Fattened on Local Pastures

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More than 200 years ago, the cows depicted in sculpture opposite Oran Park Library pointed the way for the development of southwest Sydney.

The loss of two bulls and four cows within six months of the first British settlement was a disaster. The cattle had been brought by ship from Cape Town. Poorly supervised, the small herd had wandered off and disappeared into the bush. The only available cow on the entire continent was the Governor’s milking cow!

Seven years later, in 1795, 61 cattle were discovered on the southern side of the Nepean River. The Governor decided that the cattle would not be recaptured; they remained and flourished in the ‘Cowpastures’.

In those early years, the colony was close to starvation. It needed to become self-sufficient in case supply ships sank or arrived late. The seasons and soils in the colony were very different to England, and most new arrivals had no farming skills.

John Macarthur, a soldier who settled near Parramatta, recognised that the Cowpastures in the southwest would be a good place for grazing livestock. He lobbied Lord Camden in England and received some promising land when it was opened for settlement.

Macarthur’s sons trialled many business ideas at Camden Park and, persisting through setbacks, became wealthy. They built a fine homestead at Camden Park, where descendants live today.

This area’s story is about brave entrepreneurs who made a commitment to raising a family far from their homeland, and, in the process, helped to make England’s ‘dumping ground’ for prisoners into the land we know today.

You live in an area where brave people with initiative flourished. Camden Historical Society maintains records and objects from early Camden. Visit Camden Museum on John Street, in the same building as the library. Open Thursday to Sunday. Entry is free.

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