EARLY MELBOURNE AND VICTORIA
(PLATE: EDWARD HENTY. Died August 14th 1878. George Robertson & Co. Lith.)
(PLATE: JOHN PASCOE FAWKNER. Died September 4th 1869. George Robertson & Co. Lith.)
EARLY MELBOURNE AND VICTORIA
"Oh, call back yesterday, bid time return." —Richard II.
"A story of the mount and plain, The lake, the river, and the sea; A voice that wakes to life again An age-long slumbering melody." —GEORGE GORDON McCRAE.
"Ah! who has ever journeyed, on a glorious summer night, Through the weird Australian bushland, without feelings of delight? The dense untrodden forest, in the moonlight cold and pale, Brings before our wondering eyes again the dreams of fairy tale." —A. PATCHETT MARTIN.
"The genius of Australia now uprears Her youthful form, like hope without hope's fears; While o'er her head our Cross, with loveliest rays, Heralds the brightness of her future years." —R.H. HORNE.
AN INTRODUCTORY MEDLEY.
MR. FROUDE'S "OCEANA".
UNITY OF THE EMPIRE.
EARLY PORT PHILLIP.
MY FIRST NIGHT ASHORE.
INDIGENOUS FEATURES AROUND MELBOURNE.
THE ABORIGINAL NATIVES IN AND ABOUT TOWN.
EARLY CIVILIZING DIFFICULTIES.
"THE BEACH" (NOW PORT MELBOURNE).
EARLY MELBOURNE, ITS UPS AND DOWNS—1840-1851.
THE MELBOURNE CORPORATION, 1842.
EARLY SUBURBAN MELBOURNE.
THE EARLY SQUATTING TIMES.
EARLY WESTERN VICTORIA ("AUSTRALIA FELIX").
SOME NAMES OF MARK IN THE EARLY YEARS.
THE HENTY FAMILY, AND THE FOUNDATION OF VICTORIA.
SOME INTERJECTA IN RE BATMAN, PIONEER OF THE PORT PHILLIP SETTLEMENT.
JOHN PASCOE FAWKNER, FATHER OF MELBOURNE.
JAMES SIMPSON, FIRST MAGISTRATE OF "THE SETTLEMENT".
DAVID CHARTERIS McARTHUR, FATHER OF VICTORIAN BANKING.
CHARLES JOSEPH LA TROBE, C.B.
SIR JOHN O'SHANASSY.
WILLIAM KERR, FOUNDER OF "THE ARGUS".
CHARLES HOTSON EBDEN, ESQUIRE.
EDWARD WILSON, CHIEF PROPRIETOR OF "THE ARGUS", "THE TIMES" OF THE SOUTH.
EARLY SOCIETY: WAYS, MEANS, AND MANNERS.
THE GERMAN IMMIGRATION.
THE GERMAN PRINCE.
EARLY VICTORIA, FROM 1851.
MOUNT ALEXANDER AND BENDIGO.
EARLY VICTORIAN LEGISLATION.
MELBOURNE IN 1888.
PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY MELBOURNE AND VICTORIA.
AN INTRODUCTORY MEDLEY.
"Pleasure and action make the hours seem short."—Othello.
I had long looked forward to one more visit to Victoria, perhaps the last I should expect to make, and the opportunity of the opening of the great Centenary Exhibition at Melbourne on 1st August of this year was too good to be lost. Accordingly, having been able to arrange business matters for so long a holiday, I took passage, with my wife and daughter, by the good steamship "Coptic" of the "Shaw, Savill New Zealand Line," as it is curtly put. She was to land us at Hobart about 27th July, in good time, we hoped, to get across by the Launceston boat for the Exhibition opening, and she bids fair, at this moment, to keep her engagement. We would have taken the directer route, with its greater number and variety of objects, via Suez and Colombo, but we feared the sun-blaze of the ill-omened Red Sea in summer. We purpose, however, to return that way towards the coming winter.
More than thirty-one years have elapsed since I left Melbourne, after a residence there of seventeen years, broken, however, by two intermediate visits "Home." I think with wondering enjoyment of what I am to see in the colony and its capital after such an interval. Previously, when I returned after only a year or two's absence, I was wont to mark with astonishment all that had been done in that comparatively brief time. I am thankful to Mr. Froude, whose delightful work, "Oceana," I could read to all full enjoyment during the leisure and quiet of the voyage, for somewhat preparing me for what I have to see, for I must infer from his graphic accounts, especially of interior progress—while already three more years have since elapsed—that even my most sanguine anticipations will be exceeded. Our great Scottish poet and novelist has finely said:—
"Lives there a man with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said— This is my own, my native land?"
But is there not a formidable rival to the force of this sentiment in that with which one clings to the land where so many of the most vigorous years of life have been actively spent? And a land, besides, of surpassing sunny beauty and of rare romance. Business calls are usually held to be imperative, even if they send us, willing or unwilling, to "Ultima Thule or the Pole." Accordingly, my later lot has been to return to the older, and not to continue in the newer, part of the common empire. But, at any rate, that rather enhances the enjoyment of this re-visit.
According to the usual custom, I now write my introduction last of all. I have most pleasantly occupied several hours of the complete leisure of each day in writing these "Recollections," and now, as we get within almost hours of our destination, I am putting this last hand to my labours. I cannot hope that their light sketchiness can go for much, save with those who, familiar with the great Melbourne and Victoria of to-day, may enjoy the comparison of the small things of a retrospect extending to almost half a century, and all but to the birth of the colony.
The voyage has been extremely pleasant, with a good and well-found vessel, fairly fast as the briskly competitive speed of these days goes, and above all with a head in Captain Burton who has proved first-class in every requirement. He has just complimented us by saying that we are the best behaved lot of passengers he ever took. That was due very greatly to himself; and I think that all of us are well able to reciprocate his compliment by regarding him as the best of captains. Officers and crew also have been, to our view at least, faultless; but then, again, all that so much depends upon the captain.
Touching the important matter of speed, let me say a little. All important it is, indeed, in this age of fast progress. When I first sailed for Australia, in 1840, we were, I think, 141 days on the way. Nor was that a very inordinate passage then. This time I expect, within that interval, to go and return, besides having nearly two and a half months to spare—a space of time which now, with rails and fast steamers everywhere, will enable me to visit all South-Eastern Australasia, including even New Zealand. Of course, that means hardly more than "to see," but still that is better than not to see at all, those wonderful parts of our empire.
But yet again, on this point of speed, our "Coptic's" daily run averaged rather under 300 nautical miles. In justice to the good ship, we should credit her with rather more, for during the latter half of the voyage she was meeting or anticipating the sun by six or seven degrees of longitude daily, and thus clipping about half an hour off each day. But turn now to the latest like exploit between Liverpool and New York—the case, I think, of the s.s. "Umbria", whose unprecedented record is of 455 to 503 miles daily. Granting this to be subject to abatement for running this time away from the sun, and thus prolonging the day, there is enough of difference to give us, at this speed, the hope of a three weeks' Australian service by the straightest available line. It has already been effected to Adelaide in 29 days. We Australians must hope that ere long Melbourne and Sydney, together with all about them, will weigh, with ourselves at least, as heavily as New York. The coal question is, of course, an awful difficulty for three weeks instead of five to six days, but not, we hope, insuperable. Our "Coptic" burns but fifty tons a day, but the New York liners require three hundred.
When a man has passed seventy-three, as I have done, he may be excused in doubting his chance of yet another Australian visit. But while he has been waiting these many years, he has seen such vast improvement in inter-communication facilities of every kind, as to establish, he might say, a complete counterbalance to the increasing infirmities of years. Imagine, therefore, the Australian liner of the next few years to be a great and comfortable hotel, as though one went for three weeks' fresh sea air to Brighton or Bournemouth, with the additional charm that, on quitting your pleasant marine apartments, you stepped out upon Australia.
This brings up yet another subject. When attending, four years ago, the very successful and most interesting meeting of the British Association at Montreal, I was very curious as to the possible prospect, now that this body had made so good a first outside step, of a like meeting in Australia. But, not very long after, an invitation to the Association was actually sent from Melbourne. The year asked for had been pre-engaged for Home. My distinguished friend, Mr. Service, told me, when on his late Home visit, that no doubt the invitation would go again. I may usefully mention here that the Association is usually engaged, or as good as engaged, two clear years in advance, so that the third year, at least, in advance should be dealt with for Melbourne. This besides would afford sufficient notice for the busy men of all classes and all vocations at Home to arrange conveniently for the necessarily long absence. I do not doubt of complete success. Indeed, it is such a further chance as that which might tempt even the oldest of us into visiting the far-off but bright and sunny South.
MR. FROUDE'S "OCEANA."
I feel that my introductory medley would still be incomplete if I did not allude, somewhat more than I have already done, to Mr. Froude's recently published "Oceana," a work which, in its vigour and high literary style, marks quite an era in its Australian field. I had regretted before embarking that, from the pressure of other things, my acquaintance with it had been limited to the reading of many reviews and the hearing of much criticism. But I have been well compensated by a perusal during the peace and ample leisure of this long voyage. I must confine my remarks to two points only, which, however, are amongst the most prominent in the book. These are—first, the terms in which he has alluded to the present condition of New Zealand; and, second, his ardently loyal remarks, so often repeated, upon that rising question of the day, the political unity of the empire—a subject which had been advanced at the time into a most significant importance to the Australian colonies by the apparent imminence of war with Russia.
