29 September, 2013

Squattocracy - life on the run!

The first Europeans to settle on the plains surrounding the Barwon River and its tributaries were squatters and many of their names would still be familiar to us today: names such as Armytage, Roadknight, Russell, Swanston, Austin, Learmonth, Fisher, Bell, Mercer and Morrison to name a few.
And they are with us still! Street signs from the
suburbs of Geelong, Geelong West, Manifold
Heights, Belmont  Newtown and Corio.
They can be found in the names of our streets, parks and suburbs and towns. In addition to the above street names (and a few besides such as Highett Road, Highton and Clyde Road Bannockburn, McLeod and Read Streets, Meredith), the suburbs of Manifold Heights, Newcomb, Thomson, Highton, and the towns of Drysdale, Batesford, Bells Beach, Bellbrae, Stieglitz, Pollocksford and Sutherlands Creek are all named for original squatters in the district as are Point Roadknight near Anglesea, Cowies Creek, Austin Park, Stead Park and then of course, Fyansford - named for Captain Foster Fyans who arrived in the district as police magistrate at the request of these squatters and himself tried his hand as a squatter in the coming years.
These first settlers arrived in the region in 1836 following John Batman, keen to find pasturage for their stock. With this in mind, various groups set out to investigate the area - in particular the explorer and surveyor John Helder Wedge and the ill-fated Hesse and Gellibrand. From early 1836, stock was landed at Williamstown, Point Henry and Indented Head and left in the care of shepherds, whilst the squatters made their own explorative journeys in search of suitable runs. At the same time, some travelled overland with their flocks from New South Wales.
Amongst the very earliest settlers were representatives of the Derwent Company. Formed from the remains of John Batman's Port Phillip Association they were a group of Tasmanian settlers who had set out in 1835 to acquire land in the Port Phillip district from the indigenous occupants. Despite the government in New South Wales declaring Batman's transaction with the Wurundjeri people invalid, they came anyway.
By the late 1830s the Derwent Co. held 26,000 acres of land extending across the "Portland Bay" region including the Barwon, Moorabool and Leigh Rivers. Its members included Captain Charles Swanston, Major William Drumond Mercer and his son George Duncan Mercer, Thomas Learmonth, George Armytage and David Fisher.

"Barwon Falls" 1848 as painted by Charles Norton, artist, civil servant and
squatter on the Barwon River. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
Another group of investors formed the Clyde Co. which was established in 1838 by seven Scottish investors. They selected land along the Leigh and Moorabool Rivers, which was managed first by Philip Russell and then by his half brother George who eventually settled at Golf Hill near The Leigh (later Shelford).
George Russell, 1852. Pioneer, settler and manager of the Clyde
Company. Image held by the Victorian State Library
In addition to the big companies, individual families such as the Austins of Barwon Park, established large holdings on the Barwon whilst properties such as Moranghurk and Borhoneyghurk on the Moorabool and Narmbool on the Leigh were established by individuals or partnerships.
By 1842 however, the Derwent Co. was being wound up, with various founding members purchasing leases in their own right. The Clyde Co. survived until 1857/1858 at which time George Russell bought the freehold of Golf Hill, an area of 8,500 acres which he eventually expanded to 28,000 acres.
Today, through the foresight of Victoria's first Lieutenant-Governor, Charles Joseph La Trobe, a record remains which details many of these early settlers and their holdings. During his governorship on 29th July, 1853, La Trobe wrote to Victoria's pioneering settlers asking them if they could in turn reply to him, describing what they remembered of the dates and places in which they and their contemporaries had settled in the 1830s. His request generated some 58 replies from across the newly-declared colony - several of them dealing with settlement along the Barwon, Moorabool and Leigh Rivers - they were eventually compiled by Thomas Francis Bride and published in 1898 titled: Letters from Victorian pioneers: being a series of papers on the early occupation of the colony, the aborigines etc.
Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe. Photo held by
Ballarat Heritage Services

