The Early Settlement of Tasmania

The following notes are compiled from memoranda and records kept by the writer's father, who was the first white male child born in Tasmania.

Colonel Collins arrived in the Derwent in February, 1804, with most of his party, and they landed at Risdon which Collins named "Rest-down." I know that this fact is disputed by some. I have got my information from my father who was born here in 1805, and who had repeatedly heard his father, one of the free selectors, state that it was called Rest-down; and besides, Governor Collins allowed a female passenger to land first, a Miss Mary Hayes, and upon her setting foot on shore he called it Rest-down. This lady married and had numerous descendants, and being my father's aunt sometimes visited him and as a boy I have heard this lady say most emphatically that Collins had called the place Rest-down. She was then about 70 years of age, so that I feel that I am right, whatever Mr. Walker or others may have thought to the contrary, notwithstanding.

But to proceed. The first thing that Governor Collins did was to send some men to look for fresh water. It was his first concern after his bitter experience at Port Phillip, and these men found the New Town creek, and the Hobart rivulet; but so dense was the scrub about these creeks that they had to cut tracks to get to the water. The Governor then located the free settlers at New Town, and decided to make his headquarters near the Hobart rivulet, and tents were pitched just about where the new Post Office and Mercury Office now stand. Before proceeding further I will give the general appearance of the site of Hobart at this time. The waters of the Derwent washed up to the banks at the rear of the Town-hall, round by the new Customs House to the mouth of the Hobart rivulet. There was a small island about 200 yards from the mouth of this rivulet called Hunter's Island, from which a causeway was built later on to Macquarie-street, and this causeway is now the Old Wharf. The land between the Derwent and the Hobart rivulet was the ordinary Tasmanian bush, heavily timbered. On both sides of the rivulet there was a dense ti-tree scrub, amongst which were some large blue gum trees (one of these trees cut off at a good height stood in Liverpool-st. for many years, and was used as a hoarding upon which Government notices were posted). Proceeding northwardly about Brisbane, Bathurst and Melville streets were nice grassy rises, covered with sheoak trees, much after the manner of Rosny – further on up to the top of the hill, as the main road now goes, was heavily timbered country, gum trees peppermint, etc., with much fallen timber. So that we can imagine that the place had a very wild appearance and the free settlers, in trying to get from New Town to the Settlement, were frequently lost in the bush, until Collins had a track cut.

As before stated, Governor Collins had fixed upon the spot just opposite the Town-hall as the site of his headquarters. The first work done was to build the Governor a house – and this was a two-roomed building made of "wattles and dab," as it is called, and built as follows. Spars were felled and cut to a uniform length of 12 feet, these were placed upright in the ground two feet apart to the length of the building required; long lithe wattles were interwoven between these uprights, like basket work; mortar was made out of clay or earth, amongst which handgrass was chopped up and mixed, and this mortar was dabbed into the interstices of the wattles, thus making good walls. The end uprights were cut with a fork on top into which a spar was placed horizontally for a wall plate; a longer spar at the ends of the building, also forked, held up the ridge pole, to which rafters were fixed to form a roof, and wattles used for battens. The roof was then thatched, so that the first Governor's house was what we would now call a thatched hut. A similar building was next made for the
officers, whose names were: Private Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Power; Commissariat Officer, Mr. Fosbrook; Dr. Bowden; Dr. Anson; Chaplain, Rev. R. Knopwood; Superintendent of Convicts, Mr. Clark; Superintendent of Tradesmen, Mr. Patterson; Overseers of Convicts, Mr. John Ingle, and Mr Parish; Surveyor, Mr. Jas. Maine; Lieutenant of Marines, Lieut. Edward Lord, Ensign Brandon; Government Mineralogist, Mr. Humphreys, who was afterwards Police Magistrate for many years.

