Capt. Samuel Wright in New South Wales

Eight months after Wright returned to Sydney from his posting to Macquarie Harbour Brisbane's replacement, Governor Ralph Darling, arrived from England. Darling was another army general but without the management skills of his predecessor, ‘his orders were to be obeyed not debated’. Wright and his uncle Frederick Wilkinson would have markedly different relationships with the Governor.

Captain Wright was initially stationed at Newcastle where he commanded a garrison of troops from the 3rd Regiment. Newcastle was reached by '12 hours easy sail' in the cutter Lord Liverpool. Newcastle boasted two government residences, convict barracks, a hospital and two inns. The settlement was administered by a military officer on half pay who was designated a Commandant. Wright and William Ogilvie arrived in Newcastle about the same time and became 'fast friends'. Darling was concerned at the administration of penal stations and at the beginning of 1826 be instructed Wright to take over command at Port Macquarie on the northern coast of New South Wales. Like Macquarie Harbour this was of another place of secondary punishment for 751 twice convicted felons and Wright had command of 88 troops at the site in addition to the civilian staff. Captain Francis Allman of the 48th Regiment, who had established the settlement in 1821, had fought alongside Wright in the Peninsular War and both had been wounded at the Battle of Albuera. Wright had succeeded Allman at Newcastle and, after retirement from the Army, the two were later neighbours in the Hunter Valley. Capt. Gillman succeeded Allman and was in charge of the settlement when Wright arrived. His new command had a reputation for being 'anything but a place of punishment'.

Like Macquarie Harbour the settlement was dependent on support by ship but the seas were kinder and the climate vastly improved. As with his former post forestry, farming and shipbuilding kept convicts at work. Whilst at this post be initiated some exploration and discovered the major river now called the Macleay. Guided by a native called Mooney and with a party under J.E.B.Wilson he travelled by boat up the Maria river and then carried their boats overland to reach the lovely valley of the Macleay which they followed downstream to Trial Bay and upstream to Belgrave Falls. During his stay the construction of a church (St. Thomas') began and continued the first attempt to grow sugar cane in Australia.

Captain Archibald Clunes Innes, who had served with Wright in Tasmania and travelled with him to Sydney, took over command at Port Macquarie in November 1826. His father-in-law was the Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay and Innes renamed the major river which had been known as Wright's River in favour of McLeay. Innes returned to the area to live in 1830 and settled on 2560 acres on which he built 'a stately mansion'. He became a rich and influential settler. Wright's stay at Port Macquarie was brought to a close by the need to forestall a feared French invasion of southern Australia.

After returning from
Westernport in 1826 Wright, like a number of fellow officers, decided to leave the army rather than travel to India with the regiment and instead to settle in Australia. Upon his return to Sydney he decided to sell his commission and on the 21 February 1827 he was given authority to search for land . After completing his report he remained in service on full pay and returned to Newcastle in February 1827 this time as Police Magistrate and Superintendent of Police in place of Francis Allman who retired. On 3 August he advised the Governor that he had sold his commission and nominated his selected land. The selection of 2560 acres was granted on 21 September on the same basis as free settlers. Very soon his uncle joined him in the Hunter Valley.

As Magistrate and Superintendent of Police for the Newcastle Samuel Wright he selected four sections of land on the western bank of the Hunter just downstream from Muswellbrook for his estate. One section had been granted to a Captain Bell but a change in the land laws meant that Bell, and all other absentee landholders, lost their rights. The state was adjacent to the land granted to Francis Allman known as Overton; Wright named his estate Bengalla perhaps with reference to the Gaelic for "hill of sorrow". As the Buffs sailed for Madras Wright remained in Newcastle. In August 1827 he notified the Governor that his commission had been sold, notwithstanding his departure from the Regiment he retained his rank and his position at a salary of £300 a year. In November he was again made a Justice of the Peace. The 1828 census of New South Wales records that he had ten convicts on assignment at Bengalla - John Brothers, 28, as overseer, Gregory Blackburn and Patrick Collins, 25, as shepherds, a carpenter, John Burrows, 37, and five general labourers, John Thorley, 25, Thomas Taylor,36, Thomas Rian,23, Patrick Hanning,34, and Patrick Bourke, 43. William Gilbert began as an assigned servant and later became a shepherd.

Under Colonial Regulations he was not entitled to a grant of land until the sale of his commission was finalised. Naval and Military officers with 20 years service were entitled to a grant of land free of quit rent. However the Secretary of State ruled that Captain Wright was not entitled to the remission as he had resolved to leave the service to settle before the Regulation offering the remission to retiring officers was gazetted. This does not appear to square with the facts and in the confusion be also failed to receive the grant normally due to a civil servant as his appointment to the civil administration was reported in the Sydney Gazette of the 15 March 1827 that was "quite unsolicited and unexpected". The actual grant finally received was that available to an ordinary settler. He unsuccessfully sought a review of the decision on quit rent.

