As the Hastings prepares to celebrate the bicentenary of the arrival of explorer John Oxley in October this year, Pauline Walker, who has a wealth of knowledge on Australian history, has compiled a snapshot of Oxley’s expeditions from his journals.
Compiled by Pauline Walker from John Oxley’s journals
John Joseph William Molesworth Oxley was born neat the little village of Kirkham near the ruins of Kirkham Abbey, Yorkshire in 1783.
He joined the Royal Navy in 1799, aged 16. That year he was appointed to the Venerable as a midshipman.
In 1801, aged 18, he transferred to the Buffalo, then in 1802, aged 19, having been promoted to Master’s Mate, he sailed for the colony of NSW, arriving in Sydney on October 16, 1802. That year he was promoted to Lieutenant and placed in command of the Estramina.
Oxley returned to England in 1807 on board Buffalo. He gained his commission as first Lieutenant and was appointed to the HMS Porpoise.
He sailed from England in May 1808 on the convict transport, Speke, to join the Porpoise in Sydney. On arriving in Sydney he found the rebellion against Governor Blight was well underway. Colonel William Paterson arrived from Van Diemen’s Land in the hope of making peace with with the NSW Corp. Col Paterson granted Oxley 1000 acres on the Nepean River. He named the property Kirkham.
Oxley applied for the position of Naval Officer. He application was rejected, then another opportunity presented itself and he applied for the position of Surveyor General of NSW. He was successful and was appointed Surveyor General on January 1, 1812. Why was he appointed is a mystery as he had no training as a surveyor whatsoever and all his surveying work on land grants were done by George Evans, Assistant Surveyor General, and James Meehan, Deputy Surveyor General. Oxley did not undertake the survey of any land grants during his entire 16 years as Surveyor General. Meehan spent time in the field when Oxley attended to administration in the office.
Oxley returned to England to settle his affairs. He sailed on the convict transport Minstrel for Sydney, arriving in Sydney early in June 1812. He knew he would never return to England again. During the five months journey, he developed a close relationship with a convict, Charlotte Thorpe, whom Oxley had assigned to him. She was already pregnant when the ship docked in Sydney on October 25, 1812. They had two children but he wasn’t about to marry a convict. He has his eye on Elizabeth and John MacArthur’s daughter, Elizabeth, and wished to marry her. But Oxley lived far beyond his means and was in debt so that put a stop to any talk of marriage. In June 1816, Oxley was given a land grant in Upper Minto by Governor Macquarie.
Colonel Lachlan Macquarie had arrived on January 1, 1810 and was to become the fifth Governor of NSW. A further land grant was given to Oxley by Governor Macquarie, 630 acres at Appin in 1817.
Oxley had spent time in Hobart and on returning to Sydney, spent the night with a convict’s daughter, 16 year old Elizabeth Marmons (now known as a one night stand). Elizabeth Marmon’s pregnancy was an embarrassment to him. In the meantime, Oxley has met Emma Norton, a solicitor’s daughter, newly arrived from England. Emma was disappointed but accepted the news. John Oxley’s third daughter, Louisa Oxley, was born in March 1821. Emma Norton and John Oxley were maried on October 31, 1821 at St Phillips Church Hill. Another child, Jane, was living with his wife when he died. Nobody mentions where she comes from. On May 18, 1826, Oxley mortgaged Kirkham to John MacArthur for 2500 pounds.
Emma and John Oxley had two children, John and Henry. John Oxley died at his property, Kirkham, on the Nepean River at Cobberty (Cow Pastures) on May 26, 1828, aged 45. He died owing considerable debt.
When the Devonshire Cemetery was acquired to make way for the new central railway station in 1907, Oxley’s grave was not recognisable. The tombstone was later found at Waverly, after much searching, being used as a door step. In 1893, a statue of John Oxley was erected on the Bridge Street side of the NSW Department of Lands building in Sydney.
First expedition, 1817
Governor Macquarie chose John Oxley to lead an expedition down the Lachlan River in search of the inland sea. The expedition consisted of 13 men, including John Oxley, Chief of Expedition, George Evans, Second in Command, Allen Cunningham, Kings Botanist, Charles Fraser, Colonial botanist, William Parr, mineralologist (a ticket of leave man), eight volunteer convicts, 13 horses, numerous carts and provisions for 13 men for 20 weeks.
Evans assembled the main party at a depot on the Lachlan River above Belubula Junction, 15 miles downstream from the site of Cowra. Boat builder, George Hubbard, had built two boats. When Oxley arrived from Sydney they moved off down the river past the site of Forbes.