The next work done was to build a commissariat store. The stores at this time being located on Hunter's Island in a tent in charge of Commissary Fosbrook, with soldiers on guard.
Prisoners were told off to fell the trees nearby, and saw them into boards and quartering for the new building, and this timber was carried by the prisoners on their backs to where the building was to be built. Other prisoners were set to burn lime from oyster shells, which were very numerous near by. They had no kiln, but simply packed the shells about a dry log and made fires over them. Other prisoners were sent further up the hill to make bricks and some were sent about a mile away to clear ground to grow vegetables – this was about where the Eagle Hawk Hotel stands in Elizabeth-street. They cleared only an acre or so, when this was abandoned and the same party sent to Farm Point, as it was then called, and for years afterwards. This is where the Cornelian Bay Cemetery is now. It would appear that neither the Governor nor, indeed any of the others, knew good land from bad, as a worse piece of land could not have been chosen for cultivation, and all that they grew after much trouble was a few small turnips. Collins called the settlement Hobart Town, for quite a number of these thatched cottages had been made. He named the place after Lord Hobart.

The free settlers were as before stated located at New Town, and I will now give their names: Thomas Hayes, wife and two sons; Henry Hayes, wife and one daughter; Wm. Blinkworth, wife, two sons and one daughter; Wm. Cockerill, wife, one son, two daughters and niece; Richard Pitt, widower, two sons and daughter; J. Millar, wife, son and daughter. Single – Thomas Preston, J. Issel, J. Dacres, Wm. Littlefield, and Thos. Littlejohn.

The terms upon which they agreed with the Imperial Government were that they should have a free grant of 100 acres of land each, 3 years' provisions, what tools they required, and seed for the first year. They were waiting at New Town for their allotments to be surveyed, which took a long time. When however they were surveyed, in order to prevent jealousy, the lots were numbered up to 10, as two of these settlers had not then arrived from Port Phillip. The tickets were placed in a hat, and the settlers were allowed to draw. The two who arrived later were given allotments on Humphries' rivulet or Millar's Brush, then called, now O'Brien's Bridge. Thos. Hayes drew lot 2, which included part of what is now known as Derwent Park, and extended southward, but hearing that there was more fertile land at Bagdad he sold his lot for sheep and cattle, and removed to Bagdad, and for some time had the run of the whole valley. He also erected a flour mill there, driven by water power, and ground what corn was grown.

It is remarkable that nearly every one of these settlers sold his allotment, one only retaining his at New Town, and none of them made their fortunes. The whole community seemed to give way to intemperance, and the rum keg was the most prominent household vessel, and there was always plenty of that spirit when not a morsel of food could be had for love or money. The Government dealt out a certain quantity of rum to each settler weekly, and even the prisoners got a supply on King's Birthday. Probably the pioneer settlers felt somewhat disconsolate at times. They had broken up their homes in England, and were thus far away from their early associations and friends – 16,000 miles away from the "madding crowd" in a wild bush. It is no marvel that they sought solace and comfort in the rum cup by way of drowning their cares, and that they became addicted to a bad habit.

At this time the stores of provisions at the commissariat ran short, and the prisoners were liberated to catch kangaroos, the Governor offering them 1s. 6d. per lb. for all brought into the settlement camp. Some maize and barley were sent down from Sydney, and ground into meal with a steel mill, and shortly after a vessel arrived from England with fresh supplies. Most of the prisoners then came in. Some however still continued to roam at large, and lived on what they could catch. When Governor Collins died, Lieut. Lord took command until the event was communicated to the Governor in General at Sydney, when he sent Colonel Giels to take charge pending an appointment of Lieut.-Governor by the Home Government, which subsequently appointed Colonel Davey to succeed Governor Collins. Davey is described as a jolly good fellow to all intents and purposes. He never turned anyone away with an aching heart, but he very seldom kept a promise which he made. A Governor in those days had to settle all disputes between parties. Davey was neither dignfied in his manners nor refined in his tastes and habits. He was followed by Colonel Sorell, a thorough gentleman and a striking contrast to Colonel Davey. The first thing he did was to have the streets laid out as they are now, and some of the wattle and dab cottages had to be pulled down, as they were in the line of the streets. Some of these streets were named after the first Governors, such as Collins, Davey, Macquarie, Murray. Elizabeth-street was named after Mrs. Macquarie, whose name it was. These, together with Liverpool, Melville, Argyle, and Campbell streets, were the first made. A new Governor's house was built on the spot where Franklin-square is now. It was a one-storey weatherboard building. Opposite at the angle of Macquarie and Elizabeth streets was the guard house, where soldiers were stationed. The first gaol was also now built at the corner of Murray and Macquarie streets. It was built of brick and stone; and opposite the first courthouse was built where now stands the Post Office. St. David's Anglican Church was also built by the Imperial Government, where the Cathedral now stands. Before the courthouse was built, prisoners for serious offences were sent up to Sydney for trial. The first juries here were chosen from the officers of the regiments, which were drafted down here from time to time, the first being the 102nd Regiment. The barracks were also built about this time, where they now stand in Davey-street.

