Lake Macquarie History

Shared Stories: Famous People

Famous People - Achieving great things together

Great achievements are created through partnerships. Extraordinary work is done by groups of people, not by a single person acting alone.

Landmark Aboriginal studies works were created in 19th century Toronto. These were born from the Aboriginal leader and diplomat Biraban and missionary Lancelot Threlkeld’s partnership. Threlkeld established a mission at what is now known as Toronto in 1831. Supported by Biraban, Threlkeld learned the local Aboriginal language and wrote many linguistic texts, essays and reports.

Threlkeld used his language skills to act as interpreter for Aboriginal defendants on trial in Sydney. He sat on committees for the welfare of Aboriginal people.

Threlkeld remembered Biraban as his ‘almost daily companion for many years’. Threlkeld wrote that he was ‘principally indebted [to Biraban’s intelligence] for much of [his] knowledge respecting the structure of the language’.

Threlkeld's main linguistic writings were rearranged and edited by Dr John Fraser in 1892 to become An Australian Language.

An Australian language as spoken by the Awabakal, the people of Awaba or Lake Macquarie (near Newcastle, New South Wales) being an account of their language, traditions and customs
Lancelot Edward Threlkeld
Edited by John Fraser
Lake Macquarie City Council Local Studies Collection

Famous People - Travelling and making a new life

Have you travelled somewhere new, mentally or physically, to start a new life?

Jonathan Warner was a disbanded officer from the New South Wales Royal Veteran Battalion. This epaulette is from his military uniform and attached to the shoulder of his coat. The epaulette represents his life prior to becoming an early European visitor to the Lake Macquarie region.

Warner became an Assistant Surveyor of Roads and Bridges in the Wiseman’s Ferry area. He had been sent to survey a road to be built through Lake Macquarie from the Hawkesbury to Maitland. The journey led to Warner becoming Lake Macquarie’s first European settler. He selected 1280 acres of land in 1829 and built the Warner family home ‘Biddaba’ at what is now Warner’s Bay.

He was appointed magistrate to Brisbane Water in 1833. Accompanied by both of his sons for safety, he made a fortnightly horseback journeys for sittings at Gosford Court House.

Military uniform epaulette
Unknown maker
About 1820
Lake Macquarie City Council Local Studies Collection
Donated by the Warner family 2018

Famous People - Succeeding against the odds

These documents record the sale of land in 1892 to James Wood and in 1907 to Letitia Huddleston by Joseph Holmes.

Both documents are signed with Holmes’ mark, a cross, in the presence of witnesses. The cross tells us that Holmes was unable to write his name.

Joseph and Mary Holmes settled on the first of their land grants at Holy Flat near Estelville in 1862. Estelville is now the suburb of Cameron Park in the city of Lake Macquarie. The Holmes family were dairy farmers and supplied Minmi with milk. Joseph Holmes was a coal miner.

The township of Holmesville in Lake Macquarie’s west was created by Holmes’ subdivision of the area into allotments in 1898.

Illiteracy may have been the cause of his attempts to illegally sell land before the subdivision was passed in March 1898.

Being unable to read or write did not prevent Joseph Holmes from being a successful miner, farmer, land speculator and entrepreneur.

Land sale deed
Form printed by Davies and Cannington Ltd Federal Print Newcastle
Lake Macquarie City Council Local Studies Collection
Donated by Kevin Burkitt 2008

Land sale deed
Unknown maker
Lake Macquarie City Council Local Studies Collection
Donated by Kevin Burkitt 2008

Famous People - Making mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes.
The Martha was built in Sydney Cove in 1799. Captain William Reid was her only recorded master.

Reid’s Mistake is now the official name of the southern headland of the entrance to Lake Macquarie. Until about 1826 the whole of Lake Macquarie was known as Reid’s Mistake.

The naming derives from a curious story from Lake Macquarie’s colonial history. In 1800 Reid was ordered to sail the Martha to Newcastle on the Hunter River for a cargo of coal. He was told to sail north, find an island near a river entrance and after a short distance coal would be showing in the southern shore.

Lieutenant Governor David Collins wrote that
it appeared, that he [Reid] had not been in the river, but in a salt water inlet, about five leagues to the southward of the river, having a small island at its entrance. He was conducted by some natives to a spot at a small distance from the mouth, where he found abundance of coal.

Reid is reported to have travelled to Moon Island at the entrance to Lake Macquarie and sailed into the lake. He found coal on the southern shore of what is now known as Reid’s Mistake with the help of Aboriginal people. But he was unfortunately in completely the wrong place.

Model of the Martha
Col Gibson
Lake Macquarie City Council Local Studies Collection
Donated by Col Gibson

Acknowledgement of Country

We remember and respect the Ancestors who cared for and nurtured this Country. It is in their footsteps that we travel these lands and waters. Lake Macquarie City Council acknowledges the Awabakal people and Elders past, present and future.

Council acknowledges traditional custodians throughout Australia. We commit to listening deeply to and collaborating with First Peoples in our work.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website and Council's cultural collections may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material.

This website may contain place names, opinions and terms that reflect authors' views or those of the period in which the item was written or recorded. These may not be considered appropriate today.

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