HENTY Family at Portland Bay : 1834

The HENTY family is credited with establishing the first permanent settlement at Portland Bay, Port Phillip District, Colony of New South Wales in 1834. The inland settlements of Digby (on Emu Creek) and Hotspur (on the Crawford River) are a direct result of their movement to the interior grasslands north of Portland in 1837. Both of these settlements, like many other early settlements were established at creek or river crossings that provided significant obstacles for early travellers and their bullock drays and consequently the early travellers were looking for a resting place prior to or subsequent to making such a crossing.

Noel Learmonth in his 1934 book "The Portland Bay Settlement" provides some background on the the four HENTY brothers - Edward, Stephen, John and Francis, and their families who settled the south-western corner of what was to become the future State of Victoria.

Edward HENTY himself is very emphatic on this point. On November 5, 1868, he wrote to Portland "Guardian":-

"In a letter which appeared in "The Argus" of October 7, signed J. P. Falkener, M.L.C., relative to the early settlement of the colony, I find this gentleman states:- 'That if bringing sheep formed the first settlement of this colony, one of the Hentys, who had a whaling station at Portland Bay, brought over a few sheep in 1834.'. The facts are simply these. I had no whaling station in 1834. It was more than two years after that date that I fitted out a whaling party in connection with my brother S. G. Henty, at Portland. My pursuits were purely agricultural and pastoral."

In a recent article in "The Age," written by "J.M.R.," it is surmised that the Henty family contemplated settling at Portland Bay by means of a treaty with the blacks, because John Helder Wedge wrote from Campbell Town to Governor Arthur in Hobart on September 18, 1834, as follows: -

"It has become known to me that a party has it in contemplation to take possession of a tract of country at Portland Bay, independent of His Majesty's Government, by virtue of a treaty with the natives. "

Now the first mention of natives by the Hentys occurs in Edward's diary December 2, 1834, at a spot many miles from Portland. It was not until after two months' residence that any natives appear to have been seen near Hentys' settlement; the sealers and whalers of former years had no doubt driven the aborigines back from the locality. The Hentys, finding that the Government was endeavouring to prevent them settling at Portland Bay, may have mentioned that they would make a treaty with the blacks. This would give Wedge the material for his letter, though it does not appear certain that the Hentys were the people referred to in that document, as Wedge writes: - "A party has it in contemplation, &c." It is all rather indefinite, and the main fact remains, viz., no treaty with the natives was made at Portland Bay by Henty or any other person.

Source : "The Portland Bay Settlement" - Noel F. Learmonth, 1934

"Portland Guardian" (Vic.) Thursday, 13th January 1927.

Henty Days.
Pioneer's Letters to Brothers.

Two exceedingly interesting Henty relics were recently discovered amongst a number of papers by Mr M. H. S. Bree, of Longlands, Harrow, who kindly supplies them to the "Spectator." One is a copy of the late Mr Edward Henty's diary for December 1, 1834, made by Mr Edward Henty himself for his brother Mr C. S. Henty, who was then at Launceston, and the other is an almost complete letter from Mr Edward Henty to his brother, dated November 22, 1834. The first is signed and is written with ink that is still black on thick paper with a somewhat rough surface, but without the deckled edges usually associated with hand-made paper. It bears a water mark of "W. T. Thomas" over "1832" on one side of the paper and on the other an oval, surmounted with a crown and a rough figure of Britannia within the oval. The letter is written on thin smooth paper, without watermark in ink that has turned brown.

