Macarthur, Elizabeth and John

John and Elizabeth Macarthur (1766-1850)

John Macarthur (c. 1767 -1834)

The son of a Scottish draper, John Macarthur was instrumental in pioneering the Australian Wool industry.

At 15, John won a commission in the British army, a regiment formed to serve in the American War of Independence but the war ended and he was put on half pay. Later, being posted to Gibraltar he made approaches to the War Office and secured a lieutenant position in the N.S.W. Corp in 1785. In 1793 the Governor awarded him 100 acres of land near Parramatta, some of the "best ground that has been discovered'. After clearing and cultivating 50 acres he was awarded another 100, the following year as a reward.

Macarthur is noted to have had a short temper and after the favourable acquiescence of Governor Grose and successor William Paterson tensions grew between the new Governor Hunter and those who came after. He was particularly instrumental in the Bligh Rebellion.

In 1805 Macarthur claimed the prime grazing land of Cowpastures which had water supplied by the Nepean River. He named it Camden park in honour of Lord Camden who earlier, had given permission for his resignation from the army and who gave his continued patronage thereafter.

Macarthur participated in the Agricultural Society, the Bank of Australia and the Australian and Sydney colleges where disagreements soon followed. His last appointment was to the reformed Legislative Council in 1829 where he remained until 1832. Governor Richard Bourke had him removed on grounds he had been 'pronounced a lunatic', there being 'little hope of his restoration'.

Macarthur died on 11 April 1834. He was buried at Camden Park.

Elizabeth Macarthur (nee Veale 1766 - 1850 was born on the 14 of August in Devon, England. She married Captain John Macarthur in 1788 and just over a year later sailed from England with their baby son, Edward.

On her arrival she found life in the colony difficult. Food was scarce and so rationed. Even so Elizabeth remained cheerful and busied herself with various studies including botany, astronomy and piano.

John Macarthur was granted 40 hectares at Parramatta in 1793 naming it Elizabeth farm. Elizabeth remarked that the house they built there was ‘a very excellent brick building’.

Together John and Elizabeth had seven more children Elizabeth (1792-1842), James (1793-1794), John (1794-1831), Mary (b. 1795) James (1798-1867), William (1800-1882) and Emmeline (b.1808).

Her husband was twice absent from the colony between 1801-1805 and 1809-1817. During this time Elizabeth showed great fortitude and resilience as she controlled the farming operations and making many improvements. She made sure that stumps were cleared to make ploughing easier; sold hay and won the respect of the farmhands the majority of which were convicts.

In 1850 Her Grand daughter wrote of her “Through all the difficulties and trials that beset her path, her Christian spirit shines forth, and in all her letters to her children, with whom she corresponded regularly until her death, there is found no complaining or ill-natured word.
Elizabeth Macarthur died her son-in law’s house at Clovelly on the 9th of February 1850. She was buried at Camden Park.


Australia’s First Lady by Lenn Bickel, 1991
The Australian Encyclopedia p1963
Australian Dictionary of Biography

John Macarthur
Elizabeth Macarthur