History of West Australia/Chapter 13
LAND LAWS; EXPLORATION; AUSTRALIND SETTLEMENT.
ARRIVAL OF GOVERNOR HUTT AND DEPARTURE OF GOVERNOR STIRLING—MEMBERSHIP OF LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL INCREASED—GOVERNOR HUTT LAND AND NATIVE POLICY—PROCLAMATION CONCERNING NON-IMPROVED GRANTS—LAND TAX THREATENED—OPINION OF AGRICULTURISTS AND PASTORALISTS—DEFICIT IN 1839—ASSESSMENT ON LAND PROPOSED—RESUMPTIONS AND A PETITION—AGITATIONS TO SECURE ALTERATIONS OF LAND LAWS IN ENGLAND BY COMMITTEES—REPLY OF SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES—AGENTS IN LONDON—LAND BOUNTIES IN 1840 TO ENCOURAGE EMIGRATION—EMIGRATION COMMISSIONERS—MINIMUM SALES PRICE OF LANDS RAISED TO 12S.—SQUATTING—FURTHER ADVANCE OF MINIMUM TO £1 IN 1841—EMIGRATION COMMISSIONERS ADVISE LAND TAX OF THREEPENCE PER ACRE—LABOUR THE CHIEF CAUSE—RATES OF WAGES, MONEY VOTED, AND EMIGRANTS BROUGHT OUT—POPULATION—NATIVE ADMINISTRATION—ROTTNEST PROCLAIMED A GOVERNMENT PENAL ESTABLISHMENT—WORK OF PRISONERS—NATIVE PROTECTORS—BOUNTIES ON INSTRUCTION OF NATIVES—NATIVE SCHOOLS OPENED—DEPREDATIONS AND MURDERS—FIRST EXECUTION—THE TERRIBLE MASSACRE AT MININUP—PASTORAL PROGRESS—KOJONUP—A MINERAL—BENGAL ASSOCIATION—STATISTICS OF STOCK AND LAND—BANK OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA TAKEN OVER BY BANK OF AUSTRALASIA—WESTERN AUSTRALIAN BANK ESTABLISHED—PUBLIC WORKS; MOLES, JETTY AT PERTH, CAUSEWAY—WHALING—FOOD SUPPLIES—MAIL SERVICE—WRECKS; DROWNING OF W. K. SHENTON—PRIVATE THEATRICALS, CRICKET, BREACH OF PROMISE CASE—RELIGIOUS MATTERS—EXPLORATION; GREY AND HIS TERRIBLE PRIVATIONS—DISCOVERY OF THE GASCOYNE RIVER, BABBAGE ISLAND, MURCHISON AND HUTT RIVERS, MOUNTS VICTORIA AND ALBERT, VICTORIA RANGE AND PROVINCE, BOWES, BULLER, CHAPMAN, GREENOUGH, IRWIN, AND ARROWSMITH RIVERS—SOME OF PARTY RESCUED BY MR. ROE—DEATH OF SIR RICHARD SPENCER; GREY APPOINTED GOVERNMENT RESIDENT AT ALBANY—BEAGLE EXPLORATIONS—CHAMPION BAY DISCOVERED AND OTHER PLACES ON AND NEAR COAST NAMED—BRAVE AND TRAGICAL EXPLORATION OF EYRE OVERLAND—AUSTRALIND SETTLEMENT: ITS RISE AND FALL—BUNBURY AND WATERLOO PROCLAIMED.
BY a singular coincidence Sir James Stirling relinquished the reins of Government on 31st December, 1838, and in the first week of the new year John Hurt assumed them. One retired with the old year; the other arrived with the new. It was so appropriate and convenient as to appear a preconcerted arrangement.
For some years the new Governor, Mr. John Hutt, had evinced a lively interest in colonial affairs, and with his brother, William Hurt, M.P., and other gentlemen in England, attempted to apply a new system of colonisation to Western Australian settlement. Influenced, probably, by these facts, the Home Government appointed him to succeed Sir James Stirling. Mr. Hutt was well acquainted with commercial affairs, and had already studied some essentials of colonial life and the principles of colonisation. A writer of those days described him as being of an enlightened frame of mind, firm, sagacious, and benevolent.
Mr. Hutt reached the colony on 2nd January, 1839, and met the retiring Governor at Fremantle. The two gentlemen had much to say to each other, and remained together until the next day. On the 3rd Mr. Hutt proceeded to Perth, where he was received by the civil officers. His commission was formally examined, and then he was introduced to the Executive Council. The proper oath was administered, his commission and different proclamations were read in public, and a short meeting of the Executive Council was held. On the 4th the Legislative Council sat to receive the Queen's representative.
It was a week of many doings. After the formal meeting of the Legislative Council on the 4th, the Governor, the Council, and private citizens repaired to Fremantle to bid good-bye to Sir James Stirling. A dinner and a ball were tendered him, and on the 5th all the gentry assembled on the small Fremantle wharf, and raised their voices in cheers for their departing friend. Sir James was visibly affected. Later in the year he was presented with a service of plate in London on behalf of the people of Western Australia.
