Free settlers arriving in the colony were attracted to the rich, fertile land of the Hunter region. The Scott brothers, 22-year-old Robert and 19-year-old Helenus Scott, were amongst the early Europeans who settled in this region.
Robert, Helenus and their father, Dr Helenus Scott departed England on the HMS Britomart on 8 August 1821, accompanied by their man servant, John Brown. Dr Scott, already ill when he embarked on the voyage, died after only a few days on board. He was buried at the Cape of Good Hope. His two sons and Brown continued on in their voyage to New South Wales.
On arrival in the colony, Robert and John Brown set out on several exploratory trips through New South Wales. Their first journey took them west of the Blue Mountains as Robert searched for good grazing land. Both men recorded their exploratory journeys in their diaries.
John Brown tells a fascinating story of their travels through the bush, with detailed accounts of Aboriginal communities they met, including Bungaree who acted as a guide for the party on their first trip.
The second journey took the men north of Sydney to the Hunter region. Departing Sydney on 24 May 1823, they explored the Hunter River and the quality of the land on its banks. Robert selected a site to establish a homestead which he called Glendon. Brown stayed with Robert and Helenus for several months until he decided to run away. He returned to Sydney and worked his passage back to England, via New Zealand, on the Berwick.
When the diary was purchased by the Library in 2007, the author was unknown and the item was described as 'Anonymous diary by a servant'. Brown's authorship has recently been revealed through searching the Colonial Secretary's papers and the ship's muster for the Berwick.
Run of Water, after we had our suppers Ben Davis amused us with the Native Dances and several songs.
In the morning we set of early and reached Patrick Plains by four OClock in the afternoon and encamped by the side of the River, and went fishing and caught several fine fish which we eat for supper and spent a very comfortable evening, the next day Mr Scott and Ben Davis went across the Plains Ashooting and left me to take care of the Tent and get dinner ready after they had been gone about an hour several Blacks made their appearance out of the Woods and when I first see them they were standing peeping among the trees and seemed afraid to come near me and I was half afraid myself, but I thought I had best not to let them know I was afraid of them and I made signs for them to come to me and held up a fish to them and they came up to the fire and set down but never said a word but kept their
eyes fixed on me and watched me very closely in everything I done. I gave one of them the Tea Kettle and asked him to go to the River and fill it which he very readily done and I gave him a piece of Biscuit for his trouble, and then he began to talk and we got very good friends he told me his name was Mytie and he belonged to the Womby Tribe, about three OClock Mr Scott and Ben Davis returned with a fine large Kangaroo which they had shot where they found me and my new Acquaintances very busy among the trees diging Yams, we asked Ben Davis if he knew Mytie and he said he did and that he was a very good fellow and we soon got very good friends, we remained here three days and the Blacks supplyed us with plenty of fish from the River, and we spent our time very pleasantly and the Blacks amused us very much with their Spears for we stuck a Biscuit on the top of a stick and made them
stand at a distance and throw their Spears at them and them that hit it had it , and in short time they would have got all the Biscuits we had if we had not left off for it was no trouble to them to hit them for they could do it three times out of five at fourty yards distance with ease.
As Mr Scott had fixed on a place to settle on about two miles from Patrick plains we set of early in the Morning back towards Wallis’s Plains where we arrived in two days and then went down the River to the settlement where we found the Eclipse and the next morning we made sail for Sydney, where we arrived on the following morning and went to our old Lodgings in Castlereigh Street.
We began to provide ourselves with such things as we thought we should want on our new settlement, for Cooking washing and Baking &c and all sorts of tools for Farming, and three Horses and A Cart and seven Government Men and A Boat
John Young, A Blacksmith
George Wilson a Carpenter
John Beaumont a Wheelwright
Michael King a harness Maker
George MacDonald and Thomas Holmes, Sawyers
with myself and Mr Scott , alltogether nine. We left Sydney on the 24th of May 1823 in a small vessel which Mr Scott had engaged on purpose to take us as far up the River as they could and on the 4th of June we got within ten Miles of the place where we was stopped by a large tree that had blown down and laid across the River, and we found it impossible to get any farther with
the Vessel we got the Horses ashore where there was plenty of Grass for them, we pitched our Tent on the side of the River and in the Morning we got everything on shore, and the Vessel left us and returned to Sydney after we had got the cart put together and loaded with the Ploughs and Harrows &c Mr Scott and four of the Men set of for the intended farm and left me and the other three to take care of the remainder of the things and in three days we go all the things away to the farm, and we all set to work to build a Hut, for to keep our provisions in, after we had got a little settled, Mr Scott gave all the Men half a Pint of Rum each, for to Christen, the farm which was named Glendon, and we spent a very comfortable afternoon and most of them went to bed drunk, Glendon is on the banks of Hunters River, and is about one hundred and twenty two
Miles from the Coal River settlement and nearly two hundred from Sydney.
