Diary of ten years eventful life of an early settler in Western Australia and also A descriptive vocabulary of the language of the aborigines/The colony (12)
Perth, February 1836.
Feb. 22nd.—I did not return from Perth till yesterday morning. In the meantime John Eakins and two other men have taken Mr. S——'s farm for three years; they are to give him half the produce of the land for rent, he supplying a team. I dare say they will have at least 50 acres under wheat crop. Johnny had a few sheep which I had my eye on to purchase, and he had engaged to give me the offer of them when he wanted to sell them. In the settlement of wages with him there was a point in which he thought I was too strict with him, namely, charging him for any days on which he was absent. So, to vex me, he went out into the kitchen and sold them to James,—5 ewes, 3 ewe lambs, and two wether lambs, £20. I paid Johnny £8 as balance of wages. Servants might become very comfortable here in a little while, if they took care of themselves. Those men with whom I formerly agreed have set out for my grant this day, James accompanying them. They have left a man in his stead. I am getting the floor of the sitting room boarded, and have retired for the occasion, or withdrawn myself into my bed-room.
March 2nd.—The former part of this letter must be dovetailed into one which I sent by Van Diemen's Land. The ship has not yet sailed. James has this day returned from over the hills. All arrived safe there, and the men have taken my sheep, and taken up a position on my grant there. I have just been puzzling over the account of the flock which Mr. Solomon has rendered. I sent 251 ewes there in May last, and I have only returned to me 266 now, besides 32 ewe lambs, 31 wether lambs, and 47 wethers, 26 of which wethers I sent over there. I have serious thoughts of sending all the flock over there also, for I find it does not pay to keep a small quantity here.
Saturday.—I went to Perth on Thursday and reached home to-night. Our busy time is just now arrived (I mean in Council). Our financial year commences 1st April, previous to which time our "Budget" has to be opened, laws enacted, ways and means devised, expenditure sanctioned, and revenue appropriated, by an Act framed for that purpose. Our Governor has now ceased to fret about the control exercised over him this time last year in Legislative Council, where we carried a measure of reduction of the police in spite of him. He thinks it was unauthorized usurpation of power on our parts, and, strange to say, we have never heard from England on the subject. Both he and we deprecate the same sort of collision this year, and he seems contriving every means to avoid it, and yet carry his purposes. The 11th of this month is the day fixed for the first sitting, and we await it in suspense. He has ordered me to be on the spot all next week, and, in the meantime, I have prepared for him five bills to be submitted to the Council:—Recovery of Small Debts Bill; a Bill to amend the Act for establishing the Court; a Bill for attaching Debts, Money, Goods, or Effects, in the hands of third parties; a Bill for adopting several English Acts; and an ordinance for Appropriating the Revenue. I hope he will not want any more, for I am quite tired of them for one time. He wanted a Bill for establishing some sort of municipal authority in the town of Perth, but I persuaded him that it was premature, as indeed it is.