I am not inclined to repeat the scolding which, it is understood, my zealous friend, Sir Francis Bell, Agent-General for New Zealand, under his high sense of duty, administered to the brilliant author of "Oceana" for this sole dark spot of his book. I see no sufficient cause. On the contrary, he has given us such a charming account of the aspects and prospects of this, the most magnificent of our colonies—for I agree with him in believing that it is to be "the future home of the greatest nation of the Pacific"—that certain loose or inaccurate words addressed to him about the finances, and which he had deemed worth recording, may well be expected to have in comparison the most evanescent effect. "One gentleman," he says, "amused me considerably with his views," the said views being to the effect that New Zealand would be ready, when the final pressure came, to repudiate her heavy public debt. Another equally vivacious informant stated that, besides the 32 million pounds of colonial borrowing, "the municipal debts were at least as much more as the national debt." Now this is six times overstated for municipal and harbour debts together. No doubt the actual case is bad enough, for New Zealand has far over-borrowed. But as to repudiation, there is not a hint or notion of it in any responsible quarter whatever, any more than with regard to our British Consols, although the colony is, for the time, in the extremity of a depression, ever recurrent in such young, fast-going societies, caused by a continuous subsiding of previous too-speculative values. To this I may add, in reference to the smaller issues of colonial municipalities, that of the very great number of these, New Zealand's included, brought for many years past upon the London market, there is not, in my recollection, as a matter of my own business, one single instance of default, as to either principal or interest, if we except the sole and quite special and temporary case, above thirty years ago, of the city of Hamilton, in Upper Canada.
UNITY OF THE EMPIRE.
This question has been in a course of rapid clearing during the last few years, and the successful establishment of the Imperial Federation League has given an orderly procedure in every way promising. The object aimed at is, that the empire shall have that political binding which will give to it the maximum of power and influence possible under all its circumstances. Above fifteen years ago some few of us—very few they then were—first seriously raised this question at Home in the Royal Colonial Institute. We had the smallest of audiences then. It is marvellous to look back now upon that indifference. I recollect that about ten years ago, when the movement was just beginning to look serious to those outside of us, a leading Paris paper devoted an article to the subject, remarking that if Great Britain persevered so as to unite her empire as sought, the balance of the world's power would be so seriously disturbed as to call for an international reconsideration of that subject.
The progress as yet has been chiefly negative, but it has been great. Modes entertained at first have been discarded. This may be said of superseding the present Imperial Parliament by a pro re nata Federal Assembly; and it may be equally said of an influx of proportionate colonial representatives into the Home House. Councils of colonial ambassadors, agents-general, and so on, have, I think, definitely gone the same way. These are chiefly Home views, for Home is at length aroused as well as the colonies to their common question; and the summons by the Secretary for the Colonies of the Colonial Conference which sat in London two years ago marks alike the most prominent and most promising feature in the movement.
Mr. Froude has given, most usefully, the views of the colonists. Let us take Mr. Dalley's, which is also that of most others, namely, that the nascent but increasing colonial navies should be all under one imperial command—that is, be a part of the British navy. There is one more step—namely, to dispose of all colonial military force in the same common-sense way, and then we have a politically united empire. But we are "constitutional" or representative in our polity, so that something else is still wanted. In short, the unity of the empire requires two things. First, that all its force be under one executive, and, next, that the colonies be proportionately represented in that executive. The Cabinet seems to me the adaptable body we can operate upon to this end. That body would then be actually, as well as legally, the empire's executive. Nothing should—nothing need—prevent the attainment of this grand end. The tariff bugbear concerns only commerce, and need not arrest nor even interfere with the empire's political unity. All other matters of the common interest can be leisurely settled by mutual consent, as the empire, in its united state, sails along the great ocean of the future. The mother will then, in emergency, have the sure call of her children; while every colony, even to the very smallest, will know that in case of need the whole empire is at its back. When the rest of the world knows that fact, it will thenceforth probably not trouble our empire either about international rearrangements or anything else.
EARLY PORT PHILLIP.
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot And the days o' lang syne." —Burns.
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder." —Haynes Bayly.
Entering Port Phillip on the morning of the 13th December, 1840, we were wafted quickly up to the anchorage of Hobson's Bay on the wings of a strong southerly breeze, whose cool, and even cold, temperature was to most of us an unexpected enjoyment in the middle of an Australian summer. A small boat came to us at the anchorage containing Mr. and Mrs. D.C. McArthur and others who had friends or relations on board, and who told us that for some days there had been excessive heat and a hot wind, which had now reacted in this southerly blast, to go on probably into heavy rain, the country being excessively dry.
MY FIRST NIGHT ASHORE.
"The Hut on the Flat." —James Henry.
"How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude." —Cowper.
The rain did follow at night to the full as predicted. I had engaged to accompany a young friend that evening to spend the next day, Sunday, at his "country seat" on Richmond Flat, where he had constructed, mostly with his own hands, a sort of hut or wigwam, under an unchallenged squattage. Being engaged in a store for long hours on Saturday night, it was past eleven ere we started. The rain had begun to pour, and the night was pitch dark. We got into Collins-street, but had much difficulty in keeping its lines where there were not post-and-rail fences round the vacant allotments. Only three years had elapsed since Melbourne had been named and officially laid out, and, excepting the very centre, there were still wide intervals between the houses on either side even of Collins-street. After floundering helplessly about in the foundation-cutting of a new house, which was already full of water, but happily only a few inches deep, we at length emerged upon the open of the present Fitzroy Gardens, where for a little time we could keep to the bush track only by trying the ground with our feet or our fingers. But in spite of all care we soon lost the road, and wandered about in the pouring rain for the rest of the night. We were young and strong, and as the rain did not chill us, we were in but little discomfort. A beauteous sunny morning broke upon us, with a delicious fragrance from the refreshed ground. We found ourselves near the Yarra, between the present busy Hawthorn and Studley Park. Solitude and quiet reigned around us, excepting the enchanting "ting ting" of the bell bird. We stripped ourselves, wrung our drenched clothes, and spread them to dry in the sun, and then plunged into the dark, deep still Yarra for our morning bath, afterwards duly reaching my friend's country seat.
INDIGENOUS FEATURES AROUND MELBOURNE.
"There are more things in heaven and earth Than are dreamt of in our philosophy." —Hamlet
These features form an interesting retrospect of early Melbourne. They have nearly all disappeared since with the growth of town and population. Some who preceded me saw the kangaroo sporting over the site of Melbourne—a pleasure I never enjoyed, as the timid creatures fled almost at once with the first colonizing inroad. I have spoken of the little bell bird, which, piping its pretty monotone, flitted in those earlier years amongst the acacias on the banks of the Yarra close to Melbourne, but which has taken its departure to far distances many a year ago. The gorgeous black cockatoo was another of our early company, now also long since departed. For a very few years after my arrival they still hovered about Melbourne, and I recollect gazing in admiration at a cluster of six of them perched upon a large gum-tree near the town, upon the Flemington-road. The platypus, also, was quite plentiful, especially in the Merri Creek. Visiting, about 1843, my friend Dr. Drummond, who had a house and garden at the nearest angle of the creek, about two miles from town, we adjourned to a "waterhole" at the foot of the garden, on the chance of seeing a platypus, and sure enough, after a very few minutes, one rose before us in the middle of the pool.
THE ABORIGINAL NATIVES IN AND ABOUT TOWN.
"Oh I see the monstrousness of man When he looks out in an ungrateful shape." —Timon of Athens.
The natives still strolled into Melbourne at the time of my arrival, and for a couple of years or so after; but they were prohibited about the time of the institution of the corporation, as their non-conformity in attire—to speak in a decent way—their temptations from offers of drink by thoughtless colonists, and their inveterate begging, began soon to make them a public nuisance. But aboriginal ways did not die at once. The virtues or integrity of native life, as Strzelecki would phrase it, struggled and survived for some few further years the strong upsetting tide of colonial life.
Returning one night, about 1843, from dining with Mr. William Locke, an old colonial merchant, at his pretty cottage and gardens on the Merri Creek, between four and five miles out by the Sydney-road, I diverged westwards from the purely bush track which as yet constituted that main highway of the future Victoria. My object was to escape the swampy vicinities of Brunswick, a village about three miles out of town, consisting for a number of years of three small brick cottages, adventurously rather than profitably built by an early speculator. With firm footing and under a bright moon, I had a pleasant walk through what is now the beautiful Royal Park, when, judging that I must be nearing Melbourne, I perceived quite a number of lights ahead. There were as yet no public lights to scattered little Melbourne in those early days, although the new corporation, elected the year before, had got to work by this time. So, what could it all be? I was not long in suspense. It could only be a native encampment, and I was soon in its midst. The natives at a distance, especially in the far western direction, were still at times hostile, but all those who lived near town were already quite peaceful, so that I had no hesitation in now entering their encampment. I was most cordially received and shown over the different wigwams, each of which had its fire burning. I was taken specially to one occupied by a poor fellow who, under native war laws, had had his kidney-fat wrenched out and eaten by his foes. He showed me the wound, which, however, had now healed up. But he himself had never recovered, being sadly weak and death-like, as one who had but little more to do with this busy world.
