Our First Farmer
Henry Edward Dodd was an experienced farm hand, who arrived with Governor Phillip, a servant of his since his days as a farmer in the New Forest. Dodd was found to be the only free man who could be employed cultivating the lands on the public account.
In February 1788 he supervised clearing and hoeing operations at the head of Farm Cove and soon had a few acres under corn. Early in November 1788 Phillip established a military outpost at Rose Hill. He entrusted the supervision of convicts sent there to commence farming to James Smith, a free man who came from England in the Lady Penrhyn intending to proceed to India, but who was permitted to remain at Sydney Cove. He was soon found unequal to the task and was replaced in March 1789 by Dodd.
This man, wrote Collins, joined to much agricultural knowledge a perfect idea of the labour to be required from .. the convicts; and his figure was calculated to make the idle and the worthless shrink if he came near them. Although a number of convicts at Rose Hill increased steadily during the year, the military guard was reduced in October. Dodd’s ‘influence’ was such that military coercion was not as necessary as when the settlement was first established’
That Dodd was no mean gardener was apparent to all who saw the ‘plentiful and luxuriant’ produce, including a cabbage weighing twenty-six pounds, which he sent to Government House in 1789, a few days before Christmas.
In February 1790 Phillip reported that 100 convicts were working under the direction of this very industrious man and that the corn produced was exceedingly good. When Tench visited Rose Hill in November 1790, Dodd informed him that 88 of 200 acres cleared and prepared for cultivation were under wheat, barley, oats and maize. Tench was mildly critical of certain procedures, but readily appreciated the practical problems.
Captain David Collins wrote on Friday 28 February 1791, Henry Edward Dodd the superintendent of convicts employed in cultivation at Rose Hill, died of a decline. He had been ill for some time, but his death was accelerated by exposing himself in his shirt for three or four hours during the night, in search after some thieves who were plundering his garden… The services rendered to the public by this person were visible in the cultivation and improvements which appeared at the settlement where he had the direction. He had acquired an ascendancy over the convicts, which he preserved without being hated by them; he knew how to proportion their labour to their ability, and by an attentive and quiet demeanour had gained the approbation and countenance of the different officers who had been on duty at Rose Hill.
The funeral for Henry Edward Dodd, was attended by all the free people and convicts at Rose Hill. He was buried in the corner of a stock reserve, which later became the burial ground of St John’s Parramatta, New South Wales. His grave being marked by a large flat stone inscribed with his name and the year of his death, but more significantly Collin’s tribute endures.
Article by Geoff Grant for the February 2005, Folio
Ralph and Sarah Dodd baptised Henry Edward on 1 September 1784 and his sister Ann on 10 November 1753 at Hodnet, Salop, Shropshire, England.
Henry, aged 34, from White Church, Salop, appears as Edward Dodd on the muster of Sirius, which he joined as able seaman on 27 December 1786. His name remained on the books of Sirius until his death.
Dodd left a will (made on 14 January 1791 and proved 20 June 1792) in which he named as joint executrixes his mother Sarah widow of Ralph Dodd and now or late living at Hodnet, Salop, and my loving sister Ann Dodd, the latter to inherit after her mother’s death.