Mr. Hurt at once increased the membership of the Legislative Council. The British Government had years previously given the local Governor the power to nominate non-official members to this body but, considering the proper period had not arrived, and at the express wish of settlers, Stirling did not make any appointments. Colonists preferred not to be represented except through the medium of direct members elected by themselves. But it was now determined to nominate new members, and on the 5th January Governor Hutt issued a proclamation declaring William Locke Brockman, George Leake, Thomas Peel, and William Tanner non-official members of the Legislative Council of Western Australia for as long as they continued to reside in the colony. The four new members took their seats for the first time when the Council met on 4th March.
A new and bold policy in land and native administration was inaugurated by Governor Hutt. These were the all-important questions of the period, and he quickly evidenced his intention to apply the land regulations to the letter, and sought to civilise and better the condition of the natives, and believed it could be done with little difficulty. He devoted himself to an earnest and exhaustive examination of the native question, and proceeded to apply preconceived notions relative to the land. His first public acts were not altogether calculated to render him popular or to satisfy colonists.
Sir James Stirling had used the power reposed in him with delicacy and deliberation, and, especially with regard to the land question, had shown extreme consideration to settlers. Having been in the colony since its inauguration he well remembered how severe had been the fight against the numerous opposing influences to progression. He was therefore loth to apply the land laws in their entirety, and was, perhaps, too lenient concerning the non-fulfilment of location duties. There was one construction to be placed upon the regulations in the case of those grants which had been made to mere speculators and to men who lost heart and left the colony without in any way improving their selections, and another to colonists who, with limited opportunities, were striving to develop their large properties.
On the 12th January Governor Hutt gave notice that in pursuance of the primary regulations under which land was assigned, those who had not complied with the conditions of improvement must pay a rent of 1s. per acre upon the unimproved portions. Moreover, he signified his intention of subsequently announcing by notice that stock, which was not the property of the grantee, depasturing on any election would not be considered to be fulfilling the location duties. This measure would have pressed very arbitrarily on those persons who were renting their grants to settlers for the depasturing of stock. Mr. Hutt probably desired to compel absentee landholders to personally develop their properties, failing which, to allow local people the privilege of taking over the land. His civil officers and other leading colonists strongly opposed his proposal, and were so determined that the notice was apparently not issued.
Then Governor Hutt also threatened to impose a heavy tax on land, to be applied in support of a police force to quell the native troubles. Not only this, he adopted measures in land administration which tended, in the opinion of settlers, to restrict immigration. The officers comprising the Executive Council made a spirited opposition to these changes.
It was opined that the first proclamation demanding the payment of fines due would have a healthy effect on the colony. Those settlers who were dilatory in improving their grants might be stimulated to greater energy, and those stretches of land which were not utilised would again become a direct asset of the Government. Individual hardship was certain, but if not applied too rigidly some of Governor Hutt's proposals were calculated to benefit the colony at large.
A meeting of agriculturists was held to discuss other subjects, and before the gathering dispersed a resolution was carried which sounded the views of settlers. This read that "A memorial to the House of Commons be drawn up, soliciting a remission of fines due under the land regulations, and a grant of fee-simple to settlers under certain circumstances, viz., those having expended large sums on small parcels of land, considering the same as portions of their several grants from the Crown."
When the Legislative Council met in March little attention was paid to land matters. The statement of revenue and expenditure showed a deficit, principally caused by a decrease of duty received on spirits. No vessels had for a long period put into port ladened with spirits, consequently there was a dearth in the market. From these duties the main proportion of revenue was obtained. Incidentally, while delivering his budget, the Governor again stated that he was considering the advisability of placing a tax on land. Some members remonstrated, asserting that such an impost would press very severely on struggling land-owners, and would make such inroads into their finances as would restrict their powers of development.
But, notwithstanding all advice to the contrary, His Excellency issued a notice on 6th September, announcing his intention of introducing a bill into the Legislative Council on 15th October, providing for the augmentation of the revenue by an assessment on land.
The funds at the disposal of the local Government, he proclaimed, were inadequate to support a police force for the protection of settlers; hence his intention. Sir James Stirling had repeatedly desired to raise revenue by special means to secure the protection of settlers against the depredations of the blacks, but he was unable to carry out his suggestions through the determined opposition of his official advisers. In consequence the old police force was disbanded. Governor Hutt, while new to office, was more firm, and he considered that as the landholders were the chief sufferers from native attacks, it was but just that they should support a force to counteract the evil. He was overruled in his proposal, and no tax was placed on land.
A few grants of land were resumed in 1839, and in 1840 the Governor scheduled more than 100,000 acres as liable. On further consideration he had placed a liberal construction on the conditions of alienation, and though he resumed large areas he allowed privileges under extenuating circumstances.
A petition was presented to him on 28th May, 1840, from the Agricultural Society objecting to his earlier land proposals, especially to restrictions he was placing on immigrants, who were unable to obtain land except in certain positions, and to the reservation and resumption of springs and other watering places. The Governor was not moved by his petitioners, and while expressing his sorrow at not being able to satisfy them, declined to alter his land policy.
During the last few years eager efforts were being made to encourage the Imperial Government to radically alter the land laws of Western Australia. Sir James Stirling in his despatches advocated such a step, and committees at home of gentlemen who proposed to purchase land in the colony were earnest in their desire to obtain such privileges for Western Australia as would enable her to compete with other British Colonies. Sir James Stirling obtained from the Home Government the right for settlers to surrender such areas of their land as they deemed useless to them, and, when purchasing additional areas, to a remission on the purchase money at the rate of 1s. 6d. per acre for the area surrendered. It was the possession of unprofitable tracts which operated, in his opinion, more than any other cause, to retard the progress of the colony.
