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