29 July 1770|
|Died||8 November 1819
Sydney, New South Wales
|Other names||Isaac Nicholls|
Isaac Nichols (1770–1819) was a convict on the Third Fleet who became a successful businessman and was appointed the first Postmaster of New South Wales in 1809. The mayhem that could occur when supply ships arrived, which was said to include unscrupulous people taking other people's mail and selling it back to them, made a more secure and orderly system a necessity. Isaac used his house in lower George St, the Rocks, as the post office, going to newly arrived ships to pick up the mail and then posting a list of recipients outside his house. Isaac is credited with starting the first central post office.
He was transported for seven years in 1790 for stealing. In New South Wales he won favour with Governor Hunter and his aide-de-camp George Johnston, and was appointed chief overseer of convict gangs labouring in the Sydney area. In 1797 after his sentence expired, Hunter granted him 50 acres (200,000 m2) in the Concord district, on which he established a farm, and was assigned two convicts to farm it in lieu of his salary as chief overseer. The next year he purchased a spirit license and opened an inn in George St.
In 1799 he was convicted of receiving stolen goods and sentenced to 14 years on Norfolk Island, in a trial that Hunter believed was based on perjury and prejudice. (Nichols had refused to assign more convicts than was correct to John Macarthur and other officers of the New South Wales Corps). Hunter suspended the sentence and referred the matter to England. Eventually, in 1802, Governor King was instructed to grant him a free pardon. In the meantime, Nichols had added greatly to his landholdings and built a house and substantial buildings in lower George St. He established a shipyard, and in 1805 built a ship 'the Governor Hunter' which he used for trade.
Despite his earlier problems with the New South Wales Officers Corp, he sided with them in the Rum Rebellion to depose Governor Bligh. (He had been an assigned convict to George Johnston, one of the leaders of the rebellion, and later married his stepdaughter).In March 1809 he was appointed superintendent of public works and assistant to the naval office, and then in April he was appointed postmaster. When Governor Macquarie arrived he also approved of Nichols, and appointed him principal superintendent of convicts. In his last ten years Nichols enjoyed the respect and friendship of most leading people in the colony. His home was the scene of many social functions, including the Bachelors' Ball and the annual dinners to celebrate the foundation of the colony. He was a major supplier of meat to government stores and a generous subscriber to public causes.
On 11 September 1796 Nichols had married Mary Warren, and after her death by drowning in October 1804, he married Rosanna Abrahams, daughter of Esther Johnston on 18 February 1805. She bore him three sons, Isaac David (1804–1867), 'gentleman', George Robert (1809–1857), barrister and solicitor, and Charles Hamilton (1811–1869). Shortly before Isaac Nichols died he sent the two elder boys to England to be educated.