Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London/Volume 1/Private Letter from Governor Stirling (Swan River Settlement) to Mr. Barrow

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Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Volume I  (1831)  by James Stirling
Private Letter from Governor Stirling (Swan River Settlement) to Mr. Barrow

VI.—Private Letter from Governor Stirling (Swan River Settlement) to Mr. Barrow.

'Western Australia, March 13, 1831.

My dear Sir,—By a ship which arrived here a few days since, I had the satisfaction to receive your very agreeable notes, dated June and July last, in which I observe the expression of that kind interest which you have always taken in the welfare and establishment of this settlement. I shall be truly glad to send you such a detailed account of its statistics as you seem to wish, and I would forward it by this opportunity, if it were not necessary to wait for the completion of a general map of the territory, which is now about to be begun, as well as for a further account of the weather, as registered during last year at King George's Sound and Garden Island. As soon as all the matters relating to a full and accurate description of this country can be brought into arrangement, I shall beg your acceptance of it.

'Through good report and evil report we have worked our way nearly to the conclusion of the second year, and I am proud in saying, that our prospects are brighter and better assured than ever. Since I last wrote to you, we have been frequently on the point of failing, from causes which I suppose are always to be found in operation in similar enterprises. It was my business to counteract these by further explorations of the country, of which the general result has been that the future prosperity of the settlement is now a point which no one is foolish enough to doubt. To give you an idea of our progress in discoveries, I shall briefly allude to them in the order in which they were made. Two attempts to get beyond the mountains were unsuccessful; I therefore took to the sea-coast during the wet and dry season.

'At Port Leschenault, in March, we found some good land; but before it could be occupied by settlers, I learnt that a good station existed nearer to Cape Leuwen. In May I proceeded there, and formed a small settlement in a beautiful and fertile situation, three miles to the eastward of the Cape in Flinders' "Dangerous Bight," where now, however, there is no danger. About one hundred persons make it a very contented and prosperous little place, where ships may obtain excellent water, wood and vegetables, at a few minutes notice.

'In August, the third in order of the attempts to get beyond the hills was found to be successful. A young gentlemen of the 63d regiment, accompanied by Mr. Beachman, an excellent practical farmer, penetrated to the farther side of the mountains, and found that the almost continuous range from north to south, which they form, is about thirty-six miles broad. Beyond this range, to the east, there is an undulating variety of generally fair land. The vallies, or plains, between the hills with which it is studded, are always good, and covered with grass, and the soil, though variable, presents a proportion of good land to the extent of one-third of the first quality. The travellers were prevented from going farther to the east than a few miles into this country, by a river flowing to the north, which at the time was rolling down an impetuous flood, caused by the rains of the season. After proceeding twenty miles up to the south on its banks, they returned to Perth with the agreeable news.

'In October, taking Mr. Dale, the discoverer of the above-mentioned country, with me, and several practical farmers, I proceeded across the mountains; and, having examined the country for a few days, I selected a site for a future country-town, and returned to my other tasks. I took the opportunity of sending Mr. Dale and a few others to the eastward. They penetrated to the distance of an hundred miles from the coast, directly east from Perth, and returned with a most favourable account of the country they had passed over.

'In December I again proceeded to the south coast. Our discoveries were impeded by circumstances; and, after paying a visit to the Cape Leuwen settlement, we returned by the way of King George's Sound to Perth. About the time I sailed, an expedition, which I had long been preparing, set off coastward from this to King George's Sound, under the direction of Captain Bannister. He and his party crossed the hills at the head of the Canning, after having travelled about thirty-five miles among them. He then passed for ten miles further through a country of equal proportions of good and bad land. To these forty miles succeeded the most beautiful country he had ever seen, and represented by him to be available either for pasturage or tillage. This noble district he traversed for eighty-eight or ninety miles in a S. by E. direction: at the end of which distance he came into a hilly country, occasionally rugged, but frequently very god for stock and farming. From one of these hills they thought that saw an immense mountain to the east far above the clouds, and which the surveyor who went with him estimated at ten thousand feet high. In this hilly country they continued until they made the south coast, near to Cape Chatham; and, after enduring the extremes of hunger, they reached King George's Sound in February. The importance of these discoveries will readily appear to you. The effect upon the minds of the public here has been to remove all doubt as to the success of the colony. The river mentioned beyond the hills is, in winter, a very powerful stream, and the principal drain of that country, as far as we know. Its source and ulterior course beyond the small part of it seen by us is at present unknown, and, I may add, defies conjecture; for we know, by a recent exploration of the coast to the south as far as latitude 28° 40', that no river or inlet exists on it. This point of interest shall not be allowed to remain much longer in obscurity.

'The little settlement at King George's Sound being now made over to this government, I am shipping off some of those who are not prospering here to try their fortune there. The wish of my heart at present is to get a bush road made over to that place, passing through Bannister's find tract, and also the possession of a few coasting vessels to keep up communication with the little settlement on the coast.

'P.S. We are just about establishing a botanical garden at Perth, in which it may be hoped that, besides collecting and arranging the plants of the country, experiments may be made as to acclimating foreign productions.'