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SOME EARLY MELBOURNE HISTORY (From the "Age.") Melbourne is too young to begin the making of "ancient history"; but age is comparative, and Mel- bourne, though but the growth of a yesterday among cities, had its days and doings of infancy, and in those days much happened that does not appear in the records of official documents. "This will be the site for a vil- lage," exclaimed burly John Bat- man on June 18, 1835, as his eyes roved over the beautiful grassy slopes that undulated from the north bank of the Yarra. Batman tied his sloop, the Rebecca, to the over- hanging branches of a gum tree, and, together with his fellow adventurers, went ashore to stretch his legs. Bat- man had every reason to feel satis- fied with himself, for two days be- fore he had purchased the "site for the village" (Melbourne), and all the region round about — 600,000 acres —more or less—from a tribe of abo- riginies he and his companions, had run across in the bush on the Merri Creek. The natives had arrived with the express intention of wiping out the party, but Batman, who un- derstood the blacks as few have done, soon induced them to put up their weapons and sell him all the face of the country instead. And for 600,000 acres of Melbourne, in- cluding most of the land now within the suburban area, John Batman paid 40 pairs of blankets, 42 toma- hawks, 130 knives, 62 pairs scissors, 40 looking glasses, 250 handker- chiefs, 18 shirts, 4 flannel jackets, 4 suits of clothes and 150 lb. of flour. The agree- ment, executed in duplicate, be- ginning with "know all persons," and abounding in "whereof," "where- to," etc., and ending with signatures of eight blackfellows, which looked upon paper liqe a procession of caterpillars crawling up a tree, was completed, with John Batman's bold signature beneath. It would have been a fine business deal if it had come off. The blackfellows were perfectly satisfied with it, and so was Batman ; but, unfortunately, the British Government could not see it in the same light, and believed the native dad not know what they were doing. So the agreement was can- celled. It was until next year, how- ever, that Batman's claim was dis- allowed, and, meanwhile, he had the annoyance of seeing Johnnie Fawkner slip up the Yarra in the schooner Enterprise, and take pos- session of the best sites in "the vil- lage," while he was away in Tas- mania winding up his affairs there to transfer his household and ener- gies to Bearbrass, as "the site for the village" was then called. All this, including the original agree- mert with the caterpillar-like sig- natures, is accessible to the student in the Melbourne Public Library. But the duplicate is not ; it was for- mally handed over to the blacks, who probably threw it away when they found it wasn't eatable. Melbourne must have been in- deed a beautiful spot in 1835. Bat- man's house of bush timber and split shingle roof-stood on the hill, some- where close to where St. James' Ca- thedral is. Fawkner's was lower down the slope towards the river. The settlers had scarce landed be- fore they had the plough on the soil, and by the end of the year they reaped their crops from the rich slopes now covered with stately warehouses and intersected by paved streets. But the energy and enthusiasm which founded Mel- bourne was in the air, and right from the day that Batman made his historic remark,. "This will be the site for a village," progress was sure and steady. First came the invasion of sheep from Tas- mania, and as the flocks landed on the shores of Port Phillip, each sheep owner pushed out over the virgin country, claiming as much country as he could see from the most accessible eminence. The vil- lage of Bearbrass in 1836 grew stea- dily. The timber had been cut away, JohnnFawkner had built a hotel, and was constantly tacking new rooms to it. The hotel necessi- tated the construction of a lockup, and the lockup the guardianship of a constable, and he (the first) was one Hobson, an old soldier, who spent most of his daylight hours in scolding the blacks who wandered about the settlement because they wouldn't wear clothes. A black- smith's forge had been established, and Buckley, the wild white man, who in his youth had been a brick- layer, had his hands full in building chimnneys for theslab huts of the set- tlers.
