History of West Australia/Chapter 11
CONDITION OF SETTLEMENT, AGITATION, AND NATIVE TROUBLES.
GENERAL REFLECTIONS ON AGRICULTURAL PROGRESS—EFFECTS OF WEEDING PROCESS—STATISTICS OF AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY, AND FIGURES AND FACTS CONCERNING ACREAGE TILLED AND LIVE STOCK POSSESSED—SHEEP IMPORTED AND CATTLE SHOW—DEATHS IN FLOCKS—DESCRIPTIVE BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF FREMANTLE—THE HALF-WAY HOUSE—PERTH—FARMS ON SWAN—GUILDFORD—ESTATES ON HELENA AND CANNING—SETTLERS ON THE MURRAY AND AT AUGUSTA—KING GEORGE’S SOUND—THE CONDITION OF SOCIETY—CAPTAIN STIRLING KNIGHTED AND RETURNS TO WESTERN AUSTRALIA—SOME RESULTS OF HIS MISSION—LISTS AND SALARIES OF MEMBERS OF CIVIL ESTABLISHMENT—OTHER APPOINTMENTS—POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT ESTABLISHED—STRANGERS ADMITTED TO SITTINGS OF LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL—BUDGET PROPOSALS, AND TREATMENT BY MEMBERS—INFLUENTIAL PUBLIC MEETING, WHICH BOLDLY SPEAKS ON ECONOMIC CONDITIONS AND APPOINTS COMMITTEES—PETITION FOR CONVICTS FROM KING GEORGE'S SOUND UNSUCCESSFUL—ISSUE OF ONE-POUND NOTES BY GOVERNMENT—ANOTHER FAMINE NARROWLY AVERTED—ACREAGE UNDER CROP AND NUMBER OF SHEEP IN 1835—SALES OF LAND—MINDS OF SETTLERS TURNED TO PASTORAL PURSUITS—SIR JAMES STIRLING'S TRIP TO YORK AND TO THE SOUTH-WEST—SURVEYOR HILLMAN EXPLORES THE HOTHAM—THE GOVERNOR AGAIN GOES TO YORK—REPORTED REMARKABLE JOURNEY BY TWO LADS EAST OF KING GEORGE'S SOUND—SECOND EXPEDITION TO THE HOTHAM—MR. THOMAS PEEL AND HIS TRIBULATIONS—COLONEL P. A. LATOUR—THE UNEMPLOYED—WRECKS—DEATHS OF DANIEL, ELLIS, COLLIE, AND THOMPSON—DALE AND BANNISTER LEAVE COLONY—THE UBIQUITOUS NATIVES—CAMPAIGN RESUMED ON THE SWAN—LIVE STOCK KILLED—ATTACK A SHEPHERD AND FIRE THE COUNTRY—WOODCUTTERS PROTECT THEMSELVES—A NATIVE BATTLE—POSITION IN MARCH—GOODYAK WHIPPED—MR. SHENTON AND HIS MILL MOLESTED—ESCAPING NATIVE SHOT—WEEIP HAS REVENGE AND IS OUTLAWED—MORE DEPREDATIONS—THE BUSH PATROLLED—HOW WEEIP CONDONES HIS OFFENCE—MURDERS ON THE MURRAY—BATTLE AT PINJARRA; THIRTY NATIVES KILLED—CAPTAIN ELLIS WOUNDED, AND DIES—NATIVE INSTITUTION ESTABLISHED AT MOUNT ELIZA—SWAN RIVER MISSION ESTABLISHED IN DUBLIN—REMARKABLE TRACKING OF A LOST CHILD—TROUBLES IN 1835.
EACH year agriculturists were slowly clearing and breaking more of their land and pastoralists were increasing their flocks. A steady progression was taking place, more evident in the appearance of selections and towns than in actual profits obtained from years of toil. A community with objects which it had learned to understand was now at work, and was supervised or governed by a settled staff of civil officers drawing regular salaries. The sturdy stuff of early settlers was showing itself; out of the languor begot by disappointed hopes and personal hardships had come vitality. They had learnt from a not too happy experience the colonists' lessons, and while emerging from the cloud of despondency and the period of heart-breaking toil which confers no immediate reward, they looked anxiously for the gifts which futurity held. Rest was not yet for them; overcoming the first obstacles only brought them to new ones, which, if not as great, demanded as big a heart to surmount; they saw that many years must elapse ere they could expect to realise some of the lustrous dreams of pre-colonisation. But flitting gleams of light appeared on the industrial horizon, which inspired them with more confidence and renewed energy.
Those individuals who so loudly predicted the early failure of the Swan River Colony, and the impossibility of its ever becoming self-supporting, seemed to be prophets of a low order of intelligence. Compared with the initial difficulties and the progress made in other colonies in similar periods, the settlers of Western Australia had done passing well. Originally they not only had enemies in their own rash hopes, and the lack of efficient management by the administrative authorities in England and the colony itself, but they had to battle against heavy odds in a lazy soil, in distance from every other settlement, and in the more recent trials with the aboriginal race. They had suffered hunger rather than kill their flocks and herds, and although they had not applied their energies with such a concentration of effect as men more experienced would have done, they had been ploddingly persistent. The weeds had withered from the colony, giving better opportunities to the bonâ-fide colonists who remained. Certain men whose enterprise and labour would have been useful, had unfortunately gone away, while a proportion of inefficient persons still resided in Western Australia; but substantially the turmoil, natural enough in incidence, had by compensating law removed excrescences.
In 1834, the directors of the Agricultural Society prepared statistics, showing the number of live stock, and the quantity of land cultivated, in the colony. The figures were:—Numbers of acres in wheat, 564; barley, 100; oats, 116; Kaffir corn and maize, 29; potatoes, 15; other crops, 94; fallow, 118; and vines, half-an-acre. The live stock was represented by 84 horses, 78 mares, 307 cows, 96 working cattle, 97 bulls and steers, 3,545 sheep, 492 goats, and 374 pigs. It was a distinct advance on the figures of the previous year; the area under cultivation would have been still larger but for the scarcity of seed. The irregular supply of wheat for flour caused many settlers to use up the grain which they had stored by for planting. The directors of the Agricultural Society pointed out that some people had sown on inferior land, or with insufficient tillage, and some had sown too late. They noted other reasons for congratulation. Nearly every kind of European fruit tree and shrub had been introduced, and all appeared to thrive. Tropical fruits, especially the date and banana, were given a trial, and the nucleus of those groves of banana trees known to Perth residents in recent years was formed. The white mulberry luxuriated, and figs and grapes were produced and described as equal to any grown in other parts of the world. Peaches and olives gave great promise, and the growth of vegetables was designated as superior, with common culture, to what could be obtained in England.
Then the horses, cattle, and sheep included excellent strains of the best breeds in Great Britain; in their numbers also were fine animals imported from other colonies. Owing to the small quantity and mixed description of wool, and bad packing, the prices obtained for that article in London were not more than 2s. 2d. per lb—a low return in those days. But by the experience already gained it was expected that the returns would be more satisfactory in the future.
Mr. Bland wrote a message of hope to the Society from York. He was one of the largest flock-owners in the colony, and regarded the land on the Avon as excellently adapted for sheep pasturage. It was healthy, and would keep on the average one sheep to three acres. The grass seemed to increase where sheep had pastured most, and he believed a larger proportion of stock might eventually be kept.
Settlers were entering more extensively into pastoral pursuits, and private persons were importing ventures of live stock from other settlements and selling them locally. In the latter part of 1834 and in 1835 the stock in the colony was largely increased by these means. Shipments of hundreds of sheep arrived, and were sold at £2, £2 15s., and £3 each. Practical shepherds were in great demand. Settlers owning flocks too small to warrant the engagement of a shepherd, came to arrangements with other settlers, by which their respective flocks were united. A charge of £25 per hundred was made for pasturage, or else a proportion of the annual increase was awarded. Herds of wild cattle were occasionally seen on the Murray, and their splendid appearance proved how excellent was the vegetation there for them.
On 6th November, 1834, a Cattle Show was held in Perth, under the auspices of the Agricultural Society. Some splendid horses, cattle, and sheep were exhibited, and supplied a useful lesson to the assembled pastoralists. A dinner was held in connection with the show, when didactic speeches were delivered by the more experienced colonists.
