This tombstone gives no indication of the apparent contradictions evident in the character of Isaac Knight.


Knight left for the Colony as a sergeant in Captain Campbell's company on Alexander. As a soldier, his obituary indicates that he had previously served seven years under Lord Howe and had participated in the American War of Independence. At the time of his enlistment to come to the Colony, he was a sergeant in the Royal Marines. It would appear that he had enlisted with the Marines on 2 February 1781 having been a 28-year-old barber from Ferney, Fermanagh, Ireland. He seems to have been a private on Eagle in 1788 and was discharged from that post as a prisoner on 15 September 1778. He also served in 1786 on the Portsmouth guardship Ganges. James Scott, a fellow sergeant with Knight in Campbell's company (and a diarist), has recorded on two occasions, once at the Cape, on 18 January 1788, and another time in the Colony, on 13 September 1790, that Knight had his stripes taken from him. No reason is given in either instance by Scott. The events are not mentioned elsewhere but the indications are consistent with the earlier offence on Eagle and support the image of a typical hard-living sergeant.

However, hard-living did not necessarily mean both self-centred and hard-nosed. While stationed at Rose Hill two of his privates, Michael Tolen and Edward Odgers, went shooting in the bush on Thursday, 30 April 1789. They failed to return. On the following Saturday a greyhound dog, which had accompanied them, returned to the settlement. It was Knight who unsuccessfully went in search of them.


In May 1791 he accompanied Captain Watkin Tench and Lieutenant William Dawes, on their explorations which established that the Hawkesbury and the Nepean were a single river. Tench called him “the trusty sergeant who had been the indefatigable companion of all our travels” and in his honour named Kurrajong Heights, Knight Hill.

When the Marines had been transferred out of the Colony in 1792, Knight returned to England. It was Knight who, in June 1793, took it upon himself to write to Phillip requesting what amounted to better terms of payment for those serving in the Colony.


He married Mary Talbot on 7 April 1794. Duty soon called him back to service as Master at Arms on HMS London. While he was absent his wife died.

Two years into the new century, he clearly determined to start a new life. On 10 June 1802 he married a widow, Elizabeth White (nee Marks), and less than a month later, on 7 July 1802, applied for a passage to the Colony. He returned aboard HMS Glatton on 11 March 1805 accompanied by his new wife and stepsons, William and James George White. As a free settler, on arrival he was granted 130 acres. Isaac and Elizabeth were to have three sons of their own, Isaac, Daniel and John.


Within twelve months of his return the convicts at the Government Farm, Castle Hill, rose in revolt. Governor King assumed that the revolt was caused by a small number of dissatisfied Irishmen. In an endeavour, therefore, "to Separate the Worst of the Irish sent here for sedition from the others, as well as the great public advantage that Settlement will be of" the Governor determined to establish a new settlement upon the Coal River, to the north of Sydney. The settlement was to be under the command of Lieutenant Charles (later Sir Charles) Menzies, a Royal Marine. The free settler appointed as superintendent of the 30-odd convicts sent under Menzies' command was Isaac Knight. Undoubtedly the Governor was endeavouring to provide Lieutenant Menzies with another military man without depleting the military forces based in Sydney and Parramatta.


Shortly after establishing this new settlement, on 2 May 1804, Surgeon Thomas Arndell reported a rumour to the Governor of a further scheme by the convicts at Castle Hill — this time to liberate their compatriots on the Coal River. Lieutenant Menzies, while securing his convicts, reassured the Governor that in the circumstances the scheme was totally lacking in reality. In time, this settlement was to become the City of Newcastle.


Lieutenant Menzies resigned his position in March 1805, after an argument with Charles Cressy, a subaltern of the NSW Corps and Colonel William Paterson of the Corps. Knight resigned from his post on l6 March 1805 and by the time of the 1806 Muster, Knight had left the Coal River and was farming a grant of 100 acres on the Hawkesbury Road in the District of Blacktown. This land he had received on 4 June 1806. (He had been granted 100 acres at Bankstown on 4 June 1804 but no evidence has been located for his occupation of this land.) Knight appears to have resided on his grant between 1805 and 1810.


He probably left this farm because of a disastrous year 1809 which he and his family had suffered. His eldest natural son, Isaac, died on 21 January 1809. At some stage during the year his youngest stepson, James George White, also died. In June 1809 the Georges River flooded to such an extent that it destroyed his house and almost reached his family in the top of the loft where they had retreated to escape the waters. The following year he sold his property to Charles Throsby for 75 pounds.


Presumably by this time he had secured appointment as Superintendent of Agriculture at the Government Farm at Castle Hill. This post had first been created in November 1802 and had possibly been filled by Andrew Knowland, a First Fleet convict who had arrived on Friendship. There was a dwelling house comprising two rooms together with a free-standing kitchen and an enclosed garden at the Government Farm from at least 1807 and Knight may have resided there. The farm finally closed in October 1811 and the complex was converted to a lunatic asylum.


Knight was subscribing to a new Court House for Liverpool in 1810. It can be presumed that while still nominally a Superintendent of Agriculture until 25 August 1812, and not officially receiving a land grant until such time, he was in fact farming his new 100-acre farm, Droxford, on the banks of the Nepean from about 1810. He supplied meat for sale to the Government Stores from 1813 to 1819. In that latter year, on 21August, he was appointed an auctioneer at Liverpool.

His wife died on the 13 July 1827 and was buried with their 12-month-old grandson, William Thomas White, who had died in 1822, in the Parramatta Burial Ground. By now his son John had become a blacksmith at Lower Minto, while Daniel was a saddler in Liverpool.


By 1828 Isaac was living at Macquarie Grove the property of Samuel Otto Hassall, of the missionary Hassall family. He then lived with the family of Mrs J. J. Howell for the following 14 years. He became an active member of the Bible Society and the Wesleyan Auxiliary Missionary Society. He died, aged 92 years, on 17 April 1842.


He was buried with his wife and grandson and also his daughter-in-law, Maria (the sister of John Batman, the pioneer of the Port Phillip District). His obituary recorded how “it may truly be said of him his end was Peace.”



Copyright Fellowship of First Fleeters