Tuesday.—I went to Perth yesterday morning, when, behold, there was a new arrangement; our "Budget" had been put off till the 22nd, our Governor going to York in the meantime. So I returned to spend some of the interval at home and recruit, for I have been in a feverish heated state of body for some time. Perhaps it is owing to the weather, which has been very sultry for some days past.—The Eagle, schooner, has arrived from Sydney after a 90 days' passage. She lost all the sheep she was bringing here except 25, and the season is now so late we have no hopes of getting any more until after our winter. You see how difficult it is to get them here. We have had no importation of sheep for a very long time, yet there is perhaps a sum of £1500 ready to be invested here in sheep. The Eagle touched at Port Lincoln, where the new settlement of South Australia ought to be; but there was no such thing. I suppose the project has failed, and is abandoned for the present, which is fortunate for those who were thinking of going to it. They would have been ruined by the plans proposed to be adopted in order to avoid that which they say caused the "failure" of Swan River. But Swan River is an instance of surprizing success, considering what it had to struggle with. Its stability and progressive prosperity are now secured, especially within the last year; and how? Why, by that very course which they seem so anxious to avoid, namely, by driving the population out of towns and concentrated places, and scattering them over the face of the country as a pastoral people. Pasture is and must be, at first, for a long time, the chief and almost the only resource of colonies so situated as these are. There are no other natural resources which the means of a young colony could make available (always excepting whale and seal fishing, but even they require large capital and heavy expenditure). There are no natives or tribes in the interior to traffic with, as in South Africa. There are no natural products which the settler can collect. The curing of beef for exportation requires skill, labour, and expense in managing it, in procuring salt, in making casks or cooperage. Sheep grazing is, certainly, the most suitable occupation for a new, extensive district, requiring, as it does, a less proportion of annual expenditure, for managing a large capital profitably invested than any other occupation. Vineyards require time, &c. Then, you see, that sheep grazing requires a large tract of land to run over, and if a large price is demanded for land, there is an end to that at once. If you will insist upon concentrating population, there is also an end to that occupation. What does Mr B— say, after being six years here? I shall settle myself 15 miles from the nearest neighbour, that I may have room to myself on all sides for my cattle, and not be plagued with those eternal annoyances of mutual trespasses of cattle; for, bear in mind that, with labour dear, as it must be in a new colony, fencing with post and rail costs near £100 per mile. Agriculture, except for self-supply, is also out of the question. You cannot compete for a long time with other well-established competitors who have their ground already brought into cultivation, their teams at work, their labour lower, their markets established, their mode of traffic arranged, and many other obvious things. But I have dwelt perhaps too long upon this subject.
Saturday night, 14th June.—The period that has elapsed since my last entry has been one of some novelty and interest to me. When I went to Perth, the Governor renewed his offer of giving me protection of police, if I should be inclined to take a ten days trip anywhere. I took advantage of his proposal. Came up here on Wednesday night, devoted Thursday to preparations and planning what course I should take.
Wednesday.—Have been plagued all day with natives wanting to grind wheat. At last came a hue and cry that they had stolen a quantity from some neighbours. The man most guilty had gone off, and I made some here punish those whom they said were guilty, by giving them a small blow or two across the back with a switch. It was only women and children, who had to stand as scapegoats for the rest; but it will make them think of it more seriously.
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I returned last night from a fortnight's exploration in the bush, and have had an excursion of some interest and importance to the colony in several respects. I shall probably give some account of it in our local newspaper, and I shall not occupy more space here than to give you the outlines of what we, Mr. B—, Mr. L—, and myself have seen. We came across a very large tract of beautiful country, and at no great distance from this—perhaps from 28 to 40 miles away. We saw several wild cattle in that valley (or a branch of it) which Dale and I passed in 1831, on our N.N.W. progress from York, where we saw cattle tracks then. I have obtained some evidence of the existence of a large lake of salt water at Molean, as I conjectured before. The distance is about ten days' walk (of the natives) from the York district, with a fine country and good land all the way. Though this excursion has been made in our winter, we had delightful weather with the exception of the last two days, and nothing unpleasant throughout the trip. I think it a most interesting geographical and geological feature,—what if this should be the inland sea conjectured and expected to exist in the interior of this singular island? Some argue now that it is Spencer's Gulf, or some inlet of the sea from the South, whilst others ridicule the whole affair and fancy it a misapprehension, on my part, of some idle tale of the natives. My own opinion is that it will turn out to be an inlet of the sea from the North,—perhaps Shark's Bay—or even from the N.W. Cape in latitude 22°. It is a long distance, but I have a strong impression on the subject. I have discovered a bulbous root like a dark-coloured potatoe, called by the natives konno, which I mean to endeavour to cultivate, and which may be very useful if it succeeds. The taste is something like the meat of a cocoanut, or between that and a carrot taste. One specimen is as large as your fist.