Numerous and unknown deaths continued to take place in the flocks. The opinions promulgated by Mr. Harris were still believed in, and various methods were adopted to defeat the deadly effects of the epidemic. Numbers of stock died in 1834, and when the settlers began to send their flocks and herds over the mountains to the Avon River the list of mortality greatly increased. Some thought that the young and succulent grass was causing the evil; others that the change of climate and the weakness engendered by rough travelling were to blame. Flocks in the Swan River country were attacked by a strange blindness, and blood-letting was largely resorted to. Indeed the deaths of sheep and cattle were becoming exceedingly serious. One settler, in March, 1835, sent a herd of goats over the mountains, and to the astonishment of all 53 took suddenly ill and died. Another pastoralist despatched stock in the same month to the Avon, and he lost on the journey 93 sheep, 3 bullocks, and 14 goats, and his troubles were accentuated by natives attacking his drovers. No one yet divined the true cause of this heavy death rate.
These figures of the Agricultural Society, though puny enough, denoted some progress; the signs were many. The visitor arriving in the colony and inspecting the settled districts saw numerous evidences of man's struggles with a sullen nature. On sailing into Cockburn Sound, to make a general tour of the settlement, his roving eye rested on a large octagonal building of white cut stone, whose bold position commanded attention. It was situated near the edge of the precipice at Arthur Head, and was used by the Government. Fremantle had merged into a small but neat village with a few streets, some of which had been macadamised. The houses were constructed either of white stone or of painted wood. There were several hotels, and the principal one greatly resembled in comfort and appearance an English country inn. This was a favourite resort of invalids from India, whence vessels often sailed to Swan River. Perth could be reached either by horseback or by boats on hire. A regular system of passenger boats was established, and the trip up the river was pleasing and even romantic. Ferries were stationed at Preston Point, Mount Eliza, and Guildford, on the Swan, in 1834, by which horsemen or footmen could cross the river. A road led direct from Preston Point to Perth; over billowy hills and through an open forest exhibiting a bright garniture of colours. The half-way house established at Claremont, was built of stone, and stood two storeys high.
Perth was much more scattered than Fremantle. It presented a pretty sight as it lay half concealed among the fine trees which the woodman's axe had spared. St. George's Terrace extended for about a mile along a ridge running parallel to the Swan River. Most of the houses were of wood, but some were of brick. The quarters which had been erected for the officers and private soldiers, the Gaol, and the Commissariat Stores, were the most conspicuous features in the picture. Several shops and merchants' stores ranged in promiscuous array among small private houses; signs upon the doors or windows, often painted in primitive designs, acquainted one with their special business. Straggling over the immediate landscape were modest houses shaded by old monarchs of the woodland; openings in the streets and trees disclosed views of the somnolent river flanked by dark bushy banks and hills. Across the river at Point Belches Mr. Shenton early in 1834 erected a mill which stood sentinel at the entrance to Perth by boat. Perth now enjoyed the comfort of several inns, and one in particular, kept by a discharged soldier of the 63rd Regiment, was an unexpected delight to travellers.
Horses and boats were to be had on hire as in Fremantle. Either means was used to get to Guildford. By road the distance was reckoned about seven miles, and by water, now the canal across the flats was completed, nine miles. This canal was but a quarter of a mile long and yet it was estimated to shorten the distance by three miles, so sinuous was the river's course. Numbers of pleasant looking homesteads nestled on the banks of the Swan above Perth. By perseverance and skill the land had been greatly improved. The most notable estates were those of Messrs. Hardy and Clarkson on the "Peninsula." These gentlemen utilised their properties for agriculture and grazing. They had reared a race of handsome horses from English and Cape breeds. Mr. Joseph Hardy erected, almost wholly with his own hands, a neat and comfortable dwelling, and his out buildings and whole arrangements bespoke the work of a careful and experienced man. The house was constructed of stakes driven into the ground, and interlaced with wattles. Mud was used for mortar, and the whole was plastered and made to present a smooth surface. The roof was fixed without nails, except those fastening the rafters. The lathing was secured by rope yarn; the covering was a thatch of fine rushes.
Other farms ornamented the Swan to Guildford, then an industrious village containing a store or two and numbers of small cottages standing back, each surrounded by two acres of ground. Flowers clustered near the walls, which with gardens and neatly fenced fields gave a charming air to the sleepy village. Most of the cottages were inhabited by small farmers, who received town grants from the Government.
Upon the Helena, joining the Swan at Guildford, was some of the richest soil cultivated in the colony. The first estate was that of Sir James Stirling—the Woodbridge. His rustic country residence was beautifully situated on a high bank which overhung the river, and commanded a view of two fine reaches of water. The estates and residences within a mile or two of Woodbridge were principally those of Messrs. Walcot, Tanner, MacDermott, Ridley, Whitfield, Thompson, Trimmer (2), Wells, Lewis, Boyd, Brown, Drummond, and Captain Meares, late of the Life Guards. These evinced numerous examples of becoming thrift, and were so charmingly situated that, though quiet, they made enviable rural residences. Lieutenant Roe owned an estate in the same neighbourhood, but so laborious were his professional duties that he had no time to improve or develop his land. The properties of Mr. Tanner and Mr MacDermott were particularly well advanced, while Captain Meares had shown as much energy as a settler as he had displayed when a cavalry officer.
Higher up the river were the establishments, attractive in their sequestered nooks, of Dr. Harris, Messrs. Andrews, Yule, Lennard, Brockman, Moore, Tanner, Shaw, Brown, Burgess, Bull, Leake, Macke, and Irwin. All had perseveringly laboured in their fields, and infused such spirit into their agricultural and pastoral pursuits as to encourage settlers throughout the colony. To them the improved condition of affairs in 1834 is largely due. To-day, while more of this country is denuded of trees, it presents not so pleasant an appearance, nor does it show such entertaining examples of the peaceful pastoral arts. The way, so far as dwellings go, is almost more deserted now than then, and many of the old farms have been allowed to drift back to the untilled condition of prehistoric days. The home-life, the mutual goodwill, the eager desire to advance, the rural peacefulness, the symbols of man's handiwork, are not now as then.
Two roads connected Perth with the Canning district. One of them ran from the horse ferry over the Swan at Mount Eliza; the other approached the river via Guildford. Both were good bush roads, suitable for cart traffic. The principal proprietors on the Canning in 1835 were Major Nairn, Messrs. Phillips, Davis, Bull, Yule, Hester, Gregory, Bickley, Leroux, Drake, Morgan, and Captains Bannister and Pegus. Major Nairn was, according to one writer, the most successful cultivator of all these. He had purchased an estate from Mr. Phillips, and was boldly enterprising in its improvement, and also in introducing live stock from Van Dieman's Land and India. He had been associated with the 46th Regiment for nearly half a century, and now in his new capacity was as good a husbandman as any settler in the colony. Kelmscott existed almost only in name, for though several capitalists had taken up their residences there in earlier years they had by this time removed, owing, probably, to the situation being too remote from the markets.
The road from Guildford to York was rendered extremely circuitous, caused by rocks, trees, and streams. It was substantially the same as that cut by Mr. Dale. About midway between Guildford and York on an isolated farm, an inn, built early in 1834 or late in 1833. It was already known as the Halfway House. The town locations of York were fifty acres each, and were surveyed near the base of Mount Bakewell. Messrs. Bland, A. Trimmer, and Heale were the largest settlers; the two first-named possessed a flock of 1,500 sheep. Sir James Stirling states that at the end of 1835 these gentlemen were in a most prosperous condition, and opined that did Mr. Bland live he would become man of great wealth. The Governor further writes that he was doing his utmost to promote investments of money in sheep, in consequence "of the extraordinary profits which sheep farming there is expected to yield." Colonists with land at York were striving to form a company to purchase sheep to stock the Avon district.
Messrs. Peel, Hall, and Captain Byrne (late of the Rifle Brigade) were the chief settlers on the Murray. They were congregated a few miles inland. Few other grantees lived on their selections, principally because of the hostile and determined character of the Murray River natives. These three gentlemen were making improvements, and Mr. Hall was showing singular firmness and intrepidity in residing among the blacks away from the other settlers. He mingled with the natives, and spent days in the bush alone with them, and thus acquired a knowledge of their habits and language. With their aid he was conducting comparatively large fishing operations.
