WEDGE, John Helder (1792-1872)

WEDGE, John Helder (1792-1872)
was born in England in 1792. He arrived in Tasmania in 1824 having been given a position in the survey department, and did some useful exploring, especially in the north-west of the island. He joined the Port Phillip Association and in 1835 after Batman (q.v.) had made his famous purchase from the aborigines, resigned his position as assistant surveyor-general, and sailing to Port Phillip, arrived on 7 August 1835 (J. Bonwick, Port Phillip Settlement, p. 249). He surveyed some of the country near the site of Geelong, and going on to the site of Melbourne on 2 September found an encampment formed by members of the party organized by Fawkner (q.v.). Wedge pointed out that they were trespassing on the land of the Port Phillip Association, and then went on to examine the land to the north of the Yarra. Wedge gave this river its name on 13 September. Some 20 years later writing to Bonwick he told him that "on arriving in sight of the river two natives who were with me, pointing to the river, called out 'Yarra Yarra,' which, at the time I imagined to be its name" (Port Phillip Settlement, p. 279). Wedge afterwards sailed to Portland and arrived there on 5 October. He returned almost at once to Port Phillip and learned on 13 October that the association was considering taking action to expel Fawkner's party. Wedge wrote a wise letter to his fellow members, pointing out that any action of this kind would "lead to the most disastrous results" . . . and that the government "under such circumstances would refuse to confirm their title to the land". How much influence this letter may have had is not known, but the expulsion project was abandoned.
When it was finally settled that the association would receive no title to the land bought from the aborigines, Wedge returned to England. He came to Tasmania again in 1843 and became manager of the Christ Church College estate. He also received a grant of 2500 acres of land, grew prosperous in his circumstances, and was generally respected for his high character. In 1855 he was elected a member of the legislative council and successively represented Morven, North Esk, Hobart, and the Huon in that house. He was a member of the Gregson (q.v.) ministry without office from 26 February to 25 April 1857. He retired from politics in 1868 and died on 22 November 1872. He married in 1843, but his wife died young. He had no children. Many of his sketches are reproduced in Bonwick's Port Phillip Settlement and some of his manuscripts are in the public library, Melbourne
The Mercury, Hobart, 26 November 1872; J. Bonwick Port Phillip Settlement; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • Wedge — This interesting and unusual surname, with variant spelling Wegg, Wege and Wegge, is of Anglo Saxon origin, and may derive from two possible origins. Firstly, it may be of topographical origin, describing someone who lived on a wedge shaped (i.e …   Surnames reference

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