Mud Island, Hawkesbury River, NSW

Early Map

An early map showing Henry Lamb’s 70 acre grant

John and Ann Turnbull, and their family

Much has been written about the Turnbull family who arrived on the ship Coromandel in 1802 as members of a group of Presbyterian emigrants from London of Scottish and northern English background. They first settled at Toongabbie, then soon after took up grants on the Hawkesbury River. For a good source of information about this group read Pioneers of Portland Head by R M Arndell, 1976, ISBN 0 85881 019 0.

In conducting my research one challenge was understanding the role of Mud Island in the history of several members of the Turnbull clan. As a result I wrote the following article which was published in the journal of the Hawkesbury Family History Group, The Hawkesbury Crier, September 2002.

Mud Island, Portland Reach, Hawkesbury River

by Grahame Thom

This article was published the journal of the Hawkesbury Family History Group, The Hawkesbury Crier , September 2002.

I have found reading about Mud Island in various books to be somewhat confusing so I decided to summarise what I have found in order to better understand the Island’s place in the Turnbull family history.

Land Grants 1788 – 1809, indexed by Keith A Johnson and Malcolm R Sainty and published by Genealogical Publications of Australia in 1974.

Page 128 – Grant No 1076, 27 April 1803, to Henry Lamb, situated in the District of Mulgrave Place, 70 acres, 1/- quit rent after five years, granted by Governor King.

Census of New South Wales – November 1828, edited by Malcolm R Sainty and Keith A Johnson, 1980.

Turnbull, George, age 22, BC, Farmer of Lr Portland Head, 80 acres
also in the family group are Louisa Turnbull, age 19, and infant Ann.

Turnbull, Ralph, age 37, CF, Coromandel, 1802, Farmer, Portland Head, 70 acres
also in the family group are, Mary age 17, Ralph age 14, John age 12, Elizabeth age 10 and Anna age 8.

Comment – What is significant in relation to these Census entries is that George is at Lower Portland Head while Ralph is at Portland Head on 70 acres, that is, it is reasonable to conclude Ralph is on Henry Lamb’s grant, when all the following is also taken into account.

1841 NSW Census – NSW State Records Office

John Riley – Mudiland Farm – age 45 to 60
with wife age 45 to 60
house – wood

John Turnbull – Mudiland Farm – age 21 to 45
with wife, three children and two servants
house – wood

Mary Ann Turnbull – Mudiland Farm – age 21 to 45
with six children, two servants and two others
house – stone or brick

Macquarie Country, by D G Bowd, 1969

Page 36 – “Hostilities broke out again in the winter of 1805 at Portland Head. A number of natives gathered near the farm of Henry Lamb and by throwing firesticks set fire to his premises, which ‘were in a short time wholly consumed, the family being with difficulty able to save themselves’.” (Ref Sydney Gazette, 2 June 1805)

Pioneers of Portland Head, by R M Arndell, 1976

Page 252 – “Just before the father’s death (John Turnbull in 1834) Henry Lamb’s grant of 70 acres was bought from Thomas Clarkson, who had bought it from Lamb in 1812 (ref Grants Register, R.G., L.T.O., 5,127, No 749). The pioneer’s fourth son, George, inherited this property, which was situated directly across the river from the great bluff of “Portland Head”. Here Lamb had built a two -roomed stone home, burnt down by an orphan aboriginal girl Lamb and his wife had befriended (Ref King Papers, M.L., Vol 8 pp 85, 87; 96, 98; 9). This home was built on a rocky knoll on the river bank, and the present owner, Russell Turnbull, a great-great-grandson, still resides there……..George added another 32 acres by grant at the rear of Lamb’s…… Then, as so often happened, George divided Lamb’s grant into three parts, one each for Thomas, James, and John Warr, his remaining sons.”

Matthew Everingham, by Valerie Ross, 1980

Page 87 – “A week later, on May 31, 1805, while Henry Lamb, whose farm was just around the bend from Matthew’s (Everingham), was away from home, the natives began kindling their fires on a nearby ridge in a seemingly peaceful manner. Then they suddenly commenced an assault on the house, hurling firebrands by means of the ‘mantang’ or ‘fishgig’. Seeing smoke come out of the house, Mrs Lamb rushed into the blaze to rescue her sleeping child. The Lambs lost their house, barns, barley stack and cask of meat.”

