The story of Australia — XIII
George William Evans
Discovers the Lachlan and Macquarie
In the annals of Australian exploration the name of George William Evans occupies an honourable position. He was born at Warwick (England), and, after receiving a fair education, was apprenticed to a surveyor. When quite a young man he sailed to the Cape of Good Hope, where he had obtained a position in the Government dockyard. In 1802 he left the Cape in H.M.S. Buffalo to go to Sydney, having been appointed deputy-surveyor to the colony.
Governor Macquarie chose him to confirm the exploration carried out by Blaxland, Lawson, and Wentworth, and to follow up their discoveries. On November 20, 1813, Evans, accompanied by five men, one of whom had made the journey with Blaxland, crossed the Nepean at a place called Emu Ford, and, following the track of the earlier explorers, arrived on November 26 at their furthest point. He now took a southerly direction, passing through hilly country, which was afterwards called Clarence Hills Range. On November 30 he crossed the Dividing Range between the eastern and western streams. From one of the high ridges he had a commanding view of the great interior. In his diary he says: “I came to a very high mount, when I was much pleased with my view westward. I think I can see 40 miles, which has the look of open country.”
In the valley the party found a stream abounding with fish, and Evans called it the Fish River. Following its course they passed through rich agricultural and grazing country until it was joined by another stream, which Evans named the Campbell. The broad river formed by the two tributaries he called the Macquarie in honour of the Governor. For twenty miles he followed the main stream through grassy plains, known afterwards as Blaxland Plains, and then decided to return, as his men were travelling under great difficulties. During the journey Evans only came in actual contact with six natives, but there were signs that many others were in the neighbourhood. The party returned to Sydney on February 8, 1814, having penetrated nearly 100 miles due west of the Nepean.
The outcome of the expedition was the construction of a road over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst Plains. Governor Macquarie appointed William Cox as superintendent of the road-making, and by utilising convict labour a distance of 101 miles was completed in six months. The road, which practically follows the same route as that taken by the Blaxland party, was opened in May, 1815, by the Governor, who accompanied by his wife, rode the whole distance on horseback. The Governor fixed on the site of Bathurst, so named in honour of Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Opened up new land
On May 13, Evans, who had formed one of the party from Sydney, again set out from Bathurst to continue his work of exploration. He at first took a southern course, but afterwards travelled west. He found Limestone Creek and explored it. On May 25 he discovered a large river, which he called the Lachlan, after the Christian name of the Governor. The Macquarie and the Lachlan, flowing into the interior and diverging at every mile, constituted a problem difficult to solve, as we shall see.
The two explorations conducted by Evans were of great value to the colony. Irrespective of the rivers, he had opened up a large area of land for settlement at a time when the colony was most in need of extension. He should also be remembered as being the first man to discover an Australian river flowing into the interior.
The Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld.), 9 September 1934, p. 31
[Editor: Corrected: “furtherest” to “furthest” (a not altogether rare error; James Bradstreet Greenough and George Lyman Kittredge, in Words and Their Ways in English Speech (Macmillan, New York, 1901, pages 17-18 footnote) made reference to “the incorrect furtherer and furtherest which are simply examples of the same tendency that have not had the fortune to gain admittance to good linguistic society”).]