On May 17, three weeks after their departure, Oxley came to a site that stopped him in his tracks. The Lachlan overflowed its banks and the main channel was lost in marshes that stretched as far as the eye could see. Now he couldn’t get through by boat or land. He decided to leave the marshes and abandon the boats and strike south west to try and find another river he could follow south.
For 17 days the party travelled over the Western Riverina Plains until they reached a point not far from the present site of Griffith and only 31 miles short of the Murrumbidgee. Here Oxley was fed up and frustrated by too much water. He suddenly came onto a plain where there was hardly any water. At one stage men and horses had no water for three days. He called the country desolate, melancholy and miserable.
The expedition headed back north across the plains and struck the Lachlan below where they had left it. To their surprise it was now running within its banks so they resumed their journey back down river but it again played tricks on them, losing itself in swamps. Oxley abandoned his quest a few miles past the site of Booligal, two days short of the Murrumbidgee’s junction.
But the trip was not all disappointment. Instead of retracing his journey up the Lachlan, they strucj further north and on June 22, after four miles, the hills were left behind and the land opened into a wide plain, and after eight miles they reached a river. It was a welcome surprise. Oxley and Evans discussed the possibility of it being the Macquarie River. They needed to determine which river it was.
On August 19, they entered a valley where they found a strong running stream. Oxley crossed the river and followed it down stream. He was surprised to reach a larger river east southeast. He had found the Macquarie River. Before leaving on August 22, they blazed a blue gum on four sides and Cunningham planted a peach stone to mark their camp on the Macquarie. They had reached the Wellington Valley and then returned down the river to Bathurst. They had travelled 1180 miles.
Second expedition, 1818
It was because of Oxley’s enthusiastic report that Oxley found himself back at Wellington in 1818 to continue his attempt to solve the mystery of the western rivers. Oxley again had a large party. There were four men, John Oxley, Chief of Expedition, George Evans, Second in Charge, John Harris, surgeon, and Charles Fraser, colonial botanist, seven convicts receiving absolute pardons, and five convicts receiving conditional pardons, 18 horse, six dogs, and rations for 16 men for 24 weeks.
On Friday, January 23, 1818, Governor Macquarie gives Patrick Byrne an order to receive 45 pairs of shoes and to arrange for the construction of casks to carry their stores. William Warner was in charge of construction and James Williams, the party’s blacksmith, was to manufacture 30 sets of horse shoes.
Late January, boat builder John Dwyer leaves Sydney for Parramatta. He starts building the boats at the depot established at Wellingham on February 2.
April 14, George Evans arrived from Hobart to organise the equipment and stores. He was pleased to learn that six of the men had been with him on his expedition down the Lachlan River in 1815.
April 30, D’Arcy Wentworth supplies the party with a medical kit.
May 17, Evans leaves with the forward party, heading for Bathurst.
May 20, Oxley leaves Sydney accompanied by Dr Harris for Bathurst.
May 21, Oxley crossed the Nepean River and arrives at Bathurst.
May 25, George Evans and party were already at Bathurst and had organised everything in order to proceed to the Wellington depot.
May 28, the long caravan of carts and horses leave Bathurst for Wellington depot.
June 2, arrives at Wellington depot where two fine boats had been built by John Dwyer. It was 150 miles from Bathurst to Wellington.
June 4, it rained all day and they could not leave the depot.
June 6, they proceed down the river four miles where the boats are loaded.
June 8, past the mouth of Moole’s Rivulet (now Little River).
June 11, past the present site of Dubbo, a stream enters here. Oxley named it Erskine River.
June 13, crossed a small rivulet that Oxley named Taylor Rivulet, past the future site of Narromine.
June 16, travelled over land and recognised the spot where they had camped on their first expedition on August 15, 1817. The Aboriginals who has travelled with them all left clean shaven.
June 19, the boats made good time.
June 20, they were 125 miles from Wellington.
June 23, Thomas Thatcher and John Hall set out for Bathurst and Sydney carrying Oxley’s report for the Governor, today past the site of Warren.
June 27, travelled five miles and found a small hill, then found another. Oxley named Welcome Rock. The next hill they found, they had a view of the western landscape and to the east, a beautiful blue range of mountains 70 miles away. He named the hill they were on Mount Harris and the smaller hill to the north he named Mount Fiorester, and the beautiful range to the east, 70 miles away, Arbuthnot’s Range.
