Mistress of Pleasant Banks

Extracts from my book.

                               MISTRESS OF "PLEASANT BANKS"

                                     MRS ELIZABETH GIBSON


                                                                                      (c) Irene Schaffer


Pleasant Banks in 1993

Elizabeth Gibson must have been a wonderful person, when she died at age of 78 in 1872. The Launceston Examiner bestowed much praise on her. As the wife of David Gibson she was required to meet and entertain many officials during her fifty years at Pleasant Banks.


She was born to a convict mother and father, and subjected to all the demoralizing influence that a child on Norfolk Island would have been, at that time.  Very little has been recorded on how the children survived on Norfolk Island between 1788 and 1814. Elizabeth's looks seem to have been visible from a very early age, as she caught the eye of Capt Piper, Commandant of that establishment while still in her early teens.  She bore him a son in 1808 on Norfolk Island at the age of fourteen.


Elizabeth was born on Norfolk Island 2nd March 1794, the daughter of  Elizabeth Hayward, a  First Fleeter, who had arrived at Port Jackson on the "Lady Penrhyn" in 1788, at the age of thirteen and was later to go to Norfolk Island on the ill fated Sirius.  She had three other children, a son Robert 1795, a daughter Margaret 1796, and George c1802. Elizabeth Hayward lived with Joseph Lowe on Norfolk Island and departed with him on the "Lady Nelson" in 1813 for Port Dalrymple with two children, George and Margaret. (George later used the name Collins). It is not known who was the father of these children as they all went under the mothers name on the Norfolk Island records until 1810. Elizabeth took the name of Nichols, and George was known as Collins, after they arrived in VDL


On the 16th January 1819 at Port Dalrymple the marriage between Elizabeth Nichols and David Gibson took place. Elizabeth and Joseph appear to have lived in Launceston for a short time. He owned a small allotment of 1 acre 1 rood in Wellington Street, Launceston; which he claimed to have been in possession since 1814. He sold this land to David Gibson (his son-in-law) of "Pleasant Banks" for £350 in 1840. He was granted 40 acres at Norfolk Plains in 1817.


Elizabeth was the only women to hold stock on Norfolk Island, 525 sheep, 4 cattle, 15 swine, 40 goats, no doubt supplied to her by Captain John Piper for her future security in VDL, she was granted 50 acres of land in 1817, she arrived at Port Dalrymple on the "Minstrel" in 1813.


Norfolk Piper lived with his mother and David Gibson at until his death on 10th March 1827, at "Pleasant Banks". The Hobart Town Gazette dated the 24 March 1827, recorded the following.....Died on the 10th instant at "Pleasant Banks" the seat of Mr David Gibson, Mr Norfolk Piper, son of John  Piper Esq.  Sydney,  aged 8 years. Universally beloved & regretted by all that knew him. His burial did not state how he came to his death.


Only a year before his death Norfolk had been granted 500 acres across the creek from Gibson's farm. He attempted to relocate the 500 acres to a location near Campbell Town. This request was refuses in December 1826.


After the death of Norfolk Piper, David Gibson (his stepfather) applied for this 500 acre grant to be granted to him, or Eliza Gibson, his sister,  who succeeds to his property.


Elizabeth lived with David Gibson as his wife until Rev. Youl could make  the journey from Hobart Town  to conduct marriages and baptisms at Port Dalrymple in 1819. They had

ten children.


From the date of their first child it would appear that Gibson arrived in Port Dalrymple about 1814. Very little has been recorded about Elizabeth, she was however mistress of "Pleasant Banks" for fifty years, and having survived David by fourteen years her influence on her family must have been very influential, as her large family continued  to prosper, and gain general  approval in  the community.


The Hobart Town Gazette dated 21 December 1816, shows Mr Gibson of Launceston on the list as willing to supplying the Government with 2,150 lbs of meat from January to June 1817.

In 1818 some of the sheep belonging to Robert Campbell of Sydney were stolen from Port Dalrymple while under the management of David Gibson. Some of the stock held belonged jointly to Gibson and Edward Lord of Hobart.


Governor Macquarie visited the Evandale district on his journey to Port Dalrymple from Hobart Town in 1811 and 1821.


Wednesday May 9th 1821......`We passed through Epping Forest (12  miles long).......To Mr Gibson's farm on the South Esk, where we halted for the night, distance of 21 miles;  putting up at  Mr Gibson's house,  which is a most comfortable one indeed; where we  found abundance  of everything  that was good'.


Monday 28  May.1821...... `We reached the South Esk  River a little before  dark, which was too full to be  forded,  we crossed in Mr Gibson's boat  immediately under  his house, where we took up  our quarters for the  night.....Mr Gibson attended the ferry,  with his people to convey us and part of our baggage  across,  and was most  civil and  useful in rendering us every assistance n  his power.  We had a good dinner of beef stakes,(sic) & we went early to bed.......' A few days later Macquarie refers to having crossed the Esk River 3 miles from Gibson’s, where he fixed a place which he called Perth.  Gibson having promised the Governor he would build an Inn there, the Governor named it  Perth, after Gibson's native place in England.


The house that Governor and Mrs Macquarie stayed in has never been described,  its possible that it was a well built timber home for that time. A second house was built at about the  same time at Clarendon (1838/1840)  and was gutted by fire in  1859. American pine boards under the slate  roof ignited Christmas  morning when the kitchen chimney  caught fire.  A great dinner was being cooked at the time, and everything except the Christmas pudding was lost. The house was insured for a large sum for those days, said to be £3,500, which however did not cover the great loss.  An earlier fire in 1851 had not been so severe.


A description of the house.........No  photos have survived but von Stieglitz gives a very detailed description in  his, "A History  of Evandale". This building was demolished in 1915.  It would appear that this description fits the third house that was rebuilt on the site of the old one.


"Two storeys high, and made of pit-sawn boards, it has defied storms of many winters. The front door, opening into a passage with a staircase, was protected by from the weather by the two front rooms which extended out for three or four feet on each side of it. the top story, which consists  of three rooms  with pointed windows, formed the roof  of the porch.  Eight rooms in all, with a kitchen, scully and wash-house under a skillion at the back. At each end of the house there was a brick chimney.


The walls being sound the house was rebuilt, it remaines as one of the best know homesteads in the district.  In 1929 the property was bought by the Foster family, whose stud Merino sheep were direct descendants of the Saxon marino sheep, their ancestor, John Leake, brought to VDL in 1823.


Regardless of his beginning, David Gibson showed himself as an excellent farmer, and by 1820 he had 680 acres of land, of which 631 was in pasture with 2,674 sheep, 265 cattle, 4 horses; 45 acres in wheat, 2 acres in barley, 200 bushels of grain in hand. He and his wife and his four children were not victualled by the Government; Of his Government servants one was the other not victualled, nor was two his free servants (10 in all) He later purchased 760 acres of land, to this he added many more thousands of acres.  By 1839 he was amongst the largest landholders in the northern part of the Island.


The death of David Gibson occurred on the 15 April 1858, of debility at his home, a gentleman.  Buried at St Andrews Presbyterian Church at Evandale four days later aged 82 (80) His seven sons and three daughters were alive when he died. His widow survived him by 15 years, she died 28 January 1872, and is also buried at St Andrews.


See book list.