Augusta, with its few cottages and luxuriant fields, its background of dense woods, and, past the shore-line, the roaring roll of the Southern Ocean, was quite a romantic place. The costclearing their plots had at first been discouraging to settlers, but when fine crops of wheat, barley, Indian corn, oats, and potatoes sprang from the ground, they viewed their surroundings with more confidence. Captain Molloy, Mr. Turner, the Messrs. Kellum and the Messrs. Bussell still formed the main stays of the district. Captain Molloy had served in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo, and now devoted his attention in this remote part of the world to agriculture and to grazing. He possessed in 1835 a fine productive garden at Augusta. The Bussell family, consisting of the widow of a clergyman and her five sons and three daughters, were plying their secluded toil about twelve miles up the Blackwood. The eldest son was a graduate of Oxford, and often was he to be seen attending to his agricultural and pastoral duties with a book of Horace or some other famous classical work in his hand. The daughters were as useful in the pioneer labours as the sons, and it was largely through their aid that this excellent family became so primary a factor in the development of the south-west districts of the colony. The Messrs. Chapman had a selection higher up the Blackwood. The population of the Augusta district at the beginning of 1835 was estimated to be one hundred. They lived in almost uninterrupted friendliness with the natives. A movement was on foot in England, started by a lady friend of one of the settlers, to collect subscriptions for the erection of a church at Augusta.
King George's Sound still remained in a state of torpor, although some of the settlers, particularly Sir Richard Spencer and the Messrs. Cheyne, were striving to improve their holdings. The people looked fervently to the opening up of roads inland which should lead to pastoral and agricultural areas, while they advocated the formation of a whaling company. Whalers and sealers continued to put into the Sound.
The condition of society in the whole of Western Australia at this period was decidedly agreeable, and bespoke a greater refinement than is usually to be found in new countries. The excellent education of the chief settlers, and the amiable accomplishments of their families, gave such opportunities for reciprocal communion as to afford delight and edification, and to render their situation almost enjoyable. Hospitality was as characteristic of the settlers as formerly, and the current of goodwill flowed with unabated continuity. Lady members of certain families were as helpful in advance work as the males, and many are the stories which might be told of their self-sacrifice and courage. Although they had been bred in luxury they quickly adapted themselves to the conditions of colonial life. While they became interested in colonial aspirations they did not forget, says one writer, to sedulously cultivate the elegancies of life, and their moral courage and unmurmuring perseverance were denominated as noble and elevating.
On 19th August, 1834, Captain Stirling returned from England. Captain Daniel occupied the position of Lieutenant Governor until May, 1834, when, owing to ill-health, he was relieved for a fortnight by Captain Picton Bete. The arrival of the Ambassador was made almost a gala occasion, and many people went off to his vessel—the James Paterson—to welcome him back.
Addresses were presented to him, and he was heartily greeted even by those who disagreed with his administration. The British Government had conferred a knighthood on Captain Stirling, and had raised him from the rank of Lieutenant-Governor to that of Governor of the colony.
For two years Sir James had been absent from the colony, engaged in advocating its interests and subserving its welfare at the seat of government in England. The results obtained were practically those mentioned in the preceding chapter; and, whether the new conditions or the renewed animation and eagerness in colonial enterprise caused the uprising, from that year, for an extended period, a more progressive spirit was distinctly apparent. The public expenditure was placed on a different footing in regard to the Civil and Military Establishments. Revenue derived from the duty on spirits and the sales of Crown lands, a Colonial Fund, or Grant in aid, assigned by His Majesty's Treasury, was deemed sufficient to meet existing exigencies. This last would be allocated locally; and as it was provided the members could be nominated to the Legislative Council from among settlers who should be independent of Government and acquainted with the wants and resources of the colony, a judicious application of the money was confidently anticipated. It was some years before these members were admitted. The land laws were liberalised so far as to allow the occupants of land to sell any part of their holdings previous to the conditions of improvement being fulfilled. The Colonial Store was closed but for official purposes, and to ensure colonists against famine the Government intended to keep in the Commissariat Stores sufficient of the necessaries of life to meet pressing demands. These supplies were obtained from local sources or from outside the colony as circumstances permitted. The military was increased.
On the 26th August, 1834, Governor Stirling issued a notice giving the list of members of the Civil Establishment of Western Australia, with their respective salaries; and a set of instructions for the regulation and management of public business in the various departments. The Civil Establishment was made more comprehensive than previously. First on the list appears the name of Sir James Stirling, who was designated the Governor, Commander-in-Chief, and Vice-Admiral, with a salary of £800 a year. He was allowed a confidential clerk at £150. Mr. P. Brown, or Broun, received £500 for titling the offices of Colonial Secretary, Colonial Registrar, and Clerk of Council. His first clerk received £25, and two others had £50 each. The salary of Mr. J. S. Roe, the Surveyor-General, was £400; and those of the Rev. J. B. Wittenoom, Colonial Chaplain, £250; Dr. Collie, Colonial Surgeon, £273 15s.; Mr. H. Sutherland, Collector of Revenue, who was stationed at Fremantle, £200; of the Government residents—at King George's Sound, Sir Richard Spencer, £100; Fremantle, G. Leake, £100; Augusta, J. Molloy, £100; Guildford, F. Whitfield, £100; the Advocate-General, Mr. G. F. Moore, £200; Chairman of Quarter Sessions and Commissioner of Civil Court, W. H. Mackie, £300; Clerk of Peace, A. Stone, £100; Sheriff, H. Donaldson, £100; Gaoler, H. Pinson, Fremantle, £100; Harbour Masters—King George's Sound, P. Belches, £100; Fremantle, B. Scott, £100; and Schoolmasters at Perth, Fremantle, King George's Sound, Guildford, and Augusta were provided for at £50 each. These comprised the total number of civil officers employed in Western Australia in 1834.
The Secretary for the Colonies decided that Mr. W. H. Mackie should be the Chairman of the Court of Quarter Sessions, and also the Commissioner of the Civil Court. On 22nd August, 1834, Sir James Stirling appointed Mr. G. F. Moore to the position of Advocate-General, with several subsidiary offices, principally that of Commissioner of Roads and Bridges, with Mr. J. S. Roe as his coadjutor. Captain Mark J. Currie had previously resigned his office of harbour master at Fremantle, and had left the colony. On 22nd November, Mr. R. H. Bland was gazetted Government Resident at York, and Mr. R. McBride Brown succeeded Mr. George Leake (resigned) at Fremantle. Messrs. P. Belches and Alex. Cheyne were gazetted Justices of the Peace on December 13; and on the 28th January, 1835, Mr. William Nairn, of Maddington Park, Canning River, was appointed to a similar position.
Late in 1834 an act was passed providing for the establishment and regulation of a Post Office; and on 31st January, 1835, Mr. Charles Macfaull was appointed principal postmaster in the colony, at Perth; Mr. John Bateman, postmaster at Fremantle; and Sarah Lyttleton, at Albany. The rates of postage were published at the same time. A charge of 3d. was made for every single letter or package received in the colony from beyond the seas for delivery in Albany, Fremantle, or Augusta. Letters or packets exceeding one ounce in weight cost 6d., with 6d. for every additional ounce. For letters entering the Fremantle Post Office from beyond the seas for delivery in Perth, the fee for one ounce was 6d., and 10d. for every additional ounce.
Among the first decisions of Sir James Stirling after his return was to permit the presence of strangers at the sittings of the Legislative Council. It was required that members of this pioneer political body should attend the Council in full dress. In the remote and struggling settlement, containing only a few hundred inhabitants and having matters of comparatively small importance to deal with, a remarkable dignity was thus imported into the proceedings. The Governor sat in naval uniform; Captain Daniels, who succeeded Captain Irwin as commander of the Military Establishment, appeared in his military uniform; and the officers of the Civil Establishment were dressed in blue coats with red collars, on which were large buttons containing an impression of the Crown.
