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This Day in History - 1791 - Convict Given First Land Grant in NSW - Australia

World  (tags: on this day, history, australia, nsw, convict, land, grant, cornwall )

- 3705 days ago -
Convict James Ruse is given the first land grant in the colony of New South Wales. James Ruse was born on a farm in Cornwall around 1759. At age 22, he was convicted of burglary and, due to severe over-crowding in British gaols, spent over four years on


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Chrissy N (118)
Sunday March 29, 2009, 11:12 pm
James Ruse the convict ...

James Ruse (1759-1837), convict and pioneer farmer in the agriculture of Australia, was born on a farm in Cornwall. In 1782 he was tried at Bodmin Assizes and sentenced to death for "burglariously breaking and entering the dwelling house of Thomas Olive and stealing thereout 2 silver watches, value 5 pounds." He was reprieved and sentenced to transportation for seven years. He was sent on the Scarborough, one of the First Fleet and arrived in New South Wales in January 1788.

Like the other First Fleet convicts, Ruse would have worked at first under the direction of Governor Arthur Phillip and his subordinates in establishing the rudiments of a new colony at Sydney Cove. But as the supplies the First Fleet had brought with them dwindled, it became vital that the colony learn to grow its own food. In November 1788 Phillip selected Ruse to go to Parramatta, then called Rose Hill, west of Sydney Town and try his hand at farming.

James Ruse the pioneering farmer ...

Phillip allocated Ruse one and a half acres (6,000 m²) of already cleared ground and assisted in clearing a further five acres (20,000 m²). He was to be given two sows and six hens and was to be fed and clothed from the public store for 15 months. In return, if he was successful, he was to be granted 30 acres (120,000 m²).

After 15 months Ruse announced that he and his wife Elizabeth (he married her in 1790) were now self-sufficient in food and their farm formed the nucleus of a small community of farmers who, while technically still convicts, enjoyed considerable freedom and later had other convicts assigned to work for them. After Ruse's sentence expired in 1792, the title of his land was deeded to him, the first land grant in the colony.

In 1794 Ruse moved further out, to the Hawkesbury River area, and became a fairly successful farmer. He and Elizabeth raised three children. Later, however, he was wiped out by flooding (always the risk of farming in the Hawkesbury) and had to find work as a seaman. He was heavily in debt and only the hard work of his wife saved him from bankruptcy. From 1828 he was employed as an overseer by a landowner at Minto, south of Sydney. He died at Campbelltown in September 1837.

In memory of James Ruse

Ruse's gravestone, which he carved himself, reads:

“Sacred to the memory of James Ruse who departed this life sep 5 in the year of Houre Lord 1837."
"Natef of Cornwell and arrived in this coleney by the Forst Fleet, aged 77.
My mother reread me tenderley
With me she took much paines
And when I arrived in this coelney I sowd the forst grains
And now with my heavenly father I hope for ever to remain.”

A replica of his tombstone stands in the front garden of Barrengarry House, the administration block at James Ruse Agricultural High School.

The memory of James Ruse is perpetuated in the naming of key locations in Sydney:

* James Ruse Agricultural High School, in Carlingford;

* James Ruse Drive, running from Silverwater to Northmead, near Parramatta; and

* Ruse, a suburb in southwest Sydney.
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