Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Ebenezer Estate - Lake Macquarie

After the failure of the Bahtahbah mission station at Lake Macquarie and disputes with the London Missionary Society, Rev Lancelot Threlkeld was forced to abandon the mission station and move to Sydney. Following this, a grant of 1280 acres of land situated on the western shore of Lake Macquarie comprising what is now Coal Point and Toronto was made to Threlkeld by Governor Darling.

In 1936, historian James Jervis, in correspondence to the Sydney Morning Herald described how Rev. Threlkeld came to be granted the Ebenezer estate....

When the support of the London Missionary Society was withdrawn in 1829, Mr. Threlkeld was promised 'on or before 18th August 1829' a grant of 1280 acres at Derahbambah, Punte - the native names of the locality where the land was chosen and it was this area which became known as Ebenezer.

Rev. Threlkeld received authority to enter into possession of his grant on November 13th 1829, although the deed was not issued until 1839. Mr. Threlkeld's land was re-granted in 1846 to Ralph Mayer Robey and it is Robey's name which appears on the parish map as the grantee

Naming of Ebenezer

Historian Benjamin Champion in a paper read before the Newcastle and Hunter District Historical Society in 1939 referred to the naming of Ebenezer...Rev. Threlkeld courted Miss Sarah Arndell, a daughter of Dr. Thomas Arndell of Caddie (now Cattai) Creek, near Windsor. Thomas Arndell was a surgeon in the First Fleet. The remains of a windmill are still standing on the Arndell estate, just off the Windsor-Wiseman's Ferry Road. Here Dr. Arndell had the wheat ground which was grown on his property, and the neighbours also ground their grain at the mill. It was built of stone, and was situated just across the river from the historic old Ebenezer Presbyterian Church. When at Cattai, Threlkeld used to preach at the church, and it is said that the name Ebenezer was given to his property at Lake Macquarie on that account.

At Ebenezer a two storey 12 room house was erected high on the hill overlooking Lake Macquarie (approximate vicinity of the Toronto Hotel). There were also convict quarters and outbuildings - a store house 40' x 20' and a barn 60' x 20' and a windmill (which was damaged by lightening in 1837) Rev. Threlkeld and his family moved to this new mission station in 1830.

Threlkeld devoted much of his time to studying the Awabakal language, and the translation of various portions of Scriptures into that dialect. He published a number of works however this mission was also doomed to failure because of the steady disappearance of the aboriginals from the Lake Macquarie district. The mission closed in May 1841 and Rev. Threlkeld's Annual Report dated 31st December 1840 was published in this month.

Rev. Threlkeld next turned his energies to opening a coal mine at the southern end of Coal Point. He placed a Circular in the Sydney Herald in September 1841

The Proprietor of the Ebenezer coal works at Lake Macquarie, (situated only 48 miles for the Sydney Heads, having completed the necessary arrangements at the mine, respectfully informs Merchants, Shipowners, Masters of sailing or steam vessels, and all other persons interested in the consumption of Coal, that Coals are now ready for delivery, for exportation or home consumption at the Coal Wharf in the Lake, to vessels not drawing more than 6 feet draught of water when loaded, at 12s cash or at 13s cash from barges delivered to vessels of any size at secure anchorage of 7 fathoms of water in Victoria Bay at Reid's mistake outside the Bar entrance to Lake Macquarie where moorings are laid down for small craft in this hitherto unsurveyed well sheltered bay.

Ten acres of land at Swansea Heads had been acquired by Threlkeld and this was used as the depot for coal that was conveyed by punt from Ebenezer to Swansea. His two small vessels Sarah and Lancelot conveyed the coal from Swansea Heads to Sydney. The mine was run by an overseer by the end of 1841 as Threlkeld and his family had moved to Sydney where he was engaged at the Watson's Bay Congregational Church.

Description of Ebenezer in 1841

Ebenezer was advertised for lease and later sold by Rev. Threlkeld because of family financial embarrassment during the depression of the 40's.