In 1839 Melbourne had grown much and business was brisk. A great deal of most interesting infor- mation concerning the business life of Melbourne in that year has just been discovered among the re- cords collected from the wreck of the old city court house, destroyed to make room for the fine structure now being erected upon its site. This is contained in the letter book of the firm of P. W. Welsh and Co., who in correspondence with London merchants, claim to be, the first es- tablished house in Melbourne and hope to be the first to establish a direct trade between Melbourne and Port Phillip. The writing in this old tome is precise and quaintly worded and the ink is faded, but its pages contain a great deal concern- ing the infancy of Melbourne that is of very great value. As one reads one can picture the busy store- keeper merchant buzzing about the premises, now and then darting out and scrambling over prostrate tree trunks or leaping some miry puddle to get some other business house or run down to the river bank to transact some business with the master of some small craft plying to Laun- ceston. He was a busy man this mechant, and energetic, as his cor- respondence proves. On March 17, 1839, he wrote to Messrs. D. Dun- bar and Son, London, that he in- tended to ship 500 bales of wool that season, so that within three years of Batman's landing, the wool growing industry of Victoria must have been very fairly established. To George Bishop, London, on the same date, he writes:— "We have got up a fire and marine insurance company here, nominal capital £50,- 000, all the shares taken in two days; we are also getting up a steam navigation company." Bul- lock drays from the sheep stations laden with wool began lumbering into the settlement but the "bullocky" in those times was just the same old bullocky he has always been ;it was much easier to get him into the township than to get him out of it. But he had certainly more excuse in the early days. He had to run the gauntlet of native spears all the way in with his wool, and he had to take the some risk going back, and good ale was to be had at Fawkner's shanty. "We are very much vexed at the detention of your drays," the firm wrote to C. H. Ebden, Esq., on July, 10, 1839 . . . "We pressed your men very hard to be ready to start, but we dare say you will not be sur- prised to learn that the bullocks are yet to find, although the drays have been ready to start since early in the morning. They were drinking both yesterday and the day before, and did not attend to our instruc- tions." The next day- it Was just the'! samn, the "bullockies" were still on the spree, and the bullocks lost. The. head of the, firm went over to 'thee shanty where --the -"bullockies," 'in red shirts, dirty white moles, Wel 'Iington -boots, enormous beards, and cabbage-tree hats, were -roaring, like lions', over their liquor, but he could not get:any good out. of them : they wanted him to "be 'a man and' join in." After this the mer chant gave them up. -How; they got 'on eventually does?not appear, for they are omitted from-"uftither' correspondence.- .' Likely 'enough. Squatter Ebden had to send a re lief party to Melbourne'to resciue his dray and bullocks.., - . Abbut this time the settlement began to jig along in earnest,- for the merchant sent an order to Messrs. Nugent and Son, coach makers, Dublin, for four Irish jaunting cars; the commencement of" a trade which he hoped would be mutually profitable. . . . Shepherds were in great demand. The blacks~speared -them whenever they got a chance and scattered the sheep, "yet there were always reckless spirits in Tasmania who were willing to take the risk. -Thus, a letter, is written to the. firm's agency, at Launceston: - - Please'- to procure. five shepherds for the Rev' Joseph Dockeri of Port Phlilip. We expect you will be able to- get them at, £25 each." This quaint order goes to' prove that the clergyman 's flock -was a woolly 'one. Land speculation in this year had eveyhody in a fever of excitement land -in this connection a letter was written to A. B. Sparke. Esq., saying 'You cannot err in purchasing land here at North Geelong. A number.. of we'althy Scotchh immigrants are continumally arriving via Hobart Town and Sydney. Our population is rapidly increasing our-imporpts for the last half-year- averaged nearly £25,000o per quarter, and our export 'of wool and sheep- will nearly equal it. A'
town has been formed at the beach opposite Williamstown. to be called South Melbourne, One long street will connect it with the present town; a railroad can be formed at little expense, as it is a dead level. Water can also- be brought to the shipping; the distance will be one and three-quarter miles from the Yarra (where fresh) to the beach . . . I feel confident large sums may be -made by the purchase of allotments in this town. The land to be sold in May is good cattle, and fairly watered; the other -lands are more for sheep. I do not consider the average of the section worth more than 9/ or 10/ per acre.'" By September, 1839, -business ihad increased . enormously,. and a big oversea trade was flourishing. In a letter to John Mason, Esq:, London, the writer, in. referring' to wool exports, says:-"There. was exported in 1837- 60.000 lb.. in 1838 213,000' lb., in 1839 806,000 lb., be- sides a large quantity shipped coast .wise to Sydney. This season we ex pect, to ship 1,200,000 lb. worth £100,000. -There. is a rise and progress for a three-year-old colony! we have at present two banks, a fire and life. insurance company, -a steam company about to be started, with every other indication of: equalling, if not surpassing, -Sydney in less than seven years. This.may appear visionary, but none except those on the spit can form even an , idea of. our rapid progress. Labour is very scarce and high.; carpenters, brick layers and masons 12/ per day, com mon labourers 7/ <and. 8 per day, shepherds and farm servants £40 and £50 per annunm. -We badly -want 1000 mechanics and 300 to . 40( :female servants. To these we have to give ' 20 to £30 per . annum, and very indiffer ent at that in some cases." - .In 1842 the firm was given a com mission by the -Government to ar-. range for the immigration -of 1000 families from Great Britain, but this' doesn't appear to have been accomplished. Trouble- overtook the once flourishing business, and eventually the books of the firm -be came exhibits in court proceedings, and there they remained regarded as. rubbish until the demolition of the old.. court brought them to 'light." -