The Atkinsons and Mr Oldbury

One of the most famous names in the Indigenous community – from Cummeragunja right up to Yarrabah – is Atkinson. And many of them, probably, link back to one man.

James John Oldbury Atkinson, known as John Oldbury Atkinson, came to Moira Station in 1843 and became the overseer of the station for the next 17 years. He came from what was called the Bong Bong District, near Berrima, New South Wales. He is, apparently, the father of the Atkinson children, William’s Cooper’s older siblings.

James came to Moira Station as a 17 year old teenager, with a couple hundred head of cattle from his father’s Oldbury Estate. That man was James Atkinson who established Oldbury Estate, near Berrima. James senior was a well-known statesman and magistrate who was part of the early Government of Australia until 1822.

We know that John Atkinson and possibly Aaron Atkinson are likely to his children, by Kitty. But there is a few years gap between Aaron and the next child, possibly being, Edgar, who is the great great grandfather of several Atkinsons today, such as Stephen Atkinson of Cummeragunja. There’s another few years between Edgar and Lizzie, who was also called Atkinson. We can’t really, say with any certainty that he was the father of all four Atkinson children.

There is also a discrepancy in the ages of the Atkinson children or at least Lizzie, as Daniel Matthews, who established Maloga Mission in 1874, put her age as 14 with a 2 year old child in his diaries but then puts her age as 24 with a 9 year old child in the Maloga Mission register. This discrepancy makes it hard to truly identify Lizzie’s true date or year of birth.

We do know that there was a bloke by the name of Edgar Attwood Atkinson who was named as the father of Edgar Atkinson on Edgar’s Death certificate. Edgar most probably had a different father, as recorded in Edgar’s death certificate, to Johnny, Aaron and possibly Lizzie.

No one is sure if it’s coincidental or whether Edgar Attwood Atkinson is a brother or relative of John Oldbury Atkinson. That’s yet to be ascertained. It’s extremely hard to follow these sorts of trails 100 to 150 years later.


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8 Responses to “The Atkinsons and Mr Oldbury”

  1. Brett Watson January 11, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    Wow this information is amazing. Thanks for providing it.

    My 4th great grandfather was James Atkinson who established Oldbury so his son James John Oldbury Atkinson is a Great Uncle. My only concern with the above is that JJO Atkinson was born in 1832 and was the only son of James and Charlotte Atkinson so that would make him too young to be the JJO Atkinson at Moria in 1843, plus he lived all his life in the Sutton Forest/Berrima district. But nothing is always a certainty in family history, as you said things are hard to trace.

    However James senior had a brother called John who also lived at Oldbury before moving to Tumut in 1838. John had sons John Oldbury Atkinson born in 1824 and James Oldbury Atkinson born in 1826. Both these guys were married in their 30′s in 1857 and 1862 respectively and settled in Deniliquin and Tumut areas after marriage, so I think they are more of a chance of being the Atkinson at Moira Station. I’m going to do some digging to see what I can come up with. The trouble is between all the Atkinsons from Oldbury area, they all seemed to call their sons John or James with Oldbury as a second or third name.

    Anyway this is great as we could probably be related although distantly and I really want to hear and learn more.
    Brett Watson
    South Australia

  2. Stephen Atkinson May 15, 2014 at 3:02 am #

    Hi Brett,

    My name is Stephen Atkinson, firstly let me apologize for my delayed reply.
    I thank you very much for taking the time to write to this page. I hope we can work out the correct John Atkinson as there have been many over time and still continue today. I have a cousin, Uncle and also my Grandfather was named John Atkinson so as you can see the tradition of naming your children John Atkinson lives on also in the Aboriginal Atkinson lines.