Several bills occupied the attention of this august assembly during the next few months. In March the Budget proposals of Sir James Stirling were laid before the Legislative Council. This document embodied proposals of importance; was the first of its kind, and contained plans for revising the revenue and adjusting the expenditure of the colony, which had been decided upon during his Excellency's visit to England. People were anxious to know how the proposals would be treated, for they did not seem to think them either judicious or useful. One member of the Council said the Governor himself had misgivings, and feared the Council would not agree. He read a long address to the House, and the Council was resolved into a committee to consider the Estimates. The members asserted their independence, and dissented generally from his proposals, and suggested the substitution of others. The principal difference in opinion was on the subject of the expense laid upon the shoulders of taxpayers to maintain the police corps, and in the end the item was reduced and others were increased which in the eyes of the members met the more urgent wants of the colony.
The public had largely spurred on the members to take this firm stand at an influentially attended meeting of settlers held a few weeks previously. The intentions of the Government were in the main those published in the synopsis of proposals of the English Government in 1833. The people were not wholly satisfied with the new arrangements made by Sir James Stirling, but they did not voice their sentiments until the alterations were definitely decided upon. They had many grievances, the severity and multiplicity of the various points of which were aired at their gathering. The chief settlers were not afraid to boldly express their opinions upon the Imperial proposals, and the methods which should be adopted to ameliorate existing infelicities.
The Sheriff, Mr. H. Donaldson, convened this public meeting by requisition, and it was held on the 16th February, 1835. The chair was taken by the Sheriff, and numerous resolutions were carried. The first referred to the alterations in the constitution of the Legislative Council, by which the Government could nominate private members, and asserted that such a method was inefficient and out of harmony with the true spirit of the British Constitution, and perfectly unsuited to the circumstances of a free and taxed population. Colonists asserted that it was their constitutional right to elect their own delegates, and it was decided to request the authorities to abjure this arbitrary system of nomination until the Governor granted the settlers the right of returning representatives by popular suffrage. Mr. Tanner moved this resolution and Mr. Burges seconded it. The same gentlemen carried a resolution opposing the continuance of the police corps, on the grounds that it was unnecessary to and burdensome on local resources, so long as the military was stationed in the colony. The money required to maintain the corps, it was affirmed, could be applied to more beneficial objects. The third resolution, moved by Mr. W. Trimmer and seconded by Mr. Phillips, declared that the contemplated expenditure in the colony exceeded, by a large amount, its resources, and to meet such expenditure additional taxation would have to be levied, which colonists were not in a position to bear.
The next resolution, proposed by Mr. Trimmer and seconded by Mr. Meares, affirmed that, in order to secure the most beneficial application of the public funds, the particulars of colonial expenditure should be published for general information. It was accordingly determined to petition the Local Government to issue the necessary directions. The fifth resolution maintained that the taxation per head in the colony was nearly equal to that in England, and requested that no further tax should be imposed until colonists were represented in the Council.
The sixth dealt with the Land Regulations, and condemned the departure, in 1832, from the original terms promulgated by the Colonial Office in 1829, in that it entailed great hardships on the settlers. The meeting desired that a request should be conveyed to the Home Government that the spirit of the old terms should be adhered to, and that location duties performed on one part of a grant should be estimated as fulfilling the requisite expenditure, according to amount, to obtain the remaining parts of the grant.
The public did not at this time know the extent of grants made to military, civil, and naval officers. No returns had been published, and a resolution was carried asking that full publicity be given to the facts and figures. Moreover, they were dissatisfied with the tenor of despatches received from the Home Government, which they considered inexplainable, except on the probable ground that the Imperial authorities were not in full possession of trustworthy information concerning the colony, of the form or quality of the settled grants of land and of the class of society to which the greater portion of the settlers belonged. It was therefore recorded as highly expedient that full and sufficient information on these points should be forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
A committee was appointed, in which was reposed the duty of carrying these resolutions into effect. Messrs. W. B. Andrews, W. Trimmer, D. Thompson, M. MacDermott, W. Buttes, J. W. Hardy, M. Clarkson, A. Waylen, W. Samson, T. R. C. Walters, G. Leake, T. W. Yule, W. L. Brockman, J. R. Philipps, — Trigg, S. Knight, J. Morrell, and Major Nairn were elected. Still another resolution was tabled and received the assent of the meeting, deciding that this committee should be a standing committee until full and free representation in the Legislative Council and all the other objects of the meeting be obtained. It also requested and empowered Mr. W. Tanner, who was about to leave the colony for England, to act as agent in the motherland.
Before the gathering dispersed, some discussion took place upon the projected establishment of a bank. A resolution was carried, expressive of the opinion that such an institution would conduce to the best interests of the colony, and a committee was appointed to collect information and to take such steps as might appear necessary to induce the directors of a bank at that time established in London and carrying on business with the Australian colonies to open a branch in Western Australia. The committee was composed of Messrs. Leake, MacDermott, Yule, Clarkson, Trimmer, Moore, Walters, W. H. Mackie, Tanner, Philipps, Leake, and Captain Meares.
Although the matters dealt with by this influential assemblage of settlers were of serious import to the colony, they obtained little attention for a long period, and it was only after continued representation and the eventuation of plainly construable circumstances that the authorities granted some of the requests. Most of them were just and equitable, but to bring them into the region of practical activity was so difficult that an alteration of the existing conditions, and extensive consideration, were necessary antecedents. Several matters referred to in the resolutions asked for such radical changes in the constitution of the colony that only an increased growth, a greater importance, and industrial prosperity could warrant the Government to agree with them.
The settlers who had congregated in greater numbers at King George's Sound in the last few months were equally impressed with the necessity of alterations in the economic conditions surrounding them. But, probably by reason of the traditional influence of the semi-convict settlement in that district, they looked to forced labour as the best relief from their troubles. Finally, they decided to draw up a petition to the Imperial Government embodying their views. It was circulated among the settlers about Albany in the middle of 1834. The preamble affirmed that the colony was established upon the principles of free labour, and took into consideration the objections of settlers to the presence of convicts, but went on to assert that the difficulties of forming connecting links between the different settlements, and the necessity for extensive development work to secure prosperity and advancement, could not be overcome except by the introduction of convicts. They did not arrive at his conclusion because of any deficiency in the natural capabilities of the place; on the contrary they were still persuaded that it possessed paramount advantages. But the settler had no inducement to expend capital in raising agricultural produce without having lines of communication and a settled market in which to dispose of his commodities. Such a condition could only be attained with the assistance of convicts. The document concluded by declaring that "it is the unanimous opinion of your petitioners that should this settlement ever advance under the present system, it can only be at the sacrifice of the first settlers and their entire capital." They therefore humbly trusted that His Majesty's Government would take the case into consideration, and afford them that assistance of convicts which the circumstances of the colony required.
The petition was signed by George Cheyne, R. S. Mundil, J. W. Lee, T. B. Sherrart, S. Jackson, D. S. Geake, Charles Lee, H. D. Wall, G. M. Cheyne, Patrick Taylor, J. P. Lyttleton, Joseph Sinclair, Andrew Gordon, R. W. Maddocks, Richard Earl, and H. Townsend. The people of Western Australia did not agree with the prayers of their fellow-colonists at King George's Sound. They had strong objections to their pioneer population being contaminated with convicts, and wished to work out their redemption by their own labour and that of free men. No more signatures were obtained, and the memorial was not looked upon in a serious light.
Notwithstanding the increased area of land cultivated, a scarcity of provisions continued to harass settlers in 1834, and the old requirements of ready money and specie as a circulating medium still confronted them.
So attenuated had specie become as a medium of exchange, that the Government, on January 10, decided to issue one-pound notes from the commissariat office. These notes were signed by Deputy-Assistant-Commissary-General Lewis, and countersigned by two members of the Executive Council, and were made payable on demand either in specie or Treasury bill. The commissariat store was at this time found to be too small for the rush of work, and it was decided to erect a new building. A tender of £2,930 was accepted, and in April Captain Daniel laid the foundation-stone. Large settlers also issued notes.
For some months people waited patiently for the arrival of vessels containing wheat and other provisions, and prices rose in consequence of the delay. There was little visible stock on hand, and for some singular reason the Government was not at first able to cope with the position. Finally the Government schooner Ellen was despatched across the ocean for a cargo, and the authorities also requested shipmasters to bring provisions to Fremantle. For some unrecorded cause none of these ships arrived within the expected period, and the position of the colony was rendered most dangerous. Quantities of the previous year's crop had been used for seed, while most of the remainder had been consumed.
