John Grono

John Grono (1763 - 1847)

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Capt. John Grono
Born in Newport, Pembrokeshire, Walesmap
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married in St Mary, Rotherhithe Parish Church, London, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Grono Park, Pitt Town, NSW, Australiamap
Profile last modified | Created 9 Oct 2011 | Last significant change: 25 Nov 2018
22:50: Marion Poole removed Elizabeth Bristow (abt.1768-1848) as the spouse from John Grono (1763-1847). [Thank Marion for this]
This page has been accessed 3,819 times.

Categories: Free Settlers | Buffalo 1799 | Ebenezer Uniting Cemetery, Windsor, New South Wales.

Transport Ship
John Grono was one of the First Free Settlers to Australia
Join: Australian Convicts and First Settlers Project


Captain Grono, Elizabeth his wife, and two daughters came as passengers on board the Buffalo, arriving in NSW in May 1799. As a capitalist Grono took up land along the Hawkesbury River where he and Elizabeth were to be neighbours and close friends of Governor Bligh and his family.

The good Captain's seafaring talents were soon put to use for the benefit of the local (and his own) economy as he embarked on a career as shipbuilder, whaler and sealer. His whaling and sealing exploits were undertaken in the boats he had built, vessels such as the Governor Bligh and the Elizabeth.

Whaling and sealing took Grono and his crew far into southern waters and the catch was immense, with thousands of seal skins being the harvest. He also captured other mammals. On one trip he found two mariners marooned on a deserted island. Convinced they were escaped convicts, and despite their protests, he returned them to the mainland in chains. Finding then that they were indeed respectable citizens and not convicts after all, he was overcome with remorse, so one supposes, as he gave them employment on his property and one of his daughter’s married one of them, Alexander Books.

Back from seafaring Grono and his son William built and launched a new punt in 1828. It replaced the old one used for crossing the Hawkesbury from Pitt Town to Wilberforce. In 1829 they launched another vessel, Binalong, which, at 272 tons was larger than any other ship built on the Hawkesbury by 100 tons. It was two years in the making. A few months after the launching it was renamed the Australian since all materials were of local origin. Milford Sound South Island New Zealand- In fact Captain Cook sailed past three times but it was a Welsh captain (John Grono) who whilst in a storm was blown towards the rocks and was sure they would sink. As they got closer he saw the opening and took refuge in the Sound. He named the bay Milford Haven after his homeport in Wales.

In 1809 Captain John Grono (from Sydney) was hunting seals in Fiordland, and he named Bligh Sound after Captain William Bligh F.R.S. (1754 to 1817). John Grono built the ˜Governor Bligh” for him. She was launched at Green Hills in March 1807, her 101 tonnes named after the new Governor, as she headed out bound for the sealing grounds of New Zealand. This began Grono’s long association with, and contribution to, Australia’s first staple industry as from 1818 to 1833 Grono built seven more large vessels at Pitt Town on Canning Reach, continuing to run his farm and undertake successful sealing voyages.

On completion of the largest of his ships, Grono later acknowledged how he received a large grant down river as a consideration for having built a vessel larger by 100 tons than any previously constructed in the colony. Contemporary commentator, the Presbyterian minister, Dr Lang praised Grono’s vessels as the largest built in New South Wales, making John Grono arguably the greatest ship builder in the colony. Grono consolidated his shipbuilding industry expanding his farm and yards on allotments at Canning Reach and incorporating in 1831 the property of another early boat builder, John Kelly, with whom Grono had long worked. Grono’s son William and other relatives continued building large trading vessels at Pitt Town on Canning Reach until late in the nineteenth century, making Canning Reach an integral part of Pitt Town’s historical landscape.

Today the Reach is still rural and contains the archaeological remains of John Grono’s ship-building yards (Grono Park 1), the kitchen of William Grono’s house and possibly remains of William Grono’s boat building yards and slipway (Grono Park II and Thornton’s), early tree plantings and an extremely early slab building with a stone chimney which belonged to Grono relations (Welsted Farm).

From another source:

Old naval records show John Grono on and off a series of Royal naval vessels, beginning on the 25th of July 1790 when he enters the HMS Royal William as an able seaman. However, on the 14th of October1790 he deserted. Nothing more is known of him until the 7th of February 1793 where he is on HMS Venus. Here John has been promoted to the rank of Boatswain's Mate.

