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last updated:    18 October 2004

 

 

 

 

 

4. JOSEPH AND RUTH IN VAN DIEMEN'S LAND

They were hardy, these two and game enough to take on all challenges.  Within 3 months they were in Van Diemen’s Land, a brutal, inhospitable place, where the sound of the lash echoed in the streets.  While Joseph worked in the timber trade, in Hobart town, Ruth bore their first son David.  Born in 1838, he was to have only a short stay in Van Diemen’s Land, for word had reached his parents that new lands were being opened up across Bass Strait in the district of Port Phillip Bay.  Moreover, the emerging colony of Victoria was not to be a penal colony, but a land for free settlers.

John Batman had already, in his own mind at least, secured huge tracts of land by trade with the local aborigines and had delivered sheep from Van Diemen’s Land to Henry Arthur in the new colony.

All manner of boats and barges were crossing monthly into Port Phillip Bay and the Stevensons were keen to follow.  In middle of winter of 1838 Joseph, Ruth and baby David boarded a schooner and arrived at the mouth of the Yarra River to a maudlin collection of slab and bark huts.  This was embryonic Melbourne with a huge thirst for capital, timber and skilled labour.  Joseph wasted no time.  On Crown land close to the Yarra he added to the collection of huts by building a small timbered house for Ruth and David from eucalypt and wattle cut from the Yarra’s edge.  In this wattle-daubed house Ruth gave birth in 1840 to Jane the first of their daughters.

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