It was in 1811 that the Governor-General Macquarie paid two visits to this colony from Sydney, and it was at his instigation that Governor Sorell had the streets laid out and public buildings referred to erected. It was in Governor Arthur's time that the system of assigning out the best behaved convicts as servants to the settlers, under which these convicts had to serve a certain time, when upon a favourable report from their employers they would get a ticket-of-leave. That is they were free in the colony only, but they had to report themselves regularly once a month at headquarters, or at the nearest police office, failing which they would lose their tickets. This was called muster day. The employers were supposed to feed and clothe the men, but they got no wages. Some of these men made excellent servants under good masters, but there were bad masters who caused the men to abscond from fear of punishment for trivial offences, and in some cases led to bushranging and crime.

When Governor Arthur arrived in 1824 he was Governor-General and quite independent of Sydney. He made radical changes in the highways. It should have been stated that the first macadamised road was commenced to be made in Governor Sorell's time. It started just opposite where Westella stands in Elizabeth-street and was continued to New Norfolk. The writer of these notes was engaged felling some she-oak trees near by, when hearing a noise as of picks and shovels and chains, he went through the bush to see what was up, and there saw a chain gang of convicts at work with their overseers in charge, and a few soldiers on guard. They had commenced to form the road, and that was the first road made. The next was from Old Beach to Bagdad. When Colonel Arthur came, who was supposed to be a civil engineer, he had the roads altered somewhat. The practice had been to go straight up a hill and down the other side without reference to getting an easy grade, which could be had by making a slight detour. Governor Arthur corrected this fault in some instances, but the same fault is still observable in some of our public roads of the present day. He had the Asylum for the Insane at New Norfolk built, also the Orphan School at New Town. He also commenced the Bridgewater bridge, by filling in and making a causeway to deep water. This at the time was thought to be a wonderful piece of engineering skill. Before the bridge was built, all produce, etc., was brought across the river in a punt. Colonel Arthur also had all the filling-in done to form the present wharves at Hobart, all done by prison labour, as also were many other public works. The number of prisoners had by this time increased to 400 or 500, as the Home Government kept sending them out. Other free settlers had arrived, and continued to come.

There was very little money in the early days of the colony, and a block of land in the centre of Hobart, which Elizabeth, Liverpool, Collins and Murray streets would about enclose, was sold for five gallons of rum. Sir John Franklin succeeded Colonel Arthur in 1837, but he did not do nearly so much work with the prison labour at his command. He had the Franklin Dock built. He also introduced the probation system, which was considered a very bad system. Under it all the assigned servants were called in and hired out to the settlers at wages of £9 a year. The men could also leave their employers by giving a month's notice. As an employer, I found that the men were more discontented than they were under the assigned system. Some of the masters had their men punished for very small faults, such as some slight neglect of duty, in some cases unavoidable on the part of the men. They would be had up before a magistrate, and ordered 25 lashes, and to return to their work. Fear of such punishment led men to abscond – an instance of which I will now give:-
Michael Howe and another prisoner escaped to the bush from fear of punishment, for some trifling faults they had been guilty of. Howe was out for many years, and was a most daring character. He committed robberies in many places, and was ultimately joined by 13 other escaped convicts, which made a strong party, and became a terror to the colonists. The Government sent out soldiers and police to capture them. The first encounter they had with them was at New Norfolk, when a few of the soldiers were shot, and also one of the convicts. A reward of £100 for each of their heads was offered by the Government, which carried with it a free pardon if the capturer was a prisoner. Howe and party knowing this entered into a compact that if any of them were shot, to retain the head of their comrade at all risks, and this they did at New Norfolk. The police, however, recovered the body of the convict shot, and brought it to Hobart Town, and it was gibbeted on Hunter's Island. The next encounter was at Tea Tree, where another bushranger was shot; he was also taken to
town, but in this instance with his head. In short, all the outlaws were taken one by one, until only Howe was left. A stockkeeper near New Norfolk named Slambo harboured Howe for some years. Another convict escaped, and he too was harboured by Slambo, who conspired with him to take Howe and divide the reward. The convict also would get a free pardon. So that, watching for an opportunity, they seized Howe, tied his hands behind him, and marched him off for Hobart Town. When near O'Brien's Bridge, Howe complained of the ties
hurting his wrists, and asked them to slacken them, which out of pity they did. Then Howe expeditiously drew his hands through, seized a knife which he had secreted about him, stabbed the convict and seized his gun, shot Slambo dead, and again escaped. The convict managed to get to town and report the occurrence to the authorities, and shortly after died of his wounds.

