Over-Halling the Colony
George Hall - Pioneer

Over-Halling the Colony, George Hall - Pioneer

The Cusley Connection
By Emma Parkes

The First Fleet marine, Benjamin Cusley, is an ancestor of numerous Hall descendants because of the marriages of five of his ten granddaughters and one of his great-granddaughters to three Australian-born sons and three grandsons of George and Mary Smith Hall.  Five of these six unions, produced a total of forty-nine children: thirty-two Halls and seventeen Flemings.



Cusley Family Tree

Benjamin Cusley, the army records tell us, had dark brown hair, hazel eyes and a sallow complexion.  A native of Kettering, in the Midlands of England, he was a qualified Cordwainer (maker of quality boots and shoes from Spanish leather imported from Cordova).  Strangely the year of his birth varies each time his age was recorded; the army records show it as being about 1759.


He joined the Plymouth Division of Marines as a private on April 9, 1781, and probably served as a marine shoemaker in the American War of Independence.  He came to New South Wales aboard the transport “Friendship” as a member of the Plymouth Division sent out with the First Fleet in 1788 to guard and keep law and order.


Following the eight months voyage and the setting up of the settlement in Sydney Cove, Private Cusley was a member of Captain Meredith’s Company of Artificers.  He worked splitting shingles from 17 May to 30 September, 1788.  When the Marines returned to England, Benjamin transferred to the newly formed New South Wales Corps on 7 April, 1792, for a period of five years.  His private’s pay was 9.2.6 a year, with uniform and rations.

Benjamin Cursley (sic) son of John and Ann, was baptised 7 February, 1762 at Kettering. 


John Cusley  had married Ann Parker in Kettering on 5 May 1761. 


Ann wife of John Cursley (sic) died 6 August, 1762 at  Kettering.


John Cursley, Shoemaker, married Mary Hill in Kettering on 19 October 1763.


Information researched for descendant Maureen Williams of  Umina, by Dagger and Dagger from the Kettering Bishop’s Transcripts.



The reason for Benjamin’s desire to remain in the Colony is revealed in the St. Phillip,s baptismal records.  A daughter Ann, was born to Benjamin Cusley and Phoebe Pendarick, (sic) in September 1792. Phoebe herself was born in 1754 to Thomas and Mary Francis at Mylor, Cornwall.  She married John Penlarick, who was a mariner in HMS “Raisonable”, at Stoke Damerell Church, Plymouth, 7 April, 1776, and it was witnessed by Thomas Francis.


She was sentenced to 7 years at Exeter in August, 1790 and embarked in the female convict-transport, “Mary Ann” in 1791.  The voyage was completed in a record 143 days.

Phoebe Penlarick, Sentence
Copyright National Archives ASSI 23/8

With the permission of Captain William Paterson, Benjamin was married to Phoebe on 31 March, 1795, by the Rev. Samuel Marsden at St. John’s Church, Parramatta.  The witnesses were Joseph Cocking and Jane Hugins.

Three months later, in June, 1795, a detachment of two subalterns and sixty privates was sent to the recently settled Hawkesbury area to stop the aborigines harassing and stealing from the farms now scattered along either side of the river for a distance of thirty miles.  The number of people living there had rapidly increased to four hundred, and the government was afraid, that without protection, they would abandon the most fertile and productive land yet put under cultivation in the colony.  The soldiers fired upon an Aboriginal raiding party and took an old man and four women prisoners. It was hoped this would show them:

“That is was not in their interest to harm the settlers and it was

          Better to be friends than enemies and that the government

          Would not stand the settlers’ being in-humanly butchered and

          Their labour rendered useless by the natives’ depredation with


It is not known if Benjamin was a member of this detachment, but on 25 August, that year, he, with three other members of the N.S.W. Corps, James Bannister, Joseph Cocking and Robert Hall received a joint grant of 150 acres in Mulgrave Place, named Fulham Park, although this grant was later cancelled.


Maria, the only other child of Benjamin and Phoebe, was baptised at St. Phillip’s Church, Sydney, two days before Benjamin’s five year service ended on 7 April 1797.


In Order to maintain his wife and daughters Benjamin probably tried his hand at farming the 200 acres granted him in October, 1799, by Governor Hunter, near the future town of Wilberforce.  This farm was bounded on the north by a swamp which is today called Bushell’s Lagoon and the grant, surveyed and signed by John Shortland and Mathew Flinders, was known as Cusley Farm: the rent was 6d a year for every 50 acres.

