Lake Macquarie History

Morisset Explorers Tree

In 1823 the Sydney Gazette reported on the expedition of Major Morisset making the first overland journey from Newcastle to Windsor. An arduous journey taking 9 days through inhospitable country. This tree is purported to be the tree under which Major Morisset and his party made camp on this journey.

The tree is an Australian Stringy Bark (Eucalyptus Capitellata). It is quite large and believed to be over 200 years old. It is located in Macquarie Street, Morisset on the Eastern side of the railway station. It is in a cleared area adjacent to the carpark. While the tree was not specifically mentioned in articles from that time, it is not inconceivable that the first camp would have been made in this location.

The location of the tree and it's history was first officially supplied in 1967 by Joseph Frost, a descendant of one of the early settlers of the area. His ancestor, convict Joseph Frost, had had a long association with the area serving as an assigned convict at Wyhee Station in 1835 (12 years after Morisset's journey) and receiving a land grant at Mandalong in 1867. The location of the tree was passed on to him via family folklore. His ancestors were timber getters, and left the tree stand while many others in the area were being harvested.

In 1978 the town celebrated a "Back to Morisset" festival. The guests of honour were a great grandson, Mr Christian Morisset and his wife Patricia. A plaque dedicated to Major Morisset was unveiled during a tree dedication ceremony. It was planned to declare the tree and surrounds an historic place. The plaque was donated privately by Alderman Ron Fennell, and was based on information supplied by the Frost family.

The plaque reads:

"Unveiled by Mr Christopher Morisset, great grandson of Major J.T. Morisset on October 28th 1978. This marks the spot where Major J T Morisset and his company camped on the first journey overland from Newcastle to Sydney in April 1823. Kindly donated by Alderman Fennell on behalf of the Fennell and Frost families."

Morisset never lived in Morisset or Lake Macquarie, and though he was stationed at Newcastle, his home base was Sydney. He died on 17th August, 1852 and is buried in the old Kelso churchyard.

A report from the Health, Community Services and Building Committee of Lake Macquarie Council on 9th October 1978, recommended a tree preservation order be placed on the tree and an appropriate fence be constructed around it.

Sources:

  • Morisset gets ready for returns Lake Macquarie Herald 23 September 1978
  • 1000 came back for Morisset celebration Lake Macquarie Herald 2nd November 1978
  • Tree where Morisset camped now identified Newcastle Herald 12 October 1967
  • Report on the explorers tree located in the town of Morisset, New South Wales / Patrick Callaghan, Newcastle University student, [no date].