To be Let for a Term of Years

Part of the Ebenezer Estate, consisting of about one thousand acres of land, adjoining the newly established Ebenezer Coal Works, Lake Macquarie.

There is a good, near, comfortable family house, eighty feet by twenty seven feet six inches, containing ten rooms, small pantry and dairy, with verandahs. The out houses are, kitchen, store, barn sixty by forty feet, three huts for men, two stockyards, milking sheds, piggery, and other conveniences. The garden of about three acres, is well stocked with fruit trees of every description, and vines of fifty varieties. There are eight paddocks, about three hundred acres, enclosed with a secure substantial four railed fence. subdivided by three rail fences, of which, five paddocks are cleared for cultivation - two are in British grasses. There is also a quantity of first rate brush land not yet brought into cultivation.

The place is admirably adapted for breeding choice stock, horses especially, for which there is every convenience, or for a dairy, there being an extensive run adjoining, A thoroughbred Colonial horse and mares, together with some milch cows and other suitable stock, may be taken at a fair valuation; likewise the household furniture, together with a team of bullocks, dray, cart, and farming implements; and immediate possession may be given. There is a convenient bathing house, and the property is admirable suited for a family, or for an invalid desirous of a beautiful healthy residence on the margin of a lake extending upwards of twenty miles.

The distance from Newcastle, by a bridle road, is about sixteen miles, but the carriage road is twenty-four miles, north to Newcastle or Maitland, and seven miles south to the township of Newport. There is now a weekly conveyance by the cutter Thomson to and from Sydney, connected with the Coal Works adjoining the reserved part of the grant, the which conveyance will become more frequent, as soon as the coal vessels adapted for the navigation of the entrance of the Lake are completed. The increasing population at the Colliery will occasion a demand for produce irrespective of the Sydney market.

To persons possessing agricultural experience, intending to breed select stock this property is strongly recommended.

Further particulars may be known at the office of Messrs. Foss and Lloyd, George St. Sydney or of the proprietor on the premises
. Colonial Observer 23 December 1841

Ralph Mayer Robey

The estate was purchased by Ralph Mayer Robey.

Excelsior Land Investment and Banking Co.

The Excelsior Land Investment and Banking Company purchased the whole of the Ebenezer estate in 1885 and town plans were drawn up to encourage settlement. The estate became known as Toronto around this time.

Excerpts from Newspapers


Ebenezer Coal Works

The Ebenezer coal works originated in the following manner: - A seam of apparently cannel coal broke out at the water's edge, running into the salt water lake, and has been known to exist for some years. The A. A. Company advertised that no coal could be supplied for exportation. Several gentlemen proposed plans to obtain coal in different parts of the colony, but it so happened that restrictions in the working of coal prevented mines being opened in different situations, whilst the grant at Lake Macquarie named Ebenezer, was, providentially for the grantee, given before the restrictions took place.

On digging the cropping out coal to ascertain the depth of the seam, it was found to be nearly five feet thick, and after raising a number of tons, which were sent off immediately to Sydney to convince parties of the existence of coal, it was found to terminate in a fault or throw down. It was thus necessary to sink a shaft some little distance on a hill, and it was supposed that at twenty-five yards the seam, would be found, but at twelve and a half yards depth the miners came to a fine seam of coal five feet thick, with a good roof and sort of sandstone floor. It was then deemed most advantageous to run out a tunnel to the water's edge, which was effected, and after laying down a railway, the miners commenced and delivered the coals at the mouth of the tunnel to the barges which lay alongside in seven feet water.