Hunter Valley was a lonely place in the 1820s. The Commanding Officer of the Buffs, Colonel Cameron, and another officer Lt. Stirling, bad also been granted land on the other side of the Hunter adjacent to William Ogilvie at Merton. Unfortunately Cameron died of cholera a few days after arriving in Madras and Stirling was killed by pirates on the journey. Cameron's family who had remained in Sydney inherited the property. Allman brought a smaller estate near Maitland where he lived until he became Police magistrate at Illawara. He sold three quarters of his grant in 1833 for just over six shillings and acre. Thus whilst Samuel Wright home in his new country surrounded by the lands of former comrades in arms but his neighbours were few and quite far away. However he was attached through his uncle to a new collection of friends around William Ogilvie. He drove off the cattle belonging to Bell, restocked the property and assumed the life of a part time farmer. In reality Bengalla was probably run by the overseer John Brothers and the assigned convicts while Wright lived in Newcastle. In 1833 and 1834 Wright actively accumulated land. Including at least two lots in the town of Muswelbrook. In 1840 he paid a deposit on 32 perches in Newcastle but declined to continue with the purchase.

Stormy Times

Wilkinson’s interest in education led to his appointment in 1826 as one of the Trustees of the Church and School Corporation. The Corporation had general control of all schools and had been granted a seventh of the surveyed lands of the colony for the establishment of schools. As each district was opened for settlement land was to be set aside for churches and schools; this gave the Church of England, which then enjoyed a monopoly in this area, considerable influence. Early in 1826 Scott sought approval to raise £30,000 to finance the corporation, Darling supported the proposal but London had to be consulted. Awaiting approval and the lack of surveyors seriously delayed the effective start of the Corporation's work.

The delays irked the young minister and Wilkinson forcibly objected to Scott who was the responsible for the administration of the Act and Chairman of Trustees. By July 1828 no grants of land had been made for schools and he took up the matter with the Governor and the Ecclesiastical Board in London. Wilkinson believed the delay to due to incompetence in the Sydney authorities and he included in the letter a reference to government land at Camden being transferred to the Chief Secretary Alexander MacLeay instead of going to the Corporation, and other 'reserves made by former Governors now laying waste and useless'. The efficient but humourless Governor Darling took offence and referred to Wilkinson as an ignorant pedagogue presuming to censure the Government 'when it is evident that he is totally uniformed on the subject of which he writes'. Darling goes on to demonstrate to Under Secretary Hay in London the 'nature' of Wilkinson's character and 'how he is connected with politically with certain individuals' in opposition to the Government. The association was inferred to be with Francis Forbes and a Captain Robison who had taken over command of the troops stationed at Newcastle and was then being court martialled. By this time relations between the Chief Justice and the Governor had completely broken down. Wilkinson’s attitude to educational policy almost certainly ended his friendship with Samuel Marsden.

Scott was a great admirer of Darling but the feeling was not reciprocated. The Governor referred to him as an alarmist, extremely unpopular and because he lacked judgement would never be respected. When Scott was attacked in the press Darling accused him of morbid sensibility and to ready to take offence at every trifling occurrence. Scott's previous appointment and his continuing close association with John Macarthur seemed to be at the root of the Archdeacon's unpopularity. He upset both the emancipists and his own clergy and the early friendship with Wilkinson waned and they fought continuously, often over Scott's administration of the Corporation.

As a Trustee of the Corporation Wilkinson came into association with Francis Forbes, the senior colonial law officer and member of Darling's Executive Council. (Forbes and his family also had estates in the Hunter near the Grenada's former passengers). Due to his 'factious nature' Wilkinson was banished to the most distant in the colony, Newcastle in May 1828; a decision of Scott's with which Darling heartily concurred . The 1828 Census recorded him as residing there along with one servant, Sarah Wood aged 23. His new parish included the whole of the Hunter Valley and brought him back in closer contact with his nephew and the Grenada emigrants.

Scott's displeasure with Wilkinson's arose from a clash of personalities but the Governor's anger stemmed from the minister's associates. Wilkinson's move to Newcastle brought him into contact with the local army garrison commander Captain Robert Robison. Robinson had been in the colony since October 1826 and had accumulated a reputation for incompetence and making trouble. Perhaps it was natural for the two exiles with reputations for causing trouble should be drawn together. Robison planned to lodge complaints against Darling in London. The Governor then court martialled Robison for insubordination and a number of other charges. Robison was found guilty as sentenced to be cashiered. He was ordered to return to Newcastle pending confirmation of the sentence from London, but refused to obey. During Robison's trial it was alleged that the defendant referred Wilkinson as a bosom friend. Wilkinson was supoened to appear as a witness at Robison's court martial and his attendance lead to further trouble with Scott.

Robison was married to the daughter of Judge John Stephen, and on good terms with Forbes who had apparently assisted in drafting the complaints Robison intended to send to London. This had brought the Captain within the circle of the Governor's opponents. Before his court martial Robison had lodged counter charges against Darling relating to his time at Newcastle; ironically two of these related to Samuel Wright.

Wright and the other 'landholders and residents of the lower Hunter valley were strong supporters of the Governor. Robison alleged that Darling had failed to act on his complaint (in March) that Wright's Supervisor of Works, Mackay, had wrongfully used convicts to work on his dairy farm at Nelson Plains. Further more he alleged that Wright and Mackay were in partnership in the farm. When Darling finally held and enquiry into the matter it found that Mackay had acted improperly and he was dismissed. Wright was fully exonerated. When the Monitor repeated Robison's charges against Wright the Governor initially agreed to sue the editor but later withdrew the offer but pledged to support Wright if he took a private action. Darling saw fit to appoint Wright as one of the three member board of enquiry hearing Robison's complaint. Robison continued to haunt Darling; he continued his criticisms and eventually was brought to court again in London in 1834 where he was again found guilty and imprisoned. Despite this calls continued for investigations into his complaints.