A smallpox epidemic 200 years ago on Lord Barrington’s Estate in Berkshire, England brought tragedy to the Gorton family. William Gorton was an agricultural labourer who lived and worked on the estate, and struggled to pay his annual lease.2 In 1821 smallpox killed him and his wife leaving six orphaned children to be cared for by the estate’s agent – Robert Dawson. Dawson’s records detailed how he cared for the children, finding them homes and employing their son George on the estate.3
In 1824, the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) was founded and granted one million acres for one million pounds in NSW for agricultural development. Robert Dawson became the first Company Agent arriving at the AACo’s base in Carrington in 1825.4
In 1826 George Gorton followed Dawson to Port Stephens arriving on the “Prince Regent” as a shepherd indentured for seven years. George reconnected with Dawson and was sometimes part of his exploration parties.5 A year later George’s younger brother Joseph also joined the AACo as a stable boy.6
George became an accomplished stockkeeper and horseman, and worked as Overseer of Cattle on the AACo’s Gloucester Station. He and his second wife Mary Dolphin took up a lease of Crown land at Main Creek near Dungog which they made their home.
George died in 1871 at Main Creek aged 66 and is buried at Dungog Cemetery. When the AACo surveyed its Port Stephens Estate into private parishes, it was George Gorton whom they honoured by the naming of “Parish of Gorton” in the County of Gloucester. George had risen from an impoverished labourer on Lord Barrington’s Estate to grazier and land owner.7
Author: Janine Roberts
1 J. M. Clarke and G. T. G. Irwin, “Brothers George and Joseph Gorton, Pioneer Cattlemen”, 1977.
2 Beckett, A Jewel in the Parish of Shrivenham, http://www.whereitis.co.uk/beckett.chronicle/beckett/19th-century—farms–cotta.html
3 Clarke and Irwin, “Brothers George and Joseph”, p. 5.
5 P A Pemberton, “Pure Merinos and others: the shipping lists of the Australian Agricultural Company”, Australian National University Archives of Business and Labour, Canberra, 1986, p. 47.
6 Pemberton, “Pure Merinos and others”, p. 49.
7 Clarke and Irwin, “Brothers George and Joseph”, p. 22.