Explorer and Pioneer, Yass to Geelong in 1824

By Dr. Cumbrae Stewart

The Brisbane Courier

26 January 1924

Hamilton Hume, the first and the greatest of Australian-born explorers, was by paternal descent a Scottish Borderer.

His grandfather went to Ulster about the middle of the Eighteenth century, and there he married a Miss Hamilton.

There were two sons of this marriage. Thomas Rawdon, father of the late Canon Abraham Hume, of Liverpool, the historian, and Andrew Hamilton, the father of the explorer.

Andrew Hamilton Hume was appointed a superintendent of convicts in Now South Wales in 1789, and sailed for Sydney in H.M.B. Guardian. 44 guns, Captain Riou.

On Christmas Eve the ship ran into an iceberg, but was saved from foundering, and was brought into Capetown, by the skill and good seamanship of Captain Riou, in February, 1790.

The Guardian, however, became a total wreck at Capetown. Captain Riou went home and eventually fell at Copenhagen in 1801, winning immortality as "the gallant good Riou" of Camp bells well known "Battle of the Baltic"

Early Life At Appin. Hume came on to Sydney in the Neptune and after several years in the Public Service he settled it Appin.

He married in 1796 a widow named Elisabeth Moore who, after the death of her husband, had come out in the Sovereign, with her brother James Kennedy, and his three daughters one of whom afterwards married William Broughton, assistant Commissioner-General and another married Mr. William Howe of Glenlee one of the first settlers to pay his passage to Australia.

James Kennedy and his sister, Mrs Andrew Hamilton Hume, were the children of the Reverend John Kennedy, Rector of Teston and Nettlestead in Kent, who was the son of the Rev John Kennedy Rector of Bradley Derbyshire, from 1732 to 1782 and author of "A Complete System of Astronomical Chronology " for which Dr Johnson wrote a dedication to King George III.

To Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Hume were born three sons and a daughter after wards Mrs George Barber of Glenrock.

The sons were Alexander Hamilton, John Kennedy and Francis Rawdon.

The eldest of these, the explorer, was born at Parramatta on June l8 1797.

A little over 110 years ago the Humes settled at Appin at the head of George's River which flows into Botany Bay Appin is about 42 miles from Sydney, and at that time was the "farthest out' district in the colony.

The blacks were troublesome but the settlers were well armed and well supplied with servants.

In a very few years the various families had inter married and it is no easy task to trace the relationship of Humes, Kennedys, Broughton,s Broughams, Hammonds, Carnes, Howes, Croppers, Barbers and Chisholms.

There were no schools in those far off days and the young Humes were educated by their mother.

They grew up in the bush and learnt more about it than could be learnt in books and it was not long before the elder lads made trade of their bush craft.

Early Discoveries. In August, 1814, Hamilton, aged 17 and his brother John aged 14, with a black boy, a native of Appin started off, and discovered Berrima.

The following year John Oxley was sending sheep in the   direction of Berrima and Hamilton Hume piloted them out John had to stay at home as his mother said he was too young to go. In 1816 Hamilton went out with Mr. Throsby and assisted him to find the Sutton Forest country.

In 1817 Governor Macquarie invited him   to accompany Mr Surveyor Meehan to the "New Country" as these discoveries were called. This was an excellent opportunity of acquiring additional experience It was accepted, and during a trip Lake Bathurst and the Goulburn Plains were discovered.

For his services Hamilton Hume received a grant of 300 acres at Appin.

Yass and Braidwood. In 1818 an exploring expedition led by the Surveyor General John Oxley, was sent south to Jervis Bay, and with him went Mr. Meehan and young Hume.

He was soon engaged in sheep farming on his own account and, is this involved the finding and taking up of large areas of country, in 1821 he went out with his brother John, his brother in-law, George Barber, and one of the Broughtons. They succeeded m reaching what is now Yass, and discovering the rich Yass Plains.

In 1822 Sir Thomas Brisbane sent the cutter Schnapper in charge of Lieut Johnston RN, to search the east coast for rivers.

They failed to find anything of importance, but two of the party, Mr Alexander Berry and Hamilton Hume, succeeded in going inland from the Upper Clyde as far as the site of the present town of Braidwood, 186 miles southwest of Sydney.

The Overland Journey. Hume was now 25 years of age, and had served his apprenticeship to the bush.

He had established himself in the good opinion of the authorities, and when Sir Thomas Brisbane contemplated an expedition to make known the country between the "New Country" south of Braidwood Lake George, and Yass towards Bass Straits it was for Hume that he sent.

Sir Thomas's idea was to land a   party on the coast of what is now Gippsland with orders to make their way to the settlements; but Hume pointed out that it was too dangerous.

