Wedge, John Helder (DNB00)

WEDGE, JOHN HELDER (1792–1872), colonial statesman, was born in England in 1792. He arrived in Tasmania in 1827, having received an appointment in the survey department. In 1828 he was ordered by government to make a preliminary survey of the country before the patent of the grant about to be made to the Van Diemen's Land Company was settled. In accordance with his report the grant to the company was increased from 250,000 to 350,000 acres, but his recommendation to reserve land at Emu Bay for a township was disregarded, though it was the only site suitable for a port not already in the company's possession. Some years later with Frankland, the surveyor-general, he explored the country from the headwaters of the Derwent to Fort Davey, tracing the Huon river from its source. In 1835 he went to Port Phillip as agent for a syndicate of fifteen Tasmanians to take up a large tract of land in the territory of what is now Victoria. Six hundred thousand acres were purchased by Wedge from the natives before the syndicate's expedition, led by John Pascoe Fawkner [q. v.], arrived. The purchase was disallowed by the Sydney government, though at a later period the syndicate received a grant of land in partial compensation, Wedge selling his share in 1854 for 18,000l. While at Port Phillip he aided in rescuing William Buckley (1780–1856) [q. v.], who had lived over thirty years among the Australian natives. After the collapse of this syndicate Wedge visited England, returning in 1843, with Francis Russell Nixon [q. v.], bishop of Tasmania, as manager of the Christ College estate at Bishopsbourne. In 1855 he was elected member of the Tasmanian legislative council for the district of Morven, and in 1856 for the district of North Esk. He was a member of the cabinet without office in Thomas George Gregson's short ministry from 26 Feb. to 25 April 1857. At a later date he represented Hobart, and afterwards the Huon in the legislative council, retaining his seat until his death. For many years he resided on his estate, Leighlands, near Perth, but in 1865 removed to the estate of Medlands, on the river Forth, where he died on 22 Nov. 1872. In 1843 he married an English lady who came to Tasmania with Bishop Nixon. She died soon after marriage without issue.

[Hobart Mercury, 26 Nov. 1872; Mennell's Australasian Biogr. 1892; Fenton's Hist. of Tasmania, 1884, pp. 79, 80, 128, 131, 271, 292; Labllière's Early Hist. of Victoria, 1878, pp. 50, 54, 60, 65, 70.]

E. I. C.