Rivers Paterson (nee Staines) was born on the day her father Thomas drowned in the Bell River, between Molong and  Wellington, in the central west of New South Wales. Thomas Staines was an ex-convict; a former blacksmith and farrier from Leicestershire. He was transported for life in 1835 for horse theft. At first he followed the familiar trade of   blacksmithing, but  eventually he became publican of The  Three Rivers Inn.  I was interested to discover that name The Three Rivers  actually referred to three tight  bends in the Bell River. My sincere thanks to Melissa Cox from The Wellington Museum for this information.


On September 27 1852 Thomas had forded the river, presumably on horseback, to seek help for his  pregnant wife, Christiana Catherine (nee Krieg). Unfortunately there was a storm soon after he crossed, and heavy rain caused the river to flood.  Not surprisingly  he was reluctant to delay his return and instead chose to  brave the rushing waters. He was carried away and his body was never recovered.

What a strange thing that Christiana then  named her baby Rivers.  Yes, they lived at  Three Rivers,  but why   link the infant  in such a way with the  tragic drowning?

Christiana carried on at the Inn and the licence was transferred to her. She married a local bachelor called John Smith in 1853. In 1857 she took over the Hibernian Hotel in Bathurst.

Sadly, she  died  a year later aged 41, when Rivers was only seven years old. How John coped with his own young son and five stepchildren I have no idea. Perhaps they were farmed out to relatives.

On January 5 1880, Rivers married Glasgow born William Paterson in Sydney. The couple  set up home  in a cottage at Parramatta and  twins arrived in September. The boy was named Charles and the little  girl was given her mother’s name; Rivers.  It must have been heartbreaking when both the babies died at just seven weeks old,  two days apart.  (Sydney Morning Herald 26 Oct, 1880,)

The following year a healthy boy was born,  Walter William. The family moved to Springwood, and set up a native flower business on a property of several acres  called Glenlena. The house still stands along what is now known as Paterson’s Road. Naturally it is much altered. The land, which eventual comprised 15 acres,  has been subdivided.



By 1895 the family was well established within the Springwood.  community.  At the  public school’s end of year break-up  function it was Rivers who provided most of the ferns and flowers decorating the  school rooms and a temporary stage. Fourteen year old Walter did his bit by reciting ‘Eve of Waterloo‘  (Nepean Times Dec. 21 1895)

Rivers was 41 when her last child was born at Glenlena on  the highly  significant date of September 27 1893. As the birth notice in the Cumberland Argus mentioned, it was her own birthday, and of course the date of her father’s death by drowning in 1852.  Accordingly she named her little daughter Annie Elizabeth  Rivers.

Rivers and William were pioneers  in collecting, selling, and cultivating Australian native flowers. In 1897 William told a newspaper reporter about  the giant flannel flower plant  Rivers had discovered. It was over six foot tall, with three foot long side shoots. He said, ‘It was growing in the shelter of a rock and climbing over a bush. In shady places, among scrub, they are not unfrequently met with about  4 ft. high. As regards spread, bush plants do not usually get time to throw out many side shoots on account of the fires. In our grounds we have one that would cover about 20 in. x 14 in., and has about 100 flowers on it. Another clump, I cannot tell whether if it is one root divided or two together, must have nearly 200 blossoms.’

Wild flowers were sold at premium prices in Sydney and beyond,  but William explained;  ‘If buyers knew the time and trouble it takes to make up a bunch of flannel daisies they would not grudge the price. When picking and stripping of excessive shoots and leaves, a most irritating dust or fluff flies off, which gets into the eyes and nostrils.’  (Chronicle, Adelaide,  November 27 1897)

NOTE – The story of Glenlena and the wildflowers will be continued in another blog.

Meanwhile, Rivers’ first born,Walter,  carried on the name with his own first child, named Rivers Gladys May.  Unfortunately, Walter deserted his family during WWI and his wife Hannah was left to raise their three daughters, Rivers, Helena, and Annie, alone.  After initially enlisting in 1914 and being discharged, Walter re-enlisted under an assumed name and married  bigamously.  Poor Hannah was interviewed at Springwood in 1920, as the army tried to determine  which ‘wife’ should receive his war gratuity. Then aged 5o,  the official  wrote of Hannah;’ This poor woman is very nervous and very deaf.’ (A.I.F. Service Files.) At least she was judged to be the rightful recipient.

It seems a shame that Rivers’ namesake granddaughter went by the name ‘Pat’, presumably a diminutive of Paterson.


And at that point, in 1979,  the family name of Rivers died out, well as far as I know.

By the way, Rivers snr died of pneumonia in 1918  aged 66, She  was buried in the Springwood cemetery.






  1. Interesting story, well told as always … but did she get the war widow’s pension?

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