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Hewitt, Thomas (1805–1876)

We have to record the demise of another of the earliest pioneers of these northern districts, Mr Thomas Hewitt, sen., who departed this life on Wednesday, last, at the advanced age of 71 years, the cause of death being serious effusion of the brain. He complained of illness on Monday, when his medical attendant was sent for, who used such means as science prescribed, but without avail.

Mr Hewitt was an old colonist of 48 years standing having come to this colony under engagement to the A. A. Company at Port Stephens, for whom he assisted in the formation and occupation of their valuable stations on Liverpool Plains, under the direction of the late celebrated Arctic navigator Sir Edward Parry—about 33 of which he passed here, and was one of the earliest settlers upon New England, having taken possession of large tracts of country—now known as Stonehenge and Yarrowford—as grazing stations for the late Archibald Boyd, Esq., about the year 1838, he being thus 50 miles out from the nearest station, at a time when no practicable communication existed with the sea coast except from the Hunter, the Clarence unknown, and the Aboriginals hostile. His experience gained whilst with the Australian Agricultural Company qualified him as a first-rate bushman, and he had no small share in opening and settling the Tenterfield and New England districts, having discovered the line of road down the Sandy Hill, and thus by joining Messrs. Ogilvies' overland track, enabled loading to be taken to and from Grafton and the tableland of New England.

About 1842, when on a visit to Grafton, he was so struck with the fertility of the soil and the future prospects of the Clarence River, that he determined to settle there, and with that view purchased the store, wharf, and run of Mr Bentley, near the race-course, Grafton, and for many years carried on an extensive business as innkeeper, wharfinger, and general storekeeper, retiring from that business in 1854 upon a competency honourably acquired.

After visiting the neighbouring colonies for the restoration of his health, which had become somewhat impaired, he bought the Newton Boyd Station, and after a residence of some few years there retired to Grafton, and opened the extensive butchering business now conducted by his son.

Although of an undemonstrative disposition, he has taken an active interest in the public institutions of Grafton—he was one of the originators of the first school on the Clarence, and has been a member of the Local School Board for many years. The churches, Hospital, School of Arts, and similar institutions have always had his support, without regard to sects or parties.

Mr Hewitt was one of the original shareholders in the first Clarence River Steam Company—who had the Clarence steamer built. Upon the sale of that ship he became a shareholder in the present Clarence and Richmond Rivers Steam Navigation Company, but sold out upon retiring from business, and afterwards joined the Clarence and New England Steam Company in 1864, upon its initiation, and has been a director of the company from that time to his death having attended a board meeting apparently in good health only a few days before his demise. He imported the first steam sawmill to the Clarence River, but, like many other pioneers in new industries, did not achieve the success his enterprise deserved.

Few men have enjoyed the respect and esteem of their fellow—citizens more than our deceased friend. He has left an example worthy of imitation in his genial, kindly disposition, and unostentatious benevolence.

One more has thus passed away out of the very few survivors of that small band who, amid toils, privations, and dangers, explored and opened up these districts for settlement by their present numerous population—services performed then at the risk of life and property, but now little remembered or thought of by those who have benefited by their labours. A few years more and all will be gone and probably forgotten.

He was a Scotsman, born in Coldstream, and married the only daughter of the late Mr William Cowan, of South Grafton (whose decease we recorded eighteen months ago). He leaves one son, Mr Alderman T. G. Hewitt, late Mayor of Grafton, and other relations in the district.

The funeral of deceased took place on Thursday morning last, and was largely attended by some 140 of the influential and leading citizens of Grafton and neighbourhood, both in vehicles and on horseback. The simple services of the grave were conducted by the Rev. J. M. Innes, who paid a passing tribute to the worth of the departed.

Original publication

Citation details

'Hewitt, Thomas (1805–1876)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hewitt-thomas-14210/text25223, accessed 28 July 2017.

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