First Name:  Last Name: 
[Advanced Search]  [Surnames]
Arrival of the ship Brothers in Port Phillip 1850

Arrival of the ship Brothers in Port Phillip 1850

Together with the other members of the emigrant party, Dr Michael Minter and family reached Port Phillip on board the ship Brothers in March 1850. It appears likely that they spent several months in or near Melbourne. Just fourteen years after Batman first established the settlement on the banks of the Yarra River just upstream from its mouth at the north of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne in 1850 was a small trading port and centre of a pastoral industry with a population of some 20,000. But it was poised to become the capital of the new colony of Victoria in 1851, the year that gold was discovered. Within a decade Melbourne grew more than fivefold to 125,000. The gold discoveries unleashed a massive gold rush, bringing extraordinary wealth to Victoria and some four decades of prosperity. “Marvellous Melbourne” of the 1880s was a city of grand buildings, second in size only to London in the then British Empire. The collapse and depression of the 1890s would bring widespread hardship to Victoria. But this was all in the future for the Hedley/ Peck/ Minter immigrants newly arrived in Melbourne in 1850.

The party divided into two following their initial stay in Melbourne – whether always intended, or whether in response to what they found on arrival is not known. The Minter family moved during 1850 to Mount Moriac, 13 miles southwest of Geelong, an established port town, then of some 8,000 inhabitants on the southwestern shore of Port Phillip Bay. Geelong was the main port for the rich pastoral lands of Victoria’s Western District (“Australia Felix”), as well as a growing wine industry on its doorstep. Geelong was to grow rapidly with the discovery of gold in nearby Ballarat – by 1854 Geelong was home to some 20,000. In 1850 Crown land was being sold in lots for agricultural settlement in the vicinity of Geelong. The availability of these substantial blocks of land attracted Michael Minter’s interest.

Michael purchased some 640 acres of Crown land comprising the north slope of Mount Moriac - rich volcanic soil in an elevated north facing position. This purchase was a clear indication of intent to diversify from medicine into farming in an established wine region. If, as has been suggested, Michael were not in good health, perhaps he felt it good for his family to be close to existing settlement rather than moving to less established territories. Also, he may have judged the population in Gippsland at the time too sparse to support two new doctors.

The rest of the emigrant party moved from Melbourne to the newly opened area of Gippsland in the east of the colony. Gippsland in 1850 had no major settlements – it was a country of pastoralists - squatters on substantial tracts of land leased from the Crown. Port Albert, a small port dating from 1841, was to prove the main point of entry to Gippsland for some twenty years – but population at its peak in 1863 was only ever 211. Tarraville, just inland, was the largest settlement in Gippsland in 1851 with a population of just 219. The gold rush in time was to bring many to Gippsland’s north as new goldfields were discovered there during the 1850s and 60s.

The first town plots of Sale were sold in 1850, with the new settlement gazetted in 1851. Centrally positioned to Gippsland’s pastoral lands and to the several gold fields as well as just north of the difficult marshy traverse over the Thomson River on the main route to and from Port Albert, Sale grew steadily in size and prosperity during the 1850s and 60s, becoming Gippsland’s premier centre in the nineteenth century. In 1863 it had a population of 1800, and gained borough status.

But in the early 1850s, settlements in Gippsland were small and sparse, with transport slow on poor roads. Movement was mostly by bullock dray or horse. The Pecks, from the centre of horseracing in England – Newmarket - one could assume all had adequate riding skills.

The Hedley family along with Miss [Mary Anne] Peck are listed in The Argus Shipping Intelligence1 as departing on the 45 ton schooner, Cecilia, on 31 October 1850 for Port Albert, the point of entry to the then newly settled Gippsland region. Just when James Peck and Mary Robertson joined them in Gippsland is unknown. Perhaps James spent some time helping the Minters to settle into their new property at Mt Moriac. Mary certainly worked for a period as governess in the household of W.C. Haines, MP, a prominent colonial politician from the Geelong region. Perhaps Mary moved to Tarraville in 1853/4 to help the Hedley household when Ann became ill and subsequently died.

According to an obituary of George Hedley written in 1879, the Hedley group went first to north Gippsland where they stayed for a while at the Snake Ridge pastoral run with John Reeve’s manager, John King. Then in 1851 the Hedley family (and presumably Mary Anne Peck) moved to Tarraville near Port Albert where Dr Hedley commenced a medical practice2.

We have no evidence that the Hedleys, Pecks or Minters knew either John Reeve, the lessee of Snake Ridge, or his manager, John King, prior to their emigration. It seems most likely that contact was made during those first months in Melbourne. Travel within Gippsland was very difficult at that time, so would George Hedley have taken a large party of people to Snake Ridge had there not been some prior contact with those on the property? If John Reeve was the unnamed “Correspondent”, author of the 1842 newspaper article quoted above, Dr Hedley may well have contacted him. Medical practitioners would have been highly valued in the fledgling Gippsland settlement – as they still are today in country Victoria.

Click on the following link to read the next section of the story: A medical family in the early European settlement of Gippsland - The Hedleys at Tarraville and Sale

1The Argus. Friday 1 November 1850

2 Obituary “The Late Dr. Hedley” The Gippsland Times. Monday March 17. 1879