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Meehan, James

James Meehan (1174- 1826)

Born in Cooldery, Ireland in 1774, James was transported for a minor offence involving the Irish rebellion of 1798, possibly leaving a wife a children behind. A petition by Meehan in 1799 describes him as a ‘Schoolmaster and surveyor’. He also asserts that he was a sergeant with the United Irishmen.

In 1800 James arrived in Sydney aboard the Friendship. His experience as a surveyor was used by the Acting Surveyor General, Charles Grimes and from 1803 to 1820 he marked roads, rivers creeks and also harsh country becoming an experienced explorer.

In 1803, due to a heavy workload, Grimes fell ill and although he recovered he left for England leaving Meehan the only qualified surveyor in the colony for the next three years.

1805 saw Meehan surveying the track used by John Warby between Prospect and Cowpastures. He also marked out 5000 acres for John Macarthur at Camden Park. It was during this year he gained a conditional pardon and upon the return of Grimes an absolute Pardon.
Meehan was granted 340 acres of land in the district of Minto in 1809. He was to have called it Thomas Town after his only son but the grant was withdrawn after a review by Macquarie. However in 1810, Macquarie granted Meehan 1140 acres to be known by the name ‘Macquarie Field’

An official public notice of 1811 asks all persons who have been promised lands in the districts of Minto, Airds or Appin to meet the acting-surveyor, at Mr Robert Campbell’s stockyard and to bring blankets and 10-12 days provisions ‘to enable them to remain out with the surveyor for as long as may be necessary.’
James Meehan very nearly became the Surveyor-General in 1812, recommended by Macquarie himself but John Oxley, a naval officer, petitioned the British government persistently from the very day Grimes resigned and won the post much to Meehan’s and Macquarie’s disappointment.

Meehan mortgaged Macquarie field to the bank of NSW in 1819 for £500.

In 1820 James Meehan was asked by Macquarie if he would let his Macquarie Field house. To be used as an academy for the upper class youth of the colony it was to be conducted by Rev Thomas Reddall. Meehan agreed so long as he could keep two rooms for himself.

In 1824 a plot was hatched by convicts and bushrangers to liberate the convicts. To do this they intended robbing various properties. Chiefly they needed a compass and planned to steal the surveying equipment from Meehan’s house but, Lannon was foiled a locked window.

A man called Leach met him along the Campbelltown Road and told him ‘not to have anything to do with Mr Meehan’s property for if they did he could soon overtake them being so well acquainted with the bush.’
James had children by Ruth Goodair Thomas was born in 1808 and a daughter Mary in 1810 though she died in 1823.

In 1817 Macquarie wrote of Meehan, ‘there is not a more useful officer serving under this Government, being particularly well qualified for the office of Deputy Surveyor General from his perfect knowledge in that particular line, his local and extensive knowledge of every part of this Territory and his intimate acquaintance with the history and cause of every grant or lease ever made in the colony since its first establishment.”
James Meehan retired in 1821. He died at Macquarie Field on the 21 of April 1826. His Macquarie Fields estate was now 2400 acres with several tenants farming the land. Thomas, his eighteen year old son, inherited the property. Until his 21st birthday it was to be managed by Charles Throsby and William Redfern the trustee and neighbour. Unfortunately, Throsby Commited suicide and Redfern went overseas so when Thomas Meehan came into his inheritance there were only debts and he was forced to sell Macquarie Fields in 1831. The stress broke young Mary Ann, Thomas’ wife of two years, who was committed to Liverpool Asylum from 1831 until her death in 1876.

Thomas Meehan served briefly as postmaster at Campbelltown and died in 1835, aged 27, leaving two infant daughters

Bibliography

James Meehan and the Macquarie Field Estate
Grist Mills: Journal of the Campbelltown and Airds historical Society Inc Vol 15 No 1 March 2002. By Verlie Fowler
Australian Encyclopedia, Australian Geographic. Vol 5 p2056

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