June 29, country lower but river overflowing. The horse party could no longer follow the river. The men stopped at 2 o’clock and set up camp and waited for the boats to arrive at 4.30.
June 30, unable to follow the river. Sent the main party back to their last camp.
July 1, loaded the boats and sent the horse party back to Mt Harris to set up camp. Evans proceeded with a small party to the north-east, 50 miles, to determine what difficulties lay ahead.
The Macquarie Marshes
July 2, Oxley set off down the river in the largest boat. After 20 miles he entered the Macquarie Marshes. They are now 43 miles beyond the site of Warren, travel another eight miles and are stuck in the marshes. They travelled another four miles and here they had no choice; here they were in a sea of weeds. They returned to the campsite of the night before.
July 3, continued down the river. They could go no further as it was too dangerous.
July 4, began their difficult row back to Mt Harris. It wasn’t for two days that they rejoined the party on July 6.
July 8, George Evans and two men leave camp and set off to find a way around the swamps. They had 10 days’ supplies with them. They made 28 miles that day, walking up to their knees in swamps.
July 10, they slowed after 10 miles by deep water, changed course and headed east and then turned south-east and made 10 miles.
July 11, made a river after 12 miles, 30 to 40 foot wide.
July 13, made 15 miles and made it to the present site of Coonabarabran. From here you follow the Oxley Highway to Port Macquarie.
July 14, began their journey back to Mt Harris. Walked 20 miles.
July 18, hardly any supplies left. Made it back to Mt Harris today. They had explored the country forward for 10 days having travelled 27 miles in two days and the men unable to walk. Evans reported to Oxley that he had discovered another river and had named it the Castlereagh. Oxley allowed Evans and men two days rest after which the party would make their way due east towards the Castlereagh and pass what Oxley called a stupendous range of mountains, the Warrumbungles.
The Liverpool Plains
July 20, a bottle containing a description of their proposed route was buried on the summit of Mt Harris.
July 21, proceeded through bush and marshes. The horses were distressed having to walk knee deep in swamps. Could only travel seven miles.
July 22, marched nine miles and reached a small chain of ponds, Oxley named Morisset Ponds.
July 25, set out again hoping to find the Castlereagh. Travelled nine miles in waist deep water. The horses had to be unloaded. Evans believed they were close to the Castlereagh. Pushed on and after two miles they found its banks. The river that Evans had waded across only a few days earlier was now running within its banks. It was flowing so fast there was no hope of crossing today.
July 27, moved their camp closer to the riverbanks. The provisions had to be carried by the men. The Castlereagh River is a stream of great magnitude. Its channel is divided by numerous islands. It measures in the lowest part, 180 yards.
July 28, the river has risen eight foot and continues to rise. Washed out their tents.
July 29, the water begins to fall. They were held up for four days.
August 2, the water was low enough to cross. Everything across by 1 o’clock.
August 3, raining. River begins to rise again. Here they had to make for higher ground.
August 6, made for a small hill three miles away. Oxley, Harris and Evans climbed the hill and had a great view of the country. Oxley named the hill Kangaroo Hill, now known as Tenadara.
August 8, Oxley, Evans and Harris set out for Mt Exmouth (now Mt Bullaway) five miles away. A strenuous two hour climb to the top. They viewed flat wilderness and saw the Hardwick Range 100 miles away (today Nandewar Range).
August 9, today they found and named the Apsley’s Mountain and Mt Shirley. Oxley named the Apple Tree Flat.
August 15, crossed the creek at two miles and was abruptly stopped by quicksand.
August 17, crossed barren rocky ridges, Halted for the day at a creek Oxley named Parry’s Rivulet (now Yaminbah Creek).
August 21, rested for two days at Parry’s Rivulet, the horses too worn out to continue.
August 25, left camp early and travelled east. The coldest day yet. Travelled four miles across grassy plains to the north. They named Kerr’s Peak (now Mt Baloola) and the hill to the west they named Mt Tetly (now Mt Talbareeya). Halted at a small hill which they named Witwell Hill (now Bulga Mountain). Travelled 10 miles.
August 26, continued east, followed a stream and plains. Oxley named the valley Lushington Valley and named the creek York’s Rivulet (now the Garnawilla Creek), and the valley near the creek he named Camden Valley and called it a land of plenty. The hill south of Lushington Valley, Oxley named Vansttart;s Hill.