One committee in England made certain proposals to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the acceptance of which, its members anticipated, would supply the demand for labour and attract the enterprise of capitalists. They suggested that all Crown lands should be open to purchase, as soon as surveyed, at a minimum price of 10s. per acre; that the proceeds of these sales should be employed in defraying the cost of emigration to the colony; and that commissioners should be appointed to act under the colonial department to carry the whole system into effect. Provision should also be made by which Western Australian land might be sold in England, and the proceeds applied to defraying the passage of such labourers as the purchasers wished to introduce into the colony. The commissioners, who would negotiate these sales, should be granted the power to raise loans for emigration purposes on the security of future sales, and also to regulate the emigration of labourers.
This particular committee was elected by a company which proposed to purchase land in Western Australia, and from which the Australind settlement received its beginnings. It approached the Government in 1838, prior to the departure of Mr. John Hutt. The company comprised, besides that gentleman, Messrs. William Hurt, M.P., Charles E. Mangles, Louis Samson, Edward Barrett Lennard, Spencer Starthope, and E.G. Wakefield, and was subsequently augmented by such well known gentlemen as Sir James Stirling himself, Captain Bunbury, Hon. Colonel Talbot, Sir J. P. Boileau, with Messrs. William Tanner, T. A. Russell, and J. W. Hardey as Western Australian members. The Earl of Lovelace and Lord Worsley were honorary members.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies wrote, under instructions from Lord Glenelg, on 5th January, 1839, declining to accept their proposals. While he was anxious to facilitate emigration to Western Australia, he apprehended that selling colonial lands in England would result in inconvenience and would involve the abandonment, in favor of a particular company, of the principle applying in all the Australian Colonies of disposing of Crown lands by public sale at a minimum price. Dissatisfaction would probably arise, and the Government be exposed to the accusation of partiality. But Lord Glenelg was willing to meet them so far as to permit an arrangement by which the parties could pay into the hands of the agent-general for emigration in London a certain sum to be expended by him in the transmission of a proper class of emigrants to Western Australia. The parties could receive in return a certificate of such payment, to go towards the payment of any Crown lands which they might purchase in the colony. Option was given to those capitalists who forwarded emigrants, approved of by the agent-general for emigration, of a similar certificate, to be calculated on the prevailing passage rates of labouring classes to Australia. The company did not pursue the question further.
Another committee or association was formed in England in 1839, and is referred to as the "Association in Bedford Street." Its specified objects were to advance the interests of Western Australia in England by soliciting the Government to award a bounty on the importation of labour; by obtaining an amendment of the land regulations so that unsurveyed land might be made available for purchase until the Survey Department was strong enough to survey in advance; by taking measures for the circulation of correct and useful information concerning the colony; by encouraging the formation of companies to invest in Western Australian land and stock, and by establishing a connection between Western Australia and colonial banking institutions whose head offices were in England. Sir James Stirling, who continued a warm friend of the colony, was a leading spirit in this association, and he was assisted by Mr. Wm. Hutt, M.P., and Mr. T. Bland. In April, 1840, a public meeting was held in Perth, which formally appointed these three gentlemen agents for the colony in London to disseminate information and to subserve its general interests.
As some result of the agitations carried on by these committees, Lord Glenelg, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, determined to promulgate a new regulation designed to encourage emigration. A despatch dated 12th October, 1839, was forwarded to Governor Hutt and made public in Western Australia in June, 1840. By a system of bounties emigrants might be introduced and land acquired. In the first place, to acquire the bounty the intending emigrant was required to lodge say £100 in the hands of the Emigration Board, which then chose the number of emigrants which this amount would carry to the colony, estimated on the basis of £18 for every person of fifteen years of age and upwards, £10 for children between the ages of seven and fifteen years, and £5 for children between the ages of one and seven years. On the emigrating capitalists' arrival in the colony with the number of labourers prescribed, and on his satisfying the local Government that he had complied with all the conditions, he received a certificate entitling him to the equivalent of £90 in land. The amount of £10 was reserved to defray expenses.
The Secretary of State initiated this regulation as an experiment, and directed that it should expire in the colony two years after the date of application. The opportunity it afforded was not availed of to any appreciable extent, and the regulation was practically a dead letter. Several people emigrated, but did not carry labourers with them.
About this time the Secretary of State appointed three Land and Emigration Commissioners in London, to control emigration and to advise on colonial affairs. The official instructions to this board, consisting of T. F. Elliott, Colonel Torrens, and the Hon. E. E. Villiers, were given under seal on 14th January, 1840. Among other things the commissioners were required to collect and diffuse accurate statistical information of the colonies, and to render periodical accounts, both pecuniary and statistical, of their administration as a board. Beyond its work in the emigration department, the board did not do very great service to Western Australia, and one, at least, of its recommendations was resented by settlers.
