Coxens of Yarrandi

Yarrandi (‘Yarrundi’) Scone

Featured Image: Hunter Valley and Islands at the mouth of the Hunter River, NSW c. 1840

Acknowledge: G. Albrecht, based on the map ‘Journeys on horseback, Hunter/Goulburn Valley, NSW,, December 1842 – March 1943 in Aurousseau 1968, p. 610 and map ‘Probable Arrangements of the Hunter River Delta, circa 1800’ in ‘Inquiry into Pollution. Kooragang Island’ E. J. Coffey (Commissioner), 1973, p. 20)

Naturae Number 2, ‘The Goulds in the Hunter Region of NSW, 1839 – 1840’ by Glenn and Jillian Albrecht, August 1992. ISSN 1038-5371. ISBN 0 7326 0411 7

The Coxen Brothers would have traversed this country to establish themselves at ‘Yarrundi’, near Scone. They were later visited by their sister Elizabeth Gould and husband John Gould. The Coxen Brothers had already collected ornithological samples from the area to whet the appetites of their close family.

Yarrandi (‘Yarrundi’) has had a remarkable history of occupation by immigrant (white) colonists. The selection was first taken up by the Coxen Brothers. It is recorded they were among those philanthropists who assisted with the construction of Scone’s first hospital at Redbank in 1834. In 1839 John and Elizabeth Gould (nee Coxen) visited Yarrandi. Elizabeth was well pleased to see her brothers again. It was to be for the last time.

Politician Sir John Robertson succeeded at Yarrandi when the Coxen brothers decamped to Queensland. Later Beersheba legend Jack Davies took possession and established the home ground for the Scone Polo Club. HRH Prince Charles played there in 1966.

Coxen Brothers in Australia

Stephen Coxen and his family arrived in 1827 – probably the first Coxens in Australia. His younger brother, Charles arrived in 1834 and their nephew Henry arrived in 1838. Stephen had a tragic life and committed suicide. Charles and Henry prospered in Australia.

The Coxens established themselves as pastoralists (sheep or cattle farmers) and were among the wealthy colonists who employed convicts which had been sent from England.

Stephen Coxen

Stephen Coxen arrived on the Lucy Ann with his wife Sarah and family in 1827. The Lucy Ann had departed London 19th January 1827 and Cork 1st February 1827.

Stephen Coxen was promised six hundred and twenty acres by Sir Ralph Darling (Governor of New South Wales, 1825-1831) on 17 August 1827 and this was converted to a primary grant on 18 October 1831. Another 640 acres was granted on 23 February 1838 and then 2,560 acres acquired – in total 3,820 acres owned by Stephen Coxen.

Coxen employed twenty-six convicts from England on his farm between 1828-1837 and they were described as ‘servants’. These convicts (twenty-five men and one woman) arrived on various ships over the period.

The property he developed was called Yarrundi (now known as Yarrandi) on the Dart Brook which is 7km west of Scone. At one time it was the largest sheep farm in New South Wales.

In December 1834, Stephen Coxen accompanied his brother Charles (who had just arrived) on a four-month expedition, seeking specimens of birds and mammals in the sparsely settled country between the Hunter and Namoi Rivers. The Coxen brothers sent many specimens to England.

They found the area densely inhabited with hostile Aborigines. As a report in the Sydney Gazette noted, ‘Although Mr Coxen had some tame blacks with him, he could not communicate with these people.’

There is also a story about this trip saying that the Coxen’s removed a young Aboriginal boy, aged 5 years, from his people and adopted him.

In the 1830s, a clever Aboriginal boy named John Bungaree or Bungarrie often won prizes at the Normal Institution, a school at Hyde Park, Sydney. He excelled in handwriting, geography, arithmetic and drawing maps from memory. John Bungaree later joined the Native Mounted Police and served on frontiers included in the colony of Queensland after 1859. 

John Bungaree later revealed that he belonged to the Kamilaroi or Gamilaraay language group. He had been taken from the Namoi River area as a child and adopted by Stephen Coxen. He was placed in the Normal Institution by Mr. Coxon [Coxen] who removed him from his people at a very early age’, said the Australasian Chronicle.

Stephen Coxen’s wife Sarah died in January 1835.  In 1844, Stephen Coxen was bankrupted by drought and a severe flood. He committed suicide by swallowing poison at the Saracen’s Head hotel in Sydney on 5 September 1844. He had lost his estate, belongings and livelihood.

