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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Collits, Pierce (1769–1848)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Pierce Collits (1769?-1848), settler and innkeeper, was convicted in July 1800 at the Old Bailey of receiving a quantity of stolen muslin, lace, handkerchiefs, and other goods, and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. He arrived in Sydney in the Minorca on 14 December 1801. His wife, Mary, came free at the same time, and though she could not sign her name, Philip Gidley King granted her in July 1803 seventy acres (28 ha) at Evan on the Nepean, where her husband joined her. Over the years they had three sons and six daughters and became prosperous and respectable settlers. In November 1810 Lachlan Macquarie included their farm among those he described as 'good … well cultivated'; perhaps this helped Collits to gain his conditional pardon the following May. In the next few years he subscribed to the school at Castlereagh in 1814, to the Waterloo fund in 1816 and to the flood relief fund in 1817; in 1815 he was made chief constable at Evan, in 1820 poundkeeper and inspector of cattle, and in August 1821 a member of the Evan District Committee of Emancipated Colonists. Throughout this period he had supplied large quantities of meat to the government store and in 1819 was granted a further fifty acres (20 ha) at Prospect.

By this time he was contemplating a move into the interior, for which he was given permission in 1821. In 1823 he was settled in the Vale of Clwydd (near Lithgow) where he had built his famous Collits Inn, The Golden Fleece, at the foot of Mount York, four miles and a half (7.2 km) from the ford over Cox's River. This was a great boon to travellers, affording them shelter at the end of their second day's journey from Sydney. He received a grant of 200 acres (81 ha) there in 1825 and by 1828 had cleared 54 (22 ha) and cultivated 36 (15 ha), and owned 360 cattle and 300 sheep. In 1830 (Sir) Ralph Darling, who had visited and praised his inn the previous year, ordered him another 150 acres (61 ha), and appointed him a deputy-postmaster, but his prosperity was threatened by Surveyor-General (Sir) Thomas Mitchell's building the new road through Victoria Pass. In 1833 he resigned as postmaster and next year selected a site for a new inn on the River Lett near Hartley. Offered a further grant in substitution for his former land, after some intricate manoeuvring in which he seems to have been anxious to get a double issue, he selected 317 acres (128 ha) on the Belubula River at Canowindra, so as well as pioneering in the Hartley district his sons were among the earliest settlers on the Lachlan River. In 1841 when his wife died he transferred his new inn to his daughter, Sophia Morris. He died on 19 September 1848, aged 79, and was buried behind his first inn.

Select Bibliography

  • W. L. Havard, ‘Pierce Collits and his Inns’, Journal and Proceedings ( Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 23, part 5, 1937, pp 392-410
  • Sydney Gazette, 25 Mar 1824.

Citation details

'Collits, Pierce (1769–1848)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 21 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

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