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5. THE STEVENSONS INVEST IN THE NEW COLONY

He invested his savings almost as quickly by purchasing from the Crown at public auction “Lot 72 in pursuance of the advertisement of 18th July 1838” being allotment 19 of section 22 County of Bourke.  Joseph was granted his town purchase deed on 22nd December 1838.  For 91 pounds and four shillings he had purchased a ˝ acre town block of land on the north east corner of Swanston and Little Bourke Streets Melbourne.  It was a clever purchase and destined to bankroll the Stevenson family for the next 10 years.   

The deed signed under the hand of the Governor-in-Chief of the colony, Sir George Gipps, recited that as a condition of the grant Joseph Stevenson was within 2 years to erect “a permanent dwelling, house store or other suitable building upon the said land of the full values of fifty pounds sterling.”

Within the first year Joseph had complied with his grant by erecting a store facing Swanston Street.  He then executed the perfect manoeuvre.  He ran a laneway north from Little Bourke Street parallel with Swanston Street splitting the block.  He then split the frontage to Swanston Street into 3 parts and the rear into 2 parts ,making 5 parts in all.  On 11th January 1840 he conveyed the improved middle Swanston Street block to P. Ferie for two hundred and sixty pounds and on the 7th of February 1840 the unimproved southern Swanston Street block to K. Oliver for eighty-nine pounds and five shillings.  He now had 3 of his 5 blocks left and a sizeable profit on his total outlay.  Word of his carpentry skills had soon spread and Joseph was engaged by William Watts to build a punt to ferry goods and passengers across the Yarra.  Named ‘The Melbourne’, it crossed the Yarra where Princess Bridge now stands.  

James Bowie Kirk next secured Joseph’s carpentry skills to establish a horse and livery-trading centre in Bourke Street, between Elizabeth and Queen Streets.  Joseph completed Kirks Horse Bazaar in late 1840.   He then purchased bullocks, axes, cross-cut saws and equipment to launch himself and his family on the land.

In 1841, the Stevensons had moved out into the Australian bush, near present day Research.  Working in the stringy bark forests with his team of bullocks, Joseph soon further enhanced his reputation, which saw him joined by other toughened colonial boys.  Known throughout the district as the ‘Splitters’, they cut, split and transported huge amounts of eucalypt to setters of the region.

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