The last great native demonstration near Melbourne, and, indeed, so far as I can recollect, the last of its kind within the colony, took place about a mile north-east of the town, in the middle of 1844. This was a grand corrobboree, arranged for amongst themselves by surrounding tribes, including the still considerable tribe of the River Goulburn. This was, as it were, one last aboriginal defiance, hurled in despair from the expiring native cause against the too-victorious colonial invasion. We of the town had heard of the proposed exhibition, and many, including myself, went out to see it. There were present seven hundred aborigines of all ages and both sexes. The performances were chiefly by the younger men, in bands of fifties, for the respective tribes, while the females, in lines by themselves, beat the time, and gave what they no doubt considered to be music.
EARLY CIVILIZING DIFFICULTIES.
"He loves his own barn better Than he loves our house." —First Part Henry IV.
Up to that time, and for some time longer, the religious conversion of these natives was regarded as hopeless, so deeply "bred in blood and bone" was aboriginal character. Consequently all the earlier missions were abandoned in utter despair, with only one exception, that of the Moravians, which, in faith and duty continuing the work, was at length rewarded with success. Naturally some few, especially amongst the young, were less severely "native" than the rest, and these were more or less gained. But the change came with the next generation, "born in the purple" of surrounding colonial life. The blood and bone had been partially neutralized, and this is still more the result of yet another generation that has followed, so that, in spite of the black skin, the missionary now deals with natures much more amenable to his teachings.
A remarkable illustration of aboriginal tenacity, which, however, I am quoting only from memory, occurred in South Australia. Two aboriginal children, separated from babyhood from aboriginal life, were trained and educated like colonists. For the earlier years little difference was noticed, but as they advanced into boyhood some restlessness became evident. When, on one occasion, a native tribe, presumably their own, happened to be near Adelaide, these children, who had either seen them or heard of them, made their escape at the earliest opportunity, and, having reached the native camp, at once threw off the habiliments of civilization, and never after showed any disposition to return to the conditions they had so summarily rejected.
"THE BEACH" (NOW PORT MELBOURNE).
"Thinking of the days that are no more." —Tennyson.
At the time of my arrival, all Melbourne-bound passengers were put out by their respective ships' boats upon that part of the northern beach of Port Phillip that was nearest to Melbourne, whence, in straggling lines, as they best could in hot winds, they trod a bush track of their own making, which, about a mile and a half long, brought them to a punt or little boat just above "The Falls," where the owner made a good living at 3 pence a head for the half-minute's passage. This debarkation place got to be called, par excellence, "The Beach." It consisted already of two public-houses, kept respectively by Liardet and Lingham. Both were respectable people in their way, but the first was also a character. Of good family connection, he had enjoyed a life of endless adventure, which, however, had never seemed any more to elevate him by fortune than to depress him by its reverse. He was a kind of roving Garibaldi, minus, indeed, the hero's war-paint and the Italian unity, but with all his frankness and indomitable resource. Having a family of active young sons, he secured the boating of "the Beach" as well as the other thing. But his untold riches of experience seemed never to condescend to develop into riches of mere money—and perhaps without one pang of regret to his versatile and resourceful mind.
This Beach was a sterile spot, afterwards fittingly called Sandridge, and presented so little inducement to occupancy that these two public-houses were the whole of it till well on to the days of gold. Then The Beach awoke to its destinies. When the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay railway was projected, in 1852, there were already a good few houses, mostly wooden, straggling along either side of the original bush track. Then arose the respectable suburb of Sandridge, to be finally superseded by the municipality of Port Melbourne, which, with its mayor and corporation, can now enter the London market with its own loan issues.
The only other indigenous feature of this somewhat featureless Beach which I recollect was a little virulently salt lagoon, situated in complete isolation near the Bay, and only some hundred yards on the right-hand side of the track to Melbourne. We all knew it was there, but it had extremely few visitors, owing to its unapproachable surrounding of bushes, and its bad repute from a countless guard of huge and ferocious mosquitos. Without outlet for its extra-briny waters, and in its desolate solitude, it might have aspired to be a sort of tiny Dead Sea. With the advance of Sandridge this evil-omened southern Avernus came in for better consideration, and by 1854, with a cutting into the Bay, it had become a ready-made boat haven. The Melbourne maps now show me that it must have reached still higher destinies.
EARLY MELBOURNE, ITS UPS AND DOWNS—1840-51.
"Will Fortune never come with both hands full?" —Second Part Henry IV.
"The weakest go to the wall." —Romeo and Juliet.
But "it's better to scheme than to slumber." —J. Brunton Stephens, Queensland.
"Sweet are the uses of adversity." —As You Like It.
When Fawkner, in August, 1835, following Batman's example of the previous May, organized and sent forth his party from Launceston to explore and colonize Port Phillip, his instruction was that they should squat down for a home only where there was adequate fresh water. When, in their cruising about to that end, the party entered the Yarra at the Bay's head, ascended its roundabout course, and found ample water to drink above "the Falls," they at once disembarked there, and there in consequence arose Melbourne. Fawkner, following in October, confirmed the choice, and with his characteristic energy commenced the work of colonization. The immediate needs decide many things "for better, for worse." A good many have since thought that this has been a costly and inconvenient site for the colony's capital, and that that of Williamstown, with its healthful level, like New York, might have been better, and, still better than either, Geelong, with its beautiful ready-made harbour, its immediate background of rich soil, and its direct access to all the superior capabilities of the west and north-west. But there Melbourne is, and in spite of all obstacles it is already the prominent city of the Southern Hemisphere, and Fawkner is justly its father. When Melbourne's father died, now a good many years ago, and with not a few of the admitted honours and merits of a long, laborious, and useful life, I sent authority to friends there to subscribe for me to the inevitable monument. But my offered money was never demanded, and therefore I fear that the living busy tide of such a host of sons has crowded out the memory of the dead parent.
A vision of earliest Melbourne rises before me. Allotment speculators were bound, within moderate time, to construct a "dwelling" on their purchase, and in some cases these were made with honest intention, as in the two adjacent half-acres of Mr. James Smith and Mr. Skene Craig in west Collins-street. But in most cases these coerced structures were only shams, which disappeared right early. The only "buildings" on a good many sections, that are now central and almost priceless, were post-and-rail fences, somewhat dilapidated at places by our license of jumping over them for a short diagonal to adjacent streets.
Let me try to recall the Melbourne of 1840, as it looked in that year, the year of my arrival. In the first place I must protest against the meagre view given some years ago in the "Illustrated London News", from a sketch by Mossman, an early colonist of my acquaintance, and copied into the lively and pleasant volume of my esteemed friend, Miss Isabella Bird (now Mrs. Bishop). It may be true as far as it goes, but it is only the Western Market square, which had hardly one-thirtieth part of that year's Melbourne. At the close of 1840 there were between three and four thousand of population, although perhaps one-fourth of these, who had been recently shot out of emigrant ships, were merely waiting for employment or settlement. The whole District had about nine thousand. Curiously enough, Melbourne (including suburbs) has always had about one-third of the total colonial population, while Sydney and Adelaide respectively have been much the same. But this naturally comes of a vast interior behind, which has practically only the one outlet. In New Zealand, on the other hand, the long strip of land, with the sea near to every part, calls into being a number of small capitals. The latter are the immediate facilities; but, in the other case, the ultimate creation of a surpassingly great city, with all its powerful concentration of resource, seems on the whole the more promising for a country's advance in all the interests of human life. The latest returns for the end of last year (1887) give 392,000 people to Melbourne, in a total for the colony of 1,033,000.
Taking central Collins-street, which was then, and I suppose is still, the chief seat of business, and beginning with "The Shakespeare," at the market corner, where originally Fawkner opened the first public-house, and proceeding eastwards to Swanston-street, there was a good sprinkling of brick-built offices, stores, and shops, including Kerr and Holmes, in stationery; Drummond's grocery (wooden), Turnbull, Orr and Co., Forsyth's druggery, the Imperial Inn, Pittman, Dinwoodie's saddlery, Townend's corner (wooden), George James's wine office and house, and the ill-fortuned Port Phillip Bank. Returning by the other side were Hood, chemist; Cashmore, draper; Carson, shoemaker; J.M. Chisholm and the Benjamins, soft goods; the hardware shop of William Witton, a leading Wesleyan, his Wesleyan Church, and the Bank of Australasia, which towered up, prince of the small squad. To the far east, on the south side, was our worthy Dr. Howitt's good house and garden. On the other side were some few small brick dwellings. One was occupied by Deputy-Assistant Commissary General Erskine. In another was Dr. Hobson, whose untimely death was an early grief to our small society, unable to spare such lives. He was the friend and correspondent of Professor Owen, and supplied the Prince of Science with curious data of the strange, and then but scantily known, Australian fauna, from the platypus, at the head of modern wonders, back to the earliest marsupialdom of the fossil world.
