By Patricia Deering (Descendant of Mathew Everingham, William Roberts, Elizabeth Rhymes and Kezie Brown).
During the early days of settlement in NSW self-sufficiency was the mark of success. But it was not achieved without commitment – a good sold partner/wife/husband. I have been ‘gob smacked’ by the challenges that my first and second fleet ancestors faced – particularly the women. They fulfilled multiple roles – as agricultural worker, homemaker, partner, mother, neighbour, midwife and business woman.
Mathew Everingham (First Fleet) married Elizabeth Rhymes (Second Fleet) and William Roberts (First Fleet) married Kezia Brown (Second Fleet). I have been very lucky to have them as part of my inheritance. Very early in their partnerships they could maintain themselves and their family – independent of the public store. There were times of economic depression and hard times oat a personal level, so we have every reason to be proud of their achievements.
The homes that William Roberts, Kezia Brown, Mathew Everingham and Elizabeth Rhymes built provided immediate shelter – they were vital, for to be without shelter was an experience associated with poverty. Constructing and improving a shelter was associated with motivation, prudence and self-reliance. It seems to me that a sense of belonging created by both families was deep.
Mathew and Elizabeth married in 1791. Their first farm was located at The Ponds (near Parramatta), on the land of the Darug Peoples, as part of the first wave of expansion that occurred before the end of 1792. In the first six months on their grant at The Ponds, everything seemed to be very difficult – their crop failed their first born child died and Elizabeth’s health was not good.
Watkins Tench visited their farm and remarked that they were not finding the going easy.
The Attorney’s Clerk appeared to find the cultivation of his own land not half so easy a task as he formerly found that of stringing together volumes of tautology to encumber or convey that of his neighbours.
Soon after the Tench visit Mathew and Elizabeth moved to the Hawkesbury and were to prove Tench was wrong. Far from being ‘out of his provincer’ Everingham succeeded as a settler. Mathew wrote of his wife. She is really good one she is and also, I married a young woman with whom I had contracted an intimacy as soon as she came into the country and really consider it one of the most fortunate circumstances that ever befell me. She has proven to me a most excellent woman.
William and Kezia formed a partnership soon after Kezia’s arrival in 1790, and resided as a couple, on land assumed by Naked Possession. 1788 William Roberts was employed in caring for the stock of Lieutenant George Johnston at Long Cove, Port Jackson. This area was home to the Gadigal Peoples of the Eora nation for more than 60,000 years prior to white settlement. It was to their land that Kezia Brown came soon after landing at Sydney Cove and it was her she was to remain until a move to the Hawkesbury region toward the end of the 1790s.
During the period 1790-1792, Kezia fulfilled the role of partner, home-maker and mother. The element that Kezia brought to the partnership with William was her significant agricultural expertise. She was the daughter of yeoman farmers and, at the time of her arrest, was employed by James Wheeler a nurseryman of some fame. The valuable agricultural skills Kezia possessed are likely to have impacted on her status in both the home and the colony. It can be assumed that, during years 1790-1792, Kezia took charge of growing the family’s fruit and vegetables, possibly having enough left over for sale and extra. Homes, therefore, were bases for more than domesticity in this pre-industrial community.
William and Kezia, Mathew and Elizabeth, portray people who achieved through the living of their lives in the most difficult of circumstances. Both families, as husbands/wives and mothers/fathers, farmers, business people show that they stepped outside the stereotype and ensured that it was not applicable and it was old fashioned.
Their work as farmers, bearing larges families, the realities of childbirth, child-rearing and home-making, installs in me a sense of awe. Their efforts have represented the strength, hardness and tenacity of pioneers who simultaneously, through home-making and the creation of family, softened the impact of transportation.
Colonial relationships were driven by the people in them rather than others. It was the people, whose day-to-day actions, needs and desires created the character of the society.
Perrott, A. Tolerable Good Success Economic Opportunities for Women in New South Wales, 1788-1830, 49.
Bridges, P. Foundations of Identity, Building Early Sydney 1788-1822 (Hale & Iremonger, 1995).
Ross, V. The Everingham Letterbook. Letters of a First Fleet Convict, 38, 41.
Tench, W. Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson. First published in 1793 by G Nicol and J Swell.
William Roberts and Kezia Brown Family Assoc, Inc. 1988. A Rich Inheritance.