|The Colletts at Canowindra|
Back in 1829
The Collits (Colletts as it was back then) was allocated land at
Canowindra as a result of James Collit putting forward a new route
for a road off the top of the ridge at Mt Victoria. This road was
adopted by Surv General Lockyer and went through the Hartley
Valley out towards Bowenfels. This road is now call Lockyers
Pass. When the new Surveyor General -Mj Mitchel came along, he
changed this road and took his new road down what is now Victoria Pass.
James Collet was granted 640 acres for his good deed and his father was granted half that amount of 320 acres as compensation for lost trade for his Inn. They chose both sides of the Belubula River. In 1829 Sir Ralph Darling granted James Collits the 640 acres of land at Canowindra, "as land promised to James Collits on or before the date above mentioned and of which was authorised to take possession on 7th October, 1829 as a Free Grant in remuneration for services in pointing out a line of road from Mt. York to Bathurst".
James married his assigned convict, Eleanor Leech but he disowned her in 1834 after her loose spending habits. They were living at Canowinda at Belubula River at the time.
He then took up with Bridget Clifford. Caroline Collits was born to Bridget on 23 January, 1839 at Canowindra. Caroline was later to marry Thomas Field, second son of Edward Field 2nd and Esther Lee. The fFelds and the Collits were inseparable when it came to maintaining family ties.
Then James married Sophia Higgins (nee Field) on 31.8.1840 at Hassans Walls (near Lithgow) Sophia was the widow of Thomas Higgins. Sophie Higgins had been married to Thomas Higgins who owned the Dog and Duck Inn in George Street. Joseph Collits, James younger brother went to become the licensee of the Dog and Duck from 1834 till 1837. Joseph built Ambermere Rose Inn.
James Collits was one of the first white men to take up pastoral country on the Lachlan River. Sir Thomas Mitchell, the surveyor, tells in his diary of meeting James Collits on March 28, 1836 with an aboriginal. The pair had been 70 miles down the river from Grudgery near Forbes, where Mitchell met them searching for water and grass for stock. He says that Collits told him that, but for the help of the blackfellow, he would have died for want of water
In addition, James Collits owned great tracts of land around Canowindra, today situated in the Parish of Collett. He also owned a store and had the first hotel at Canowindra on the spot where the Royal Hotel now stands.
James disposed of his 640 acres to Thomas Icely in 1837/8 and apparently worked his fathers 317 acres, which was bequeathed to him on Pierce's death.
During the 1840’s and 1850’s James Collits had a line of buildings fronting the road along the boundary of 317 acres north of the river from the hotel. In 1858 he purchased 2 ˝ acres from William Robinson, a five chain square, and built a brick shop at the planned street junction opposite the hotel.
An unknown correspondent Old Timer wrote in a 1937 Canowindra Star: “The late James Collits disposed of the whole of his Canowindra property to Benjamin Clements in the early seventies.” The abstract of the title reveals that he sold to Alfred Stokes in September, 1876, who immediately sold to Benjamin Clements, grazier of Forbes in November, 1876. Clements sold to Robert Rice of Mount Macquarie near Carcoar on June 15, 1878.
James Collits is generally credited with keeping the
first hotel in Canowindra on the site of the Royal Hotel, but
nothing definite is known of the inn on James Collits’ land until
Raphael Tolano of Bathurst was granted the licence for the
Canowindra Inn, leasing it for seven years from James Collits. The
Bathurst Free Press reported in April, 1849:
On a knoll overlooking the town, Glastonbury homestead, believed the oldest house in Canowindra, occupies the obvious site for a house on the 317 acres first granted in the name of Worzilla to Pierce Collits (father of James Collits).