August 27, continued east and after five miles reached a small stream Oxley named Bowens Rivulet (now Cox Creek). Pushed on another 14 miles and halted at a hill Oxley named View Hill. They climbed the hill and viewed for the first time the beautiful Liverpool Plains. Evans sketched the view.
August 29, after seven miles they came to a hill Oxley named Melville Hills, now known as Melville Range.
August 31, crossed a stream running north through a valley. He named it Fields River (now Mooki Creek), a tributary of the Namoi River just below the present site of Gunnedah. Rested after 12 miles under a hill named Mt Dundas.
September 1, pushed on 12 miles. Stopped in a valley Oxley named Goulburn Valley.
September 2, travelled 12 miles and reached a fast flowing stream. Oxley named it Peel’s River. The city of Tamworth now sits on its banks. They rested here for the night.
September 3, passed a large rock 26 feet high, today known as Oxley’s Rock.
September 4, entered another valley. After five miles reached a small river, a tributary of the Peel’s River, Oxley named it Cockburn River.
September 7, began a very steep climb. Spectacular scenery from the rop of the ranges, now the Moonbi Range. They continued east along the top of the range and descended gradually to a river Oxley named the Sydney River (now the MacDonald River).
September 8, followed the Sydney River south-east and crossed it after three miles. Travelled another two miles and reached open level country and stopped in the picturesque valley just south of the present site of Walcha.
September 11, after travelling three miles, stopped by a deep chasm. Oxley estimated the ravine to be 3000 feet.
September 13, followed the heavily timbered ravine. They day terminated at one of the most magnificent waterfalls they had seen. Oxley named the fall Becketts Cataract. Today they are the Tia Falls. Camped here.
September 15, began their descent down the ravine. They were stopped a third of the way down by the terrain. Three horses fell and were saved from certain death when they rollwed against trees. Followed the ravine eastward across a small stream that cascaded into the gorge. They they found water spilling magnificently 235 feet into the valley over rocks, and then another 100 feet. After that they fell into smaller falls. Oxley named them Bathurst Falls (now the Apsley Falls).
September 16, cold and wet. Made 12 miles. Rested near a fast flowing stream Oxley named Crokers River (now the Tia River) that joins the Apsley River and tumbled down Becketts Cataract.
September 23, some of the men went back for the horses as the horses could now climb out of the valley. While Oxley and Evans examined the way ahead; a steep climb out of the valley. On reaching the summit they were delighted to see the ocean about 50 miles away. Here they saw Mt Seaview. News of Oxley and Evans viewing the sea lifted the men’s spirits. Today they sick horse had to be shot. That night Oxley recorded in his journal the great relief he felt having seen the sea. “Bilboa's ecstacy at the first sight of the South Sea could not have been greater than ours. When gaining the summit of this mountain, we behold old coean at our feet. It inspired us with new life. Every difficulty vanished and in imagination we were already home.”
September 24, at 8 o’clock they began their climb to the summit of the mountain Oxley had named Mt Seaview. The men snaked their way along the sides trying to find the easiest route for the horses. They reached the summit, a distance of two miles, at noon and soon after commenced their descent. In places it was 45 degrees. It took three and a half hours to reach a narrow valley. After 2.75 miles they met a large river which they had seen from Mt Seaview. One horse was unable to walk and the baggage from two others was left there.
September 25, the men went back for the horse and baggage while Oxley and Evans followed the stream down the valley. Finding plenty of grass they decided to move down the river the next day.
September 26, moved slowly down the river and Oxley named it the Hastings River. After four miles they had to leave the sick horse again after it collapsed.
September 28, followed the Hastings River through a rich valley and crossed the river three times and reached a good stream entering from the north. Oxley named it Forbes’s River.
September 29, travelled through good country and crossed a river entering from the south. Oxley named it the Ellenborough River.
October 2, travelled along the southern side of the river and passed a rocky peaked hill, today part of Broken Bago Range. From the top of a hill they could see the river. They could also see Smoky Cape.
October 3, they heard the surf rolling onto the beach for the first time.
October 4, proceeded one mile, stopped by a river entering from the south. Oxley named it Kings River (now Kings Creek).
October 6, proceeded further along the river. Finally convinced two Aboriginals in a canoe to visit them and were able to exchange a tomahawk for a canoe. Oxley decided that they should cross the river at the junction with the Hastings.
October 7, they used the canoe to cross the stream. Here they had a shoot a horse.
