History of West Australia/Chapter 12
ANIMATION IN PASTORAL PURSUITS:
OCCURRENCES FROM 1836 TO 1838.
NEW ERA IN INDUSTRY—A PASTORAL PEOPLE—PASTORAL PURSUITS MORE REMUNERATIVE THAN AGRICULTURAL—FLOCKS DISPERSING OVER COLONY—STATISTICS OF SHEEP, ACREAGE UNDER CROP, AND OF GENERAL WEALTH—AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY EXULTANT —BELIEVES THAT WANT OF LABOUR DUE TO LAND LAWS—PRIVILEGE TO INDIAN ARMY OFFICERS—A PETITION FOR ALTERATION OF LAND LAWS—GOVERNMENT NOTICE RE NON-FULFILMENT OF LOCATION DUTIES—INFORMATION CONCERNING THE LAND—BENGAL-AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATION—A PUBLIC MEETING—BUILDING AT PERTH—AFFAIRS AT ALBANY, OPINIONS OF CHARLES DARWIN AND CAPTAIN FITZROY—YORK, BEVERLEY, NORTHAM—TOODYAY, VASSE, AND BUSSELTON—LESCHENAULT—PINJARRA—PROSPECTUS AND ESTABLISHMENT OF BANK OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA—WHALING; COMPANIES FORMED; VALUE OF EXPORT—FREMANTLE TUNNEL CUT—FIRST SHIP BUILT OF LOCAL TIMBER LAUNCHED—GOVERNMENT PURCHASES SCHOONER CHAMPION—FOOD SUPPLIES; ANOTHER SCARCITY—NATIVES; CRUEL MURDERS AT YORK AND ELSEWHERE; INSTRUCTIONS FROM HOME GOVERNMENT; PUNISHMENTS; ROTTNEST USED AS A PRISON—NATIVE INTERPRETER—DR. GUISTINIANI APPOINTED MISSIONARY—RELIGIOUS MATTERS—EXPLORATION; MOORE RIVER DISCOVERED; CONTRARY OPINIONS; BEAGLE EXPLORES COAST AND LIEUTENANT GREY INLAND—LUSHINGTON AND GLENELG RIVERS DISCOVERED BY GREY—BEAGLE BAY AND FITZROY RIVER DISCOVERED, AND INTERESTING INFORMATION COLLECTED BY OFFICERS OF BEAGLE—GENERAL 0CCURENCES; NEWSPAPER; MR. MACKIE ON CIRCUIT; SPORTS; DEATHS OF LIEUTENANT ARMSTRONG AND JOSHUA GREGORY—LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL AND THE GOVERNOR—ROADS AND STREETS ACT—SIR JAMES STIRLING; TERM OF OFFICE EXPIRES; LEAVES THE COLONY AMID GENERAL REGRET.
THE significant animation infused into pastoral pursuits in 1834-35 was more pronounced in the three following years. It was the dawn of a distinct era in Western Australian industry. Grazing assumed a greater importance in the minds of settlers than farming. Substantially, from 1835 the colony became wedded to the rearing of sheep, and thenceforth relied mainly on wool export for her prosperity.
A pastoral people was at work and obtaining returns. At Northam, York, Beverley, King George's Sound, Augusta, and the Swan River flocks depastured over large areas. Journals of previous exploration related that an immense proportion of the country discovered was more suitable for grazing than for farming. To keep flocks of sheep was not nearly so expensive as to till the soil, and the profits from the exportation of wool were surer and larger than those of wheat; nor was the work entailed so severe. For to clear the land and prepare it for cultivation without powerful implements the people had to work hard and work long. It must not be construed that agriculture diminished, but it was generally conceded that owing to natural difficulties settlers could expect little wealth from it. They desired to produce sufficient grain for their own consumption, but they believed that it would be foolish to expect to favourably compete with old established countries, where the ground was already under cultivation, where powerful teams and implements were at work, and where settled modes of transport and settled markets were possessed. Colonists increased the area under wheat, but they looked to wool to be their chief resource.
Strenuous efforts were made in 1886 to import more sheep, but owing to the absence of a regular line of trading vessels flocks were not materially increased. There were many settlers anxiously waiting to purchase animals, but for months they waited in vain, and great was the disappointment in March when, after long expecting a large consignment from Sydney, a vessel arrived with but twenty-five on board. She took ninety days to make the passage and consequently lost nearly all her sheep. The year's increase was mainly made up of the natural increase of the flocks already held. In 1837 the same difficulties were experienced; but in 1838, owing to new arrivals and the determination of old colonists to test their convictions, there were large purchases. By that year considerable new tracts of country were brought into use, and settlers were scattering over the outside districts of the colony. Their flocks roamed the Avon valleys, and the country for many miles around; drifted up the Hay River, in the King George's Sound (Plantagenet) district; wandered over the banks of the Blackwood, Vasse, and Williams Rivers; dispersed over the lands at Leschenault; and grazed on the herbage on the Murray River. Heavy losses were sustained among the old ewes and early lambs in 1838 from the deficiency of succulent grass at the beginning Of the lambing season, and from the sudden and fatal disease which still baffled all attempts to diagnose. A drought was experienced over most parts of the colony in the autumn and early winter.
A comparative return of sheep in the colony for the years 1834 to 1888 exhibits the increase. The numbers were, in 1834, 3,545; in 1885, 5,138; in 1836, 8,119; in 1837, 10,271; and in 1838, 15,590. The increase ran to about 350 per cent. It was roughly estimated that during the year 1837 21,120 lbs. of wool were exported, valued at £1,684. In the year 1838 the value was set down as £1,935. The total exports in 1837 were £6,906, and in 1838 £6,840; the imports in 1837 £45,107, and in 1838 £46,766. The revenue in 1837 was £4,578, and the receipts in aid £6,692; the revenue in 1838 was £4,551, and the receipts in aid £7361. The expenditure in 1837 was £11,038, and in 1838 £12,277. Within these two years the receipts from the sale and rental of Crown lands amounted to £745.
That the pursuit of agriculture did not materially stagnate during the same period figures will show:—Acres under wheat in 1834, 564; 1835, 1,156; 1836, 1,363; 1837, 1,253; and 1838, 1,400. The total acreage in wheat and all other crops combined were in 1834, 918; 1835, 1,579; 1836, 2,055; 1837, 2,020; and in 1838, 2,447. The largest proportion of this additional area was devoted to barley and oats; in 1838, 115 acres were utilised for gardens, and 550 for green crops. The produce of wheat from the harvest of 1838-7 was 22,104 bushels.
A statistical report drawn up to the end of June, 1837, was transmitted to the Home Government by Sir James Stirling. It was intended to denote the condition of the colonists and their wealth. There were reckoned to be 750 men in the settlement, and the average estimate was made upon that number. Since establishment 1,524,004½, acres had been granted in the colony, or an average area to each man of 2,032 acres; 1,231 town lots had been assigned. Full titles had been taken out for 431,498 acres, and 488 town allotments, while 11,353½ acres and 64 town lots had been sold. The improvements on rural grants were valued at £75,000; on buildings and towns, £93,000; furniture, implements, and clothing, £25,000; these, with the value of crops, live stock, and other assets, made a good round sum. The aggregate value of property in land granted, and all other assessable property, was estimated at £260,000, producing, with the labour of the community, after deducting its subsistence, a clear annual accumulation of capital to the extent of £72,000. The population in 1837 was given as males, 1344; females, 688; total, 2,032, or an approximate ratio of two males to one female.