    You may be correct in your assertion as to the John Oldbury Atkinson in question. I have tried with little success to trace the family and can only go on documented historical information.
    Here is some of what I have on John Oldbury Atkinson -

    John Oldbury Atkinson came to Moira Station in 1843 where he was Overseer for 16-17 years.
    He came from the Bung Bong District near Berrima with cattle for Lewes run.
    He married Mary Kavanagh, a servant at Moira, in 1857, she died in childbirth in 1865.
    By then John Atkinson had left Moira and started the Hill Plain Hotel 10 mile south of Deniliquin, in 1859.
    He then moved into Deniliquin and became the licensee of the Highlander Inn Hotel in End st Deniliquin, which is now known as The Commercial Hotel. He later became the owner of the Globe Hotel in Cressy st.
    After his business enterprises in Deniliquin he sold up and moved to Ballarat and bought Brophy’s Hotel in 1883 where he passed away at the age of 59 years of age.
    His second wife Harriet, nee Leetham, was left with 8 children, she stayed for a time in Ballarat before moving back to Deniliquin and remarrying.
    Strangely enough the documentation I have doesn’t name his Parents but does say he was born at Sutton Forest.

    If you are able to shed any more light on the John Oldbury Atkinson I refer to here Brett it would be most welcomed.

    I hope to hear back from you and possibly even meet or at least email each other at some stage to cross reference and exchange information.

    Kind Regards

    Stephen Atkinson
    Cummeragunja NSW

    • Pauline March 28, 2015 at 2:43 am #

      Hi there Stephen, I have spend days looking for my great grandfather called John Atkinson – I have a marriage certificate for my grandmother (his daughter) and his name and that he was a fireman at Berrima shows on the birth certificate for his daughter. He married Annie Cain in 1888 Newtown nsw. I keep on coming back to the Atkinsons here and wonder if he is a son/gson, he was born abt 1861. Really stuck on this one – Pauline

  3. Paul Watson September 6, 2015 at 6:43 am #

    Hi Brett et al

    My father was James Atkinson Watson (Born Rocklea, Lockington)…..not sure how we came to have an Atkinson, but this sheds some light…..thx

  4. Lorraine Lewis March 20, 2016 at 4:26 am #

    Hello Stephen, from the biography Atkinsons of North Queensland ‘On Eagles Wings’ 1862-2014 on page 48…is the following-

    When James Atkinson left Ireland in late 1852 he was 28, when his father Henry died and had spent 12 years in the army. The Atkinson’s are originally Scottish, not Irish but we need to go back another thousand years to understand why that is so.

    He was educated and ambitious and had very good contacts in Sydney, he had siblings who had migrated to Australia. They were James brother Robert (bachelor): William Verner (bachelor) and sisters Jane (married to Hamilton Blackham) : Letitia (married to William Colles James), and 2 young cousins whose name was Langtry. In 1827, his cousin another James, son of his fathers brother Edward and his wife Mary (McCartney) Atkinson, was on The Cumberland in company with Robert Copeland Lethbridge, his wife Mary (King) Lethbridge and Harriet King (daughter and daughter in law respectively of Governor King), and J. Francis McArthur when it arrived in Sydney. James ( from hereon referred to as James the Elder) had established himself as a man of property and business, moving in the highest circles of Sydney society. He and his wife Emily had a large family 3 sons and 5 daughters, but 2 of their sons and one daughter died young. James the elder acquired eight square miles of land at the enormous cost of 5120 pound at Port Fairy in what was to become the colony of Victoria. This was done under special legislation known as “Special Survey:, designed to control land development in an orderly fashion and to deter squatters, James the Elder set about developing this land into blocks for sale. Once the land had been cleared it was time to survey it into blocks with young James, with his army experience, undertook some of the work some time towards the end of the survey.

    Although it is impossible to be definite, it is most likely that the James Atkinson who had arrived on the clipper ship ‘Catherine Mitchell’ which sailed from Liverpool to Port Phillip, arriving on the 21Januarey 1853, was the James Atkinson of this story. Another family story is that James actually arrived in Sydney, and travelled on the same boat to Melbourne as Robert Fraser, who married Mary Good, the sister of Kate Good whom James later married, although no evidence can be found for this. It is said that James first tried his hand at gold Mining and he also worked for a time on a property known as Farnham to acquire the agricultural experience he needed.

