Dr. James Benjamin Harvey
A Link between Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln.
(by Dr. A. A. Lendon).
J. B. HARVEY, M.R.C.S.
On Boston Island there is a lonely grave where, in the early days of the Province, were buried the remains first of a doctor's wife, and then a few months later of the widower: no tombstone marks the spot, I am told, nor any enclosure. On some future trip to Port Lincoln I hope to be able to visit the Island.
Dr. J. B. Harvey was in the employ of the South Australian Company from February 1839 to October 31st, 1842. He succeeded Dr Lovel Byass, the surgeon to the settlement at Kingscote, K.I., some time after the Christmas of 1838, and whilst there acted also as collector of Customs, as the following interesting advertisement signed by him shows.
"Whereas on the night of Thursday 2nd May, a barrel containing 34 bottles of Cordial Spirit called Cherry Brandy (being about 5½ gallons more or less) was seized and condemned as contraband at the Port of Kingscote, Kangaroo Island, in this Province. This is to give notice to all whom it may concern that the aforesaid 34 bottles of Spirits will be sold by Public Auction at the bonded warehouse in the Port of Kingscote aforesaid on Tuesday the 4th day of June next at 12 o'clock at noon." May 7, 1839.
In the Government Gazette of June 30th, 1839, we read that "In the consequence of the reduction of the establishment of Kangaroo Island, His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to remove J. B. Harvey, Esq., to Port Lincoln as Collector of Customs, Postmaster, and Port Officer for that port.”
Dr. Harvey was a naturalist, and a Corresponding Member of the Zoological Society of London. On Kangaroo Island he made collections of shells for the Colonization Commissioners and for the Museum at Adelaide; for these he was thanked by the Governor in the Government Gazette of July 10th 1839. In the South Australian Magazine for December 1841 [page 210] there is an article by him dealing with the natural history of Port Lincoln.
For the early history of Dr. and Mrs. Harvey, we must turn to the pages of Mrs. Watts "Family Life in South Australia" (page 56). From this source we gather that in 1839 he was a bald-headed middle aged man : short in stature, ill-made and plain-featured : with an overweening sense of his own importance; self opinionated and dictatorial in the extreme. His talents as a naturalist were considerable — he was ever engaged either in search of marine animals or else catching insects. Another estimable peculiarity was an undisguised contempt for the intellectual capacity of women.
The wife [Sophia nee Fildes] was the very antithesis of him. Twenty five years of age at this time, and the mother of two lads, the legend was that Dr. Harvey had married her when not more than sixteen years old having attended her professionally at a boarding school in the South of England. Early in life she lost her mother, and became the pet and plaything of her father, a composer as well as an accomplished musician : himself, in delicate health, it is surmised that he had been persuaded into consenting to her union with this elderly beau for fear of leaving her unprotected and unprovided for. Soon after sailing on Kangaroo Island she developed the hereditary complaint of her family — consumption, and having lost her domestic helps, she had to do all the work of the establishment, see that the flag was hauled down, and even feed the pigs. In the women's eyes she was everything that was lovely and admirable— a skilled musician, and a sweet vocalist — of pleasing appearance and gentle unselfish nature. The husband Mrs Watts and the Giles family generally looked upon as a '"brute" and their estimate of his professional ability was not enhanced by the fact that a little brother died after a six day's' illness perhaps pneumonia, which Charles Simeon Hare,—that quaint Jack of all trades and master of none—confidently believed to be "typhoid fever, the result of sunstroke" : it appears evident indeed that Dr. Harvey failed to appreciate the gravity of the case and talked the usual rubbish about a severe cold.
In September 1840, E. J. Eyre, the explorer, failed in his attempts in the direction of Lake Torrens, worked his way down the western coast of Spencer's Gulf. On October 2nd he camped at White's River, within walking distance of Port Lincoln, and the following day surprised the residents by strolling over the hills into the township with Mr Scott. He called on Dr. Harvey, then the only Government Officer at the Settlement, to enquire as to the possibilities of getting supplies. The settlers had none to spare, nor was there any hope of obtaining them from the foreign Whalers then in Port. Dr. Harvey very kindly offered to let Eyre have some flour from a small stock belonging to the Government, which had been sent over to Port Lincoln to meet any emergency that might arise in so isolated a place, on condition that he, Eyre, would replace the same quantity at the first opportunity.
On the 4th, after breakfast, accompanied by Mr Scott, be went to Port Lincoln to attend Divine service : prayers were read by Dr. Harvey. The congregation Eyre described as small but respectable, and apparently devout. After service they accompanied Dr. Harvey home to dinner, and there met the Captain and Surgeon of one of the French Whalers in port, “L'Aglae.” Dr. Harvey and the Frenchmen took a round walk with Eyre and Scott, with whom they had tea at their camp. Dr. Harvey offered to put a temporary hatch over his small open boat of 4 or 5 tons, and to send her to Adelaide for provisions for £10. This offer Eyre at once accepted : Mr Scot to go as supercargo. Eyre found things very expensive at Lincoln, meat 1/ a pound, potatoes 9d., salt butter 2/6d. etc.
