Australia, from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay/Part 2
Port Macquarie—Pleasing scenery—River Hastings—Rich agricultural farms on the tributaries of the Hastings—The sugar plantation and the success that attended it-— Frequent rains in consequence of the altitude of the mountain chains, and their proximity to the coast—Road to the table-land—Capt. King's opinion of the wide extent of fertile country in the vicinity of Port Macquarie—Notes taken during a ride from the MacLeay river to the Hunter— Description of the Clarence river—Fine grazing country—Easy communication between the high table-land and the Clarence—The Richmond river—Extensive tracts of rich land—The Tweed—Moreton Bay—Mr. Oxley's official despatch on the discovery of the Brisbane river—Sources of the Brisbane—Brisbane town—Great fertility of the country—Its capabilities for maintaining a dense population—Climate equally salubrious with the more southern parts of the colony—Moreton Bay well adapted for the culture of many tropical productions—The Bunya-bunya tree—Great numbers of Aborigines in the districts where this tree abounds—Distinctive features of the north-eastern part of the territory of New South Wales, when compared with the more central part of that colony; its geological formation, lofty chains of mountains, numerous rivers and streams, and adaptation for tropical productions.
The town of Port Macquarie is situated on the south side of the river Hastings, just inside of the bar, in 31° 25' 45" south latitude. Port Macquarie is a well built little town, the houses being of brick and generally surrounded by neat verandahs, and trellis work. The first view from the sea of Port Macquarie is very pleasing. On entering the surf of the bar, one sees immediately beyond the last breaker, the mirror-like surface of the river extending in a long reach; whilst on the left, dark serpentine rocks protect the base of a smooth round eminence, covered with green sward, and crowned by the signal-post, fire-beacon, and windmill. A little farther on is the town, built on a gentle rise, which shows to advantage its pretty little cottages with pointed roofs, its broad straight streets, coated with dark red gravel, and levelled with as much accuracy as garden walks, and its tall square church tower conspicuously prominent in the highest part of the town. A grove of magnificent trees encircles Port Macquarie, and extends along the banks of the river; whilst turning to the west and north-west, the eye embraces a wide extent of forest country, and can trace, among the mountain ranges, the windings of the valley through which the river Wilson flows; Mount Caoulapatamba being sufficiently near to enable one to distinguish every tree on its grassy declivities, whilst the distant ranges at the MacLeay river, and the huge frowning mountain at the back of Cogo, are half dissolved in blue ether.
When I first saw Port Macquarie, five years ago, I had been but a few months in the colony, and had at that time only seen the country in the county of Cumberland round Sydney, which quite coincided with what I had previously read respecting the sterility of the soil of New Holland, and the dry, harsh, dismal appearance of its vegetation. I was therefore much struck with the luxuriance of the vegetation on the coast, as we approached Port Macquarie; dense thickets of cabbage palms and myrtle trees, extended down the gently sloping rocky declivities, even within reach of the spray, and every unwooded patch was covered with grass. I had certainly never before seen a coast so beautiful; the tints of the rocks, foliage, and verdure, were all of that warm, mellow kind which a painter would delight in studying. The lofty forest too, rising so luxuriantly close to the sea, presented a- great contrast to the stunted Banksia thickets, and desiccated scrubs, which I had seen on the sea coast in the sandstone districts round Sydney.
The river Hastings. rises at Mount Warragembi, which is one of the summits on the range which divides the basin of the Manning river from that of the MacLeay. This range branches out at Mount Warragembi, so as to form the basin of the Hastings river, which consequently does not rise in the great main chain of mountains dividing the eastern and western waters, as some authors have averred. Mr. Montgomery Martin, in his work on New South Wales, has committed a great error with regard to the Hastings river. He writes that "the river Hastings rises in a parallel of 33½° south latitude, and under the meridian of 150° east, having a course of 2045 Statute miles, throughout which the elevation of its source, being 3500 feet above the level of the sea, would give its waters an average descent of 20 inches in each mile, supposing the bed of the river to be an inclined plane." Now the source of the Hastings is in 31° 50' south latitude, instead of 33½° and its longitude is 151° 50' east, instead of 150° east, as Mr. Montgomery Martin avers; the length of its course also is scarcely more than one hundred miles, instead of 2045 statute miles. The cause of such great misrepresentation is this. In the history of Captain Sturt's expedition down the Macquarie river, which passes through Bathurst, that enterprising traveller made some observations respecting the length of the course of that river, and the average fall of its waters. Mr, Montgomery Martin, unaccountably confounding the Hastings river with the Macquarie, (although their sources are two hundred miles distant from each other, and their courses in opposite directions,) copied Captain Sturt^s remarks on the Macquarie, and applied them to the Hastings; also giving to the source of the latter river, the latitude and longitude of the source of the former.
There are many errors of a more trivial nature in Mr. Montgomery Martin's work, which however cannot fail of striking any person who has resided some time in the colony; thus, for instance, in his description of the X. arborea or Grass-tree, he remarks that "from the centre of the leaves springs a foot-stalk twenty feet long, resembling the sugar-cane, and terminating in a spiral spike, not unlike an ear of wheat. This stem is used by the natives for spears, the end being hardened by fire." The stem of the Grass-tree is however soft and pithy, scarcely stronger than a kail stalk, and quite incapable of being pointed or hardened; the use the natives make of it, is to fasten a well dried piece of it with gum to the after part of their spears, that its lightness, acting like the feathers of an arrow, may prevent the spear from rising in the air when thrown. Again, after giving most formidable Latin lists of Australian birds, copied from Swainson and others, Mr. Martin observes in another place, in his description of Illawarra, that there are in that locality, black cockatoos with scarlet crests. There are no such birds in the colony; there are black cockatoos marked with yellow on the tails, and two varieties of black macaws with scarlet bands on their tails, but their crests are black. The bird to which I presume Mr. Martin alludes is an iron-grey bird with a scarlet head, (Callocephalon galleatum) which is very often met with at Illawarra. Errors such as these are scarcely worth mentioning, and are almost unavoidable in writing a work of such magnitude as Mr. Montgomery Martin's History of all the British Colonies.
The Hastings and its tributaries are navigable for boats as far as the influence of the tide extends, which runs up the Maria creek to the village reserve at Mariaville, which is about thirty-six miles distant from the town of Port Macquarie. All the available land on the banks of the Hastings has been, at various times, purchased at the Government land sales, but the quantity of land which has been brought under cultivation is not very great. The principal agricultural farms in the county of Macquarie are situated on the banks of the Wilson river, a tributary of the Hastings, and a never-failing stream, flowing through a narrow valley. These farms form a contiguous chain for twelve or fifteen miles, and a very good road connects the whole of them with the embryo township of Ballengarra, the point at which the Wilson river becomes navigable for boats, and which is about twenty miles distant by water from the town of Port Macquarie. These farms are all composed of alluvial soil of the utmost richness; wheat, maize, barley, tobacco, &c. have always been grown on them with the greatest success; and the Colonial Government, during the time that Port Macquarie was a penal settlement, established a sugar plantation on the banks of the Wilson river. The canes succeeded very well, and some sugar was fabricated; but a heavy flood having nearly destroyed the machinery of the sugar-mills, the undertaking was abandoned.
