The SANDS OF TIME Collection – 24. Beyond The Black Stump

24. Beyond The Black Stump
George William Evans, John Oxley & Thomas Livingstone Mitchell — 1045 x 745 mm
© Robert Morgan


George William Evans was born in Warwick, England on 5 January 1780.  Evan’s explorations in New South Wales opened up for settlement the fertile areas west of the Blue Mountains.  He arrived in New South Wales in 1802, and settled in Parramatta and later on the Hawkesbury.  He was appointed to act as New South Wales Surveyor-General in 1803, and in 1809 was appointed Assistant Surveyor at Port Dalrymple in Van Diemen’s Land.  He did not take up the appointment until 1812 but he was recalled in 1813 to undertake explorations beyond the Blue Mountains, following on from Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth’s discoveries.  In 1815 he was again recalled to guide an expedition to the Bathurst Plains, which resulted in opening up the plains for settlement.  In 1817 and 1818 he assisted John Oxley in leading two further successful expeditions to the western plains.  From 1818 he resumed his duties in Van Diemen’s Land.  He retired in 1825, ostensibly because of ill-health, but more probably because of problems with Governor Arthur, newly appointed in 1824.

After living England from 1826 to 1832, he returned to Sydney, opened a stationer’s shop and taught at The King’s School.  He returned to Hobart in 1844, where he remained until his death on 16 October 1852.


Born in circa 1785, near Westow, Yorkshire, England, John Oxley joined the Royal Navy in 1799 and by 1801 had joined the crew of the Buffalo and was sailing to Australia.  In Australia Oxley was involved in coastal survey work.  He helped to survey Westernport in 1804-05 and commanded a voyage to Van Diemen’s Land in 1806.

He returned to England briefly in 1807, sailed to Sydney as a commissioned Lieutenant in 1808 and in 1811 was appointed Surveyor-General of New South Wales.  He took up the position in 1812.

As the colony’s surveyor Oxley began to dived the country into parishes and counties and to survey the settled lands in the Hunter Valley, Illawarra and the newly opened lands to the west of the Blue Mountains.

Part of Oxley’s duties involved exploration of new areas.  In 1817 he explored both the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers.  In 1818 a second expedition discovered the Castlereagh River, the Peel River, the Hastings River, the Liverpool Plains and the southern section of the New England Ranges.  It was as a result of this expedition that Oxley postulated the notion of an ‘inland sea’ which was to tantalise future explorers.

In 1819 Oxley explored the New South Wales coast south to Jervis Bay and in 1820 he sailed north along the coast to Port Curtis in Queensland.  During the next eight years Oxley participated in the life of Sydney.  He became a substantial landowner, a successful sheep breeder, a prominent businessman, a magistrate and member of the colony’s first Legislative Council.  He died on his property at Kirkham on 26 May 1828.


Born in Craigend, Scotland on 15 June 1792, Thomas Mitchell joined the British Army as a Second Lieutenant in 1811 and saw service under Wellington.  He quickly gained a reputation as a surveyor and draftsman and after seven years at Sandhurst Military College, during which time he rose to the rank of Major, he was appointed as Assistant Surveyor-General of New South Wales.

Mitchell arrived in Australia in 1827 and the following year, upon the death of John Oxley, was promoted to Surveyor-General.  Mitchell’s achievements in the colony are twofold.  He undertook a major road building and town planning programme which included a new road across the Blue Mountains, a major road south to Goulburn and an upgrading of the roads to Liverpool and Parramatta.  He also undertook a series of major explorations.  In 1831 he explored across to the Naomi and Barwon Rivers; in 1835 and 1836 he unsuccessfully attempted to explore the Darling and Murray Rivers; and in 1845-46 he attempted to discover a route from Sydney to Port Essington.  During these explorations Mitchell was driven by his belief that a large north flowing river existed in far western New South Wales.

Mitchell was a compulsive worker.  During his lifetime he wrote a large number of books.  While onleave in England in 1837-38 he was knighted by Queen Victoria, awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Oxford, and saw his most important book Three Explorations into the Interior of Eastern Australia published.  Thomas Mitchell died in Sydney on 5 October 1855.

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