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James Blackman (c. 1792–1868)

by Bernard Greaves

This article was published:

James Blackman (1792?-1868), farmer and explorer, was born in Kent, England, the second son of James Blackman (1762?-1842) and his wife Elizabeth, née Harley (1765?-1842), who had been married at St Margaret's, London, in 1785. James Blackman senior was one of a group of free settlers 'strongly recommended and … described to be of various handicraft and Agricultural Occupations' sponsored by the Colonial Office in June 1801. Blackman with his wife and four sons, Samuel, James, John and William, arrived at Sydney in the Canada in December. Two sons and four daughters were born in Australia. In 1802 he was granted 100 acres (40 ha) at Mulgrave Place and from 1813 held various small government appointments, including chief constable at Bathurst from 1825. He died on 6 May 1842 at Mudgee when living with his son William.

James Blackman junior was one of ten farmers settled by Governor Lachlan Macquarie at Bathurst in March 1818, the others being his brother John, William Lee, George Cheshire, Thomas Kite, Richard Mills, John Abbott, John Nevill, Thomas Swanbrooke and John Godden. Each was allowed fifty acres (20 ha) on the river flats and a town allotment of two acres (.8 ha). In September 1819 James Blackman became superintendent of convicts at Bathurst at a salary of £50 and held that office until 1821.

In 1820 he marked out a road from Bathurst to Wallerawang and in 1821 with three companions explored a route from Bathurst to the Cudgegong River. He crossed the Turon River, went north-east to the Crudene and reached the Cudgegong about fifty miles (80 km) from Bathurst. He then went through Aaron's Pass, named after his Aboriginal servant, followed the Cudgegong for about twenty-six miles (42 km) and came to the Burrundulla Swamps, but did not reach the Aboriginal camp at Mudgee. William Lawson followed Blackman's route later in the year and is considered by some the discoverer of Mudgee. In 1822 Blackman and Lawson traced out a route from Wallerawang to Dabee, near Rylstone.

Blackman also played a leading part in opening up the Orange district and the Wellington valley. John Oxley had passed through this country on his way to the Lachlan in 1817. Probably Blackman was with Oxley on his journey in 1818 to Port Macquarie where his map shows 'Blackman's Point'. In 1823 Lieutenant Percy Simpson was appointed to establish and command a convict station at Wellington, and with James Blackman he drove to the new area; the place named Orange in 1846 had hitherto been called Blackman's Swamp.

By 1828 James Blackman held 1148 acres (465 ha) at Bathurst of which 83 (33 ha) were cleared and 56 (23 ha) cultivated; he also had 170 cattle and 850 sheep. In 1840 he received 640 acres (259 ha) at Cooyal near Mudgee and lived there for twenty years. He died at Mudgee on 22 March 1868. He had married in July 1815 Mary, daughter of John William John, farmer, of Richmond who had arrived in the Albemarle in 1791 and Mary, née Jenkins, who had arrived in 1792; they had five sons, the eldest being named James, and three daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 3
  • B. Greaves (ed), The Story of Bathurst (Syd, 1961)
  • E. J. MacKenzie, Pages from the History of Lithgow (Lithgow, 1962)
  • H. Selkirk and W. G. Maconochie, 'The Discovery of Mudgee', Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 6, 1920, pp 282-88, vol 7, part 2, 1921, pp 92-100, and vol 8, part 6, 1922, pp 339-40
  • H. Selkirk, 'Early Details of the Discovery of the Locality of Orange, and the Establishment of the Village', Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 10, part 4, 1925, pp 227-30.

Citation details

Bernard Greaves, 'Blackman, James (c. 1792–1868)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 13 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


c. 1792
Kent, England


22 March, 1868 (aged ~ 76)
Mudgee, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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