Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Colonial Events 1798

Estimated white population approximately 5,000

January 2

Wilson's Promontory and Phillip Island sighted by George Bass

January 14

An exploratory party consisting of four convicts, their guards and John Wilson who arrived on the Alexander and John Price a free man, servant of Governor Hunter, set out in January 1798, under instructions from Governor Hunter, to prove to convicts that there was no colony beyond the fringe of settlement.

January 25

George Bass arrived at Phillip Island

February 9

Three men returned to Sydney after their exhausting stint in the bush around Cowpastures. They brought with them a Lyrebird described by David Collins as a variety of bird of Paradise. According to George Barrington in History of New South Wales, John Wilson, a convict who had lived for some time with the natives, was the first person ever in the colony to shoot a 'bird of paradise'. Wilson also had the distinction of Rescuing Charles Grimes when he was attacked by natives at Port Stephens in 1795. Wilson himself was later speared and killed by natives.

May 14

Hail Storm in Sydney stones 6' diameter

May 14

The Nautilus arrived in Port Jackson with Missionaries rescued from Otaheite - It was the unanimous opinion of the whole body that it was a call in Providence for the married people to leave the Island, as they could not continue there in safety, and take passage on board the Nautilus for Port Jackson. We accordingly made known our situation to the captain and requested a passage in his vessel, which he readily granted. We sailed from Otaheite the 31st March1 198, leaving seven unmarried Missionaries upon the Island, and arrived at Port Jackson May 14th. On our arrival we were favourably received by the Governor who immediately put us on the public store, and gave us every assistance in his power. - The Conneticut Evangelical Magazine.

May 18

Arrival of the Barwell. Master John Cameron. Passengers included Hunter Valley settlers McDougall and Bowman families; Richard Dore, deputy Judge-Advocate, and 287 male prisoners. Convict lawyer/poet Michael Massey Robinson was transported on the Barwell.

July 18

Arrival of the Britannia. Master Robert Turnbull. Surgeon Martin Mason

October 1

Fire destroyed the first church in Australia.......The settlement's first church was a wattle and daub building built in 1793. Built near the intersection of the present day Hunter and Castlereagh streets, the cost of the building, approximately 67 pounds, was provided by Rev. Richard Johnson. Lieutenant-governor Francis Grose, who succeeeded Phillip, was just as reluctant to provide any funds or labour for an official church. The building was a T-shaped design with a nave 75 feet long by 15 feet. The transepts were 40 feet by 15 feet. The church had a thatched roof and an earthen floor and could seat 500. During the week the building served as a schoolhouse where the Rev. Richard Johnson and his wife, Mary, taught between 150 and 200 children. Johnson was not re-imbursed for the costs until 1797. Johnson's church was in use until 1798 when allegedly a group of disgruntled convicts burnt down the building in response to Governor Hunter's decree that all residents in the colony including officers and convicts were to attend Sunday services. -
State Library NSW

Locked in a safe in Sydney's St Philip's Church, the Fleet Bible has been signed by every monarch to visit Australia in the past century. In some cases the Bible was taken to Government House for the occasion. Church rector Reverend Justin Moffatt says the book has an 'extraordinary place in the European history of Australia'. Brought out in the First Fleet, the large leather-bound Bible is inscribed with the address of Botany Bay. It is believed to have been used by chaplain Richard Johnson to conduct the first Christian service in the colony....The Bible is charred in places, bearing the marks of a fire in 1798 that destroyed Sydney's first church. - Bible Museum


Arrival of the Norfolk from Bengal with cargo of merchandise and stock

October 7

Departure of Bass and Flinders on the Norfolk to investigate the possibility of a strait north of Van Diemen's Land.


Supplies of clothing urgently needed.....Suffer me here, my dear sir, to beseech you to recollect that the whole colony are actually naked; that no cloathing worth mentioning has been received here for more than two years. The Sylph, storeship, brought the last supply and I mention'd then that the whole or nearly all, we then receiv'd would be immediately issued to cloath the people Since that time the most studied economy has been practised to endeavour to cover the nakedness of the people and at this moment the anxiety which I experience from daily and hourly petitions is excessive. Not a blanket to wrap themselves up in during the night, and I fear for the consequences to the general health of the settlement....Governor Hunter to Under Secretary King 1st November 1798 (HRA Vol2, p234.)

November 7

Government Order issued requesting that names of female servants be forwarded to authorities.

December 1

Merchandise in the colony at exorbitant prices.

A Letter home to England written in 1798.....
Portsmouth Telegraph or Mottley's Naval and Military Journal
February 3, 1800 New South Wales
Extract of a letter from Mr. Black of the ship Indispensable dated Sydney, Port Jackson Dec 1., 1798 'I am as yet unable in inform you when I shall leave this place. It is doubted that the ship must be condemned here; and her cargo sent home by some other conveyance, in consequence of the iron work in her bottom being defective, which we fear cannot be repaired here. She is, however, now out on a cruize. Living ashore here is excessively expensive, every article of provisions bearing a most exorbitant price; at this time mutton is 2s pr lb; goat's flesh 1s 6d.; port 1s 3d; fowls abut 4s and 5s; geese 12s; tea 3 per pound; spirits 50s per gallon, and other things in proportion. The demand for spirits is beyond conception. There are in the Colony about 6000 inhabitants, and upon a moderate calculation, it is computed they expend 100 gallons weekly, notwithstanding the repeated positive orders of Government to prohibit the importation of that article.'


Drought in the summer of 1798 - 99.