Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

John Eckford - Early Settler at Wallis Plains

John Eckford was born in the colony in 1801 one of the eight children of William and Mary Eckford.

For many years William and Mary Eckford resided at Newcastle where William was employed as harbour pilot. Their children John, Jane, Henry, William, and James were among the pupils under Schoolmaster Henry Wrensford at the first school at Newcastle in 1816.


In 1818 John Eckford aged about 17 years, was one of several people who were granted permission to occupy land at Wallis Plains. Many years later he recalled this year as one of great flood in the vicinity of Maitland and of the flood levels being the highest known in the experiences of white settlers.

John's allotment was 30 acres and became known as Brush Farm. Here he built a barn and a wattle and daub cottage with a garden and orchard. In a Memorial to Governor Brisbane dated 11 January 1823 John Eckford petitioned for an increase of land - 'Memorialist obtained from His Excellency, late Governor Macquarie, a Grant of thirty acres of land on the banks of Hunter's River, but the same being all low land, Memorialist humbly begs that His Excellency will be pleased to grant an additional allotment adjoining the present location that Memorialist may thereby have high land to build upon.'[1]

Colonial Life

In 1825 he was established enough to provide 100 bushells of wheat to the Commissariat Department at Newcastle for which he was remunerated 9/- per ton [2]. Brush farm was increased to 100 acres by 1825. He worked this land for ten years before he married Eliza Duff, daughter of a former soldier in December 1828. Their marriage is recorded in the Register Book of Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle. Eliza was the sister of Ann Clift who had married another early settler, former convict Samuel Clift in 1824.

John and Eliza Eckford's children included Jane Eliza b. 1830; Harriet Sophia b. 1832; John William b. 1834; Mary Anne Eckford b. 1836; John William b. 1839; James William b. 1841; Joseph Henry Eckford b. 1842; George Alfred b. 1846 and Robert Francis Maitland b. 1852.

John Eckford became Chief Constable at Wallis Plains in September 1825. He also ran the pound at the settlement.

Liverpool Plains

In the years to come John Eckford and Samuel Clift took up land on the Liverpool Plains and New England districts. Malaraway, John Eckford's selection was situated on Boggy, Waterloo, Geehan and Bumble Creeks which discharged their waters into the Barwon River. Malaraway was a sheep station. John Eckford managed and superintended his own land, often travelling between Maitland and this station near the Barwon. John and Eliza's son Joseph Henry drowned while bathing in the Barwon River in 1873 aged 30 years.


John Eckford had been a widower for many years when he died in 1884. He had lived to a great age for the times and had not been ill in any way. He resided on his land at Brush farm where he enjoyed a quiet comfortable life. After a day of fishing, his then favourite occupation, he suffered a seizure passing away soon afterwards.[3]

He was buried in the Glebe Burial Grounds.

Notes and Links

Some of the convicts assigned to John Eckford included:

Casey, Michael per convict ship Java 1833

Driscoll, John per convict ship Java 1833

Evans, John per convict ship Asia 1837

Keenan, James per convict ship Hercules 1830

Robinson, Richard per convict ship Hooghley 1834

Rook, Elizabeth per convict ship Mary 1835

Thompson, William per convict ship Ganges 1797


[1] Colonial Secretary's Correspondence. Memorials To The Governor, 1810-1826

[2] Sydney Gazette 28 April 1825

[3] Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate 21 Jun 1884