Each week the position became more critical, and anxiety was general. On September 13, 1834, the Government found it expedient to adopt some system of economy in the daily consumption of the wheat foods the colony possessed, whether in the Government store or in the possession of private individuals. On that date Governor Stirling issued a notice stating that the daily allowance to labourers indentured to settlers must be reduced to half a pound of meal or flour, and increased to 1½ lbs. of meat. All labourers in the employ of the Government were similarly affected, and persons able to purchase flour were allowed to obtain, on application to the Colonial Secretary, a weekly quantity of flour from the public store not exceeding for each adult 3½ lbs. The prices to be charged were—flour, 1s. per lb. wheat, 8d.; and barley, 4d. All holders of these commodities were requested to place them at the disposal of the Government at the same prices. His Excellency earnestly enjoined families in possession of supplies to exercise in their consumption that scrupulous frugality which private interest and public duty so imperatively demanded.
This precaution was as a good omen, for a few days afterwards vessels providentially arrived which, according to the Perth Gazette, saved the colony from early impending starvation. The Mary brought from the Cape 438 bags of flour, and the Government schooner Ellen landed 25 tons from Mauritius. Early in the following month the Jolly Rambler, from Java, and the Jessie, from Mauritius, arrived with cargoes of flour, sugar, and rum. The captain of the Jessie refused to break his cargo unless he received £40 a ton for flour, and 6s. a gallon for rum.
A second time Western Australia narrowly escaped the throes of starvation. In January, 1835, flour was sold at 6d. per lb., notwithstanding that the harvest had replenished the granaries. In June similar prices ruled, but in December a plentiful harvest reduced rates, and wheat was sold as low as 8s. a bushel, and fresh meat at 1s. 2d. and 1s. 3d. per lb.
The year 1835 was devoid of any startling incidents; some progress was made in agriculture, and an increase took place in the number of live stock scattered over the colony. It was estimated that 1,579 acres of land were under crop, and that the number of sheep had increased to 5,138. From one return it is gathered that between 1829 and 1835 one hundred and sixty three ships came to the colony, the total tonnage of which was 32,000, with imports valued at £394,095, and passengers numbering 2,281.
Some large areas of land were sold in 1834-35 by private individuals at 4½d. and 6d. an acre. The sales of Crown lands were small.
Slight efforts were made in exploration within the same period, and attention was centred on the country beyond the "mountains." Sir James Stirling made several tours through the settled districts, and a Government expedition examined new country. The minds of settlers looked towards the interior. The reports of great pastoral stretches opened up more attractive vistas for colonial careers than did the laborious tilling of the soil, and though people were now obtaining some practical results from their years of severe labour, they became anxious to combine with agriculture what they deemed the easier and safer pursuit of stock breeding. The Governor himself strove, late in 1834, to induce people to take up land between Swan River and King George's Sound. He wished to settle that country upon which Captain Bannister had made such flattering reports. With a better regulated administration he felt less fear in opening up new country and scattering his people over large areas. Moreover, the presence of an increased number of military led him to believe that they could be the more efficiently protected.
In November, 1834, Sir James, accompanied by Captain Blackwood, visited York in order to observe what advance had been made in that settlement. He was so well pleased that upon his return he appointed a Government Resident at York, and encouraged people to more enterprise in stocking their pastoral stations. Early in 1835 he journeyed to the south-west settlements to learn how they had progressed during his absence.
It had previously been ascertained by Mr. Moore that the Swan and Avon Rivers were joined. In December, 1834, a party left Perth under Surveyor Hillman to explore the land on the banks of a river which had previously been observed, and was named the Hotham. The explorers returned to Perth early in 1835, and their report encouraged settlers. In the Hotham district, about 130 miles from Perth and 50 from Port Leschenault, they found excellent pastoral reaches containing an abundance of water. The atmosphere near the river was cool, and even in the midst of summer the grass was green. Pasturage was so plentiful that innumerable kangaroos bounded before them on every side, and the district seemed to be the native home of the cockatoo. The loud discordant notes of these fine but noisy birds so filled the air that it was difficult for the explorers to hear each other speak. In every way the trip was a successful one.
In September, 1835, the Governor again went across the Darling Ranges to the valleys of the Avon and into the surrounding country. He calculated that he examined over 300 square miles of prime grazing ground, and this announcement caused an additional leaning towards pastoral pursuits over the hills.
In October it was reported to Sir James Stirling that a remarkable journey had been made by two boys east of King George's Sound. The lads accompanied a party of sealers along the southern coast, and becoming disgusted with the depravity and barbarity of their companions, ran away from them when about 400 miles to the east of Albany. They trailed along the coast towards the settlement, and after laborious travelling, severe privations, and constant dread of being lost in the wilderness, they reached Albany, principally by means of the friendly assistance of the natives. The particulars and confirmatory accounts of the journey are meagre.
A second expedition set out to explore the Hotham River in October, 1835, and the members of it determined to push on to the Williams River, as well as contiguous country. Sir James Stirling; Lieutenant Roe, Mr. Norcott, Captain Bull, and several others went forth on this occasion. After making their way over the hills, they came to the Williams and Hotham districts, and there separated; some returning home by way of York, some through Kelmscott, while the Governor and Lieutenant Roe went further to the south-east. Captain Bull described the country as disappointing in the general quality of the land. It was suitable for sheep pasturing, but contained little alluvial land for wheat. Sir James Stirling considered the same country to contain large stretches of good grazing land. It was undulating; the hills were grassy; the soil was a light red sandy loam; the rocks were represented by whinstone, granite, and ironstone, and the trees mainly by the casuarina. An abortive scheme was set on foot at Sydney in 1834 by Captain Bannister and Mr. Clint to mark out an overland stock route to Perth.
The pioneer, Mr. Thomas Peel, had during these years been in great tribulation. His labour was not applied to the best advantage; his servants were dissatisfied and caused him constant trouble; and he was in sad need of ready money. He had been compelled at intervals to sell off part of his stock to obtain capital to go on with, and he sold at less than half the original purchase money. By his indentures with his servants he was bound to pay them daily wages, generally three shillings per day; like others, he invested most of his capital in stores and live stock, leaving very little for current expenses to tide him through the development period to a self-supporting stage. Hence he suffered keenly, and he early found it convenient to allow his people to work for other settlers, with the reservation that he could recall them when he chose. He arranged that if any servant desired to be discharged from his indentures he would relieve him upon payment of the passage money. This opportunity was availed of by some servants; but with the remainder he still had his difficulties. Law was often resorted to, and several of his people were imprisoned for breaches of their indentures. Among the large number introduced was a splendid class of experienced men, and in this regard Mr. Peel conferred salutary benefits on the colony. Not only did he suffer as already described, but he lost considerably on his stores and his live stock by destruction.
The Governor more than once repaired to Mr. Peel's grant to improve matters. In 1834 he went down to choose a more convenient site for the headquarters than Mr. Peel's original station. Pinjarra was his choice, and there he determined to establish a town. Mr. Peel had made extensive improvements, considering the obstacles he had to level, and it was deemed regrettable that one who had been such a primary instrument in establishing the colony, and had introduced so much capital and so many people within its boundaries, should be placed in a distressing position. Despite impediments he had sufficiently improved his grant of 250,000 acres as to obtain the fee simple in 1834, and he immediately offered 100,000 to a projected company for 2s. 6d. an acre, but a bargain was not made.
Colonel P. A. Latour, who introduced large capital in stock and servants, and received grant of land amounting to 113,100 acres on the Swan and Helena Rivers and at Leschenault, also suffered. So disappointed was he with the land he obtained, and the early evanishment of his capital, that he determined to leave the colony. The dimensions of his investments were nearly half those of Mr. Peel, and, as with the pioneer, he served the colony well in introducing large numbers of people, but he had not heart enough to remain in it through its first struggles.
The Government was still pestered by the demands of the unemployed. Immediately a man required a situation he applied to the Government for assistance, and the Colonial Secretary's Department often resembled a labour bureau. The officials arranged with settlers to give the most needy of these men employment on special terms, and the Government itself placed them on improvement works.
