Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Henry Edward Dodd (c. 1752–1791)

by A. J. Gray

This article was published:

Henry Edward Dodd (d.1791), an experienced farmhand, who arrived with Governor Arthur Phillip as his personal servant, was found to be the only free man who could be employed 'in 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 David 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 the 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 so 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 (11.8 kg), 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 Watkin Tench visited Rose Hill in November 1790, Dodd informed him that 88 (36 ha) of 200 acres (81 ha) 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.

On 28 January 1791 the settlement 'sustained a great loss' when Dodd, who had been ill for some time, died. He was buried in the corner of a stock reserve which later became the burial-ground of St John's, Parramatta. His funeral was attended by all the free people and convicts at Rose Hill; these included some on whom perhaps a vague uneasiness may well have descended, for Collins suggested that Dodd's 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'. A stone erected to his memory still stands in St John's cemetery, but more significantly Collins's tribute endures. '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.'

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 1
  • W. Tench, A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson in New South Wales (Lond, 1793)
  • D. Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, vol 1 (Lond, 1798)
  • V. W. E. Goodin, Monumental Inscriptions, St John's Cemetery, Parramatta (Syd, 1964)
  • W. Dixson, ‘Some Early Pictures of Sydney’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 9, part 4, 1923, pp 198-204
  • J. F. Campbell, ‘Rose Hill Government Farm and the Founding of Parramatta’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 12, part 6, 1927, pp 353-77.

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Citation details

A. J. Gray, 'Dodd, Henry Edward (c. 1752–1791)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 13 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


c. 1752
White Church, Shropshire, England


28 January, 1791 (aged ~ 39)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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