Extracts from the letters and journals of George Fletcher Moore, now filling a judicial office at the Swan River Settlement

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Extracts from the letters and journals of George Fletcher Moore, now filling a judicial office at the Swan River Settlement  (1834) 
by George Fletcher Moore

The diary of George Fletcher Moore is considered an extremely important record of early colonial life in Western Australia, because it is one of a few records that were written from the point of view of an ordinary colonist, as opposed to the official correspondence of a salaried public official. Tom Stannage describes the diary as "an immensely valuable social document" and "the best published guide we have to life in Swan River colony between 1830 and 1840."

Portions of the diary have been published a number of times: firstly in 1834 under the title Extracts from the letters and journals of George Fletcher Moore, now filling a judicial office at the Swan River Settlement; secondly, serialised in The West Australian between 1881 and 1882; thirdly, in 1884, together with a reprint of Moore's 1842 A Descriptive Vocabulary of the Language of the Aborigines, under the title Diary of ten years eventful life of an early settler in Western Australia and also A descriptive vocabulary of the language of the aborigines; and most recently, a heavily annotated edition was published in 2006 under the title The Millendon memoirs.















Happening to be at the Smithfield market, in Dublin, a few months ago, I met a stranger, who showed me a very fine sample of white wheat, which had grown on our colonial soil in Western Australia. Our conversation turned, in consequence, on many particulars relating to the circumstances of the Settlement on the Swan River; in the course of which my companion informed me that one of his brothers is a settler there.

Our chat terminated most agreeably, with an invitation for me to dine the same day at the house of this gentleman,—Mr. Joseph Moore,—and to look over certain letters and memoranda which the emigrant had regularly transmitted from the period of his location. These I considered interesting, and communicative of the practical information which is so desirable.

In short, I suggested the publication of them, to which my host reluctantly assented, waiving a very serious obstacle, viz. the probable displeasure of the absent brother, at the publication of letters solely intended for his own family-circle. This objection I over-ruled by the assurance that they contained nothing discreditable to the head or the heart of the writer.

If, therefore, they prove deficient of interest and neatness of arrangement, the blame consequent on their failure will be solely attributable to my want of judgement, and clumsiness of connexion.

Should the emigrant himself be much offended at the unauthorised liberty now taken with his name and papers, I have the comforting consideration that he is too far off to quarrel with me in a very personal way; and that if ever he should return to this country, his resentment will have had sufficient time to evaporate altogether.

To the portion of the public interested in the subject of emigration, the minute and regular details afforded in the following pages are most important, especially when they may be depended upon as critically true.

The writer neither wishes to promote nor to discourage emigration to his own settlement; he has no personal interest in communicating facts,—these, therefore, constitute a valuable and certain testimony.

In my very humble capacity of Editor, I have experienced little difficulty, except in the encounter of a few Latin quotations.

My readers are already aware of my often acknowledged ignorance of the dead, or learned languages, as they are termed: the quotations of a market note are such, indeed, even in my own language, as I am most familiar with. To me, therefore, those of Horace, Virgil, &c. are totally unintelligible.

But happily for my Editorial fame, one of my sons, a student in Trinity College, Dublin, has been with me during the vacation, and has undertaken the direction of the Latin department, which, in truth, has but very limited extent. Like all boys, however, he may have been too anxious for the exhibition of his own puerile conceits in certain Latin notes which I see appended to the text. Of this I cannot judge—the reader may;—but whatever unfavourable opinions he may form of young Martin's taste and acquirements, I intreat his suppression of them, lest the aspiring energies of the youngster be extinguished by the damping effects of rigid criticism.

Ballyorley, April, 1834


The western side of Australia is traversed for some hundred miles by a chain of mountains, called the Darling, running from north to south nearly parallel with the coast. A fine tract of country, ornamented by large forest trees and flowering shrubs, extends itself to their base, a distance varying from thirty to fifty miles, and continues to their termination near Cape Chatham, the southern extremity of the continent.

