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Photos - Fern Hill, Mulgoa com. c.1810 and Remnant part of Blue Mountains Road in 1990's.

This page is a wonderful part of the history of the new colony. It is with appreciation to those who have gone before, who had foresight enough, to keep journals of their experiences. These journals and letters bring us great and true stories of the pioneer's struggles, suffering and achievements, but also of might and will to overcome great difficulty.

PREPARATION and BUILDING of the carriageway across the impenetrable Blue Mountains barrier, was just one of such feats of determination. Firstly - may I say, that I am not writing a history of Australia, but rather giving an overview of the life of our ancestor William Cox during his time in New South Wales. Secondly - I am indebted to a few people who have published in detail, the activities of William, his family and of those with whom he came in contact over his lifetime.

REFERENCES to hand are "Fourteen Journeys Over The Blue Mountains of New South Wales 1813-1841" by George Mackaness, pub.1965; "Memoirs of William Cox" from family papers edited by descendants and published by Library of Australian History 1979;"Our Blue Mountains Yesterdays" by P.W.Sprigg; "Macquarie Country" by D.G.Bowd pub.1982 by Library of Australian History, plus an assortment of letters, emails and newspaper clips - not forgetting the hours/days spent at public libraries. Much information and first hand knowledge has been acquired through visits to actual sites, where events took place. Memorials at Mt.York and other places serve as a reminder of achievements of many brave pioneer men and women.

THREE EVENTS TOOK PLACE before this road became a reality. The first was exploration of a track across the mountains and down to Bathurst Plains. Second was the surveying of that line of road, before William Cox could begin the major task of building it.

GREGORY BLAXLAND described in his journals, how his party of three - Gregory BLAXLAND, William LAWSON & William WENTWORTH with four men as servants, prepared four pack horses, with provisions and ammunition for a long trek into the seemingly impenetrable mountain. They took five dogs as they departed 11th May 1813 from Neapean River across to Emu Island. After many trials and disappointments they reached their destination - the fertile plains of Bathurst, around the end of May. The next task to turn back and make that ascent of Mt.York once more. They returned home 6th June 1813.

GEORGE EVANS was next to complete a trek into the wilderness toward Bathurst Plains. George b.1778 in England, arrived in Australia 16.10.1802. He became a surveyor for N.S.W. Government, being recalled from his post in Tasmania by Gov.Macquarie for this purpose. He was required to complete a survey of the proposed new access across the Blue Mountains to the much needed grazing lands. Part of his reward was a grant of 1,000 acres in Tasmania. A grant of land was reward for two free men and a conditional pardon and a small block of land to each of the three convicts who joined the party. They departed 19th Nov.1813 and completed the task about 8th Jan.1814, a distance of 154 miles. Two free men Richard Lewis and James Burns (Byrnes) and three prisoners John Cooghan, John Grover and John Tygh received their reward and freedom.

George William EVANS lived on his grant, a few miles from the village of Evandale. He was laid to rest at New Town, but was reinterred at front of St.Andrew's Anglican Church, as a reminder of the man, after whom the township was named. James Cox is also laid to rest with his wife at this church burial ground, near to his estate of Clarendon.


This third part of the project concerns my ancestor, which allows me to give more detail while this of course, was the greater of the tasks. From "Fourteen Journeys Over the Blue Mountains" by George Mackaness.... WILLIAM COX b.1764 Wimborne, Dorset, joined N.S.W. Corps as Lieutenant and served as Captain on 'Minerva' arriving in Australia Jan 1800. "By 1803 William owned 1,300 acres of land, about 100 cattle, 2,000 sheep and £4,000 of trading property". On his return from England in 1810 he settled back into farming at Clarendon, being appointed magistrate at Windsor about the same time. Clarendon had been maintained very capably by Rebecca and son James.

"William and his sons took up about 4,000 acres in the Mulgoa Valley near to that of the Gregory and John Blaxland. Cox had already done a good deal of roadmaking in the County of Cumberland, when in July 1814, Macquarie made him Superintendant of Works for the new road over the Blue Mountains, the record of which follows in this monograph."

"When in 1815 it was proposed to appoint a Commandant at Bathurst Macquarie wrote to Lord Bathurst "For this office I ........recommend William Cox Esqr., he being in My Opinion eminently well qualified for Such a Situation. Mr.Cox is a Sensible intelligent Man of Great Arrangement, and the best Agriculturist in this Colony. H.R.A. Vol.111 p.150."

Governor Macquarie and William had talked about the project before the letter came from Government House Sydney on 14th July 1814 Quote:- To. William Cox Esquire, Sir, Having some time since determined on having a carriageway road constructed from Emu Plains on the left bank of the Nepean across the Blue Mountains to that fine trace of open country to the westward of them, discovered lately by Mr.Evans, and having recently received from you a voluntary offer of your superintending and directing the working party to be employed on this very important service, I now readily avail myself of your very liberal and handsome offer of superintending and directing of the constructing of this road, and do invest with you full power and authority to carry this important design into complete effect; Government furnishing you with necessary means to enable you to do so.