Soon after came still other Imperial instructions, directing an increase of the minimum price at which Crown lands could be sold at public auction. There had been several advocates of this change—men who were desirous of curtailing the dimensions of estates, and who wished to secure more revenue from land sales for general purposes. The despatch was dated 19th March, 1840, and raised the minimum upset price of land at public sales to 12s. per acre. The people of the colony accepted the change without undue murmuring, and, indeed, the regulation made little difference either to them or to new comers. The landholders under the original grant system, were more likely to obtain buyers for what areas they desired to sell, and the buyers were able to secure properties at a much cheaper rate than the Government minimum. It was where newly discovered country was opened up that he regulation gave dissatisfaction. Some settlers considered that to curtail the dimensions of estates was desirable and wise enough, but by the regulation an unfair advantage was given to the man of wealth. He could still obtain land to the extent of his capital, whether one acre or one hundred thousand. Had all estates been kept within reasonable dimensions, subsequent generations in Australia would not have been hampered by obstacles which retard efficient development and the utilisation of latent wealth of soil.
As convincing proof that land could be purchased cheaply enough from private persons, in 1839 over 15,000 acres were sold at 2s. 6d. per acre; and in the same year Mr. Peel sold to Mr. Singleton 10,000 acres of choice land, on the Dandalup River, for £1,250. He was well satisfied with his deal, because it was to his interests to attract enterprising settlers to develop land within his huge estate. In the following year a large area of land was sold privately for a small price.
The Perth Gazette looked askance at the determination of the Government to increase the minimum price of waste lands. It remarked that colonists were being made the victims of theoretical schemes, and apprehended that evil would arise from the latest variation in the land laws; which forced upon the people that profitable but demoralising occupation—squatting, or grazing on unlocated land.
This last remark of the Gazette was much talked about, and settlers considered the advisability of following the nomadic occupation of squatting. It was an attractive life. Sheep and other stock were travelled over virgin areas, and when some fertile alleys and well trussed plains were reached they there remained. They scattered over No Man's Land, and could more than successfully compete with the landed proprietors. There was one difficulty as yet, namely, the impossibility of getting servants to go back beyond the remote stations into unknown country, and live the primitive and rough life thus entailed. Hence squatting was not popular for some years.
No further changes were made in the land laws in 1840. The Governor, in his speech at the opening of the Legislative Council, in May, 1840, stated that. £1,500 had been derived from fines and sales of land. In June, 1841, the Imperial Government ordered the raising of the minimum price at which Crown lands were sold to £1. In addition, the minimum acreage to be sold was fixed at ten acres, with, on the boundaries of Crown lands, a right of commonage.
In 1840-1, also, the Emigration Commissioners recommended a tax of 3d. per acre on land. The settlers opposed the recommendation, and contended that their vicissitudes were already so numerous that they could not bear so heavy an impost. In April a strongly and firmly-worded memorial was drawn up, widely signed, and presented to the Governor, remonstrating with him and the Emigration Commissioners. The land tax was not imposed.
A primary consideration in all these changes and agitations concerning the land laws was the pressing demand for labour in the colony. With more servants at their command, more development work could be carried on by agriculturists and pastoralists, and the prosperity of the colony could be stimulated. This, indeed, was a most serious drawback. The dearth in the labour market announced in previous years was, if anything, more keenly felt during the period 1839 to 1842. Great forward strides could not be made until more labour was procured. The Imperial authorities, as seen, were willing to experiment to encourage the importation of emigrants; the colonial authorities were much exercised in mind to devise means by which they could be obtained; and private persons were practically endeavouring to obtain them from India and from England.
In 1839 enquiries for labourers were conducted in England at the instigation of leading Western Australian gentlemen, and Mr Louis Samson offered to refund the passage money within two years of as many emigrants as any ship would undertake to carry to the colony. While discovering that there were numbers of people willing to emigrate, no definite arrangements and terms were come to. The wages ruling in the colony for farm servants and shepherds were £30 to £36 per year, with board; for female domestics, £12 to £18 per year; country carpenters, 8s. a day; and labourers, 5s. to 6s. per day.
In January, 1840, the directors of the Agricultural Society proposed to send home for servants, but deferred doing so until they saw what steps the Government intended to take. The Governor was seriously considering whether to make an appropriation for their importation. A few weeks later common labourers in the Perth environs struck for 7s. a day wages, and some classes of mechanics for 15s. a day. So great were the inducements held out by employers that for many months sailors were frequently deserting their ships at Fremantle and the other ports in order to participate in the high prices ruling.
While delivering his speech at the opening of the Legislative Council in May, 1840, Governor Hutt stated that the amount received from fines and land sales—£1,500—was to be devoted to introducing labour into the colony. A vote to that effect was passed on 20th May. Of the £1,500, £1,000 was to be spent in obtaining labour from England, and £500 was to be applied to maintaining any such imported labourers in the colony until they became self-supporting.