The climate of the district of Port Macquarie is much more agreeable than that of Sydney; the mountains approaching nearer to the coast collect the vapours from the sea, and cause more frequent rains; in summer, especially, the heat is mitigated by many heavy thunder showers. Notwithstanding its comparative vicinity to the tropics, Port Macquarie seems almost entirely exempt from those hot scorching winds, which so frequently occur during the summer months at Sydney; or if they ever happen in the Port Macquarie district, they are so slight as to be scarcely felt. Those sudden, violent gusts of wind, also, from the south, which generally happen at the close of a hot day in Sydney, raising dense clouds of dust in the air, and causing the thermometer to fall twenty degrees in a quarter of an hour, are comparatively unknown in the county of Macquarie. The north-eastern part of the territory of New South Wales, between the great main range, dividing the eastern and western waters, and the ocean, has never experienced such long desolating droughts as those which have occasionally been felt in the central and western parts of New South Wales. The greatest drought which has ever yet been experienced in the northern district was in 1841-2; the natural grasses at our stations were then quite desiccated on the ranges, and the whole country was continually in flames; the only young grass for the cattle and sheep being in the flats. Notwithstanding this, the chains of water-holes were as frill of water as ever, and I never saw finer crops of wheat than were reaped during this droughty season on the alluvial farms on the banks of the Wilson river, and at the squatting stations on the MacLeay river. Dr. Stacey at the Wilson, and Mr. Macleod at Dongai creek, near the MacLeay, reaped crops of wheat averaging upwards of forty bushels to the acre; the weight per bushel being sixty-five pounds. At the same period, most of the crops, in the country nearer Sydney, failed. However, in ordinary moist seasons, wheat does not succeed so well on rich alluvial land in the northern district; the straw grows too rankly and luxuriantly, and the quantity of the grain is diminished in consequence, and of inferior quality, being specifically lighter than wheat grown on forest flats. The best ground for wheat, in the county of Port Macquarie, and at the MacLeay river, would be that of the lightly wooded apple-tree flats.
I have already alluded to the mountain road, which has been rendered practicable for wool-drays, between Port Macquarie and the table land of New England. This elevated district is undoubtedly the best sheep country in Australia, and the squatters there have been much benefited by the diminished land carriage for their wool down this road; for short land carriage will henceforth be an object of greater importance than ever, since the Australian flock-masters have arrived at the conclusion, that the only way of disposing of their surplus sheep, is to boil them down for tallow, with a view of creating a new marketable article of export.
In order to show that my remarks, on the peculiar features and richness of the Macquarie county, are corroborated by other authorities, I will here quote from Murray's New Encyclopaedia of Geography, a description of the country surrounding Port Macquarie, principally deduced from the observations of Captain King, R.N.,the present resident Commissioner of the Australian Agricultural Company, in the neighbouring county of Gloucester, and whose name has acquired considerable celebrity in the scientific world from his surveying voyage round the coasts of New Holland.
"The river Hastings, with the country round it, has since, in its turn, been made a free settlement. The Hastings was discovered, as already observed, by Mr. Oxley, (the late Surveyor General) on his return from his second journey. It is not very important in a navigable view, since it cannot be ascended more than ten miles by vessels of any size; but it flows through a great valley, extending fifty miles inland, till it reaches the mountains, and with a breadth nearly uniform. This tract is various, but generally broken into a pleasing undulation of hill and dale, and consisting mostly of what is called open forest, by which is meant grass land, lightly covered with good timber, and free from the perils of inundation."
Captain King remarks, that "there are here twelve million acres in which it is difficult to find a bad tract. It is, in general, finely watered with clear small streams, an advantage not enjoyed by the more southern districts of the colony. The climate is nearly tropical, and rather too hot for wheat, which is apt to run to straw; maize and rice would, of course, flourish, and sugar and tobacco have been tried with success. The inland dividing Blue Mountains, are very rugged and lofty, rising to 6500 feet, but to the south-west of these mountains is the extensive range of pastoral districts, called Liverpool Plains. Port Macquarie is a bar harbour, into which vessels, drawing more than nine feet of water, cannot safely enter; there is good anchorage outside, and the shore is not dangerous. Not far from hence was recently discovered another river, navigable for vessels of 300 tons, to 57 miles from its mouth, and which falls into Tryal bay. The banks consisted of open pastoral forest, and alluvial untimbered plains, holding out the most flattering prospects to the settler."
Before proceeding to describe the other parts of the northern district, from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay, I will here insert the journal of a ride from my tents, near the range dividing the MacLeay and Nambucca rivers, across the counties of Macquarie and Gloucester, to the river Hunter, being a distance of two hundred miles; as it will serve to give some idea of the nature of the country passed over.
Some affairs of importance having rendered my presence in Sydney necessary, in the beginning of the year 1841, I had engaged a passage on board one of the small vessels which load in the MacLeay river, with cedar for the Sydney market This vessel, taking advantage of a favourable wind one morning, had crossed the bar and put out to sea, whilst I was absent with my blacks in the whaleboat. Having gone out to sea with my black crew to attempt to join the vessel, a strong north-easterly wind drove us back, and as a tremendous surf was breaking on the shore, we got upset on entering the breakers. We narrowly escaped getting dashed on the rocks, as the wind had driven us very near a rocky headland on which the sea was breaking very heavily, and after we had swam to the shore, I found the boat was shattered from stem to stern. Having previously sent my clothes on board the vessel which had sailed, and there being no other, either at the MacLeay or at Port Macquarie, I returned to my tents, and determined to ride across the country to the river Hunter, from whence steamers proceed every day to Sydney. Accordingly, on the next day, (April 18th), I ordered my horse to be saddled, and started off alone from my tents towards the fords of the MacLeay, near Steele's cattle station. I arrived there about two o'clock, and crossed the river at the ford below the junction of Dongai creek with the MacLeay. I now rode up Dongai creek to MacLeod's station, which is situated on the banks of this stream. A large patch of rich land was under cultivation at this squatting station, and was now covered with a luxuriant crop of maize. I here turned off from the creek, and crossed some thickly wooded, undulating forest land, well clothed with grass, and abundantly watered by chains of water-holes in brushy hollows. A few miles south of Dongai creek I commenced the ascent of the range dividing the basin of the MacLeay river from that of the Hastings. This range is of no great altitude here, for its elevation above the level of the sea does not exceed one thousand feet; but a few miles to the westward it increases in altitude, until the square-topped mountain near Cogo, which throws off the lateral ranges, forming the basin of the Wilson river on one side and that of Dongai creek on the other, is, I should suppose, four thousand feet above the sea.
On the lower slopes of this range, towards the MacLeay river, limestone frequently appears above the surface of the ground, whilst the summit is very scenery was surpassingly beautiful as the shades of evening crept over the landscape. The alluvial plains in the narrow valley were of a rich golden hue from the ripe maize, which formed a strong contrast to the dark green foliage of the lofty brush, and the glistening white trunks of the gigantic Flooded gum trees. Immediately beyond the brush, lightly wooded forest hills, verdant and grassy, rose in graceful waving contour; whilst looking up the valley, lofty mountains, covered with brush, and tinted with deep purple, from the reflected light of the glowing evening sky, closed the scene to the north-west. Having rode past some neat wooden cottages erected on the farms, along a good dray track, and having crossed to the right bank of the river, I passed the fine water-mills belonging to Messrs. Freeman and Gorum, and arrived just After dusk at Dr. Stacey's, where I stopped for the night., consisting of a soft kind of sandstone. After crossing this range I descended it on the south side, along a very stoney slope, grassy and heavily wooded, until I arrived at the first watercourse; I then rode for several miles over a monotonous succession of low thickly wooded ranges, and brushy hollows containing water-courses, or chains of water-holes, until I arrived at the Wilson river. The track here led me through the chain of rich cultivated farms bordering on this stream. The
As the alluvial plains of the Wilson are subject to occasional floods. Dr. Stacey has built his house in a very judicious manner, on strong wooden pillars, sufficiently high to be far beyond the reach of the highest floods. These pillars, being connected by weather boards, form underneath the house a sort of outhouse or store-room, which can be easily thrown open on the approach of floods, so as to offer no impediment to the water, whilst a covered wooden gallery, in the Swiss style, surrounds the upper portion of the building in which the family resides.