The original letter is as follows:-

Portland Bay, November 22, 1834 -

My dear Charles. We arrived here on the 19th November after a long and boisterous passage of 34 days. The second day after we left the heads we were within 25 miles of Portland Bay. A gale of wind came away from W.N.W., and blew us back to King Island, where we anchored. We lost our best anchor in getting it up. The chain parted. We ran farther along the island and let go the other. The next day, on getting it up, we found it broken in two when we fished it up as you would see. We then let go our small and only anchor. It held on. The next day we got under way and got within 20 miles of the Julians. A gale came away again from the W.N.W., and blew us back to King Island. And this is not the worst of it. Six times we were obliged to bear up for the island, and as you may suppose, all our provisions for cattle had gone. We got plenty of grass from the island such as it was-the same kind as grows in the marsh opposite the wharf at Launceston. Our loss has, in consequence, been consilderable, and is as follows:-One of Mr. Bryan's working bullocks, the worst of the two bought of Cummings, and eleven of father's heifers. Many times I thought we must lose the whole of them. Gale after gale, and sometimes a rolling sea while at anchor was as bad as at sea. A stranger to Bass Straits would consider that there was bad management. But when I tell you that 21 (twice underlined) days after we left the Heads the cattle were all alive, with the addition of two calves. Owing to the repeated gales of wind we lost both the calves and cows. One was 14 days old and doing well, but in a heavy sea the mother fell on it and killed it. We had the remainder, 18, landed by one o'clock, the day we arrived, and took them to their knees in grass, trefoil and vetches. They enjoyed themselves as you may suppose not a little. The bullocks will be of little use to us for at least a fortnight owing to their bruises and low condition. I hope, however, to get in what few potatoes I have left. We shall be very short of flour (last three words undlerlined twice) before the Thistle returns. We consumed on the voyage, beside the Thistle's store, 480 lbs. of flour out of the 660, leaving us with only 180 lbs. She has had one cask of beef also, but we have plenty of meat left. I have writen Mr. Green for what things, we require the next time. Dutton tells me the river we thought well of is of no use. He says a vessel could not go over the bar. I shall, if possible, as soon as the Thistle leaves, go over and look at the land on that side of the bay. Dutton will go with me. He says the land is clearer and equally good. We intend having three days if the brig should not arrive before. As regards sending sheep or cattle the next time, you will, of course, arrange amongst you. I shall be prepared for either or both, but should much wish to have four more working bIullocks, some of father's youngest and smallest Red Hill would do well, and a bull. I hope you will send some rabbits next time, and potatoes or a few carrots if you have any. The kangaroos are getting very thin, being so much hunted by Dutton lately. I have seen no more of the land than I had before. In consequence of having so little flour we shall be out of it long ere the Thistle returns unless she has a very quick (last two words underlined) passage. The grass is very luxuriant. Hundreds of tons of hay might be cut and of the best description. The pigs require nothing but what they get from the land. You can send a few more if you like. They require but little feeding on bord as they eat up the corn from the hay. In sending the Thistle back the following remarks would he worth consideration. First, the vessel must have a new anchor and cable or she will not find her way back. Her cables were strained in heaving up, and cannot in consequence be trusted to. Do not lumber the decks with heavy goods. Six or eight hogsheads of water on the deck would not hurt, and a few light things. In sending the remainder of the