australian colonial history
meg dillon
© Meg Dillon 2008
Australian Colonial History

Moments in Australian History

Squatter Kings in Grass Castles

The availability and acquisition of land has been a need that troubled colonial administrators since the earliest days of settlement. Between 1788 and 1815 governors in NSW tried to enforce graziers and farmers to settle close to Sydney between the sea and the inland barrier of the Blue Mountains. Land in this area was quickly taken up. Although all governors had been instructed to assist a class of small farmers to develop, cropping was difficult due to the different conditions farmers found in the colony from what they experienced in England. Many failed through debt, inexperience or flood or drought. Poor record keeping by government officials enabled farmers to sell their leases and so many small farms changed hands often but were not recorded. Early settlers with capital quickly built up large estates. Some had acquired large grants of land and convict servants under the patronage of early governors. Others bought up the farms of failed small settlers. By 1820 many settlers needed more land to expand their herds. But with the discovery of a route over the Blue Mountains in 1813 it became desirable to allow men and animals to move further inland onto the enormous westward plains beyond the mountains. This movement across the mountains made it difficult to control the settlers and convict servants who were ever moving further westward ahead of government control. By 1835 even this expansion was proving insufficient and graziers started moving southwards following Major Mitchell’s explorations over the Murray River and down to the Southern Ocean near the present Victorian town of Portland. In Tasmania former officers and settlers with capital were initially able to obtain a grant for £1 per acre from the capital of generally £1500 to £3000. While small farms clustered round towns, large grazing estates of up to 20,000 acres were common. No further grants given out after 1831. Government officials kept stricter control over land distribution than in NSW. Even so, sales occurred and large estates increased despite regulations against this. Districts were smaller, settler farmers knew each other and formed tight communities; Settlers found it easier to be successful and stayed put due to the better land and agricultural conditions than in many parts of NSW. Due to the islands small size, VDL ran out of land to that could be allocated or sold much quicker than NSW. This was compounded by the change in regulation in 1831 when no further grants were allowed, only leasehold. 1834 John Batman and John Fawkner reconnoitred Port Phillip as the big Midlands estates had started to run out of available grazing land. They acted for a consortium of landowners who wanted to find new grazing lands and were encouraged by reports of Port Phillip. Although it was it was illegal for them to settle this new district which was part of NSW they ignored this and after 1834 brought over ship loads of sheep and convict servants, settling aroundthe new towns of Melbourne and Geelong as well as inland from Portland. Batman attempted to negotiate a form of treaty with the local Aboriginal tribe by offering them simple trading goods in exchange for about 80,000 acres. Batman’s relations with Aboriginal people in both Tasmania and Port Phillip are highly contested. His diaries are a source of information, including some admissions of shooting Aborigines. Batman’s consortium then started negotiated with Gov Bourke to have their treaty recognised. This was absolutely refused as only the British Government in the person of the Governor of NSW could make deals about land distribution. Batman had sold up his land in VDL and had £10000 to invest. J.H. Wedge had sheep and property valued at £6000 and came over with Batman. These sums were not unusual as many land owners had extensive property and flocks that they had accumulated in Tasmania since the 1820s. Tasmanian settlers simply ignored Governor Bourke’s ban and swarmed into the district settling westwards at Geelong and beyond. At the same time settlers or overlanders were coming into Victoria across the Murray River with their flocks. They were following Major Mitchell’s Line after his promising reports about grazing lands in the south and west. They were also following the great eastern trading route of the Aborigines which the Hume Highway today roughly follows. A disastrous period followed for the Aboriginal owners of land. Accounts of massacres and individual killings exist as well as the ravages of introduced illnesses, starvation and displacement. Between 1835 and 1840, areas around Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla, Seymour and Yea and along the Goulburn River were quickly taken up by the overlanders while lands around Melbourne and Geelong were occupied by the Tasmanians. Settlers also knew of the Hentys in the far west at Portland and moved inland into the Western district from there.

The Western District and not Gippsland? Why?

Local Aborigines had fire farmed it for generations as they had done in the Midlands of VDL. This created fabulous park like pastures with ancient red gums scattered through it as shade trees. [Casterton area today] Practically no land clearing had to be done Easy to occupy and explore. Easy to get to through the ports of Geelong, Melbourne and Portland. Goods could be shipped in and wool shipped out. By comparison Gippsland was filled with ancient forests of giant trees and largely unexplored.

1840s The Scots arrive and move into the Western District between Geelong and Portland.

