Peat of Peats Ferry

Copyright Carol Baxter 2012
Prepared for Peat descendant Jeanette Bradley

The Hawkesbury district

George’s family continued to reside at their Cockle Bay residence in Sydney for some years after his return from India, and attended the general muster taken late in 1822. No occupation was listed for George[56] at this time however his family was noted as including his wife Elizabeth and two sons: George aged 8 and William aged 3.[57] William was the third child known to have been born to their marriage, and was followed in 1824 by a daughter Mary who survived for only two weeks.[58]

General Musters were taken each year for the following three years, and the surviving composite muster list records that by 1825 George was a landholder at Lower Portland Head in the Hawkesbury district.[59]

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On 23 April 1823, George purchased from Robert Randall six acres of land at the Hawkesbury known as Prospect Place Cross beach, bounded by a farm granted to Yarly on the north.[59a]

A later petition by George – describing himself as “Your Memorialist” – refers to his purchase in the mid-1820s of two blocks of land at “Green Reach” on the Hawkesbury River and the problems he was experiencing in gaining title to the land:

Your Memorialist is in the occupancy of a piece or parcel of land comprising from 15 to 20 acres more or less, situate on the South side of the River Hawkesbury at a place known by the name of the Green Reach being a little above the upper Branch of the said River.

That the said land originally consisted of two lots, one of which was upwards of 16 years ago [that is, around 1819] in the possession of E. Evans, who sold it to R. Randell, whose interest therein Your Memorialist purchased, on or about the 17th April 1823, for and in consideration of the sum of ₤35 and the other lot was upwards of 15 years ago [around 1820] in the possession of David Cross, whose interest therein Your Memorialist purchased on or about the 24th May 1824, for and in consideration of the sum of ₤7.10.0.

That Your Memorialist has ever since retained peaceable and undisturbed possession of the said Land and has built thereon a dwelling house and outhouses, which, together with clearing, fencing, cultivating and other improvements have cost him at least ₤200 in addition to the aforesaid purchase money.

That about nine years ago [around 1826], Your Memorialist on the recommendation of the Venerable Archdeacon Scott, waited upon John Oxley Esq., then Surveyor General, to state the abovementioned particulars of his title and to request that the said land might be measured and charted to Your Memorialist, when Mr Oxley promised to enquire into Your Memorialist’s character and, if found unexceptionable, to comply with his said request; but although (as is shown by the subjoined testimonials) Your Memorialist’s character would bear the strictest investigation, it appears that Mr Oxley did not take any step to ratify Your Memorialist’s title, which remains to this day as is above set forth.

Wherefore Your Memorialist humbly prays that Your Excellency will be pleased to take the premises into your favorable consideration and direct that a Deed of Grant for the said land be prepared in Your Memorialists name; or should that appear to Your Excellency impracticable, he prays that, in consideration of his long possession, and the money he has expended in improvements on the said Land, Your Excellency will be pleased to allow Your Memorialist to purchase the fee simple thereof at the Government minimum price of five shillings per acre.[60]

Dated 2 March 1835, George’s petition included character testimonials from four worthies in the community. Merchant Robert Campbell[61] wrote: “I have known the Petitioner for many years and consider him a sober, industrious and hard working man”, a statement also supported by Chaplain William Cowper. Landholder George Thomas Palmer added: “I have known the Petitioner since 1806 and have reason to believe him to be a very meritorious character”. Hannibal McArthur wrote from the Vineyard: “Having occasion to observe the conduct and character of the petitioner in business for some time, I believe him to be an enterprising, industrious Man and deserving the most favourable consideration of the Government”.[62]

George’s petition generated a torrent of paperwork. Appended to the petition itself was the comment: “I do not believe that anything is known in this office on the subject, perhaps the Surveyor General may be able to afford some information”. A month later on 20 April, George wrote again to the Colonial Secretary remarking that he had lodged the transfer to the Randell’s land “about 12 years ago”,[63] obviously soon after he purchase it. A memorandum added to the letter recorded: “I have seen the applicant and understand that the transfers alluded to were left at the Judges Office, where I referred him”. Evidently no trace of any documentation relating to these blocks of land could be found in official records as the Surveyor General reported on 27 June 1835:

There does not appear to be the slightest record of his claim in the office, at least there are no records of orders for E. Evans and D Cross (from whom memorialist states he purchased the land) for such small quantities, nor is there any note on the maps, or entry in any of the Books. The land appears to be vacant in the situation alluded to, and if so, I am not aware of any objection to his purchasing fifteen or twenty acres either at the minimum price or at auction as His Excellency the Governor may think so proper.[64]

On 9 July 1835 the Colonial Secretary’s Office wrote to George Peat confirming that “under the circumstances of your long possession and the good character given to you”, George would be allowed to purchase the land and that the Surveyor General had been instructed to have the land surveyed.[65] A 20 acre block was measured,[66] George paid the £5 purchase price on 12 November, and the Internal Revenue Office reported on 12 December that the Deed of Grant could be prepared.[67] However the surveyor had measured the 20 acres as one block of land instead of the two blocks George had owned, as he informed them in a letter dated 17 January 1836:[68]

