George William Evans was born in Warwick, England on January 5, 1780 and died in Hobart, Tasmania in October 16, 1852. He was a surveyor and an explorer who in 1815 was the first colonial explorer to enter the Lachlan River Valley, naming the area the Oxley Plains after his superior the surveyor-general, John Oxley. He was also the first explorer to explore the areas that are now the towns of Boorowa and Cowra.
When Evans arrived in Australia he decided to settle at Parramatta in 1802. The following year Governor King appointed him Acting Surveyor-General in 1803. Having proved his abilities, he was made Assistant Surveyor of lands at Hobart in 1812. Following the successful crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813, he was recalled to Sydney and Governor Macquarie commissioned Evans to carry out explorations which would build on the efforts of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth. Macquarie was a great supporter of development for the colony and wanted to make the most of the lands beyond the mountains.
With four companions, Evans followed the original route over the mountains to Mount Blaxland. On 18 November 1813 they began trekking along the Fish River through rugged country to its junction with the Campbell River. He named the new stream Macquarie River, in honour of the Governor. He then followed this river north-west over attractive, fertile plains. He reported enthusiastically to Macquarie about the potential for this new country.
As a result of Evans’ exploration, Governor Macquarie ordered the construction of a road which followed the paths of Evans and Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth. The new track was about 160 kilometres long and terminated at the new settlement of Bathurst, on the Macquarie River. Macquarie had established Bathurst quickly to ensure he was able to control settlement of the new lands properly.
Six days later Evans began another expedition departing from Bathurst on 13 May 1815 and was instructed by the Governor to explore westward until he reached the ocean – unknown to them that it would be a rather long distance. His expedition led to the discovery of the Lachlan River which he also named for the Governor. On 1 June 1815 he found himself running short of provisions and returned to Bathurst where he arrived back on 12 June. This journey opened the way for later explorations, mainly by John Oxley. Evans took part in some of Oxley’s expeditions.
In 1817 and 1818 he worked with John Oxley before returning to Van Diemen’s Land to resume his surveying duties. In 1825 he was accused of receiving bribes from persons having business with his department and after an argument with Governor Arthur on the issue, he resigned and returned to England. Six years later he arrived back in Sydney to open up a book and stationery shop in Bridge Street, Sydney. He was also a teacher at the King’s School. Sketches by him of early Sydney and Hobart are in the Dixson gallery at Sydney.