Today in history: John Pascoe Fawkner dies

Today in history: John Pascoe Fawkner dies

Another regular feature at will be "today in history". Today in 1869, one of the founding father's of Melbourne - John Pascoe Fawkner, died. Below is an excerpt from the Age dated 06 September 1869 announcing the death of such a prominent Melburnian.

The Age, Monday 06 Sep 1869 Pg 3:
We live in n generation contemporary with the Founder of Melbourne. Many young men and children among us have seen him. The man of seventy six who died on Saturday (04 Sep) was over forty years of age when he made the first clearing in a wild forest which covered the site of this great and rich city. Thirty four years ago John Pascoe Fawkner sailed up the Yarra in his little schooner, having left the domain of King Batman around Indented Head behind him in his voyage across Hobson’s Bay to the river mouth. He landed opposite Emerald Hill (Batman’s Hill), in a spot where the river was bordered with drooping wattles, then in their yellow bloom and regarded the undulating woodland before him as a capital place for a settlement.

Conspicuous were the high hills to the west and east, the western eminence rising abruptly in a single knoll, covered with whistling and moaning she-oaks, while that on the east rose gently on all sides from a broad area and was crowned with huge red-gums. In the winter of 1835, Mr Fawkner and his little party erected their dwelling places and laid under cultivation also a free selection on the plain to the west of Emerald Hill, where their plough furrows are still visible. The settlers appear to have been under little apprehension from the blacks, but they were menaced by a difficulty from another quarter, John Batman, who came over from Tasmania a month or two before Fawkner, had purchased from the natives 600 000 acres of land for a few implements and trinkets; and looking upon Fawkner as a trespasser, he removed with his family and companions from Indented Head, and Equatted upon the eastern side of the hill, afterwards called by his name, overlooking Fawkner’s settlement; The bickerings between Fawkner and Batman may, with advantage, be forgotten at this time of day. Governor Bourke came upon the scene, and, in the King’s name, disallowed the claims of both the hardy pioneers. Batman, however, received compensation from the Crown, but Fawkner got nothing, not even the site of his first settlement.

After the town had been cut up into its square blocks, and the first land sales had taken place, the population began to swell into that of a very respectable village, and Fawkner’s Hotel was opened. This was the headquarters for news from the colonies and from home, and the indefatigable proprietor, who had the true colonist's knack of adapting himself to anything, started in 1838 a newspaper which was circulated in manuscript copies. His employments were of the most diverse kind, and he took the lead in every movement in the little community. Among other methods of improving his time he seems to have taken a little to the study of the law, and some old colonists can recall him to their memories as a 'bush lawyer' practising before the bench in the Melbourne Police Court. When the Rev. Mr Waterfield, Congregational minister, arrived in the year 1838, Mr Fawkner, who belonged to the same denomination, placed the long room of Fawkner’s Hotel at his disposal, and Divine service was held there until a place of worship could be erected. In 1839 Mr Fawkner started the Port Phillip Patriot, and he seems to have grown in wealth with the town he had founded until the year 1843, when by becoming surety for others he was almost ruined, saving nothing from his creditors but one-half of the Pascovale farm, which had been settled on his wife. He had then to fight his way up again, and was not long in placing himself once more in comfortable circumstances by his energy and enterprise.

In suitability to the advancing spirit of the times he published the Port Phillip Patriot in a daily form, a very bold step in those days. Then he went into country pursuits, for which he always seemed to have most inclination, and was by the time of the gold discoveries very well off. The enhanced value given to property in town and country by the influx of population in 1851 and 1852 made him independent and it is satisfactory to know that his declining years have been passed in ease and comfort. Thus much for his private career in the colony; but he has also been a public man ever since his connection with it. The same restless and energetic spirit which led him to make his home in a barbarous land led him also to strive to fashion the young community, which grew around him, after his own ideas; and throughout his life public affairs claimed his most earnest solicitude. He was one of the earliest members of the City Council, and took a prominent part in all the agitations which troubled the colony between 1840 and the date of its separation from New South Wales. In the anti-transportation and pro-separation meetings, he was among the principal speakers, and in those times he was distinguished by a great vivacity of gesture and fluency of speech. In the elections of 1850 he was among the most successful hustings orators. He sat in the first Legislature, and when the new Constitution came he was elected for the Central Province, of which he has ever since been one of the representatives.

Mr Fawkner’s early views were of a very liberal nature, but of late years he became almost morbidly conservative, and regarded with dread any alteration of the things that be. This, however, is a ground we can afford to touch lightly upon. His work was a great one and one which must be unique in our history. Perhaps there is no other great civilised community in the world which will be able to trace its beginning in so marked a manner to a single individual. Mr Fawkner’s name will become the wider and wider celebrated with the growth of the nation which has sprung from his enterprise. In giving him the title of Founder of Melbourne we in fact recognise him as the father of the colony, even though we call Batman its founder. Batman was a shepherd king. A man of great courage and force of will, but not possessed of the plasticity and constructive genius of Fawkner. The brave old man worked to the last according to his lights. Throughout the last session he sat in the Legislative Council, and illness alone kept him from his post at any time. His seat will be looked upon as sacred for many a long year, and during this session it has been instinctively left vacant by his brother members, as if in expectation of seeing the white-haired patriarch walk slowly in according to his wont, resting on the arm of one of the ushers, and place himself on the edge of the bench, where he sat in his inverness cape, with a rug tucked round his knees (the blue lining outwards) upon which his hands rested while he looked round the house from under his red velvet cap, and nodded to one and another with a faint smile.

Mr Fawkner was born in London, in the year 1792, and at the age of eleven years he accompanied his parents to Tasmania, touching at Port Phillip by the way; so that he arrived here first in the year 1803. In his early days the Founder of Melbourne saw the foundation of Hobart Town. He was brought up to the trade of a sawyer, and worked for several years at that occupation. Afterwards he kept an hotel, and then brought out a newspaper in Launceston. He engaged in many other walks of business, and seems to have been almost everything by turns. The funeral is to take place on Wednesday and will no doubt be one of the largest ever seen in the colony.

John Pascoe Fawkner [picture] : Batchelder and Co. Batchelder and Co., photographer. State Library of Victoria by, on Flickr

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