08 April, 2016

Capertee Valley History


When John McLean, his wife Marion and their children arrived in Sydney from their native Scotland in December 1837, they
knew exactly where they wanted to go.

Within days of migrating to NSW, the McLean family had made their way over the Blue Mountains and north to the Capertee
Valley where they landed on the doorstep of Marion's brother, also known as John McLean, just in time for Christmas
That property was Warrangee, then a 300 acre Crown grant on the Capertee River officially described as "Worrengy'', and
reputedly the site of the first house built in the Valley.
The newly-arrived John McLean went on to become the "Lord of Capertee'', building a farming empire over 40 years that
encompassed not only most of the entire valley but much of the surrounding country halfway to Bathurst.

His brother in law John McLean, christened Jonathan, followed a different path, as detailed by a recent visitor to the Valley, Mrs
Copland Schmidt, of Athol, via Toowomba, as she pursued her interest in family history.

Warrangee's John McLean was one of a group of migrants from the Isle of Skye who arrived in Sydney in 1821.

Young McLean, then about 24, boasted botanical skills that saw him recruited by three notable landholders: Bungarribee's John
Campbell, Vaucluse House's Captain John Piper and Elizabeth Farm's John Macarthur.

In 1929, McLean was appointed Assistant Superintendent at Sydney's Botanical Garden, a position he held for six years,
including several years as Acting Superintendent. By then he had also been granted his 300 acres at Warrangee.

Around 1931, he allowed Scottish acquaintances George and Georgina Innes and their daughter Annabella to take up
residence on Warrangee while they awaited construction of their new home at Glen Alice.

In her memoirs, Annabella recalled the home at Warrangee as "not a very nice place, though the new house was thought very
good... weatherboard and shingled, with three small rooms... the old house stood at right angles, built with slabs and covered
with bark... the men lived in huts by the river, some distance off...''
Glen Alice, by contrast, won her blessing: in a mid-winter 1834 visit, she wrote, the house "was still unfinished, but very
comfortable, and the garden... well-stocked with vines and fruit trees''.
"We really had a beautiful garden in front of the house, but not too near, and the ground between was prettily laid out with lawn
and shrubbery, all planned by Mr John McLean, at one time head gardener in the Botanical Gardens, Sydney, and afterwards
holding a Government appointment at Norfolk Island,'' she later wrote.
John McLean was appointed Agricultural Superintendent on Norfolk Island in 1835.

He returned to Australia briefly in late 1837, possibly to meet his sister Marion and her family after their arrival, but no further
record of his presence in Australia is known. In 1840 he and another man drowned off Norfolk Island when their boat capsized.Both were buried there.

In a will he made before heading to Norfolk, McLean left Warrangee and all his stock to his father, Donald, in Scotland. That
never happened, according to property records unearthed by recent research.

What did happen, Mrs Schmidt says, is that McLean's brother in law, the man who went on to become known as the Lord of
Capertee, somehow ended up with the property.

Some reports claim that "Lord'' McLean bought it, others that Jonathan sold it to his sister, but the property records apparently
don't show it.

By the time he died in 1876, "Lord'' McLean's daughter Margaret and her husband William Jamison (son of the famous Sir John
Jamison) were running the property she was born on.

After her husband's death in 1891, Margaret ran Warrangee and the remains of the family empire until a few years before her
death in 1921, when the McLean clan's final link to the Capertee Valley ended.