John was born to Catherine and John Prendergast in the Hawkesbury sometime after 25 September 1800. There are no children recorded prior to this date in the Historical records of New South Wales in the relevant section of the report1
As a child growing up in the Hawkesbury, John would have been called a “Currency lad”. This referred to the first generation of children born in the colony of NSW to distinguish them from the free settlers who were born in the British Isles2
He would also have been given the nickname of “Cornstalk”. This was a term to describe how the first generation of Australian born children in the colony of NSW were so much taller than children born in Britain.3
When Catherine decided to return to Ireland she chose to employ a convict as housekeeper for her husband John and Governess for her baby son John. As a free settler, Catherine was entitled to do this. Catherine employed Jane Williams upon Jane’s arrival aboard the Nile on 14 December 18014 This was quiet a reversal to the usual custom of an Protestant English Lady having a catholic Irish convict assigned to her because Catherine was Irish Catholic and Jane was English Protestant5. By December 1801 Baby John would have been 1 year old and Catherine would have weaned him. Having Jane assigned to her and baby John was a shrewd move as John Prendergast Senior would not have been entitled to employ Jane Williams while he and Jane were both still convicts.
Jane took great care of John Jnr. Later, when Catherine did not return to Australia, Jane and John Senior began a relationship and had a further 5 children together. Jane always treated John Jnr. as one of her own. There has never been a marriage record of their marriage discovered.6
John junior grew up to be a healthy, happy child supported by the love of his family. As a teenager he had one minor scrap with the law. John appeared in front of the courts when his love of partying got him into strife. He had put some food and alcohol items on his father’s tab without John Snr’s. permission7. John Prendergast senior was not impressed!
John Pendergast junior was recorded on various census records as BC (born Colony) and was one of the first Australian born child of an free settler and convict to be called up for Jury Duty.8
John was very industrious, just like his father and applied for grants and purchased many parcels of land which are indicated in his Will9
Figure 1. Photo of Map of land purchase with reference to other land in John’s Will.
He moved to Campbelltown and married Elizabeth Dwyer on 1/6/1824 at St. John’s Catholic church Campbelltown. Together they had 9 Children. At the time of their marriage it was rumoured that John owned one half and Elizabeth owned the other half of all land in the Campbelltown area. John Pendergast’s Will certainly indicates a large number of land parcels purchased by John Jnr. in the Campbelltown area.
In his lifetime John Pendergast Junior was very Community spirited. Like his father before him and his half-brothers, he insured that the Catholic faith continued to grow in Australia by contributing financially to the construction of churches and burial grounds. Along with Hugh Byrne, John Jnr. secured a grant on 31 March 1846 for the Catholic cemetery at Campbelltown. Little did he know that his wife and son would be buried there the next year following a terrible accident where they both perished by fire. The biblical quote on the side of the grave indicates the great depth of sorrow that John felt at Elizabeth and Thomas’s deaths.
Figure 2. Photo “Elizabeth Wife of John Pendergast” grave.
In the ‘History of Bow Bowing’ we learn that that John Pendergast was an advocate of education.
“John donated a block of land on the corner of Campbelltown Road and Redfern Road to the Catholic Church. In June 1866 a small church classroom – built by local farmers – was opened at the site and called Saggart Field School….moves to improve this (impoverished state) were made by converting the church school into a public one. In 1954 the Minto Public school was relocated to the more populated eastern side of the railway line in Campbelltown. The students and teachers are very proud of their School’s rich heritage and maintain a little museum”
Figure 3. Photo of Minto Public School
When John Pendergast left Campbelltown, he auctioned his Herd of 100 horses at an auction as advertised in the South Australian Newspaper, July 1848,
Figure 4. Photo of Auction advertisement.
John moved to the Monaro and 7 years after the death of his wife Elizabeth married Emma Shields on 14 August, 1854. Together they had 6 Children.
By this stage his 3 oldest boys with Elizabeth had grown up, and he encouraged them to continue the Prendergast settlement along the East Coast of Australia and the purchase of land in the Victorian High Plains.
Figure 5. Photo of the Plaque explaining the 3 Pendergast sons involvement in the development of the Victorian High Country.
Cottage Creek Station.
John lived with Emma at Cottage Creek Station until his death aged 66 on 8 June 1867. Prior to his death, he had continued to purchase land in the Monaro area. John died a wealthy farmer and bequeathed land to his children and money for the education of his younger children.
John Jnr. Bequeathed the house, furniture and farm equipment to Emma as well as an annual annuity of 100 pounds for the rest of her life.
Figure 6. Photo of Cottage Creek graves
In his Will, John bequeathed several parcels of land to his children in the Monaro district and Campbelltown as well as a house that he bequeathed to his niece Winifred Mary Byrne an allotment of land with a house and other buildings thereon at Lithgow Street Campbelltown.16 He also instructed that land at Currajong and Windsor be auctioned and the money diposited into a Bank of NSW account for his younger children.17
1Historical Records of New South Wales, 25 Sept. 1800, p.160.
4Public Records Office (PRO) UK. Assignment Record HO 10/36
5Robinson, Portia. “The Women of Botany Bay”
6Hawkesbury Pioneer Register.
7Court case dated 11 July 1820. John Pendergast v Thomas Hart.
8Jury Duty dated 4 December 1826, John Pendergast, Farmer.
9Last Will and Testament of John Pendergast dated 4 March, 1866. Codicil 23 November 1866.
11Figure 2. Photo Elizabeth Pendergast (Nee Dwyer) Grave at Campbelltown Catholic Cemetery.
12Figure 3. Photo Minto Public School
13Figure 4.Photo South Australian Newspaper, July 1848. Advertisement for sale of John’s horses.
14Figure 5. Photo Omeo Plaque.
15Figure 6. Photo of Cottage Creek graves.
16NSW Historical Electoral Rolls 1842-1864 Document Lithgow Street House.
17Last Will and Testament of John Pendergast dated 4 March, 1866. Codicil 23 November 1866.