Page 138 – “Fitzpatrick’s Wharf, like Maun’s Point, seems to have been a local name only and is not shown on any map. It is presumed to have been on Henry Lamb’s grant for the following reasons. In 1812, Lamb sold thirty acres of his seventy to Thomas Clarkson of Sydney, having sold the balance of forty to John Jones. It is thought that Clarkson also acquired this land from Jones because on December 19, 1817, he assigned forty acres to James Fitzpatrick, who was already in occupation. Fitzpatrick had come from Cork, Ireland, in 1803 on the Rolla ………

Though the sale of part of Lamb’s property to Fitzpatrick may never have been completed – because by the time old John Turnbull died in 1834, his wife (I think she means Ralph’s wife – G Thom) and son, Ralph had bought Lamb’s seventy acres from Clarkson – still Fitzpatrick was long enough in occupation for the landing place to bear his name.”

A Hawkesbury Story by Valerie Ross, 1981

Page 80 – “…..when his father John Turnbull died, he (George) inherited the Henry Lamb grant, and next door but one to William Everingham, where he purchased part of Evan’s grant.”

Page 91 – “The three prisoners had been, in the previous year (1831), part of a group transferred from Windsor to Wiseman’s Ferry under an escort of foot soldiers. A shorter route than normal was taken and the party stopped to rest at Ralph Turnbull’s, (evidently at Sackville). The prisoners’ handcuffs were taken off and the escape occurred whilst everyone was cutting bread and boiling potatoes in the kitchen. For months since, the bushrangers had been ‘infesting’ the area between here and the Hunter.”

Pages 113/4 – “Josiah (Everingham) also, would move north with the others but was to marry a Sackville girl he had known since childhood and who had grown up in a stone house at Mud Island. The house still remains as the nucleus of a timber house belonging to Mr Russell Turnbull and is one of the earliest in the area.

The Turnbull House at Sackville

Earlier we saw how Josiah Everingham had been born at Chaseling Farm, Sackville (is this area known as Sackville or Portland Head? – G Thom) in 1840. This property was separated only by the Dunne Grant, (Portion 48, Ph. Cornelia) from Henry Lamb’s grant, (Portion 47), where George Turnbull, also prominent as a Wesleyan, was to live certainly after 1834, but perhaps as early as 1826, (I think this conclusion is doubtful, eg, see 1828 Census – G Thom) because the Reverend John McGarvie had mentioned passing Chaselings’ and Turnbulls’ (most likely Ralph – G Thom) on his way over to Lower Portland. According to the Turnbull family, the two room stone house was already in existence at that date but for the following reasons, I dont think it was built as early as Lamb’s time.

The date of Henry Lamb’s seventy acre grant is April 27, 1803. In June, 1805, his house was burnt down by natives. This house would have been of timber and Lamb was never again in a position to build stone. In a Memorial to Governor Macquarie for land in 1810, just after Andrew Thompson’s death, he stated that he was overseer to the Reverend Robert Cartwright but had been sometime overseer to Andrew Thompson. He had been forced to leave the Sackville grant because everything he was possessed of had been set fire to and destroyed by the natives and he and his family had been in imminent danger of losing their lives. In addition, he had suffered repeated losses in floods, (which started in 1806).

By 1812, when Lamb sold thirty acres to Thomas Clarkson of Sydney, he had already sold forty acres to John Jones. Almost immediately, Clarkson bought Jones’ portion but then sold it to James Fitzpatrick on December 19, 1817, when Fitzpatrick was already in occupancy. Clarkson was nevertheless in possession of the whole seventy when he sold to John Turnbull about 1834, but as he is always referred to as ‘of Sydney’, it seems unlikely that he ever resided on Lamb’s grant and he probably rented it to the Turnbulls. (Ref Lamb’s Grant is Parish of Cornelia, Shire of Balkham Hills, Portion 47; Memorials, 1810, No 179, 4/1822, AO NSW; Arndell, R M, Pioneers of Portland Head, p 252; Registers of Assignment, 5-127-749, ML; Col Sec, Letters to Clergymen, Catechists, etc, Chandler to Cowper, rec. December 3, 1828, 4/321, AO NSW; Arndell, R M, Pioneers of Portland Head, p 215, quoting RG LTO, S 4, p 142.)

