Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Henry Stuart Russell

Journey Through the Hunter Valley in 1840

Henry Stuart Russell

HENRY STUART RUSSELL was born on March 10, 1818, and was educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford. He played in the Harrow eleven in 1837-8, and was in the Oxford eleven of 1839 but left the university without taking his degree. He arrived in Sydney early in 1840, with letters of introduction, including one to Governor Gipps.

Feeling rather lonely in this new country he sat ruminating on Petty's verandah in Sydney one day when by chance an old school chum passed by - 'Hulloa! Who comes here? Surely I know one of those faces.' 'Why, it can't be you!' 'Yes, it is I, but who are you?' 'I am Pemberton Hodgson; my brother, Arthur, is in Sydney too.' How glad I was; I could recall the face I so well knew when he was a boy at Harrow. I had never met his brother. We soon got deep into question and answer, and were truly happy in this rencontre. 'I'm going up the country to New England,' said Arthur Hodgson to me a few days afterwards; 'I've sold a station there to Todd.'

Henry Russell was a man of adventurous character and was grateful for this chance of seeing something of the country and so a week later he set for New England with the Hodgsons.

Below is an extract from The Genesis of Queensland in which he recalls his journey through the Hunter Valley in 1840 -

Leaving Sydney

At the beginning of March, then, Arthur, Pemberton Hodgson and myself left Sydney, one evening, by a steamer - one of the old Hunter River Company's - which started from a wharf at the bottom of the hill at the back of Petty's.

Horses, saddles, saddle-bags, hobbles and selves bundled together on board a steam craft remarkable neither for size, symmetry, sweetness, nor civility, nothing noteworthy affected us in our night passage more intolerable than the smell and presence of enormous cockroaches.


At Newcastle, which seemed to me but a rock called Nobby; a breakwater created from the Nobby material; an enormous glistening yellow mound which made one's eyes sore by looking for the town; the semblance of a church built, alas! on sand, we stopped awhile, then proceeded up a muddy uninteresting river called the Hunter.


Disembarked in front of a public house, called, I think, Anlaby's, at a filthy kind of platform, where we saddled up and jogged on to East Maitland.

East Maitland

There we took up our quarters at Cox's Hotel; glad indeed to escape from the cockroaches ; counted twenty-three habitations on the way to the hotel; now saw a courthouse and was told there were barracks not far off, called the 'Stockade'.

Who is that, Hodgson?' 'As fine an old gentleman as ever breathed; that's the P.M.' ('How d'ye do, Mr. Grant,' en passant). They call him Paddy Grant. (Police Magistrate Patrick Grant)

Well, at Cox's Hotel we were comfortable; saw many going to and fro, who, I was told, had just come from New England. A good deal of card and billiard playing that night in which I took no hand; a good deal of noise too. In the morning, as I was standing at the white gate in front, one came riding in, who, I was told, was Major Lettsome. He stared in a peculiarly offensive manner at a gentleman, who, I found afterwards, bore the name of Archibald Boyd, close by with Arthur Hodgson. 'Did you see that, Hodgson?' he passionately cried out; 'that was an intentional insult! By ...... I'll have him out!' (And so he tried to do, and a great row ensued, which did not come to an end till it reached the Supreme Court, much to the Major's discredit.) Dangerous country, thought I; better not see too well!

West Maitland

From Cox's through West Maitland; and there a nice little inn called the 'Rose Inn' by Cohen; on by a road, which mile by mile lost the semblance of a road; in fact it bore the distinction, I found, only when supported on either side by fences, which by confinement of traffic only made it the worse; on by such road, I say, towards Patrick's Plains.

Black Creek

'Here's Black Creek, Russell; further on is Kesterton's Inn; but I must take you a little off the road to see two nice old English gentlemen; very particular; well, you are rather dusty; but you can go in by the back way, you know, and you can ask the footman to brush you down before coming in. Their names are Henry Hughes and Henry Isaac. This is their farm; we must turn off here; that cottage out there is Dr. Blick's, their next neighbour and medical attendant.'