The labour market was afforded some relief during the succeeding two years, but not sufficient to meet the demand. The Australind settlement served to introduce numbers of men, and the Government and private people obtained the remainder. The Government devoted the money to the purpose assigned, and by one boat, in 1841, about 100 labourers were introduced, and another, in 1842, carried over 200. In August, 1842, the British Government introduced eighteen boys from the Parkhurst establishment as Government juvenile emigrants under the guardianship of Mr. J. Schoales. The boys were over-applied for, and this semi-convict experiment was described as being successful. The statistics of population afford a proof of an increase in immigration. The small increase in population during the nine years from 1832 to 1841 exhibits the stagnation which characterised Western Australian affairs during that period, and the comparative absence of immigration. Thus in 1832 there were estimated to be 1,511 Europeans in the colony, exclusive of military; in 1841 there were but 2,760, but in 1842, when batches of Australind settlers and emigrants had landed, and other servants were introduced by the Government and private people, the number had risen to 3,476. The annual report submitted to the Home Government for the year ending 30th September, 1842, shows this number to be dispersed as follows :—Perth, 1,137; Fremantle, 470; Swan (above Perth), 529; York district, 310; Albany and King George's Sound district, 213; Murray district, 93; Canning, 55; Toodyay, 134; Wellington distract, 371; Vasse district, 126; Williams district, 5; outlying settlers, 33.
Immediately after Governor Hutt's arrival he began a comprehensive study of the natives, and being instructed to follow a settled policy with regard to them, hoped that he would soon make them amenable to civilisation, and cause them to abandon their depredatory instincts. He preserved a kind, but firm, demeanour, and believed, when he understood their ways, he would be able to establish peaceful relations. To this end he drew up a list of enquiries concerning them, which he forwarded for reply to various interested persons in the colony. He also carried on a voluminous correspondence on the subject with the Home Government, which was published for the benefit of a Parliamentary Committee.
Though in 1838 Rottnest was used on one or two occasions as a native prison, it was not until the 1st of July, 1839, that it was proclaimed a Government Penal Establishment. All persons holding interests there were requested to send statements of their claims to the Government. A Mr. Welsh was appointed first superintendent, but not long afterwards two native instructors, Mr. G. Symmons and Dr. Wilson, superseded him. In 1840 an Act passed the Legislative Council constituting Rottnest Island a public prison for natives.
The prisoners on the island in 1839 did not relish their quarters, and twice in the first month attempted to escape. When the establishment was got in full swing they were made to perform furious kinds of work. Under the supervision of the superintendent and experienced men they erected comfortable cottages for themselves, after which the institution was made self-supporting. The prisoners collected salt from the lagoons on the island (which was sold on the mainland), cut wood, cultivated sufficient grain and vegetables to support themselves, and fished or hunted. The old lighthouse on Rottnest stands as a monument of their labour, and was erected within the first four years of establishment. The foundation-stone was laid by Mr. H. Trigg, superintendent of Public Works, on 21st January, 1852.
The prisoners took great pride in showing visitors their own work, yet they appeared to pine for their old freedom. Many of them were deprived of liberty for the committal of crimes and offences that they could not comprehend, largely often in obedience to their laws. The men whose chains they wore intruded on their domains, took their lands, and imprisoned them. It was a stern necessity, regretted by the white men. The young prisoners often benefited by their imprisonment; the older ones chafed under it.
The English Government had decided to inaugurate a new system for the civilisation of the natives, with the object of preserving the aboriginal races, and preventing oppression on the part of colonists. Much capital had been made out of the frays which had taken place with the blacks all over Australia, and those who did not understand the circumstances spoke and wrote trenchantly of the cruelty of the white men. Instructors to the natives were sent to all the colonies—those in Western Australia in 1839 were Dr. Wilson and Mr. C. Symmons, while a little later a son of Sir John Barrow received a similar appointment in this colony. Native schools were encouraged, and Governor Hutt, in his efforts to promote the civilisation and improvement of the aborigines and to extend the measures already in operation for that purpose, offered on 23rd June, 1841, a land bounty on the instruction of natives. He notified that he would grant a remission of £18 on the purchase of land to any person who had kept a native in constant employment for two years, and given him a complete knowledge of the usual operations of farming, reaping, mowing, &c. A remission of £36 was promised to those persons who could prove that they had taught a native with such proficiency a trade, calling, or handicraft as would entitle him to receive his indentures. Several colonists engaged natives on the strength of the bounty.
The Wesleyan denomination led the way in 1841 in establishing successful schools for natives, and through the zealous exertions of the Rev. Mr. Smithies, assisted by the Government, an institution was opened in Perth which was attended by thirty native children. This school was established as an experiment, for no one could tell whether it were possible to teach the aboriginal. The schooling occupied two hours each week-day, and public worship on Sunday. Mr. Armstrong was the patient teacher. A similar school was opened by the Wesleyan body at Guildford, where Mr. A. James was the master. Twenty-one native children attended this institution during 1841. A small subsidy was granted both schools by Government.
In March, 1839, the blacks were troublesome and daring, and killed pigs and other stock. In that month, also, a band of them was caught driving off 150 sheep from a station at York. Six men were arrested and some convicted. At Ellen's Brook thieving natives caused much annoyance, but an ingenious settler effectually drove them out of the district. He painted a hideous face on a paper lantern, which he lighted at night and hung on a bush near a body of natives. The poor blacks were alarmed beyond measure. Most of them hurried from the neighbourhood, declaring that the boylya had come from the north, and expecting the certain death of those who were bold enough to remain near by.