The Reverend Alexander Morison's Independent Church and adjacent manse came next. The Scots Church, lower down, of which the Reverend James Forbes was minister, was then being built. Not till the next year was the creditably large Mechanics' Institute begun. A good story is told of it, characteristic of the earlier flourish of the times. Mr. P.W. Welsh, then the leading merchant, had offered to subscribe so largely that the committee took offence at such vain presumption, and limited subscriptions to more modest sums.
Returning to the market place, and taking its eastern side, was a small nest of early merchants—E.M. Sayers, whose stores my firm bought eight years later; Watson and Wight; Were Brothers, whose senior, the well-known Mr. Jonathan Binns Were, was always, under all fortunes, a prominent and influential merchant and citizen; W. and H. Barnes and Co., and perhaps one or two more. But as the buildings are not given in Mossman's sketch, they probably belong to the end of the year, or possibly tide over into 1841. Towards the foot of the market slope the first Custom House was being built, and of that dismal, dark-brown indurated sandstone, of which other places—St. James's Church, the old gaol, etc.—were also built, because it was so near at hand.
Sweeping now round to the west side we come to the good store and residence belonging to J.F. Strachan, of Geelong, and managed by F. Nodin, who was quite a character of the time, with his bustling form, and face ever full of business, whether business were full or not. He would always accept his bills in red ink, and, as the joke goes, the bills being good, the Nodin manner was supposed to help even the non-Nodin bills through at the "Australasia." At the corner opposite the Shakespeare was the Melbourne Auction Company, where I first met my most worthy old friend, George Sinclair Brodie, so well known for ten years after as the leading Melbourne auctioneer, or rather "broker," for that is nearer the home equivalent. He was the salesman, while a genial and amusing good fellow, John Carey, from Guernsey, was manager. The company had just paid 20 per cent dividend—the first as well as the last in that way. In the jolly days up to that time every buyer got credit, and there was plenty of business; but when the times changed the credit bills were not met, and so the poor M.A.C., which had as usual guaranteed them, got cleaned out.
Down Collins-street once more, we pass the primitive wooden cottage residence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, whose family of fine daughters were already all married—Mrs. D.S. Campbell, Mrs. R. Russell, Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Hutton—excepting the youngest, then a school-girl, afterwards married to Nantes, of Geelong, D.S. Campbell's partner. Then came Craig and Broadfoot's stores, and Alison and Knight's flour mills. At the end was pretty green Batman's Hill, which has since been remorselessly sacrificed for the great railway terminus. Batman's original wooden house on the southern slope was, after his early death, occupied as the Government offices by Mr. La Trobe, and this homely tenement did such high duties for no small subsequent term. Down hereabout was also a conspicuous line of five little wooden cottages, called Roach-terrace, after Captain Roach, another very early colonist, which were each let at 5 pounds a week, although they would not have brought half that money by the year at home. Returning on the other side was St. James's Church, in charge of the Reverend Mr. Thomson, of most sociable memory, within its ample open area, and, further on, the notorious Lamb Inn.
For the rest of Melbourne of 1840 I must be content with one general sketch. Manton's Mills had arisen at the lower end of "the wharf," such as it then was. Flinders-street had as yet but little in it. James Jackson, afterwards Jackson, Rae and Company, was already there. About the middle was the cottage of P.W. Welsh, prior to his removing to South Yarra; and there, as the story goes again, Mrs. Welsh gave her "Five Hundred Pound Party," but having unfortunately omitted Arden, the editor of the "Gazette", in the invitations, he was left free to denounce so bad an example of extravagance. Bourke-street had an incongruous grouping, including the well-known Kirk's Bazaar, and the superb cottage, for its time, of Mr. Carrington, the solicitor; and in Little Bourke-street was Mr. Condell's brewery. At the far east end was Mr. Porter's good cottage, and further on, Mr. La Trobe's bijou residence, in its pretty grounds, which, although only of wood and of the smallest dimensions, he stuck to until his final leave in 1854. The lanes, or Little Flinders and Collins streets, were already fairly filled, as the land there was much cheaper. In the former were Heap and Grice's offices, and the Adelphi Hotel, approaching the Lamb Inn in noisy repute. The latter had Bells and Buchanan, the Post-Office under D. Kelsh, and, where Elizabeth-street crossed, G. Lovell and Company and Campbell and Woolley. The Catholic Church in Lonsdale-street was under construction, and on the western brow was Mr. Abrahams's good house, with his two pretty girl children, one of whom was in succession Mrs. Pike, Mrs. Gray, and Mrs. Williams, and is still alive, with a creditable total of family. Beyond was the trackless bush, excepting the bush tracks to Sydney, and in the Flemington and Keilor direction. But outside the town were already several suburbs, of which Collingwood was the largest, having the residences of John Hunter Patterson and other leading early colonists.
I used to traverse not a few dreary empty allotments in the hot summer sun to reach the stores of my friend the Honourable James Graham, whose dwelling and business place in Russell, by Bourke street, seemed then quite far out of the village, but is since in the very heart of the great city. The course of values in the colony, early and late, is well illustrated by this example. The allotment originally belonged to our friend in common, S.A. Donaldson, of Sydney, who had bought for some nominal price at the Government sale in 1837. He bought many other lots thereabout, and towards Collingwood, further east and north; and after the gold discoveries, he told me pathetically, oftener than once, that his impatience to sell had lost him the status and happiness—whatever the latter might be—of a millionaire. Donaldson had let this place, with its house, stores, etc., good as these things went then, to Graham, at 500 pounds a year. This was about 1838-9, when everything in business ways was rolling jollily upwards. But some few years afterwards the landlord's attorneys, William Ryrie and myself, had to reduce the rent to either 100 or 50 pounds—I think the latter. Some years later, Graham purchased at 2,000 pounds, and it is understood has lately resold at something approaching a quarter of a million. As these matters are all locally so well known, I feel that, as with wills at Doctor's Commons, I tread upon no toes in such useful illustrations.
I arrived just to witness the last glories of the famous champagne lunches, which prefaced the auction sales of these early days, and repeatedly I saw in his element Charles Williams, the earliest of his trade. If such lunches cost 40 pounds, which was given me as a moderate average, who suffered, argued their justifiers, if the exhilaration they produced gave 400 pounds more to the net proceeds? The brisk liquor appreciably blew up the prices, as the same lots, cut up and rearranged, would come again and yet again under the hammer. Many a bullock-drover would pull up on passing the auction room or tent, and quaff off half a bottle to the good health of all concerned in such liberality. One respectable old colonist was said to have almost lived on those lunches in the dear early times, so regularly did he encourage and patronize them. The bidding public were regaled before the sale, but the auctioneer and his clients after—a plan which made very much the better business, as might have been seen by the effects in either case. Williams began with 4,000 pounds a year profits, which I dare say went on to the rate of 10,000 pounds for the brief term. He was just finishing what, for those times, was a fine villa on the Yarra-bank, beyond Richmond, when the rapidly receding tide left him, as well as many others, stranded.
Great gum-tree stumps were grievously prevalent, alike in Melbourne streets and allotments. Swanston-street was special in this way, and they long flourished upon allotments about where the city hall at first stood. One huge stump, just touching the Collins-street line where the Criterion Hotel was afterwards built, long held defiant existence, the wooden building of the time having deviated to go round it. When at length the lot came to be sold by Mr. James Purves, a well-known early allotment-monger, whom I recollect on this occasion descanting on the future prospects of so central a site, the buyer had the too long-endured enemy attacked and extirpated.
THE MELBOURNE CORPORATION, 1842.
"When forty winters shall besiege thy brow, And dig deep trenches in thy winter's field." —Shakespeare, Sonnet 2.
The corporation arose towards the end of 1842, and then the anti-stump warfare began. My friend Henry Condell, like so many other early birds a Tasmanian (a Vandemonian was the ill-omened name at that time), was the first mayor. The times were bad, and the shilling rating caused a growl, but the new body held its way. John Charles King, an Ulster man, and of good abilities, was the first town clerk. His successor, William Kerr, had greater abilities, but not equal method and activity. Both were strong Orangemen—a feeling, however, for which this colonial ground was not favourable.
The bane and bottomless deep for the corporation's narrow budget was Elizabeth-street, where a little "casual" called "The Williams," of a mile's length, from the hardly perceptible hollows of the present Royal Park, played sad havoc at times with the unmade street. It had scooped out a course throughout, almost warranting the title of a gully, and at Townend's corner we needed a good long plank by way of a bridge. At the upper end of the street was a nest of deep channels which damaged daily for years the springs and vehicles of the citizens. The more knowing of us who lived northwards dodged these evils by a particular roundabout via Swanston-street. Up almost to gold diggings and Victorian Parliaments did the great Sydney-road begin thus inauspiciously, and hardly less pertinaciously disconcerting was the Brunswick swamp, three miles further on. Melbourne missed a great chance in filling up with a street this troublesome, and, as a street, unhealthy hollow. Dr. Howitt used to tell me he never could cure a patient, resident there, who had become seriously unwell. A reservation of the natural grass and gum-trees between Queen and Swanston streets would have redeemed Melbourne up to the first rank of urban scenic effect, and the riotous Williams might, with entire usefulness, have subsided into a succession of ornamental lakes and fish ponds.