timber, there will be but little ballast required. All the things we brought on deck might have gone below had we not so much ballast in. If you send sheep, send a little hay and the remainder oats in a bin. If cattle, one ton of hay could go below and make but little difference in room. Also at least six bags of oats and four or five of bran. It can go back if not wanted. Half the quantity of water should be sufficient below and stowed with the bungs close on top so as to be easily got when at sea. There is plenty of width for timber to be lashed up along the stanchions, but it must be stowed regularly-no ends or sharp edges projecting. If any sharp edges, a little padding of grass would be of service, where the large bullocks would be, but the small ones would not require it. No cattle to be put on board unless in good condition, as in case of bad weather the weak ones would be sure to go off quickly. In opening one of the heifers we found a buck shot in its neck. It died in consequence of a buck shot wound in its throat which had been gathering for a long time and at last choked it. There is little fear of losing many cattle or sheep with an average passage. I was very nearly going overboard in a gale of wind in coming up from the cattle and going aft. I saw George Reeves run up the rigging to get out of the way of a sea that was on board and I had just time to get hold of a rope, when the sea broke on board and washed away my legs from under me and swung them over the rail. This was sharp work, we were lying to at the time. Camfield and the captain were below, and escaped it. The boat is a good deal knocked about. I hope the next trip will be more successful. It damped my spirits I can assure you not a little. Camfield was out the greater part of the time when at sea. He intends writing the next time. The Henry is a complete wreck, and not worth more if quite so much money as you offered Scanlon. Dutton has killed two whales since the Socrates left. They lost one. They say 20 whales have been seen in the bay since the vessels left. No natives have been seen for a long time. The place I have looked out for the house is distant from Dutton's fishery three quarters of a mile, within a quarter of a mile off the beatch, and about 40 acres of clear land all around it with a lagoon within 500 yards affording good water throughout the year. It is on it small hill, and commands a good view of the bay. It is quite necessary that Frank or some one should come with with the stock the next time, as the men generally are sick when most wanted. What does Mr. Bryan intend doing with the steamer if she does not sell ? She ought to be ready by this. Perhaps he will come in the Thistle next time. It would be a satisfaction to me for him to see the land here before he enters into it largely. I do not know Camfield's opinion any farther than he says he has seen some land on the banks of the Swan equal to it. He says he has some of his own grant as good. Father has seen the land ; what does he think ? My men are very much pleased with it and say they have seen nothing to equal it in Van Diemen's Land. Gunter says the eastern marshes are more like it than any other he has seen. Mr. Bryan will be enabled to judge a little from this. I think, on further inspection, we shall find more timber than we first imagined, but the trees are very small and the grass very thick. I shall be pleased to send some tip in a bundle. Dutton agrees with me that if some anchorage could be had on the N.E. side of the bay that it would be far preferatble for whaling. He says that they might get two fish to one on this side, but of course the anchorage is the main consideration. Sinclair's boats are in a bad state. He has only one at present fit for whaling. One other could be repaired and be as good its ever. He has very little gear fit for next season. You will write me fully respecting the fishing. Dutton will go to Launceston in the Thistle next time. I have not mentioned sperming to him yet. I told him we had joined Sinclair. Next season...."