In consequence of some misunderstanding in the measurement of my land, I beg leave to refer you to the Secretary’s letter dated 7 Jly 1835 which is annexed. Whereas[?] there is only a portion of the land I applied for measured to me, 15 acres of the 20 is all Rocks the reason I wish you to refer to the letter is because you will there find that R Randall and David Cross land is granted to me and that David Cross land is omitted being measured which joins R Randalls.[69]

When asked to report on the situation, the Assistant Surveyor wrote:

George Peat was authorised to purchase about 20 acres of land on the Hawkesbury, on which he had made valuable improvements, this has accordingly been measured at one spot, and Peat has paid the price. The Surveyor General now encloses a letter from Peat stating that only one portion of the land authorised for him has been measured, and requests instructions … Peat’s memorial certainly mentions two parties to whom the land was promised, and he probably intended it to be understood that the lands were separated.[70]

This situation created a dilemma for the authorities. Should George be allowed to purchased two portions, and if so, should the area of the land already measured be reduced to 5 or 10 acres, allowing another 5 acres to be measured at the second location, or should the 20 acres remain as one block and George be allowed another 20 acres in the second location, or should 100 acres be measured so as to include both locations in the one farm, although the latter solution would undoubtedly include land that was unavailable.[71] The recommendation was that “if he is to be allowed land at each place, it will perhaps be as well not to disturb the present measurement and purchase, but to allow him a smaller extent elsewhere”.[72] On 31 March, it was decreed that:

Let him have such small portion as the Asst Surveyor may find it convenient to measure with reference to situation – in the bight shown on the tracing – at the upset price. Having received 20 acres already where his house is built he should not obtain more in the bight than will afford a sufficient boundary without waste.[73]

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However, a further three years passed before the deeds were granted. In 1838 the Surveyor General reported that 7 acres had been measured for George and that the Colonial Treasurer was to apply to George for immediate payment. Yet a further complication arose from a memoranda which declared that “this ought not to be the minimum price, but the highest selling price of land in the neighbourhood”. In response, a reference was made to the former papers on the case which allowed George the land at the minimum price of five shllings per acre. To which the Governor[74] responded: “If the land was promised to him at the minimum price of course he must have it”.[75] The deeds for both blocks were eventually signed on 21 January 1839 with George paying £1.15.0 for the smaller 7 acre block.[76] George retained the two blocks of land until 2 November 1852 when he sold them to William Brown for ₤100.[77]

Meanwhile, in June 1824, a month after he had purchased David Cross’s land,[78] George applied to a grant of land, noting that he was:

… a Native Colonist and son of Charles Peat the first chief constable in the colony which he held many years. That Petitioner is married, has two sons, and resides at Hawkesbury in the District of Lower Portland Head on a few acres of land he purchased which together with the work of a cutter he himself built constituted the dependence of his family. That Petitioner has never had any land nor indulgence from the Crown, and wishing to extend his agricultural concern, he is induced to pray your Excellency will be graciously pleased to grant him a farm.[79]

The Colonial Secretary responded on 30 June 1824 that George’s petition had been submitted to the Governor who instructed that George was “to be referred to the Magistrates at Windsor”.[80] However, George’s appeal evidently failed as he petitioned again for a grant of land some years later. Surviving records suggest that George moved backwards and forwards between Sydney and Portland Head over the following seven years, with some records describing George as a shipwright in Sydney and others as a shipwright at Portland Head.[81] As George’s Portland Head properties contained river frontage, he possibly used the land to assist with his shipbuilding enterprises although he no doubt also used the land to depasture the 15 head of cattle he was listed as owning in the 1828 Census.[82]

In January 1826, George’s wife Elizabeth died leaving him alone with his two sons aged 7 and 11.[83] His younger son William died less than two years later.[84] Both were buried in Sydney, with the ceremonies recorded in the St Philip’s registers.

By mid-1828, George had established a relationship with Frances Ternen, the daughter of William Ternen and his wife Margaret Hughes (see Second Fleet Ternen Family). Like George, Frances’ origins were well-rooted in Australian soil, her father’s family having arrived in New South Wales on board the Second Fleet in 1790[85] and her mother’s family on the Royal Admiral in 1800.[86]

George applied and paid for a marriage licence rather than having the marriage performed by the banns – that is, the calling of marriage banns in the church on three consecutive Sundays prior to the ceremony. His application dated 30 June 1828 included affidavits by George himself, his future wife and her father as Frances was under the age of 21 years.[87] The ceremony was performed at St Philip’s, Sydney by William Cowper on 2 July 1828. George and Frances both signed the register in full, with George describing himself as a shipwright and widower, and Frances as a spinster. The witnesses included Frances’ brother-in-law George Wilson and sister[88] Margaret Ternen.[89]

Four months later the first colonial census was taken and recorded George as a 36 year-old shipwright residing in Kent Street, Sydney with his 20 year-old wife Frances and son George aged 14.[90] They were possibly living near Frances’ family, who were described as householders in Kent Street at that time.[91] George continued to be recorded as a shipwright in Sydney when his newly-born son William was baptised in 1829.[92]

Over the following dozen years, another six children were born to George and Frances’ marriage, as shown above. All of their children were given names belonging to their immediate families, commemorating both George and Frances’ parents, Frances herself and two of her siblings. Their children’s baptism entries reflect the family’s movements between the Hawkesbury district and Sydney, movements that ultimately were to prove of significant historical importance.