The first sample of coals proved prejudicial to the concern, in consequence of being surface coal and necessarily of an inferior quality to the main seam, the coal from which is now making its way rapidly amongst the families in Sydney. As respects its quality for steam engines, it is found to be much improved, and one engineer who has tried it gives his decided opinion that it will ultimately prove excellent coal for the steamers; but, like all newcomers, it has to encounter prejudices, which a little time will no doubt remove. It was feared that the seam was only a small vein running across the peninsular part of the grant, but on running a tunnel some few yards under the hills, about two miles distant inland from the shaft, the seam was entered, and appears of a bright and excellent quality. The principal obstacle to be overcome is the transhipment of the coal in barges to vessels lying at anchor in 6 or 7 fathom water outside the bar entrance to the lake, to avoid which, if sufficient encouragement is given to the sale of coal, vessels of a peculiar construction might be built, to being up the coal direct to Sydney, and thus ensure a constant supply at a steady price for the consumers here.

The works can be extended to bring out any amount by only increasing the number of miners, the local situation being such as to afford the greatest facility at a small expense, without the aid of expensive machinery an advantage in which the public partakes by the coals being delivered at two shillings per ton under the present Newcastle price. - Sydney Herald 26 November 1841


Lake Macquarie Coals

A Vessel will be in from Newport, Lake Macquarie in the course of a few days with Coals from Mr. Threlkeld's. Parties desirous of making trial of them (and they will find them fully equal to the Newcastle Coals) are requested to make early application to Mr. Samuel Miller, Erskine Street (Sydney).

P.S. On an early day of which due notice will be given, Mr. Stubbs will sell by auction a few building allotments in the above township of Newport than which a more favourable opportunity for the judicious investment of capital could scarcely present itself. Sydney Gazette Thursday 22 April 1842


The barge Ebenezer, which was built at Lake Macquarie, will also be hauled on Chowne's ship today, to undergo some extensive repairs. She has now a flat bottom, having been constructed to draw but little water, but her owner Mr. Whittle, has determined to take her bottom out, and give her three feet more in depth Maitland Mercury 18 March 1846


Wanted in March next, a Practical Miner, as Superintendent of the Ebenezer Colliery at Lake Macquarie. To a competent person, who can be well recommended for ability and integrity, a liberal salary will be given. Applications to be made, by letter only (post paid) to R. M. Robey, Sydney, Sydney Gazette 17 November 1847


Two new schooners called the Anna Maria and Clara, from seventy to eighty tons burthen each, arrived from the Clarence River on Saturday last, having been built there by Mr. W.H. Chowne for Mr. Robey of Sydney, expressly for the Lake Macquarie trade. The two barges of thirty tons burthen each, noticed in yesterday's Herald as having been launched from Mr. Winship's yard, at Stockton, on the 24th instant, are intended to work from the mines on Lake Macquarie to a depot Mr. Robey has formed near the sea entrance, from whence the above schooners will convey the coals to Sydney. Maitland Mercury 3 June 1848


Notice - To owners of Horse Stock

Horses were found by me on Ebenezer Farm, Lake Macquarie, the residence of Mr. John Rotton, and put into a paddock. Having, between two had three years since, lost a mare with a horse foal by her side, and one of the horses answering the description of the foal I had lost, I now advertise it, to enable nay one having lost such an animal to claim the same. Edward Bartlett, at Mr. Rotton's Lake Macquarie Maitland Mercury 14 April 1849


Sheriff's Sale
In the Supreme Court of New South Wales
Robey v. Rotton, John

On Wednesday the 9th day of April at one p.m. on defendant's premises at 'Ebenezer' Lake Macquarie, the Sheriff will cause to be sold

1 Boat (the lady Anne) with sales, tackle,; 1 small boat; fishing net etc; 1 horse; 5 cows; 2 sows with young pigs; 1 cart and harness; sundry articles of household goods; the property of Defendant; unless this execution be previously satisfied. John Kingsmill Sheriffs Bailiff. Maitland Mercury 2 April 1851


Champion Ben. W., Lancelot Edward Threlkeld, His Life and Work 1788 - 1859, p. 304

Gunson Niel., Australian Reminiscences and Papers of L.E. Threlkeld

General Return of Convicts in New South Wales 1837

The Australian

Sydney Gazette

Clouten, Keith H., Reid's Mistake : the story of Lake Macquarie from its discovery until 1890, 1967

Clack, E.W., Early History of Toronto