Part Two of a 2-part series
CURRENTLY on show at Harper's Mansion in Berrima is 'The Harpers and their Neighbours' an exhibition forming part of the National Trust Heritage Festival.
It is based on the 1841 Census (NSW) and stems from an ongoing project by Harper's volunteer Chris Thompson.
The 36 heads of household on the 1841 census for Berrima Township are listed on the Harper's webpage: harpersmansion.com.au
By clicking on any of the names, information may be accessed about the individual, the household and role in the community.
Here follows a selection of extracts that reveal something of the lives of these early residents. One local couple was Bryan McMahon and his wife Winifred.
Bryan had a colourful life, joining the army at the age of 14 from his home in Limerick, Ireland, and serving in the Napoleonic wars as well as the American Wars.
In 1815 he was found guilty of desertion and transported from Canada to NSW. But he served his time, married twice, and eventually settled and built Berrima's first inn. He and Winifred had four children.
The oldest stayed in Berrima and at the advanced age of 35 was summoned for furiously riding around Berrima - presumably on a horse - in 1869.
One of the more successful of Berrima's convicts was John Jenkins.
He arrived in the colony in 1821 having been found guilty of "feloniously and burglariously" stealing four beds, seventeen blankets, six counterpanes, eight pillows, four bolsters, one pair of snuffers and a pin cushion, all valued at 43 pounds two shillings and sixpence.
He was fortunate in being assigned to John Atkinson of Oldbury, Sutton Forest, as John helped him to petition for his wife and family to join him and then to get John's assignment transferred to his wife Charlotte.
Arriving as a free person, she was granted 60 acres of land in Sutton Forest and by 1828 they had five acres under cultivation and owned 30 head of cattle.
In 1832 John extended his family holdings south into the Murrumbidgee area sending his sons, aged only 12 and 15, to run a station there.
Why did he have to send his sons?
John only had his ticket-of-leave at this time and was therefore forbidden to leave the Berrima district.
In 1834 John was employed to build one of the first houses in Berrima, the stone building at the western end of the Market Place now known as Berrima House. John and Charlotte were finally able to purchase this property in 1842 and their descendants lived there for many years.
Another highly successful ex-convict was Joseph Levy, owner of the Victoria Inn. Levy became a leading figure in the community with businesses in Berrima and Sydney.
It was he who established the brewery in Berrima in 1838. Each year on the Queen's Birthday he hosted a party for local Aborigines, the Sydney Morning Herald in 1847 recording the colourful event which featured the emu dance and fireworks.
There were successful free settlers, too. James Jerome Higgins and his wife Mary had bought land in various parts of the Colony, operated a store in Sutton Forest and finally settled in Berrima, building the lovely stone cottage we now know as the Magistrate's House in 1834.
John was a merchant and auctioneer and, for many years, the village postmaster.
His standing in the township is confirmed by him being one of three persons holding land in trust for the building of the Anglican Church: his fellow trustees being the local landed worthies Henry Molesworth Oxley and William Cordeaux. In 1841 John and Mary had five children but were ultimately to have seven more.
Among the bureaucracy were many well-travelled ex-military men. George Meares Countess Bowen, Chief Magistrate, lent his name to two streets south of the river.
Francis Walsh Small, the Clerk of Petty Sessions, was originally an Irish merchant who, after being shipwrecked, enlisted in the American army before returning to Ireland and enlisting in the British army.
He was one of only three men in the village over 60 years old; Henry Forster, gaoler, had left the local militia only a year before and was another man who would work well beyond his 60th birthday.
Outside the bureaucracy, merchants and inn-keepers predominated. But there were also wheelwrights, blacksmiths and bakers, though it is difficult to ascribe these trades to specific people.
If your interest has been stimulated by this brief historic glimpse, then why not visit the exhibition at Harper's Mansion or view the 'Berrima 1841' project on its website.
This article compiled by Phillip Morton is sourced from the archives of the Berrima District Historical & Family Society.
Phone 4872 2169, Bowral Road, Mittagong. firstname.lastname@example.org, berrimadistricthistoricalsociety.org.au