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3-062 (Raw)

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author,male,Fisher, David,52 addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Public Written
Bride, 1898
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3-062-raw.txt — 13 KB

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In the year 1835 I was a resident of Van Diemen's Land, when the rumour of this fertile land reached that place, and induced many of my fellow colonists to make a voyage to spy out the land. Their report being favourable to Port Phillip as a grazing land, a number of persons formed themselves into a company under the style of the "Van Diemen's Land Association," who, with some sheep, started for Port Phillip. With this party were the Messrs. J. and H. Batman and J. Fawkner. Mr. J. Batman and Mr. J. Fawkner settled at Doutta Galla (now Melbourne),' while Mr. H. Batman returned, and by his flattering accounts I was induced to forward to Port Phillip a flock of 750 sheep, with six freedmen as shepherds, under the charge of Robert Mudie, Esquire, in the ship Adelaide. Mr. Mudie having settled the flock with the shepherds, returned, and again sailed in the Norval, with 500 sheep and five shepherds; and on the next voyage of the same vessel I sent 1,100 sheep and seven men. On this voyage they encountered a heavy gale, and were compelled to run into what is now called Western Port, where it was deemed necessary to land the sheep, and in doing so my good friend Mudie lost his life by the upsetting of the boat in a heavy surge between the ship and the shore. With the exception of 75 sheep which were recovered, this large flock became a prey to the natives and native dogs. On this voyage Messrs. Gellibrand, W. Robertson, and one or two other gentlemen visited Port Philip. On their return I was made acquainted with the melancholy loss of my friend Mr. Mudie, and then set about making arrangements to come over myself, and took my passage in the ship Caledonia, having Messrs. Strachan, Anstey, Gatenby, G. Russell, Dr. Thomson, and a few others, for fellow-passengers. We landed, after a pleasant voyage, at what is now called Williamstown, where Dr. Thomson pitched his tent, the others proceeding to Doutta Galla (Melbourne). Here we found a house of entertainment where we could not get entertained. [38] This building was of turf or sods, with a portion of wood, and comprised six apartments of a very primitive order, occupied by "Johnny Fawkner," as a public-house, and was, of course, "The Royal Hotel," it being the first and then the only public-house in the district of Port Philip. Here we could get a glass of bad rum and plenty of water by paying a good price for the same; but we could get nothing to eat nor a place to sleep in. This celebrated hotel stood on the site now occupied by the Custom House in Flinders lane or street. Mr. Batman having built himself a hut about the spot where the "Clarendon Hotel" now stands, hospitably invited us to share his home, for which we were exceedingly grateful, and dined, supped, and next morning breakfasted on a schnapper fish and damper, our host being a bit of a fisherman as well as occupying the proud situation of High Constable, having been appointed by the Van Diemen's Land Association, under whose auspices Mr. Batman was thus the first and then the only man who wielded the baton of authority. The Mansion House was a mud hut about 20 feet long and 12 feet broad, the one side of which was occupied by the family of our host, whilst our party, consisting of Dr. Cotter, Messrs. Anstey, Mager, Gatenby, G. Russell, my working overseer Fergusson, and myself, seven in number, pigged on the other side in the best manner we could, and were thankful for the shelter. On the following day we got our luggage, provisions, &c., from the ship, and on the next day we started to find our way to Western Port, in hope of recovering the remains of my lamented friend Mr. Mudie. We took an aboriginal for our guide, but he, being of a tribe near Sydney, was little acquainted with the Port Phillip district, and, consequently, no more use to us than to afford us a good deal of amusement by the antic manner in which he managed to roll himself over the soft mud creeks. On coming to a large creek or river, which we could not ford, and not being over-sure of our course, we considered it prudent to retrace our steps; having spent two days and slept two nights in the bush, we were again grateful for the shade of friend Batman's hut at Doutta Gala (Melbourne), where we were again hospitably received, and availed ourselves of our host's kindness for two days, by way of resting. [39] We then started for the Western District, some of my men having taken up a station on the River Werribee. Having found matters there to my satisfaction, we made our way downwards to the junction with the Barwon, which we followed to the station which had just been taken up by Messrs. Cowie and Stead on the ground afterwards the race-course, now a cultivated farm, the property of Joseph Griffin and known as the old racecourse. Here we were kindly received and passed the night. On the next morning we started for Indented Head, which had also been taken up by my men as a station. Here I found two of my men were missing, and was informed that they had been killed by the natives. Having seen the stock, &c., all correct, we spent five days searching for the remains of the poor fellows, without success. About twelve months afterwards their bones were pointed out to me by an old aboriginal named "Woolmurgen," who described the manner in which they met their deaths as follows : - The men were on their way with a pack-bullock laden with provisions for the Werribee Station, and were met by a tribe of aborigines near the Murradock Hill. The men were both armed with fowling-pieces, which caused the wary tribe to entrap them by a stratagem, thus: by persuading one that he could shoot an emu, they got him to accompany a portion of their party to the one side of the hill, whilst, under pretence of having a shot at a kangaroo, they prevailed upon the other to go in a contrary direction. Having thus managed to separate the men, the latter became an easy prey to these heart-less savages, who also killed the bullock and made themselves masters of a plentiful supply of provisions and all the property in possession of their unfortunate victims. I had their bones gathered together and decently interred. After resting a day we took a tour into the bush, following the course of the Barwon River to the sea, and much enjoying the romantic and picturesque scenery, particularly the lake Connewarre; returning by an angle across the country, we made Corio (Geelong), where we were struck with the magnificent scene which burst upon our view as we reached the rise, now the centre of the town, known as Church Hill. [40] The splendour and magnitude of Corio Bay, the gentle rise from the bay to where we stood, about three-quarters of a mile, and the like gentle fall to the River Barwon, the You Yangs, Station Peak, the Barrabool Hills, with all the varied scenery of hill and vale around clothed in the beautiful verdure of Nature, seemed to proclaim this spot as the site of a great mercantile city. Lost in contemplation, we were overtaken by night, and had the satisfaction of finding the shelter of a gum-tree near the place now called "La Trobe Terrace"; here we camped for the night.