All these figures were deemed to afford a refutation of those statements which were so confidently made and so industriously and perseveringly propagated of the failure of Western Australian settlement.
The Agricultural Society reports exultingly, in 1838, on the very apparent progress which was being made. After years of unremitting toil, with little to show for it, the visible signs of increasing wealth encouraged colonists and made them proud of their determined and courageous labours.
The colony possessed three corn-mills propelled by water, two by wind power, four by horse power; a corn and saw-mill, and a powerful steam-engine. Three public breweries and a large malting house were established in Perth. Bricks of good quality were manufactured.
But, even now, all classes of colonial industry were suffering from the want of adequate labour. Although the state of things may have betokened a healthy condition of the colony, the inconvenience of a limited labour market was so considerable as to limit operations. Public meetings were held to discuss the question. The Executive Council agreed that something should be done, and the Legislative Council concurred in a vote for the appropriation of a sum of £1000 to introduce labouring classes. This was not at once applied. The Agricultural Society sought to promote good conduct among farm labourers by giving distinctions and prizes to the best conducted and most efficient. Since the alteration of the system of land grants in 1832, few labourers had been introduced, and the chief members of the Agricultural Society considered that by reducing the minimum of 5s. per acre for which land was sold, more people of all classes would immigrate. The settlers who obtained grants favoured an increase in the minimum price, because it gave them an opportunity to sell their land, while the newcomers favoured its reduction so as to enable them to purchase at a cheaper rate. The directors of the Agricultural Society believed that a graduated scale in price, rising in proportion to the progress and resources of the colony, would seem to be more just as an equitable arrangement, more politic as a measure for encouraging immigration, and more effectual as a means for raising revenue from the sale of Crown lands.
In November, 1836, information was received that His Majesty's Government had given assent to certain constant agitations by Sir James Stirling. These were for the extension of the same benefits to Indian army officers in the purchase and acquisition of land as were enjoyed by officers of the King's army. The Governor expected thereby that numerous Indian military men would settle in the colony.
Public feeling was so keen in regard to the existing laws relative to the alienation of land that a petition was drawn up and presented to Sir James in January, 1837. It complained that the alteration of the land laws—from the grant system to alienation by auction—had checked immigration and retarded progress just when settlers, after severe privations and constant uphill work, had brought the country into some sort of cultivation. In so limited a population producers had no opportunity of disposing of their surplus produce, and hence the further cultivation of the land would be stopped. Mechanics and labourers foreboded the worst consequences to themselves from the unwillingness, and, in some cases, inability, of land-holders to continue the improvement of their grants by further investment of capital and employment of unprofitable labour. The difficulty of stocking a farm at high prices reduced the value of the land. In other colonies roads were already formed, markets established, prices of labour comparatively cheap, and as none of these conveniences existed in Western Australia, it was hoped that an exception would be made in local interests.
To this end His Excellency was requested to recommend His Majesty's Government to suspend the operation of the sale of lands system for a period of three years, and to suggest that a grant of land of 2,500 acres should be given to bonâ-fide new settlers, subject to the same conditions as those under which the original settlers took up land. Finally, that any quantity of land required by new arrivals beyond that bonus should be obtained by purchase at 3s. per acre.
It was considered only just that the authorities should assist in every possible way the development of the land resources. Agriculture was held to be a staple basis of prosperity. By encouraging in a judicious and generous manner the tilling of the soil a sufficiency of food would be ensured, and the prices of labour and commodities regulated. A previous petition to a similar effect was forwarded to the Home Government and failed, but as, during the intervening years, no new immigrants, except, perhaps, friends of persons already in the colony, had arrived, the petitioners believed they had reason to hope that their requests would be granted. But their petition was as abortive as the rest.
A slight alteration was made early in 1837 in the prices of allotments. Town sites in Perth, Fremantle, and Albany were sold at a minimum of £5 per acre, and at £2 for suburban lots, and sites in other towns at £2 and £1 respectively.
A Government notice was issued on 17th February, 1838, with regard to the original conditions under which land was granted. The right was reserved to the Crown by which they could impose a fine of 6d. per acre upon all grants which were not improved to a certain extent within three years from the date of assignment, and it was now deemed expedient to impose this fine as a protection to those settlers who had improved their properties and taken their share by physical exertion and outlay of capital in conferring a value on land in the colony. This referred largely to absentees, who were required to pay the fine before the 31st December, 1838, failing which the amount would be levied out of the land that was liable. Further notice was given that according to the old terms all grants unimproved some ten years from assignment would be resumed by the Crown.
Private people continued selling land to more fortunate colonists or to new arrivals, and others were having their selections cultivated on the "halving" principle, by which a farmer tilled the soil and received half the crop, while the landowner supplied the land and, perhaps, the seed wheat. Few settlers entered Western Australia in 1836. In 1837-8 more attention was paid to the opportunities which the colony seemed to offer for remunerative investment. Several schemes were formulated in India, China, and Great Britain to establish settlers on the land; but owing to the false reports which were circulating most of them were not completed. Masters of vessels calling in at the Swan, and especially at King George's Sound, occasionally placed money in the hands of agents for the purchase of land. This was considered to be a strong confirmation of the capabilities of land in Western Australia.
Early in February, 1838, the ship Gaillarden arrived at Fremantle from Calcutta. An association, named the Bengal-Australian Association, was formed in 1837, whose specific objects were the chartering of comfortable ships to convey passengers, seeking health or desirous of settling, from India to the Australian Colonies, and also to establish a horse-breeding station to raise animals for the Indian market. The managing committee comprised Colonel J. Stewart, W. Cracroft, C. S. N. Alexander, and R. W. G. Frith; J. H. Gardiner was the secretary. The Messrs. Leake were appointed the agents for the association in Western Australia. The Gaillardon was the first vessel to arrive under its auspices, and she conveyed a new class of labour to the colony—Indian hill coolies, whose numbers were to be augmented by the despatch of other ships. The first practical outcome of this association was its encouragement to Mr. C. Prinsep to rear horses for the Indian market. After remaining at Fremantle for a few days the Gaillardon continued her voyage to King George's Sound, Adelaide, Hobart, and Sydney.
Colonists believed that these practical symptoms of progress were not sufficiently well known in England. Mr. Tanner went to the home country after the important meeting held early in 1835 and did his utmost to represent the true condition of affairs to those interested in the colony. He was assisted in this endeavour by Captain Irwin, who remained in England until 1837, when he was appointed Permanent Commandant of the Military Forces in Western Australia. Captain Irwin returned to the colony in that year, and was soon afterwards raised to the rank of major. He was accompanied by his wife and family, and took up his residence on his land on the upper levels of the Swan. Residents of Western Australia were so solicitous of securing the circulation of reliable news of progress that in January, 1836, a public meeting was held in Perth, when a committee was appointed to collect and forward home communications and information relative to settlement. The committee was able to do useful work, and despatched particulars of the wealth, condition, and progress of colonists. In 1837 Englishmen interested in the colony were able to learn almost the precise state of its affairs.
Building was now actively conducted in Perth and Fremantle. In 1836 tenders were let for the erection of a Court House and of Public Offices in Perth, and several substantial private structures were reared in both places. A mud barracks was erected in York in 1838.