Howe was at large in the Bothwell district for many years, where there was a cattle station, and being out of ammunition he asked the stock-keeper for some, who promised to get him some from Hobart Town where he was going in a few days. He, however, instead laid an information, and a soldier and policeman were sent up, and secreted themselves in the stock-keeper's hut. After a few days, Howe came, and standing off about 50 yards, for he was always very cautious, he called to the stockman, when the soldier rushed out. Howe
made off, but the soldier, being the faster runner, soon overtook him, when a desperate struggle ensued. The policeman then came up, and shot Howe dead. They took his head, and left his body to bleach in the woods. This was the end of poor Howe, who, after all, only like many more, wanted his liberty. There is a fine tract of land in Oatlands district called Mike Howe's marsh.

In 1807 the Sydney Government established a penal settlement at Port Dalrymple, now George Town, under Commandant Kemp, the father of the late Mr. George Kemp (who was born at George Town in that year and after whom the town was called). Some of these Sydney convicts were rough characters, and there being no gaol, they were guarded by a sentinel whom three of these desperadoes overpowered and murdered, and made good their escape. Their names were Lemon, Antil, and Brown. The first place where they were heard of after their escape was at Antill Ponds. Antil and Brown were Irishmen, and often conversed in the Irish tongue, which made Lemon suspicious, so that he disabled Antil and
threw him into a waterhole, and the place his ever since been called Antill Ponds. Brown and Lemon then located themselves at a place near Jericho now known as Lemon Springs. One hundred pounds reward was offered for their heads, and they fell in with some other prisoners who had been liberated to catch kangaroos as before stated, but had preferred to roam at large. These prisoners arranged with a free settler to watch for and take Lemon and Brown which they did, by shooting Lemon while he was asleep, and then took Brown in charge. Having cut off Lemon's head, they proceeded with it and their prisoner to Hobart Town, to obtain their reward which carried with it in their case a free pardon. Brown was sent up to Sydney for trial, and ultimately he was executed.

Another party of bushrangers called the Brady gang gave the Government and colonists much trouble. They were a daring body of men, and were well mounted, having stolen the horses from the settlers. On one occasion the writer of these notes was "stuck up" by them on Constitution Hill. They told me to stand, and then asked me if I had seen any soldiers
about, and I replied in the negative. They then told me not to move from that spot for half an hour at my peril. I waited until they had got out of sight, and then proceeded on my journey. I subsequently met two soldiers, one of whom was crying. The bushrangers had disarmed them, and treated them roughly, and let them go. They on this occasion raided a public house at Green Ponds. They were all subsequently taken and executed – those who were not shot.

Brady seemed a manly fellow, for on one occasion they called at a house in Bagdad belonging to a well to-do settler, who was away from home, and had left his father-in-law in charge. Mr. Peters, for that was his name, had been a soldier, and the bushrangers demanded of him the keys of the cellar, in which it was known wines and spirits were kept.
Mr. Peters said, "I have been left in charge, and I will never give up the keys."
One of the gang, a young fellow, presented his gun and said, "If you do not give them up instantly I will blow your brains out."
Mr. Peters being a high spirited man showed no fear but turning red in the face with passion said, "You coward, give me a gun, and I will face you, but I will never give up the keys."
Brady pushed aside the gun and said, "You shall not shoot a brave man like that," and he was only just in time, as I saw the fellow meant it. I was young at the time, and was very frightened. 1