A hideous murder was perpetrated by natives in the south part of the York district on 18th May. While the wife of Elijah Cook was alone in her house with an infant eight months old, ferocious blacks approached and speared her and her child, and after battering them with hatchets, burnt the house to the ground over their bodies. Expeditions went out to hunt the murderers and avenge the terrible wrong. A proclamation was issued by the Government calling upon all persons to aid in discovering them. We are told that a proclamation to the same effect was issued in the native language, which was futile and ludicrous, seeing that the natives knew nothing of reading or writing, and that hose who compiled the document were perhaps the only Europeans who comprehended it.
After a long search Doodjeep and Barrabong were arrested. On the 1st July, 1840, they were tried and found guilty, and sentenced to be hung at the scene of the murder. A few days later, on 10th July, the execution was carried into effect. Doodjeep and Barrabong were chained, placed in a cart, and conveyed to the spot. A few military protected the conveyance, for it was expected that the dusky brethren of the prisoners would seek to rescue them. Two natives were met on the Way, and Doodjeep and Barrabong cried out to them, but the intruders were quickly driven off by the soldiers. Presently smoke ascended the sky from signal fires kindled by the two men. No opposition, however, was offered, although it is believed that a number of natives watched the execution from a distance. Chains were suspended from a tree, and Doodjeep met his fate with stolid calmness. Not so Barrabong; he trembled violently, and fainted as the cap was being drawn over his eyes. The bodies were left hanging to the tree as a warning of the dreadful vengeance of the white man.
Other murders were committed in 1839, but no explicit records exist of them. Among them was the spearing of a shepherd boy employed by Mr. Phillips, on the Canning. His sheep were driven off. Munday, the chieftain, again appears on the scene. He threatened to spear Mr. Armstrong, the interpreter and friend of the natives. He was to be charged with the offence. In December, 1839, a deputation from a number of blacks called on the editor of the Perth Gazette and asked him to devote his "paper talk" to the interests of Munday. The editor promised a "favourable consideration" of their request.
There was an immunity from depredations in 1840. A few sheep were stolen on the Swan in April, and the country was secured in pursuit of the thieves. The Leschenault natives murdered a white boy about the middle of the year. The details are meagre. Several Perth natives were appointed to act as constables.
In 1841 one of the most bloodthirsty deeds ever committed by Englishmen is reported to have taken place. No records exist of this affair, and the narrative depends on the evanescent memory of pioneers, and the statements of several surviving natives of that period, particularly Weelah, of the Vasse tribe. The numerous bones on a sand patch testify to the perpetration of a massacre, and the recorded murder of a respected settler supplies the cause. It is known that a punitive expedition went out.
On 22nd February, 1841, George Layman, a settler at Wonnerup, whose supply of flour was limited, was greatly annoyed when a black named Quibean or Gawall obtained some damper from a servant by strategy. Mr. Layman seized Quibean by the beard and shoulders, and shook him severely. Quibean bided his time, approached Mr. Layman from the rear, and speared him through the back and heart.
The white men throughout Wonnerup, Capel, Vasse, and Blackwood banded together to take a dire revenge. They would no longer quietly bear these terrible murders after the liberal treatment extended towards the black men. Colonel (captain) Molloy ordered his soldiers to prepare to march, and he took command of them and the chief settlers in the south-western districts. He gave special instructions that no woman or child should be killed, but that no mercy should be offered the men. A strong and final lesson must be taught the blacks. All were well armed.
Into the remote places this party went, bent on killing without mercy. Through the woods, among rocky hills and shaded valleys, they searched for the black men. When they saw them they shouldered their muskets, and shot them down. Isolated natives were killed during the first few days, and, so it is said, some women among them, but the main body had hidden from the terrible white men. A few parties fled from the threatened districts to the southern coast, and escaped. The majority hid in the thick bush around Lake Mininup.
Although several natives were killed the settlers and soldiers were not satisfied. They redoubled their energy, determined to wreak vengeance on the main body. They rode from district to district, from hill to hill, and searched the bush and thickets. At last they traced the terrified fugitives to Lake Mininup. Here and there a native was killed, and the others seeing that their hiding place was discovered fled before the determined force. They rushed to a sand patch beyond Lake Mininup. Colonel Molloy observed a boy forsaken by his parents. He rode up to him, and to save him took him on his saddle. The lad, whose name was Burnin, survived, and lived in the district until a short time ago. The soldiers and settlers pushed on, and surrounded the black men on the sand patch. There was now no escape for the fugitives, and their vacuous cries of terror mingled with the reports of the white men's guns. Native after native was shot, and the survivors, knowing that orders had been given not to shoot the women, crouched on their knees, covered their bodies with their bokas, and cried, "Me yokah" (woman). The white men had no mercy. The black men were killed by dozens, and their corpses lined the route of march of the avengers. Then the latter went back satisfied.
On the sand patch near Mininup, skeletons and skulls of natives reported to have been killed in 1841 are still to be found. Mixed with them are the bones of dogs shot on the same day. Occasionally a sand drift covers them, and then again it discloses them to the sun. Surviving natives held the place in such terror that they would not go near to give the corpses burial. Even now natives refuse to disturb the bones.
Though so many natives were killed, Quibean had gone unscathed. For months he outwitted the white men, and defied their efforts to catch him. Then another native met him in a grove of banksia trees. Quibean was seeking his wife, and this native, pretending friendship, said he would guide the woman to the banksia trees. Quibean hid among the trees, and the native hurried off and told his story to a soldier and a settler. With guns ready, they crept among the trees, and confronted Quibean. Two charges of shot were projected into his body, and the cause of the massacre died.
