Craig Richard

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Extracted from one of our Publications:

"Grafton and the Early Days on the Clarence"


Richard Craig arrived free with his mother and family on the “Prince Regent” in 1821 and settled in Windsor. The father was transported on the same ship having been sentenced in Ireland.

He was apprenticed to a stonemason on September 15th, 1828 aged 16.

Some time later he was convicted on purely circumstantial evidence of stealing five head of cattle belonging to Richard Jones, Esq.

He was sentenced to death - that being the penalty in those days for stealing anything over a certain value. His father, William Craig, was convicted at the same time for receiving them - the father was sent to Norfolk Island for 14 years.

The government considered Richard’s youth and commuted the sentence of death to 7 years hard labour in chains at Moreton Bay, and was taken there in the ship “City of Edinburgh” on January 10,1829.

Craig escaped from Moreton Bay, as prisoners were doing since 1825. He reached Port Macquarie in 1831 after negotiating the rivers in between. While there he was fortunate to recover some straying stock and received commendation. He was assigned to private service there instead of being returned to complete his sentence. We next hear of him in Sydney where he engaged a man to act as intermediary between himself and the Government, this was to say that for his pardon and One Hundred pounds he would take a party up to the “Big River”€¯ (the Clarence) where there were big stands of cedar. This he did and bought the party up to Shoal Bay (the entrance) on the revenue cutter “Prince George”€¯

Craig was a superb bushman and brought some stock overland on a route from Ebor to “The Settlement”€¯ (now South Grafton) known as Craig’s Line. At Guy Fawkes they met two men, Edward and Frederick Ogilvie, who were exploring for the rich pastures watered by the “Big River”. They asked if they could join the party and Craig refused.

They pushed on and eventually came to the upper reaches of the Clarence and established Yulgilbar which reached for fifty miles along the river.

In 1840 he bought 8,000 sheep down for J. R. Grose’s run at Copmanhurst. These were rafted across the river a few miles above Grafton. This was a wonderful achievement in those days.

On May 26th 1848 the Deputy Surveyor General, Samuel Perry, wrote to the Colonial Secretary saying he favoured laying out allotments on the north side of the river. This was approved and resulted in the survey of blocks on both sides of the river - the new Town of Grafton thus came into being. Some settlers who were already in residence are mentioned on the plan.

The first sale of Town blocks in Grafton and South Grafton took place on January 22, 1851 at the Police Station. At this sale Richard Craig purchased a block at South Grafton in Wharf Street.

Richard Craig married Ann Baker and had eight children, three sons born on the Clarence. William was born in 1843. In the baptismal entry, Craig is described as superintendent at Eatonsville, a position of trust and responsibility almost equal to that of station manager. Son, John, born May 1846 and Richard, August 1847 who died in Brisbane in 1928. He later became a storekeeper and butcher in South Grafton.

Richard Craig died in July 1855 and was buried in the Old Vere Street Cemetery (now South Grafton Public School). No stone was erected to mark the spot. During his residence and lifetime in South Grafton he was known as an upright honest and respectable man. The Clarence Valley owes him a great debt. His descendants still live in the Clarence district. Richard Craig’s wife later married Richard Lott, an Englishman who had been formerly married to Bridget Sullivan, sister of the Sullivan murdered by blacks on Coutts Station in 1847.


© Clarence River Historical Society Inc. PO Box 396, Grafton, NSW 2460

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