Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Joseph Pennington

Leigh Farm - Map 10

Joseph Pennington was born in 1796. He and his wife Ann (Gibson nee Rose) arrived on the Heroine in 1822 with their daughter Julia and Sarah Rose (Ann's daughter with her first husband Robert Rose). Julia Pennington was christened at Newcastle in August 1823 age 12. She Married William Mitchell and died in 1849.  Sarah married Rev. George Augustus Middleton at Liverpool in 1824.

Land Grant

Joseph Pennington was granted 2000 acres of land in October 1822 and was assigned six convicts who were to be victualled from the Stores for the following six months. He was also granted an allotment in the town of Newcastle.
Joseph Pennington Thomas Gill Jacob Newton Duncan Sinclair Francis Allman William Fisher Hugh Torrence Andrew Dixon John Wighton Vicars Jacob Joseph Thew Friedrich Gerstacker John Wighton Thomas Bartie Early Settler Map 2 George Mosman William Caswell
Early Hunter Valley Settler Map 10

Leigh Farm

His grant was reduced to 1550 acres in 1823 and he was permitted to make a new selection. The land he chose was situated at the junction of the Hunter and Williams Rivers and became known as Leigh Farm. Several of his assigned servants were permitted to take cattle overland from the Hawkesbury to his Williams River estate. Soon afterwards Ann Pennington applied to Government for sawyers to be employed at the Williams River property however this was denied them.

Assigned Convict Servants

Convicts assigned to Joseph Pennington at Leigh Farm included:
Samuel Coleman per Morley
Joseph Delandre per Tyne 1819
John Delaney per Tyne 1819
Richard Edwards per Grenada
John Hurst per Shipley
John Rolston per Asia
Robert Scothern per Eliza 1822
William Clarke per Minerva
Samuel Dukes per Mangles
Michael Hayes per Princess Royal
Ralph Cooper per Dromedary

Leigh Farm Sold

The Penningtons were apparently unable to make a success of the property. In March 1825 the Sydney Gazette published the following notice:

In the Supreme Court, Lord v. Pennington. To be sold by Auction by direction of the Sheriff, at his Office, on Monday the 4th April next, at 12 o'clock at noon,. A farm of 1500 acres called Leigh Farm, situated on the first branch of Hunter's river Newcastle; 50 acres of which are cleared. Also the same day at two o'clock in the afternoon at the above farm 4 working bullocks a bull 7 or 8 small pigs, a pair of small mill stones, 3 iron pots and saucepans, 6 hoes etc and about 300 feet of scantling.

The same notice was repeated in February 1827. Simeon Lord acquired Leigh Farm at this time, however it seems that Joseph Pennington stayed on as superintendent.

Murder of Aboriginal boy Tommy

In March 1827 Joseph Pennington gave evidence at the trial of Thomas Stanley who was accused of murdering an aboriginal native at Port Stephens......

Mr. Joseph Pennington examined - I live at Port Stephen Branch, situated about 18 miles from Newcastle, and the same distance from Port Stephens. I have been some time there, as superintendent for Mr. Lord. Prisoner was a servant of Mr. Lord's and lived at the same place.

I knew a native boy who frequented the huts. He was about 12 years of age and was called Tommy. On the 18th May last one Colthurst came into my hut, where I and the native boy were, the latter was asleep, but Colthurst awakened him, he said to the boy white man will give you patter meaning dinner. In the course of the same afternoon it was proposed by some of the men, that they should go kangaroo hunting - Stanley (the prisoner) and another man named Chips got into a boat taking the boy along with them, as soon as they had pushed off from the beach, one of the men who remained on shore, called out to the two in the boat 'take care the little.....don't jump over the bows', one of the men from the boat replied 'we will take d....d good care of that' the boy cried out to give him his pipe - a reply was made to him, that 'he should get his pipe tomorrow' the boat proceeded down the river, the other two men, Colthurst and Ridgeway, who remained ashore, proceeded along the bush in a direction towards the place where it was intended the boat should make, about an hour after, the whole of the four men returned - the boy was not with then - I overheard the prisoner say 'don't tell him anything about it' considered from that, he meant me - my suspicions were excited inconsequence - but being in the power of those men, I gave no hint of my suspicions - about ten days after, I observed the body of a black person, resembling the boy that was missing, floating up the river, there was a crow sitting on the body. I ordered the body to be drawn on shore and had it buried, the prisoner assisted on the occasion, he was the first who recognized the body to be that of the boy Tommy, in speaking of the boys' death he said he supposed the boy had fallen from a tree and got drowned.

