::: Made with CoffeeCup : Web Design Software & Website Hosting :::
James Collits

by Gai Muchamore

James Collits, born 21.3.1806 near Penrith, was Pierce an Mary's second eldest son. I have found this particular line of my descent to be most interesting, colourful, and perhaps even a little "shady".

James was born whilst Pierce and Mary were living at Castlereagh. He married twice - firstly to Eleanor Leech on the 6.8.1832 and secondly to Sophia Higgins (nee Field) on 31.8.1840 at Hassans Walls (near Lithgow). There were no children to Eleanor, however, Caroline Collits was born to Bridget Clifford on the 23rd February, 1840. It is interesting to note that he married Sophia Higgins some 6 months later, perhaps as a mother for his daughter? By all accounts Caroline lived with her father from a very young age.

Our James appears to have been a larakin. An account taken from "Reminiscences of a District Veteran, Mr. Michael Long" tells his story as follows:

"Jim, I think it was, Jim Collett, was a bit of a harum-scarum sort of a fellow ever ready to play a lark and one day he got Michael Kinsold to collect about a quart of beetles from all the gum saplings in those days plentiful enough. Collett took the beetles along to the chapel, and peeping in saw old Mr. Lees reading prayers from the pulput, which in those days were lighted with two big candles stuck in glass vases. What did Collett do but let the whole of the beetles free, which true to their nature all flew up to the lights, completely rendering them useless, and causing the service to come to an abrupt termination. On another occasion he thought to set a trap for the old gentleman. He dug a bit of a hole outside the chapel door, expecting to see Mr. Lee stumble, but instead of that the first one to fall in was one of the Collett girls."

In 1829 Sir Ralph Darling granted James Collits 640 acres of land at Canowindra, "as land promised to James Collits on or before the date above mentioned and of which was authorised to take possession on 7th October, 1829 as a Free Grant in remuneration for services in pointing out a line of road from Mt. York to Bathurst". However, Major Mitchell, Surveyor General, also claimed to have pointed out the same line of road, and was most upset at James' receiving the 640 acres (refer RAHS - Hartley Gateway to the West). Mitchell then decided that there was a better and more direct line of road, and proceeded working on his choice, despite orders to the contrary. Mitchell abandoned Mt. York (James' line) and transferred his men to Mt. Victoria. However, James still retained his 640 acres grant. This new line of road, following Mt. Victoria, totally bypassed James' father, Pierce's Inn. Therefore, Pierce received a grant of land to compensate for the loss in trade, 317 acres of it being opposite James' 640 acres at Canowindra.

James disposed of his 640 acres to Thomas Icely in 1837/8 and apparently worked his fathers 317 acres, which was bequeathed to him on Pierce's death.

James and Sophia had 3 children - Pierce b. 1842; James Grant b. 18.6.1848 and Sophia Jane b. 1851.

James Grant, my Great Grandfather, seems to have followed in his fathers footsteps. James Grant married Margaret McInerney, daughter of Bridget Mary Griffin and Patrick McInerney, who arrived on the "Magistrate" on 21.7.1838. They had 7 girls:

Mary Beatrice b. 1874 (Minnie)

Agatha Victoria b. 1876 (Gaitie)

Lerlaine Florence b. 1878 (Lena or Eleanor - My Grandmother)

Sophia Margareta b. 1880 (Maggie)

Elizabeth Ethel b. 1883 (Bessie)

Josephine M b. 1885 (Beanie)

Agnes Beatrice b. 1888 (Aggie)

James Grant owned Bandon at one stage, which consisted of homestead, cellar and big open area. It was possibly run as an Inn, but James was not interested in this area or in farming, his interest being in horses. Apparently horses and gambling became his downfall, as it was through gambling that he lost Bandon. The girls brought up as "gentry", found that they were about to lead a totally different life, once Bandon was lost.

They moved to a house on the Forbes-Cowra Road, known in those days as Collits Crossing, having to swim in flood times, to reach the other side. The bridge was later called Paytens Bridge, but is still known to some locals as "Collits Crossing". One story passed down, which emphasises the Collits love of horses is that the girls had a Floodboat, a boat used to row people across the river when flooded. One Saturday, when the races were on at Eugowra, they took their horse "Governor", which they thought had a good chance of winning. One girl was in front (Gaitie) watching for floating logs. Maggie was doing the rowing, Beanie was in back holding the reins of the horse which was swimming. Gaitie must have known the danger because she started praying -

"Hail Mary, Full of Grace………..Maggie joined in - "Please let Governor win the race!

Another amusing anecdote to reinforce the Collits' colourful character - the Police were pursuing Ben Hall and thought they had him cornered in Forbes, but at the same time at the Forbes races, people were asking James (Snr), who was the lovely woman he was escorting at the races - ? None other than Ben Hall - "dressed to kill".

James Collits (Snr) died on 30.12.1880 at Carrawobitty and his son, James Grant Collits, died at "Glenrowan" an active man til the day of his death, having been riding on horseback the day before drafting out cattle.

Eleanor Collits, one of the seven girls to James Grant Collits and Margaret McInerney married her 2nd cousin, Edwin Harold Collits. Edwin being a direct descendant from the John Collits line. It is with this union that I feel has made me a true "Collits" of which I am very proud.