Thefts of stores by natives at Bunbury were punished in 1841, and a native was executed at Perth during the year for the murder of a white boy on the Canning. No other trouble of any moment took place for the remainder of that and throughout the following year. The firmness of the settlers and administration was having an effect.
But one bright act in this period remains to be recorded. In 1841 the first marriage under English rites of a native couple took place. Both parties had worked for two years for Perth residents, and after the service was explained to them the ceremony was proceeded with. The Government presented to the couple a dowry of a town allotment in fee simple, unalienable, and to devolve to their legitimate descendants.
The annual reports of the Agricultural Society for the years 1839-1842 refer regretfully to the demand for labour, and while complimenting the spirited and untiring efforts of colonists and their success, state that their enterprise was necessarily contracted thereby. The directorate of this splendid institution included the names of leading colonists and officials, and hence the annual reports received the most serious attention of all classes. Animation in pastoral pursuits continued, and the numbers of sheep increased yearly, and flocks now roamed over immense areas. So important was this industry become that the exports were largely augmented, and the wealth and prosperity of the colony increased. Before the end of 1842, thousands of additional acres were utilised by pastoralists. The district of Kojonup was an example of the advance. It lay on the Perth to Albany road, about ninety miles N.N.W. of King George's Sound. A chain of military posts was established along this route by the Government, and one post was situated in the heart of the Kojonup district. Good grazing and agricultural country lay around, and in 1840 upwards of 1,600 sheep, besides horses and cattle, were scattered over the country.
The first landholders in the district of Kojonup were T. L. Symen, R. Normb, H. C. Sutherland, J. Bruce, E. M. Spencer, L. Samson, G. Whenhe, E. G. Collinson, J. Hassell, W. H. Sholl, G. E. C. Warburton, and J. S. Wells.
Early in November, 1839, a journey of interest and importance to colonists was accomplished by Mr. J. Harris. He travelled a flock of sheep from Albany to Perth, and described much of the country on either side of the track as admirably suited for pastoral and agricultural purposes.
The cause had at last been found of the numerous deaths in flocks of sheep inhabiting and passing over certain localities, and was traced, principally through the agency of Mr. Drummond, to the presence of a noxious plant. Cattle and sheep eating this plant succumbed to the poison it contained, and thenceforth every effort was made to prevent their partaking of it, In 1839 a mineral, supposed to be "encrinite," was discovered in the Toodyay district, and hopes were entertained that a coal field would be found there. The Government offered a
reward to the first discoverer of coal. A report was subsequently circulated that coal was found on the Murray River. Mr. Priess, a German naturalist, was then making eager researches in the settled districts.
The Bengal Association, under which a ship had been sent to inaugurate trade connections with Australia, did not long survive the first voyage made. So heavy had been the resultant losses that its affairs were wound up.
Statistics published for this period gratifyingly exhibit, in increase of figures, the splendid progress yearly made. The most momentous was the primary industry—woolgrowing. In 1839 there were 21,038 sheep in the colony, in 1840, 30,161, in 1851, 48,551, and in 1842, 60,380. From 1834 to 1842 an increase had taken place in the number of sheep of 56,835, which appears more important when in 1834: there was but a small nucleus of 3,545 to work on. The York districts in 1841 contained 34,937 sheep. Wool-growing had already become a lucrative occupation, but the profits were diminished by the enormous charges for freights to London. The export of wool in 1839 was valued (Blue Book) at £2,278, in 1840 £3,125, in 1841 £3,750, and in 1842 £6,348.
The increase in other stock was much less marked. Goats had the priority of numbers; and in 1840 the colony possessed 4,604; in 1841, 5,547 ; and in 1842, 5,613. Next came cattle: In 1839, 1,308; in 1840, 2,318; in 1841, 2,917; in 1842, 4,122. Horses increased in the same period from 367 to 1,069; and swine from 1,235 to 1,713. The high prices of stock were generally maintained. In 1840 cows brought £25 each; horses, £70 to £100; and sheep, £2 to £4 10s. In 1842 the quotations were :—Horses, £40; sheep, £1 10s.; goats, 10s.; and swine, £3.
Although at the foundation of the colony it was proposed to breed horses for the Indian market, the absence of capital prevented extensive embarkation on the enterprise. Mr. Brockman had already expended considerable money in establishing an industry, and Mr. Princep was watching opportunity. In 1842 the latter gentleman proposed to invest £5,000 in a stock farm in Victoria, and purchased from Mr. Brockman in India sheep and cattle which had cost the seller £1,100. Mr. Princep prepared to send the stock from Calcutta to Port Phillip, but meeting Sir James Stirling at dinner, he was persuaded to change the intended site. By the ex-Governor's advice Mr. Little was instructed to proceed with the stock to Champion Bay, and there form a station. At Fremantle, where the vessel first touched, Mr. M. W. Clifton induced Mr. Little to settle in the southern district. Some 20,000 acres at Leschenault were bought from S. Henty, besides other lands. Arab horses were imported from Tasmania where Mr. Princep owned a station, and coolie labour was procured from India. A magnificent estate was formed; fine horses, cattle, and sheep were reared, and a garden was cultivated, which became noted in the colony. Mr. Princep introduced buffalo from India, whose progeny ran wild for many years.