At King George's Sound there was a slight revival. In previous years the settlers had suffered as acutely as those at Swan River, and experienced equal troubles from the absence of labourers and sufficient food-supplies. In 1835 several persons arrived from Hobart for the purpose of settlement, and affirmed that if they were successful others would soon follow. Indian servants were introduced by incoming settlers, and the surrounding country was explored by Sir James Stirling, Lieutenant Roe, and other officers. Sheep and cattle were taken to pasture on the Hay River; in 1837 there were reckoned to be 180 inhabitants in the Plantagenet district. Numerous ships called at the port each year, and whaling and sealing were followed with success. So plentiful were the whales that it is said that one brig "filled" in six weeks. Whalers from America, France, and Hobart entered the port and exploited the surrounding waters, and a lively scene was constantly given to Albany. In 1838 there were at times 100 foreign seamen in the village, and it was evident that the people had little protection against them. The military detachment at that time comprised but one sergeant and nine private soldiers. Up till 1836 prisoners were repeatedly confined in the "Black Hole," a military institution which, while effective, was not altogether humane. In 1836 a gaol was constructed, and in May, 1838, the first jetty at Albany was completed. Several trips were made overland between Perth and King George's Sound during these years, and in July, 1836, Surveyor Hillman was instructed to begin the proper survey of a new road to Perth. The road began a few years previously was left uncompleted, and was considered as unsuitable. Surveyor D. Smith apparently had much to do with the completion of the work. Mr. Hillman, during a journey overland in 1838, marked out several town sites on the route. The natives rapidly learnt the English language, and the children conversed with the whites with remarkable fluency. The prospects of Albany were visibly brightening, but there was more advancement for the two years ending in 1836 than for the subsequent two years. There was ample good timber in the neighbourhood for the building of ships, and several small craft were constructed there. The main difficulty in the vicinity of Albany was the great want of good agricultural land. The soil was not considered suitable for agriculture, but there were patches whereon fruit trees and vegetables flourished. Sir Richard Spencer was particularly enterprising, and he already possessed quite an ambitious garden.
Two outside opinions were published as to the King George's Sound Settlement at this time. The Admiralty vessel Beagle, while returning to England after her voyage of research and discovery round the world, put into King George's Sound in March, 1836. Captain Fitzroy, R.N., then commanded the Beagle, and on board as naturalist was the famous scientist, Charles Darwin. Darwin was not impressed with Australia. Of King George's Sound he related that the Beagle "stayed there eight days, and I do not remember, since leaving England, having passed a more dull, uninteresting time." After taking the last glimpse of the coast he writes in his Diary, "Farewell, Australia! You are a rising infant, and doubtless some day will reign a great Princess in the south; but you are too great and ambitious for affection, yet not great enough for respect! I leave your shores without sorrow or regret." Captain Fitzroy records of Albany:—"A few straggling houses, ill-placed in an exposed, cheerless situation, were seen by us as we entered the harbour; and had inclination been our guide instead of duty, I certainly should have felt disposed to put the helm up, and make all sail away from such an uninviting place..... At this time there were about thirty houses, or cottages, in the neighbourhood of the Sound and harbour; some had small gardens, but, generally speaking, there was no appearance of agriculture excepting immediately around Sir Richard's house, where a few fields had cleared and cultivated in the midst of the woods." Appearances were afterwards found to be worse than reality.
York was now a thriving settlement, and in 1837 there were estimated to be between thirty and forty settlers scattered over the district. The first town lots were granted in July and November, 1835, to Messrs. Bland and Trimmer, but it was some time afterwards that the village became at all pretentious. The Clarksons and the Hardeys ran their flocks over a large estate named Wilberforce, which, selected when Sir James Stirling made his first visit to the district, comprised 18,000 acres. The Burges family had pushed its way along the valley watered by the Avon. The three enterprising brothers, W. and L. and S. Burges, went among the trees adorning the eastern slopes of the range which culminates in Mount Bakewell, and chose a fertile spot on the banks of the river. Upon a commanding site they erected a modest cottage overlooking a small wooded valley, the river hedged by denser trees, and the hills on the other side. The course of the Avon was here straight and dark, with she-oak, gum, and other trees growing right to the water's edge, forming a natural avenue. It was a beautiful retreat; the winds murmured among the she-oaks, and the birds were so numerous as to make the spot quite a vocal grove. The old house is still inhabited by descendants of the pioneer family. Mr. S. Parker, a Kentish farmer, was utilising his land about ten miles on the other side of York. He brought to the colony implements and goods, and began his colonial career on a grant at Guildford. Then he joined in the general exodus to the inland pastoral country. Some of his sons and grandchildren continue to labour in the district. Messrs. Brockman, Lennard, Moore, Gregory, Yule, Camfield, Tanner, Purkiss, Hamersley, Phillips, Irwin, Mackie, Monger, Walters, Cheyne, Knight, Drummond, Meares, Foley, and Macdermott owned land, or were engaged in pastoral or agricultural pursuits; some in the York, some in the Beverley, and some in the Northam district. In 1838, Samuel Pole Phillips reached the colony in the ship Montreal. He was the son of John Phillips, J.P., of Culham, Oxfordshire, and was educated for the Church, but eventually elected to devote his energies to colonisation in Western Australia. Upon his arrival he purchased the land of Mr. A. Waylen, in the Toodyay district, and founded the Culham estate, ten miles from the present town of Newcastle. It was charmingly situated, but the solemnity of the remote valley was often rendered noisy by the presence of scores of natives quarrelling near the homestead. Mr. Phillips was determined and impartial, and suffered little at the hands of the dusky tribes, who, indeed, rendered him assistance in developing his property. His pioneer cattle were purchased for £20, and his horses for £70 up to £150 per head.
Matters remained very much as they were at Augusta, but members of the Bussell family were at work on the Vasse River. They had already founded the Cattle Chosen estate, so named when, wandering through the country to choose a suitable situation, Mr. Bussell came to rich meadows upon which a sleek cow pastured. The site of a town was marked out in the Vasse district, and received the name of Busselton, in compliment to the energetic pioneer. A Mr. Chapman took up the first lot in Busselton early in 1837. Messrs. Bussell and Chapman, with a few soldiers, were the only settlers residing in the district in 1838. Stern trials were theirs for some years. Vasse received its appellation from the Baudin expedition, which lost a man of that name there in 1801-2. In 1838 the natives of the district remembered the man, for he had lived among them for two or three years. They treated him kindly and fed him but exposure and poor diet combined with anxiety, weakened him. Then the natives went out on a hunting expedition, and when they returned they found him dead near the river.
The first settlers took up their residence in the Leschenault district early in 1836. Mr. Robert Scott, a mere youth, with his brothers, Daniel and John, and William Craig, Thomas Robertson, and a wheelright journeyed overland from Perth, under special arrangement with Sir James Stirling. Mr. Scott's father made an agreement with the Governor, by which he was to cultivate His Excellency's land on the Preston River, to perform the location duties, and in return was to be awarded part of the land. The young men erected a hut on the Preston, two and a half miles from the present town of Bunbury. In the first year they cleared and planted about five acres of soil, and by great industry soon had 150 acres under cultivation. Some soldiers were quartered near at hand to protect them, but the natives proved friendly, and often laboured on the farm all day long in payment for food that was given them. Whalers soon put into the estuary for provisions. In 1838, Mr. Bull, with Lieutenant Armstrong, began work in the district. They possessed a droll sort of East India establishment, and employed seven Indians—hill coolies—under the charge of a Scotchman named Miller. As a commencement of flocks and herds they had one haunchbacked bull and two hairy sheep.
The site of the town of Pinjarra was marked out, and in 1836-37, Messrs. George and Moses Stokes and Richard Smith were granted the first allotments.
