Clearing the Heavy Forest

Unlike the open plains of Kentish, the whole district of Barrington was covered by a dense forest of eucalyptus trees, beneath which was hidden very rich fertile soil. The first person to realise this was Surveyor James Dooley when, late in 1862, he began dividing this district into saleable bush blocks. While Kentish‘s original track to Emu Bay crossed over White Hawk Creek, it headed north in an almost straight line to link up with the present road to Paloona. As it didn’t come anywhere near Upper Barrington, James Dooley surveyed another road commencing at what is now the Lower Barrington corner to run parallel with the Forth River, southward as far as the Nowhere Else corner. Here he turned his new road east and brought it down the hill to White Hawk Creek crossing. This last section of road follows the boundary line between the Parishes of Barrington and Kentishbury. So let us see who were the early pioneers of Upper Barrington.

White Hawk Creek Area

The first property over this creek in the Parish of Barrington was purchased in 1861 by Hercules Hanton (24) and named Montboddah. He and his sister Alexandrina came from Scotland but neither married. His main claim to fame was that he once wheelbarrowed a bag of flour from Deloraine to White Hawk Creek. Because of his proximity to the creek, he was called Hawkie Hanton. A creative character, he was the first person to write to Mr E Cummings at Don, suggesting he should extend his tramway up through Barrington to the Kentish Plains. In 1886 Hanton brought out his cousin William Irvine from Scotland to take over the farm, which is currently owned by grandson Des Irvine.

Following Hercules Hanton, the first man to clear the dense forest of Upper Barrington was William Smith in 1864. He chose a block about 2km north of the White Hawk Creek, on land later farmed by several generations of the Russell family, not far from their Forest Hill home, recently owned by Mark Lambert. William and Elizabeth Smith, and their six children, arrived from England aboard the 491 ton Sir Walter Raleigh in March 1855. He found work at Whitefoord Hills (Moltema) as a ploughman. William was an expert, having ploughed competitively in England. While working at Whitefoord Hills, William & Elizabeth‘s  two youngest sons were born, and their oldest daughter Mary Smith (18) married William McCoy (42), one of Field‘s seasoned stockmen. The McCoys became early settlers in Kentish, then the pioneering family of Claude Road. While William Smith’s sons grew up in Upper Barrington, most moved down the coast to pioneer places like Yolla.

Other early settlers close to White Hawk Creek were Robert Blackwood and his two sisters at White Hawk Farm and John Young‘s family on a 45 acre property he called Vermont Farm that backed onto the creek. In 1870 it took three days for John and Sarah Young, with six small children, to travel by cart from Deloraine to Upper Barrington. They spent the first night in bush near Dunorlan and the second night in a hut at the bottom of the Don Hill, reaching their selection by nightfall on the third day. Altogether the Youngs had 12 children, whose descendants also pioneered several parts of the NW Coast. The Youngs’ property was sold to Lionel & Margaret Connell, who replaced Gustav Weindorfer at Cradle Mt in June 1932.

In the following year, 1871, James and Euphemia Wyllie came from Westbury with the first 5 of their 10 children to settle on land next to Hercules Hanton. In 1875 and 1876 they lost 3 children to convulsions and their eldest son Patrick (13) was killed by a falling tree. In 1879 Euphemia Wyllie (37) died of pneumonia, leaving James Wyllie with six young children.

Upper Barrington Township Site Settled

By June 1863, Surveyor Dooley had completed surveying most of Upper Barrington, and the Crown began advertising some 40 forest blocks for sale. In 1864, a group of young married men journeyed from the Westbury/Exton area seeking to purchase blocks to clear so they could establish their own farms. With Dooley’s help, several adjacent blocks were selected, which later became the centre of the small Upper Barrington township. At the beginning of 1865 these same men began moving their families on site to commence their arduous task. The first was John (28) & Isabella (27) (Smith) Coleman with two small daughters, along with Isabella‘s unmarried brother Alex G Smith (21). John Coleman chose the large block on west side of present Barrington Road, where nearly 30 years later the Upper Barrington shop was built. When John & Isabella’s next baby was born on 26 Sept 1865, he was named John Barrington Coleman, being the first baby born in this district. Young Alexander G Smith bought land on Coleman‘s northern side that extended from Dog’s Hollow Road to Hendersons Road. It was on this land that the Barrington Wesleyan church was built. After Alex G Smith married his wife Annie Smith, they had ten children, six of whom were born prematurely and died within hours.

