2020Who founded Melbourne?

8 June 2020

Who founded Melbourne? Heated debate on this question has overemphasized it’s importance and there’s been confusion between the idea of establishing a pastoral settlement in the Port Phillip district and that of establishing a village or township on the site of Melbourne. A number of men had thought of settling near Port Phillip before 1835, though probably the most persistent was John Batman. He had long thought about it proposed to Wedge that he visit it in 1825, with Gellirand sought a land Grant there in 1827, with Wedge suggested to Arthur an expedition there in 1833, talked about and planned a private expedition in early 1835, helped to for the syndicate for the purpose in April, chartered the schooner, Rebecca, on 1 May one and then led the party to visit it with the financial support which he helped to collect. He looked at the place, found a group of Aborigines nearby and signed a treaty to buy land from them – thus taking the first concrete steps towards establishing a settlement in the district. He discovered again the fine grazing country to the west and north of the bay that Flinders had seen; and planned to establish a huge sheep run; he thus laid the foundation for a prosperous colony, though for the moment he wanted to reserve 600,000 acres for his immediate associates. As his staunch supporter Wedge admitted, on his first visit he did not see the present site of Melbourne, though he was the first who went and formed an establishment in Victoria.
As has been seen, by this time Fawkner had also been showing an interest in Port Phillip and had bought the Enterprise. He largely financed her first voyage in July-August but he did not sail in her, did not share in the dangers and hardships the first pioneers encountered, as one of his colleagues wrote later, and was not present at the first landing on the bank of the Yarra. It was Lancey and the party on board in August chose exact site of the settlement just below the Yarra Falls, and began the “village”. Of them, only one George Evans stayed long enough at Port Phillip to be regarded as the first man to settle there with his servant Evan Evans he built his house and continued to work in Melbourne as a builder. The following July he brought over about 200 sheep in the Chili alongside 400 for Samuel and William Jackson. They took up two small runs about 15 miles up the Maribyrnong but Evan’s soon moved a little further out to a 2000 acre run near Sunbury, where his sandstone house at Emu Bottom is the oldest surviving in Victoria. When Fawkner arrived on 16th October 1835 he brought no sheep; but he was starting a village, brought more tools and provisions and may have been the first to build a permanent resident with the intention of remaining and living in it, though in 1853 John Hepburn was to say that it was William Buckley who laid the foundation stone of this interesting colony by building brick chimneys for Batman. This he argued constituted the foundation of the capital of Victoria which seems to have been entirely lost sight of but nevertheless is true. Unfortunately, he did not say when this was done. At the same time, John Aitken was described Faulkner as the Cain or the first tiller of the soil in this province and although Lance’s parry had ploughed some land and planted vegetables before Fawkner arrived, he certainly planted many more when he came. His long career in the colony then gave him plenty of time and opportunity to boost his claims and denigrate those of his rivals, forgetting or choosing to ignore what really happened and what he had actually done.


A History Of The Port Phillip District

A G L Shaw – MUP 1996