Flooding plagued pioneer Blackman's efforts

JAMES Blackman 1759 - 1842

James Blackman, like many of the early Mulgrave Place settlers whose original land grants were within the Hawkesbury flood plain, was allocated a town allotment in Richmond by Governor Macquarie. 

Bowman's Cottage, built by James and extended by John Bowman, remains today as a tangible legacy to the foresight of Governor Macquarie and his introduction of town planning and building codes in Australia.

James Blackman was born on 26 December 1759 in Woolwich, Kent.

After a prolonged illness in 1800 he was advised to consider a sea voyage.

Accompanied by his wife Elizabeth, nee Harley, four young sons, and a daughter  the family emigrated on the Canada arriving in Australia on 14 December 1801.

Bowman Cottage as it stands today in Richmond.

Bowman Cottage as it stands today in Richmond.

Unlike the majority of passengers on the Canada  they were amongst a small group of free settlers strongly recommended and sponsored by the colonial office.

The family stayed with Governor King for several weeks but on 31 March 1802 were granted 100 acres at Mulgrave Place.

Pugh’s Lagoon formed part of the north eastern boundary. Neighbours were Edward Lutterell., Edward Pugh, William Cox  with John Dight’s 155 acres forming the western boundary.

James was granted two servants to assist him on his new farm.

The General Muster of August 1806 reported the family, two adults and seven children and their servants, all living and working on Blackman Farm had been able to produce sufficient produce and income to be self supporting.

This promising start to life in Australia was about to change.

The Hawkesbury River flooded in August, October and again in the following February in 1807 inundating the Blackman Farm and many others on all occasions.

Not only did they lose all their crops their house would also have been inundated or washed away.

Unlike Cox and Evans the Blackman family did not have any high land within the original grant on which to build or rebuild a home.

They must have tried to rebuild their lives and finances, however by May 1808 James was advertising 50 of his 100 acres for sale.

The property was not sold and in 1809 James was  granted a liquor licence. He and his family remained farming the land.

Just as the situation appeared to be improving the Hawkesbury River spilt over her banks  in August 1809 again inundating his entire landholding. 

Despite the repeated flooding of his land James and his family remained committed to their new homeland with James  being one of the signatories to the letter of welcome presented on December 8, 1810, to Governor Macquarie.

By January the following year James was again in financial difficulties as the Provost Marshall was selling sheaves of wheat and other property from James premises at Richmond.

Better times may have followed with James  listed as a subscriber for the building of a school house and enclosing the burial ground at Richmond  in 1812. His family had continued to grow  with four children born since he and Elizabeth arrived in the colony and another one on the way.

In early 1813 along with Thomas Arkell, James Blackman was appointed a Principal overseer of Government Stock at Richmond.  However by late 1814 the family had re-located to Liverpool.

James, along with, Elizabeth and the five children, all of whom had been born since they arrived  were again drawing from the government stores. John,one of the older sons was living on 100 acres at Richmond Hill.

In early 1816 shortly after resigning from his position as Principal overseer at Liverpool, James started to build a new home for his family on his town grant at Richmond.  The floods in June 1816 and February 1817 continued to challenge the family’s finances and by June 1817 James was again advertising a portion of his original land grant for sale.  This time it was 60 acres.

Unable to secure a sale for his land in January 1818 James released his 20 acres to William Cox jnr. for the sum of £210.

Perhaps it was to try finish the home he was building for his family young family?  In contrast the Blackman older sons, John and James jnr  were amongst the early settlers sent to Bathurst by Governor Macquarie.

In March 1819 the Hawkesbury River flooded again. Although in August James was appointed  District Constable at Richmond his recurrent financial difficulties were to continue.

Unable to meet his financial commitments, James lost ownership of the Richmond town-house and by ,1822 he, Elizabeth and their two youngest daughters were living at Parramatta with James now appointed the District Constable for Parramatta.    

Not long after the Blackman snr family followed their older sons to Bathurst and  applied for land which was granted in 1825.

In the same year James who by then was 66 years of age was appointed Chief Constable of Bathurst and in 1827 his role was extended to include pound keeper.

Although James tried to retire he appears to have continued his role and in 1834 was appointed as inspector of slaughter-houses and poundkeeper  for Bathurst. He was still poundkeeper at Bathurst in 1837 at the age of 78.

After years of public service to the communities of Richmond, Liverpool, Parramatta and lastly Bathurst, James Blackman died at his son, William’s home in Mudgee on 6 May 1841 aged 83. 

It is said that James is buried in the Blackman Vault in Blackman Park at Mudgee, Wellington County, NSW. 

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