The suburb of Ruse, located in the city of Campbelltown, is named in the honour of 'Australia’s first farmer', James Ruse. Ruse is also known as the Father of Australia's wheat industry.
Arriving in Australia on the First Fleet, James Ruse was lucky to receive one of the first land grants in the colony, in 1789, which was located near Parramatta. James Ruse Drive in Parramatta is now named after the farmer and his land.
By 1828 James Ruse and his wife were living in lower Minto where he worked as an overseer. In less than five years his address had now become known as Macquarie Fields. Ruse, the suburb, however is not as old as this and up until the 1970s was regarded as part of Kentlyn.
The earliest settlers were free selectors, who from the 1890s hacked orchards and farms out of the thick eucalypt bushland. Like Kentlyn and Airds, it was referred to as a part of the original "Kent Farms" community.
Among the earlier pioneers were the Bentley, Dwyer and Sheehy families, but perhaps best known was the clan of Robert and George Worrell. The modern Worrell Park sportsground stands on part of their old property.
The main road through the settlement was no more than a dirt track and until 1923 was still unnamed. Campbelltown Council agreed to a proposal by Leumeah - East Minto Progress Association to call it Junction Road. This was because it met the intersection branching off to Leumeah, Kentlyn and East Minto.
Another early track was Old Kent Road (after the English county which gave the area its name), although in 1928 the local paper simply referred to it as "Kent Farms Road".
Acacia Avenue and Wattle Road were also original tracks, highlighting the native trees.
Until the 1960s, the settlement was still dominated by bushland farms, and it wasn't until 1968 that state planners decided to convert the area into housing estates.
This is when the Mayor of Campbelltown officially named the suburb Ruse. The Mayor of the time argued that the name Ruse was ‘significant and deserving‘ despite many arguments from the community who had also suggested "Fisher" paying tribute to the murder victim who gave rise to Campbelltown's famous ghost story, and "Marlow" honouring Percy Marlow, Campbelltown mayor thirteen times between 1926 and 1953 as other possibilities.
Along with a new identity came change with old residents moving out as land developers moved in.
New streets created near Old Kent Road were named for mountain peaks. Some of these include Kembla Crescent, Keira Place, Stromlo Place, Barrington Street, Kanangra Crescent, Weddin Place, Solitary Place, and McPherson Place.
Imitating nature, it was from these "mountains" that Ruse's river streets flowed. In all, 27 waterways were recognised, the main ones being Burragorang Road, Capertee Street, Bellinger Road, Nymboida Crescent and Cudgegong Road.
In February of 1972, the rapid growth of Ruse was marvelled at by the C-I News. "The rural countryside, once an area of vegetable growing, poultry farms and orchards, is undergoing complete transformation with the development of new homes, roads, and footpaths," it reported.
This "transformation" continued with few delays, until the end of the decade.
And nowhere in Ruse was the 'colonial theme' of James Ruse taken more seriously than in the northern portion.
A glance at a list of the ships in the First Fleet indicates how Supply Street and Sirius Street got their names, while Endeavour Street recalls the ship sailed by Captain James Cook.
Some of the personalities honoured include Captain John Shortland, who discovered the Hunter River in 1797, Richard Johnson, the first clergyman in Australia, William Dawes, builder of the first observatory, and Lieutenant William Bradley, who surveyed Norfolk Island and helped chart Port Jackson and Broken Bay.
Bennelong Street recalls the famous Aboriginal person captured and befriended by Governor Phillip, while Daniel Solander was Joseph Banks' assistant during Cook's visit to Botany Bay in 1770.
Sir William Denison was Governor of NSW from 1855-61, and brothers Ellis and Jeffrey Bent were controversial judges in the early colony. Samuel Thomas Gill was the most important artist of the goldrush period of the 1850s. Brickfield Street records the hillsite near Sydney Cove where the first bricks were produced in 1788. And like the NSW city, Sydney Place recognises Thomas Townshend, the first Viscount Sydney, who lobbied to create a penal colony at Botany Bay.
Some of the more famous figures also recognised are Francis Greenway, John Macarthur, and Samuel Marsden.
Cook Road, named after the famous discoverer, connects the "colonial" streets to Junction Road - and comfortably into the next "theme" - Australian explorers.
Those noted on street signs include Matthew Flinders and George Bass, Ernest Giles, Robert Burke, Edmund Kennedy and Ludwig Leichhardt. Even old Harry Lasseter, who claimed to have discovered a hidden gold reef in the desserts of central Australia, is recalled.
Ruse Village Shopping Centre opened in 1979, followed shortly by a local tavern and school, which had taken its first pupils in May 1978. The school buildings were all hexagonal in shape, which was ‘undreamt of ten years ago’.
Real Estate prices rose dramatically in 1980 and had almost doubled from the previous year. Ruse was now considered to be a ‘luckier suburb’ with many families moving in to enjoy the leafy, parkland and bushland area. Ruse became a family oriented suburb with many brothers, sisters and parents only living streets away from each other.
Today Ruse is still much a family oriented suburb with parkland and bushland still a prominent feature of the area.
James and his wife Elizabeth were buried in St John’s Catholic Cemetery in 1837. The inscription on his grave was carved with his own hand and read "I sowd the forst grain."’ His headstone was removed in 1994 after vandals destroyed nearby graves. The headstone is now being safe kept by the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society.
Apart from Parramatta there are Ruse Street signs in Campbelltown, Harris Park, Windsor, North Ryde and Illawong that shows us Australia’s first farmer has and will be never forgotten.
"Campbelltown's Streets and Suburbs - How and why they got their names" written by Jeff McGill, Verlie Fowler and Keith Richardson, 1995, published by Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society.
Reproduced and edited with permission of the authors.