October 8, they travelled three miles and found a large fresh water lagoon and after five miles reached a freshwater stream. Here they had to build a bridge strong enough to take their laden horses. They crossed the stream and after four miles the explorers reached the sea. They pitched their tents upon a beautiful point of land. Oxley explored the harbour and he and Evans sketched the entrance. They estimated that vessels 10 or 12 foot draught could cross the bar.
“A deep channel provides access to the harbour and river. The harbour is abundant with fish and large sharks. In the nearby hills there are many large kangaroos and the surround swamps are home to many wild fowl. The country is well watered and there is a fine spring.
“I name this inlet Port Macquarie in honour of His Excellency, the Governor, the original promoter of this expedition.
“I promise the to remain here for three days to check the equipment.”
October 11, they were ready to proceed. Today one dog died and the other two were sick.
October 12, left early this morning heading south for Port Stephens. They travelled six miles from the coast and followed the edge of an extensive freshwater lagoon. Continued south past Tacking Point, named by Matthew Flinders, and stopped after 15 miles. They were 3.5 miles north of North Brother.
October 13, they encountered another entrance from the sea. It was large enough to allow small boats to enter and flowed into an extensive lake. Unable to cross without a boat, the explorers followed the northern shore and halted near a spring.
October 14, slowed again by an entrance to a lake. Finally reached a large stream and as they had no boat, they halted for the night and camped on its banks. During the day they disturbed a large group of Aboriginal men building a canoe on the shore. They scattered when the men appeared, and escaped in their canoes but left behind an unfinished canoe.
October 15, returned this morning to the half finished canoe only to find it gone. and the Aboriginal bark huts knocked down. Oxley returned to the sea and named the waterway Camden Haven.
October 16, the explorers returned to Camden Haven and immediately began to try and build a canoe. They had several failures however the boat builder, John Dwyer and carpenter, Henry Shippey were persistent and by October 17 had built a cnoe of sorts.
October 18, on the ebb tide they began transporting the equipment across the river until disaster struck. Whilst swimming the horses across the channel, two horses suddenly got cramps. One drowned and the other struggled desperately to shore. Once across, the party rested for a short while and made 14 miles and passed the lake under the Brothers. Oxley named it Watson Taylor’s Lake. They rested near the beach and nearby found a small boat buried in the sand. They identified it as belonging to the Jane, a Hawkesbury River vessel owned by Robert Mills which had been lost in a fierce storm in 1816.
October 19, continued down the coast until all attempts to cut across the point were blocked by a freswater swamp. On returning to the beach, they found the ruins of a hut that had been built by Europeans because of the axe marks visible. Marching another four miles they were stopped by another inlet, estimated to be nearly a mile wide. The sea was breaking violently across the entrance. It was impossible to cross. Oxley thought they would never make it to Newcastle. The horses were completely knocked up.
The boat they had found the day before presented a solution but it was 14 miles back and the men would have to carry it on their shoulders. Oxley felt that he could not insist they undertake such a long trip back, however no-one objected. The men would do anything to reach civilisation. It was determined that 12 men would return for the boat.
October 20, at 4am the men set out to collect the boat and returned at 2 o’clock with the 12 foot boat. The boat builder set about the few repairs needed and the carpenter began making a set of oars. Work on the boat continued the next day.
October 22, early morning they began to transport the equipment acorss. After that, with the tide low, they began towing the horses across. The task was completed by 8.30. Oxley named the inlet Harrington Lake (now Harrington Inlet, inlet to the Manning River).
October 23, continuing their journey, little did they know that here off Oxley Island they could have seen the northern and southern entrance to the Manning River, At 4 o’clock that afternoon they were stopped by yet another inlet they could not cross.
October 24, began making the crossing in squally winds. Oxley had crossed earlier and scouted ahead. He found yet another inlet with he named Farquhar’s Lake, today Farquar Inlet. This lake is part of Old Bar.
October 25, took their bearings from North and South Brother to Cape Hawke. After travelling a mile they found the wreck of the Jane. The small boat they were carrying had belonged to this vessel. They arrived at another inlet which they crossed and proceeded seven miles along the beach. They turned west and crossed high forests. After 10 minutes they halted. From here they could see Cape Hawke eight miles to the south with what appeared to be another lake.