From these mountains flow the Swan and Canning Rivers, whose united waters discharge themselves into an estuary nine miles long, and tween three and four miles broad, called Melville Water. The entrance to the estuary is over a bar of rocks, with only six feet at low water. This bar extends about three quarters of a mile; the water deepens four and six fathoms near the shore, and upwards of eight fathoms towards the centre, and thus continues for some miles.

The Swan River (so named by Vlaning in 1697, from the great number of black swans which he saw there) is navigable for boats as far as the tide flows, more than forty miles from the coast. The height of the mountains ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 feet—some are considerably higher—and Mount William elevates its rugged top three thousand feet above the level of the sea.

The distance across the range is from twenty-five to thirty miles, beyond which, fertile plains open to the view, beautifully wooded, and stretching towards the south-east as far as the eye can reach. The progress of further discovery towards the east has been extended fifty miles eastward of Perth across the mountains. The settlement of York has been established on a river called the Avon, the course of which is from south-east to north-west; but its source and termination are as yet unknown. The land to the south is more fertile than that towards the north, the atmosphere cooler, and the climate more agreeable.

About eighty miles to the south of the Swan River, is the River Colley, which, taking its rise in the Darling Mountains, flows (with two other rivers) into Port Leshenhault, an estuary sixteen or eighteen miles in length.

The banks of the Colley are said to be beautiful; there is a bar at its mouth which prevents the entrance of vessels of any considerable burthen. The soil between it and the Canning River (nearest to the mountains) is of clay or red marl, occasionally interspersed with sandy loam, like that of Shropshire, and well adapted to agricultural purposes; towards the coast, the soil is light and sandy, but producing large timber; the banks of the rivers abound in rich alluvial flats; the mountains, composed of granite, are generally rugged.

Of the country between the Colley and Cape Lewin but little is as yet known. Where it has been penetrated (as from the river Vasse) it presents the same appearance as in the neighbourhood of the Colley. Immediately round Cape Lewin, to the east, a town has been founded, called Augusta, at the mouth of the Blackwood, which debouches into a commodious inlet of the sea. This river is navigable for boats for twenty-five or thirty miles, and the banks are well timbered. Between Augusta and King George's Sound the coast has not been accurately traced; it is supposed to contain some considerable inlets: towards Cape Chatham one is known to exist, which may, perhaps, receive the waters falling from the east side of the Darling range, and those which have their source in the western declivity of a parallel range, terminating near Point Hillier. To the north of Point Hillier there is a fine country, well wooded and watered; to the east of which lies King George's Sound, where there was once a convict settlement; but the convicts have been removed for the purpose of placing it under the jurisdiction of Governor Stirling. Between this part of the colony and Swan River is contained, according to the report of those who have traversed it, an extensive tract of beautiful country, well adapted to either pasture or agriculture. The climate is excellent: the rigours of winter and the oppressive heats of summer being equally unknown. Snow never falls there; and frost is rarely experienced; and even in the winter, vegetation advances. In the warmest months of summer the mornings and evenings are cool, and the noon-day heat is often tempered by a cooling breeze.

The present Governor is a great favourite with the colonists, active and enterprising; regardless of bodily fatigue and inconvenience, he is well calculated to promote the interest of an infant settlement. He has sent out several parties of discovery, buoyed off the entrance to the harbour; personally surveyed the coast four degrees north of the Swan River, and to the south and east round Cape Lewin, and beyond King George's Sound; and when unfavourable rumours of the instability of the colony were circulated, and when the stock of provisions was exhausted, and no supplies were furnished from Van Diemen's Land and Sydney; when a year had elapsed without arrivals from Great Britain, he came in person, at the earnest solicitation of the colonists, to represent their circumstances to the Home Government in London, and to have them placed on a less dependent footing.

The result of his application to the colonial ministers has been successful, and he has returned to gladden the hearts of the settlers with the assurance that their interests will not be overlooked, and that their settlement may yet become an important one in the History of Nations.

When Great Britain, from the superabundance of her treasures and her population, is sending forth her tens of thousands to lay the foundation of future kingdoms, to plant her standard, establish her religion, her laws, her language, and her commerce, in distant territories, Western Australia, we trust, will not be among the least favoured and least vigorous of her offsets.