Robert Dawson gave the following account......

Soon after I arrived at Port Stephens the timber-cutting ceased, and the parties only remained there to saw up and clear away the timber which had been cut down. A superintendent of one of the parties up the Myall, who had only recently joined them, and who was a most respectable, although unfortunate settler, of the name of Pennington, came to Port Stephens in the month of June, for the purpose of informing me what had taken place between his men and the natives, and the causes of it; and also that he suspected four of his men of the murder of a native black boy named Tommy, about eight years of age, whom he had domesticated in his hut.

I took his deposition, and immediately issued a warrant to apprehend them. Two of them were soon secured and brought to Port Stephens, where they underwent an examination, upon which evidence was produced of a nature sufficiently strong to warrant me in committing them for trial at Sydney.

In the latter end of August I was summoned by the attorney-general to attend their trial. This was a sad interruption to all my plans and operations, and a serious inconvenience in every respect; but as there were no means of avoiding it, I repaired the same evening on board a small vessel which the government had despatched for me, and arrived at Sydney on the 1st of September.

The trial of the offenders took place several days afterwards, when they were found guilty, upon the clearest evidence, of having murdered the poor boy without the slightest provocation. To accomplish this barbarous act they enticed the lad to a lonely part of the river, where they strangled him by a narrow slip of bark, called by the natives, curryjung, and then threw him into the water; having, as they afterwards confessed, put him out of the way to prevent his telling tales in his communications with the natives, with whom they were at variance.

The disappearance of the boy in a sudden and mysterious manner, excited Mr. Pennington's suspicions that he had been unfairly disposed of by his men; but as any expression of such an idea would have involved his own safety, in so remote and sequestered a situation, he remained silent until a proper opportunity offered itself for investigation. In a few days after the boy had disappeared, Mr. Pennington's notice was attracted by the noisy contention of some cows opposite his hut, about something upon which they appeared to be feeding: this proved, on examination, to be the body of poor Tom, which the tide had floated up. Mr. Pennington having recognized the corpse had it buried; but did not dare to give a hint of his suspicions until he was able to get to Port Stephens, where he deposed to the facts before me.


Joseph Pennington died in September 1827 -

Mr. Pennington who for some years past had very creditably discharged the duties of Superintendent on an establishment at Port Stephens, was unluckily drowned a short time ago, whilst on a water excursion with several friends....A squall took the boat, whilst under a press of canvas, and upset her. Two persons who were in the boat were fortunately preserved, but Mr. P. sunk to a watery grave. A black woman, with an infant at her breast floated ashore next day. The infant was found close locked in its mother's embraces...The Australian 14 September 1827

George Williams

By February 1829 George Williams had purchased the farm -

It having been represented to me, that extensive depredations have been for some time past, and now are, committed on my lands, comprising fifteen hundred and fifty acres known by the name of Leagh Farm, and late the property of Mr. Joseph Pennington, deceased, and situated on the left bank of the first branch of Hunter's River in the County of Durham; These are therefore to caution all persons to abstain from trespassing thereon, either by cutting down the timber and splitting of shingles, grazing cattle or otherwise.

In January 1830 the estate was advertised for sale: -

FOR SALE OR RENTAL. THAT most valuable ESTATE, known by the name of LEIGH FARM, formerly the property of the late Joseph PENNINGTON Esq. consisting of 1,550acres, situated on the point of the first branch called Williams's River, running into the Hunter about is miles from Newcastle. Eighty acres have been felled and partly cleared and cultivated, on which a comfortable cottage and many conveniences have been erected. This Estate possesses many eminent advantages. On the river opposite, a tide mill might be constructed, part of the banks forming a natural wharf, where ships of burthen may lie with safety, and vessels of 60 -tons burthen may sail to Sydney in 24 hours ; it is distant only nine miles from Port Stephen, and forms a key to that settlement, being entirely secured by a natural boundary of swamps and lagoons, and affording an outlet to many thousand acres, which may be considered as a valuable stock run, and which will never be located or taken up. Much timber, consisting of blue and other gums, etc. suitable both for ship-building and exportation, is now growing on the farm.

This Estate promises to become in a few years one of the most valuable of its size in that part of the country, and from its superior local advantages well merits the attention of the Public. In the event of not being sold or rented before the 22d instant, it will be sold by auction on the 29th, or in lots of 100 to 300 acres each, with equal proportions of frontage of the river, of which it possesses a greater proportion that is now given to Estates of treble its size. Purchasers will be accommodated with credit for part of the purchase-money.