Port Phillip Apostle No 2 Thomas Herbert Power

I must admit that T. H. Power isn’t exactly a household name to me, although he did die in Hawthorn so perhaps he is the namesake for Power Street Hawthorn?? (not sure)

It is thought that he was born in Carrick Waterford in 1801? and was Catholic.  His father was a merchant, although I have no further details about that.  He arrived in Melbourne from Launceston in 1839 and established himself as an auctioneer in Collins Street between 1839-1846, his firm becoming one of the three principal station and stock-selling houses in Port Phillip. Garryowen describes his auction rooms as a one-storey store-like structure facing Queen Street, but many of the auctions during the land boom took place in specially-erected tents, complete with champagne refreshments.

He owned property himself:  Mt Misery (!!) at Dandenong Creek 1841-1844 and again Feb 1853, June 1856; Portland Bay in 1842; Eummering 1846-53; Acheron 1848-9; Diamond Creek 1850 and Strathmerton 1856-60.

Entrepreneurial Lesson #1 from T. H. Power: find the silver lining in every cloud.  He formed a depot for cattle awaiting sale and started boiling-down works during the 1842-3 depression. Do not under-estimate the importance of boiling-down: it was the development that pulled Port Phillip out of the 1840s depression.  The process was pioneered by the squatters William Wentworth and Henry O’Brien, who found that a previously unsaleable wether weighing 25kg could be boiled down to 12kg of tallow, which could be sold for 5-8 shillings. Wealthy landowners e.g. Bolden, Ryrie, Curr and Dr Thompson at Geelong soon moved into the industry as did our Thomas Herbert Power.  Tallow works were established along the Yarra, Salt Water (Marybyrniong) and other waterways, regularly swept away by floods and contributing no doubt to the piquancy of the Port Phillip air.  Tallow exports from Port Phillip increased enormously from 56 tons in 1843 to 480 tons the following year, reaching a peak of 1506 tons in 1848.

He doesn’t appear to have had great social visibility in Port Phillip, at least compared to some of the other “apostles”.  He inserted an advertisement in The Port Phillip Herald of March 25 1842 notifying of a reward for the return of a bundle of notes- three five-pound notes and twelve one-pound notes (fat chance, I’d say).  He attended the Separation Ball to mark Victoria’s separation from NSW on 28th November 1850, but “did not hand in the descriptive card” (whatever that means).  At the Victorian Industrial Society Exhibition of 1851, he won a prize for the best hog and the colonial best mare.

His civic contribution was more substantial- indeed, as Garryowen points out, he was one of the few “Knights of the Hammer” who were involved in public life.  He was on the Richmond Bridge Committee of 1850, and served on the National Board of Education.  He was a director of the National Bank 1860-66 and a Commissioner of the Savings Bank of Victoria.  He served as a member of the Legislative Council between November 1856 and September 1864.  He died in Hawthorn on 28th November 1873.

References:

  • Re-member: a database of all Victorian MPs since 1851
  • A. S. Kenyon ‘The Port Phillip Boom and its Results’ The Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings Vol XII, IV, 1926 p. 202-223.
  • Finn, Edmund  The Chronicles of Early Melbourne
  • Billis, R. V. and Kenyon A. S. Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip

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