The number of artificers and labourers, namely thirty, and the guard of eight soldiers, you have already yourself selected or required shall be allowed and furnished to you forthwith, for this service, and they shall be supplied with a plentiful and adequate ration of provisions whilst employed upon it..........................Included is a full list of instructions about workers , provisions and tools and ..............including one horse, two new carts with harness and two yokes of well broken in bullocks, it being my intention to send off the first ocnvoy from Sydney tomorrow morning for Emu Plains and the second convoy in a fortnight........."end quote

Gov.Macquarie was intending for all requirements to be there for commencement 18th June. He trusted that William understood his wishes for the road and found it necessary to bring to his notice a few leading points to be attended to.

"First the road is to commence at the Ford (already determined) on the Nepean River to Emu Plains, and from there across the Blue Mountains to the Macquarie River and the centrical part of the Bathurst Plains." Cox had a map to follow, but was permitted to make a deviation if necessary.

"Second the road thus made must be at least twelve feet wide, so as to permit two carts or other wheel carts to pass each other with ease, the timber in the forest ground to be cut down and cleared away 20 feet wide, grubbing up the stumps and filling the holes, so that a four wheel carriage or cart may pass without difficulty of danger."

"Third, in brush ground it is to be cut twenty feet wide and grubbed up to twelve feet wide. I conceive this to be sufficient width for the proposed road at the present, but where it can with ease and convenience be done, I would prefer the road to be made sixteen feet wide"

"Fourth, the road for the present is to terminate about the center of Bathurst Plains on the bank of Macquarie River, carrying the road as near to the banks of that river as practicable." William was instructed to make use of depots and ask for any provisions that were required for the workers comfort. So as not to disrupt the working party, orders were given to the public and posted in conspicuous places, against visiting or crossing the Neapean without a pass signed by the Governor.

Signed :- "I remain with regard, Sir, Your most obedient humble servant, Lachlan Macquarie, Governor in Chief of New south Wales."

A few interesting notes from a full diary, which can be read at most libaries - One man had a splinter in hand, while another had a bad cold. The shoemaker was busy making nails and mending shoes. William believed in keeping the men fed with food containing a good vitamin source, so he regularly sent men home to Clarendon asking Rebecca for supplies. During August it was 300 lbs of beef, 60 cabbages and two bags of corn. In another place I read where the voyage of the 'Minerva' was one of the best, as William procured cabbages and lemons as often as possible, which were the source of Vitamin C for the passengers.

On 1st October, WILLIAM built a 17' x 12' storeroom just 12 miles from Emu Ford, costing him eight men and six days labour. This site is now Wentworth Falls. The 'Herculean Mountain' or Mount Victoria seemed insurmountable, as William himself (aged 48) was 'knocked up' and thought the sheep would have to climb the mountain for shearing. He set up a forge for the blacksmith to repair all tools. The rain was an every day occurence, men were cold and many were sick. They killed kangaroo and caught rock cod. One bullock went blind and William's horse threw him into the swamp - 'I pulled off my clothes, wrung them and left them in the sun for an hour, when they were tolerably dry.' Heavy rain and thunder continued. Bridges were started over the Lett and Cox Rivers y December. Food for the gangs was always a problem. With the Nepean River in flood the bullocks could not pass with supplies, which caused problems a plenty. William wrote to Rev.Cartwright asking if two prisoners could cut wheat for one of his workers from the Nepean, as 'he has a large family and it is his all.' They continued to work bullocks hard and constructed more bridges.

A sick man was sent home to Nepean - more kangaroos and some fish were available but rain and thunder continued. Provisions were quite scarce for so many men, considering the poor weather conditions. On Christmas Day William pitched his tent, having only about 5 miles of road to complete, and three bridges. Christmas Day celebrations included 'a gill of spirits to all the men' and he gave each man a new, dry shirt. That would certainly have been a memorable occasion for those men, when the job was complete. William became ill during the night of Jan.5th, but sent T.Frost to Clarendon on 26th Dec., for a good cart horse. Dec.27 -'we saw six kangaroos, 11 emus, wild ducks and pigeons, before returning to the river quite tired. Ten bridges have been completed by the carpenters'. Dec.29 - 'the birds enjoy the river banks, the flowers extremely fragrant and left six men preparing for a bridge across the main river. The party going forward are all preparing and are to cross the river at 12 precisely. Wrote to His Excellency the Governor with proceedings to this period.'

January 1st 1815 - 'Saw six or eight wild turkeys and as many kangaroos, on of which we killed. Found some rich grazing lands comparable to those in England. In lieu of salted pork, he ordered a bullock to be killed which allowed each man about 12 lbs of beef. Some fish has also been caught and when the men were mustered this morning, they were extremely clean and looked cheerful and hearty.