April 19th.—Having taken leave of my hospitable host, I passed the large brick stores, originally erected by the Government as a sugar-mill. The ground formerly planted with the canes was now covered by a fine crop of maize, I rode on, down the valley of the Wilson along its right bank, which is skirted by a very good road. Having passed along the foot of Mount Caoulapatamba, a large round-topped hill on the range between the Wilson and the Hastings, I crossed the Wilson again in an alluvial brush, and a little farther on arrived at Ballengarra, where the Wilson river becomes affected by the tide, and is navigable for boats. The police magistrate at Port Macquarie has stationed some men here with a punt, for the convenience of the settlers at the Wilson. Having crossed the river in it, I entered on a very thickly wooded, undulating country, tolerably grassy, and intersected by moist tea-tree flats and sedgy hollows. This description of country extended to the Hastings river, which I reached at its junction with the Maria river, at Blackman's point, where another punt has been established. The Hastings has a beautiful appearance here, as the reaches are of great length, and of an uniform width of about a quarter of a mile. On its left bank there is a pretty cottage, with a flourishing garden of vines and fruit trees, and some distance further down the river, on the right bank, is the handsome villa of Dr. Carlisle.
Having crossed over in the punt, I followed the track to the settlement of Port Macquarie, which extends for some distance along the bank of the river, traversing mangrove thickets and brushy forest land. Having passed at the back of Dr. Carlisle's vineyards, I arrived at Port Macquarie about one o'clock. After taking some refreshment there, and given my horse a feed of corn, I continued my journey. The road I took led me along some forest land and marshes to the beautiful residence of Major Innes, which is situated on a gentle eminence, that slopes down gradually to a large fresh- water lake, beyond which the house commands an extensive view of the ocean and the coast. A few miles further on, I met the line of marked trees to the Manning, near Walter's station. The country now consisted for some distance of thickly wooded, undulating forest land, tolerably grassy, and intersected by chains of water-holes and small watercourses, until I reached a sandy patch of ground, thickly clothed with grass, and timbered exclusively by Banksia, or honeysuckle, which is rather a rare tree in the Port Macquarie district, except in the immediate vicinity of the coast. Having again entered on a tract of the ordinary grassy forest land, heavily wooded by black-butt, iron-bark, stringybark, grey gum, mahogany, and forest oak, and furrowed by innumerable brushy hollows, containing water-courses, I rode on over this kind of country until dusk, when I stopped for the night at a gravelly creek just outside of the brush.
Being without a companion, I unsaddled my horse, and tethered him on some young grass; then collecting some wood, I made a large fire. After making a solitary meal on some biscuits and a flask of wine, which I carried in my saddle bags, I laid down to sleep. Being very lightly clothed in a blouse and summer trousers, I awoke shivering with cold after a short sleep, as the fire had burnt itself out, for want of fresh fuel. I therefore got up, and groping about in the dark in search of some more wood, I soon made a roaring blaze again. My next doze was interrupted rather suddenly; for it seemed that as my second fire diminished, I had insensibly crept nearer to it in my sleep, until the straggling ends of my neckerchief became ignited and blazed into my face.
April 20th.—Having breakfasted and watered my horse, I put on his saddle, and continued my journey. I now crossed a succession of short heavily wooded ranges, covered with fern and wiry grass, and separated by brushy hollows, containing gravelly water-courses. On crossing the range bounding the basin of the river Hastings, I at length entered a deeper brush of a more alluvial character, and encountered a large stream which flows into Camden Haven inlet. The brush of this creek was diversified by an abundance of bangolo palms, fern-trees, and large flooded gum-trees. After crossing it I entered on another tract of country of similar features to that on the north side of Camden creek, the low ranges being of good soil, and tolerably grassy, heavily wooded by large timber, with an underwood of Xanthorrheæ, tree-ferns, and a dwarf kind of Coripha. I then ascended a ridge of some elevation, and obtained an extensive view, To the right was the Broken-bago range, which divides the basin of the Manning river from that of the Hastings, and which was covered all over with the densest forest: on the highest conical summit of this range, a tall pinnacle of naked rock shot up perpendicularly above the trees, like a church-steeple. Looking eastward I discerned the verdant headlands at the entrance of Camden Haven inlet, with a long line of white surf at their bases, and more to the south, the three lofty hills, which stand comparatively isolated, near the coast, called "The Three Brothers," and which form such prominent landmarks when viewed from the sea. I still encountered for some distance further the same unvarying thickly wooded grassy ranges, and gravelly creeks in brushy hollows, at one of which I met with two natives who were getting some honey from the branch of a tree. They belonged to one of the Manning river tribes, and told me that the tribe was "close up bulga," (near the mountain), pointing to one of the Three Brothers. Having borrowed their fire-stick to light my pipe, and given them a piece of tobacco, I went a little farther on, and alighted a short time, whilst my horse fed upon some good young grass. On resuming my journey I pas^ along the foot of one of the Brothers, over a grassy flat, timbered by tea-trees, and swamp oak. A little farther on I met a number of the women belonging to the tribe just mentioned, and soon after I encountered a party of the blacks themselves. They were very solicitous about the Port Macquarie "blackfellows," and made many inquiries as to what they were doing and where they were encamped, on which subjects I could give them no information. They were more importunate and greedy than the less civilized blacks beyond the MacLeay, who had not had so much intercourse with the whites, teasing me for tobacco, and asking for my handkerchief; so I soon rode away from them. The country now became less thickly wooded, and a few miles farther, on crossing a range crowned by a mass of naked pudding-stone rock, I saw, to the left, the extensive swamps to the north of the Manning called Jamaica plains, the intense verdure of which, formed a pleasing contrast to the more yellow-tinted green of the grassy forest hills. I now entered some extensive flats, covered with high grass, and timbered by large blue gum-trees and tea-trees, standing widely apart from each other. There were a great many creeks, and chains of deep water-holes here, which meandered among these flats without being enveloped in brush. The soil was very rich. This level tract extended to Major Innes' cattle station at Brinben, where I arrived at nightfall, being guided thither by the barking of the dogs, as I had ridden for some distance, to the left of the usual track to that station. I was hospitably entertained here by the overseer, whose wife soon placed before me a dish of eggs and bacon, to which I did full justice after my day's ride whilst my horse was recruited with a feed of maize.
April 21st.—It rained hard this morning, when I started after breakfast up the valley of the Manning river. On leaving Brinben I passed over several miles of good grassy undulating forest country, of park-like aspect, and rich soil, and watered by several fine brooks, the largest of which was the Dingo river, a tributary stream of some importance flowing into the Manning, I now crossed some fertile grassy hills, very lightly wooded, and rode past several sheep-stations. Having, at length, entered the brush of the Manning, I crossed over a ford near the Gloucester river, which joins it on the south side. The scenery was very beautiful here. The surrounding ranges of hills were all either very lightly wooded and grassy, or else covered over with brush timber and entangled vegetation. Most of the park-like hills rose in round conical summits, and were probably composed of clay slate; whilst one heavily wooded range, on the south bank of the river, was crowned by huge masses of rock, overgrown with creepers, and resembling the ivy-clothed battlements of some ancient fortress. Some sawyers near here kindly invited me into their hut to take some refreshment; the frying-pan was immediately put in requisition, and they soon placed before me a huge plateful of fried pork, a damper as large as a blackfellow's shield, a kettle-full of tea saturated with sugar, and a pot of milk. My horse was also indebted to their hospitality, as he got several cobs of corn. There were a number of blacks here, and I noticed, among the children, several who were of a brown colour, like the South Sea islanders, being the offspring of white men. The wilder tribes of Australian natives, however, invariably put to death the children resulting from the intercourse between their women and the stockmen at out-stations, especially if they are males.
