On a recent drive back from Canberra to Sydney taking the road through Bungendore was hard to resist. The wood craft gallery in that village is one of my favourites but the area was also the stomping ground of my Cole and McFarlane ancestors. In this regard the main point of interest was St Thomas’s Church cemetery at Carwoola where many members of these two families were buried.

Across the years from the 1840s to about 1900 family records indicate events across the Molonglo region including locations such as Gidleigh, Carwoola, Foxlow, Black Ranges, Bungendore as well as others at nearby Gundaroo.

St Thomas’s Church is on the Captains Flat Road as are Carwoola and Foxlow stations. Captains Flat Road is a pleasant drive off the King’s Highway through undulating wooded country of the Cuumbuen Nature Reserve which then opens into the pastures of the “sheltered fertile” Molonglo Valley. St Thomas’s church is perched on a small rise surrounded by trees that conceal all but the spire and even though I had been there previously, I almost drove straight past it.

The first settlers in the Molonglo Plains area had arrived in about 1820. Thomas Rutledge, who was one of the earlier major land holders, lived at Carwoola and he gave land near the homestead on which the St Thomas’s church was built (between 1872 and 1874). Thomas Rutledge and many of his family were also buried at St Thomas’s cemetery.

The Carwoola station whose name comes from the aboriginal word Carrowillah and means “where the water meets the plains”. Thomas Rutledge commenced building the homestead in 1849 and extended to grand proportions in 1874. Foxlow is further south and was established in about 1835 by John Hosking, who gave his name to nearby Hoskinstown, and it was named after his wife Martha Foxlow Terry.

Gidleigh station which is closer to Bungendore was owned by Admiral Phillip Parker King, son of governor Philip Gidley King, from about 1833 and was named after his home in Devonshire and later sold to Thomas Rutledge. By 1870 Thomas Rutledge owned Gidleigh, Foxlow as well as Carwoola.

My third great-grandparents, William Cole and his wife Martha Sophia (Skinner) had arrived in Australia from Kent in 1838 aboard the Amelia Thompson. By 1847 they were in the Molonglo at Black Range and had started a family. My other third great-grandparents, Scottish Charles McFarlane and his Irish wife Elizabeth (Welsh) also arrived in the Molonglo within a couple of years.

The families were connected when in 1861 their children, Frederick William Cole and Ellen McFarlane married at St Philip’s Church, Bungendore. The children of Frederick and Ellen’s were recorded as being born variously at Gidleigh, Foxlow and Carwoola.

The drive through the Molonglo valley and Bungendore to visit my relatives was a pleasant detour which I know I will take again.