Who were they? Around 2/3 of the western district settlers were Scottish lowland farmers. Farming went through several periods of depression in England and Scotland after the Napoleonic wars finished in 1814 . Rents also rose. On lowland farms there was little distinction between the master and his two or three men. Work started at 5am when the women began their milking, cheese making, and churning, feeding fowls and collecting eggs. In winter the men tended stock, prepared for ploughing or threshed winnowed and stacked bags of grain. In summer the harvest was taken in. Sons and nephews found it increasingly difficult to get a start in farming. Many who emigrated had a lot of farming experience. The lifestyle of these farmers included a good diet of meat, wheaten flour oatcakes, oatmeal, porridge, eggs butter and cheese. They dressed well, the men in broadcloth and their women in silks for Sunday when all work ceased. Calvinists attended church and read the bible to family gatherings. There were expectations that children would work hard, never be idle and never waste anything. Education essential for both sexes.

Population pressures:

Between 1801 and 1831 the population of England & Wales rose 55% to 13.9 mill. In Scotland it grew from 1.6 million to 2.6 million.This encouraged mass emigration to Canada, America and Australia especially from the farming and military classes. Many came with some resources and education determined to build a good life for themselves in the new world. Scottish Farmers encouraged their sons and nephews to emigrate. Some engaged servants to travel with them as farm workers before they left. The Port Phillip District also experienced large population increases in the 1830s and 1840s. The 1838 census counted 3511 people, exclusive of military and convicts. At the 1841 census numbers had risen to 11734 people. The Western District between Geelong and Portland was almost fully occupied, as was the area from the Murray River south to Melbourne. By 1840 there were 282 runs in the Western District compared to 44 in Gippsland. When Scots started to arrive in 1840, 1841 they had to buy stations from existing run holders, mostly Tasmanians, go into partnership with existing holders or club together to buy a run jointly [ eg Challicum, the Thompson Bros and Cooper]. Few women accompanied the men in the earliest days. Masters worked beside their farm laborers, a mixed group of free men, migrants and convicts . It was all hard work for the first ten years. Only when established could these men think of marriage. They cooked, did their own laundry, built all the runs huts, woolsheds and farm buildings, washed and shore sheep, butchered meat and grew grain. Recreation was reading and setting up small private libraries which they loaned to neighbours as well as quail shooting, dingo and kangaroo hunting, but virtually all work stopped on Sunday and some strict Calvinists would not even write letters home on a Sunday.
Challicum Sketch Book > Challicum Sketch Book >
Major Mitchell
Crossing the Blue Mountains
John Batman - Treaty at Merri Creek
© Meg Dillon 2008
Australian Colonial History
australian colonial history
history of australia

Moments in Australian

History

Squatter Kings in Grass Castles

The availability and acquisition of land has been a need that troubled colonial administrators since the earliest days of settlement. Between 1788 and 1815 governors in NSW tried to enforce graziers and farmers to settle close to Sydney between the sea and the inland barrier of the Blue Mountains. Land in this area was quickly taken up. Although all governors had been instructed to assist a class of small farmers to develop, cropping was difficult due to the different conditions farmers found in the colony from what they experienced in England. Many failed through debt, inexperience or flood or drought. Poor record keeping by government officials enabled farmers to sell their leases and so many small farms changed hands often but were not recorded. Early settlers with capital quickly built up large estates. Some had acquired large grants of land and convict servants under the patronage of early governors. Others bought up the farms of failed small settlers. By 1820 many settlers needed more land to expand their herds. But with the discovery of a route over the Blue Mountains in 1813 it became desirable to allow men and animals to move further inland onto the enormous westward plains beyond the mountains. This movement across the mountains made it difficult to control the settlers and convict servants who were ever moving further westward ahead of government control. By 1835 even this expansion was proving insufficient and graziers started moving southwards following Major Mitchell’s explorations over the Murray River and down to the Southern Ocean near the present Victorian town of Portland. In Tasmania former officers and settlers with capital were initially able to obtain a grant for £1 per acre from the capital of generally £1500 to £3000. While small farms clustered round towns, large grazing estates of up to 20,000 acres were common. No further grants given out after 1831. Government officials kept stricter control over land distribution than in NSW. Even so, sales occurred and large estates increased despite regulations against this. Districts were smaller, settler farmers knew each other and formed tight communities; Settlers found it easier to be successful and stayed put due to the better land and agricultural conditions than in many parts of NSW. Due to the islands small size, VDL ran out of land to that could be allocated or sold much quicker than NSW. This was compounded by the change in regulation in 1831 when no further grants were allowed, only leasehold. 1834 John Batman and John Fawkner reconnoitred Port Phillip as the big Midlands estates had started to run out of available grazing land. They acted for a consortium of landowners who wanted to find new grazing lands and were encouraged by reports of Port Phillip. Although it was it was illegal for them to settle this new district which was part of NSW they ignored this and after 1834 brought over ship loads of sheep and convict servants, settling aroundthe new towns of Melbourne and Geelong as well as inland from Portland. Batman attempted to negotiate a form of treaty with the local Aboriginal tribe by offering them simple trading goods in exchange for about 80,000 acres. Batman’s relations with Aboriginal people in both Tasmania and Port Phillip are highly contested. His diaries are a source of information, including some admissions of shooting Aborigines. Batman’s consortium then started negotiated with Gov Bourke to have their treaty recognised. This was absolutely refused as only the British Government in the person of the Governor of NSW could make deals about land distribution. Batman had sold up his land in VDL and had £10000 to invest. J.H. Wedge had sheep and property valued at £6000 and came over with Batman. These sums were not unusual as many land owners had extensive property and flocks that they had accumulated in Tasmania since the 1820s. Tasmanian settlers simply ignored Governor Bourke’s ban and swarmed into the district settling westwards at Geelong and beyond. At the same time settlers or overlanders were coming into Victoria across the Murray River with their flocks. They were following Major Mitchell’s Line after his promising reports about grazing lands in the south and west. They were also following the great eastern trading route of the Aborigines which the Hume Highway today roughly follows. A disastrous period followed for the Aboriginal owners of land. Accounts of massacres and individual killings exist as well as the ravages of introduced illnesses, starvation and displacement. Between 1835 and 1840, areas around Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla, Seymour and Yea and along the Goulburn River were quickly taken up by the overlanders while lands around Melbourne and Geelong were occupied by the Tasmanians. Settlers also knew of the Hentys in the far west at Portland and moved inland into the Western district from there.