Also with the first settlers came John’s brother Charles (23) & Ellen Coleman (20), and two small sons, who settled on the eastern side of Barrington Road, across from Alex G Smith, where later the Barrington School was built. Next to them were Charles (27) & Mary Cooper (24) and son (opposite the shop block), and south of the Coopers Benjamin (50) & Mary Green and family took up 103 acres. With them was young Joseph Acklin (21) who later married their daughter, Sarah Green. These five adjacent properties formed the heartland from which the Upper Barrington township grew.

North of the Township

Charles (42) & Janet (29) Packett, with three surviving children, purchased several blocks of land, upon which today is the location of Glencoe Country Bed & Breakfast. The Packetts had previously lost two infants in separate accidents. Charles Packett and Alex Smith formed a partnership to develop their adjoining farms which were separated only by Hendersons Road. While clearing the bush, an axe slipped, cutting a large gash into Charles Packett’s back. His workmates threw phenyl over it, stitched it together with a strand of binding twine, then sloshed on more phenyl. On 17 May, 1869 a devastating fire destroyed their big barn filled with wheat, barley, and oats; plus ploughs, harrows, a weighing machine, and a dray. Their huge loss valued at £450 sent them bankrupt, forcing them to sell off most of their property. Of the Packett‘s 12 children, five died young. When Charles Packett himself  died aged 57 of TB, his wife Janet was forced to become a bush nurse/mid-wife to survive.

Across the Sheffield Road opposite Glencoe Country B & B, the first settler was an old British Army Officer C B Evans who sold to John & Betsy Tuxworth when they came from Dunorlan with their daughter. John Tuxworth built a substantial dwelling which for many years was the monthly meeting place of the Tarleton Road Trust, later still the site of the Barrington Presbyterian church.

Alex Hutton b1837 & Wm Hutton b1841 came to Tasmania with their parents aboard the Commodore Perry, arriving at Hobart in 1855. Both brothers became early settlers of Barrington, taking up adjoining blocks on the south side of Morey’s Road in the 1870s. Alexander married his wife in Westbury in 1862, but William Hutton remained single until 1880 when, aged 39, he married Christine Robertson (20) of Barrington. Alex and Elizabeth Hutton eventually moved away, but William & Christine built their family home Highfield where they raised their 9 children. James & Ann Robertson lived on a neighbouring property where in 1880 their 18 year old Duncan Robertson was killed by a falling tree.

Around 1870, on the north side of Morey’s Road, Henry & Lavina Cotton purchased 400 acres running for nearly a mile along the road to Devonport. Henry b1821 was the eldest of the 14 children born to the strict Quaker family of Francis & Anna Maria Cotton at Kelvedon, near Swansea on the East coast. When Henry married Lavina Amos in a Presbyterian church, they were disowned by the Quakers. In 1866 the couple lost a 6 monthold daughter who fell headlong into a bucket of boiling water. Eventually Henry Cotton and his three grown-up sons John, Edgar, and Frank settled in Barrington, but in the 1880s most of them moved further down the coast.

