THE HISTORY OF THE SYKES FAMILY IN AUSTRALIA
George Sykes and Catherine Crowe, second generation
George, the first son of William and Sarah Sykes was born at Parramatta on 4th July 1810, and was baptised at St John's Church of England, Parramatta on 15th November 1812. This was the law of the land at the time, and of course the only Catholic Priest in the colony was a convict priest named Father Harold, but his activities were very restricted and he left the colony in this same year. At this time William was not a Catholic even though Sarah was, and there was great prejudice against Catholics so very likely Sarah saw the wisdom in following the law of the land to the letter.
Shortly after George's birth the family moved to Appin to a grant of land a few miles on the Wilton Rd. from the present Appin township. There George was reared and stayed until approximately 1827, when he was told of new land at Spring Valley, Goulburn, by his step-brother, Mr John Byrne. Mr Byrne explored the Spring Valley district, and settled at the present Woodbrook where Mr Gregory Mooney now lives. John was the first white man to live in the Spring Valley district, and was soon to have George Sykes as his only white neighbour. He moved to Spring Valley with the hope of obtaining a block of land. He called his property Spring Valley , evidently after the D'Arcy property at Appin. The whole district soon took on the name so it was dropped from the property. Mr John Byrne had moved to Goulburn in 1823, and lived at Argyle, or the Old Township, as North Goulburn was then called, at this time there were only a few houses there.
From The Register of the County of Argyle , No. 2, Folio 7:
George Sykes of Spring Valley near Corowang (the spelling from the Register) 100 acres, grant of land, in the County of Argyle, the property is named 'Spring Valley', near Corowang, near Lake George.
This was granted by Sir George Gipps on 23rd August 1839. George paid 16/8 and the land was his for evermore.
This 100 acres was bounded on the West by a line North 20 chains, commencing at the NW corner of John Byrne's primary grant, on the N by a line E 50 chains, on the E by a line 20 chains, and on the S by a line W 50 chains. Being the land promised to the said George Sykes, on or before 27th September 1831 by His Excellency Lieutenant General Sir Ralph Darling, and of which he was authorised to take possession on 18th October 1831, as a small grant. Being also the land advertised in his name as number 297 in the Government Notice dated 18th May 1839.
From Sir Richard Bourke's Despatch, dated 23rd November 1835, No. 111, "Thomas and George Sykes, both of Lake George, applied for four convicts each, and were granted one each to work for them."
George settled on the flat where the old recreation hall stood, and the Spring Valley tennis courts were situated. It is now called Thomas and is owned by the Sykes of Australind . After building a residence, George returned to Appin, made an application for a grant of 100 acres of land where he had settled, and then returned to Spring Valley, bringing his two younger brothers with him. There they worked very hard clearing, cultivating, and fencing.
In 1831, George received a promise of the 100 acres, by His Excellency Sir Ralph Darling, but this grant didn't come through officially until 23rd August 1839. The official grant was made by Sir George Gipps, and only because it was promised by Governor Darling.
In 1837, George returned to Appin, and married Catherine Crowe, the daughter of William Crowe, then they returned to Spring Valley bringing with them Mr and Mrs Sykes, Senior (William and Sarah).
In Registered Book 7 No. 959, of the Registrar General's Department, it is noticed that William Sykes sold 130 acres of land at Appin to Robert Campbell on the 17th and 18th February 1836 for the sum of one hundred and thirty-two pounds. Also in the same book that he conveyed 250 acres to his son George, for natural love and affection and the sum of ten shillings. The Robert Campbell was the Manager of the Bank of N.S.W. In those days Mortgages had to be made to the Manager, not the Bank.
George and Catherine then reared a family of ten boys and two girls, on the property at Spring Valley. (see first three generations for a list of their children and descendants. Eight of these children - the third generation - had descendants, and the Sykes family in Australia are descended from these eight children of George and Catherine).
A real community was organised in the district. In 1862 George and John Byrne shared the honour of establishing a building on the present grounds of the Spring Valley Church, that served both as a church and a school. John Byrne donated the land for the church and the cemetery, and was the first man buried in the cemetery. There are older headstones, but these were brought from Collector. In 1864 there were 83 children attending the school, and these were taught by lay folk, who were paid by the church and partly subsidised by the government. There was no trace of this building by 1900. The iron from this church-school building was used on the roof of John Byrne's home Woodbrook, to replace shingles, and also on Mr P. F. O'Brien's home at Clarevale. You can realise by the number of children in the district that many families had moved there. The present Spring Valley Church was opened in 1888. Messrs George, Stephen and Sylvester Sykes, John Byrne, P. O'Brien, and all the Catholics of the district, gave wonderful support to the building of this church. The altar in the church came from St Michael's, at Ryansvale; it was built in 1848. St Michael's was the first and only church around the district at this time, and all the Currawang and Spring Valley Catholics attended it. Industry had started and The Currawang Mining Company was a big venture, mining for iron, copper and gold, but this closed down about 1907. There was also a big Spring Valley Butter Factory Co. Ltd.; that was liquidated in 1904.
The story is told about an old gentleman who had a job of collecting the milk in a spring cart, and one day while he had the cart upside down greasing the wheels, decided to paint the Company's name on the side of it. It was driven around the district for many years with the name upside down.
The community of Spring Valley and Currawang had wonderful sporting and social events at the recreation centre, on the Sykes property. They had a very strong tennis club and cricket club. The earliest sports I can find was a type of gymkhana held here in 1889. The recreation hall was opened in 1913 and was built by Michael O'Brien and Stephen and Charles Sykes. Many wonderful dances were held here.
The Lands Department has a big list of land bought by George Sykes around the district. He sold his property at Appin in 1852. A summary of his early land purchases is as follows:
23rd August 1839—purchased 100 acres.
23rd July 1853—purchased 105 acres.
24th March 1854—purchased 50 acres and 29 acres.
20th July 1854—purchased 33 acres and 58 acres.
28th May 1855—purchased 58 acres.
George died at the age of 93 years on 12th October 1903, and is buried in the Spring Valley Cemetery. Rev. Father J. O'Donoghue was the officiating priest.
CATHERINE SYKES (NEE CROWE)
Catherine was the wife of George Sykes, and was born at Campbelltown in 1816. Her father was Mr William Crowe who was given a grant of land at Appin.
Catherine and George had a large family of ten sons and two daughters (see first three generations for a list of their children and descendants). She was a wonderful pioneer in the Spring Valley District, being held in the highest esteem and many of her neighbours depended on her for advice.
Her home was always beautifully kept, the front door was open to anyone, and the drawing-room was a real copy-book one.
Catherine died at the age of 90 years. She passed away on 10th October 1906 and was buried in the same grave as George in the Catholic Cemetery at Spring Valley.
Thomas Sykes and James Sykes, brothers of George (second generation)
Ellen Sykes (third generation), first child of George and Catherine