    At the age of 36, James married anglo irish immigrant Catherine Good 0n the 20th March 1860 and her brother John Good later established a grazing property at Grasmere, he renamed this property ‘Injemira’ and built a gracious homestead there to accommodate his sisters. This property was later burned out in Feb 1851.

    I hope this helps you somewhat and if you would like I am happy to photograph parts of the Atkinson North Queenland story and email to you. My email address is

  5. John February 2, 2017 at 1:31 am #

    I’ve done a bit of research, part of which relates to the Atkinson’s of Oldbury (James) and Mereworth (John). The Australian Biographical Dictionary says in part:

    James Atkinson (1795-1834), settler and author, was born in ‘middle-Kent’, England, probably at Oldbury, near Ightham. He arrived in Sydney in the Saracen in May 1820 and in July succeeded Michael Massey Robinson as principal clerk in the colonial secretary’s office at a salary of £60. He obtained two grants of land totalling 1500 acres (607 ha), and located them in the newly settled Bong Bong district, naming them Oldbury after his father’s estate and Mereworth after a Kentish town. Both grants were issued in 1822, but Oldbury was occupied during 1821 and he resided there after he resigned his government post in July 1822. (Note:John ran Mereworth)

    In 1825 he returned to England where he wrote An Account of the State of Agriculture & Grazing in New South Wales … (London, 1826). In 1826 he visited Saxony with Charles Macarthur to buy sheep, and published ‘Remarks on the Saxon Sheep Farming …’ in the Australian Quarterly Journal in 1828. He returned to Sydney in the Cumberland (1826) and became engaged to Charlotte Waring (1796-1867), who was coming to the colony to become governess to the Hannibal Macarthurs. He was married at St Paul’s, Cobbity, on 29 September 1827. In June he had been made a justice of the peace and, both before and after his visit to England, he took an active interest in the work of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society and its Stock Club, the Benevolent Society and the Sydney Institution. His great interest was in farming and its improvement.

  6. John February 2, 2017 at 1:56 am #

    Further to my previous, from the Southern Highland News (in part)

    JOHN Atkinson arrived in the colony in 1821. Born in 1798, he was the younger brother of James who pioneered agriculture in the district. As told in last week’s article, James emigrated in 1820 and established the Oldbury property at Sutton Forest in 1822.
    John was favourably impressed and returned to England, married Jane Martin in 1823 and then, with Jane, immediately returned to the colony to live on Oldbury until 1827 while James was in England.
    In 1823 John had been promised a grant of 2000 acres. He subsequently took possession and called his estate ‘Mereworth”, even though an adjoining 700 acres, part of his brother’s estate, was also registered in that name.
    To clarify the situation, James amalgamated his two grants of Oldbury and Mereworth into one grant known as ‘Oldbury’, thus allowing John to use ‘Mereworth’ for his grant but, on the death of James in 1834, legal difficulties arose concerning ownership of the two Mereworth grants and matters were not finalised until 1839.
    John bred horses and ran cattle but did not develop agriculture like James at Oldbury.
    The first Mereworth home was a plain cottage. Later John built a large two-storied brick house with cellars and out-houses. Its roof had the same long back line as Oldbury and was originally shingled.
    Following a public enquiry in 1836 which decided ‘Mereworth’ did in fact belong to John, he converted the dwelling house to an inn he called the Kentish Arms.
    It was well situated, being beside the Medway Rivulet and two miles south of Berrima on the Great Southern Road that had recently opened to Goulburn.
    John held the Kentish Arms’ licence for three years from 1836 and by this time his family had grown to four sons and three daughters. He and Jane also owned an allotment in Berrima.

  7. Dannielle Watson September 4, 2017 at 9:46 am #

    Hi guys, John Atkinson is my Great great great grandfather! Finding all this info is fascinating. His daughter Mildred May Atkinson married Patrick Denning of Tumut.

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