There was no base on which to full back in case of a check. Sir Thomas asked Hume to make a proposal and Hume then offered to go from Lake George to Western Port if the Government would provide six men six pack horses, and the necessary provisions.

This was agreed to but the Treasure could not afford the expense. It has been suggested that the officials were indignant at such an important expedition being entrusted to private individual.

Mr. Alexander Berry continued to urge upon the Governor to send Hume, and W. H. Hovell, a settler at Minto, approached Berry with a bid to accompany Hume.

Hovell had been a seafaring man and was capable of taking observations to ascertain the latitude but he was no bushman, and apparently he had no means of ascertaining the longitude.

This led to a rather serious mistake.  

It was finally arranged that Hume and Hovell should jointly find the men and   the necessary equipment, with the exception of six packsaddles and gear, a tent a tarpaulin, six suits of side arms and ammunition a few bush ..... and two skeleton charts for marking the route. These were supplied by the Government.  

Start From Appin. In October 1824 Hume met at Appin with his party.

Claude Bossowa, Henry Angel and James Fitzpatrick when he was joined by Hovell with William Ballard and Thomas Smith.

The sixth man Thomas Boyd, was lent by Hume's first cousin John Kennedy who had been left in England when the other members of his family came out and had arrived in 1814.

On October 3 the party started on the first overland journey to Port Phillip. On the 8th they reached the Barber's station, Glenrock, near Marulan.

On the 11th they were at Hume's station, 14 miles, from Lake George, and on the 18th they encamped on Yass Plains, near the spot, where Hume afterwards made his home.

Next day they tried to cross the Murrumbidgee, but the river was in flood, and it was not until the 22nd that Hume, by using n device he had learnt from Mr. Meehan, and making a boat of his cart and a tarpaulin, was able to cross.

In the same way they crossed the Murray on November 17 above the site of what is now Albury.

To The Ocean. The Ovens and the Goulburn were found, named, and crossed without trouble, and nothing special happened till they reached the ranges about 40 miles from Melbourne. Here thick scrub stopped them.

Hume was badly staked through a fall, and at Mount Disappointment they turned off to the west. This took them over the site of the present Kilmore, across the head of the Werribee, which was named the Arndell, after Dr. Arndell, of Sydney, and on December 10, at 4 p.m., they reached Corio Bay.

Next day they stood on the site of the present Geelong and met blacks who had been in contact with white people, Hovell was under the impression that they had reached Western Port, which lies about 50 miles east of Geelong; but Hume recognised the natural features described to him by Meehan, who had been at Port Phillip, with Surveyor-General Grimes, in 1803, particularly the You Yangs and Arthur's Seat.

He was, therefore, positive that, they were at Port Phillip. Unfortunately this was not the only difference of opinion between Hume and his companion.

The Return Journey. The return journey began on December l8, 1824, and a month later Hume had led the whole party safely back to his station at Gunning, though men and cattle suffered severely from the hardships of the expedition.

This was a splendid piece of work and it ultimately led to the foundation of Victoria.

At no expense to the Government, for Hume had no reason to be thankful for any generosity or even compensation for his time and trouble, a new province was added to New South Wales.

Hume returned to private life, but his services were requisitioned four years later by Governor Darling, and he accompanied Captain Sturt on the first of that great explorer's journeys, when they discovered the Darling River.

Hume's relations with Captain Sturt were in striking contrast to his connection with Hovell, and he and Captain Sturt remained all their lives in the terms of warmest friendship.

Hume's Latter Days. This was Hume's last expedition. He settled down to the life of a pastoralist, marrying a Miss. Dight, and living in his later days in Yass. He had no children.

His brother, John Kennedy Hume, was murdered by bushrangers, at Gunning, in 1840, "because,'' as they said, "they did not want any gentlemen in this country."

Francis Rawdon Hume settled at Burrowa, and lived here for many years, and left descendants, many of whom are now in Queensland.

The late Mr. Rees R. Jones. of Rockhampton, whose sister married one of the Broughtons, told me that he saw the old explorer at a confirmation by the Bishop of Sydney in the ‘fifties’ of the last century.

Not long before his death, on April 19 1873 he paid a visit to Melbourne, and had an opportunity of witnessing the wonderful transformation which its site had undergone since his eye first ranged over its wooded eminences from the summit of the Yon Yangs where Flinders had stood a score, of years before.

He was buried at Yass.

All that his country gave him was a grave.

But the Royal Geographical Society of London, which had made him a Fellow in 1860 did not let his death go unrecorded; and the Melbourne "Argus," in announcing his death said "Mr. Hume's name will be always mentioned with honour as a brave, earnest, and persevering pioneer of a new continent."