BIRTH OF MELBOURNE.
THE UNNAMED VILLAGE.
By A. W. GREIG.
The records of the happenings in the settlement formed by the coalescence of members of Batman's and Fawkner's parties on the banks of the Yarra early in September, 1835, are so scanty that to write an article on this larval stage of Melbourne's history is rather like trying to make bricks without straw; yet the subject is so fascinating that it seems to be worth while to marshal the few facts that have come down to us with a view to forming some sort of conception of the conditions in which the city had its birth.
I have already described how Lancey and his companions in the schooner Enterprise, fitted out by Fawkner for a colonising ex- pedition, selected the grassy slopes by the Yarra as a fit place in which to settle in the closing days of August, 1835, as is shown by Lancey's own journal, which, fortunately, has survived. They pitched their tent somewhere near Queen's Bridge,
"at the commencement of the fresh water," built a storehouse for their supplies, and measured out the banks of the river in al-
lotments to provide for each member of their little company. To them came John Helder Wedge, who had crossed the Straits to inspect the newly acquired territory of the Port Phillip Association. "On my arrival at this place," he wrote in his journal on September 2, "I found an en- campment formed by the persons connected with Mr Fawkner . . . .Their vessel of 55 tons was lying within three yards of the shore, in five fathoms water. I communi- cated verbally to these gentlemen that they were within the limits of the land purchased by Mr. Batman from the natives; in reply to which they stated their determination to hold possession." The following day he took breakfast with the intruders, and served them with a written notice of their trespass. He then pro- ceeded on his exploratory journey, and re- turned to his base, Batman's depot, at In- dented Head, on September 8. His journal becomes somewhat fragmentary at this point, but we are able to gather from it that on September 14 Wedge returned to the banks of the Yarra, and that two days later he was followed from Indented Head by Henry Batman, who had come over to look after his brother's interests. In a letter written 20 years later, Wedge de- scribes the incident thus "On my return to my headquarters I immediately broke up the establishment, and removed it to the north bank of the Yarra, and en- camped, if not at the very place, not far from where St. James's Cathedral now stands." Wedge made two sketches of the locality, which are preserved in his field book, now in the Public Library, and are the earliest authentic pictures of the site of Melbourne. One of them shows three tents and a pile of goods covered with tar- paulins, and probably represents the Bat- man section of the establishment only; the other, which has been labelled in Wedge's hand, "Near where St. James's Cathedral now stands," appears to be a view looking toward the river from what is now the western end of Little Collins street, and shows no portion of the camp.
The next stage in the progress of events was the arrival of John Pascoe Fawkner early in October. Of the circumstances at- tending the erection of his house, on the rear of the present Customs House site, and the projected massacre by aborigines, averted by means of a timely warn-
ing, I have also written. John Bat- man paid a flying visit to the settle- ment in November, and selected the southern slope of the little hill which afterwards bore his name, and which stood about where the Spencer street railway offices and goods yards now are, as the site for his dwelling. Here the second framed house of the little village commenced to
rise, and by February, 1836, was well on its way to completion. Batman did not stay to see it erected, but left the matter in someone else's hands, as he had more busi- ness to attend to in Tasmania before finally migrating; but from the time of this visit, if we are to believe Fawkner, there was a split between the two parties, which had hitherto co-operated to some extent. There can be no doubt that the incursion of Fawk- ner's party gave rise to feelings of con- siderable resentment in the breasts of some at least of the members of the Port Phillip Association. They had known of the de- parture of the Enterprise, which was openly announced as about to proceed to the new country, and they knew of another party in the schooner Endeanour which had left for the same destination a day ahead of the Enterprise. But the Endeavour party had returned after a very brief inspection of Port Phillip, and brought the comforting assurance that there had been no encroach- ment on the association's territory. A let- ter from Wedge to Simpson, written just after he had discovered the settlement on the Yarra, rudely dispelled the belief that they were to enjoy undisputed possession, and some hot-head seems to have proposed that the aborigines should be set on to drive out the intruders. Batman strongly repudiated the suggestion "I do not, neither did I ever intend to use, violence to remove Fawkner," he wrote to Wedge on October 13, 1835,"as I am convinced there are many ways to get rid of him with- out that . . . I have not the least doubt but Fawkner will see the necessity of cross- ing the river, as we shall overrun the land at once with stock." The last portion of this sentence seems to indicate that at this stage, at any rate, Batman did not attach much importance to the "township" idea. Fawkner did cross the river—that is, he laid out a vegetable garden and fenced in a paddock for his horses on the south side in November and December, 1835—but his dwelling remained on the spot which he had first selected until long after Melbourne had come into official existence. Neverthe- less he asserted that the Batman brothers
"did everything in their power to drive me and others off the township, pulling down my fence and threatening to incite the blacks against us." There was undoubtedly a certain amount of bickering between Henry Batman and Fawkner at this time, but it led to no serious result.