EARLY SUBURBAN MELBOURNE.
"Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness." —Cowper.
"Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife." -Gray.
In 1844 I lived in a little cottage at South Yarra, on the Dandenong or Gardiner's Creek-road, then only a bush track, although considerably trodden. I had not many neighbours. Mr. Jackson, at the far end, had bought Toorak, but not yet built upon it; and the near end was graced by Mr. R.H. Browne's pretty villa, in its ample grounds, sold shortly before to Major Davidson, and constituting the palace of its time along the road. There was a trackless forest opposite us, and more than once I missed my way in trying to make a straight cut to the present St. Kilda. One Sunday morning I made a discovery—a small sheet of water, glittering in the sunshine, and I long gazed admiringly on the countless insects and plants about its edges. It was confessedly neither broad nor deep, and a certain tag-rag indefiniteness of outline gave occasion afterwards to envious anti-Prahraners all about to make it out as only a swamp. The little thing had much badgering to endure in this way in Prahran's early progress. Later on, I saw it as a sort of central reserve of the ever-rising Prahran. But still later it was drained off and turned about its business, as either a profitless nuisance, or a too costly ornamentation: sic transit, etc.
The following year, 1845, in which my worthy old friend Alfred Ross joined me in business in the Market-square, then a place of the very smallest pretensions compared to now, I rented, with him, the allotment next beyond the Major's. It had been vacant since its previous occupancy three years before by Mr. P.W. Welsh, already spoken of—one of the earliest and largest, best known, and least fortunate of Melbourne's early merchants. That the bad times that had brought many of us to the ground had then not quite passed, although they had by this time evidently "bottomed," may be judged by the fact that we got a fairly habitable large cottage, with twenty-five picturesque acres, and the remains, such as they were, of a garden, for 30 pounds a year. Five years earlier some thousands a year would have been needed to live in such a place. Eight years later it was worth, for mere site value, probably 30,000 pounds. I am afraid to say what it may now be worth. Probably most of it is long ago "cut up" into streets and town lots, like "Major Davidson's paddock" alongside, which, consisting of some twelve acres next the Dandenong-road, realized in 1854, under gold discovery stimulus, no less than 17,000 pounds. Such are a few specimens of colonial ups and downs!
Here, too, we made acquaintance, pleasant and long protracted, with our neighbours, the gallant Major—since Colonel—Davidson, his quiet and amiable wife, and "Missie," as she was called, their only child, then of seven years, but in due time a surpassingly accomplished young lady, who was married to the son of Colonel Anderson, and still survives in London. She has confessed to me since that she used then to look up to me with great awe and regard—not merely, I hope, because I was so much the senior.
Only one other incident here. One dark night, towards the fall of summer, detained by business longer than usual, we lost our way as we walked home, distance hardly two miles. After some "dandering" about, in order to strike the corner of Major Davidson's fence, which was as good to us as at home, we caught glimpse of a light, which in that place we knew must be a stranger. Then, as we approached, there were figures and voices. Who should this be but old Liardet from The Beach, with a section of his family, who, having an outing in Melbourne, had, like ourselves, stayed too late, and were now hopelessly at sea, and far out of their track in groping their way back. They offered us a share of quarters, as it seemed useless to try the pathless forest any longer. But we were too sure of our whereabouts to give up the game so easily, and after some more perambulating we struck the fence.
In spite of the attractions and economies of Tempe—for that, I think, was the name it ambitiously held—we quitted South Yarra within the same year for a still greater bargain and temptation in the opposite direction, where I had just then the chance of picking up, "at an old song," the pretty cottage previously occupied by Mr. Locke, on the Merri Creek, four miles north by the Sydney-road. Besides the presentable cottage, there was a large, well-stocked garden, at enacre cultivation field, and a small natural park (vulgarly, paddock), in all 46 acres, for 50 pounds, plus 300 pounds of inevitable mortgage. I called it Maryfield, after my parental home in Edinburgh, and revelled in grapes, plums, and peaches, and much other country happiness. When a host of visitors, on a bright summer day, would rather strain the narrow larder, I used to divert the party into the garden, where they could complete their meal, although at times with inconvenient demand, from the male section at least, upon the brandy. When, in 1854, I re-sold "the lot" to Mr. David Moore, under the heavy temptation of 6,000 pounds, he took the warrantable liberty of a slight nominal alteration to Moorefield, while at the same time he erased the poor old cottage for something more accordant with great golden Victoria.
In this case I had a rather striking illustration of the old land-transfer and other law costs incubus from which my late friend Sir R.R. Torrens has so effectually relieved these colonies; and that, too, as I believe, owing to the multiplied transactions, without any real detriment to our many legal friends. Pounds were pounds in those economy-needing times, and as the Savings Bank had, after a thorough overhaul, accepted the title before giving its loan, I declared myself perfectly satisfied to proceed at once to the conveyance. But no, that was impossible. The courtesies, the practice, the established rights, in short, of ancient custom required all to be done over again, in attested copies of title, draughts of title as to defects for counsel's opinion, and so on, even if all the paper and verbiage were to go straight to the waste-basket; and thus a not over convenient bill of about 70 pounds was rolled up. But I must at the same time bear in mind that this heavy drag applied to all landed property, restricting business in it and reducing its value. Had Torrens's Act been then in action, I could not possibly, with the resulting higher value of land, have secured my bargain at the fifty pounds, probably not even at fifty plus the seventy.
THE EARLY SQUATTING TIMES.
"Our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything." —As You Like It.
The title "Victoria" did not come to us until, on 1st July, 1851, we bloomed into an independent colony, having succeeded, after a good deal of struggle and contention, in getting separated from our mother, New South Wales, who complimented us by being very loath, and even angry, that so very promising a child should be detached from her. We had begun as the Southern or Port Phillip District of that spacious colony, which had already dropped South Australia, and eight years afterwards was to lose yet another arm in Queensland.
I recall with interest and pleasure some early trips into the interior, when it was in a very different condition from now, when the indigenous reigned almost uninvaded throughout, and when aboriginal natives were in many places as plentiful as colonists. For some years squatting life was the predominant or rather all but the sole feature of the interior beyond Melbourne. The little capital was at first always called "the settlement"—a distinctive title, however, which was just expiring when I arrived. But, for some years after, the term "settler" always meant a squatter, and not a farmer, as might be supposed, with his "settled" or fee-simple home.
My first trip to the interior was, towards the end of 1841, to the sheep station of my old friend Sam Jackson, situated on the Deep Creek, seventeen miles northward from Melbourne. There I first tasted damper and saw the novelties of squatting life. Samuel, and his brother William, nicknamed for some reason "The General," were of the very earliest from "over the straits," William having been one of the party organized and sent over in August, 1835, by Fawkner. Sam followed soon after, and they "took up" this station on the Deep Creek, under the natural impression that to be so near "the settlement" must be an advantage. They soon found it otherwise for more than one reason. The constant tramp of sheep passing over their "run" to go beyond them exposed their ground to infection, especially from scab. And they were exposed in another way hardly less costly and far more annoying; for every "traveller," whether bond fide or not, claimed quarters at the Jacksons', and made the sheep disappear of a hungry morning with marvellous rapidity, and at a time when, with the demand for live stock to fill up the empty country, their value had risen to 40 shillings each and upwards. "The General" had mainly to sustain this attack, as his brother was generally in Melbourne practising professionally as an architect, and was engaged at that very time in building the Scots' Church in Collins-street. Naturally enough, he would fain have turned somewhat the flank of this invading host; but, without being successful, his efforts only got him the name of "Hungry Jackson."
Later on, I met further variety of early squatting life in a trip to the Werribee Plains, where some friends, the Pinkertons from Glasgow, and Mr. James Sceales, late merchant and Chief Magistrate of Leith, had their respective stations. On those vast plains, extending westwards 30 to 40 miles, from Melbourne to the Anakies, or Station Peak, the slight and scattered squatting invasion had hardly disturbed anywhere the indigenous features. Thus over a vast solitude we revelled in much of specially Australian scenery, particularly that of tortuous and deeply excavated "creeks," with their chains of ponds or waterholes, the running stream mostly dried up—indeed sometimes for whole years together—but all characterized, more or less, by irresistible rushes after heavy rains, sweeping all before them, including not seldom the sheep, and even the homestead, of the incautious or inexperienced settler. I have a striking contrast in store when I revisit those plains, which now resound to the traffic of road and railway, and to the busy hum of many towns and villages and of farming and gardening life.
As early as 1842, I paid a pleasant visit to pretty little Geelong, and thence on to beautiful and diversified, but then almost empty, Colac, meeting, at either one or other place, Mr. Duncan Hoyle and his two sisters; the Messrs. Hardie, of Leith, who were then or after the husbands respectively of these ladies; Messrs. Hugh and Andrew Murray, and Mr. Augustus Morris, of Colac, who entertained us hospitably at "the huts"—as station homesteads were then humbly designated—and who poured out upon us interminable colonial experiences in a clear, penetrating voice from which there was no escape. But we did not wish to escape, and so we enjoyed everything.
