Wynyard and Burnie: Where the Blackwell Family Settled

Part V of An Australian Emigrant Family

Peter Blackwell, Ph.D. Brown University '88 (Rhode Island) and Mark Blackwell, B.Com. B.D. (Euroa, Victoria, Australia) [blackwell@upssystems.com]

On the eastern bank of the Inglis River, the Government initiated a project to survey Crown lands and laid out the town reserve of Wynyard, named after the commanding officer of British troops in Australasia who visited Tasmania in 1851, General Edward Buckley Wynyard.

In May 1853, two young Manxmen, William Moore and Robert Quiggin, formed a partnerships and arrived at Wynyard with a complete sawmill plant which they installed together with stores and jetties. Moore and Quiggin built an intercolonial timber trade which at one point was the largest in the colony. They established a small fleet of ships and developed a brisk trade with New Zealand where the demand for Tasmanian hardwood greatly exceeded the supply.

Wynyard itself grew but slowly. The Advocate newspaper in the 1850s reported it as "a poor miserable;e place, nearly the whole covered in scrub and good sized trees here and there. There were no roads - only tracks made by paling cutters - dust in the summer and slushy potholes in the winter" and "six or seven houses all told".

Further to the east the town of Burnie was emerging at Emu Bay, although by 1863 there were only seven houses, three hotels, two churches and several stores with a town population of fifty people. Adding the sixty four settlers and their families in the surrounding area, the total was some four hundred people. In 1850, William Garner built the Emu Inn, later to be renamed the Welcome Hotel next to the Burnie Inn built by Thomas Wiseman a few months earlier. Thomas Wiseman was a shipbuilder on the Tamar River who was persuaded to come to Burnie to help refloat the barquentine Waterwitch which went aground in 1850 near Whalebone Creek. With a large group of helpers and much digging, the job was successful, and Wiseman so liked the area that he settled in Burnie, building the inn. For many years, a large red pane of glass in front of the swinging night light of the Burnie Inn was the official beacon guiding ships to anchor at night. Opposite the Burnie Inn he built a shipyard shipyard and the next year, Wiseman erected St. George's Church of England on what was later to became known as Church Hill. It was a wooden building with a small gallery and diamond-paned windows. Two years later, the first resident minister was established. There was a three-roomed cottage which had been opened as a Government school in 1862 with Widow Mary Morris as the teacher.


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