On the 6th Dr. Harvey was called to attend young Hawson, the 10 year old son of a squatter, the story of whose heroic conduct, after having been speared by the blacks, has oft been told : the boy succumbed to his injuries, but his memory has been perpetuated by a monument on a hill which is seen as tbe steamer turns round Kirton Point on nearing Port Lincoln. Eyre devotes many pages in his book to this tragedy, and to the whole question of our relationship to the blacks.
On October 24th Eyre rode into Port Lincoln, breakfasted with Dr. Harvey and took leave of him: he records that Dr. Harvey only accepted £5 for the use of the boat as it was not required on the return trip to Port Lincoln, and that the Doctor most kindly supplied him with some few small things which they yet required and that he was altogether most attentive and courteous.
Eyre left his camp next day for Streaky Bay on route for his famous, though terrible journey through to Albany. When they all left the Island the Giles family, more especially Minnie (after wards Mrs Watts), kept in touch with Mrs Harvey, and one day learnt to their sorrow that on December 8th, 1842 in an upper chamber over looking the sea she had breathed her last. Probably from this chamber she had gazed on Boston Island many a weary hour, and she may have had a fancy to be buried there. The legend that her husband passed the same morning in the house stuffing birds in a room underneath the sick woman's chamber, Mrs Watts might have charitably omitted. She seems rather pleased too, to record as a matter of poetic justice that in a few months time the husband, in spite of his boasted constitution and supposed medical insight, was taken alarmingly ill, and died in agonising torture from a surfeit water mellon.
Of the two children one "favoured" each parent, and supplied the necessary contrast of a mother's darling, and of a potential criminal or an ardent vivisector in the eyes of the onlooker. It must have been after his wife's death, I fancy, that he may have considered a project of leaving Australia. At all events another doctor who had been somewhat of a failure in Adelaide was hoping to succeed to the vacant post. In a letter from the Colonial Secretary the ex-Inspector of Hospitals (Dr. J. P. Litchfield) is in formed that "Mr Harvey has not yet intimated to the Government any intention of quitting Port Lincoln for India, etc."A Link between Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln. (1928, March 3). The Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 - 1951), p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article191546051
Graves On Boston Island
There are two unmarked graves on Boston Island. They are those of Dr. Harvey and his wife. This is the same Dr. Harvey who attended young Frank Hawson when he was murdered by the blacks. Harvey in the early forties was a kind of Government Pooh Bah at Port Lincoln - doctor, resident magistrate, harbormaster, collector, government store keeper, and a host of other things. In fact, he was the only Government representative there, and any odd job of a public nature that had to be done naturally fell to Harvey's lot—from finding provisions for Eyre when he started on his famous overland trek to Albany to enquiring of Mrs. Billjim [sic] why she had not given the quinine pills he ordered to her latest offspring. If I am able to give you an intimate though unflattering picture of Dr. Harvey it is because of the excellent record left of him by Mrs. Watt in her priceless account of family life in the province in the earliest days. She tells us that he was (in 1839) a bald headed, middle-aged man, short in stature, ill-made, and plain featured, "with an overweening sense of his own importance, self-opinionated, and dictatorial in the extreme." On the other hand Eyre describes him as "most attentive and courteous." Allowing for the fact, however, that Mrs. Watt was never backward in expressing her opinion on those she didn't like, and that it was obvious she detested Harvey, she seems to have had a better opportunity of studying the man than had the explorer, who knew him for only a few days. "Another estimable peculiarity," adds Mrs. Watt, "was an undisguised contempt for the intellectual capacity of women.
The wife was the very anthesis of him. Twenty five years of age at this time, and the mother of two lads, the legend was that Dr. Harvey had married her when (she was) not more than sixteen years old, having attended her professionally at a boarding school in the South of England.
Mrs. Harvey's Story
"Early in life," continues Mrs. Watt, "she lost her mother and became the pet and plaything of her father — a composer as well as an accomplished musician, himself in delicate health. It was surmised he had been persuaded into consenting to her union with this elderly beau for fear of leaving her unprotected and unprovided for. She developed the hereditary complaint of her family (consumption), and, having lost her domestic helps, she had to do all the work of the establishment, see that the flag was hauled down at night, and even feed the pigs. In the women's eyes she was everything that was lovely and admirable, a skilled musician, a sweet vocalist, of pleasing appearance, and gentle, unselfish nature. The husband was looked upon as a brute." It was this gentle woman who suddenly found herself thrust into the wilds at Port Lincoln at the very period when the blacks were waging their war against the whites. But let me complete her story as supplied to me by a descendant.
One day the Harveys sailed across the harbor to Boston Island. Mrs. Harvey was enchanted with the place. "When I die," she said, little knowing how close she was to the great call, "I want nothing better than to be buried here." She died in December, 1842, a few weeks after this excursion. Her remains were taken to the island and interred there. Her husband survived her by only a few months, and was also buried on the island.TOWNS, PEOPLE, AND THINGS WE OUGHT TO KNOW, Further Tales Of Port Lincoln, Pioneer Struggles And Early Day Episodes (1933) https://sites.google.com/site/sahistoryarticles/home/no-51-port-lincoln