Prior to European settlement, the foreshore was occupied and used by the Menang (Noongar dialectal group) and their ancestors. At the time of European arrival, the foreshore and its hinterland belonged to the family of Mokare. The head of the family was Mokare’s brother, Nakinah.
Point Frederick at the western end of the foreshore and now the location of the Museum of the Great Southern was known in Menang as Kalyenup.
The foreshore was used for gatherings and in the summer was a focus for fishing.
On 29 September, Commander George Vancouver, RN, captaining the H.M.S. 'Discovery', comes across a 'spacious sound' (King George Sound) and safe-haven harbours ('Princess Royal Harbour' - to mark the birthday of Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Augusta Matilda, and 'Oyster Harbour' - for the plentiful oysters found there), claiming "possession of the country" for England.
An unnamed American whaler was claimed in 1789 to have made a "way station" of King George Sound before Vancouver.
The transport brig 'Emu' under Lieutenant George Brooks Forster RN on his passage from Port Jackson, made a call to the Sound for purposes of water replenishment, coming into conflict with a group of local aboriginal people. Emu Point received its name from this visit.
“they were not however far from us, for the smokes of their fires were seen every evening; probably the fear of punishment kept them away, as they had formerly made rather a mischievous attack upon some of the Emu's crew”
Major Edmund Lockyer left Sydney on 9 November, arriving late on 25 December, anchoring at Princess Royal Harbour in the brig ‘Amity’ to claim the area for Britain, as instructed.
He and the commander of the ‘Amity’, Lt Colson Festing, went ashore the next day, scouting the area before selecting a camp site, then having stores and baggage boated ashore.
Commandant Edmund Lockyer (1784-1860) appointed two abandoned sealers and experienced seamen, John Hobson and George Thomas as the first King George Sound Pilots for the newly acquired waters and Harbour in January.
On 21 January (coincidentally Lockyer’s birthday) the colours were displayed and a gun salute formally proclaimed the British occupation. Lockyer declared the name of the settlement as Frederickstown, but this was never officially adopted.
The Brig 'Amity' departed for Sydney Town on 24 January, returning on 8 August, bringing the first three European women to live in the new settlement. They were the wives of soldiers and they also brought with them four children.
Traffic was not heavy due to restrictions placed on who could land there and consisted mainly of vessels on government business.
In 1828 there were 4 ships - including the Sydney-built 84 ton schooner 'Sydney Packet’, and in 1829 there were 8 visits, among these being American whalers and the brig ‘Amity’ for its final voyage to its eventual home.
On 2 May 1829 Captain Charles Fremantle arriving at Cockburn Sound in the frigate 'Challenger', formally took possession of the western coast of New Holland for the King and hoisted the Union Jack on the 'south head of the River' [Swan River]. Captain Fremantle later became Admiral Sir Charles Fremantle. The ‘Challenger’ was wrecked on the west coast of Chile in 1835.
The Harbour Master, Albany was appointed to be responsible for pilotage and light services at the port of Fredericks Town which was renamed Albany in 1832. Control of these functions was passed to the Harbour and Light Department in 1880. In 1926 responsibility for the port of Albany was passed to the newly created Albany Harbour Board which, in 1950, became the Albany Port Authority.
The Lieutenant Governor of the Swan River Colony, Captain James Stirling, RN, named the settlement, which was established by Major Lockyer, Albany, after Frederick, the Duke of York and Albany (a duchy in Scotland), who was the second son of King George III.
By that stage the King George Sound settlement had been downgraded to civil management under the Government Resident, Alexander Collie, a naval surgeon who took an interest in the local environment and the aboriginal population. Swan River Colony became the main settlement, due to the persistent lobbying of Stirling.
Collie then served from 1833 to 1835 in Perth and ironically died on 8 November 1835 in the house of his friend George Cheyne of Albany, en-route from Fremantle to Sydney.
“In running into King George Sound there is no danger through either channel...the former [Princess Royal Harbour] will admit ships drawing eighteen or nineteen feet water; the latter [Oyster Harbour]. Vessels drawing ten feet.”
Lt Peter Belches was the Harbour Master (1834 – 1845).