Mr. Morris, who is now a prominent and useful man in Sydney, came early from "across the Straits" with the tide, and settled here, and after some few years, passed through rather trying times, which were not perhaps quite so profitable as he expected, he was induced to "sell out" to the famous Mr. Benjamin Boyd, who, arriving unexpectedly just before this time from London in his fine yacht, had descended upon quiet, plodding Melbourne like a Dives of unfathomable wealth. He had made a hasty run up to Colac, seen and appreciated Morris, bought him out, and left him in charge of this first of many purchases of the great "Australian Wool Company," or whatever other title was to suit the great schemes of this busy head which had turned up amongst us. Mr. Boyd's main idea of buying up squatting property during the reaction sure to follow the early speculation excitement of 1837 to 1840 was no bad business project, or at all unskilfully formed. He gave Morris 7 shillings a head for his sheep. But the fall went on continuously into 1844, so that Boyd effected large purchases at rates as low, in some cases, in the Sydney district, as even one shilling a head, besides cattle and horses at relatively the same. The result, however, was sad and terrible. It was confusion and failure, and mainly for this simple reason—that human nature, left practically uncontrolled, will never give the due care and attention to interests which are only those of other people.
He had got up a bank specially for the supply of all the needed funds for his grand schemes, thus securing, as he put it, an independently large business for that institution. The chief shareholders knew, or might have known, the character of their prospects. They all expected unusual profits under the circumstances, and might possibly have got them. Under this pleasant result they would have credited chiefly their own sagacious courage. But instead they realized most severe loss, and then, with angry unanimity, they condemned, and would have prosecuted, Boyd. Wrath fell upon the younger brother, Mark, who had stayed at home, and who, I think, had honestly but vainly striven to keep an intelligible reckoning out of the confusing advices of his senior's various and huge money-absorbing speculations. There was a sad uncertainty about Mr. Boyd's ending. The local representatives, for the time, of the Royal Bank of Australia had closed accounts with him in the best way they could, allowing him to leave Sydney with his yacht and several friends. He visited the Californian diggings, and afterwards took a cruise among the Pacific Islands. He landed on one of them, as though for some shooting, but was never either seen or heard of more.
Another pleasant trip about this time was to Yering, the Ryries' station, situated nearly half-way up to the cool mountainous sources of the River Yarra. This had already been made a charming home to any contented mind, satisfied to fall back upon country resources. It was a cattle station, for, in the thickly wooded hills, hollows, and flats about sheep could not live—at least, to any purpose—and the homestead had the importance of a little straggling street, with the main dwelling at the top, as the end of a cul-de-sac, and the dairy and what not in marshalled line below. We revelled in pastoral abundance. I wandered into the adjacent woods, experiencing the sense of overpowering grandeur amidst their vast solitudes, with the gum-trees rising straight above me with colossal stems, not seldom 300 feet and more in height, and 100 feet, or even much more, from the ground without a branch. When this "redgum" has elbow room, it expands in all variety of form, attaining in favouring circumstances vast dimensions, as in one example met with in the Dandenong Ranges, which measured 480 feet in height. But in this Yering case, crowded as they were impoverishingly together upon flats of the river, they did not bulk out into such dimensions, but they shot up side by side, straight as arrows, rivals en route to the clouds. Sad changes came to Yering's happy and hospitable owners since, for, like many others, they had to "realize" in the bad times, and to quit a most pleasant home. But Yering itself has thriven, and has since advanced into a great wine-producing district, whose wines Mr. De Castella, its later owner, has made to carry prizes even at European Exhibitions.
EARLY WESTERN VICTORIA ("AUSTRALIA FELIX").
"Oh! 'tis the sun that maketh all things shine." —Love's Labour Lost.
"He makes a July day short as December." —Winter's Tale.
But my chief excursions, which have left a pleasantly vivid recollection of early colonizing life, were made to the far west—the one in 1844, right through to the Glenelg; the other the year after, to the newly-founded township of Warrnambool. The first of these was undertaken partly on business in the interests of the Boyd stations lately formed about Eumerella, a place of evil repute then as to the native hostility. I had previously chanced to "chum" with Boyd's Port Phillip manager, Mr. Robert Fennell, a young fellow as well-looked, gentlemanly, and pleasant as anyone could meet with, and with whom I both officed and housed to mutual satisfaction for two years, until his marriage with a daughter of John Batman. And thus I came in for some few of the many Boyd commissions that were flying freely about in those years, and which were not at all unacceptable to any of us in that time of small things. I afterwards, as I have pleasure in recording, received the hospitalities of the great commission-maker in his generously open house at Sydney.
Once more, in passing westwards, I was at Colac. It was the month of June (midwinter), but the country, with its lake, was not the less beautiful in the universal green. Excepting the partial post-and-rail barricade of my friend William Robertson's 5,000 acres of purchased land, there was nothing all around but free and open squatting. On every side was the hardly yet disturbed indigenous aspect. Pelicans flew aloft, tall "adjutants" stalked about here and there, and cockatoos screeched everywhere. One of the curious green knolls, so common there, was so thickly covered with the yellow-crested white cockatoo as to give the look of a cap of snow.
Leaving Morris's huts, I made for another Boyd station, in the famous far west Eumerella district. There were many beauties around, for I had entered Mitchell's "Australia Felix"—its extreme borders, to be sure, but the most beautiful of it all. My nag was more than ever "in clover," and we wandered on through marvels upon marvels of remarkable and richly fertile country. The country was all but empty as I now coursed through it, but no amount of colonization could much alter its most striking scenery, geological and general. I had some sense of awe and mystery as I gazed down into a sort of "Dead Sea" depths at the southern end of salt, salt Korangamite, and then up at the abruptly towering "Stony Rises," capped by volcanic Porndon in my near vicinity. I passed the Manifolds', where a sprinkling of fat cattle left hardly an impression on the superabounding grass.
Eumerella, or rather the Boyd fragment of that large, rich, and varied cattle area, was in charge of a versatile youth of the name of Craufurd, of a good Scotch family, whom, to the great amusement of my friend Fennell, I re-christened as Squire Hopeless, owing to his utter nonconformability to the monotonies of civilized life. I was sufficiently versed in geology to be aware of the wonders around me, so we were soon off over the Stony Rises to Mount Eeles, only a few miles away, which, like another Porndon, raised its not lofty but mysterious-looking head to arouse our curiosity. We were guided latterly by a well-beaten native track, for this seemed a favourite walk of the aborigines. Our trip was not without danger, for the aboriginal relations had been anything but of that peacefulness which characterized the Melbourne vicinities; but we made up a station detachment under a remarkably fine strong young fellow called Wells, of Tasmanian birth, and equal, in an emergency, to six or a dozen natives for his own share. We saw nothing of natives, however, and were rewarded with wonders of geology. The little Mount Eeles cone surmounted, we looked far down into a vast crater of miles in circuit, whose sharp-ridged, angry, unsettled-looking sides could barely convince us that we looked upon an extinct volcano. Hardly did its aspect reach the solid quiet of the Vesuvian interior, as described by some scanty classic records, prior to the grand, sudden, entirely unexpected outburst of the Pompeiian eruption. Let the crowds of the future Pompeiis and Herculaneums of Victoria look out, for their Vesuvius may some day play havoc, with similar treachery.
We were introduced early to old Gorrie and his nephew McGregor, two doughty Scots, famous—and too famous—in the native hostilities of the last year or two—indeed, ever since these fine runs were taken up. The aboriginal of so fine a country was, at any rate, a primus inter pares of his race, and no way to be despised. The white invaders suffered heavily, in property at least, if not much in their own lives, at the hands of the invaded. Which side was in fault would have been a hard knot to unravel, and probably few on either side troubled themselves much to undo it. Old Gorrie was ever in the thick of war, and duty and inclination went cordially together. He was a cool and terrible shot, and had a terribly long and forcibly arguing rifle. The story goes that, when a couple of pursued marauders had escaped from one covert, and in wild terror were making for another, he quietly waited till they chanced to come in line, and then sent one bullet through both. But he had his cautious and adroit way of telling his doings, as he described to us how, in the turmoil of pursuit, "the gun gaed aff" and "some puir craturs fell." He had good need, for the authorities had been thoroughly aroused by the occasional atrocities that were sure to arise out of the strong mutual antipathies of the case; and on one occasion, for what seemed a signal case of this kind, involving the massacre of unresisting women as well as men, five colonists were arrested and brought to trial, and would certainly have "swung for it" had there not been some inadequacy of direct evidence.
The next station, Dunmore, was already quite famed for its pattern homestead. I entered its hospitable doorway with a sense of comfort and of the climax of possible squatting attainments such as had never been approached before. "Campbell, McKnight, and Irvine," "brither Scots" all, and all of them at home at the time, were of the best company, classic or otherwise, alike to one another and to all visitors. Janet, from the kitchen, too, sent us the best oatcakes and other Scotch fare. I always fancy now that such cooks must be called Janet, from lively remembrance of the savoury hotch-potch and sheeps' head of another Janet at old Robert Sutherland's, at Egham.
