, 2002).

You can read about the next stage of Aboriginal history here.

References:

Atkinson, Alan. (2008). Camden: Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales.

Liston, Carol. (1988). Campbelltown: The Bicentennial History. North Syd. : Allen & Unwin.

Lycett, John. (ca. 1817). Corroboree around a camp fire. National Library of Australia, an2962715.

Lycett, John. (ca. 1817) Aborigines using fire to hunt kangaroos. National library of Australia, an2962715.

Mylrea. P.J. (2002). Camden District: A History to the 1840s.

n.a. (14.9.2007). Learning from the Past. The District Reporter.

Wrigley, John. (21.3.2008). The First Australians. The District Reporter.