I remained at Glendon twenty five weeks, and got quite tired of being so far from any other place and people for during the twenty five weeks I was at glendon we never see anyone but the Blacks, and I made up my mind to get away if possible and I spoke to Mr Scott, and told him my intention of leaveing him to return to England but he said that I should not go for he had been at the expence of bringing me out and he thought it not be useing him well, so I said no more for three weeks and then I spoke to him again but he still said I should not go, and I told him if he would not let me go without I would run away, in about a week after I got up as soon as it began to get light and went to the stores hut and told them to tell Mr Scott that I was gone to Sydney to try to get a Ship to go to England
And I set of by myself with a pack at my back of Bread and Pork and reached Wallis Plains and went and slept at Morgans one of the settlers, and the next morning I set of again with a Black Man as a Guide and I agreed to give him some Tobacco when I got to the settlement; we kept on until the middle of the day when we came to a small River which we had to cross, I pulled my Trowsers of and tied them round the Black mans head and he carried my Bundle in his hand and my shirt I tied round my on head and we swam over and then set down by the side of the water and had our dinner and then set of again and reached Nelson Plains late the same evening, where we met one of the settlers going down the River for provisions and I got a passage with them down to the Coal River Settlement, where we arrived in two days and I found the Eclipse loding for Sydney and I agreed with the Captain to take me, and paid three
Spanish Dollars for my passage, which was all the money I had with me except half a Dollar, and the Vessel was to be three days before it saild so that I was forced to make the most of it for to buy food and at nights I went and slept in the Bush behind the Prison with some of the Blacks for three nights and in the daytime I walked about to see the place but the time seemed very long, for I did not know any one, when the Vessel was ready I went on board the wind being fair we run from the Coal River to Sydney which is sixty miles in nine hours. And I went to lodge at the old Washerwoman in York Street Sydney, when I began to enquire for a ship and I found there was two Ship in Port Jackson fitting out for England, the Tiger, and the Berwick I then went and spoke to Mr Owen the Agent of the Ship Berwick who was a particular acquaintance of Mr Scott and knew me, and he
On his second exploratory journey into the Hunter region, Robert was impressed with the quality of the land and applied for land grants for areas on the Paterson River and Paterson Plains.
Robert recognised the importance of establishing his estate on higher lands above the river and wrote in his diary of his interest in climbing the heights above the wetlands and lagoons. The Scott brothers’ estate was one of the few homesteads to avoid floods. Robert wrote,
‘I have little doubt but that the country improves very much as you get up, indeed those who have been up say so. After arranging matters …I got another black fellow and went out to look at the country … large lagoons all along the river crowded with a variety of water fowl, especially ducks, divers, red bills (or native hens). The latter are very plentiful, about the size of a large fowl and of a glossy black, tinged with blue when the sun shines … I shot 5 of these myself.’
Robert and Helenus received land grants of 2000 acres (809 ha) each. They combined their grants to form their estate named Glendon after their home in Surrey. Their land holdings increased after further purchases to around 10,000 acres. According to a history of the area published in the early 20th century, the Glendon homestead was the largest in the district;
‘...the approach to the house was by a gravelled drive bordered by olive and chestnut trees, while the same shady trees were planted as a protection to the big orchard sloping to the river to the right of the house. The remains of a racecourse may be faintly discerned even today…’
Elsie Symonds, A Memoir of Glendon, Sydney: Marchant, 191?
By 1832 Robert and Helenus had acquired more than 300 horses at Glendon. They imported stallions such as Trumpet, Dover and Akbar and bred colonial horses, thus establishing the Hunter’s reputation as a region for thoroughbred studs.
The estate was sold in the 1840s following a series of financial failures and Robert's death at Glendon in 1844 aged 45. Helenus married Sarah Anne Rusden and settled in Newcastle where he continued his work as police magistrate.
The remaining Scott family, Augusta Maria and her children; Alexander Walker, Augusta Maria, David Charles Frederick and Patrick, also settled in New South Wales. The only daughter of Dr Helenus Scott, Augusta Maria married Dr James Mitchell in 1833. Their son, David Scott Mitchell became one of the most influential book collectors of Australiana and noted benefactor of the Mitchell Library.
In 1833 Robert was instrumental in the capture of escaped servants who had been assigned to Major James Mudie at his property, Castle Forbes at Patrick Plains. Anthony Hitchcock, John Poole, James Riley, David Jones, John Perry and the youngest, seventeen year old James Ryan, claimed they had absconded after brutal mistreatment by Mudie and his overseer, John Larnach.
In November 1833, they took to the bush after stealing supplies, guns, ammunition and horses. Robert led a group of men in pursuit of the escaped convicts. They located the escapees camping in a steep ravine and successfully captured them. Despite the pleas of their Counsel, Roger Therry who argued they had suffered under appalling treatment from Larnach and Mudie, they were found guilty. Five were executed with David Jones exiled to Norfolk Island for life. This trial proved to be one of the most controversial cases in NSW convict history. Mudie and Lanarch's mistreatment resulted in public outcry at the execution of the men and a government inquiry into conditions for assigned servants at Castle Forbes.
Local settlers established a fund raising campaign to thank Robert for his initiative in capturing the convicts. An article in the Sydney Gazette celebrates Robert’s vigilance and describes the funds raised by donations from grateful Hunter settlers whose properties were now made safe by the capture of the Castle Forbes gang. It was reported that Robert received 'a piece of plate' from the funds raised.
In volume 4 of the Scott family papers is Robert’s correspondence relating to the Castle Forbes bushrangers, including a 4 page list of names of Hunter settlers who donated funds for Robert’s reward. There is also a letter from the Colonial Secretary, Alexander McLeay commending Robert’s involvement in the capture and promising a reward for his duties.