Another indication of progress was testified by the establishment of a bank. For long years settlers agitated for the opening of such an institution, but they could not sufficiently interest English capitalists, nor were they able to form a company among themselves. The Agricultural Society advocated its formation, public meetings ardently supported the movement, and the newspaper wrote convincing articles as to its necessity. Agitation was incessant throughout 1836, and finally, on January 17, 1837, a prospectus was issued, calling for subscribers among colonists. It was signed by L. Samson, S. Moore, G. Leake, M. Macdermott, P. Brown, and W. Habgood, with A. H. Stone as secretary and J. Lewis as treasurer.
The prospectus referred to this long agitation, and conceded that, in the earlier years of colonisation, no bank could have been conducted with success. While the colony derived every article of consumption from foreign production, it was continually being drained of its specie, and no permanent circulation could have been carried on, and no bank, however solid its original structure might have been, could have sustained its payments and credit. But progression had now dissipated these difficulties. The actual necessaries of life were said to be produced by the labour of colonists on their own soil, and the payments made abroad were described as only for articles of manufacture, of comfort, or of luxury, which were being met by the small, but annually increasing exportation of wool and other produce. So much for the justification of establishing the bank.
The capital was set down at £10,000, to be divided into 1,000 shares of £10 each. Such a small sum was warranted to enable both the capitalist and the labourer to become shareholders. To the former it offered a secure and profitable investment, to the latter it had all the advantages of a Savings Bank, with the advantages of equal partnership in the concern. As a bank of deposit it would bring into active utility and profit sums of money lying dormant and useless in private hands. Not only this, the agricultural, trading, and operative classes would derive immediate benefit. One would be able to dispose of his produce and stock for cash payments, the trader could carry on his operations with punctuality, and the working classes could be paid for their work in cash, instead of in wheat or other inconvenient articles.
It was provided that the capital and shares in the proposed bank could be increased as circumstances demanded by the authority of a majority of shareholders. Any person holding ten shares was eligible to a seat on the directorate, and four shares entitled the holder to a vote, but no person could have more than four votes, whatever number of shares he held. The directing board must comprise seven members, elected by ballot. The managing cashier was appointed by ballot, at a salary of £100 per year, and he was required to find two sureties in £250 each and himself in £500. He must attend the bank from 10 until 2 o'clock each day. A statement of specie, deposits, bills discounted or dishonoured, and the amount of notes in circulation was to be published quarterly. Discounts or advances were to be made at the rate of 12½ per cent. per annum, and were limited to three months, when they might be renewed, if approved, for a further three months, on payment of £25 per cent. of the amounts. The notes for circulation were to be for £1 each, no interest was to be allowed on running accounts, and interest on fixed deposits was awarded at the discretion of the directors. A reserve of one-fifth of the profits was decided upon to meet contingencies. Other clauses of the prospectus provided for periodical meetings of directors and general meetings of shareholders.
There were numerous applications for share, and on the 18th of May a meeting was held, when Mr. G. Leake took the chair. A board of directors was elected, and comprised Messrs. G. Leake, W. L. Brockman, S. Moore, P. Brown, L. Samson, W. Habgood, and R. Hinds. Mr. Marshall Macdermott was appointed by ballot manager and cashier of the new institution.
On the 1st June, 1837, the Bank of Western Australia commenced business; the fruits thereof were immediate and pronounced. The ostensible capital was set down at £10,000, and £25 per cent. was to be paid on each share. So great was the credit of the institution that it was a long while before it was found necessary to call for more than a small part of the proposed funds. At the very inception of the bank deposits were made by customers to the extent of £4,000. A stimulus was given to development work, and the good effects of having the bank in the colony were felt in every branch of industry, and, moreover, resulted in colonists extending their enterprise to quite new sources of wealth. A dividend was paid in 1838.
Previous to the formation of this institution the people were branching out from the two primary industries, but it was only after the bank had begun its work that any special efforts were made. They knew the colony to possess varied sources of wealth, but because of the abundance of whales which they saw inhabiting the oceans they turned to whaling as the easiest and most profitable outlet for their energy. American and French whalers successfully exploited the waters on the south-west and south coasts, especially in the vicinity of King George's Sound, and colonists conceived that the inauguration of such an industry in the colony would materially add to their wealth. For many months proposals were intermittently made to float a whaling company. The want of capital stood in the way at first, and colonists looked upon the scheme as in itself excellent, but at the same time beyond their immediate power.
But when returns were being received from the land, and the shopkeepers were obtaining money and profits from the sale of their goods, serious consideration was given to the proposals. The upshot was the issue of a prospectus for a whaling company in Fremantle in August, 1836. It was not their wish that outsiders should benefit by this wealth, which was by rights the property of colonists, and the Government was even approached to decide on the legality of "foreign" ships robbing Western Australian waters. The company was floated into thirty shares at £50 each, but in the absence of proper gear it was not possible to begin operations until the middle of 1837.
Boats were secured for the purpose in 1837, and by April the company was ready to begin operations. In March the American whaler Cambrian anchored at Fremantle with 800 barrels of oil on board. The master supplied the Fremantle Whaling Company with suitable gear, and colonists waited with interest for the results of the new industry. The pioneer church at Perth was purchased, and portions of the building were removed to Carnac and used for the erection of a store and of quarters there. Several hands left the Cambrian and threw in their lot with the pioneer company at Fremantle.
Even before work was begun a second whaling company was established, principally among Perth residents and agriculturists on the Swan, and named the Perth Fishing Company. The new venture was divided into sixty shares at £10 each; land was secured side by side with some owned by the Fremantle Company at Arthur Head.
The two companies obtained their staff of men principally from among the labourers in the district, thus causing a great scarcity of farm hands on the various estates. Whaling was the prevailing subject of conversation for some time, and excitement was general throughout the settlement. On the 10th June guns were fired for two or three hours in succession at Fremantle, and proclaimed the memorable event that the first whale had been caught in Cockburn Sound. Mr. Thomas Peel observed two whales in the Sound while proceeding from the Murray River to Fremantle by boat. He reported the circumstance at Arthur Head, and a boat was immediately manned and despatched to chase the monsters. The party stationed at Carnac Island caught sight of them at about the same time and joined in the pursuit.
The Carnac boat came up to the prey first and attached a harpoon. The whale dashed through the water with such amazing rapidity that the prow of the boat was dangerously dragged under the water, and the men were forced to cut the line. The Fremantle boat now came within spearing distance. The harpoon was hurled successfully, and the whale was eventually captured. It was drawn to Arthur Head, and there relieved of its oil, yielding four tuns. There was some disagreement as to whom this whale belonged to. According to the generally recognised law of whaling the first thrower of the harpoon has the first right to the prey. But the Fremantle boat captured it. The proceeds were divided by the contending companies.
A second whale was captured in the same week, and thenceforth whaling was carried on with activity. One huge whale was brought on land and treated so unsatisfactorily that most of the blubber was lost. The putrifying flesh caused such an annoyance to the townspeople at Fremantle that they half regretted embarking on the enterprise.
Early in July, The Settler, a small craft owned by the party at Carnac, broke away from her moorings at the island. This took place at night, and in the morning when the men descried the derelict drifting aimlessly northwards to a fresh breeze, a boat containing six men went off to secure her. Those on the island soon lost sight of the crew. Two days later they sailed over to Fremantle and were surprised to learn that the men had not put in there. Greatly alarmed, they searched the northern coast, but while they discovered the wreck of The Settler and the whaleboat, they could not find the whalers. The cap of one was picked up near the whale-boat, but the men were never again heard of. In August, while giving chase, a boat was struck by the flook or tail of a bull whale, and one man was killed instantaneously.