If the house were already there before the occupancy of the Turnbulls, which descendants claim to have been the case, then perhaps John Jones had something to do with it. This John Jones may have been identical with the man of the same name who had sufficient knowledge of building to be in charge of the building of St Matthew’s, to erect (wooden) schoolhouses for the Clergy and School Corporation down river and who was connected with Lewis Jones, a stone-cutter.

Lewis Jones had a hundred acres at Sackville which he sold to Stephen Tuckerman in 1837. in 1815, he contracted to build a stone house for Elizabeth Ivory on the Addy grant, (later Churchill’s), which may be the substantial Georgian one depicted in Andrew Doyle’s 1826 drawing; and this leads to the thought that he may have had a part in the erection of the larger but similar ‘Ulinbawn’, Cyrus Doyle’s residence. In 1821, he was described as a stone mason of Portland Head, when with John Jones and his brother-in-law, Joseph Williams, he was drinking in James Doyle’s Inn at Windsor. The link with Turnbulls’ is slight but from such hitherto unrecorded trivia an improved knowledge of the earliest domestic architecture in the district may emerge. (Ref Indenture dated June 12, 1815, Registers of Assignment, 6-80-1454, ML, Inquest on body, Joseph Williams, May 3, 1821, Coroners’ Inquests, 2/8287, pp 17-27, AO NSW.)

George Turnbull married Louisa Chaseling on October 9, 1826 and one of their twelve children, Martha Elizabeth, born January 23, 1842, was to grow up in this house on the knoll of Mud Island and to be visited by Josiah Everingham, who lived across river at Elizabeth Everingham Farm. When he was twenty-eight and she twenty-four, he returned from the Clarence River where he was farming, to marry her in her father’s home on October 8, 1868, the Wesleyan minister James Phillips officiating. Josiah and Martha lived on the Clarence before removing to the Richmond River about 1909.”

Early Hawkesbury Settlers, by Bobbie Hardy, 1985

Page 22 – “To the right bank of Portland Reach came Londoner Thomas Chaseling, Irishman James Dunne and ex-soldier Henry Lamb.”

Page 25 – Referring to local aboriginals “firesticks were thrown on Henry Lamb’s house at Portland Head, Elizabeth barely snatching their sleeping baby from the blaze.”

Page 85 – “…downstream was Henry Lamb. Aboriginal resistance to this settler intrusion was apt to take the form of burning houses. After Lamb and then Yoular were burnt out in 1805, the Lambs were sheltering with the Chaselings when the culprit was identified: the ingrate Aboriginal girl adopted by the Lambs, they said was caught about to apply a firestick to the Chaseling’s home.”

Page 155 – “Retrenched in 1803, Henry’s industrious reputation gained him 70 acres on the right bank of the river at Portland Head. Some time during his soldiering he had brought home a small Aboriginal girl ‘abandoned to famine in the woods and clinging to the breast of her departed mother’. Foster-mother Elizabeth had failed to warn her of the unwisdom of lighting fires, if indeed it was this ‘little miscreant’ adopted daughter who in 1805 burnt down their own and other people’s houses (p25). She was dealt with according to her deserts tersely reported the Gazette. The Lamb’s frontier farm was vulnerably located, its owner as a former redcoat susceptible to Aboriginal retaliation. The farm was also susceptible to flood. Henry at length conceded defeat and took jobs as overseer……. In 1809 he had been granted 80 acres at Kurrajong, and before long the Portland Head land was sold.”

Upon a State Unknown, by Faye Attewell, 1988

Page 161 – “John Turnbull had moved out of the old house into this smaller cottage. Sons Ralph and George had bought it from the Lambs ten years ago, after the Lamb family had been terrorised by the black natives. The natives descended on them over a ridge of rocks and the top storey had been razed by fire. The upper storey was never restored, but the ground floor with its solid walls, eighteen inches thick, still stands to-day.

Though not as high up as the old place it was still above flood level and had a kitchen garden right at the back door where John could potter to his heart’s content. Besides he was just across the river from the old place where he had spent the last thirty years.”

Hawkesbury River History, edited by Jocelyn Powell and Lorraine Banks, 1990

Page 90 – “The routine of the Trimmer (ship) may be gleaned from some of the references to it in the press. The Sydney Gazette noted that the ship located a new rock off Mud Island in the Hawkesbury on 3 June 1804.”

The Pragmatic Pioneers by Dennis Bruce Gosper, 1991.