On the other side of the Manning I entered the county of Gloucester, in which the Australian Agricultural Company possess a portion of their grant. I now rode to the right of the rocky range before mentioned, tracing up the valley of a fine limpid brook, which flowed in a bed of dark-coloured rock. As I advanced, the country became rather hilly, but very grassy; the ranges were lightly wooded by blue gum and stringy bark, whilst the apple-tree, (Angophora lanceolata), predominated in the valleys and on the lower slopes of the hills. The country in this neighbourhood would be very good for sheep, if the grass were not allowed to grow too long and too old, for when once the Australian grass becomes dry, the sheep will never eat it. An intelligent overseer of a sheep-station in Australia, ought therefore so to regulate the grass on his run, by feeding it down, and burning it off in small patches at a time, as to ensure a constant supply of the young succulent grass for the flocks at all times. The Australian Agricultural Company's land seemed to be extremely well watered in this part of their grant, but notwithstanding the more luxuriant aspect of the country hereabouts, I believe their sheep thrive better on the open plains on the other side of the mountains. In the evening I arrived at the first sheep-station belonging to the company, after passing the grave of two shepherds, who had been killed by the blacks at this place. The convict overseer who had charge of this station, gave me better fare than one generally gets at similar establishments, viz. mutton-chops, new milk, a comfortable mattress, and a feed of maize for my horse. There were six shepherds at this station, and several old black women, who had resorted thither, seemed to be of great service, in helping to look after the sheep, bringing in firewood, &c.
April 22nd.—I quitted this morning the hut of my attentive host, who rejoiced in the traversed an excellent tract of grazing country, consisting of undulating forest land, lightly wooded by blue-gums and apple-trees. In this part, I travelled for many miles without seeing a single forest-oak, (Casuarina torulosa), which forms, almost universally, a sort of underwood to the larger trees of the genus Eucalypti, in the forests of New South Wales; the swamp odk,(Casuarina paludosa), was however very abundant along the water-courses and chains of water-holes, where it seemed to take the place of the brush vegetation, so universally prevalent in the channels of drainage more to the northward, nearer Port Macquarie. I soon passed another sheep-station situated on a gentle eminence. My attention was now drawn to the birds in this part of the country, for since I had left the Manning I had not seen any of the parrot tribe, with the exception of the Rosella or Nonpareil parroquet, a bird extremely common throughout the colony generally, but of which I had never seen a single specimen during the long time that I had been at the MacLeay river. The whistling magpie was in almost every tree, and is also a common bird in Australia generally, but I have never seen it at the MacLeay or Nambucca rivers. A few miles farther on, a fine flat extends to Gloucester, a large agricultural and cattle farm belonging to the Company. The superintendent of this establishment lives in a neat cottage, with substantial offices, and an excellent garden. Having been invited to take some refreshment, I stopped here nearly an hour. The situation of Gloucester is very picturesque. An extensive flat has been cleared of trees, divided into paddocks, and brought under cultivation, and now presented the appearance of a wide yellow plain, from the dry wheat stubble, and ripened maize which covered it. On the verge of the flat, an abrupt range of densely wooded hills, called "the Buckets," rose to an altitude of about 1200 feet above the plain, their summits being crowned by precipitous masses of naked rock of fantastic contour, which reminded me of some of the castled crags of the Rhine. After leaving Gloucester, the country continued to be tolerably grassy, but the soil was very inferior to what I had passed over to the northward of that station. I next passed a horse station belonging to the Company, and rode through a large troop of mares and foals feeding in a flat. The range dividing the basin of the Manning, from the valley of the Karuah river, was next crossed by the track. There were several sheep-stations on the other side, but the country seemed to be more suitable for cattle than sheep. At one of these sheep-stations there were several Spanish shepherds. I next passed Talligarra, the Company's chief sheep-station, where there are some substantial buildings and stores; and in the evening arrived at the village of Stroud, the head-quarters of the Company, where I was hospitably entertained by Mr. White, the superintendent of stock.appellation of "Darby Joe," it being a common practice among the men in New South Wales, to bestow some slang names on the stockmen and shepherds in charge of out-stations, such as "happy Jack," "long Ned," "black Bill," "curly Tom," &c. The track led me over some high forest hills well clothed with grass, and of rich soil, whilst several of the adjacent ranges were invaded to their summits by a brush of myrtle, iron-bark, turpentine, &c. I then
April 23rd.—This morning I accompanied Mr. White, before breakfast, through the village of Stroud, to see some of the horses and bulls belonging to the Company. I found that Stroud presented a different aspect to the colonial townships in other parts of New South Wales; there was quite an English look about it, exemplified in the neat little gardens belonging to the mechanics in the service of the Company, and the roses and honeysuckles which diffused a grateful perfume on their verandahs and door-ways.
There is a signal want in Australia, even among the higher classes, of that just appreciation of the beauties of nature, and that innate taste in taking advantage of them, to enhance the picturesque effect of their neatly-arranged dwelling-houses, which, according to Washington Irving, characterize the English nation, from the peer to the peasant. There are some places in New South Wales, few and far between, where considerable taste has been displayed in the arrangement of the grounds, but in general the ne plus ultra of colonial landscape gardening is a square patch of land, laid out in straight walks, and surrounded by hideous pailings, whilst no flowers, or even culinary vegetables, enliven the dwellings of the labouring classes, unless some stray melon or pumpkin sends its long shoots round their huts.
I saw here at Stroud, some Chilians from Valparaiso, who were employed in breaking in some of the Company's young horses. They had fastened ropes to the horses' legs to regulate their paces, but the practice seemed to me useless and objectionable. On continuing my ride, I passed the Company*s chief horse establishment, where I dismounted for a few minutes to see their imported stallions. They were lodged in a substantial brick-built range of stables, commodiously divided, well ventilated, and appeared to be kept in very good order. I next passed the elegant cottage of Mr. Ebsworth, the treasurer of the Australian Agricultural Company, which is situated on an eminence near the river Karuah at Booral, where a tract of ground is under cultivation. I crossed the Karuah, over a shingly bed, overgrown with swamp-oak, and then entered on a level tract of country, tolerably grassy, but of very inferior soil. The red gum began to predominate here, and the Xanthorrhea was prevalent on some of the eminences. The native cherry-tree, (Exocarpus cupressiformus) was very common also hereabouts. I met a black on horseback some distance farther on, belonging to the Port Stephen tribe, who had been despatched somewhere on a message. On inquiring his name, he told me it was "Mutton." As I approached the Hunter, the forest became intersected by a great many cattle and dray-tracks, and I passed two or three farms; but the soil still continued very inferior to the banks of the Hunter, at the village of Raymond-terrace, which is situated at the junction of the Williams river with the Hunter. The site of Raymood-terrace had been a very heavily timbered wood, which had been cut down some years before, and the stumps left standing in the ground. Scarcely any of these stumps had been grabbed up, and they had become perfectly bleached, so that, as I rode into this village in the evening, it seemed as though the houses had been built in the midst of a churchyard, full of upright tomb-stones. Next morning I went on board the steamer from the Green-hills, and arrived in Sydney. that night.
The Clarence, wicch is the next important river, north of the MacLeay, disembogues in Shoal Bay, in 29½° south latitude. Its natural features, and the nature of the country on its banks, are so very similar to those of the MacLeay, that a brief notice of it will suffice. The Clarence river rises in the main range, dividing the eastern and western waters; it receives several very large tributaries, one of which, the Ora-Ora river, rises in the lofty mountains, which, as I have before observed, bound the basin of the Clarence on the south, and divide it from the Bellengen river. The Clarence is remarkable for its great breadth, and large volume of water, compared with other Australian rivers, when the short distance of its sources from die coast is considered.
In common with all other rivers north of the Hunter, its entrance is obstructed by a bar, having about eleven feet of water on it; its reaches are longer and wider than those of any other river on the coast of Australia, and are navigable for large steamers from Sydney to a considerable distance up the river; some craft can ascend the Clarence as far as ninety miles from its mouth. A few miles above the entrance of this river is a large island, containing upwards of fifteen hundred acres, and which, when first discovered, abounded in emus. Many other smaller islands occur higher up the river. The brushes near the mouth of the Clarence are interspersed with the beautiful variety of pine I have already described, and which I found not to extend south of Coohalli creek, near the Nambucca river. He country available for grazing at this river is of excellent quality, and much more extensive than that at the MacLeay; for the country bordering on the Clarence and its tributaries is generally level, and the mountains do not attain any great elevation, except at the sources of the streams.