The Western District and not Gippsland? Why?

Local Aborigines had fire farmed it for generations as they had done in the Midlands of VDL. This created fabulous park like pastures with ancient red gums scattered through it as shade trees. [Casterton area today] Practically no land clearing had to be done Easy to occupy and explore. Easy to get to through the ports of Geelong, Melbourne and Portland. Goods could be shipped in and wool shipped out. By comparison Gippsland was filled with ancient forests of giant trees and largely unexplored.

1840s The Scots arrive and move into the

Western District between Geelong and

Portland.

Who were they? Around 2/3 of the western district settlers were Scottish lowland farmers. Farming went through several periods of depression in England and Scotland after the Napoleonic wars finished in 1814 . Rents also rose. On lowland farms there was little distinction between the master and his two or three men. Work started at 5am when the women began their milking, cheese making, and churning, feeding fowls and collecting eggs. In winter the men tended stock, prepared for ploughing or threshed winnowed and stacked bags of grain. In summer the harvest was taken in. Sons and nephews found it increasingly difficult to get a start in farming. Many who emigrated had a lot of farming experience. The lifestyle of these farmers included a good diet of meat, wheaten flour oatcakes, oatmeal, porridge, eggs butter and cheese. They dressed well, the men in broadcloth and their women in silks for Sunday when all work ceased. Calvinists attended church and read the bible to family gatherings. There were expectations that children would work hard, never be idle and never waste anything. Education essential for both sexes.

Population pressures:

Between 1801 and 1831 the population of England & Wales rose 55% to 13.9 mill. In Scotland it grew from 1.6 million to 2.6 million.This encouraged mass emigration to Canada, America and Australia especially from the farming and military classes. Many came with some resources and education determined to build a good life for themselves in the new world. Scottish Farmers encouraged their sons and nephews to emigrate. Some engaged servants to travel with them as farm workers before they left. The Port Phillip District also experienced large population increases in the 1830s and 1840s. The 1838 census counted 3511 people, exclusive of military and convicts. At the 1841 census numbers had risen to 11734 people. The Western District between Geelong and Portland was almost fully occupied, as was the area from the Murray River south to Melbourne. By 1840 there were 282 runs in the Western District compared to 44 in Gippsland. When Scots started to arrive in 1840, 1841 they had to buy stations from existing run holders, mostly Tasmanians, go into partnership with existing holders or club together to buy a run jointly [ eg Challicum, the Thompson Bros and Cooper]. Few women accompanied the men in the earliest days. Masters worked beside their farm laborers, a mixed group of free men, migrants and convicts . It was all hard work for the first ten years. Only when established could these men think of marriage. They cooked, did their own laundry, built all the runs huts, woolsheds and farm buildings, washed and shore sheep, butchered meat and grew grain. Recreation was reading and setting up small private libraries which they loaned to neighbours as well as quail shooting, dingo and kangaroo hunting, but virtually all work stopped on Sunday and some strict Calvinists would not even write letters home on a Sunday.
Large Hole in the Ground Large Hole in the Ground