The story of the Cowpasture convicts
The story of European settlement in the Cowpastures is intimately connected to the story of the convicts and their masters.
This story has not been told and there is little understanding of the role of the convicts in the Cowpastures district before 1840. Who were they? What did they do? Did they stay in the district?
The convicts that ended up the in Cowpastures district were part of the 160,000 who were transported to the Australian colonies from England, Wales, Ireland and the British colonies.
Convicts were usually employed in a number of ways by the colonial authorities: assignment; government work gangs; Tickets of Leave; Conditional Pardon; and an Absolute Pardon with complete freedom to do as they wished including returning to Britain.
Generally speaking most convict women could be classified as domestic servants, while male convicts had a host of skills with town trades dominating over rural workers.
The literacy rates and skills of convicts were the same or better than the English and Irish working classes.
The best short reference of the convicts in the Cowpastures is Ken Williams’ 1824 Cawdor Bench of Magistrates Population, Land and Stock Book (2011), where he lists the names and masters. Williams indicates that in the Cowpasture in 1824 there were 430 convicts and of them 15 were women, who were listed as domestic servants.
Elizabeth Villy indicates that the stock books indicates 29 landholders, who were mostly absentee landlords. ( Elizabeth Villy, The Old Razorback Road, Life on the Great South Road between Camden and Picton 1830-1930, Rosenberg, Dural, 2011)