Thence I reached "Burchetts', of the Emus," less finished, indeed, but hardly less attractive. They were business clients of my pleasant old friend Charles Barnes, whose name I gave as my pass, with, however, but little need in those open-door days. This was a sheep station, as it was a drier locality, the other stations having been more suited for cattle. We sat joyously chatting in the bright midwinter sunshine. The air was redolent of humour, for which the Burchetts had a name. One of them was rather deaf—indeed very deaf, but when he did pick up the current subject, he seldom failed to contribute good sauce. With regret I remounted next morning, for with business finished in this direction, I was resolved to push on to the Glenelg, as I wished to see through Victoria westwards while I had the opportunity. So I turned my steed north for the Wannon.
I struck a little southern tributary of that pretty grass-banked river, and saw a noteworthy as well as a quite Australian sight. Some recent slight rains had just set the tiny creek in motion, and it was now in the act of filling up a previously quite dry waterhole. I watched the tiny stream till it filled up this hole, and then saw it duly into the next, only a couple of hundred yards off. There was a long succession of these holes before it, generally so precisely rounded and scooped out as to give the idea of human intervention, only that the human beings were nowhere visible there as yet. Then I came down upon the Wannon, in continuous admiration of the rolling hills on either side, grass-covered to the very tops. One part of the Wannon vale here is remarkable for the deep, almost blood-redness of its rich soil, a hue which seemed to come from the similarly coloured stone and rock all about. Here I suddenly came upon a grand spectacle—the falls of the Wannon, which Chevalier's highly artistic brush has immortalized, along with almost countless other Australian beauty. The river plunges over a far-projecting floor direct into a volcanic crater, which, although very much less in its dimensions, was as unmistakable in its character as that of Mount Eeles. The only thing I had to regret as absent from the scene, but a most important factor, was water, for, as far as I recollect, not one drop was visible over the edge. At flood seasons the spectacle must be grand indeed.
As evening drew on, causing me to be on the alert for quarters, I espied a rather pretentious homestead, cosily placed in a natural shelter half-way up the hillside. This proved to be Mr. Edward Henty's. He was not at home, but Mrs. Henty happily was. Young, ladylike, beautiful, she received me with that high courtesy which sets one at once at ease by the flattering impression that in these squatting solitudes it is rather the visited than the visitors who are the obliged parties. Ten years later I, with my wife, called upon her in Melbourne to renew this early acquaintance. She was then, of course, ten years older, but hardly less charming. Thirty-four more years have since elapsed, and yet I must still hope to meet her once more in that country which has become so great, and which is, in so special a sense, her own.
I reached the Glenelg, which, however, I found to be, at or near the Wannon junction, hardly better than a big, irregular, ugly ditch. How curious!—for not far off, above or below, I might have found great deep waterholes and picturesque water stretches as sketched by Mitchell. I took all for granted, and turned back homewards.
I struck a little north towards Victoria Range, and passed one of my nights with a solitary shepherd in an out-hut, so far and away from all companionable life but that of his sheep that I could well realize, in this extreme case, the dolorous side of squatting. My breakfast was a tin of tea without milk, and a hunch of damper of my host's own baking—not altogether rejectable in the keen fresh air when one had nothing else. A sheep could not be killed for two, even if the business could afford it. On I went, merrily withal, for it was the heyday of youth and strength, making steadily eastwards for the southern extremity of the Grampians, which rose in grand outline before me, forty miles away. Neither station nor human being came in my road afterwards till I reached and was rounding Mount Sturgeon, upon whose rocky summit the setting sun already glinted. I was now upon a good, broad bush track, which must lead to some station. But when? This small side-track to the left looks as though a hut at least were nearer, and so I diverged into it. Mile after mile I trotted, as well as the rough track would permit, and when night fell, and for long after, I still pegged away. A dozen miles right up, within the outer sierra, towards Mount William, brought me at last to an open glade, where some small piles of "split stuff" showed me at once my mistake. Dodging about till day, thus giving rest to my horse, I soon regained my road, and after an hour's further ride, reached Dr. Martin's sheep station, where a pleasant young fellow, Byass by name, who had lost an arm in wars of some kind, and was then in charge, ministered to my wants, and allowed me to take well-nigh the largest breakfast on record in those parts.
I must not continue in such detail with the rest of my western tours' incidents, especially as the second was mostly over the same ground as the first. I dilly reached my last Boyd station, in the pretty and varied Pyrenees district—a sheep station, then under charge of my friend James M. Hamilton. Here the hospitalities were equal, but all the rest sadly below The Gums, and an infinity underneath Dunmore. But Hamilton promised us compensation in a visit to the more comfortable residence of a squatting neighbour, Mr. John Allen. The master was not at home, but the mistress received us with squatting welcome. She was a young South Australian wife, charming alike in person and manners, and surrounded by a little troop of children, some with the stamp of her own beauty. She died not long afterwards, prematurely cut down, alas! like many another bright flower in the world's great garden.
Next year, 1845, I reached Warrnambool, just then commencing its urban life with a few straggling small white houses, along the edge of its pretty semicircular bay. I had passed Mounts Noorat and Shadwell, occupied respectively by Mr. Neil Black and Captain Webster, both early colonists, and was once more in raptures with the spectacle of almost continuously rich soil. I also came upon several round, deep, and mysterious-looking lakes, one of which, with its waters far below me, I descended to examine with no slight sensation of awe. I was told of beautiful and grand coast scenes towards the east and Cape Otway; but the ways were of Nature's uninviting hardness, and I apprehended a main difficulty of the Glenmutchkin Railway kind, from want of house or human being to help dependent humanity. I turned, however, the opposite way, to rising Belfast and Port Fairy, and wandered about through the Alison and Knight, and Rutledge and other acres; amongst cockatoos, as the small farmers were there called, observing a soil of unsurpassable richness, the potatoes and other products, the former particularly, being the finest in the world. The striking new feature of this journey seemed to me the picturesque and beautiful River Hopkins—beautiful in all but its name! Why give such starched, hard, dot-and-go-one names, when there are Eumerella, Wannon, Doutagalla, Modewarra, Yarra Yarra, and countless other such natural and genial modulations to be had of the natives for the asking?
The year following, when my dear old friends, Mr. and Mrs. A.M. McCrae, had betaken themselves from hard lines of law to the pleasant variety of an Arthur Seat cattle station—pleasant to their town visitors at least—I oftener than once looked in upon them from Melbourne. They had the life and adornment of a large family of pretty curly-headed young boys and girls, some of them with the aristocratic fine black hair and cream-white skin of their accomplished mother. McCrae and I galloped the thirty miles interval, and while crossing and watering at the ever-running Cannonook half way, and admiring the varied, almost park-like vistas among the three gentle hill rises of the bay's eastern coast, we would marvel at the stupidity of Collins in 1803 in abandoning such a country. To be sure he chanced to squat on the least inviting of its varied areas, and this benevolent excuse we confirmed by a ride across country one day to inspect the spot. All we could see was what seemed the remnant of a small fireplace. The "cups and saucers" country we passed over on the way might be interesting geologically, and even artistically; but on any dry, hot summer day the look around might not be enlivening to a new arrival. None the less, Sorrento has since arisen there—a considerable, lively, and pretty watering-place, as I hear, for which the colony's good friend, Mr. George Coppin, has provided, amongst other benefits to it, a regular steam communication. This steam route includes another like wonder of progress, Queenscliff, which, at the time I speak of, only possessed a lighthouse, but is now a breezy and lively crowded and fashionable retreat from the great dusty city of business and cares to the north.
SOME NAMES OF MARK IN THE EARLY YEARS.
"Some are born great; some achieve greatness, And some have greatness thrust upon them." —Twelfth Night.
Before endeavouring to give a sketch of our early society and its ways and means, I am fain to pick out a few prominent persons as they flitted before me at the time and have stuck to my recollection since. Although they might not all have been in an equal degree interesting, good or great in themselves, they were yet men of mark, closely associated in various ways with our early colonial life, and, like a busy dentist, much in the mouth of their public. By all right and reason, the first of these prominent personages is the brotherhood group of the Messrs. Henty.
THE HENTY FAMILY, AND THE FOUNDATION OF VICTORIA.
"Let the end try the man." —2nd Part Henry IV.
"Great world! Victoria brings thee meat and corn and wine, With richly veined woods, and glittering gold from mine, Fairy web of silken thread, soft thick snowy fleece; Wide room for smiling homes of industry and peace." —Mrs. H.N. Baker.
The founder of to-day's great colony of Victoria was Mr. Edward Henty, who landed at Portland Bay from Launceston, with live stock and stores, for the purpose of settlement, on the 19th November, 1834. But in regard to that notable event I prefer to speak of "The Henty Family," because, in their colonizing efforts they seem to have acted so much with mutual family purpose and in mutual help, and because there was a preparatory work in which the family were all more or less engaged, all leading up to this settlement at Portland, a site which had been selected after more than two years of previous adventurous excursions and observations along the coasts of Western Victoria and of South Australia.