[Stephen Coxen: born 1798, died September 1844 aged 46 years]

Charles Coxen

Charles Coxen arrived in New South Wales in the Eleanor on 1 February 1834 and joined his elder brother Stephen, who had become established at Yarrundi, New South Wales.

Charles Coxen had developed a strong taste for natural science, and in 1834-35 he travelled for four months, often on foot, seeking specimens of birds and mammals in the sparsely settled country.

The first Catalogue of the Specimens of Natural History in the Australian Museum acknowledges that most of the institution’s basic examples of Australian fauna were donated by Charles Coxen.

After some months at Yarrundi, originally 1,280 acres but later much enlarged, Coxen went north to manage a property on the Peel River, and a few years later he joined his nephew, Henry W. Coxen (see below) at Jondaryan on the Darling Downs.

In 1850-60 he was associated with a very large number of farming properties in southern Queensland, but became known chiefly for his work in founding the Queensland Museum in 1855; of that institution he was the first honorary curator and secretary and later served as a trustee.

He was also a founder of the Queensland Philosophical Society (1859), becoming vice-president and long continuing as a driving force. Meanwhile he wrote numbers of papers on anthropology and ornithology.

In 1855-60 Coxen was a member of a standing jury appointed to try all civil cases in Brisbane. In 1860 he became the representative of Northern Downs in the first parliament of Queensland and in 1863 he was elected chairman of committees.

In 1867 after losing his seat in parliament he spent some time at the new goldfield of Gympie. Next year he was appointed land commissioner for Moreton Bay; in 1870 he also became land agent for Brisbane and inspecting commissioner for the settled districts in 1872, holding these three positions until 1875.

In 1874 he was appointed to a commission to inquire into the condition of Aboriginals in Queensland.

Charles Coxen had no children. His brother Stephen, who passed from prosperity to poverty through a depression, committed suicide in a Sydney hotel on 5 September 1844, aged 46; as neither of his two sons had children the family in Australia consists solely of descendants of the nephew, Henry Coxen.

[Charles Coxen (1809-1876), naturalist and politician, was born on 20 April 1809 at Ramsgate, Kent, England, son of Nicholas Coxen and his wife Elizabeth. He died at Bulimba, Brisbane, on 17 May 1876. The stone erected by public subscription on his grave at Tingalpa, near Brisbane, and now in the care of the Queensland government, bears witness to him as ‘a good Christian and a sincere friend’.]

Henry Coxen

Henry William Coxen (1823-1915), farmer, was born on 3 March 1823 at Croydon, Surrey, England, the eldest son of Henry Cunningham Coxen, a captain in the 14th Regiment, and his wife Eliza. He was educated at Eton.

A gunshot accident in schooldays rendered his right hand virtually useless, and the injury was probably a factor in causing him to be sent to Australia in the care of his uncle and aunt, John and Elizabeth Gould, in 1838.

After additional slight schooling in Tasmania (it was recorded that he was ‘miserable at the mere mention of it’) he was transferred to Yarrundi in the Hunter River valley, the property of his uncle Stephen Coxen.

Following a quarrel with Stephen, he went north to a property managed by his uncle, Charles Coxen, and had acquired a fair knowledge of farming by 1842 when he undertook an arduous trek farther north again and established himself as one of the youngest of the early settlers on the Darling Downs.

Coxen later became one of the best-known and most prosperous of Queensland farmers. He first formed Jondaryan station and afterwards became owner or part-owner of at least seventeen other large grazing leases.

His career was varied from time to time by clashes with Aboriginals, by depressions, by a six-month journey overlanding 3,000 sheep from southern New South Wales to the Darling Downs and by an adventure in mining on the Turon goldfield.

In addition he twice visited England, first in 1845 working for three years with a mercantile firm, and second in 1867 travelling extensively and speculating financially; he later confessed to having lost heavily on foreign securities and sugar-growing ventures in South Africa.

Coxen returned to Queensland in 1880 and spent his last years in retirement at Oxley, near Brisbane, his chief interests then being detached attention to the growth of the farming industry and the practice of Freemasonry. He died at Oxley on 21 August 1915, survived by his wife Margaret whom he had married in 1866 and by two sons and two daughters. One son was Major-General Walter Adams Coxen known as ‘the boss gunner’.

[Acknowledgements and thanks: reproduced from the Australian Dictionary of Biography; ‘Free Settler or Felon’ website, Dictionary of Sydney, Wikipedia,]