A third whaling company was projected in July, 1837. Captain Armstrong, of the 21st Fusiliers, was one of the promoters. It proposed to conduct operations on a more extensive scale than the other companies, and a capital of £5,000 was asked for in shares of £25 each. A fully equipped vessel was to be purchased in England, and no "foreigners" were allowed to hold an interest in the concern. The company was not floated.
Two private parties had been engaged in whaling at King George's Sound for some time. Their principal stations were in Doubtful Island Bay, on the south coast, and there they were able to carry on very lucrative operations. Mr. Cheyne owned one of these properties and Mr. Sherrart the other. Sealing was also combined with whaling by them, and Messrs. Cheyne and Sherrart were the forerunners and local founders of that large and remunerative industry which proved so valuable to the colony, and particularly to residents of King George's Sound.
Whaling operations were now assuming such importance at Cockburn Sound, that in August the Fremantle Company began cutting a tunnel through Arthur Head into the main thoroughfare—High Street. It was considered necessary to have communication by this means. The Government lent some assistance, and Mr. W. H. Reveley, C.E., drew up the plans and specifications. The company was promised the lease of the tunnel for seven years, and the work was completed at the end of the month.
In October the Fremantle and Perth Whaling Companies discontinued operations for the season. They had not been so successful as they anticipated, and much disappointment was felt. Many whales had been lost in the chase.
Sealing had been conducted by people at King George's Sound before whaling operations were begun, and during the year 1835 sealskins were exported from there which had an estimated value of £1,000. This amount was, however, partly made up of purchases from sealers from other countries. The exports from Fremantle for 1837, were 71 tuns of oil, despatched to Great Britain, valued at £1,420, and 4½ tons of whalebone at £360. In the same year oil valued at £900, whalebone at £180, and sealskins at £500 were exported from King George's Sound.
Whaling was resumed with steadier zest in 1858. A lesson had been taught colonists. So prodigally was the Perth Company conducted in 1887, and such serious accidents had been experienced, that in May, 1888, the affairs were wound up, while even the Fremantle Company was unable to pay dividends, and made heavy calls.
An industry of lesser importance was also initiated. The absence of sufficient boats for trading up and down the Swan in earlier years caused settlers to utilise the woods, which were at their doors, for the construction of small craft. In 1885 an enterprising resident at Fremantle, Captain Scott, the harbour master, began to build a much larger vessel. At King George's Sound, also, the splendid woods which abounded in the forests were utilised in a similar manner. Men were kept engaged in making crafts for whaling purposes, and an industry was projected which should have greatly added to the assets of Western Australia. In May, 1836, the Lady Stirling, the first vessel of imposing dimensions built of colonial timber in the colony, was launched at Fremantle. Mrs. Roe, wife of Lieutenant Roe, in the absence of Lady Stirling, christened the ship. A few days afterwards the Lady Stirling was nearly wrecked while attempting to cross the bar at Fremantle.
In 1836 the schooner Champion was purchased by the Government for £1,500, for colonial work. She was used in voyages round the coast and to neighbouring settlements. Owing to the scarcity of labour it was many months before she could be manned. Nearly every sailor was engaged in whaling.
Some precaution was being taken by the Government to ensure a quantity of flour in their stores when the general supply was exhausted. Early in 1836, 1,200 bushels of wheat were purchased at 7s. per bushel and placed in the commissariat store in case of emergency. This reserve was not needed to any extent in that year, but in 1887, through the usual cause of non-arrival of vessels, the supply was not nearly able to satisfy the demand. By placing too much confidence in the arrival of burdened ships, although the Government had the experience of previous years to guide them, colonists were again brought face to face with a scarcity of the necessaries of life and with famine prices. In April, May, and June high prices ruled, and it was necessary for settlers to be extremely careful in the distribution of food to each person. Then a few cargoes arrived. In August tenders were issued for 1,500 bushels by the local Government. The average price was 9s., but in the following month wheat was sold at 16s. a bushel, and the deficiency was not satisfied until the early crops were reaped. In December the Government issued tenders for 2,000 bushels, but there were no replies.
Even in 1838, or twelve months after the supplies were observed to be exhausted, the Government did not grasp the situation and secure a plenitude of food stuffs. Colonists were once more compelled to pay exorbitant prices for provisions. Flour was not on this occasion the most serious want. The larger settlers had stocked their granaries with ample grain for their own consumption, and, therefore, they did not suffer, but those less happily placed were reduced to unpleasant straits. A long delay in the arrival of ships took place, and in June salt meat was sold at ls. 2d. a lb., fresh meat at 1s. 8d.; wheat was scarce, and was procured with difficulty, while hardly a pound of soap was in the colony. This necessary commodity cost 10s. and 12s. a lb. At King George's Sound the same difficulty was experienced, except that the settlers there possessed a stock of soap. Some considerate persons despatched natives from Albany with a few pounds of the article; the blacks arrived in Perth in due course with their load, to the delight of residents. Finally ships put in to Fremantle and relieved the strained condition of the market, and colonists again had sufficient.
Very little trouble was experienced from the natives in 1836. There were occasional discoveries of thefts, and each time the delinquents were punished where possible. In June two natives were caught in the act of rifling a house some miles distant from York. A soldier and a settler attacked them, and a severe struggle took place. One of the natives attempted to spear the soldier, while the other sought to administer a thrashing on the settler. One native was shot dead on the spot; the other as brought down while running away.
This incensed the York tribes of natives, and they vowed deadly vengeance on the settlers. They began by killing sheep, and dashing out the brains of lambs on the trees. They even killed and eat a horse. Eventually they murdered a man named Knott. Sir James Stirling deemed that the position was becoming critical and it was openly stated that York would have to be abandoned were the natives not immediately checked. The military was strengthened at York and every settler was as far as possible protected.
Correspondence had taken place between the Governor and the Home Government. The latter did not understand the precise condition of affairs in Western Australia, nor could Imperial statesmen conceive that deadly clashing was inevitable when primitive law met English law. They believed that native offenders, whether murderers or thieves, should be treated in the same manner as Europeans, and should be given the same opportunities. Summonses must be issued, arrests made in the usual order, and the cases tried with the same legal formula as with white offenders. The Secretary of State issued instructions that the aboriginal race must be treated in the full and sufficient routine of English law. A Pinjarra battle became impossible, or rather illegal, and the trifling shooting down of a Midgegooroo was not allowed.
The settlers complained bitterly of the want of foresight of the Imperial authorities. They resentfully suggested that members of the English Government should become settlers in the remote stations. Then they would permit the old course to be pursued.
In 1837 the natives had not forgotten the shooting of the two thieves at York. Irregular attacks were made on stock. In June the tribe of the dead men speared and killed Isaac Green, a soldier. They went to the farm where their companions had been shot to commit this deed. Fear for a time seized upon all white residents of the York district. The natives were excessively daring, and threatened and openly scorned them. Dr. Guistiniani caused some annoyance by publicly blaming the Government for not proceeding to commit and execute a settler who shot down a native.
Each week the natives were more ferocious at York, and moved about in such numbers that settlers were in daily dread of an attack. An Englishman was wounded near Beverley, and another at Northam. Then on the 8th July, a fierce band of blacks rushed down upon two settlers, Messrs. Jones and Chidlow, near Northam. Both men were brutally murdered, and nine spears were found piercing the body of one, and seven that of the other. The natives drove off some cattle. A daring attack was shortly afterwards made at the estate of Mr. Waylen, in Toodyay Valley. The murderers of Jones and Chidlow called at his hut begging for wheat. They received it and went away, only to return next day. Numbers of them congregated round the hut, and five forced their way inside. They rushed upon Mr. Waylen and two soldiers, who, however, soon overpowered them and threw them to the ground. A soldier shot two blacks through the head with a pistol, and Mr. Waylen cut another down with an axe. The remaining two got outside and hurried off. One was shot in the attempt, and the fifth was wounded. The hut was so low and small that the natives could not use their spears.