In July, 1834, a sensation was caused in Perth, when rumors were circulated by natives that a wreck had taken place thirty days journey north of the Swan. The aborigines averred that they were informed of the fatality by the blacks of the north country. The wreck, they said, had taken place six months before. Men, women, and children were still alive on the shore in tents. The ship was quite destroyed by the sea, but a large quantity of money like dollars lay on the beach. The rumor was of painful and absorbing interest both to the Government and the settlers. The site of the wreck was calculated to be Shark's Bay, and numerous suggestions were made for procuring the relief of the supposed wrecked people, whose sufferings were conceived to be intense. It was at first proposed to send out an expedition on horses, but finding that £500 was the least capital necessary the idea was abandoned. A small vessel was commissioned by the Government to sail direct to Shark's Bay, and thence to scan the coast north and south. The native Weeip, who was now an outlaw, was approached by a settler and asked to convey messages to the scene of the wreck. Weeip agreed to certain terms and set off, but found no shipwrecked people. The vessel returned with a like result. It was at first considered probable that the alleged wreck was the ship Mercury, which sailed under the auspices of the Calcutta Colonisation Company in 1833, On August 28, 1834, the Cumberland, a small cutter, left Fremantle to proceed to Augusta. Not long after her departure a heavy storm came up; the ship did not reach her destination. Conjecture was general as to her fate, and it was not until late in the year that it was learned: Her master, Mr. MacDermott, was well known at Perth, and much sorrow was felt for his almost certain death. The wreck was discovered on Penguin Island in October by a fishing and hunting expedition. The members of the party seized all the stores they could and made away with them, but did not report the wreck. Captain MacDermott was found buried on the spot where the vessel broke up. The disgraceful action of the pillagers leaked out and seven men were arrested. One turned King's evidence, and three of the men were sentenced to fourteen years' transportation, two to seven years', and a lad associated with them to six months' imprisonment.
In 1835 the colony had lost the services of six of its most active men. Dale, the explorer, went to England late in 1834; Bannister was in the eastern colonies; Captain Daniel died in Perth in the middle of 1835; Captain Ellis a few weeks later; and Dr. Collie, while about to leave King George's Sound for England, succumbed in a decline. Dale, Bannister, and the last-named gentleman contributed greatly to the early exploration of Western Australia. Collie was a successful naturalist, and was compiling a work on Western Australia. In 1835, also, Mr. Thompson, who accompanied Messrs. Dale and Moore on the expedition to found York, and on the journeys made to the south and north of that district, when the Toodyay Valley was discovered, was drowned in the Swan. He had been visiting a settler near Guildford, and at night started on his return home to Perth. The friend stood on the bank while Thompson proceeded to cross the river in a boat. It is supposed that the boat swamped. The body of Mr. Thompson was found a few hours afterwards.
The agreeable respite from native attacks which lasted for some months after the death of Yagan, was rudely broken in 1834. After that occasion great fear seemed to seize upon the aborigines which held them aloof from the white men, but when the excitement and irritable feelings calmed by time they again began their irregular and indiscriminate warfare. Weeip, the chief of the mountain tribe, was now their chief leader, and notwithstanding his barbaric subservience to native law he was so intelligent as to grasp something of the light in which Europeans looked upon murder and robbery. With such consummate promiscuity did these blacks carry on their depredations that the whites could not tell where the blow would next fall. One day it was on the Swan River, the next it was many miles away. They did not appear to know themselves, except in those cases where their laws or superstitions required immediate revenge on some European.
In February, 1834, the campaign was resumed on the Swan. For some weeks the blacks, emboldened by the quiescence of the whites, had been congregating in increasing numbers near the settlers' homesteads. An opportunity occurred for spearing the white man's stock, and they yielded to the temptation. They speared and killed the pigs of one settler, and the sheep of another. Moreover, a few days later, when the shepherd of Mr. Brockman attempted to keep them away from his flock they threw spears at him, but did no harm. Other small troubles cropped up. Accidentally, or otherwise, areas of settled country were fired by them, and caused some loss to pastoralists. Their presence became a constant menace, and a spirit of opposition again arose among the Europeans. Woodcutters at Rockingham, Clarence, and in the immediate Swan River country so feared native spears that some of their number watched on the rising ground in the forests while the others felled and prepared the timber for market. The farmers and pastoralists were often compelled to have their stock protected by servants with offensive weapons.
They would not brook this necessity long, and even those who were before friendly said they would not greet natives kindly until some amends had been made for the losses and annoyances sustained from them. Still greater numbers of blacks wandered through the Swan River bush in March, and caused additional uneasiness in the minds of the community. A native battle took place on the Upper Swan, and was construed to be the forerunner of serious complications. After the aborigines anointed themselves liberally with grease and dramatically hurled fierce imprecations and threatenings at their adversaries, the whole scene was terminated in the mere wounding of one warrior in the side and the spearing of a girl in the arm and the leg. When this ridiculous climax was reached they all appeared as friendly as before.
About the middle of March the natives became more bold, the colonists more uneasy, and the Government puzzled as to what should be done. It was not humane to disperse them by bloodshed, nor could sufficient of them be cast into prison. Some advocated the wholesale removal of them to an island. Late in the month Goodyak was caught stealing from a store at Guildford. He was arrested and taken prisoner to Perth. The soldiers were paraded, the Lieutenant-Governor drew nigh, and Goodyak was bound and was given a dozen lashes on the back, and a promise of more did he repeat his offence. He was then released.
The next raid by the natives was an audacious one. A few of them crept to the mill of Mr. Shenton, at Point Belches, opposite Mount Eliza. They seized that gentleman and his servant, and, holding spears to their prisoners' breasts, threatened to kill them if they cried out for assistance. Others, meanwhile, rifled the mill of all its flour and wheat. One of these natives was afterwards shot dead in the bush, and three were taken prisoners. Two received fifteen and twenty lashes respectively, the third sixty, and all were detained in custody until the 14th June, as hostages for the good behaviour of their tribe, which was that inhabiting the Murray River district. In April a number of natives went to the house of Mr. Burges and stole seventeen bushels of wheat. Yeedamira was taken prisoner and incarcerated in the Soldiers' Barracks near by. He was not there long before he attempted to escape, and Dennis Larkins, a soldier, shot at and killed him.
Weeip, Benguin, Godalswood, and others were determined to have revenge. Mr. Norcott was foolishly convinced that the lessons taught the natives would hold them in fear, and he was confident that they would not seek to revenge these cases of shooting. He rode among the settlers on the Swan and told them this, but he had hardly completed his journey before the blow of retaliation fell. Weeip and his companions went to the barracks where Larkins was stationed, and appeared disposed to be friendly. Weeip talked with Larkins and the other soldiers, shook hands with them, and took his leave. The soldiers were now off their guard, and at a signal from Weeip a shower of spears was hurled at them. Larkins was leaning against the wall, and one spear penetrated his body with such force that it struck the wall behind him and rebounded out of the wound. Larkins fell dead, and a woman and child near him had a narrow escape. An inquest was held on the soldier's body, and a verdict of murder was returned against Weeip and several other natives. Weeip was outlawed, and a price of £20 was put upon his head, for he it was who threw the fatal spear.
This daring act frightened the settlers. The air became thick with rumours of depredations and murders, most of which were not true. Danger was believed to exist to the bodies of every individual. The Governor was in a greater dilemma than before, for he was loth to take severe retaliatory measures. The troubles were given a greater importance than they deserved. Captain Ellis and his police corps penetrated the surrounding country in search of offenders. They seized several and inflicted whippings, but they could not come upon the particular object of their search, Weeip, Yagan's friend.
There was more stealing and more killing of stock on the Swan and Canning in June. Goats, pigs, and sheep were the sanguinary sacrifices for the revenge of the black men. An attack was made on a shepherd and his sheep on the Canning, but was not serious.
A system of patrolling the bush and woodland in the Swan River country was inaugurated in July, and had the effect of frightening and dispersing the natives, but they soon returned and resumed their peculiar warfare. Mr. Bland's cart while proceeding to York was attacked by natives near Green Mount, and one man was wounded. Another cart was previously surrounded, and one man was killed and another wounded near the same spot. A soldier took an opossum from a native, and gave it to his dog for food. The natives retaliated by spearing a colt valued at £40, the property of Mr. R. Lewis, a selector.