There was at first, as might be expected, some lawlessness among the settlers. Stockkeepers were said to be interfering with native women; others beside Fawk- ner had their fences pulled down; and there was a disinclination among servants to work unless the spirit moved them. It was alleged that the place was becoming a refuge for runaway convicts. The as- sociation had petitioned the Government early to send a resident magistrate and in March, 1836, Dr. Alexander Thompson
came over from Launceston to fulfil the dual office of "surgeon and catechist." Bat- man and his family came in April, bring- ing with them a visiting Wesleyan clerg-
man. James Simpson also accompanied Batman; and on June 1, at a "public meeting" held at the settlement he was appointed as arbitrator on all disputes be- tween individuals, except those relating to land. By this time Governor Bourke, who was holding his hand until he had received definite instructions from the Colonial Office, had sent a magistrate from Goulburn, New South Wales, to inspect and report on the settlement, and this official brought back the interesting infor- mation that it then consisted of "three weatherboarded, two slab, and eight turf huts." He discounted the statements re- garding the flocking of runaway convicts to the district, and asserted that only two were known to have escaped thither from Van Diemen's Land; and he noted that nine of the "proprietors claiming under Mr. Batman's treaty with the natives in June, 1835," had come over to take pos- session of their lands, while there were 24 others, including Fawkner, unconnected with the association. These, with their servants, made up a total population of 177-142 males and 35 females-residing partly in the township and partly on the stations which had been established in the surrounding territory.
One phrase used by the magistrate who made this report, Mr. George Stewart, de- serves special attention. "The town Bear- brass," he wrote, "is on the left hand of the Yarro Yarro." I have never seen any satisfactory explanation of the origin of this name, and I venture to suggest
that Stewart was not responsible for it in this astonishing form, but that it was due to a printer's mistake or to an error in transcription. There were at least two native names associated with the locality. One was noted by Wedge in the form "Barrern" or "Berrern" as the name of the Yarra, and in the form "Bar- raring" as the name of the country lying between the Yarra and the Saltwater, the Maribyrnong of to-day. The other appears in a letter of Wedge published in the Tas-
manian press about March, 1836, and dated from "Bearport, Port Phillip." Some further light is thrown on the application of this name by an entry in the field book of William Wedge Darke, of the survey party sent from Sydney toward the close of the same year. Working along the north bank of the river in December, 1836, he mentions crossing Batman's ploughed land enclosed by a brush fence, at the foot of "Barepurp Hill." An earlier reference, in a letter dated May 10, 1836, is made to "a rising ground called 'Bare- burp' by the natives, on which the settle- ment had been placed. It was, I think some form of this word, "Bearport," or "Barepurp," or "Bareburp," which Stewart used, and which chance has converted into
The Secretary of State for the Colonies having approved the suggestion of the Governor of New South Wales that he should be allowed to mark out a township and establish a resident magistrate with a constabulary force and an officer of Cus- toms at some eligible spot on the southern coasts which had been opened to settle- ment by Batman and those who had followed him, a party of officials was despatched from Sydney to Port Phillip about the end of September, 1836, just a little more than 12 months from the time at which the settlement was founded. Surveyors were now on the spot to carry out the preliminary work necessary to open a district, and one result of their labours was the production of a plan showing the situation of every building in the little group which formed the settlement and the direction of the winding track which passed through it, approximately in the direction taken by the Flinders lane of to-day. A sketch of this period, made by Robert Russell, the surveyor in charge of the work, gives the village somewhat the appearance of a present-day group of week- end shanties say, on the foothills of the Dandenongs; and this, together with the information supplied by a visitor of March, 1837, that the banks of the river were so densely covered with tea-tree scrub that on approaching it by water the settlement "suddenly burst upon our view," gives about as vivid a picture as we can expect to obtain of the earliest stage of the city. By the end of 1836, according to reports published in the Sydney papers, the village boasted three public-houses, a store, a blacksmith's shop and a shoemaker. There was also a wooden building in course of erection for use as a church, but there was neither a butcher nor a baker in the place. As a natural consequence the settlers were living on salt beef and damper, washed down by copious libations of rum
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS.
Sir,—In his second article on the "Birth of Melbourne," Mr Greig proposes "to disregard the sporadic effort of the Hentys, and treat Batman as the true founder of Victoria"; notwithstanding his own ac- knowledgment a few lines before, "that much of the evidence is open to suspicion
. . . . . . being unsupported by contem- porary records." The Hentys' claims to be the first permanent settlers in Victoria have been disputed at various times; but I think that this is the first occasion on which John Batman has been arranged against the Western pioneers as "the true founder of Victoria." All honour to Batman and others who laid the foundation of Mel- bourne, but not necessarily of the State, a claim which Batman himself would be the last to put forward. The Hentys, after some years' exploring on the coast of South Australia and Victoria, decided to settle at Portland Bay, and they landed there, fully prepared for that object, on Wednes- day, November 19, 1834. Where was Bat- man? I take Mr. Greig's own words:— "As late as May 16, 1835, Batman's schooner was hanging about the mouth of the Tamar waiting for a favourable wind."
We are asked to put aside established dates and facts to hail a new founder of Vic- toria; and at the same time to label as "sporadic" the successful efforts of the Henty family, who had the courage and enterprise to strike out for themselves and thus become the first permanent settlers in the State. The first possible centenary of permanent settlement in Victoria will be November 19, 1934. The people of Port- land intend to celebrate the event in a manner befitting the occasion Melbourne, I have no doubt, will duly follow with her
centenary a few months later.
NOEL F LEARMONTH.
Honorary Secretary, Portland Historical
Carronnon, Tyrendarra, Oct. 8.