The Government did all in its limited power to protect settlers, and a body of men was set in motion to apprehend and punish the savage murderers. The night after the attack on Mr. Waylen's hut Lieut. Bunbury, of the Militia, with a party of soldiers, shot one of the offending blacks, and wounded another. Mr. Bunbury and his men, led by a black-tracker, crept in shoeless feet for nearly a mile, over sharp stones and rocks, and surprised the natives. Other natives were shot down in the York district, and the infuriated whites followed the tribes into their lairs, and hunted them from place to place.
Mr. G. F. Moore, who was acquainted with their language, was sent to York to interview the tribes in that district. He gathered a few blacks around him and delivered a long oration. Murder, he said, would not be tolerated by the whites, and every offender would receive inevitable and severe punishment. He begged them to discontinue their depredations, and offered the lasting friendship of all Europeans if they obeyed. The natives listened intently, and then dispersed to tell the story round the camp fire.
There was a general exodus of aborigines from York after the determined punishment inflicted by the soldiers. Most of them congregated in the Swan River district. The Governor viewed their presence there with anxiety and anticipated serious attacks on settlers in the outskirts. He conferred special authority on private persons, and increased the military and police. Friendly natives were commissioned to act as spies, and occasionally gave information of offending York natives hiding among those on the Swan. An armed force was kept in readiness near Guildford, and was instructed to inflict stern punishment in case of attacks. A few cattle and sheep were killed on the Swan.
No serious results accrued from the concentration of natives in the Swan country. They held corroborees and fought several battles among themselves. Members of York tribes constantly quarrelled with members of Swan families, and several frays took place. A black boy employed by a settler was killed in his master's kitchen, and a native woman and a child were speared before the kitchen door. Except for the wounding of two shepherd boys on the Canning late in the year no harm was done to the white people.
The stern measures taken by the Government checked the natives in 1838. Only one white murder appears to have been committed, although the blacks caused constant annoyance. A native from King George's Sound was murdered by members of the Swan River tribe on Garden Island early in the year. These men accompanied the Champion, schooner, to the island, and while alone, savagely murdered the Albany man. Later in the year several natives walked overland from King George's Sound to avenge this murder, and they also carried despatches and small articles to white people in Perth.
Thefts of wheat and fruit were made in the first few months of 1838, and in July several natives were tried at the Court of Quarter Sessions. One was sentenced to seven years transportation for housebreaking, and for a like offence a second was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment. A third, charged with murdering a native woman, was sentenced to be executed, but was afterwards reprieved. In May a native was shot in the act of dragging a sack of flour away from a private house, and a second was shot in August while attempting to wrest a musket from a soldier on guard at the Murray. Mr. Turner was slightly wounded by a native while proceeding overland from Augusta to Perth. A white boy was killed on the Canning, and a native woman was murdered in Perth streets during the year.
Up to this time the natives at King George's Sound had assisted settlement, but in February, 1838, they speared a fine bull and two oxen owned by a settler on the Hay River. Later in the year they committed other depredations.
The native prison at Rottnest was inaugurated early in 1838. The more troublesome offenders were sent there and placed under a guard. In August there were five prisoners on the island, but they soon contrived to make their escape. There was but one boat at Rottnest, and, carefully watching for the opportunity, the natives seized it and made their way to the mainland. The boat was upset in the surf, and one of the natives was drowned. The remainder got into the bush, but they had to suffer from the vengeance of friends of the drowned man, who blamed them for his death.
During the year Mr. Mitchell was appointed the native interpreter, and also a missionary to work among the natives. The Imperial Government supported such an appointment. Mr. Mitchell was a zealous officer, and translated the Lord's Prayer and the Commandments into the native language.
The Society which had been formed in Dublin and London, under the auspices of the Church of England, for the purpose of sending a missionary to Western Australia was able to begin its active work in 1836. The name of the body was changed to that of the Western Australian Missionary Society. An Italian gentleman, the Rev. Dr. Giustiniani, was appointed missionary, and arrived in Perth in July, 1836. He was in precarious health at the time, but was apparently animated with zeal and hope regarding his mission to civilise and Christianise the aboriginal race. After some consideration a church and a schoolhouse were erected at Guildford, and a farm was established on the Swan River, where the labour of the blacks could be used in conjunction with the mission.
While some residents in the colony believed that Dr. Giustiniani was a suitable person to conduct this mission, others objected to a foreigner having been chosen. The reverend gentleman wrote to England referring to the relationship between the Europeans and natives in strong terms, which greatly incensed colonists and caused the managers of the society to recall him to England in January, 1837.
Ministers of religion were much needed in the colony. The Rev. Mr. Wittenoom still acted as colonial chaplain, and private individuals conducted divine service at outstations. In 1836, a few months before the arrival of Dr. Giustiniani, a meeting, held at Guildford, forwarded to the Archbishop of Canterbury an address proclaiming a desire to have additional religious instruction. Mr. Sherratt performed divine service in a building set apart by himself at Albany, and services were conducted by laymen in various parts of the colony. A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was erected by voluntary contributions in Perth, where services were held, and to which a minister was eventually appointed.
Several excursions into unsurveyed country were made during the period under review. Sir James Stirling was associated with a number of these, and while he gave graphic descriptions of scenery, he now began to recognise that he was not a judge of soils. On one occasion he plainly mentions this. His journeys were mostly made in the south-west country, in the vicinity of Leschenault, over the Murray and Williams Rivers, and along the southern lands towards King George's Sound. Lieutenant H. W. Bunbury explored in the Williams district in 1836, as also did Mr. Hillman.
Mr. G. F. Moore made a notable excursion north of Perth. During a respite from legal and other business he, with Mr. Heffron and a black boy, went forth late in April, 1836, to discover a river which natives told him existed to the northward. The party proceeded along the base of the Darling Range, and fell in with numerous natives, who directed them to water, and guided them to the river they sought. The country thereabouts resembled, so said Moore, that of York; flats stretched out from the banks, and beyond were gentle receding hills, with soil of the best brown loam. The stream was named the Moore, in compliment to the energetic Advocate-General. A large salt lake was also observed, which led Mr. Moore to conjecture that Spencer's Gulf, in South Australia, extended into the heart of the continent, and that this lake was one of its branches. The early belief of a large inland sea was generally subscribed to, and considered as a highly probable feature of central Australia.
An expedition, some months later, under Surveyor-General Roe, proved the difficulty of forming an opinion of the value of country by travelling in a direct course. Mr. Roe went south-east from York, and for about fifty miles discovered few spots that were adapted for settlement. Dale and his companions, including Mr. J. W. Hardey, in 1830 described this area as exceedingly promising, but they pursued another course and did not observe the tracts traversed by Mr. Roe. This fact was further exemplified subsequently by a tour made by Messrs. P. Foley, P. Meares, and S. Parker. These gentlemen made a slight variation in the course taken by previous explorers E.N.E. of York, who described the country as barren. Messrs. Foley, Meares, and Parker reported that much of the land was equal to the best in any part of the colony.
The English Government despatched two expeditions to north-west Australia in 1837, to elaborate the survey of the coast, and to explore the interior. Captain Wickham, R.N., in the tried world-rover, the Beagle, conducted the coastal party, and Lieutenant George Grey, now the noted pro-consul, Sir George Grey, took charge of the land party.