From this and other sources, including the various newspapers of the day and government gazettes it is possible to build a fairly good picture of who these pioneering settlers were and where they held their various squatting runs.
The following table - whilst no doubt incomplete - shows who many of the initial landholders were and when they took up their runs. In each case I have attempted to identify the original occupant, however in some cases there may have been an earlier squatter on the land whom I can't identify through online records. If I find further information I will update accordingly.
Barwon River
Caroline Newcombe and Anne Drysdale
1841
Geelong
Derwent Co. (David Fisher)
1837
Kardinia
Dr Alexander Thomson
1837
Highton
John Highett
1837
Barrabool Hills
? Darke
183?
Roadknights
1836
Pollocksford
Captain Pollock
1836
Murgheboluc Flat
Yuilles
1836
Weatherboard
Derwent Co (David Fisher)
1837
(Toolun, St Leonards & Waterloo Plains)
Thomas Austin and Brothers
1837
Henry Hopkins
1837
Ingleby
Derwent Co (Thomas Armytage)
1836
Yan Yan Gurt*
Roadknights
1838
Deans Marsh*
Roadknights
1848
Wesleyan Church
(Rev Francis Tuckfield)
Buntingdale Mission Station
August 1839
Paraparap
Frederick Dewing
1838
Gerangemete
Roadknights
1839
Ricketts
Thomas Rickett
<September 1837
River Station
Roadknights
1840
William Harding (with John Highett)
1837
Murdeduke (originally part of Mt Hesse)
John Highett (with William Harding)
1837
St Stephen
John Stephens
<1841
Long Water Hole/Barrunah Plains*
Derwent Co. (James Austin)
1837
Warrambine*
Derwent Co. (Prentice)
<1842
Moorabool River
John Anthony Cowie & David Stead
March 1836
Batesford
Alfred & John Bates
1837
Manifold’s Ford (aka Dog Rocks/Batesford)
Thomas & Peter Manifold
1836
Sutherland’s Creek*
Joseph Sutherland
1836
George, James & Robert Hope
1846
Russell's Bridge
Clyde Co. (George Russell)
1836
William Taylor & Dugald McPherson
1840
Robert Steiglitz
March/April 1838
John Norman McLeod
1837
Lal Lal
Blakeney & George Airey
1840
Moreep
John Norman McLeod?
<1848
Ballark
John Wallace
1838
Bungal
George Egerton
1838?
John Anthony Cowie & David Stead
1838
David Stead
1838
Hunterston
William Patterson?
1840s
Peerewerrh
Fairbairn & Gardner
<1849
Borambeta
Charles & Joseph Bradshaw?
<1849
Bolwarra
James Clarke?
1837?
Ballan
Robert William Steiglitz
1838
Leigh/Yarrowee River
Weatherboard
Derwent Co. (Thomas & Somerville Learmonth)
April 1837
(Native Creek No. 1)*
Derwent Co. (Thomas & Somerville Learmonth)
April 1837
(Native Creek No. 2) (later Woolbrook)*
Derwent Co. (Thomas & Somerville Learmonth)
1837
(including Upper Leigh & Tall Tree Creek Stations)
Clyde Co (George Russell)
1837
Native Creek No. 3
(later Barwonleigh)
Derwent Co. (Thomas & Somerville Learmonth)
April 1837
Alexander, Charles & John Wilson
1844
Cargerie
George Frederick Read Jnr
January 1838
Mount Mercer
Derwent Co. (David Fisher)
March 1838
Mount Mercer Cattle Station
Derwent Co. (Major William Drummond Mercer)
1838?
Hugh Niven
January 1839
Warraneep
Levitt brothers and one other
1840
Waverley Park (later Bonshaw)
Henry Anderson
1838
Thomas & Sommerville Learmonth
1838
Archibald B & WC Yuille
February 1838
*These properties whilst not lying directly on any of the three rivers, were an integral part of the district and each did have at least one creek which flowed to either the Barwon or the Moorabool.
It is worth remembering also that runs often changed hands repeatedly (sometimes within a matter of months) and areas of land could be transferred in part or wholly between settlers meaning that the boundaries of properties shifted over time as squatters expanded or consolidated their holdings, forming and dissolving partnerships on a regular basis.
During the 1850s and 60s, following the dispersal of the Clyde and Derwent Companies, leases changed hands and the pre-emptive rights to various properties were purchased. The era of the squatter had well and truly reached the three rivers.

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to see the City of South Barwon logo still alive on the Learmonth Street sign, 20 years after amalgamation.

    ReplyDelete