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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Schaffer, Philip (?–1828)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Philip Schaffer (d.1828?), farmer, was born in Hesse, Germany, and served as a lieutenant in a German rifle corps under British command in North America. In 1789, at Governor Arthur Phillip's suggestion, the British government recruited nine farmers and others to be superintendents of convicts. One of these was Schaffer, then a widower with a daughter Elizabeth, aged 10; he was described as 'accustomed to farming'.

They sailed in H.M.S. Guardian in September. After she was wrecked off the Cape of Good Hope, Schaffer and four other superintendents were taken aboard the Lady Juliana at the Cape and reached Sydney in June 1790. Schaffer could not speak English well and, instead of remaining a superintendent, was established on 30 March 1791 as a farmer on 140 acres (57 ha) at Parramatta which he named the Vineyard. He was provided with a hut, tools, seed grain and two sows, and two acres (0.8 ha) were cleared for him. He and his daughter and four male convicts allotted to him were rationed from the public store for eighteen months. Thus, with William Reid and Robert Webb, seamen from the Sirius, he was one of the first three men who came free to New South Wales and were granted land. The deeds for grants to these three and to James Ruse were each signed on 22 February 1792, although the grants had been made earlier. By October Schaffer had twenty-seven acres (11 ha) under maize, two acres (0.8 ha) under wheat, one acre (0.4) of garden, one under vines and eight acres (3.2 ha) cleared for planting. The only other vines then recorded were on three acres (1.2 ha) in the governor's garden at Parramatta.

His later achievements did not match his early promise. In December Phillip granted him occupancy of a 100-foot (30 m) allotment in Sydney. In August 1797 Captain Henry Waterhouse bought the Vineyard for £140, and, though in 1806 Schaffer held sixty acres (24 ha) granted at the Field of Mars in 1794 and sixty acres (24 ha) of purchased land at Redbank, he had only eighteen acres (7 ha) under grain crops. On 14 October 1811 he married Margaret McKinnon, according to John Dunmore Lang, a former convict from Skye, who had arrived in the Royal Admiral in 1791. In 1814 Schaffer was still farming at Parramatta. He was a recipient of government cattle and in 1816 was granted fifty acres (20 ha) at Narrabeen. In November 1825 he and his wife were granted a hundred acres (40 ha) 'for their natural lives'; however, Lang wrote that 'old age, poverty and intemperance' caused Schaffer to sell his land piecemeal. He died about 1828 in the Benevolent Asylum, where his widow was also an inmate.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 1-3
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 1
  • J. D. Lang, An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales (Lond, 1837), 45-48
  • Land grant registers (State Records New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Schaffer, Philip (?–1828)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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