We reached the house, but in vain did I look for a back entrance; neither did I see a front approach; the building was not imposing; I looked diffidently for that scrupulous neatness about dwelling and garden, the distinctive dress of old bachelordom, and saw it not; hesitatingly I dropped behind;

'Come on, old fellow!' shouted Hodgson; 'come on old Hodgson', shouted two voices together from a low verandah, the utterers of which in so cheerful tone drew my attention to two individuals seated, each on a keg, smoking. Little, apparently, over twenty years of age; covered with dust; shirt sleeves tucked up to the elbows; doubled up by the heat of work; straw - I found they were called cabbage-tree hats, ribandless, and once perhaps of a lighter tinge, heavy boots, which knew not blacking-brushes; each with a silver tankard in hand, a short clay pipe in mouth, there they stood laughing, as I, guileless of suspicion hitherto, laughed with them in recognition of Hodgson's 'merrie' jokes with a new chum's initiation. And in one of these two, not long ago borne to the rest of a good man and honoured name, I found in after years the kindest and most valued friend I ever had.

A Mr. Colburne came in afterwards, likewise en route, and a cheerful, joyous party we were when we all left the farm in the afternoon and rode on to Patrick's Plains. I heard much discussion about landholders on either side as we rode on, especially of one 'Bob Scott', of Glendon: of a family of the name of Dangar, and many whom I cannot recall. Colburne was riding a somewhat fretful animal, whose temper seemed to infect my own black brute. Colburne, I found, was also a 'new chum', wore strangely loose inexpressibles, inveighed perpetually against the insect pests of this hot country, declared the pace was slow and wearisome, would sit down awhile, and canter sharply after us for a change. 'I'll catch you directly, you go on.'

And so we went on. Presently I heard a shriek, looked back, and saw Colburne furiously stripping himself. His ejaculations were in keeping with his gesticulations. Bare legged in a moment, he danced like a maniac, his alarmed horse throwing up his head in retreat, dragged away at the reins, which Colburne was holding on by with one hand, while he slapped and belaboured his natural limbs with the other in the most demoniac manner. Horror-stricken at such strange antics, 'What on earth's the matter with Colburne.' Looking round, there, hardly able to sit on his saddle by reason of the agony of amusement - Hodgson! 'It's the old soldiers!' he roared. 'Old soldiers! why, where are they?' 'Up his legs and back,' screamed Hodgson. 'He's been sitting on a bed of them!' 'Old soldiers' in a young country! 'I shall ride in breeches and boots', I logged down at once as a rule for the future.

Patrick Plains

There were two inns at Patrick's Plains: Cullen's, at the end of a dusty lane to the right; Singleton's, at the end of another to the left of the track on which we were. Hodgson and the rest to Cullen's; I to Singleton's, who had room but for one. I led my horse to the stable and left him there; sat myself down in the verandah to await their rejoining me.

In a few minutes I was tapped on the shoulder; looked up at the man who did it, rather nettled. Didn't like his looks. 'Is your name Russell?' ' But for anger and amazement I could have laughed! 'I wasn't in this country at the date of that warrant.' 'Oh, that won't do for me. You must come back to Sydney with me.' 'Confound my name. I'll change it to - Here comes Hodgson.' Well, he being known sufficiently hereabouts, was able to obtain my release from the hands of my disappointed captor.


On to Muswellbrook! That was the pleasant resting place for pilgrims northward-ho! No small roadside inn, nor dwelling; ugly, monotonous, up and down ridge ride all the way from Patrick's Plains to Muswellbrook. Hospitable, cheerful, revered Skellatar! Never to be forgotten, joyous Bengalla, and all the delights inside and outside of that dwelling! Negoa; and its kindly, hearty master, John Cox! Merton! Overton, and the gallant brothers who bore their soldier-father's gallant name, Allman! St. Heliers! and all the warmth of English hand-shaking, and heart-winning reception, at the bidding of a fair and noble hostess; and the elf-like considerateness of that bright-souled minister to the wants of the bush pilgrims who passed that way - Aunty Bell! Truly St. Heliers' house was a beehive of busy thoughts for the world's weal around.

