PORTLAND AND ITS BAY
THE DAWN OF
HOW Portland perhaps nearly be- came a French colony, how at
another time it just escaped
being a penal settlement, and how Victoria's history began in Portland Bay is a story that few people know in all its dimen-
sions. There is an obelisk erected on the North Bluff, the site of the first land ever ploughed in Victoria, that tells part of it, for it commemorates the Hentys, William Dutton, Major Mitchell, and Lieutenant Grant - the first settlers in Victoria, an intrepid sealer and whaler, the first ex- plorer of Australia Felix, and the navi- gator who first entered Portland Bay and
The antecedents of Victoria's settlement are remote. Putting aside the flying visits of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and French, to which the names on the north and west coasts bear witness, we come to the more relevant discoveries by Captain Cook on the east coast, which added a continent to Britain. Glad to employ her new possession, Britain sent Governor Phillip to found a free and penal settle- ment in 1788. This opened the way to the discovery of the south coast when, in 1799, Bass and Flinders sailed through Bass Strait, thus proving that Tasmania
was an island.
The year 1800 was the most memorable year for Portland. Lieutenant Grant, in the Lady Nelson, discovered and named the bay after the Duke of Portland, Law -
rence Rock after a friend, Cape Nelson after his ship, and Cape Bridgewater after the Duke of Bridgewater. In April, 1802, Flinders passed by the bay without seeing it owing to rough weather, so his chart was marked there only by dots. A few days before this Nicholas Baudin had entered the bay naming it Trouville; the Lawrence Rock, Fourcroy; and Lady Julia Percy Island, l'Isle du Dragon.' Then he sailed away. But he omitted to hoist the tricolour. Portland perhaps thus escaped being a French settlement. Again, in 1803, when Lieutenant Collins was sent to found a penal settlement in Westernport, he reported so unfavourably on the site that the proposed settlement, after a few weeks, was removed to Van Diemen's Land, and Hobart Town was founded. Another unsuccessful attempt was made later, thus leaving to Portland the honour of making its own and Vic- toria's fair beginning.
Sealers and Whalers
For some years before this many sealers and whalers had frequented the bay and islands, living periodically on the shore, but they were never recognised as per- manent settlers and they were never pro- tected. Most interesting accounts of their doings are given by Bonwick, McNab, Westgarth, and Labilliere, also by Mr. C. R. Long in the "Historical Magazine" of September, 1917. to which I am in-
debted for some facts.
Few personal details about most of these men are known, but we hear a great deal of William Dutton being in the bay during 1828-9. He says, in support of his claim to be the earliest settler, that several times he lived in Portland, going backward and forward in the Henry, establishing a whale fishery there and erecting buildings in 1829. On the other hand, it is stated that James Henty, in business in Launceston, promoted his em-
ployee, William Dutton, to be captain of the Henry, and to take charge of his whaling business. One does not know the right of this, nor perhaps is it necessary,
but we do know that William Dutton was a fine seaman and was skilful in his most hazardous calling.
This article, so far, has been the story on Portland Bay. That of Portland itself began in the ancient village of West Tar-
ring, near Worthing, in Sussex, England, where Thomas Henty, a retired banker, lived in the manor whose land had once formed part of the See of Canterbury. He bred the purest merino sheep from the famous stud of George III. The Napo- leonic wars had left Britain confronted with the problem of collapse of trade and unemployment, and leading statesmen, in- including the Duke of Wellington, believed that the solution of all Britain's troubles lay in the new possessions overseas. So in 1829 immense tracts of land were offered to intending settlers who had courage, strength, and capital. Among the first to respond was Thomas Henty, who saw the wonderful opportunity for settling his family - his wife, one daughter, and seven stalwart sons - on the land. He was the true stuff of which pioneers are made, and thus we do not wonder at the splendid pioneering spirit of his sons.
Three of them - Stephen, James, and John - reached the newly opened Swan River settlement (W.A.), and were
Mr. EDWARD HENTY (Public Library)
granted 80,000 acres of land. The ven- ture failed miserably, for the land was worthless and was full of poisonous weeds, and they went to Van Diemen's Land. In 1832 their father and the rest of the family joined them, only to meet bitter disappointment, because the granting of cheap land had just been abandoned. Thomas, deciding to see whether any- thing could be done, rode the 220 miles between Launceston and Hobart Town, though the whole country was being terrorised by bushrangers. His applica- tion was unsuccessful, so it was decided to seek fresh fields on the mainland, and Edward went to explore.
Landing one morning in June, 1833, near Battery Point, from the Thistle, which had picked him up at Port Lin- coln, he saw to his surprise the whaling plant of Griffiths and Co. He was not in- terested in whaling, but as the Portland district seemed to be so suitable to grazing he stayed a month, taking in Lake Con- dah, Darlot's, and Bridgewater. Then he determined to stay. Thomas, prudently deciding to inspect Edward's choice before
advancing any capital, and while awaiting a reply from the Home Government, went with Edward to see Stephen at Swan River, and decided that Stephen should wind up their affairs there. After a call at Portland, of which Thomas approved, they returned to Launceston. As they did not hear from the Home Office, and know- ing that in 1827 Batman and Gellibrand had been refused a similar request, they grew weary of waiting, and Edward re- solved to become a temporary "squatter" on the vacant coastal land. It was taking a great risk, but something had to be
In the Launceston "Advertiser" of Oc- tober 18, 1834, appears the following:- "Shipping Report. Launceston, October 14, 1834. Departed Monday, schooner Thistle, Liddell master, for Portland Bay. Passengers: Messrs. Henty and Campbell and five indentured servants, also build- ing and agricultural implements." Owing to north-westerly gales the little schooner required 34 days to cross the Strait, only
about 300 miles, but it was obliged to tack
backward and forward five times, and part of the stock was washed overboard. Ulti- mately they landed on Battery Point on the memorable 19th of November, 1834, thus making it the birthday of Portland
The list of stock landed from what has been termed "Henty's Ark" was quoted in the "Portland Guardian":- Four heifers, four working bullocks, five pigs, two turkeys, two guinea fowls, six dogs, with a plough, seeds, plants, vines, apple and other fruit trees, a fishing boat, a Seine net, a frame house, and "implements of location." The pioneers soon pitched their tents and looked for fresh water. On November 25 they set to work vigorously, enclosing land for stock and planting trees and vegetables. On December 6 the first plough turned the sod for potatoes on the site of what is now the Richmond Hotel. A cereal crop was later planted on the Bluff. On December 19 Edward was joined by his brother Frank, who brought some much-needed flour and supplemented the stock by five bullocks, one bull, one cow, two heifers, three
merino rams, three wethers, six thorough- bred cows, 71 crossbred ewes, and poultry. These must have honourable mention, as they were the foundation of Victoria's flocks and herds.
