Port Stephens in 1826

Sketch of Port Stephens, New South Wales (1826) by Henry Thomas Ebsworth (Cortesy of the State Library of NSW)
Sketch of Port Stephens, New South Wales (1826) by Henry Thomas Ebsworth (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

The State Library of New South Wales has digitised an important account of Port Stephens in 1826 recorded by Henry Thomas Ebsworth. Described as “Letters from New South Wales, 1826” the document details observations of the surrounding landscape and the manners and customs of Aboriginal people living at Port Stephens during his time as assistant manager for the Australian Agricultural Company.

H.T. Ebsworth was the assistant manager of the Australian Agricultural Company from 1825 to 1827. He recorded observations and interactions with the Aboriginal people of Port Stephens, whom he came to hold in high regard. He also recorded the Aboriginal place names as they existed in 1826 across Port Stephens in two sketches, the “Bird’s Eye View” (below) and the “Sketch of Port Stephens, New South Wales” (above) .

Bird's Eye View of Port Stephens, New South Wales [1826] by H.T. Ebsworth (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)
Bird’s Eye View of Port Stephens, New South Wales [1826] by unidentified author (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)
The State Library of New South Wales Catalogue entry for the Letterbook is here: http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemdetailpaged.aspx?itemid=946095

The Album of images can be viewed online through here:

Letter 1 – My Dear William – Sydney 1826 – Voyages – Visit to Rio and Brazil – Bass Straits – Eastern Coast of New South Wales – Sydney Detailed Description – The Harbour of Port Jackson (1826).

Letter 2 – My Dear [omitted] – Sydney 1826 – Descriptions of Principal Towns – Parramatta – Liverpool – Windsor – Newcastle – Convicts – Comparisons of Country, Flora, Fauna, Seasons, Climate, Native Fruits with England – Aboriginal Natives.

Letter 3 – Sydney 1826 – Animals – Wild Dog – Kangaroo, Opossum, Bandicoot – Birds – Reptiles – Insects – Fish – Australian Agricultural Company – Perceptions of Port Stephens – Bird’s Eye View of Port Stephens, New South Wales.

Letter 4 – My Dear [omitted] – Port Stephens 1826 – Description of voyage to Port Stephens – Meeting the savages – Robinson Crusoe – Conversations with the Blacks – Meeting the Surgeon – Description of walk in the dark to Tarlee (sic) (Tahlee) – Mr Dawson – Tents and Bark Huts.

Letter 5 – Port Stephens 1826 – Ride with Mr Dawson – Description of settlement – Blacks/Natives – Treatment like ‘dogs’ by convict servants who shot them indiscriminately – Timber getters and violence towards Natives – Reasons for Natives killing Whites – Corrobery – Description of Dance and ceremonies – Music transcription of “Song of the Aborigines of New South Wales to which they corrobery or dance” .

Letter 6 – My Dear [omitted] – Port Stephens 1826 – Description of country around Karuer (sic) (Karuah) River and Port Stephens – Settlement – 250 souls – Crime – Three men charged with murder of black boy up the River Myall – Reflections on the nature of human beings – Spot for the erection of a Church – Tribe of Natives at Port Stephens numbering 200 men women and children – Description of Aboriginal Camp – Employment – Description of Blacks – Black Constables – Illustration – Front Elevation of a House, intended for the residence of Mechanics of the A.A. Company. Port Stephens. N.S.W. – Ground plan of the annexed Elevation.

Letter 7 – Port Stephens 1826 – Excursion  – Pack horses and riding horses despatched to point of Karuer River called Buribruon – Ebsworth with Mr Dawson and Surveyor John Armstrong, and two native boys Korriba and Worrimurra as guides rowed up the river – Journey commenced 10am – Meeting terrified Black Woman – Description of landscape – Second evening camped on banks of Williams River, then to the heads of the Williams River – turned back due to mazes of thick brushes – End of fourth day brought them to conflux of Hunter and Williams Rivers (i.e., Raymond Terrace) – Description of settler’s grant there – Left John Armstrong to jouney onto Newcastle, Dawson and Ebsworth return home – Reflections on the wretched living conditions of settlers – Journey back to Port Stephens – Emus – Three Aboriginal women and two children eating fern root called ‘Bungwall’ – Safe return to banks of Karua (sic) River – This has been Ebsworth’s first journey into the Bush.

Letter 8 – Port Stephens 1826 – Manners and Customs of the barbarous savage – ceremonies – hostilities – punishments – wives of the Blacks – Violence against women – Agility of Men – Ingenity of Women – Among men, women are considered inferior – Children – shelter – death – illness and disease – clothing – excellent character of the Natives.

Letter 9 –  My esteemed [omitted] – Port Stephens 1826 – Three men charged of murder on Banks of Myall fifty miles from mouth of River – Cedar Cutting Party established at this spot – Mr Dawson convinced by overseer to visit man there for evidence concerning murder – Party consisting of Mr Dawson, Overseer, Ebsworth, convict servant and five natives rowed to spot – Myall and Port Stephens blacks are of each others enemies – Myall River blacks apparently very ferocious towards Europeans, but none harmed them on our visit – men discovered by ‘tones of the distant voices’ that they are friends – Arrived at spot and pitched tent – Astonished reactions of Blacks showed their reflections in a looking glass – Most laughed, one woman broke into tears – Continued rowing up river – Description – Three days after leaving home arrived at destination – two huts with three men – one injured severely with an axe and bleeding to death, by uncle of murdered boy – took dispositions – visit the spot where murder was committed and body of black boy deposited – indiscriminate slaughter of blacks by cedar getters – journey home.

Letter 10 ?  Journey home continued – theft of supplies – ‘necessity of the mother of invention’ – making of shelter – Two sawyers – Toney Shot – Blacks demand justice just like men to be sentenced to hand for murder of little Tommy.

Letter 11 – Port Stephens 1826 – Death of Toney – Sketch of Port Stephens New South Wales

For convenience of viewing you can see the entire Letterbook as an ebook:

Download - 'Letters from New South Wales, 1826' by Henry Thomas Ebsworth. (91.3MB PDF) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)
Download – ‘Letters from New South Wales, 1826‘ by Henry Thomas Ebsworth. (91.3MB PDF) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

Letters from New South Wales, 1826 by Henry Thomas Ebsworth. (91.3MB PDF) Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist & Chair, Coal River Working Party

One thought on “Port Stephens in 1826

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