Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gounyan Creek, Murrumbateman - an updated post

Gounyan Creek Murrumbateman post has been updated to include more local information about George and Mary "Granny" Davis - pioneer settlers of the Yass region.

From the  Davis Family History (for which I am grateful to Sandra Stanley of (edit - related to the Davis Family through the marriages of 2 Emerys to 2 Davis' at Cootamundra. They were born at Yass and were direct descendants of 'Granny Davis'.) we find this account of the origins of the Davis family, who still survive this day in the Yass region and the writer is known to quite a few of the Davis family members - some whom I like, other whom I do not bother with.

One must also appreciate that the records of the early days of settlement were poorly kept and often mis-recorded, so one must draw their own conclusions from such records on the evidence before them:

Research by the Davis Family revealed ‘Granny’ Davis was born Mary Ann Blutt, at Blandford Forum, in Dorsetshire, England, on 22 July 1776. Her parents were John and Elizabeth Blutt. Back in England, she was married to a man with the surname, Lawrence; given name unknown.

One story had it that, widowed, Mary A. Lawrence was convicted of stealing a valuable watch, and was transported to Australia in 1803, at the age of 27 years. A second account stated the widowed Mary A. Lawrence was transported to Australia aboard the ‘S.S. Broxbornbury’, in 1814, but, whatever the year, she was, nonetheless, a convict.

Mary A. Lawrence and George Davis, possibly another one-time convict, were married in St Phillip’s Church of England, Sydney, in 1818. Volume Reference was V18182987/1818.

Having proven her innocence (edit - unconfirmed statement, other sources suggest that Macquarie wanted the Davis' out of Sydney) of the alleged crime, Governor Macquarie granted Mary A. Davis 60 acres of land at Gounyan (or Goonyan), near Murrumbatemen, north-west of Yass, in 1821. A further report told she was granted only 20 acres of land. (edit - Nevertheless the Davis' managed to turn the smallish grant into 2,000 prime acres of well-watered pasture.)

In c1827, the Davis Family travelled from Sydney to the Gounyan property, where Mary A.L. Davis was the first white woman to settle in Yass Valley, and to whom was born the first white child, in 1829. The Davis's brought with them some convicts - the last of the transportation fleets - who were given their 'relative freedom' to work as indentured workers assigned to Mary and George Davis. They were not 'Free Men'.

The Davis Family built the licensed inn, ‘The Sawyer’s Arms’, at Gounyan, in c1833. Apparently, they brewed their own beer and Mary A.L. Davis was known to brew ‘… a pretty good drop … and was a shrewd businesswoman’. Also, when her assigned workers were slack in their work she had them flogged by a friend, ‘Johnny’, in Queanbeyan. Members of the bell family, a local indigenous family, are very bitter towards the Davis clan(even to this day) and they claim she used arsenic-laced bread to poison local Kurris whom she believed were stealing her merino (?) sheep!

George and Mary A.L. Davis also built a homestead, at the cost of 40 Pounds [Sterling] and, later, were highly successful graziers, with landholdings covering thousands of acres in the district of Murrumbateman. A further estimate, was 2,000 acres which was simply their’s for the taking. (edit - as was the practice of "squatting" of the day, to which the government largely turned a blind eye. If a land owner with an established property cleared and fenced off unclaimed government land, placed livestock on it and managed it for a year, then they could claim 'ownership of it - a process usually verified by a local magistrate or military commander.)

One story told of Mary A.L. Davis taking wool by bullock dray from Gounyan to Sydney. On one such trip, she sold the wool for around 700 Pounds [Sterling], which she carried with her on the return trip to Gounyan. On the way, she was bailed up by bushrangers, whom she frightened off with an old blunderbuss, a short, large-bore, gun which widens at the muzzle. (edit - One of the bush rangers is suggested as being 'Johnny Gilbert' - Johnny Gilbert was an Australian bushranger local to the Yass region, of mixed race and [probably] frequented the Sawyer's Arms' where he would have gained knowledge of local movements and intents. Gilbert was eventually shot dead by the police at the age of 23 near Binalong, New South Wales on 13 May 1865. John Gilbert was the only Australian bushranger never to go to prison.)

George Davis (Snr), a Yeoman (freeholder/small landowner), died on 15 December 1867, at the age of 89 years. His death was registered at Yass; the given names of his parents were absent. He was buried in the Gounyan Private Cemetery, close by the homestead.

Mary A.L. Davis, by then known to all as ‘Granny Davis’, was about 91 years of age at the time of her husband’s death but, nonetheless, still quite capable of running the farm. Every week, she would drive her horse-and-cart, laden with crops and dairy products, from Gounyan to Yass.

After barely a day’s illness throughout her life, ‘Granny Davis’ was confined to bed where, still one tough lady and as shrewd as ever, she died on 29 August 1889, at the age of …113 years! Her death was registered at Yass and, beside her name, were the given names of her parents, ‘John’ and ‘Elizabeth’.

Mary A.L. ‘Granny’ Davis was buried in the Gounyan Private Cemetery, close by the homestead.

And, so began the tradition whereby the eldest son of the Davis Family was always known by the given name, ‘George’.

There were 5 known children to the marriage:

a) GEORGE DAVIS was born probably somewhere in Sydney in c1814; his birth was not registered until 1817. He was a farmer on the Gounyan property, where he died on 16 November 1895, at the age of 81 years, and was buried in the nearby Gounyan Private Cemetery.

b) HANNAH DAVIS was born possibly at Parramatta, in c1815; registration of birth unavailable. At Gounyan, on 27 June 1831, Hannah Davis married Thomas Jones, who died in 1844. Widowed, she possibly married George Henry Wright; date and place unknown. She died at Barney’s Flat, near Yass, on 17 July 1880, at the age of 65 years, and was buried, possibly under the surname, ‘Davis’, in the Gounyan Private Cemetery.

c) JAMES DAVIS was born possibly in Sydney, where his birth was registered in 1819. He was later an innkeeper and/or farmer at Mundoonan, near Gounyan, where he died in 1890, at the age of 71 years. He was buried in the Gounyan Private Cemetery.

d) WILLIAM DAVIS was born in Sydney in c1825; his birth was registered in 1826. His death on 7 May 1903 was registered at Yass; he was buried in the Gounyan Private Cemetery.

e) THOMAS DAVIS was born possibly at Gounyan; his birth was registered at Yass in 1829. He was the first white child born in the Yass Valley. He died in 1871, at the age of about 47 years; his death was also registered at Yass. He was possibly buried in the Gounyan Private Cemetery; unconfirmed.

There was also a MARY A. DAVIS, who was born to a George and Mary A. Davis in 1857; her birth was registered at Yass. Full date unavailable. Her death was registered at Yass in 1889; full date also unavailable. This one is highly doubtful because, by my calculations, ‘Granny Davis’ would have been about 81 when the baby was born.

Couldn’t find a marriage for a George Davis (Jnr) and Mary A. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi. Granny Davis is my ancestor. Her son George had a daughter Matilda. She married Charles James Woodman and had 12 children. She is my grandfather's grandmother. I am also a Woodman and found this very interesting.