Heavy rain ion the catchment area in 1799 made the Hawkesbury River rise suddenly to 50 feet.  Cusley Farm was probably flooded, which may account for Benjamin’s re-enlisting in Captain Johnston’s Company for an unlimited period on 14 April, 1800.  The army pay lists reveal that Benjamin Cusley was one of about ten privates, under Corporal George Loder, stationed at Windsor in 1805 and 1806 as duty guards.


In September, 1808, Benjamin was recorded as aged forty-nine, but fifty on 25 March, 1810, when he transferred to the N.S.W. Veteran’s Company attached to the 73rd Regiment in which he served most of the time at Windsor until it was disbanded in 1823.

The Hawkesbury River, Windsor, NSW
2007 Chalmers Cursley

Cusley and McGinnis Families


Benjamin and Phoebe’s daughter Anne, was married to an Irishman , George McGinnis at St. John’s, Parramatta in 1807.  Sentenced to life transportation at the age of fifteen in the summer of 1796 at Trim, County Meath, he arrived from Cork in December 1796 in the ‘hell-ship’ “Britannia”


Because they were subjected to incredible brutalities and deprivations on in seventeen of the convicts, who embarked on that voyage, died.  The figure, it was said, would have been higher still, but for the remarkable endurance of the Irish prisoners.  The crime for which George McGinnis was subjected to this ordeal is unknown but the voyage must have influenced his outlook and attitudes which he would in turn have passed on to his family.  His daughters were women who were able to face pioneering in new and distant areas of the colony, and they encouraged their families also to be resourceful, proud and strong.


George McGinnis is listed with a future family connection, James Connolly, in the 1800 Muster, amongst the convicts assigned to Adjutant McKellar at the Hawkesbury.  Six years later it is recorded George had a ticket of leave and was renting twenty one acres of land from Paul Bushell at what is now Wilberforce.  He had nineteen acres sown with wheat and two of maize, ten hogs and seven cows with which to start married life the following year.

George had sent three bushels of wheat to the government stores a month before the unexpected and disastrous flood of May, 1809.  It reached a height of 48 feet and caused great losses.  Anne McGinnis was issued with two blankets in June, 1809, with relief rations for herself and year old daughter, Agnes.  The flood in May caused great distress and was followed by high winds and further flooding in July-August.  As Margaret Catchpole described it in a letter, “it was a dreadful time”.  The McGinnis family’s conditions seemed to have improved with the arrival of Governor Macquarie, George was granted a conditional pardon in 1810 and he was allotted three and a third acres in the newly gazetted town of Wilberforce which Macquarie had founded to provide safe living areas for flood-prone landholders.  George and Ann with two daughters, moved on to the block, bounded on three sides by George, Castlereagh and King Streets.  Here Ann gave birth to six more girls to make a total family of eight daughters.  Then in 1821 George was granted thirty acres at Kurrajong.  Benjamin Cusley, by 1821, had purchased more land and sold half of his original two hundred acre Cusley Farm to Paul Bushell, and it continued to be so named.  Then he sold eighty acres to Mathew lock, thirty acres to John Lions and forty acres to William Singleton, in 1803, which was sold in 1811 to Joshua Rose who rented another thirty acres from Benjamin.


George McGinnis bought twenty five acres from Paul Bushell on 27 October, 1814.  It was Robinson’s riverfront block where Wilberforce and York Reaches meet and its North West corner peg could almost be Cusley Farm’s south east corner peg on the map.

Wilberforce, NSW
Copyright Multimap

Benjamin and Phoebe Cusley. St Mathews, Windsor
2007 Chalmers Cursley

Phoebe Cusley died in 1815 and was buried in the Windsor Cemetery.  A few weeks later on Boxing Day, her daughter Maria was married to David Dunstan, the eldest son of David Dunstone and Mary Mullender, who respectively, were transported in 1791 and 1790.


Young David Dunston and his wife Maria, lived at the opposite end of George Street, Wilberforce, from where George and Ann McGinnis lived.  Here they raised a family of five sons and two daughters.


The McGinnis and Dunstan children were, no doubt, taught by William Gow at Wilberforce old schoolhouse.  William Gow had arrived on the “Morley” in1817, sentenced for life and had married David Dunstan’s sister, Maria, in 1821.  William was granted a two acre town block in the middle of George Street.  He taught school from1820 till 1842.  In 1826 he received a salary of forty two pounds, ten shillings and eight pence, and Maria was paid ten pounds as his assistant teacher.

