Pioneers, convicts, politicians, and Aboriginal tribes are all to be found in the pages of local historian John R. Lean's latest two books about the early settlement of the region.
TheSettlers of Guy Fawkes and The Settlers of the Western Dorrigo Plateau will be launched at the Ebor Hotel, Waterfall Way, Ebor, on Saturday, March 21, at 11.30am for lunch (at your own expense).
Written for the Dorrigo Museum, they cost $25 each, and are the eighth and ninth volumes in a series Mr Lean began a decade ago.
Nick Wright, descendant of the early settlers, will launch the books.
The history books look at the parishes and the colourful characters of the mid-19th century. The settlement west of Guy Fawkes, Mr Lean said, occurred with the so-called big men.
Men like Maurice O'Connell, son of the NSW governor and grandson of William Bligh - "a gentleman with a lot of contacts with the colonial government," Mr Post said.
O'Connell leased 50,000 acres somewhere below Armidale, and another 50,000 at Guy Fawkes River, which he couldn't really use, Mr Lean explained. Four of his friends divided his property into lots.
Then there was William Sinclair, a major selector and settler, "one of the first white men to penetrate the solitudes of the dense Dorrigo scrub" (Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate, 23 May 1930).
Others had brushes with the law, such as the escaped convict Richard Craig. Sentenced to death for stealing cattle, he escaped from Moreton Bay Jail, worked his way to the Clarence, met up with an Aboriginal tribe, and was pardoned after he showed the early settlers their trail, called Craig's Trail today.
Another ex-convict, Michael Clogger (or Clogher), joined the police force, and spent time at Commissioners Waters before moving to Guy Fawkes. "He was one man that could frighten a tribe of Aboriginals, they thought he was so cruel," Mr Lean said.
The books draw on Conditional Purchase Registers (the records of settlement) and the newspapers of the time (the Armidale Express, Guy Fawkes Gazette, and Grafton Daily Examiner).
"I'm very careful not to refer to families or let family histories interfere with me because I found that it's very easy for families to rewrite history," Mr Lean said. "So I really don't take much notice unless it's verified."
Mr Lean wrote his first family history on Thora, where his great-grandfather was the first selector, in the 1980s. When he retired to Bellingen from Sydney a decade later, he wrote the first book in his New England series: The Settlers of the Never Never, published by the local historical society.
Works on the Settlers of the North Arm, the Upper South Arm and Spicketts Creek, South Bellingen and the Lower South Arm, North Bank, Raleigh and Repton followed, covering the whole of the Bellingen Valley block by block for the first 100 years.
Mr Lean's next project will look at Dorrigo and the surrounding parishes of Fenton, Bligh, and Leigh.