A great number of squatters have formed stations at the Clarence river. The communication between the table land along the main range, and the navigable estuary of the Clarence, is naturally much less difficult than at Port Macquarie; wool-drays can descend from the fine district, called Beardy Plains, (that portion of table land opposite the sources of the Clarence) with comparative ease, to that part of the river where the vessels take in cargo for Sydney.
An inconsiderable stream, or inlet, called Evan's river, joins the sea at a short distance to the northward of the Clarence.
The Richmond river, a little farther along the coast, disembogues near Lennox Head, in 28° 55' south latitude. It very much resembles the MacLeay in its general appearance, and the character of its scenery: mangrove scrubs, tea-tree, and swamp oak thickets, cover the low flats near its mouth; and the alluvial land, higher up the river, is diversified by brush, abounding in cedar and pine, clumps of bangolo palms, reedy swamps, small rich plains, and lightly wooded forest flats of great richness. The rest of the country is very lightly wooded grassy forest, of the greatest fertility; in fact, there are few rivers where so much good available land exists, unbroken by densely wooded ranges and ravines. The bar of the Richmond river has from eight to ten feet of water on it; this river can be ascended by small craft to a distance of about thirty miles from its mouth. Its sources are not yet ascertained; its main stream appears to rise somewhere in the great main range dividing the eastern and western waters, near Wilson's Peak and Coke's Head, it then sweeps to the south of Mount Lindesay, which was ascertained by Mr. Cunningham to be 5,700 feet above the level of the sea. There is some fine cedar on the Richmond, and several cedar dealers and sawyers proceeded thither last year to cut it for the Sydney market, and for exportation to the other Australian colonies.
The Tweed, which is the next river north of the Richmond, rather deserves the name of a large salt-water inlet than a river; as its proximity to the Richmond, and the rivers which discharge their waters in Moreton bay, renders it impossible for the Tweed to be a large fresh-water stream. Its reaches, however, are long and wide, and are navigable for large boats to a distance of upwards of forty miles from its bar. A cedar dealer, named Scott, crossed the bar of the Tweed in a schooner of sixty tons burden. The land on the banks of the navigable part of the Tweed is of the same rich alluvial character as the other northern rivers; the timber is magnificent. The entrance of the Tweed is between Rainbow bay and Turtle island, in 28° 10' south latitude.
Proceeding along the coast, we arrive at Moreton Bay, which is protected by two narrow islands, each of them being from fifteen to twenty miles in length, called Moreton island and Stradbroke island. The bay also contains numerous small islets, and mud flats covered with mangroves. Several rivers and streams fall into Moreton Bay, the principal of which are the Logan river, the Brisbane river, (which rises in the great main chain, and on which the settlement has been formed) and the Pumice-stone river.
The Brisbane river at Moreton Bay, and the geological formation, peculiar botanical productions, &c. of the surrounding country, have been so minutely investigated by Mr. Allan Cunningham, that it is needless for me to make any remarks on these subjects. The Brisbane river was discovered by Mr. Oxley, the late Surveyor-General of New South Wales, who, in his official despatch, makes the following observations respecting it.
"I sailed from this port, (Sydney) in His Majesty's cutter Mermaid, on the 23rd of October, 1823, and early on the 2nd day of December following, when examining Moreton bay, we had the satisfaction to find the tide sweeping up a considerable inlet, between the first mangrove island and the main land. The muddiness and taste of the water, together with the abundance of fresh-water molluscæ, assured us we were entering a large river, and a few hours ended our anxiety on this point by the water becoming perfectly fresh, while no diminution had taken place in the size of the river after passing, what I called Sea-Reach. Our progress up the river was necessarily retarded by the necessity we were under of making a running survey during our passage. At sunset we had proceeded about twenty miles up the river. The scenery was peculiarly beautiful; the country along the banks alternately hilly and level, but not flooded; the soil of the finest description of brushwood land, on which grew timber of great magnitude, and of various species, some of which were quite unknown to us. Among others, a magnificent species of pine was in great abundance. The timber on the hills was also good; and to the south-east, a little distance from the river, were several large brushes or forests of the Cupressus Australis of very large size. Up to this point, the river was navigable for vessels not drawing more than sixteen feet water. The tide rose about five feet, being the same as at the entrance. The next day the examination was resumed, and with increased satisfaction. We proceeded about thirty miles farther, no diminution having taken place either in the breadth or depth of the river, excepting in one place for the extent of thirty yards; where a ridge of detached rocks extended across the river, not having more than twelve feet on them at high water. From this point to Termination hill, the river continued of nearly uniform size. The country on either side is of very superior description, and equally well adapted for cultivation or grazing, the timber being abundant, and fit for all the purposes of domestic use or exportation. The pine trees, should they prove of good quality, were of a scantling sufficient for the topmasts of large ships. Some measured upwards of thirty inches in diameter, and from fifty to eighty feet without a branch.
"The boat's crew were so exhausted by their continued exertion under a tropical sun, that I was reluctantly compelled to relinquish my intention of proceeding to the termination of the tide-water at this time.
"At this place the tide rose but four feet six inches; the force of the ebb tide and current combined, proved but little greater than the flood-tide, a proof of its flowing through a very level country. Having concluded on terminating the examination of the river at this point, being seventy miles from the vessels, and our stock of provisions expended, not having anticipated such a discovery, I landed on the south shore, for the purpose of examining the surrounding country. On ascending a low hill, rising about twenty-five feet above the level of the river, we saw a distant mountain, which I conjectured to be the high peak of Captain Flinders, bearing south ½ east, distant from twenty-five to thirty miles. Round this point to the north-west, the country declined considerably in elevation, and had much the appearance of extended plains and low undulating hills, well, but not heavily, wooded. The only elevations of magnitude were some hills seven or eight hundred feet high, which we passed to the northward. The appearance and formation of the country, the slowness of the current even at ebb tide, and the depth of the water, induced me to conclude that the river will be found navigable for vessels of burden to a much greater distance, probably not less than fifty miles. There was no appearance of the river being ever flooded, no mark being found more than seven feet above the level of the water, which is little more than would be caused by flood-tide at high water, forcing back any accumulation of water in rainy seasons.
"A consideration of all the circumstances connected with the appearance of the river justified me in entertaining a strong belief that the sources of this river will not be found in a mountainous country. Most probably it issues from some large collection of interior waters, the reservoir of those streams crossed by me during an expedition of discovery, in 1818, and which had a northerly course. Whatever may be its origin, it is by far the largest fresh-water river on the east coast of New South Wales, and promises to be of the utmost importance to the colony, as besides affording a water communication with the southern country bounding upon Liverpool Plains, it waters a vast extent of country, of which a great proportion appears to me capable of supporting the culture of the richest productions of the tropics.
"I afterwards proceeded a few miles to the south-east from the river, through a gently broken country of good soil, declining in elevation towards the south; the high peak before mentioned being the only remarkable eminence from north-east to south.
"As the position of the entrance of the river was still to be fixed, and the channel to be examined, I lost no time in returning down the river with the ebb tide, and stopped for the night at the base of the Green hills; the highest of which was ascended the next morning, and the view from it was found more extensive than I anticipated.
"So much time was spent in the examination of the country above Sea-Reach, that it was quite dark when we got to the entrance of the river, which, out of respect to his Excellency the Governor, under whose orders the bay was examined, was now honoured with the name of Brisbane river. The whole of the next day was spent in sounding the entrance and traversing the country in the vicinity of Redcliff point, and we did not reach the vessel until late in the night of the 5th of December, amply gratified in the discovery of this important river, as we sanguinely anticipated the most beneficial consequences as likely to result to the colony by the formation of a settlement on its banks."