The successful settlement of the noble Port Phillip Harbour the following year by Batman and Fawkner caused such general attention and such a tide of colonization, that remote Portland was comparatively overlooked. For many years, therefore, much less was heard of the Hentys than of those who had merely followed their steps. In fact, there can be but little doubt that these latter were first aroused to the colonizing of the vast areas, the all but terra incognita, across the Straits by the vigorous example set by the Henty family almost from the moment of their arrival in Launceston in 1831, and by the reports which they brought back from time to time of the lands of promise they were opening to public notice in South-Eastern Australia. But now that rail and telegraph have virtually abolished distance, and familiarized the central colonists with the value and beauty of the earliest occupied Western areas—the Australia Felix of Mitchell—the Messrs. Henty's position has passed more to the front, and their priority been universally acknowledged.
I was not personally very intimate with any of the Henty family, otherwise I might have had more to say in this sketch. But I have met most of the brothers repeatedly, and frequently I met James, the Melbourne merchant, who was the eldest, and also William, the lawyer and ex-Premier of Tasmania, a most amiable and gentlemanly man, who latterly resided at Home, where he died, and who often attended the lectures and discussions at the Royal Colonial Institute of London. Both of these brothers were rather grave and quiet, while Edward and Stephen were energetic and lively even beyond most colonists. Francis, now the only survivor of the large family, I met only once, about forty-three years ago, in the Western District. He was then a handsome and rather slim young man, not of the Henty mould, which was rather of the full John Bull kind, as "Punch" gives him, minus the obesity. But if I may credit the Melbourne "Illustrateds" in a recent likeness of the last of the Victorian founders, he must have consented, in later life, to drop more into the family mould. They were a family of eight sons and one daughter. Seven of the sons emigrated with their father. They were all men of mark, above average in mind and physique—men of a presence, who would have been prominent in any society; altogether, in numbers, in appearance, in circumstances, and in events, quite a remarkable family.
As I am not writing for history, so as to study completeness in my account, but only of personal observations and recollections, I shall not do more than give a very slight sketch of the emigratory particulars of this family, and my excuse is that these data are so far personal as having been told me direct by one or other of the family. The story is striking, and our descendants may look back with surpassing interest to the Romulus and Remus of a future Rome which, in the possibilities of modern progress, may exceed that of the past. The father, Mr. Thomas Henty, of Sussex, England, took the resolution to emigrate, with his family, to the "Swan River," as the present Western Australia was then called. In 1829 he sent his eldest and two younger sons there, with suitable servants and supplies, intending to follow with the rest. These pioneers declared against the Swan, and advised their father to go to Launceston instead, to which place they themselves also went. Arrived all there in 1831, a new disappointment awaited the family. No grant of land could be had, as in the case of the Swan, where they had 84,000 acres. This grant system had been abolished only a fortnight before their arrival. They had now to rent their farms, and the prospects, therefore, were discouraging. They were unable even to effect an exchange for their Swan River grant.
This disappointment led to a search, begun in 1832, under the lead of Edward, the second son, who twice traversed the seas between Portland and Spencer Gulf, examining the aspect and promise of the country. The result was always in favour of Portland, where he landed on one occasion, confirming all impressions by actual inspection ashore. He, therefore, resolved on a settlement here. In his second expedition he took his father with him, as the latter had expressed the wish to see for himself the Swan River grant before finally abandoning it. The party, having reached the Swan, found that what they had got was "sand, not land," and so it was finally given up.
Edward, who was the prime adventurer of the party, now got ready to settle at Portland Bay. He chartered a small schooner, "The Thistle", loading her with stores and live stock, and with selections of seed, fruit trees, vegetables, etc., part of them bought from Fawkner, who had then a market garden on Windmill Hill, near Launceston, besides keeping the Cornwall Hotel there; and with these he sailed in October, 1834. In two days they were within twenty-five miles of their destination, when a storm drove them back to King's Island. Six times successively they were thus driven back, losing a good many of their live stock, and it was only after thirty-four days that they effected their landing. The work of colonization began at once. "The Thistle" returned to Launceston for fresh supplies and additional colonists, and returned this second time with Francis Henty, the youngest of the family, who landed at Portland on 13th December, within twenty-four days of his brother. Edward was then twenty-four years of age, and his brother only eighteen. This is the brief but momentous story of the founding of Victoria.
Mr. Francis Henty has given a most amusing account of the meeting between his party and that of Major (afterwards Sir Thomas) Mitchell, who, in exploring "Australia Felix," in 1836, came, in great surprise, upon the Henty settlement at Portland. The story reads now like the highest romance of adventurous exploration. The Mitchell intruders, five in number, were at once regarded as bushrangers, and a defence promptly organized. The fire-arms were limited to an old musket, which was loaded to the very muzzle, to be ready for a grand discharge. Then as to the Mitchell party, even after they were relieved of their first fears, for they too had taken the others to be "no better than they should be," they exercised a measure of reserve, as though doubtful of their new friends' respectability. Mutual suspicions, however, being at last dismissed, the travellers were supplied with the stores they much wanted, and, in return, they gave such a favourable account of the pastures of the Wannon Valley as to induce Mr. Edward Henty subsequently to remove a part of the flocks there, and to establish the homestead where, as I have already stated, I enjoyed in my Western Victorian travels the squatting hospitalities.
Let me add just one more incident of the Henty family, one personal to myself, but in quite a different direction from the above. Once, on a special occasion, I met the banker, Charles, who had stuck to his profession at Launceston, instead of adventuring across the Straits with his brothers. Besides his quiet banking vocation, he was, I think, the portliest of the family, which may be the explanation. The occasion was a public dinner to the Anti-Transportation League delegation, sent from Melbourne, in 1852, to stir up the cause at the Van Diemen's Land fountain head of the common evil, and of which delegation my lately deceased old friend Lauchlan Mackinnon and myself were regarded as the heads. Mackinnon, like many another such vigorous Highlander, as he then was, could never take a subject of deep interest to himself quietly. We had had a sample of him already at Hobart, where the feeling as to our mission was by no means clear, both from the natural touchiness of convict connection or descent, and from that still considerable section of colonial employers and traders who thought that the ledger and its profit and loss account had at least an equal right to be heard in the question as any other so-called higher interest. The ground, slippery enough at Hobart, was supposed to be still more treacherous at Launceston. Had not Edward Wilson, of the thoroughly Mackinnonized Melbourne "Argus", been but a little before nearly mobbed by the furious Anti-Antis of this place, to his utter surprise and astonishment at his own importance, and been only saved, in life or limb perhaps, by old Jock Sinclair, who was timely on the spot, and who dexterously led him, by a roundabout, to safety within the departing steamer for Melbourne? In short, a row was more than half expected from the Mackinnon speech, and as this was undesirable, for good reasons to all sides of Launceston society, Mr. Henty resolved to prevent it, and did so most successfully by a very adroit but not unworthy trick. He took occasion to speak just before the Mackinnon avalanche was to come on. Introducing Mackinnon and commending his straightforward honesty in this matter, and so on, he said that some such people could not take even a good cause in moderation; but that these defects, if he might so call them, were more easily seen than remedied, and that all kindly consideration must be made in the case. I fear I am not literal as to the identical words, although I heard them, but I have given the purport. Poor Mackinnon, as he afterwards laughingly pleaded, what could he do under the cold douche of such a wet blanket? He made the smallest and quietest speech of his life upon a great and stirring subject.
SOME INTERJECTA IN RE BATMAN, PIONEER OF THE PORT PHILLIP SETTLEMENT.
Mr. Edward Henty, from Launceston, first entered the future Victoria in 1834 by her remote portal, Portland Bay, and thus became the founder of the colony. In the following year, John Batman, of Hobart, sailing from the same stirring little Launceston, entered by the central and grander portal of the Port Phillip Heads, and was thus the pioneer of Port Phillip settlement; for we must really turn blundering Collins, with his abortive doings in 1803-4, out of the running. I never saw Batman, as he died the year before my arrival, so that, according to my rule, I have nothing to say of him. But I must mention an incident occurring shortly before my date, and characteristic of the times, namely, the raffling for Batman's old and well smoke-begrimed pipe. This was at the famous Lamb Inn, a little wooden edifice on the north side of West Collins-street, opposite the Market-square, and fronting a small cliff which the street levelling there had left for future disposal. There were thirty tickets at a pound each, and the fortunate winner was to compensate the disappointed by standing champagne all round. I was once in the Lamb Inn ere its glories had quite expired, as might be inferred from a charge of 4 shillings for a bottle of cider, for which I had called in support of the house, and to while away time in waiting for a friend. I had to share it with two others who happened to be in the room, the waiter having promptly filled the three tumblers he had brought, without even "Robert's" professional stereotype of "by your leave," the tumblers, too, being as promptly emptied without any ceremonious bother about acknowledgment. The Lamb Inn lived a brief space longer, but utterly bereft of its old position in the revels and extravagance of every kind of the young settlement, and was finally levelled out of existence in company with the "cliff" at its back.