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John Connell

1759 – 1849

John Connell (c. 1759–1849), free settler, merchant and landowner, came to New South Wales aboard the Earl Cornwallis, which arrived in Sydney in June 1801. Records show that also aboard the Earl Cornwallis was a Catherine Connell, a convict under sentence of fourteen years transportation and described on the ship’s convict indents as ‘Ux. John Connell’: i.e., his wife. Shortly after arriving in the colony, Connell established an ironmongery and hardware store on Pitt Street. It is believed that Catherine was assigned to her husband as his housekeeper and soon afterwards was awarded a conditional pardon. Connell clearly prospered – as indicated, for example, by the Sydney Gazette’s report of the elaborate funeral with which Catherine was farewelled on her death, aged 50, in May 1811. (Some sources – specifically, a history of the Sutherland Shire, published in 2000 – claim that Connell later married an ex-convict named Catherine Sullivan, but a recent search of relevant records has not confirmed this). In addition to running his Sydney business, Connell went into farming, acquiring land in the area now forming the suburbs of Kurnell and Cronulla, and also in the Hawkesbury district. In 1821, Connell acquired 1,000 acres at Quibray Bay (Kurnell); and in 1828 purchased the land and saltwater marshes that in 1815 had formed the first land grant in that area, Alpha Farm. By the late 1830s, Connell owned much of the Kurnell Peninsula, but it is thought that he left the management of the Kurnell estates to his son, John junior, who made a living from the harvesting and sale of its timber. Mentions of Connell in the Colonial Secretary’s records note the many substantial contracts he was awarded for the supply of meat to the Government stores, and suggest that his business interests included a pub in Windsor. He also served as a coroner and juror at various inquests during the 1810s, and was engaged in various charitable and community pursuits. Connell’s daughter, Margaret, married soldier and part-time explorer Thomas Laycock junior (c. 1786–1823) in Sydney in 1817. They had two sons, John Connell Laycock (b. 1818) and Elias Pearson Laycock (b. 1821). Following Margaret’s death, aged 26, in 1824, John Connell became guardian to his grandsons. They inherited their grandfather’s properties on Connell’s death, aged 90, in August 1849.

Updated 2018