George and Anne McGinnis. St Mathews, Windsor
2007 Chalmers Cursley

Ann McGinnis, aged 30, died three days after the birth of her eighth daughter, Sarah in 1822, and was buried at Windsor next to her mother Phoebe Cusley.  The eldest daughter, Agnes, who was fourteen years of age when her mother died, apparently undertook the responsibility of raising her younger sisters.


George McGinnis bought thirty acres on the Macdonald River on 22 October, 1824, which in 1828, was being worked for him by one, Anthony Morrison.  He also bought, in 1826, twenty acres of Wm. Singleton’s original Hawkesbury grant on Argyle reach, and fifty acres of land at Kurrajong.

Benjamin Cusley remarried in 1824.  His new wife, Mary Baker aged 63, was a twice widowed fellow transportee with Benjamin’s first wife, Phoebe.  They came by the “Mary Anne”.  Benjamin’s decision to marry again two years after his daughter’s death, was perhaps, partially decided by the need for a woman’s guidance in helping to raise eight motherless granddaughters.  The bride’s late husband William Baker, had been a sergeant in the Veterans’ Company who, like Cusley himself, on its disbandment in 1823, had received a hundred acre grant. 


Baker had given George McGinnis power of attorney to handle her affairs.  This power of attorney document is held today by a descendant of George’s daughter, Margaret. It was produced in court in 1843 when ownership of Baker’s grant was disputed.  Mary had left it to three of the McGinnis girls. Margaret (Fleming), Maria (Cobcroft), and Ann (Hall), but it had been occupied unlawfully by Thomas Johnston and James Martin until they lost the case.  Benjamin’s 100 acre grant of 1823 at Karrajong was sold in 1878 by two of his granddaughters, Margaret Fleming and Ann Hall, widow, to Thomas Gosper for 90.


George McGinnis lived to see two of his daughters married but died aged 48 in 1829 and was buried with Ann.  The early grants he had received were the town block in Wilberforce and thirty acres at Karrajong.  In a memortal dated 29th October, 1825, he stated he had felled the timber of twenty acres and had twelve acres in cultivation.  He had built a substantial dwelling on this grant.  He requested that his government servant John Frazer receive government stores, an indulgence sometimes granted by Governor Macquarie but unlikely to have been granted by Governor Brisbane.  George died intestate and all his daughters inherited his six blocks.




Marriages of George McGinnis’ Daughters


1.  Mary McGinnis and David Brown Jr. May, 1828.

Mary was the second eldest of the McGinnis daughters and David was the second son of David and Eleanor Brown of Wilberforce.  David and Mary McGinnis in their nine years of marriage had four children.  They had two sons, George and David, both of whom, at the time of their marriages were working on the Halls stations St. Heliirra, Musselbrook.  In 1871 George owned the Belmore Hotel, Scone. In 1863 David was an overseer at Hall’s Weebellabolla Station, and then he became a drover working from Mussellbrook.  He cared for his widowed mother from 1867 until his death in 1890.


David Brown senior had been a soldier in the 74th Highland Foot Regiment, raised in Argyllshire in 1777 for combat in America during the war of independence and embarked in 1778 for Halifax.  While proceeding towards New York he saw action twice at Penebacot, Maine, remaining there until returning to Scotland in 1783, when the regiment was partly disbanded.


David Brown, apparently, was unemployed in Glasgow, and was convicted for theft in 1788 and sentenced to be transported for life with seven years service.  He arrived in the “Pitt” in 1792 and was shortly made a constable.  In 1798 he received a Hawkesbury land grant where he survived an Aboriginal spear that struck him in the throat.  He was pardoned absolutely in 1799 for his diligence as a constable, and in the following year he was made an assistant grain assessor to Andrew Thompson.


In 1800 David married Eleanor Fleming.  They had a shared experience of life in America which would have been a bond between David and the Flemings.


David Brown senior had one hundred and fifty five acres granted to him and he purchased fourteen other river front blocks including Owen Cavanaugh’s and John Howe’s original hundred acre grants.  He owned thirty five rods of land in George Street, Windsor, later purchased by Thomas and John Tebbutil, and another four acres near Wilberforce.


In 1820, he had a substantial stone house when he applied for further land to pasture his five hundred head o cattle and as a result was granted two hundred acres at the Wellende Creek – Hunter River junction on 31 March, 1821.  He died intestate in January 1826.  Widows having no legal rights at that time his eldest son, Joseph, inherited the estate.  This Joseph was among the first squatters of the Liverpool Plains and the explorer Mitchell stayed with him, near where Taddworth now stands, during his trip north in 1831.


