The first free settlers arrived at Sullivan’s Cove with Lieutenant Governor David Collins in 1804. A few came specifically to establish farms but others were members of the military and civil establishment who opted to remain in the colony. A similar settlement was soon formed on the Tamar River in northern Tasmania and a few years later, numbers were boosted by the arrival of Norfolk Islanders.

However, the number of free settlers remained small until the 1820s when land grants based on the amount of money brought into the colony were offered to ‘suitable’ people with letters of recommendation. Many properties in the best farming areas between Launceston and Hobart Town were established by these immigrants.

Although huge numbers of migrants subsequently came to Tasmania under various assisted passage schemes many also came independently, some as cabin passengers on migrant or cargo ships and others in steerage. Often some members of a family would be eligible for a scheme while others paid full fare.

Landing at Sullivans Cove by Governor David Collins, Feb 29 1804. Small vessel is 'Lady Nelson', large vessel is the ship 'Ocean'.

Landing at Sullivans Cove 
Landing by Governor David Collins, Feb 29 1804. Small vessel is 'Lady Nelson', large vessel is the ship 'Ocean'.


Reverend Robert Knopwood

First settler, chaplain and magistrate – Rev Robert Knopwood
Knopwood arrived with Lieutenant Governor Collins as the colony’s first Chaplain. He obtained land in Battery Point and Rokeby, visited his flock on horse and by boat and left a fascinating diary of the first years of European settlement. In it he describes the noise of whales keeping him awake at night and meals shared with early officials and immigrants. Maritime Museum of Tasmania.

Black Snake Inn at Granton
Black Snake Inn, Granton 1839. (D’Umont d’Urville expedition)

Deserting ship – George Robinson
Since early settlement many seamen have come ashore in Tasmania and decided to stay – including George Robinson. As a young boy he joined the American ship General Gates on a sealing voyage. George had been at sea for four years with no end to the voyage in sight when he jumped ship in Hobart in 1822. He married, operated a schooner and coach service, and in the 1830s was licensee of several inns including the Black Snake at Granton. Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office.

Captain Smith
William Smith

William Smith
William Smith was a Samoan who became captain of several well known Hobart whaling vessels and still has numerous descendents living in Tasmania. Although the vast majority of new colonists were from Britain, whaling and trading ships brought men from all over the world and Hobart was home to many nationalities. Maritime Museum of Tasmania.

Mrs Lawrence
Mary Ann Lawrence by Henry Mundy, 1841

Wealthy migrants on their own ships - Mary Ann Lawrence
A few wealthy immigrants chartered or sailed their own vessels to Van Diemen’s Land. Mary Ann Lawrence was 27 when she arrived in Launceston in 1823 on the Lord Liverpool, a ship owned by her future husband, William Effingham Lawrence. He obtained large land grants and became a prominent colonist. A few years earlier the Salmon family migrated to Hobart on the Adamant which they chartered and loaded with a cargo of merchandise.  State Library of Victoria.

Immigrants arriving at Hunter Island (now Hunter Street), Hobart Town Van Diemen’s Land, by George Frankland c1827

NEXT: Assisted Migrants and Bounty Schemes