There the letter ends, with Mr. Edward Henty's plans for next season not disclosed.

Following are portions of the diary of the late Mr. Edward Henty for the first four days of December, 1834, from a copy made by Mr. Henty himself for his brother, Mr. Charles Henty, at Launceston.

Monday, December 1st, 1834.

Pulled over in the whale boat to Dutton's River. Light wind from N.E. Very warm. Arrived at 6 p.m., made the boat fast in the middle of the river, and started three days' walk in the bush accompanied by H. Camfield, Wm. Dutton, five men, one black woman and 14 dogs, each man with a gun and sufficient quantity of damper to last for the voyage. We walked two miles, made a hut got supper and turned in, crossing a beautiful ridge of land and several marshes and plains with grass up to our khcees and of this year's growth. Small quantity of wattle bark close to the creek we stopped at.

Tuesday, December 2nd.

Started at 4 a.m. walked four miles over beautiful sheep hills well sprinkled with wattle and covered with kangaroo grass, trefoil, and a silky grass. Description unknown to me. We stopped by a lagoon, got breakfast, and started at half-past seven. We lost some time before breakfast, the dogs continually running after kangaroo and emus, but without success. (I left Mas at home, he having staked himself the day before.) We walked for two hours, steering north over beautiful land. We then came to the stringy bark forest, and it took us an hour to get through it. The land in the forest is different of a red fuller's earth, somothing, similar to the land near Guildford on the Swan River. After passing the forest we got into most splendid country, well watered, timbered with wattle, blackwood and a few gums. No dead timber, scarcely a log in a mile. On descending the hill we saw a native. He imediately ran on seeing us. He was busily employed pulling the gum from the wattle trees. We walked a mile and a half and came to a river called by us Clark's River, he being the first to cross it. We crossed it and came to a native fire which had been left but at few minutes before. I found a few eel baskets, which were left on a bush. To-day we stopped half an hour and made the kettle hot, got tea, and started, still steering north. The land on the north side of the river is generally rocky, but the grass and trefoil is as thick as it can grow. There is no other timber but blackwood and wattle, which abounds. This would make a beautiful sheep run, for every mile you have a marsh of two or three hundred acres, well covered with grass and seldom, if ever, flooded. There is not the slightest appearance of floods on the marshes, nor any dead timber on them, neither marks on the trees, which are scattered about. You can see three-quarters of a mile either way, so that this cannot be called thickly timbered. And we have to bring the wood some distance to make the kettle hot. We walked six miles and took a fresh cut back to the river, which we crossed and walked down 4 miles, the land of the finest description, and grass as thick as it can grow. The land on the south east side of Clark's River is better than the north as yet, but I expect from the appearance on, the opposite side that it will turn out as good as this. Better (underlined) it could not be. J. Cox's at Windburn could not be compared with it. This is the place I shall some day build my hut. A more lovely spot I never beheld. Sheep or cattle's sides would soon shake with fat with a taste of the grass here. Strathmore will not do at all after this. We have the water in its natural state without making a pond and swans and ducks without taming them. Large qanntities of bark might here be obtained, but would require a road marked out before it could be conveyed away. It would have to be taken eight miles, the nearest place for a boat to take it to the mouth of Dallas River. It might then be stacked and taken across the bay in fine weather, but would require a large boat. This will require further looking into before barking can be commenced.

Wednesday, 3rd December.-

We slept in some native huts close to the river. Three of our party have turned back. We got eels and bream, both of which are very plentiful and very beautiful. We started this morning and made the mouth of the river at 10 a.m., and found the land all extremely good, rather lighter as we appranched the sea, but plenty of grass. There is only two feet of water on the bar at low water. Lady Julia Percy's Island bears S.E by E. from the mouth. We shot swans and got dinner, crossed the river and steered along it for six miles. I was agreeably surprised to find the land nearly if not quite equal to what we saw yesterday. I was afraid that when we left the rocky ground yesterday that it ran all along the banks on the north side, but find it to be open sheep hills, occasionally rocky. We steered back for the river and found the land as we approached it very good, large extensive plains, with an occasional marsh. We crossed a creek or small river 10 feet deep, which we had not time to explore, but it appeared to take its rise from a large marsh. As far as the eye could extend there was an evident rise and fall, and we think it must run into Clark's River. We crossed Clark's River on a bridge made by the natives, who had evidently just passed before us. We made our huts and turned in. We passed to-day at least 50 native huts, but saw only the one native.

Thursday, 4th.-

Got breakfast and started at 6 a.m. Wind at W. A beautiful morning. We steered for the big hill, and made it at 12 noon. Passed over a small quantity of bad land, but scarcely worth mentioning. The land below the range of hills is very good and several large marshes sound and good. The land on the hill and all around it is of the finest description. I climbed a large gum tree and enjoyed a very extensive view. As far as the eye could extend (I) could see nothing but open hills and very (last word heavily underlined twice) eitensive marshes. I am much pleased with the view, from this hill, in fact, more so than all the land I walked over before ; for this reason, because from this view I can see all over the land I have walked on. and from here the country all around, has precisely the same appearance. Inland and along the coast either way with horses a large quantity of land could be explored, but the season is getting late to explore much on foot, as kangaroos are scarce, and you would be obliged to carry all the provisions you would require. We reckon to have gone inland 15 miles in one direction from the sea. I am not anxious to explore too much until we hear from home. After descending the big hill, we crosedl over a healthy piece of land running about one mile and then came to beautiful land with grass higher than any, and only this year's growth, and green as a leek. I wish mine were as green. We made the boat at 5 p.m., got some tea, and pulled home, where we arrived at 8 p.m. We had beautiful weather all the time-only one shower.

Here ends act the first, and hope the next may prove as successful.