Subsequent expeditions of discovery have not verified the conjectures which Mr. Oxley, in the preceding account of the Brisbane, advanced as to its probable source, and the length of its course. The much larger quantity of water which flows down the rivers in the north-east part of the territory of New South Wales, compared with rivers of equal length of course in the southern and western parts of the colony, might easily have led Mr. Oxley to believe at the time of his discovery of the Brisbane, that that river was the largest fresh-water river in the colony, and had a very long course; whereas it is much inferior in size to the Clarence, and not even equal to the MacLeay river.
The Brisbane river rises in the chain of mountains dividing the eastern and western waters; this range is only sixty miles distant in a straight line from the coast, opposite Moreton Bay; but from the width of the basin of the Brisbane river, its tortuous course, and the great number of tributaries it receives, it soon becomes an important stream. The Brisbane is joined on its south side by the Bremer river, rising near Mount Fraser; coal and limestone abound on the banks of the Bremer. The country in the vicinity of the Brisbane river and its tributaries has been found to equal, if not surpass, the very favourable description which its discoverer, Mr. Oxley, gave of that portion which he saw: it is variegated by brush land of exuberant richness, clear alluvial plains of the greatest fertility, and good grassy park-like forest land. Although many mountains round Moreton Bay attain an elevation of nearly six thousand feet above the level of the sea, the country is not so much invaded by those endless, densely wooded ranges of hills, in the closest approximation, which render so large a portion of the Hastings and MacLeay rivers unavailable, though these ranges are frequently of very great fertility.
The Moreton Bay district, now called the county of Stanley, is therefore capable of maintaining a very dense population; for it possesses, in common with the rest of the coast country, from Port Macquarie northwards, a much greater proportion of rich land than the central part of New South Wales, at the same time that it is much more level than the country in the basins of the northern rivers generally. Mr. Martin, in his "Colonial Library," entertains the same opinion of the capability of Moreton Bay to support a numerous population, and to produce in abundance the tropical productions of sugar, cotton, coffee, silk, tobacco, &c.
Moreton Bay, shortly after its examination by the late Surveyor-General, was made a penal settlement for convicts under colonial sentences, and free settlers were not permitted to resort thither; but a year or two ago, the convicts were withdrawn, and this fine district was thrown open for location. Brisbane Town, a few miles up the river, contains some very good houses and stores of stone or brick, and it possesses the advantage of having in its vicinity excellent building stone, lime, coal, iron, cedar, pine, and other superior timber of useful kinds. Two other Government townships have been formed in eligible situations, one of them being near the mouth of the Brisbane river, and the other above Brisbane Town, at Limestone. This last township will be the terminus for the wool-drays from the upper parts of the district, and the numerous sheep-stations at Peel's plains. Darling downs, Byron's plains, &c. on the western side of the main dividing range. The settlers on the other side of the range, at these different localities, have been for some time in direct communication with Moreton Bay; the descent into the low country being very easy and gradual, through a passage called the Gap.
Wool has been hitherto forwarded from the Moreton Bay district to Sydney in steamers and other coasting vessels, to be shipped from thence to England, but I see by the latest Sydney papers that the settlers in the vicinity of Moreton Bay are now going to send their wool direct to England from that harbour. Notwithstanding the near approach of this district to the tropic, Moreton Bay being in about 27° south latitude, the climate is quite as salubrious as any other part of New South Wales, and the traveller in the "bush" there can sleep uncovered on the bare ground, ford rivers, ride on in wet clothes, and expose himself to every variation of temperature, with the same impunity as in the more southern parts of New South Wales. The great exposure, to which settlers and travellers in the Australian forests subject themselves, would, in any other clime, infallibly entail upon them fevers, rheumatism, affections of the lungs, &c.; yet their extraordinary exemption from these ill effects has become proverbial, and is the best argument that can be adduced in favour of the salubrity of those parts of New South Wales hitherto colonized. During my surveys at the MacLeay and Nambucca rivers, I found it often necessary to carry lines through extensive reedy swamps, in which I myself and my men were frequently immersed for hours together in stagnant water, which sometimes reached as high as our shoulders; yet although several of the men attached to my surveying party were evidently not of strong constitutions, none of them ever suffered any bad effects from these long continued soakings; they were generally rather pleased on those days when I traversed swamps, as I had made it a rule to give them an extra ration of rum or wine whenever they got wet.
What a contrast between the climate of New Holland, and that of the United States, to which our fellow-countrymen are so fond of resorting! Ague, marsh fever, and dyspeptic complaints, soon attack the unlucky^ emigrant who seeks a home in the dreary back settlements of the latter country, amidst fetid morasses, and dank unwholesome forests, where he is oppressed in summer by a close, moist, almost tropical heat, and in winter experiences the violent gradation to a temperature colder than he has ever experienced in his native land. In the southern states, especially Louisiana, yellow fevers, tumefied livers, et hoc genus omne, are prevalent; and although Texas is said to possess a healthy climate, yet the adjoining countries have been proved- to be so little suited to English constitutions, that I should be rather diffident of trusting to the climate of Texas, unless there existed a very marked difference in the physical conformation of that country compared with Mexico and Louisiana.
Experience is our only guide to enable us to form an opinion of the salubrity of the climate of any country: Hong-Kong was always supposed to be a healthy island, and yet we now learn, after a frightful mortality among our troops and seamen in that settlement, that in order to guard against disease there, it is necessary to take greater care of oneself, and submit to more annoying precautions than in India itself; it being necessary, for instance, to wear thick cloth clothes in the hottest weather, &c.
There are many inexplicable causes which produce wonderful diversity of climate. Thus, if I were called upon to judge from analogy, I should have no hesitation in saying that Australia was a most unhealthy country for Europeans; for the estuaries of its rivers, its creeks, salt-water inlets and mud flats, abound in mangroves, which have been considered by the best authorities the chief cause of the unequalled unhealthiness of the rivers on the coast of Western Africa. Again, there are in Australia an infinite number of tea-tree morasses, and reedy swamps, covered with stagnant water and rank vegetation; and the changes in the temperature, between day and night, are probably greater in Australia than in any other country, and are also very sudden. Nevertheless, the experience of upwards of half a century has now ascertained that no country in the world is more exempt from all that class of disorders which originate in impure air, and deleterious miasma, than Australia. Indeed, when I informed some persons in Sydney a few years ago, that ague was prevalent at the lower part of the MacLeay river, I was listened to with great incredulity, it seemed to them so totally incompatible with the climate of the colony; yet the reader will not wonder that cases of ague should occur at the MacLeay, for beside the mangrove mud-flats at its mouth, there are, on its banks, at least 60,000 acres of stagnant swamps covered with high reeds and water; and the decomposition constantly going on in the dense mass of vegetation on the alluvial lands, must also evolve a great quantity of noxious gases.
Notwithstanding these obvious causes of impure exhalations, and the greater heat of the climate, the ague at the MacLeay river is much milder than in the fenny counties of England; the cold fit occurs every other day, but is seldom so severe as to prevent a man from attending to his daily avocations. Change of air, and sulphate of quinine, remove the ague directly, but it is liable to return by fresh exposure to the causes which produced it. Although I have resided upwards of four years at the MacLeay river, I have never known there a single instance in which ague has been attended, even in bad constitutions, with serious symptoms of an inflammatory or typhoidal character.
Should it happen, that, at any future period, labour became sufficiently cheap and abundant, to render it profitable to clear and cultivate the rich brush land on the banks of the Brisbane and Bremer rivers at Moreton Bay, for the production of cotton, sugar, coffee, indigo, rice, &c. that district will become the most flourishing part of the colony.