2.  Agnes McGinnis and James Connolly, July 1828

James Connolly was born in the Colony in 1802.  His namesake father had arrived in the “Marquis of Cornwallis”, in 1796, sentenced to 7 years.  At the time of his marriage, James Jnr had 100 acres with forty two acres cleared and cultivated, two horses and twenty head of cattle.  James and Agnes had eleven children.  In 1834 he described himself as a publican of Freeman’s Reach.  In 1838 he took over the licence of the “Steam Packet” at Wilberforce from Joseph Fleming on whose run, Mangie Bundie on the Gwydir River he had cattle in charge of an aborigine named John.  When James died in 1863, he was a mail contractor in Windsor.  Agnes died nine years later at Wilberforce and is buried at Windsor.


The Connolly family kept a close connection with their Hall uncles and aunts by marriage.  In fact many of the Connolly’s worked for the Halls on their northern properties and eventually they settled in those areas.

3.  Phoebe McGinnis and Joseph Fleming, April, 1831

The first of George and Mary Hall’s descendants to marry a descendant of Benjamin Cusley was their grandson Joseph Fleming who at the age of twenty, married Phoebe McGinnis aged nineteen at Wilberforce.  The ceremony was performed by Rev. John McGartie and was witnessed by Paul Bushell husband of Joseph’s cousin Isabella Brown and by Joseph’s uncle William Hall.


4.  Ann McGinnis and Thomas Simpson Hall, July 1833

Four years after Phoebe, Thomas Simpson Hall was married to nineteen year old Ann McGinnis at Wilberforce.  The ceremony was witnessed by his brother George Smith Hall and his nephew John Henry Fleming.


5.  Maria McGinnis and George Cobcroft, December 1835

Maria was seventeen, George Cobcroft twenty five.  George was the son of John Cobcroft who had been transported for life in the “Scarborough” in 1790 and his wife Sarah who also arrived in 1790 in the “Neptune”.


6.  Catherine McGinnis and Ebenezer Hall, August 1837

Catherine was seventeen, Ebenezer was twenty three.  He was living in the Hunter area at the time, and they married at Maitland which would then have been the closest Presbyterian Church.


7.  Margaret McGinnis and George Fleming, September, 1839

The fourth Hall descendant to marry a McGinnis was George Hall’s grandson, George Fleming.  Both were aged twenty six when he married Margaret at Central Macdonald where they spent the rest of their lives.


8.  Sarah McGinnis and William Brown, August, 1841

William Brown was the illegitimate son of Isabella Brown and Richard Rowe.  After Isabella, the eldest child of David Brown senior, married Paul Bushell, William Brown was brought up with their family.


Two months after the marriage of Sarah and William, Sarah’s cousin Charlotte, daughter of Maria and David Dunstan, married John Henry Fleming, George Hall’s grandson.  They lived on what is today named Fleming’s hill near Wilberforce.  There was no issue from this marriage.


Ten years later in 1851, Mary (McGinnis) daughter Ann Brown George Hall’s sixth son, Mathew Henry Hall and legalised what even for Hawkesbury inter-marriages must have been a unique set of relationships.  Ann became at once a sister-in-law of Elizabeth (Hall) Fleming a position she shared with her own grandmother Eleanor (Fleming) Brown, so perhaps it was fortunate that Elizabeth was deceased.  Two of her mother’s sisters Ann and Catherine became not only her aunts but her sisters-in-law as well, because they were married to her husband’s brothers.  Thomas Simpson and Ebenezer Hall.  Another two of her mother’s sisters became not only her aunts but her nieces by marriage because their husbands Joseph and George Fleming were her husband’s nephews.


Benjamin Cusley saw eleven of his descendants married before he died in 1845.  He was eighty six according to army records but his tombstone states that he was ninety eight.  He was buried with his wife Phoebe, at St Mathews Church, Windsor, where their headstone and that of George and Ann McGinnis have both been restored by two of their descendants, Lesley Duncan Ross and Ron Hargrave.  The surnames of Benjamin Cusley, that doughty First Fleeter, and of George McGinnis, hardy survivor of the “Britannia” voyage have not survived because their children were all girls.  The Fleming name continues on only through the line of Sergeant Joseph’s grandson George, who married Margaret McGinnis.  Their descendants provide a sturdy branch of the family tree.


Extract from “Over-Halling the Colony” George Hall - Pioneer

Edited by Russell Mackenzie Warner ISBN 0-908219-07-5

Published by the Australian Documents Library 1990


With thanks to Geoffrey Kiely for allowing me to scan parts of his copy of Over-Halling the Colony.









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2006 Chalmers Cursley

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