Next morning we made Messrs. Cowie and Stead's, where we were entertained with a comfortable breakfast, and likewise got our provision bags replenished. We then crossed the Moorabool River, and afterwards the Barwon at the place now known as Pollock's Ford; we tethered our horses in the valley and walked to the top of Mount Moriac, from which elevated spot we had a beautiful prospect of this delightful district, and with the assistance of a good telescope we were able to trace the various windings of the Rivers Leigh and Barwon; also from this mount we had another view of beautiful Corio and its lovely bay. In imagination we could picture a splendid city, with the bay coyered with ships of all nations, which fancies I have lived to see in part realized. This year, 1853, whilst yet under our first Governor, a commencement has been made to remove the only impediment to the navigation of the bay. The town has been beautified by the erection of many elegant buildings, both public and private, and many more have been projected, some hastening to completion; whilst we have also had the pleasure of seeing the foundation stone of the first railway in the Colony of Victoria laid in Geelong. Having thus far digressed from my subject, I must return to Mount Moriac, where, having taken our bearings, we descended to where we left our horses, and there we encamped for the night, and next morning started across the country and made the River Leigh at its junction with the Barwon, where I afterwards formed my home-station; [41] we then followed up the Leigh River for about six miles, to the place where Mr. Russell's station now is; here we crossed the country in a direct line towards the Anakie Hills until we came to the Moorabool River, where we halted for the night. In the morning we ascended the highest of these hills, from which we had a most magnificent view of nearly all the hills, valleys, creeks ,and rivers comprised within that portion of the country, now the County of Grant. We then proceeded to Station Peak, where our view was extended over the waters of Port Philip, to the mountains on the opposite shore. From thence we took our course to the Werribee Station, which we reached with much difficulty, and next morning we started for Doutta Galla (Melbourne), intending to return to Van Diemen's Land; but finding that our ship had sailed we had to content ourselves until her return. To fill up this time we employed ourselves in building a house for Dr. Thomson, near the spot now occupied by St. Paul's Church. In this we were engaged about three weeks, and our vessel having returned, we took our passage to Van Diemen's Land, with the full determination of returning to Port Philip, having all been greatly delighted with this beautiful country. Being now satisfied that sheep-farming would prove a profitable speculation in the New Land, as Port Phillip was then called in Van Diemen's Land, we entered into a co-partnership to carry it out extensively. In this we were joined by Messrs. Swanston, Mercer, and Learmonth, and purchased up the shares and interest of the Van Diernen's Land Association. We took the style and title of the "Derwent Company." In the latter end of the year 1836 I returned to Port Phillip for the purpose of forming the different stations, afterwards occupied by the Derwent Co., and pitched my tent at the south side of Geelong, on the north bank of the Barwon River, near where a bridge was afterwards built communicating with the Western District. [42] Here I built the first house in Geelong worthy of the name; it is built of weatherboards of Van Diemen's Land timber, which house yet stands, and is still rather an ornament to what is now called Barwon Terrace. In this house I had the honour of receiving His Excellency Sir Richard Bourke, who had come hither to spy out the nakedness of the land, and with his suite encamped on the banks of the Barwon next to my house. It is worthy of remark that on the night of Sir Richard Bourke's arrival the district was visited by an earthquake, the shock of which was felt all over the district. Such a phenomenon has never occurred since that time, but I was informed by a very old native, King Murradock, that such had been felt before, but it was "long, long ago."
In the month of September (1837), having finished my house and got all things comfortable for the reception of my family, I proceeded to Van Diemen's Land to bring them over, taking my passage by the James Watt, the first steam vessel that visited these shores. In the month of March following (1838) I returned with my family, and having got them settled at Barwon Terrace, I proceeded to inspect the stations already formed, and also formed new stations at Mount Mercer and the Wardy Yalloak; and then, accompanied by Major Mercer, Mr. George Mercer, and our overseer named Anderson, started upon an exploring expedition to the interior, on which occasion we formed the station at Mount Shadwell, which was the farthest out station from Geelong, on the eastward of Portland. During this tour I undertook a new occupation. Major Mercer and myself being occupied in shaving, which operation being observed by some of the natives afforded them much amusement, and one of them signifying a desire to be trimmed, I undertook the task, which I accomplished amidst the yells, shouts, and laughter of some fifty savages with their lubras, who enjoyed the affair very much; and thus I believe myself to be the first that shaved an aboriginal of New Holland, and that aboriginal the first that was shaved. [43] Nor do I think he ever was shaved again, for his beard was very hard and the razor none of the best, rendering the operation anything but pleasant, and I much doubt if he would ever again submit to the ordeal. This was nigh being my last joke, as soon after, Major Mercer's servant in taking a loaded piece from the luggage, by some means caught the trigger upon something, which caused the piece to explode - the ball passing under the Major's arm, striking a tin pannikin out of which I was drinking, and carrying it clean from my hand.
The full details of this tour were kept by Mr. George Mercer, a copy of whose journal I beg to annex for Your Excellency's information. From this time settlers were pouring into the district from Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales with their flocks and herds, and the land began to get peopled by mechanics and tradesmen; stores sprung up in every quarter and the whole country began to wear the aspect of prosperity.