On the 5th of March 1794, John was discharged from the Venus to the Royal Hospital, at Haslar. He was discharged from Haslar on the 16th of June and then entered HSM Diana. The muster for November-December 1795 has John as discharged as "unservicable." Again, history is silent until 1798.

On the 7th of January 1798 John joined the HMS Buffalo as an able seaman. On the 7th of December John was again promoted to Boatswain's Mate. It is aboard this ship that John and his family travelled to NSW, Australia. They arrived on the 4th of May 1799. By that stage, John and his wife Elizabeth had three children: Elizabeth, John, and Frances. John Jrn did not travel to Australia in 1799, but remained in England with his grandparents. He later came to Australia in 1827.

On the 31st of July 1799, Governor Hunter ordered that John be transferred from the HMS Buffalo to the Colonial Vessel Francis. There John served as First Officer. By June 1801 he had left the Colonial Vessels and had started farming in partnership with James Ryan. After leaving the Colonial Vessels, John embarked upon a number of sea voyages. This included sealing in the New Zealand area. He is credited as being on of the first Europeans to enter the Canterbury Region of New Zealand, and also naming a number of places on the South-West coast of the South Island of New Zealand, including Milford Sound. John originally named it Milford Haven after his homeport in Wales, but the name was changed by a fellow Welshman.

The Sound has a concealed entrance which Captain Cook sailed passed three times. John had taken refuge in the Sound when a large storm broke out while they were sealing. The entrance was not spotted until the ship was blown towards the rocks. John also named Elizabeth Island, and Bligh Sound, among many other places.

John's farming enterprise also expanded over time. The 1800 - 1802 Muster and Lists for NSW and Norfolk Island states that he and James Ryan held 30 acres of land and 20 hogs. By the time of the 1828 Census, records show him as owning 610 acres (of which 185 acres were cleared and 118 under cultivation), 20 horses, 309 heads of cattle, and 205 sheep. A number of convicts were assigned to John to assist in his farming and ship building enterprises.

While John was at sea, often for long periods of time, Elizabeth his wife, would have been responsible for raising their large family. They are both recorded as being one of the families that assisted in establishing and building Ebenezer Church in 1809. Today there is a plaque at the church which recognises John and Elizabeth. Prior to the building of the church, John and Elizabeth would join with other settles from the region (mainly those that arrived on the Coromandel in 1802) for worship. This often took place out in the open, under a tree. However, in 1808, the families formed a society which ultimately led to the building of the church and schoolhouse at Ebenezer.

In his later years, John retired from the sea. Instead, he focused his attention on ship building and his farm. It was during this period that John built the largest ship that the Colony had produced to that date. John owned, captained, and built a number of vessels in his lifetime. He claimed to have built seven vessels. The following four can definitely be traced to John's yard: Elizabeth 1821, 84 tons; Industry 1826, 87 tons; Australian 1829, 270 tons; and Governor Bourke 1833, 200 tons. John also owned the Speedwell, Unity, Governor Bligh, and Branch


Date: 6 MAY 1847
Place: Ebenezer Churchyard, NSW, Australia


Kathleen WICKENS, Descendants of John GRONO and Elizabeth BRISTOW.

  • Source: Type: Email Title: Descendants of John GRONO and Elizabeth BRISTOW Author: Kathleen WICKENS Abbreviation: Descendants of John GRONO and Elizabeth BRISTOW Master Listing Source: Y

  • Source: S-1638470844 Repository: #R-1698015258 Title: Australia Death Index, 1787-1985 Author: Publication: Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.Original data - Compiled from publicly available sources.Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources. Note: APID: 1,1779::0
  • Repository: R-1698015258 Name: Address: Note:
  • Source: S-2086180926 Repository: #R-2142153163 Title: Ancestry Family Trees Publication: Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Original data: Family Tree files submitted by Ancestry members. Note: This information comes from 1 or more individual Ancestry Family Tree files. This source citation points you to a current version of those files. Note: The owners of these tree files may have removed or changed information since this source citation was created. Page: Ancestry Family Trees Data: Text:
  • Repository: R-2142153163 Name: Address:

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DNA Connections
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with John by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with John:

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Images: 2
John Grono
John Grono

John's gravestone
John's gravestone


On 1 Mar 2016 at 05:04 GMT Tammy (Rutkowski) Nicholls wrote:

Grono-13 and Grono-38 appear to represent the same person because: All our dates are the same

John is 32 degrees from Rosa Parks, 18 degrees from Anne Tichborne and 16 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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