South of the Township

A third, unrelated Smith family from Westbury became the first settlers on both sides of Devils Gate Road. They included the widow and grown up family of the late Sergeant Thomas Walworth Smith (1805-1858) of the British Army’s 96th Regiment. He had escorted convicts to VDL in 1840, served on Norfolk Island, and spent three years fighting in the Maori Wars of New Zealand. He was later pensioned off to Oatlands, Tasmania, where he was killed in a cart accident aged 53. His widow and adult family moved to Westbury and then Barrington. The eldest son, William Varnham Smith (28), recently married to Grace (21), built their house Ferngrove on the south side of Devils Gate Road, and raised 12 children. Second son Thomas Walworth Smith Jnr (25) and wife Jessie settled on the northern side of Devils Gate Road. They had a family of six but Thomas died April 1879 of inflammation of the lungs. Harriett Smith (24) became the first Post Mistress, before marrying John Morris of Duck Marsh, then Highfield farm, Sheffield. Annie Smith (20), as mentioned above, married Alex G Smith; the Sergeant’s old widow died in Barrington in 1906, aged 95. Chas Carpenter’s family lived further down Devils Gate Road. From earliest times, Devils Gate was always known locally as Hells Gates because of it’s treacherous, narrow gorge. It has only been since Mersey-Forth Hydro Scheme built their spectacular curved dam that it was changed to Devils Gate because our island had several other locations named Hells Gates.

Across from Devils Gate Road, on the eastern side of the Barrington Road, William and Alison Mason purchased two blocks and built a comfortable home called Hillside. William (22) and Alison Henderson (17) first met aboard the Broomielaw, enroute from Scotland to Tasmania in 1855 and married in Deloraine in 1862. Also on board the Broomielaw was

Margaret McDougall (26), who later married Henry Russell, and both became good friends of the Masons, eventually joining them as early settlers at Upper Barrington. William & Alison Mason owned several properties and had a family of 6 sons and 2 daughters. Three sons died young – Robert (15) of fever, Wm (19) & George (22) of TB. Henry & Margaret Russell both worked at Forest Hall, Elizabeth Town, until 1880 when they purchased a block behind the Masons they named Forest Hill. The Russells had five sons, the two youngest sons dying within a fortnight. The youngest, Sydney (20), drowned while swimming in the Forth River on New Years Day, 1900. The Russells added further properties including Nestleton, farmed by son David.

Nowhere Else Corner

Thomas (31) & Margaret (24) Pullen came from Westbury and built their homestead Vermont on a block they purchased on the western side of Nowhere Else corner (2 miles south of the township). Thomas, youngest son of pioneer preacher Rev Jesse Pullen, became the first schoolteacher at both Sheffield and Barrington. With a 7 year interval (1873-1880) teaching at Sassafras, Thomas returned to the Barrington school, spending a total of 30 years there. Thomas & Margaret Pullen had 13 children, one of whom served in Parliament.

About the same time, James (37) & Elizabeth (Goss) Ivory, with the first three of their 9 children, also arrived from Westbury late in 1866 and established themselves on the eastern side of Nowhere Else corner. They were close friends of Charles & Janet Packett. Nowhere Else got its name around 1884 when James & Elizabeth Ivory’s grown son Charles Ivory went searching for a bush block to start out on his own. With a couple of mates, they bush-bashed their way south towards the Promise Land, which was just opening up. About half way there, someone said to Charles: “Where do you think we are?” He replied, “We are at No Where Else“. The name stuck and it was up this dead-end bush track that young Charles Ivory brought his new wife Mary Ingamells from Westbury to raise their family of six. Their oldest son Christopher distinguished himself fighting in France and returned from WW1 as Lieutenant Ivory. Others from Westbury who settled around the Nowhere Else corner in the 1870s were John Powell (a bachelor) and Thomas Bennett (a widower), who later married Sarah Cocker and helped erect the first Wesleyan church.

William and Charles French came to Upper Barrington in about 1880 and shortly afterwards were contracted to build a new Wesleyan Church following the first one being destroyed by a bushfire. Later, William French erected the first general store in the centre of the township, while his brother Charles French served a term as Warden of Kentish. It took several decades for Upper Barrington to be cleared of heavy forest, but as they did, the rich soil beneath began to yield the most extraordinary crops, which soon had people saying: The Barrington District is the Cream of Devon.

Next time: The Wesleyan‘s Impact upon Upper Barrington