Dr. Lang, the present member for Port Philip in the Legislative Council, and whose long residence in New South Wales, and intimate acquaintance with the natural resources of that colony, entitle his observations to great consideration, seems, in his work on New South Wales, to entertain a sanguine opinion of the possibility of forming establishments for the cultivation of tropical productions at Port Macquarie or Moreton Bay. From the great number of experiments which have been made in these two settlements, there is no doubt whatever of those productions succeeding, if largely cultivated, especially at Moreton Bay. Specimens of cotton, grown in the colony, have been manufactured into yarn at Glasgow, and pronounced of superior quality. The coffee shrub grows very well, and as I have already observed elsewhere, sugar has been made at the plains on the Wilson river, at Port Macquarie, during the time that that place was a penal settlement; and I have myself seen sugar-cane growing luxuriantly in Mr. Rudder's garden, at the village of Kempsey on the MacLeay river.
Having read in some of the late Sydney journals some remarks on the practicability of establishing an overland communication with Port Essington on the north coast of New Holland, to facilitate the introduction of Chinese into the colony, it may not be out of place here to quote the following observations made by Dr. Lang ten years ago, on the advantage of inducing Chinese to settle in New South Wales. "It appears to me," observes the Doctor, "that if a tract of land, say from ten thousand to twenty thousand acres, were purchased from the government, at one of the northern settlements of New South Wales, as for instance at Port Macquarie, and a thousand families of Chinese settled upon it in one body, either as tenants at a rental in produce, or as proprietors, and allowed to adopt their own manners and customs without interference on the part of the colonists, the tea plant might be introduced with every prospect of success. Were a House of Assembly established in New South Wales, I have no doubt that such a scheme would at least be attempted, and that the funds required for the purpose of carrying it into effect would be comparatively trifling."
The settlers have formed stations considerably to the northward of Moreton Bay, and one gentleman, well known for his enterprising spirit, has established sheep-stations in the vicinity of Wide Bay, which is in 25° south latitude, and nearly six hundred miles from Sydney, A species of palm, bearing an edible fruit, begins to grow to the north of Moreton Bay; there is a large extent of country in which it is particularly abundant, and which is the constant place of resort for a vast number of the Aborigines, who feed on the fruit, which they call Bunya-Bunya. In consequence of the large tribes of natives in this region, the Governor has promulgated an order, enjoining the of Crown lands at Moreton Bay, not to allow any persons to form stations in those parts of the country in which these Australian date-trees grow. The Catholic clergy in Sydney, with their customary zeal to make converts to their church, have hastened to take advantage of the constant assemblage of the native tribes at this prohibited region, and have established a mission among them. As the Governor's order will protect these native tribes from the corrupting influence of the lower orders of the white population, the missionaries appear to entertain great hopes that their endeavours to convey some idea of religion to these Aborigines will be attended with greater success, than the many futile attempts hitherto made to convert the Australian blacks to Christianity.
Some German missionaries have been for some time among the blacks at Moreton Bay, and one of them has obtained considerable notoriety from having deliberately accused the squatters in that district of having poisoned upwards of fifty of the native blacks. The squatters of Moreton Bay, are almost all gentlemen of education and good connections, many of them being retired officers; and the ridiculous improbability of the general accusation brought against them by the Reverend Mr. Schmidt was so universally felt in the colony, that little trouble was taken to remove the aspersion cast upon them. On my arrival in England, however, I found that this affair had been seriously taken up by the Aborigines Protection Society, who threatened to have it brought before Parliament; much discussion on the subject has also appeared in the columns of the Colonial Gazette. These German missionaries seemed to be men of great disinterestedness, and most philanthropic motives in their endeavours to ameliorate the moral condition of the Australian Aborigines. They were probably misled by the natives, and thoughtlessly made a general accusation against the squatters, without sufficiently reflecting on the grave nature of the charge, and the odium which would rebound on themselves, if they failed in making it good. According to the account of the squatters, it would appear, that some sheep, diseased and scabby, had been dressed as usual with arsenic, which, with corrosive sublimate, is the ordinary remedy for scab. These sheep had been rushed by the blacks, and a number of them carried off, and it is supposed that the arsenic caused the death of some of the thieves.by the
I have before observed that the Government of New South Wales are about to send out an expedition of discovery, which is to endeavour to reach the settlement of Victoria, at Port Essington, on the northern coast of New Holland, about two thousand miles from Sydney This enterprise will create the most intense interest in the scientific world, as Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell has offered his valuable services to conduct it. The indomitable energy, accurate judgment, and untiring scientific research, which that distinguished officer displayed in his previous well known expeditions into the interior of Australia, will ensure the success of the enterprise, unless insurmountable obstacles should be encountered.
Although Port Essington is far beyond the extreme limits of the territory of New South Wales, I have thought that it might not perhaps be out of place to insert the following extract from a despatch of Captain Sir Everard Home, of her Majesty's ship North Star, who visited Port Essington last year.
"The settlement at Port Essington stands upon a rising ground on the west side of the harbour, elevated about fifty feet, in the highest part, above high water mark, the soil being a conglomerate of red-stone and sand, which from its dryness evidently conduces to the healthiness for which it is remarkable. The extent between the northwardmost building, which is the hospital, and the Government House, which stands south of it, is 690 paces; and from the water's edge to the western extent is 370 paces.
"The settlement of Victoria stands upon partially cleared ground, and consists of the Government House, which is built of wood, and has a shingle roof; the hospital, which is a building of the same description, which has a kitchen behind it, built of stone, but unfinished; there is a mess room, to which is attached the quarters of the second officer in command of the garrison; the space under it is used as the store-room of the officers; there is another building also of a similar description, the upper part of which forms the quarters of the store-keeper and linguist, the lower part of which is the spirit room; there are three good store-houses, one of which is the ordnance store; the foundation being of brick work, the sides of wood. The roofs of all these buildings are of shingles. There is another store-house or building used as such, having a thatched roof, which is supported by wooden posts, the sides formed of the same material as the roof. There is a house also made of wood, and thatched with reeds, formerly occupied by Captain Stanley, and used by him as an observatory; there is also the ruins of a church, built of wood, it was blown down by the hurricane, and has never since been repaired; the rest of the buildings are small huts formed for the most part of reeds, twenty-nine in number; the greater part of them are occupied each by two marines, gardens are attached to each of them, which are very productive, and very well kept; these huts form a square in the centre of which is a well. At the distance of about half a mile southward of the square there are two gardens, one near the beach, the soil of which is sandy, and in the wet season saturated with moisture; the other stands upon higher ground, more to the west, and is a better soil; they are about an acre and a half each in extent, and are extremely well kept by three of the marines; of the plants now growing in the gardens, the pine-apples, (part of one I have tasted), are esteemed to be the best, and are improved, as is the cotton, by being transplanted hither; the lemons are of a thick rind, and without juice; the orange trees are evidently from a state of nature, and the guavas are not of a good kind, but all appear to grow in the most luxuriant manner, and appear in the highest health.
"Of stock they have one English cow, and a bull, two Indian heifers and two cows, about fifty goats, and a few fowls, of which one cow, and several of the goats are the property of Sir Gordon Bremer; another cow, and the bull, besides six working oxen, thirty buffaloes, and six pigs the property of Government; five ponies, and thirty greyhounds for catching kangaroos, complete the amount of the live stock; these last are private property.
"Although the present state of Port Essington is by no means an inviting one to a casual visitor, it holds out, in my opinion, great hopes of success to a permanent settler. Mr. Earl informs me (and a more zealous, acute, or intelligent gentleman I have scarcely ever met,) that the land which is flooded and swampy on the peninsula is as one acre to twenty acres of the dry land; the swamp land can easily be cultivated with rice, and the land not fitted to receive that grain produces the finest cotton; the valleys which are not sufficiently extensive for the cultivation of rice, are admirably adapted for the growth of sugar; cocoa should also be tried, and paper mulberry for the production of silk-worms. Indigo grows wild and is of the best quality; the dry stony land is, in my opinion, well adapted for the cultivation of cactus opuntia, on which the cochineal insects might be produced to a good effect, with many other useful commodities, which would soon suggest themselves to intelligent settlers. There is plenty of very good soil here to be cultivated; the first consideration is, who the cultivators should be; the natives, of whom the greater number of them here, appear to be of a mild and obliging disposition; they will carry water, and do small offices of service for a small reward of bread or rice, but they will not remain permanently fixed at any one spot. The climate is far too hot for Europeans to labour in. In the opinion of Mr. Earl, settlers from Timor, and the islands northward, would be the best; but from what I have seen of the Chinese, from their activity and intelligence, and other qualities fitting them for such work, I should recommend that they also should be encouraged to settle here.
