Free Settler or Felon

Hunter Valley Colonial Medical Practitioners

Abraham Fenton

Newcastle


 

Abraham Fenton arrived with the 48th Regiment in 1818 on the convict ship Minerva. He was employed as Assistant Surgeon for the 48th under the command of Captain Allman.

Abraham Fenton was appointed Assistant Surgeon at Newcastle in 1820 and attributed the poor health of military personnel at Newcastle to the dearth of fresh provisions in the settlement.

In October 1820 he treated the dying native chief Burragong (alias King Jack) who had been stabbed by a prisoner John Kirby. Burragong was taken into the settlement wounded and was attended to with every care, in Fenton's own quarters. Abraham Fenton later testified at the trial of John Kirby.......Burragong would not stay after the third day, though every persuasion was used to detain him, he being desirous of resorting to the expedients practiced by themselves in wounded cases.  In five days after his quitting Burragong returned and Dr. Fenton dressed his wound, he then appearing n a convalescent state; but he soon after heard of his death, Dr. Fenton had no doubt of the death ensuing from an internal mortification in the abdomen, occasioned by the wound proved to have been inflicted by the prisoner John Kirby who was found guilty of wilful murder. (2)

Abraham Fenton was appointed Surgeon in 1821 and accompanied Captain Allman to Port Macquarie where a Penal Settlement was to be established on the recommendation of Colonel Erskine.

Others accompanying the expedition to Port Macquarie included: Lieut. William Earle Bulwer Wilson of the 48th (engineer), Stephen Partridge who came free on the General Hewitt in 1814 (Superintendent of convicts); a drummer, 3 sergeants, 2 corporals and 33 privates of the 48th regiment. Convicts included George Cooke a convict who arrived on the Batavia in 1818 and was to be employed as medical hospital assistant;  3 carpenters, 2 sawyers, a blacksmith, tailor, 2 shoemakers and 50 labourers. (5)

The Sydney Gazette reported on 24th March 1821:

The Expedition for the intended new settlement of Port Macquarie, under command of Captain F. Allman, of His Majesty's 48th Regt., sailed for its destination on Wednesday last. His Majesty's brig Lady Nelson, schooner Prince Regent, and Mermaid cutter, are the vessels that have taken down the troops, prisoners and stores. They landed there on 17-18th April 1821.

No tidings were heard from the settlement for some time and fears were held for their safety. Finally news reached Sydney that the expedition had reached their destination, although not without difficulty:

The three vessels, the Lady Nelson, the Prince Regent and the Mermaid, had met with contrary winds; and each of them in crossing or attempting to cross the bar at the entrance of Port Macquarie had been more or less injured. The Lady Nelson has experienced the most damage, so much so, that it will require a quantity of exertion and some time to make her once more sea worthy; the Mermaid cutter lost her rudder, and the Prince Regent's was unshipped; but was, in consequence of being supplied with the rudder belonging to the Lady Nelson, about sailing for Sydney. (6)

There were no casualties and the Commandant and other Officers with all those under them were reported to be in perfect health.

John Oxley was sent to survey the harbour and make it safer. He had buoys placed in positions on the bar and sunken rock in the entrance into the harbour, a code of signals was established, and a competent Pilot employed. When John Oxley returned to Sydney in July on the Mermaid he reported that the Settlement was in good health, and had a plentiful supply of provisions for some months. The Commandant, by great exertions, had eight acres of wheat sown and was preparing for corn, and every effort used to construct comfortable habitations for the troops.

Correspondence by Abraham Fenton to Captain Allman dated 23rd March 1823 reveal how difficult conditions at the settlement must have been in the previous two years.....Having latterly observed a disposition to a protracted convalescence in most of the those men who have been attacked with any disease as also that the small scratches, little ulcers with which individuals have been afflicted have in general required a longer time to heal than the slight nature of these would indicate, I take the liberty of suggesting that the want of fresh meat is the principal and leading cause and consequently avail myself of the occasion of stating my opinion on the subject, trusting you will coincide with me in the necessity of the sick being supplied with these articles at all times so essentially requisite the more so in this station where fresh meat has not been issued for a period of two years.

I, at the same time beg leave to recommend that a portion of lime juice should be occasionally issued and I am the more induced to this as I consider that a scorbutic diathesis has been removed by the use of it and regret that no supply has latterly reached this station. (3)

Abraham Fenton remained at Port Macquarie until about 1824 and was replaced by Francis Moran

Fenton Island and Fenton Passage near Telegraph Point were named after him.

He may have been one of the men of the 48th regiment who embarked on the Greenock, Asia and Sir Godfrey Webster when those vessels departed Sydney in March 1824 bound for Madras. (4)

Abraham Fenton died at Trichinopoly on 20 May 1825.(1)

 

Notes & Links:

1). 48th Regiment in 1821.....A List of the Officers of the Army and of the Corps of Royal Marines By Great Britain. War Office

2). In 1819 the Rev. John Gyles, a missionary from Otaheiti who  arrived on the Friendship in 1818, applied for a grant of land for the purpose of forming a sugar plantation, and suggested Port Macquarie, as a suitable place; but in February 1820 he returned to England in the ship Admiral Cockburn, and the plan was not carried out until three years later, owing to the heavy expenses it would have entailed. Mr. Gyles, however secured a number of plants for the district, and also went to Port Macquarie, where he surveyed the surroundings and reported to Governor Macquarie that Rawdon Island would be a good place for the plantation, but Governor Macquarie would not incur the responsibility of the undertaking and so referred the matter to England.

In 1823 the first sugar plantation was started at  at Port Macquarie, and sugar cane was planted by Mr. Thomas A. Scott a sugar planter from the West Indies who had been appointed by Captain Allman, then in charge of the district to manage a Government plantation of sugar cane, and in October, 1824 a sample of sugar produced was sent to Sydney. Genesis of the Sugar Industry in Australia - Sydney Morning Herald 1 January 1923

 

 

References:

(1) Asiatic Journal

(2) Sydney Gazette 16 December 1820

(3) New South Wales Government. Main series of letters received, 1788-1825. Series 897, Reels 6041-6064, 6071-6072. State Records Authority of New South Wales. (NRS 897) Main series of letters received, 1788-1825 Item: 4/1815 Page: 143 .(Ancestry)

(4) Sydney Gazette 11 March 1824

(5) Port Macquarie Convicts. Mid North Coast Library Service

(6) Hobart Town Gazette 23 June 1821

 


 

 

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