Weeip continued to defy the efforts of Captain Ellis and his police to take him prisoner. He was known to be in the district all the while, and, like Yagan, often visited the homesteads of settlers. He was such an intelligent native, and his crimes seemed so excusable, that some of the settlers did not wish to place him in the hands of the police. His opportunity for restitution came when it was rumored that a wreck lay on the shores of Shark's Bay. He was promised by Mr. Moore that if he conveyed a letter to the people believed to be cast helpless on the land, his son, who was in prison, would be released, and he (Weeip) would probably obtain a pardon. It was a bold enterprise. The intervening country was inhabited by enemies, and the southern blacks viewed the northern tribes with fear. Weeip decided to risk his life. A companion threw in his lot with him. A letter was rolled into a ball and placed in Weeip's belt, and the two natives set off. They had to walk hundreds of miles, but they accomplished the journey, and the intrepid hardy warriors returned to the Swan after many days. They told strange stories of their experiences. As a reward, the outlawry of Weeip was removed in September, and his son was released.
The scene of bloodshed was now centred on the Murray River. The system of patrolling was still carried on over the Swan country, and kept the natives in check. For the remainder of 1834 they committed no more murders there, although they occasionally purloined small articles, such as potatoes and flour, from gardens and huts. So strongly did the blacks press upon the whites on the Murray, that it was seriously proposed to abandon settlement in that district. The first attack, in 1834, was made upon two settlers named Budge and Morrell. The former was killed and the latter severely wounded. The barracks of the soldiers was in an advanced situation up the Murray, but so dangerous and fierce did the natives become that it was removed nearer to the seaboard. On the 15th July, Mr. Barron, a late sergeant in the 63rd Regiment, and now a settler, proceeded to the Murray River to effect the exchange of a valuable mare with Mr. Thomas Peel. Upon arrival at Mr. Peel's estate he learned that the mare was in the bush. Mr. Barron, accompanied by Nesbit, a servant of Lieutenant Armstrong's, and two natives, went out to look for the animal. They were soon joined by nineteen other natives, and all scanned the bush in company. At a certain spot Barron leant forward in his saddle to look at some tracks pointed out to him by the natives. While in this position he was speared in the back. As he galloped away a spear struck him in the side and another in the arm. Turning on Nesbit, the treacherous natives killed and horribly mutilated his body, and then made off. Barron recovered; Nesbit's remains were found on the following morning.
The Battle of Pinjarra eventuated from these incidents. While the Swan River natives were quiet Captain Ellis decided to take a body of his police to the Murray to apprehend these cruel murderers. He left Perth in October, and Sir James Stirling also went to the Murray on business connected with Mr. Thomas Peel. The destruction of European lives and property by the ferocious tribe of Kalyutes placed the authorities, so they state, under the painful but urgent necessity of meting out severe punishment. With such facility and so little opposition had the Murray blacks carried on their raids that they now deported themselves in an unbearable manner, and with impunity threatened the settlers with death.
Upon arrival in the Pinjarra district an expedition was organised. It was composed of Sir James Stirling, Lieutenant Roe, Captain Meares and his son, Captain Ellis, Mr. Thomas Peel, Mr. Norcott, Mr. Surveyor Smythe, Mr. Peel's servant, five mounted police, a soldier to lead a pack horse, two corporals and eight privates of His Majesty's 21st Regiment. On the night of the 27th October bivouacked at a place called by the aborigines "Jimjam," about ten miles E.N.E. from the Murray mouth. An abundance of luxurious green grass grew upon this reach of the river, and great trees provide shelter for the wanderers. Before six next morning, wrote Mr. Moore, the twenty-five men were in motion, and were on the alert for any indication of the presence of natives. They steered to the south-east for the proposed site of a town, which was to be named Pinjarra, where it was the intention of Mr. Peel to establish his headquarters, and where Sir James Stirling intended leaving part of his force, including the military, to establish a barracks. This was a well-loved rendezvous of the natives.
The ford near Pinjarra was crossed, and Sir James Stirling and his companions turned to the east. They proceeded for a quarter of a mile over the undulating surface,of magnificently grassed country when they suddenly came to a halt. Out of the woods to the left came the loud clamour of many native voices. This was the neighbourhood of the Kalyutes; the white force determined to speak to them, and perhaps punish them for the murder of Private Nesbit, and the spearing of Mr. Barron.
No natives were to be seen from that position, and Governor Stirling wished to satisfy himself that these really were the Kalyutes. With Messrs. Peel and Norcott, who were acquainted with the natives and understood their language, he rode forward to a hill two or three hundred yards distant. Below he descried the blacks on the opposite side of the river, apparently much excited among themselves. Sir James and his companions sought to hold an interview with them, and called loudly to them, but without avail. The noise made by the natives was so loud and clamorous that they did not seem to hear the white men's voices.
Sir James now stationed his party so as to bring about the desired interview. Captain Ellis, Mr. Norcott, the mounted police, and three other members of the white force were sent over the ford to the left bank where the natives were congregated. The remaining members, including Sir James Stirling, waited and watched some quarter of a mile away.
The excited natives did not observe Captain Ellis and his men cross the ford and go among the high trees until they were about 200 yards distant from them. They were greatly astonished, but not confused. There were about seventy men on their side, and all seized their numerous spears, and stood forward in defiance of the white men. They made a formidable-looking front, but when Captain Ellis continued to advance they sullenly retreated. The leader of the Englishmen gave the word "forward," and the horsemen dashed among the bristling spears of the natives. At the same moment the avengers recognised the well-known features of some of the worst offenders in the tribe. One, Noonar, was particularly celebrated for his effrontery, and Mr. Norcott, seeing him, called out to his companions, "These are the fellows we want, for here's that old rascal Noonar." The savage turned on him, and, in tones of peculiar ferocity, said, "Yes, Noonar me," and was about to strike him down with a spear when Mr. Norcott shot him dead.
The assailing party continued firing upon the blacks, who, while they retreated towards the river, hurled spears at their pursuers. The first shot and the shouts and yells of the natives supplied a signal to Sir James Stirling, who rode forward at full speed, followed by his companions, and stood on the opposite bank of the river. All were well armed. It was a critical moment for the natives, for some of them were in the river and others were scrambling up the right bank. They were utterly confounded when they observed a second party of assailants before them, and were thrown into terrible consternation when a fusilade killed some of them. Exposed to a cross-fire, without any opportunity to rally, they remained in the river, secreted themselves among the roots and branches of the shrubbery or in holes in the banks. Some immersed themselves in the water with faces only uncovered, holding beneath the surface a spear ready to pierce anyone who approached close enough. Still others were more hardy and desperate, and fought the whites on the banks or attempted to break through their ranks. They paid the penalty of their courage, and were all shot down. The whites remained on the banks and shot the natives in the water or among the roots and branches until about thirty were killed. The numbers are not definite, for it is thought that others may have been killed and been carried away by the stream. The remainder were too securely hidden for discovery, or floated down the river.
While retreating the natives were joined by numbers of women and children. It was desired not to injure any of them during the skirmish, but several were killed. Eight women and some children were taken prisoners, and upon seeing that they did not suffer immediate death a few of the men in hiding cried out that they were of the female sex. In was now thought that sufficient punishment had been inflicted on this tribe in the destruction of half its male population, and the bugle sounded to cease firing. The two parties went back to the ford, where they joined company. There they found that Captain Ellis had been badly wounded. In the brunt of the first onslaught a spear, thrown at a few yards distance, struck him on the right temple and knocked him off his horse. He fell upon his head, and received a severe concussion. P. Heffron, a constable, was speared above the right elbow, and without surgical aid it was found difficult to extract the weapon. Intense pain was caused to Heffron, for the spear was barbed to five inches from the point. The whole party now assembled on the left bank half expecting the natives to return in strong force, but their expectations were not realised.
After consultation, Sir James set the prisoners free for the purpose that they should fully explain to the remnant of the tribe the cause of their chastisement. He burdened them with a message, which they well understood, that if again they speared white men or their cattle, or attempted to avenge the deadly punishment just inflicted, four times the number of whites would come down and destroy every man, woman, and child of the Kalyute tribe.
