Lake Macquarie History

Wyee Pioneer - James Freeman

James Freeman, 1796 - 1871

James Freeman was born at Isle of Ely Cambridgeshire between 1796 and 1798. In 1815, while living in the east end of London near Whitechapel Road, he was arrested and charged with robbing an officer of the Crown of 100/- at the Old Bailey. He was convicted in the Middlesex Goal Delivery on 15 January 1817 and sentenced to death which was later commuted to transportation for life. When he was 22 years old he was transported on the "Lord Eldon" which left London England 9 April 1817. In NSW he was assigned as a driver of Government Timber Carriages. In 1818 he was charged with disobeying his overseer and failing to perform his duty. He was sentenced to the Lime Burners Gang at Newcastle for 2 years. In the 1820's he was assigned to Robert Henderson, an early settler and first constable of Brisbane Waters, who put James in charge of his dairy at Cabbage Tree (now Norahville).

In 1831 he married Mary Ann Smith and they continued to reside at Cabbage Tree during the 1830s and 40s. In 1837 James received a Conditional Pardon. He purchased about 30 acres at Cabbage Tree. On 6 June 1835 James was granted 60 acres of land being Portion 36 of the Parish of Wallarah. About this time James and Mary were visited by bushrangers who became know as the "Jew Boy Gang". Mary told the story that the bushrangers arrived while her husband was away and stayed overnight while their horses grazed. Mary sat up waiting for her husband to return. During the night Edward Davis (the "Jew Boy ") made threatening advances to Mary, whereon another of the bushrangers, Marshall, awoke and drew his pistol and threatened to put a bullet into Davis if he persisted. At this point James Freeman arrived home and a violent incident was avoided. The bushrangers left the next morning taking a horse with them which they promised to leave at Wyong, which they did.

James Freeman Snr and Jnr worked dragging timber from the Cooranbong area to Cabbage Tree Bay where it was loaded on ships for Sydney. The Freemans moved from Cabbage Tree Bay prior to 1860 to a place near where Wyee Creek enters Lake Macquarie, the date is unknown but mention of it is made in the Rev. Glennie's Journal. At this time they were the only residents in Wyee.

Their hut and stock yard were situated between Wyee Creek and Mannering Creek - they sold cattle but did not hold title to the land. From the Freeman's a track led to a small wharf at the head of navigation on Wyee Creek, where a boat was kept. The Freemans were said to have not been in the habit of fishing and that they got their fish from the Chinamen who lived in the Swansea area. Timber was shipped from the wharf.

It has been recounted that James Freeman Snr was injured when a tree fell on him and he received head injuries from which he never recovered. He developed dementia and died in the Gladesville Hospital. A newspaper cutting recounts how James having gone walkabout became lost on the Brokenback range in the Wattagan Mountains. He was eventually found by his son a few days later - nearly naked, dehydrated and suffering cuts and abrasions. Unable to carry his father out, his son went for help but on his return with a search party, found that his father had wandered off again and it tooks ome time to find him.

The Newcastle Herald of Thursday, 23 Nov 1871 reported

INSANITY. — James Freeman was brought before the bench at East Maitland, on Tuesday, charged with being insane. He had been arrested at five o'clock on Monday morning, by constable Rayfield, at the foot of the Brokenback, in the Newcastle district. Prisoner had been ill for the last three years, and within the last three months had been talking about having a lot of money left him; if he was contradicted on this point he got cross. He had once or twice threatened to cut his throat. Rayfield had seen prisoner in the bush, on Sunday evening, quite naked. The son of the prisoner deposed that his father had been away in the bush two days and two nights last week, and had threatened to take his own life and others. Prisoner was remanded to gaol for a week for medical treatment.

He died on 18th December 1871 at Gladesville Hospital.