The timber getters arrived in the 1850’s, cutting timber which was hauled by teams of bullocks to the coal mines at Minmi and Wallsend.
One of the earliest pioneers to the area was Joseph Notley who came to Sandy Hollow in 1856, aged 19. He intended to run cattle on his property which was called “Sandy Creek”. Joe was also looking for suitable timber for the Victoria Bridge at Maitland. Bushmen called the area Slatey Creek.
Richard O’Donnell and James Lord were also amongst the first settlers, Richard also took up a grant of land in 1862. The Lords came to the area in the 1870’s.
The Johnstons, Cherrys and Holmes families arrived in the area in the 1860’s There are a few stories handed down to us about early pioneers in the area. The obituary in 1908 for Mrs Mary Johnston tells us that in the early days of their settling in the Barnsley area, Mr and Mrs Johnston were frequently visited by aboriginals and the only other visitor was a Chinese Hawker who used to come from Sydney.
When the Johnstons went to Barnsley (then known as Teralba) they selected 40 acres of land which was subsequently increased to 300 acres and on which now stands the township of Barnsley.
Dingoes were plentiful in those days and often a mob of 30 were to be seen, and wild horses were also numerous round about.
The stream known as Flaggy Creek was in those days teeming with fish, and game was also very plentiful.
When Barnsley School was celebrating its Centenary in 1965 the then School Principal, Mr J Todkill, received an interesting letter which was written in 1930 by an old identity whose memory stretched back to 1860 –
This old gentleman described the area as a place where few settlers had made their homes and occasionally aborigines could be seen wandering about. The writer recorded that their chief was at Lake Macquarie and the queen was called Black Margaret, who was supposed to have eaten a white man.
Barley and other grain were grown at Boolaroo. Wallsend was the nearest town…and fish were plentiful in the creek. Transport was by walking or on horseback and the sight of a boat on the Lake was rare.
The old gentleman referred to domestic problems such as tiger cats and hawks being severe on poultry and that native dogs, wild duck and game were plentiful.
Margaret, who was mentioned above, was the wife of Ned who was a hard-working inoffensive old man. They came into the news in 1871 when an attempt was being made to take away the land on which they resided. Ned’s wife, Margaret was said to be an irreproachable character and had never been known to taste liquor.
An order was issued to say that Old Ned was not to be disturbed in his occupation and that the surveyor was to measure 20 or 30 acres for him, which would render him and his family secure from all intrusion.
Margaret lived to be the oldest member of the Awabakal race on the lake and was known as “old Margaret” or “Queen Margaret” and lived with her two children in a neatly kept slab cottage and was highly respected by all who knew her. Margaret was one of those who had been taught by Rev Threlkeld.
Margaret lived in a hut at Swansea until she took sick in 1900 and was taken to Newcastle Hospital where she died and was buried in Newcastle somewhere.
As the European population in the area in creased, so the Aboriginal population decreased and the race either died out or moved away to other areas.
The few sites left which leave some trace of the time of the Awabakal’s in our area are not well known to the general public and this may be just as well and be the best way to preserve these areas. Some artifacts have been handed over to the Awabakal Aboriginal Cooperative in Newcastle.
Tom Reynolds, a well known local historian, was told that there is an Aboriginal graveyard on Sugarloaf but he was never able to find the location
Extract from “Holmesville, One Mans Vision” Lillian Price