Captain Ellis died shortly afterwards from the effects of the battle at Pinjarra. As the wound in the temple was not sufficiently severe it was believed that he had succumbed to concussion of the brain, caused when he fell from his horse. The soldier recovered. Quietness reigned thenceforth for a long time among the Kalyutes.
After the return of Sir James Stirling and his party a plan was set in progress as an experiment in civilising the natives. The more serious onslaughts were for a time suspended, and the authorities and private people therefore listened with greater pleasure to proposals which were laid before them. All wished that the aborigines should peaceably become amenable to English law. In December, 1834, the proposals were made public. Mr. F. Armstrong, a settler who had taken great interest in the natives and understood their language, was appointed to take charge of an institution which it was contemplated to erect under Mount Eliza. This was the beginning of the institution at Mount Eliza, which became such a strong force in after years. Mr. Armstrong had made diligent enquiry among the natives, and had associated with them in their primitive haunts. He had done this voluntarily, and he therefore zealously accepted the position offered by the Governor. The main feature of the institution was that the natives should procure their own means of subsistence, either by the remuneration derived from work performed for private individuals, or by the exercise of their own native arts, such as fishing and hunting. It was not intended that they should be maintained at the public expense, or in a state of indolence. A boat would be provided for them for fishing purposes, and any surplus over their own supplies was to be disposed of for their benefit. No restraint would be placed upon them, and they would be permitted free ingress and egress to the grounds set apart for them.
The advantages to be obtained by natives attached to the institution were set down as protection from violence, whether from each other or from white people; medical aid in time of sickness; and a regular supply of food ensured by cautious guidance and provident superintendence. These, it was hoped, would lead them to a "more civilised and happier state of existence." The Government was actuated in forming this institution by the disposition to do the natives good. The Governor gave them a boat for use in fishing. They were to be shown how to build huts for themselves, and if at any time they were molested by blacks or whites the Governor would take their part. It was clearly pointed out that if they did not procure enough food for their own consumption they must go without. Yet if they wished to leave Mount Eliza they could do so, and come back at their leisure. While there, however, they must behave well, and do as Mr. Armstrong directed them, and if they were not orderly in their habits Mr. Armstrong would not allow them to remain with him. This institution became momentarily popular.
Well-informed people in Great Britain were taking some interest in the results of colonisation in Australia. They were particularly interested in the effects which civilisation had on the aboriginal race. Information was circulated concerning the frays which took place between white and black, and all matters dealing with the condition and habits of the natives were read with special eagerness by church people. It was proposed, both in Glasgow and Dublin, that missionaries should be sent by the Church Missionary Society to the natives of Western Australia. In 1834 these proposals were set aside, as China had been chosen as the next station for their operations. The failure of these applications led to the formation, in Dublin, of a society called the Swan River Mission, the projected objects of which were to send out missionaries of the Church of England, and also schoolmasters, to the aborigines and the colonists. A strong committee was elected to make the necessary arrangements, but owing to difficulties, the basis of the society's preliminary operations was removed from Dublin to London.
The natives early in 1835 showed a charming and humane side to their character. These children of the bush were possessed of such keen perceptive faculties as are impossible to Europeans. Immured in their lonely vastnesses, dependent for their food on their senses, and impelled by their laws to the fine exercise of them, they possessed characteristics which from time to time have proved invaluable to colonists. In the art of tracking game or enemies, and in the fine sense of sound, the Red Indians themselves were not their masters. Observant to the nicety of perfection, not one indication on sand or herbage or bushes escaped them; and they could follow the tortuous wanderings of an enemy or of a lost person as closely as the European detective follows the footsteps of a convict a few yards ahead of him.
The Perth Gazette of 3rd January recounts the story of the adventures of a lost child and of the remarkable adroitness of the natives in following its tracks until the little one was discovered. The incident proved to colonists that the natives were of considerable use in the police force, and they did not fail to largely avail themselves of their assistance thenceforth. On the 11th December, 1834, two children of Mr. Hall, on the Murray, went down to the sea-beach to watch some soldiers fishing, One returned home soon after noon, but the other lost his way in the bush. At four o'clock next morning Mr. Norcott, accompanied by two white men and the natives Migo and Mollydobbin, who were attached to the mounted police corps, went out in search of the child. They soon came upon his track along the beach to the northward. The Europeans were quickly nonplussed, for a fresh wind had covered up the track with sand. Not so the natives. Their practised eyes traced the boy's wanderings four miles along the beach, when they intimated that he had turned into the bush. They followed his movements with astonishing minuteness, and led the way into an almost impenetrable thicket, through which they had to crawl on hands and knees. Loose shifting sand lay on the clear spots amid the bush, and thus their task was fraught with the utmost difficulty.
After about an hour's time the beach was regained, for the boy had only made a circuit inland of 400 yards. There the track was again distinct, and for five more miles, with occasional turnings in and out of the bush, they traced the erratic steps of the poor lad. Eventually even the natives were momentarily at fault, for the boy had entered another thicket which it was almost impossible for them to penetrate. But presently they cried out "me meyal geena," meaning "I see the footmarks." Their progress was now watched with the intensest interest by the white men, who viewed with ever-increasing amazement their acute perception. Through a dense mass of matted bush they forced their curious way, and when Mr. Norcott began to despair of success, the natives inspired his confidence by holding up a cap which was known to belong to the child. Again the track led along the beach until some sand cliffs were reached, where the wanderer had gone to an elevated spot. The wind had entirely effaced all marks of his feet in the loose sand, and it was an anxious moment for the search party. Migo was not daunted. Descending the hill, he persisted in making a circuit at its base, and after a little time he fell in with the track. But even here sand had obliterated most of the footsteps, and for nearly two hours the natives alternately lost and refound them. The party had nearly given up all hope of recovering the child when Mollydobbin saw a track on the side of a deep ravine. The natives went down into the ravine and commenced hallooing, hoping that the child might be asleep in the bush. Next they had to penetrate bushes and thickets more dense than any previous ones, and once again they emerged on the beach. Observing by the tracks that the child had been there but recently they pushed on with great eagerness, and at a distance of about 300 yards were delighted and gratified to observe the boy lying asleep on the beach, his legs idly washed by the surf. Another hour and probably the child would have perished, for the tide was rapidly coming in. Mr. Norcott galloped up to him, and calling him by name, the boy awoke and instantly jumped up.
The joy and delight of the two natives are said to have been beyond description. They had walked for nearly twenty-two miles with their eyes constantly fixed on the ground for ten consecutive hours, and they evinced such great anxiety as to the little one's fate that Mr. Norcott says he could not but applaud the noble disposition of these two savages.
The white people were now using the services of the blacks in work about their farms, paying them in food. When a party of natives appeared at a homestead, the settler gave them a few hours' work. The first trouble in 1835 was experienced at York, where the settlers were pestered with the constant presence of the natives, and suffered slightly in the loss of stock at their hands. On the 25th March numerous natives assembled in Perth. The occasion was a dispute over the adjustment of native land. One tribe had trespassed and killed wallabies on the property of another. The end of the dispute was a battle, when fifteen natives were speared, mostly in the legs, and several single combats were fought. The wounded bore their pain with remarkable stoicism. Numbers of white men stood afar off and watched the progress of this primitive scene.
In comparison with the troubles of 1834, the natives were exceedingly quiet in 1835, and very few depredations were
chronicled. In March an attack was made at the Halfway House on two men who were driving stock to York. They were both severely wounded, and one of them subsequently died from his sufferings.
At the end of May a robbery was committed in the store of a merchant in Perth. The merchant, when he discovered his loss next day, took his gun and went to the native camp. He suspected a native lad named Gogali of the offence, and while wrestling with him to punish him his gun went off and shot the boy in the leg. The Government, to carry out the proclamations of 1829 and 1833 to protect the natives, arrested the merchant, pending the recovery or otherwise of the black. The latter died, and the authorities were then doubtful whether to try the merchant for murder or manslaughter. He was afterwards released on the ground that the shooting was the result of an accident.
Except for the arrest and punishment of natives for slight offences, nothing of interest occurred during the remainder of 1835. The institution at Mount Eliza was only partially established.