"In the neighbouring woods there are wild ponies, pigs, buffaloes, and red cattle, the greater part of which is the offspring of the stock left at Port Raffles, when that settlement was broken up. On the main land, opposite to Goulburn Island, two herds of wild buffaloes, consisting of about fifty each, have been seen feeding by the water side.—Kangaroos are very numerous.
"There are five never-failing wells of excellent water. One by the eastern garden, near the seaside, is high enough, with the addition of a little work, to enable the water in it to be conveyed, by hose or trough, into the boat upon the shore. The timber here is extremely well adapted for building; it is hard and durable, and is never attacked by the white ant, which is the greatest enemy to be contended with in this place.
"Of the general results which your Excellency has directed me to inquire into, of the communications with British and foreign ships since the foundation of the settlement, and the probable advantages which may be derived from such sources, I have consulted Mr. Earl, and his opinion is, that one of the objects in forming this settlement was, that it might become a port of refuge for vessels that had received damage in the adjacent seas, and for the crews of such as might be lost: it has certainly proved beneficial.
"In 1841, the crew of the Montreal, a ship which had been lost on Alert reef, to the westward of Torres Straits, came to this port in their boats, and as the monsoon blew that year with great strength, it is doubtful if they could have reached any port in Timor. The Lord Auckland was hove down here and repaired by Captain M‘Arthur. The two strongest cases were those of the ship Manlius and the little cutter Harriet from Timor; had not this settlement existed, the crew of the former must have perished, their provisions being nearly expended, and they would have been unable to leave this coast for nearly three months, owing to the monsoon, if she had not, indeed, caught fire from her damaged cotton long before the period elapsed."
The point from which Sir Thomas Mitchell proposes, (according to the Sydney papers,) to start into the unknown interior towards Port Essington is the stockade on the Darling, made by him in his journey down that river, and which is about four hundred and fifty miles from Sydney.
Having in the foregoing pages thus attempted to describe the north-eastern part of the territory of New South Wales, which the late ministry at one time intended making a separate colony, and of which Moreton Bay was to have been the seat of Government, I will now briefly recapitulate, in general terms, the distinctive features of this part of New South Wales compared with its central districts.
Firstly, Its Geological formation, which, instead of being sandstone, so generally predominant, south of the river Hunter, consists of rocks, mostly of primitive or transition origin, such as granite, trap, ancient limestone, slates, &c, Now in Australia, all these classes of rock furnish, by their decomposition, a much more fertile surface soil than sandstone. Secondly, The general mountainous nature of the country,the very great altitude of the mountains, exceeding six thousand feet above the level of the sea, and their proximity to the coast. These mountains accumulate and condense the vapours from the sea^ and occasion frequent rains; they also mitigate the scorching heat of the hot winds from the north-west, which are so severely felt in Sydney, although that city is so much farther south.
Thirdly, The abundance of water every where, and the great number of navigable rivers in close proximity to each other. Thus from Moreton Bay to the Manning river, the southern boundary of the county of Macquarie, which is not more than two hundred and seventy miles along the coast, there are no less than nine rivers with bar harbours, which can be entered by coasting vessels and small steamers; viz. the Brisbane, the Tweed, the Richmond, the Clarence, the Bellengen, the MacLeay, the Hastings, Camden Haven creek, and the Manning.
Lastly, The adaptation, for the culture of tropical productions, of the rich alluvial soil on these rivers, which soil extends in continuous narrow borders of brush land along their banks. The inexhaustible productiveness of this kind of land I have already alluded to; it is unknown in European soils, and can only be paralleled by that of the alluvial flats of tropical countries. These rich brush lands are not available in the present state of the colony; for it would never answer to clear them of the dense mass of indigenous vegetation which encumbers them, for the culture of the mere ordinary agricultural productions of New South Wales. Should cheap labourers, such as Chinese or Coolies, ever be introduced into the colony, it is not improbable that, at some future period, the banks of these northern rivers may be diversified by plantations of sugar-cane, cotton, coffee, rice, &c.; for all these productions have been ascertained from experiments to succeed well north of Port Macquarie. There would be one great advantage also, that the climate would be better suited to Europeans, than that of almost any other country in which these productions are grown. In the meanwhile, the brush land, which has been cleared of trees in the districts of Port Macquarie and Moreton Bay, and the naturally unwooded alluvial flats, which the squatters on the intermediate rivers cultivate, yield, with little trouble, crops of maize, more certain, abundant, and of better quality, than the central parts of New South Wales; wheat, as I have before observed, grows better there on alluvial land, in dry than in moist seasons; and the tobacco is of very superior quality; and if its manufacture were properly understood, it would be a most profitable article to cultivate, the duty imposed by the colonial legislature on foreign tobacco being so great.
The north-eastern part of the territory of New South Wales, will also be found pre-eminently suited for the cultivation of the vine, from the great prevalence of lightly wooded undulating fertile ranges, the rocks and soil of which are such as experience has proved the best suited for the production of superior wine. The hot winds from the north-west, and the cold south wind, being almost unknown in the Port Macquarie district, that part of the colony especially, seems remarkably adapted for the formation of extensive vineyards; a few patches of vines have already been planted there in different places. Dr. Carlisle has a vineyard near the town of Macquarie, on a fluviatile sandy flat, and although a situation such as this is not in general favourable for vines, he has nevertheless made some very good wine. Two or three acres have been planted with vines at the village of Kempsey on the MacLeay river; they were thriving uncommonly well when I last saw them.
It must not however be imagined, from the foregoing observations, that I consider the coast country, north of Port Macquarie, superior to other parts of the colony for agricultural and pastoral pursuits, or other ordinary colonial occupations, unless yards. For it is too mountainous, densely wooded, and swampy, to be so good as many other parts for sheep, and wheat and potatoes do not grow there so well as in the extreme southern districts. My object, in publishing the foregoing observations on this part of the territory of New South Wales, has been to show that it is in a great measure exempt from that extreme aridity in the aspect of the country, which characterises Australia generally; whilst it is well adapted for the production of many objects of cultivation, such as rice, cotton, sugar, indigo, &c. for which its warmer and moister climate, and the rich belts of alluvial soil on the banks of its rivers and streams, are peculiarly suited.
- The MacLeay river.—My survey has however, shewn that it is only navigable for thirty-four miles, and so far only for vessels not exceeding sixty or seventy tons burden.
- Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia, with Descriptions of the newly explored Region of Australia Felix, and of the present Colony of New South Wales, by Major Sir T. L. Mitchell, D.C.L., F.G.S., &c. Surveyor-General. 2 vols. 8vo.—London: T. & W. Boone, New Bond Street.
- I have already observed, in the commencement of this work, that in Australia the rocks exercise a more marked influence on the vegetation growing on the soil which covers them, than in any other country. In estimating the quantity of land in any part of Australia, the nature of the subjacent rock, and the general formation of the surrounding country, should be considered of paramount importance. With regard to the influence of rocks on soil, Hausmann, in his work on the Connection of Geology with Agriculture and Planting, has observed that "from what has been said of the relations existing between the masses of which the crust of the globe is composed, and the loose earth or soil by which it is covered, it appears evident enough that they have great influence over its formation and nature, and therefore upon the more perfect vegetables and especially those which are the objects of cultivation; and that, although the fertility of the soil is much increased by these vegetables themselves, yet the first foundation of their vigour was derived from the disintegration and decomposition of rocks."