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John Cross

My 4th great grandfather

John Cross was born in 1757 in East Knoyle, Wiltshire, England. At the age of 28 he was convicted at the New Sarum Assizes held at Salisbury, Wiltshire on 5th March 1785 with stealing one wether sheep to the value of 20 shillings, the goods of William Hacker. He was sentenced to be hanged but was reprieved, then being sentenced to transportation for 7 years. At the time he left England on the 'Alexander', as part of the first fleet, he may well have had a wife in England. It would appear that he could read and write, as records exist showing his signature.

John was still living close to his point of landing when his first child Elizabeth was born on April 1st 1794, to his partner Mary Davison a second fleet convict who may have been his assignee. Shortly after this they moved to a locality known as 'The Ponds' at Rydalmere where John is shown on August 27, 1798 as being in debt to Thomas Cottrell for 37.15.00 for rent, grain and a promissory note. John and Mary had 6 children when in 1804 Governor Philip Gidley King granted John 100 acres on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Sussex Reach. This he called "Cross Farm".

At this time there would have only been 100 or so other men and women of similar background, with little or no experience of farming or trades perched at the outpost of this fledgling colony. Life would have been difficult for John and Mary and their five sons, (Elizabeth died in infancy), who would have lived in a one roomed slab and bark hut, with earthen floor, an outside fireplace, few utensils and tools and the barest necessities. Nevertheless, they succeeded in providing much needed grain, mostly corn, and vegetables for the very hungry population.

The Hawkesbury Valley was very fertile due to its regular flooding. This caused heartache and ruin to many of the pioneer settlers, who time and again saw their almost ripe crops being swept away. As a result John was one of thirty-six landholders on the banks of the Hawkesbury whose effects were put up for public auction by the Provost Marshall on January 28, 1805. He would have been struggling to get back on his feet after this setback, when on March 23, 1806 the Hawkesbury broke its banks recording the highest flood to that date. John picked up again after this flood and in the General Muster of 1806 he is shown as no longer being victualled and had in his employ a free man. He had under cultivation 12 acres of wheat, 6 acres of maize, 1 acre barley, acre of potatoes and 1 acre of orchard. He had 8 hogs.

john cross memorial
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Mary is still on this muster as 'Mary Davison' living with John Cross and their 4 children. Two more children were born after this date being Ann and Sarah. John and Mary had a total of 9 children, the last born being Sarah in 1812. The children to survived to adulthood were: William, Davis, Alexander, Mary-Ann, Ann and Sarah.

By the beginning of 1812 John, now 55 was experiencing financial difficulties. He was forced to sell by public auction some of his pigs and a quantity of wheat. By the end of the year John was again forced to sell a quantity of growing wheat to cover some of his debts.

Four more years of lean times were to follow, until on February 9,1816 John sold 30 acres of the eastern part of his land to Andrew Doyle for 100. This amount appears to have been sufficient to put John on his feet again together with the help of his sons William 14 and David 12 years old. Alexander, aged eight would have been assigned to farmyard chores.

At the age of 59 and after 24 years in the colony as a free man John and another 116 ex-convicts were required to produce written confirmation of their freedom or risk being recalled to government work as convicts. Many of the members of this group were Hawkesbury settlers who had time after time lost a good deal more than their certificates of freedom in the floods.This matter must have been resolved as John died a free man at the age of 67 in 1824.

Submitted by : Jean Macleay, Member WFHG, 17 February 2012

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