Page 155/6. Ralph Turnbull and Grace Cavanough
“Ralph, who was ten years of age when he arrived in Australia, married Grace, the eldest daughter of First Fleeters Owen Cavanough and Margaret Darnell, in 1813. In the 1828 census Ralph was listed as farming seventy acres at Portland Head, all cleared with forty acres cultivated, and two horses and one hundred head of cattle. Although he and Grace appear to have prospered, his subsequent life certainly had its up and downs. He was left to look after his five children after his wife Grace died in February 1828, and his second marriage to Mary Ann Riley in 1829 had its problems. An advertisement in The Sydney Morning Herald in September 1831 cautions the public against Giving credit to my wife Mary Ann Turnbull and states that She having left my house on the 15 instant, without any cause whatsoever, and which she has repeatedly done. He finally settled on a hundred acre grant on the Colo River near the junction of Wheeny Creek which he named Andale. This land had been promised him in 1821 but the deeds were not finally issued until 1836. Ralph died in 1840 and is buried at Sackville Reach. His widow remarried, this time to James Ferris, and eventually settled on the Clarence River.”

In the Footsteps of John Turnbull, by Marie Turnbull, 2000

Page 54 – An hand drawn map headed “Ebenezer – Sackville” shows the approximate location of ‘Kelso’, which is said to be on Henry Lamb’s 70 acre grant.

Page 88 – “Russell told me his home was named ‘Kelso’. I thought about this for a couple of days and eventually realised there might be a problem with this, so I rang Russell again. Russell descends from George Turnbull and Louisa Chaseling via their fifth son John Warr. I realised the timing of the naming of the house was critical. Was it named ‘Kelso’, before or after the Turnbulls owned the property.

The house was originally built as a double-storeyed home in about 1803 by Henry Lamb. The Lambs were continually bothered by Aborigines. Then in 1805 the natives set the house alight because of some grievance they had with the Lambs over a young aboriginal girl who worked for them. The roof was destroyed in the fire and the top story then demolished. The home hadn’t been lived in permanently between 1805 and 1824. The Turnbulls acquired the property in 1824 when it was sold by order of the Provost Marshall for an old-time Sydney Merchant named Thomas Clarkson. I wondered if this fellow was the renowned Thomas Clarkson, the close friend of William Wilberforce. William Wilberforce was the leader of the movement to abolish slavery. George and Rafe (Ralph) Turnbull, sons of the pioneer John Turnbull bought it on the 8th April 1824. Russell assured me the home was named by his grandfather, John Warr Turnbull. When Russell’s great-grandfather George Turnbull died in 1885, the farm was left to his 5th son, John Warr born 1840, who lived there till his death in 1928. It was then left to his son Charles born 1888, who in turn left it to the present owner, his son Russell. It was extremely unlikely the home was named by anyone but the Turnbulls.”

Page 134 – Russell Turnbull tells of the rowboat being tied to the verandah at the height of the record flood in 1867. This indicates that ‘Kelso’ was built either on a high part of Mud Island or just outside the boundary, also see photograph on page 135.

Turnbulls on the Coromandel 1802, by Dorothy and Roy Turnbull, 2002

Page 45 – “In 1822 Ralph, with brother George, bought 70 acres of land in Mud Island Road, originally granted to Henry Lamb.”

Pahe 48 – Copy of a letter by Ralph Turnbull on 1 January 1834 about his Colo River grant, gives his address as Portland Head.

Page 49 – In an advertisement in the Sydney Herald on 18 September 1831, Ralph signed as Ralph Turnbull, Portland Head.

Page 53 – “To his (Ralph Turnbull’s will dated 3 November 1840) dear wife Mary Ann he gave his farm of 70 acres at Crescent Reach to live there during the minority of the 6 children now living.”

Page 54 – “Mary Ann married James Ferris (9 December 1844 at Parramatta). Together with James Ferris, Mary Ann Ferris released to George Turnbull 70 acres known as Lamb’s Farm on Crescent Reach of the Hawkesbury River. A descendant of George still lives there.”

Page 91 – “70 acres originally granted to Henry Lamb was put up for sale by order of the Provost Marshall on April 8, 1824 through an official order obtained by Thomas Clarkson, a Sydney merchant. It was bought by George and his brother Ralph. Another 32 acres was added by grant to George at a later date.”

Note on page 93 a letter dated 2 January 1830 by George Turnbull to the Governor requested a further grant of land but did not mention the 70 acres.

Page 96 – “By the time Martha Elizabeth arrived in 1842 the family (ie George Turnbull’s) were still living on what was known as “Evansdale”.”