October 26, after marching 2.5 miles they rejoined the beach, travelled seven miles until they found an inlet at a lake Cape Hawke, known today as Wallis Lake, the site of Forster-Tuncurry. They used the boat to make the crossing. On the southern bank they found the wreck of Brig Governor Hunter covered in sand. As they proposed to leave, William Blake was cutting cabbage palms when he was speared through the back, then when he turned another spear for good measure. Blake was put in the boat and rowed to the south side of the inlet where Dr Harris removed the spears. They camped near the wreck of the Governor Hunter. Dr Harris was doubtful that Blake would make it to Port Stephens.
October 27, progress was slowed by the heat and the wounded man. Made only four miles. Cape Hawke was now 2.5 miles east.
October 28, travelled 10 miles and halted for the evening.
October 29, travelled a distance from the coast and saw a series of lakes including Myall Lake, and passed Black Head Island near Broughton Island. Travelled five miles then rested.
October 30, followed the route they found the day before and reached the beach south of Sugar Loaf Point. The tents were pitched and about 30 Aboriginals appeared. They were very friendly and gathered around the camp and before they left, the men were clean shaven and the children had their hair cut. Everybody was very happy. Travelled another 12 miles then halted for the evening.
October 31 rained all day. Evans and Harris went to bath and as they were dressing, Aboriginals appeared, throwing spears at them. They stood watch all night.
November 1, the explorers departed early and arrived at Port Stephens at 3pm. The explorers were dishevelled. With provisions nearly exhausted, the men and horses were incapable of further travel. It was decided that Evans and three men would row in the boat to Newcastle for assistance and hopefully return with a larger boat and fresh food. Oxley estimated that Newcastle was 36 miles away. He began preparing a lengthy report for Governor Macquarie while the men readied the boat which they had carried on their shoulders for 13 days.
November 2, Evans and crew began their journey to Newcastle. They left at daylight and arrived at Newcastle that evening. They reported the expedition’s predicament to Captain James Wallis, Commandant of Newcastle. Wallis acted immediately and ordered the preparation of stores and a vessel to sail to Port Stephens the next day.
November 3, after resting the night before, Evans and the men assisted in the preparation of the boat to rescue the expedition at Port Stephens.
November 4, the boat left Newcastle. At the same time a long boat left for Sydney with Oxley’s dispatch informing Governor Macquarie that the explorers were safe.
November 5, Oxley was greatly relieved when he saw sails emerge on the horizon. When the boat arrived no time was spared in getting horses across the bay. Evans and some of the men were to continue overland to Newcastle with the horses, while Oxley and party set out for Newcastle by boat.
November 6, the boat docked at Newcastle at noon. Evans’ party left with the horses and arrived just on dark the same day. In clean clothes and a toddy of rum, the explorers relaxed. Later they has their first hearty meal for months as they ate with the men of the 46th Regiment.
Oxley wrote the next day to the governor to inform him of their arrival in Newcastle. They waited a few days for transport to arrive to take them to Sydney. They arrived in Sydney about Lady Nelson on the evening on November 21. William Blake was still well and truly alive.
John Oxley’s expedition was out five and a half months and covered more than 1850 miles, the largest expedition yet seen in Australia at the time. He was always disappointed that he didn't solve the mystery of the western rivers, but he was sure that there was an inland sea in the interior, it just hadn’t been discovered yet.
November 27, the Governor welcomed the men of Oxley’s party in the gardens of Government House and thanked them for their good service and promised pardons for all the convicts. He would also consider any recommendation for land grants that Oxley might make for them.
Founding the settlement of Port Macquarie
Following the report made by Oxley, Governor Macquarie dispatched a further expedition to survey and explore Port Macquarie and the Hastings River with the view to establishing a convict settlement. Oxley was again in charge, assisted by Lieutenant Phillip Parker King.
They arrived on the Lady Nelson on May 11, 1819 and made a thorough survey of the entrance to the river and countryside up the river as far as Baims Bridge near Wauchope.
On June 12, 1819 Oxley reported to the governor that the port was most suitable to receive vessels.
A third visit was made by Oxley in 1820. He was to survey the port. Captain Allman accompanied him. They planned and drew a map of the new settlement.
In 1821 he submitted a plan of the entrance to the port to Governor Macquarie. On March 18, 1821 Prince Regent, Lady Nelson and Mermaid left Sydney with a pioneering party of soldiers and convicts to found the settlement. They arrived on April 17 and 18. Governor Macquarie was ordered to form a settlement at Port Macquarie which was surveyed by James Meehan, November 6, 1821.
Captain Allman was the first commandant of Port Macquarie and stayed for three years. Captain Allman reported upon the good behaviour of the convicts and the prisoners built their own huts.