Lord Glenelg, then Secretary of State or the Colonies, instructed these expeditions to prosecute their work simultaneously. On the 5th July, 1837, the two well-equipped bands left Plymouth for Australia in the Beagle, and on the 20th September rounded the Cape of Good Hope and anchored in Simon's Bay. They there separated. Lieutenant Grey learned at the Cape that it would be impossible for him to obtain a vessel at Swan River suitable for his purposes, and he thereupon disembarked from the Beagle. He hired the Lynher, a schooner of 400 tons, rapidly equipped her, and left port for Hanover Bay in north-west Australia. He was accompanied by Lieutenant Lushington, Dr. Walker, surgeon, and ten other men. On the 12th October the Beagle weighed anchor, and set sail for Swan River, where she arrived on 15th November.
We will first follow the progress of Grey and his party. The leader was exceedingly anxious to quickly begin his interesting work, and his journals bear evidence that he was imbued with the true explorer's ardour, and was not averse to undergoing hardship so that he might acquire information. His descriptions of scenery, and the fertility, or otherwise, of the country he traversed, while clever, and even sometimes brilliant, are not now esteemed as always to be relied on. Apparently he committed the same errors as did the earlier explorers in the south-west.
The Lynher reached Hanover Bay on 2nd December, 1837. Grey, Lushington, and Dr. Walker landed immediately, and while the camp was being fixed, made a short excursion into the country. The coast-line was rocky, and the contiguous land barren and arid, sparsely covered with small trees of so scant a foliage that they afforded no shelter. At that time of the year the heat was intense and the party anxiously sought for some congenial spot where water was plentiful, and where was forage for the thirty sheep and other stock they had brought with them. They were thirsty, and after hunting about Grey observed cockatoos rise from the ground some distance away, and going to the spot he found water.
The stock and stores were landed on the 4th December; then Grey went up the Prince Regent's River. After his return and on the 17th December he hoisted the British Flag and took formal possession of the North West. The party now made a longer excursion inland. The way at first led through what Grey termed enchanting scenery, whereupon it quickly changed to the sombre heaviness of sandy soil and thick spinifex. Then gradually the country improved, and lofty trees, with depressing charred bodies, caused by fires, were viewed. Here and there rose isolated pinnacles of sandstone rock of fantastic shapes, frequently ornamented by graceful creepers. In other places gigantic ant hills stood boldly forth, round which kangaroos grazed.
At the extremity of a tableland protruded a narrow ravine
rising from a rapid stream, which Grey named the Lushington River, in honour of his companion. Over these regions are some of the beauty spots of Western Australia, and Grey became descriptive in his journal. More lofty and isolated pillars of sandstone were inspected, of such grotesque shapes as to make them awesome to the remote explorers. Then were passed numerous water-courses, deep, reedy lagoons, and a few parties of natives. On the 22nd December, some blacks attacked them, approaching under the ample shelter of huge rocks. But their attack was short-lived; it was ended as soon as Grey placed his rifle to his shoulder and fired. The natives fled.
Another excursion was begun on January 6th, to examine the land between Port George the Fourth—by which their tents were pitched—and Hanover Bay. The proportion of good country to the bad was small, although some of the soil was highly fertile, and there were rich meadow plains.
Previous to this, the schooner was sent to Timor for ponies to assist them in their journeys, and she returned on 17th January. Specimens of plants were collected, a garden was formed, and sheds were built round their camp. With the ponies a party left the seaboard on 19th January for the interior. They proceeded under heavy rains through ravine country, containing little vegetation. At the outset, the ponies were troublesome, but so great were the privations of the heavy journey that they soon quietened, and finally became so exhausted that seven died. Lieutenant Grey and Corporal Coles, who led the main body and marked out the route they were to follow, were attacked on 11th February by about twenty natives. On this occasion, Grey found it advisable to shoot the chief—the same person who led the previous attack. Grey was wounded on the hip by a spear, and was laid up for some days.
An encouraging distant view of running water, glinting in the sunlight, was observed on the 28th February, and passing over picturesque basaltic country, on the 2nd March they came upon the banks of a river. From their vantage point it was estimated to be four miles wide, decked with many verdant isles. Grey christened this stream the Glenelg River, after Lord Glenelg. Innumerable mosquitoes annoyed the travellers, and at night while they took rest near the river's banks they were kept awake by the shrill cries of sea birds. Above them in the dark foliage of the trees they watched the movements of brilliant fire-flies.
Up gentle slopes, down shady hills, and over fertile flats of the Glenelg they wandered. Large, thick-foliaged trees adorned the banks; beneath them was an abundance of young grass. Grey and his men went in a north-easterly direction, on March 7, and traversed fertile and picturesque country. On their left were hills covered with thick grass, and on their right extensive plains, through which the Glenelg pursued its course. The whole country-side was thinly timbered for the first few miles, but subsequently contained dense forests. Strange native carvings and drawings (described in Chapter III.) were discovered on the Upper Glenelg, and then they reached such inaccessible mountainous country, that they were compelled to turn aside from their intended route. After great suffering and intense privation, they returned to where the Lynher was at anchor, and found the Beagle alongside. The explorers were almost unrecognisable, for their heavy work and severe trials had reduced them almost to skeletons. Grey sailed to Mauritius on the 17th May, 1838. He made no further explorations in Western Australia until 1839.
The party on board the Beagle had meanwhile been busily surveying and inspecting the coast. Upon arrival at Fremantle they were welcomed and entertained by Sir James Stirling, who expressed his doubts as to the success of Lieutenant Grey's expedition, and regretted that that gentleman had not remained on the Beagle. After some days, Captain Wickham proposed to proceed to the north-west, but late in November he became so ill that it was early in January before the Beagle sailed out on her mission. The interim was employed by the second in command, Lieutenant (afterwards Admiral) Stokes, in taking soundings, laying beacons, and making surveys in Cockburn Sound and its approaches, and also in short journeys inland.
Fremantle was left on January 4, 1858, and on the 6th January the Beagle passed outside the Abrolhos Islands. Deep sea soundings were taken every few hours. The vessel came to anchor on 16th January, in Roebuck Bay, about ten miles of Cape Villoret. The native Miago accompanied the navigators from the Swan River, and supplied them with numbers of strange stories of native tribes and of different phenomena observed on the coast.
Several men were landed on the shore to search for water, but not finding any they again went on board, after several natives, who were bigger men than those in the south, interviewed them. One evinced the peculiarities of neighbouring tribes by hurling a stone after the departing men. Another anchorage was made in the Bay on the 18th. After a slight examination of the bay, and an accident to Mr. Usborne, the master, by which he was shot in the side through the discharge of a revolver, the Beagle spread her sails and left Roebuck Bay on 22nd January. The navigators were satisfied that there was no inland water communication with Roebuck Bay. Keeping as close to the coast as circumstances would permit, taking soundings, and closely observing the inland country, which was generally described as composed of immense plains dimly merging into the horizon, the navigators anchored in Beagle Bay, named in honour of the visit.
With the utmost care and detail, Lieutenant Stokes described the various points visited on the coast, the flora, fauna, and geographical features; and especially the appearance, customs, and habits of the natives. He freely criticised the work of other navigators, giving credit where he believed it was due, and correcting previous reckonings. At nearly every part of the coast touched upon natives were seen, and many small encounters were had with them. As a rule they were much more treacherous than their fellows in the south, nor did they give so hearty a welcome to the white men. Their warlike disposition was evidenced in various ways, but their favourite method of showing their intentions to exterminate the curious visitors was either to court the aid of their boylya to remove them from the face of the earth, or to gather on some commanding hill, above a small party of explorers, gesticulate wildly, brandish their spears threateningly, and whirl their arms round their heads with the rapidity of a windmill in a strong gale. Miago was compelled to hold reluctant communion with his countrymen, but he could understand no word of their language. Indeed he preferred to keep a wide space between him and them, for he was possessed of an almost uncontrollable dread of the north men.