There was a magnetic power within the magic environs of Muswellbrook forty-seven years ago.

'We must get through to the Page to-day' as we left Nowland's pleasant hostelry, at Muswellbrook, a few days afterwards. I was told that it was quite forty miles.


Aberdeen! What, an Aberdeen! Here stood one house, and that a public. And they call it Aberdeen. Why? I saw no dwelling but a public-house. Ah, yes! there was a blacksmith's. All the country round seemed to have been not long since in the hands of one man, Potter McQueen, well known to have ruined himself years before by contesting an election for Bedfordshire. I knew him in England; last met him at dinner at the old University Club, Suffolk-street, London; known to have been the recipient of a large grant of land - by grace private - in New South Wales; he had then recently returned, in 1838......

And now I found myself on Potter MacQueen's own grant!


On to Scone a wayside there, too, Chivers didn't stop long


On over Warland's Ranges - the first real rising ground I had seen yet: a cut-throat sty a short way to the left was pointed out to me, called 'Northy's', just before we reached their foot: down again on the other side, and so gladly (to my feelings, and doubtless my horse) we reached the one and the last public-house of accommodation for travellers, which was lying so snug on the confines of the settled land, beneath the frown of Liverpool Range, on the banks of the river Page. Pretty spot this on the river Page. There was a store opposite, and post-office: all postal work on this road is done, it seems, by horse: further back by mail cart and pair, one in shafts and another traced to an outrigger.

Hanging Rock

Three miles next morning to the Hanging Rock: it and Doughboy Hollow, in the heart of the range, became famous afterwards for bushrangers more than once: especially through the gallantry of that fine old soldier, Denny Day, at this time police magistrate at Muswellbrook; afterwards at Maitland.

Away again from the range, merrily over champaign country - Liverpool Plains- went smartly by Loder's station: pulled up awhile at Paddy Davis' - the next habitation, at Currabubula - (I recollect wondering how it was to be spelt): pushed on to the river Peel, and were housed at a station, the property by Crown grant of the Australian Agricultural Company, by their manager and superintendent, Charles Hall. He, the very prince of 'open-door' hosts: ever kind, ever considerate to wayfarers, who, by their number, the frequency of their visits also, I afterwards found, their exactions upon his larder - ever well supplied - their invasion of his space, which ever seemed to yield like india-rubber to the strain which the unconscionable company of his visitors brought to bear upon his dwelling, must have been endowed with special good humour, a marvellous gift of patience, an immeasurable sympathy, an unbounded sensibility to the elements of genuine camaraderie, to have borne with genial unruffled mood at all times the burdens which he ever made so light of, and the assaults upon his resources which he ever met with the self-control and unselfish bearing of a very cavalier of the 'olden times.'[1]

Later Years

Henry Russell took up land on Cecil Plains in 1842.

In May 1842 he accompanied Andrew Petrie in a whaleboat along the coast and entered a river that was (afterwards) named the Mary, in honour of Lady Mary Fitz Roy.

In November, 1852, Russell became a member for the Stanley Burroughs in the Legislative Council, and lived for three years in Brisbane, where he built the original Shafston House. Then he went to Sydney and purchased a property at North Shore, known as The Rangers. Early in 1889 he returned to England and died suddenly at Ottery St Mary, in Devonshire, on March 5, 1889. He wrote the Genesis of Queensland, a standard work on the early history of Queensland. [2]


[1] Russell, Henry Stuart, Genesis of Queensland: An Account of the Firsts Exploring Journeys to and Over Darling Downs: The Earliest Days of Their Occupation; Social Life; Station Seeking; The Course of Discovery, Northward and Westward; And a Resume of the causes which Led to separation for New South Wales, 1887. - Project Gutenberg

[2] Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1926 - 1954) Sun 21 Jul 1929 Page 30