January 4th - 'much disappointed at not receiving the Parramatta cart with provisions. Men getting on well with the bridge.' January 5th - About midnight I was taken violently ill with excruciating pain above my left hip - became easier and was a little better by 9. Finished the bridge over the Fish River - it is strong - on each end a pier of 25 feet which is filled with stone. The span across is 25 feet more which is planked with split logs. It is altogether 75 foot long and 16 foot wide. January 6th - crossed the river over the new bridge with the caravan and two carts, as also our horses. It is seven miles from the bridge and twenty eight miles from the mountain.

THE DIARY ENDS - The party consisted of 28 men and six soldiers. Begun on 7th July 1814 the road was completed on 14th January 1815. On 25th April Governor Macquarie took the official party across the new road, quote:- "Gov.Macquarie and his wife with Messrs Antill, Hassall, Redfern and Watts spent the night at Mr.King's farm before crossing the Nepean next morning, being the first crossing of Blue Mountain's Road. Party:- Gov. & Mrs.Macquarie; William Cox J.P.;Sir John Jamison; John Oxley, Surveyor General; J.J.Campbell Secretary; Major Antill; Watts; Dr.Redfern; J.W.Lewen; G.W.Evans, surveyor.

William Cox took six months to complete the construction of the 101 miles of roadway. It was a great engineering feat for that time in history. He had convicts and soldiers assigned to him and although justice was hard in those days, the men were pleased to work for William, which resulted in their freedom, on completion of the task.

The mountainous place in the Blue Mountains is known today as Cox's Pass. A large and historic monument stands at Mt.York, commemorating the historic feats of all these men, and is worth a visit when passing the region.

Lyn Tocher wrote that on a memorial stone at the entrance to the branch library at Lawson, N.S.W. , but which was opened in May 1915 as "The Blue Mountains Shire Building" it says


In memory of Australia's First Road Engineer

WILLIAM COX - Builder of the First Great Western Road.

Erected by the Institute of Local Government Engineers of Australasia.


REWARDS - For completing this roadwork, William Cox received 2,000 acres in this new pastoral region, adjoining Macquarie River at Bathurst. This was probably his 'Hereford' estate ? later occupied by son Edgar and wife Mary Andrewina Piper, who bred racehorses.

Published by Library of Australian History "Memoirs of William Cox" by some descendants c.1900. From Bigge Appendix Box 25 - Government papers.

FREE PERSONS Thomas Hobby - assistant on expedition - 500 acres and 6 cows; Richard Lewis - chief superintendant - 200 acres, 1 horse, four cows; John Tighe - guide - 100 acres, 2 cows, £5.; Samuel Ayres - servant to Mr.Cox - 2 cows. (?)

CONVICTS on roadwork :-James Watson -leader of roadworks; James Dwyer - leader of firemaking; Thomas Gorman - charge of stores; William Dye, Samuel Freeman (Wm.Freeman) - rough carpenters; Thomas Cooke, Thomas Carpenter - sawyers; Robert(Samuel) Fowler - quarryman; James Richards - Blacksmith; William Herdman - shoemaker; John Hanley (Robert Henley), Samuel Waters (Walters), Henry (Charles) Cryer - Bullock drivers with government carts.

LABOURERS Samuel Crook (Cook); Patrick Merrian (Mernan), John Allan, Thomas Adams, John Finch, Stephen Parker, Thomas Roddocks (Roddicks), John Manning, John Tindall, James Kelly, Matt Smith, Harry Sullivan, John Ross, William Lawrence, Thomas Kendall, Samuel Davis, Henry Morton (Martin), Thomas Watkins, James McCarty, William Appledore, Patrick Hanraghan (Henringham), Stephen Hockey (Huckey), (William Ramsay, George Keen) the last two were 'at the mountain' during 1814 muster. Some rewards - Free Pardons - Robert Fowler, William Appledore and James Dwyer. Thomas Ruddocks a ticket of leave and emancipation to all the others.

Some years ago now, my enterprising husband, Matthew took us to many of these sites. He was wanting to follow the 'old road' as much as possible, so we captured some great pictures of the 'remnants' of this Road across the Blue Mountains to fertile Bathurst Plains. We also have sketches of the line of the road, by David Cox ? of Sydney. We are happy to share whatever information you would like. Although I could say a great deal more, but I have to stop somewhere. Just enjoy and email me if you have any questions............. Thelma

From "Macquarie Country" by D.G.Bowd -

"Another road to the Hawkesbury was built in 1819 by William Cox. It left the Great Western Road at Prospect and ran in a fairly direct line to Richmond, a distance of 15 miles. This road is called the Blacktown Road today. Windsor was not linked with it until 1860.

If we did all we were capable of ....We would astound ourselves.

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