John Batman

(previous .... John Pascoe Fawkner)

John Batman was a native of Paramatta, but had crossed in earlier days to Tasmania, where he had prospered. He was an experienced bushman. It was he who had captured Brady the Bushranger and he had been of great use to Tasmania in inducing the blacks to submit themselves to the colonists. For these services he had received large grants of land on which he had stocked them with large flocks of sheep.

Fateful Picnic

He married and settled down with his family to enjoy his wealth in peace and comfort. But a picnic party which he gave to some friends one Christmas day was the means of changing the course of his life. For as they ascended the mountain on which they were having their picnic, the talk was all about the glorious new land discovered around Port Phillip and so an enchanting picture was drawn. In the groups enthusiasm they all agreed to form a group to travel to Port Phillip and colonize it.

Fertile Land

Batman was not a man to relinquish anything to which he had pledged himself and before long he had increased the group to fourteen members and purchased a little vessel in which to cross, for the purpose of personally examining the land in which he proposed to settle. After tossing for about nineteen days in his little sloop, the Rebecca, he succeeded in entering the port and landed at Indent Head on May 29th, 1835. On that day he walked 12 miles inland, through the same land which had so charmed the hearts of Hamilton Hume and William Hovell and he declared that the land was better suited to sheep than any land he had ever seen.

Friends with the Natives

The next day he took his vessel to Geelong and on the third he landed at the mouth of the Werribee and proceeded on a walking tour of the bay. He found a camp of about 40 native women and children, with whom he was soon on very friendly terms and the report they gave to the other natives of his kindness and generosity was of service to Batman afterwards.

Hobson's Bay

The Rebecca sailed into Hobson's Bay and anchored off the lonely point where the busy docks of Williamstown now are. Batman again started on foot to explore the land, taking with him, as interpreters, one or two Syndey natives, whom he had in his employment. He followed the Saltwater for some distance, then across the Keilor Plains to Jackson Creek, and then up to Sunbury, keeping a good lookout for natives, whom he did not fear, but rather wished to find.

Local Aborigines

From the hill at Sunbury he could see fires about 20 miles south east and he headed towards them until he reached Merri Creek where he met a native man with his wife and three children. By these he was informed that, on account of his kindness to the native women at the Werribee, all the aborigines of Port Phillip were his friends. They escorted him 9 miles down creek to their camp where he was recieved by the whole tribe with great favour. He stayed with them all night , sleeping on the banks of the Merri Creek, close to the spot where the Northcote Bridge now stands.

Merri Creek to Geelong for a Quantity of Goods

In the morning he offered to buy a portion of their land and gave them a large quantity of goods, consisting of scissors, knives, blankets, looking glasses and articles of this description. In return they granted him all the land stretching from Merri Creek to Geelong. Batman had the documents drawn up and on the Northcote hill, overlooking the grass covered flats of Collingwood and the sombre forests of Carlton and Fitzroy, the natives affixed their marks to the deeds, but which Batman fancied he was legally put in possession of 600,000 acres. Trees were cut with notches , in order to fix the boundaries and in the afternoon Batman left his black friends.

Yarra River

John Batman had not gone very far when he was stopped by a large swamp and he slept for the night under the great gum trees which spread their shade over the ground now covered by the populous streets of West Melbourne. In the morning he found his way around the swamp and in trying to reach the Saltwater he came upon a noble stream, which would later be known as the Yarra.

Perfect Location

In the evening he reached his vessel on the bay. Next day he ventured up the Yarra in a boat and came across the Yarra Falls. Batman wrote in his diary "This will be the place for the village." unconscious that he was gazing upon the site of a great and busy city of Melbourne.

Batman Returns To Tasmania

Returning to Indented Head, he left three white men and his Sydney natives to cultivate the soil and retain possession of the land he supposed himself to have purchased. Then he set sail for Tasmania, where he and his associates began to prepare for transporting their households, their sheep and their cattle to the new settlement.

(continues ... Dispute Over Melbourne)

 

History of Australia