Wednesday.—Should have gone to Perth to-day, but rain came on so heavy that I could not stir. This reminds me that a small indiarubber cloth cap, which you once sent out, and which I immediately purchased for myself as a specific against wet, does not keep out rain after all. I had placed great dependence on it, and am quite disappointed. A large long good indiarubber cloak is a thing which I am very much in want of. Such an article would not only be very useful in riding in winter, but would also in the bush be an excellent preservative from the effects of damp, if one had to sleep on the ground, as may be my case, either in exploring or going to visit my sheep farm, which is near 70 miles from this. Such a thing lined with green baize (if there be such a heterogeneous mixture) would be bed, blanket, and all. With a Sou'-Wester' cap, a pilot's hood, a cloak of this sort, pilot's boots, and indiarubber shoes, one would be armed cap-a-pied. I have discovered a mousetrap; one of the tinned boxes which you sent out clothes in long ago is so deep that the mice cannot jump out nor climb up the tin. I have a piece of cheese in it, and have caught no less than seventeen during the last two days.
July 2nd.—Only this evening returned from Perth. A ship's gun was heard yesterday morning, just as I was coming away, and I waited in hopes of the vessel's arrival, and of hearing what news there might be; but she could not make Cockburn Sound last night, and stood off the shore again. I waited again to-day till two o'clock, but there was no tidings of her arrival, so I came off.—Heard some more particulars about the two natives shot at York; they were caught in the very act of breaking open a house to rob it. They attempted to spear the soldier who held one of them, and beat Mr. Solomon who held the other. One was shot on the spot, the other had broke away, and was brought down while running. All the natives up there have vowed vengeance for this, and even here some have declared they will be revenged. The lesson has not been severe enough. I fear more lives will be lost on both sides. They have attacked, or rather shown symptoms of attacking my flock, but were driven off by the boldness of the shepherd. They killed four or five sheep at Solomon's, in despite of the shepherd, whom they drove off. They caught the young lambs and dashed their brains out against the trees. They have killed and eaten a horse in that neighbourhood also. It is high time these doings were checked. The Governor has strengthened the positions in that quarter, but it is impossible to say where the flame will break out; so we must all be on the watch.
July 3rd.—The vessel spoken of was the Addingham. By her I have received three letters from you; also four from Captain Mangles, and two from Captain Irwin. The Revd. Dr. Gustiniani (the missionary) and his wife have arrived. He was at death's door just on his arrival, a few minutes more and we should have lost him; but I trust there is yet in store for him a rich harvest in that wide field to which he has been thus munificently and beneficially sent, and in which he has been thus mercifully spared to labour. He is animated with zeal and full of hope regarding his success among the natives. This will be a subject often recurred to in my letters, so I shall not dwell now upon it.
July 5th.—Mr. Roe has lent me a hurried reading of Captain King's survey of the North and Nor' West Coast of this country. Mr. Roe was with him. He says it was to lat. 17° that they looked with most hope for an opening in the interior. I have also got a reading of the Minutes of the Geological Society for 1834—5, in which I am greatly interested. Some of the men from my grant at York have come here tonight; they report casualties, two sheep and one growing lamb dead. The weather has been severe there, being more cold than here. I have only 84 here now, from which I expect about 60 lambs, and about 300 lambs from my flock over the hills.
July 10th.—This has become nearly a hebdomadal rather than a journal. I have only returned this night from Perth. I went to Guildford on Wednesday to make enquiries about a station for the mission, for Mackie and I have been requested to act as assistants and corresponding members. It is not possible to get a station on this side of the hills without purchase, and poor Dr. G. is fretting sadly to get to work at once; but if he do not attend to his health I fear we shall not long enjoy his services. On Thursday night he was seized with a recurrence of his painful illness. He sent for me in all haste, and informed me that he feared he was past hope or in very great danger. He mentioned what he wished to be done in case of his death, and commended his wife to my care on behalf of the mission. I remained most of the night with him, endeavouring to support and comfort him, and am glad to think I was of some service when he was in a very trying situation. Poor Mrs. Gustiniani was in grievous affliction. I did not leave him till all danger was over.