Emigrants will find much important information in Sir James Stirling's Reports, one of which contains a table of the distances from Cockburn Sound to different parts of the world, with the average time occupied in the voyage by a fast-sailing vessel. It is here subjoined:—


Distance. Wind. Time.
To Timor 1,500 S.E. 12
Java 1,700 13
Madras 3,400 30
Ceylon 3,100 28
Mauritius 3,400 21
Cape of Good Hope 5,003 31
England—the passage
may be made in

Van Diemen's Land 2,200 S.W. 42
Port Jackson 2,600 50



Reflections on leaving Land—Duties of the Sabbath Day—Meet a Vessel in Distress—Trade Winds—Madeira—Flying Fish described—Pilot Fish—Portuguese Man of War—Memorials of Home—Epitaph on his Spaniel—Rain—A strange Sail—Crossing the Line—The Southern Cross—The Cape—Stanzas—Termination of the Voyage
Page 1

Appearance of the Country—Conflict with the Natives.—The Natives described—Difficulties of some of the Settlers—Prospects of the Colony—The Scenery on Canning River—Freemantle—Hints to Settlers—Necessaries and Superfluities—Obtain a Grant at the Head of the Swan River

Capabilities of the Colony—Scarcity of Cattle—Kangaroo Hunt—Loses himself in the Bush—Sites of New Towns—Aspect of the Country—Markets.

Soil of the Country—Alluvial Flats—Vegetable Productions—The Grass Tree—Quadrupeds—Birds and Fish—Climate—Insects—Rapidity of Production and Decay—Reptiles—The Natives—The Settlers—Jurisdiction of the Governor—Cattle—The Author's House described
Page 43

The Author's Occupations—Frogs—His Garden—Wild Turkeys—Catches a Snake and Centipede—Kangaroo Hunt—Disappointment—The Botanic Gardens—Farming Occupations—A Storm—Providential Escape—Receives Packet from Home—Value of Kangaroo Dogs—The Anihu—Symptoms of Winter—Great Want of Stone—Loses his Cow—Flowers and Songsters of Swan River

Swan River Fare—Servants' Wages—Price of Clothing, Provisions, &c.—Costume—Singular Phenomena—Approach of Spring—Constant Succession of Flowers—Projected Journey with Mr. Dale—Agricultural Meeting—The Governor's Ball.

New Settlement—First Day's Journey—Catches two Lizards—Rescues a young Kangaroo—Constant succession of Hills—The River Avon—Aspect of the Country—Hills—Plants—Singular Cave—River becomes Salt—Soil more barren—Come to a fresh water Lake—Capture an Ant-eater—Improvement in the Country—The River becomes absorbed in the Earth—Return to Mount Bakewell—Resume the Journal—Surprise a Native Family—Continue their Journey—Reach Perth—Reflections on the Journey—Depredations of the Natives—Insolence of Servants—Swan River—Harvest Home.
Page 90

Complaints of the Colonists—Scarcity of Provisions—Swan River compared with Van Diemen's Land—The Author's Appointment—Weather—Difficulties of the Colonists—Resemblance between Cockatoos and Crows—Lascar Law-suit—Home Recollections—A new Settler—Mode of employing Time—The Kangaroo Rat—A Manuscript Newspaper—Projected Bank—A Settler killed—King George's Sound—Speculations on the Country—Emigration—Attempt on the Author's Life—Law Affairs.

Litigation—Voyage to King George's Sound—New Zealanders—Carmac Island—Cape Lewin—Oyster Harbour—Interview with the Natives.

Leave King George's Sound—Flinder's Bay—The Blackwood River—Interview with the Natives—Arrival of the Merope—Advance of the Colony

Arrival of Letters, &c.—Cost of Wheat—High Charges of Mechanics—Recollections of Home—Scarcity of Labour—Government Supplies—Broils with the Natives—Litigation—Execution of Midgegoroo—Ya-gan—The Natives
Page 245

Servants—Farming—The Natives—Sheep—White Ants—Depredations of the Natives—Wool—A Boy killed—Death of Ya-gan—Conclusion.

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.