The northern country was stigmatised as infested with a veritable plague of flies. The ubiquitous insects irresistibly forced their way into eyes, mouth, ears, and nostrils. No physical power or loss of temper would stay them, and combined with their allies—the mosquitoes—their virulent ravishes were beyond the power of human endurance and patience. In the twilight they retired from sheer exhaustion, and then the mosquitoes assumed the offensive and continued the campaign.
Among other things discovered were a native raft, native sepulchres, and curious native huts and coverings. On Bathurst Island native huts were examined, which bore striking resemblance to those in Tierra del Fuego. Specimens were obtained of the acute and watchful bustard, quails with no hind toes, guanos and lizards of bull ant hue who spent most of their time in running up and down high trees, cinnamon kangaroos, and pheasant cuckoos. Along the coast the explorers were amazed at the sight of ant hills rising to the incredible height of thirteen feet, with a diameter of seven feet, and tapering to the apex. A species of wild oat was found to be indigenous to the north of Western Australia.
By sedulous research the navigators were able to collate a valuable mass of information concerning the north-west. The main features of the coast were explored, and bays and inlets and rivers named. The Fitzroy River was discovered in March, 1838, and while not of the great magnitude they anticipated it to be, its discovery was an acquisition to geographical knowledge. Two boats ascended the stream, and the explorers were affected by the impressive grandeur of the awful silence. Their gaze disclosed an unbroken level, covered with high, strong, wiry grass, intersected by numerous watercourses. Emus and quails arose in startled confusion as they pursued their way, and the vindictive mosquitoes tormented the invaders of their native habitat. A group of aboriginals resting on the banks were surprised when the white men suddenly turned a bend of the stream, and with commingled fear and amazement rose, fled, and disappeared in the long grass. Further inland the country became richly wooded, and a verdant green clothed the banks. The river was so sinuous that their course ranged to every point of the compass. Finally they came to a point where the river was a chain of lagoons. From the top of a tree Stokes gained an extensive view of the wide and far-spread landscape, then first submitted to the scrutiny of Europeans. "Varied and undefined," he says, "were the thoughts called forth at such a moment; the past, present, and future at once occupied and almost confounded the imagination; new feelings accompanied new perceptions; and, gazing for the first time upon a vast and unknown land, the mind, restless and active as the roving life by which it was informed, expanded for the reception of the crowding fancies called into life as by the magician's wand."
The officers went as far as Port George the Fourth, whereupon the Beagle returned to Fremantle. After remaining there a few weeks she sailed round to Sydney.
The general occurrences were not particularly notable in these three years. A second newspaper, called The Guardian, was published towards the end of 1836. It was edited by Mr. Nairn Clark, who was connected with newspaper matters in the colony on a previous occasion. The Guardian did not long survive the trials of colonial life, and succumbed within a year of its birth.
Mr. Mackie initiated the system of going on circuit to King George's Sound and Augusta early in 1837. On 1st June, 1836, sports and rustic games were held in Perth to commemorate the foundation of Western Australia. There was a large attendance, and all present entered heartily into the spirit of the celebration. The natives were not forgotten, and competitions of catching pigs with soaped tails, and throwing spears at loaves of bread were arranged specially for their delectation. Elementary schools were projected in Perth and Fremantle in 1838.
In the same year the colony lost the services of two useful men. The first to go was Lieut. Armstrong, who, in his position in the military forces had rendered splendid assistance to settlement and development. He was an enthusiastic officer and willingly bore any hardship in the interests of duty. Indeed his energy resulted in his death. While on duty in the bush he exposed himself to the climate to such an extent that he sickened, and on the 26th August, 1838, died. Joshua Gregory, one of the earliest and most energetic settlers, died at Central Swan on 8th September, 1838.
Governor Stirling strove to encourage the development of the pastoral industry to the last. He energetically visited all settled parts, and while in Perth attended to public business with zest. The Legislative Council was busily engaged in the passing ordinances requisite to the administration. There was no trouble between Sir James and the members over the estimates in 1836, although the civil officers still objected to the strain on the public purse caused by the maintenance of the police force established as a protection against the natives. His Excellency had fretted over what he considered the unauthorised usurpation of power of members in cutting down the vote to the force in 1835. But a disagreement over the budget proposals took place in 1837. The old differences of opinion regarding the expenditure on the police corps were again aired, and, as in 1835, the members made a determined stand, and secured a compromise.
The most interesting measure in 1838 was a Roads and Streets Act. No provision had yet been made for the government of municipalities, and it was found difficult to apply municipal machinery employed in the old world to the conditions existing in Western Australia. An Act was eventually drafted and passed, but was not an entire success. Under it everyone was desirous of having roads made to his homestead, but no one was willing to pay for them. In August, 1838, colonial roads were divided into districts, which extended from the Swan south to Leschenault, and east to York, Northam, and Toodyay.
The term of office of Governor Stirling drew to a close. Early in 1838 he was considering the advisability of retiring, and in June he publicly announced that he would return to England in the course of a few months. So closely had he been associated with the history of the colony, and almost with the welfare of each settler, that his approaching separation from active colonial interests was viewed with concern.
Sir James suffered in the depression with the settlers. Although his conclusions with regard to the value of soils, and the suitability of different areas for settlement, were not reliable, yet he had been a most earnest and zealous administrator. There can be no doubt that he was willing to perform the most trying work for the colony, and that he was a sincere advocate of its rights.
Many of his acts were unstatesmanlike. Had he been more firm and determined there would probably have been no suffering from scarcity of provisions, and had he been less sanguine and more farseeing the first colonists would not have expected so much from Western Australia. Their hopes would not have been so rudely broken, and they might have made wiser preparations for colonising work.
But that depression eventuated was not altogether the fault of Sir James, and that privation was so intense cannot be blamed to him. The settlers deserve a share of blame, and the English Government, whether they were acquainted with the true condition of affairs or not, made the position of the Governor exceedingly difficult, and did little to relieve the people at Swan River.
Sir James Stirling winced and suffered under the blame so often imputed to him; probably not one colonist existed who did not love and respect him. Whatever was in his limited power to do for his people he did. He was their oldest and tried friend. He was a useful naval officer, an energetic explorer, an eager servant of those placed under him, and a courteous administrator. Whether a wise one or not, he was yet a true friend of Western Australia.
During the remaining months of 1835 Sir James paid visits to all the settlements he had established in the colony. He went to York and the surrounding districts, to the Murray, Leschenault, Vasse, Augusta and King George's Sound. In most of them he delivered farewell speeches, and promised while in England to spare no effort to serve colonists. A public meeting was held in Perth in October, whereat it was decided to prepare an elaborate address and to purchase a piece of plate for presentation to His Excellency. The speeches on this occasion testified the love and respect held for him.
As the time of his departure approached the Governor became more and more popular every day. On the 20th December Sir James and Lady Stirling gave a farewell ball to the colonists, and dancing was kept up till breakfast next day. On Christmas Eve a meeting of the Executive Council was held, and on the 31st December a deputation presented him with a service of plate and an address from all classes of colonists. When the deputation withdrew he sat in Council for the last time, and read a written address to the members. Thus closed Governor Stirling's administration and the year 1838.