Thomas Clarkson – if only, by Christine Woodhead, Marlene Willcocks and Margaret Aitken, 1988

Page 32 there is an entry from the Old Registers – Land Titles, showing the sale from Henry Lamb to Thomas Clarkson 1812.

Page 113 under “Various Clarkson Properties 1806 – 24 there is a notation at the bottom stating “Lamb’s Farm was sold to Ralph Turnbull.

The information from the book Thomas Clarkson – if only, was provided by Naomi Pettiford and added on 1 May 2010.

Other Information

Marriage Certificate of Ralph Turnbull and Mary Ann Reilly (sic) on 24 November 1829, Ralph is described as “of the Parish of Portland Head”.

Baptism Certificate of Sarah Turnbull states her parents Ralph and Mary Ann Turnbull’s abode as Sackville Reach – baptised on 4 February 1834.

Baptism Certificate of Maria Turnbull states her parents Ralph and Mary Ann Turnbull’s abode as Sackville Reach – born on 25 April 1836.

The 1840 will of Ralph Turnbull allowed Mary Ann to live on the 70 acres until their youngest child turned 21 years of age. As their youngest Martha died in 1841, their next youngest Andrew Warr turned 21 years of age on 27 March 1860. I consider the wording of Ralph’s will in regards to the above was not affected by the marriage of Mary Ann to James Ferris in 1844. By the will the 70 acres became the property of Andrew Warr Turnbull on his 21st birthday.

Burial Certificate of Ralph Turnbull, of Portland Head, died 17 November 1840

The baptism certificate of James Ferris states that his parents James and Mary Ann Ferris were living at Portland Head on 26 April 1846 Their second son George Wallis Ferris was born on 9 March 1850 at Sackville Reach.

An Old Systems Deed, Book 98 No 931 of 20 June 1866, between Mary Ann Ferris, James Ferris, farmer of Portland Head, and George Turnbull, farmer of Portland Head, reveals that Andrew Turnbull sold the 70 acres to George Turnbull on 9 May 1863. The Deed recognised that in consideration of the payment of 100 pounds by George Turnbull to James Ferris (with the agreement of Mary Ann Ferris) that George released Mary Ann’s right to a dower. The deed describes the land as “All that piece or parcel of land containing seventy acres more or less situated in the district of Mulgrave Place otherwise Windsor in the County of Cumberland in the Colony of New South Wales and bounded on the North West side by the rocks and lagoon on the South East by James Dunn’s farm and was granted by the Crown by Deed Poll dated the Twenty-Seventh day of April, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Three unto Henry Lamb his heirs and assigns forever.”


It is likely that Ralph and Mary Ann (and family) lived on Lamb’s grant from when they were married in 1829 until Ralph died in 1840. Ralph gave his address as Portland Head in 1828, 1829, 1831, 1834, 1836 (Sackville Reach) and 1840 and not once at Colo River. Ralph may have lived on Mud Island as early as 1824 as the block was purchased in 1824, see In the Footsepts of John Turnbull and Turnbulls on the Coromandel 1802 above. After Ralph’s death Mary Ann continued to live there, married James Ferris in 1844, and both probably lived on Mud Island until around 1869 when at least James and his son George moved to Grafton. As yet the date and place of Mary Ann’s death has not been established, see internet error. George Turnbull and family also lived there or on his adjacent 32 acre grant sometime after 1842.

A significant question – is the house occupied by Mary Ann and family in 1841 part of the home called ‘Kelso’ and occupied by Russell Turnbull? The recent picture of Mud Island on page 93 of In the Footsteps of John Turnbull was taken from ‘Kelso’ which indicates the home is sited significantly higher than the Island. Therefore ‘Kelso’ could be located on one of George Turnbull’s grants on the eastern boundary of Mud Island.

Finally, is the area of Mud Island in Sackville or Portland Head and is that stretch of the Hawkesbury called Crescent Reach or Portland Reach?

Prepared by Grahame Thom (descendant of Ralph and Mary Ann Turnbull) with the assistance of cousins Margaret Miller of Lane Cove, NSW (descendant of Ralph and Mary Ann Turnbull) and Stephen Donald of Gisborne, NZ (descendant of James and Mary Ann Ferris).

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Ralph Turnbull’s 1840 will

1866 Deed

Mary Ann Ferris’ 1866 Deed