Lake Macquarie History

Dora Creek - Memories of Newcastle Pioneer's Reminiscences

Researched by Dulcie Hartley

Hale and hearty and working with the vim of a man of forty years, is Mr George Bowden. He has spent over 80 years in the Newcastle district, and during that long period he has witnessed many changes. He is at present living at Hanbury Street, Waratah and living with his aged wife who, 78 years old, has considerably passed the allotted span. When interviewed, Mr Bowden was at work on a cottage being built for him at Grove Street, Waratah, in which both he and his wife hope to spend the remainder of their lives. Both were mentally alert and Mr Bowden would reach 82 years old the following March.

photo: bridge over dora creek

George Bowden had lived in the Newcastle district since the age of two. He came to Australia with his parents in 1838, but his mother died on board in Sydney Harbour and was buried at Manly. Mr Bowden was born in Kent, England, and he is the surviving member of a family of six sons and four daughters. Before he was five years old he was taken with his brothers and sisters to live at Dora Creek where his father had a clearing lease at Muddy Creek, not far from the Dora Creek Railway Station. They were there for four years. At that time, so long as a man had some money to improve a property, he could get a grant of land from the government. Mr Bowden Snr rented land from Mr Holden. Holden was unlucky although he had plenty of good land with horses and cattle, but he could not make money from the property. He stayed there until he practically starved, and then threw it up. He afterwards went to Gosford and worked at the Court House. (Holden a solicitor) Mr Bowden did not know what became of the cattle and horses.

George Bowden had visited Muddy Lake about two years previously and the proprietor of the land £1800 from growing fruit and vegetables. In the old days there was no transit or market.

In his boyhood the population of the lake consisted of a few huts and about 50 blacks to every white man. In the five years he lived there in the early 1840s they began to thin off. The corroborees were held at Brisbane Water (Gosford district). Two blackfellows Bowden knew were Charcoal and Quart Pot (See Threlkeld's names) belonging to tribes around Lake Macquarie. They went to one of the corroborees at Brisbane Water, got mixed up in a blackfellows melee and that was the end of them. Mr Bowden had a boyish memory of the Rev Mr Thirkell (sic) who was appointed by the government to look after the physical and moral welfare of the blacks around the lake, but his efforts did not receive the recognition they deserved from the authorities and, disgusted with their neglect, he reluctantly abandoned the work.

The Bowden family then went to Hexham where they started farming and have never been off the Hunter since. The big flood of 1857 swept the farm and within ten years the crops were destroyed by two successive floods. Mr Bowden said there had been bigger floods than the 1857, but doubted if any other had caused so much damage. The people in its track just flew for safety and left their homes, farms and effects to the mercy of the waters.

Men had hundreds of bushels of wheat stacked ready for market, but the barns and the wheat were washed away, and in many instances not a bag was saved. Mr Bowden had purchased a load of fifty bushels of corn at Raymond Terrace and commenced bringing it down by boat. They reached the point of Bullock Island where the Steel Works is situated, but wound up having to jettison the load in order to reach safety.

With his brothers Mr Bowden has cut cedar logs around the western shores of the Lake and carried them by bullock drays to Newcastle. They just went through tracks in the bush. The first lighthouse was just a heap of coal on the old Gaol Hill. Mr Bowden said that he drew the first load of bricks were used in the building of the lighthouse at Nobbys in 1868. He believed that 20ft of the crown of Nobbys was cut away to make room for lighthouse. In those days the water came over the area where the Newcastle Railway Station now stands, and Scott Street was under water at high tide.

Leichhardt: Lake Macquarie - After leaving Rev Threlkeld visited Newport (now Dora Creek area) where Mr Holden had a property - he had a few tenant farmers - not doing well.

Newcastle Star - 1988 - Family Reunion: A family Reunion to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival in Australia of an old Newcastle family planned for 1988. William Bowden was granted land at Dora Creek near Lake Macquarie soon after he arrived in Sydney on the vessel 'Maitland' in1838. Despite the fact his wife Elizabeth died soon after arrival, he brought up nine children whilst establishing the property. Some of the children eventually moved to Raymond Terrace, Stroud and Hexham. George Bowden moved to Waratah in his later years. Descendants of William Bowden are invited to the reunion which will be held over Easter 1988 in Sydney.

Reference

Hartley, Dulcie n.d. Dora Creek - Memories of Newcastle Pioneer's Reminiscences, Fassifern, N.S.W.