Richmond cottage was begun on Feb- ruary 6, probably with timber from Fawk- ner's sawmills. In 1835 whales were plen- tiful in the bay, and Mr. J. H. Wedge, a visitor, made three sketches of whaling establishments and one of Richmond cot- tage, which are now in the Melbourne Public Library. The Hentys supplied the whalers with provisions, but it was not until the next year, when Stephen joined them, that whaling was engaged in by the Hentys as a business.
In 1836 Stephen Henty, who, in Perth, had married Miss Jane Pace, brought his bride, a girl of 19, there. Mrs. Stephen Henty, Victoria's first pioneer woman, wrote in a letter quoted in James Smith's "Encyclopædia of Victoria": "It was on a Sunday night when we landed by moon- light. I was carried through the surf by a sailor and landed safely. On reaching the homestead, a comfortable dwelling, a log fire was burning and the table spread. My brother-in-law, Frank, met me at the door, saying, 'Welcome, Mrs. Stephen.' I said, 'My name is Jane Henty, your sister.' It was a happy, merry party, my husband and brothers all thoughtfulness and kindness, but I felt the want of a woman's company, the one we had en- gaged refusing at the last to come." One feels admiration and sympathy for this little 19-year-old bride of a first pioneer.
Richmond Cottage was given to the young couple, and there Major Mitchell, the explorer, was received. He had fol- lowed the course of the Glenelg to near its mouth, and to his surprise and delight saw the substantial buildings and good garden of the Henty settlement. He was greatly impressed. The Hentys took the exploring party for bushrangers and pre- pared to repel them with a four-pounder. Instead, they shared with them their last measure of flour. Mitchell wrote of a whale in the bay, and of the vegetables as the finest he had seen. In his report to the Colonial Secretary, describing the fertile region he had explored, he appro- priately called it Australia Felix, later to
Portland's first doctor-Dr. Byass- settled in Gawler street in 1837, the year of Queen Victoria's accession and the naming of Melbourne. Whaling had never been so prosperous. There were eight parties of whalers in the bay - but Port- land was now to work out her own des- tiny, and that of Victoria, in another way. Fired by Major Mitchell's glowing ac- count, several of the brothers prospected the Wannon and Wando Vale country near Merino, Casterton, and Coleraine, and on August 3, 1837, the day that Ste- phen Henty's son, Richmond, was born, the first flock of pure merino sheep ar- rived at Merino Downs under the care of Frank and John Henty. This was the beginning of Victoria's merino industry and her prosperity. Batman had brought sheep to Port Phillip. Settlement now proceeded apace. Settlers from Tasmania, and in the track of Hume and Hovell's and Sturt's explorations and overland trips in the East, poured into Victoria.
Following Major Mitchell's reports, Messrs. Tyers and Townsend, in 1840, sur- veyed and laid out the town of Portland, and the "Town Lots" were sold In Mel- bourne at high prices. In this year James Blair was the first magistrate. In the next year the Rev. C. Thompson christened children in Henty's woolshed, where the first church services were held. Part of the shed is standing now. R. C. Heddich arrived in '41 and opened the first school.
The "Portland Guardian" first appeared
Mrs. STEPHEN HENTY
in 1842. William Learmonth, afterwards the first mayor of Portland, arrived in '42. In that year the Henty brothers dissolved partnership, Edward taking Muntham station, John the Sandford, Frank the Merino Downs, and Stephen keeping the interest in Portland. The pioneer stage had now passed, and Port- land quickly became an important com- mercial and shipping centre, with pros- pects of great extension. But the gold rush of the 'fifties and the railways checked this. Portland, however, still has her historic traditions, her old-world charm, her beautiful bay and surround- ings, and one can see her in the future as a queen of watering places.
There is not much known about the lives of this band of pioneers, but from Richmond Henty's "Australiana" we learn of his "sweet-faced mother," and how he visited in Hobart the "gentle lady" his grandmother, who lived there after the death of her husband, Thomas, in 1839 : of his aboriginal friends, Black Charlie and Black Billy, with whom he fished and hunted, and how, when he asked Billy where all his friends were, he pointed down and said "Quamby along here - all dead. What for you take my country?" : of how his father played cribbage; of the red coats and drums of the British troops; of the visit of Sir John and Lady Frank- lin; of Kennedy the explorer (afterwards speared by blacks in Queensland), who carried Richmond on his back; and of Richmond's school days in Port Fairy, where Messrs. Raby and Penny had settled. One would like to know very much more of all the original colonists of Victoria, and particularly that gracious personality, Mrs. Stephen Henty, who leads the van of Victoria's women
Mr. FRANCIS HENTY (Public Library)