John Dickson was a Scottish engineer who applied to settle in New South Wales. He brought with him a steam-engine as well as other equipment and tools. Governor Macquarie granted him 15 acres at Cockle Bay for his steam-driven mill – Australia’s first. He was also granted 3000 acres near Camden as a grazing farm.

The mill pumped its own water from a dam constructed on a stream at the head of Cockle Bay. Although it was originally intended to mill timber as well as grain, it seems only to have been used to produce flour.

John Dickson went on to become a significant land holder, and was an original member of the Agricultural Society. He grew crops, ran sheep and cattle and exported salted meat. Eventually he encountered legal difficulties and, rather than face gaol, absconded to England where he died in 1843.