Cultivation made little general advance, and compared with the splendid increase in sheep, the increased acreage under wheat and other crops was very slight. Want of labour explains much of the difference. Farming increased in York, Northam, Toodyay, and other inland districts, but diminished slightly on the Swan. In 1839 2,725 acres were cultivated in wheat, other cereals, and gardens; in 1840, 3,296 acres; in 1841, 3,515 acres; and in 1842, 3,047 acres. In September, 1841, wheat sold at 11s. 6d. per bushel, barley 12s., oats 8s., and hay at £8 per ton. Prices receded somewhat in 1842, when sales were made at:—Wheat, 10s.; barley, 10s.; oats, 8s.; and potatoes, £10 per ton. The Government still annually purchased wheat for times of dearth by tender. A ship sailed to London in 1840 ladened wholly with local produce. The crop of wheat in 1841-2 returned twenty bushels to the acre.
With the increase in population and general wealth of towns there was a rise in selling values of town allotments. Where in 1830 a town lot could be purchased for a few shillings, in 1839 ambitious prices were asked. It is recorded that in 1839 a town lot in Perth, with garden, was sold at £400; in 1849 town lots were sold at from £40 to £48 each. Early in 1841 the upset price of 100-acre allotments on the Preston River advanced from 10s. to 15s. an acre, and later in the year to 30s. The same price ruled for allotments on the south side of Princess Royal Harbour, King George's Sound. Allotments in the reserve within the town site of York in 1840 are said to have been sold at 1s. 10d. per acre.
In recent years the colony had repeatedly shown a large deficit between revenue and expenditure, but in 1842 the difference was nearly adjusted. The revenue in that year, with receipts in aid, was £17,031, and the expenditure £18,344.
Largely through the agency of Sir James Stirling, a juncture was brought about between the Bank of Western Australia and the Bank of Australasia. It was considered to be of much importance to the colony that this union should take place, for by its means settlers were calculated to obtain cheaper money. A general meeting of shareholders of the Bank of Western Australia was held on 1st January, 1841, in Perth, to consider the subject. A letter was read from the Court of Directors of the Bank of Australasia, stating that a duly authorised agent would be sent from London to negotiate terms which would be mutually advantageous.
Another meeting took place on 24th April, which the agent, Mr. R. Lewis, attended. An amalgamation was agreed to, and the terms were arranged. These were that the Bank of Australasia pay a premium of £1 on each share in the Bank of Western Australia, that Mr. Lewis recommend his Court of Directors in London to purchase the interest of the bank in town property, and that the reserve fund and all property of the bank be disposed of for the benefit of the shareholders. In the ballot which took place fifty-seven votes were recorded in favour of the transfer, and fifty-one against. Local directors were elected in the persons of Messrs. G. Leake, P. Brown, W. B. Andrews, and Wm. Samson. In the following month the Bank of Australasia opened business in Perth, and the rate of discount on bills not exceeding three months currency was fixed at 10 per cent.
In the same year another bank was established in the colony. This was the Western Australian Bank, which subsequently became a strong agent in local industry. The new institution was established on 23rd June, 1841, with a capital of £29,000, in 2,000 shares of £10 each. The original directors were Messrs. J. S. Roe, W. Tanner, W. J. Lawrence, Ed. Hamersley, R. Hinds, R. N., John Stringer, and G. F. Stone. Mr. R. Wells was appointed cashier. The rates of discount were:—On two months' bills, 9 per cent.; three months, 9½ per cent.; above three months, 10 per cent.; above four months, 11 per cent.; and above five, and not exceeding six months, 12½ per cent. No charge was made for cash accounts, and interest was allowed on fixed deposits ranging from £5 to £500 in amount for six months at 5 per cent. In January, 1843, a dividend of 19 per cent. was declared by this institution.
An active public works policy was followed throughout these years. The Survey Department performed an immense amount of work, and the engineers attached to it were kept exceedingly busy. Extensive land surveys were made in the Murray, Wellington, Vasse, Plantagenet, Avon, and Kojonup districts, and numerous tracks were cut connecting the most thickly inhabited places. In 1839 Surveyor-General Roe drew up the specifications of a mole harbour at Fremantle; which was estimated to cost, at the ruling rates of labour and materials, £57,767. In a foot-note he mentions that the work could be done for half the money by 1,000 picked convicts from London. It was projected to afford mooring space for twelve ships. Needless to say the work was not carried out. At the same time Mr. Roe drew the plans for a stone jetty at Anglesea Point; a quay round Bathers' Bay, and a ship dock near Point Marquis, at Fremantle, at a cost of £14,267.
Among the various public works was the erection of a jetty at Perth. A Town Trust had been constituted, and under its supervision the Work was done by tender for £764 15s. For years the public advocated the construction of the jetty, and when on 7th November, 1842, it was opened to traffic, there were general rejoicings. Other small jetties were erected at Perth by private persons at about this time. On 2nd November, 1840, the first pile was driven of a bridge across the flats above Perth. This was the beginning of the causeway which has since been such a notable feature of the Swan River in the Perth environs. A ferry ran regularly from Perth to the opposite side of the river in 1841; the tolls charged were :—For each person from sunrise to sunset 1s., from sunset to sunrise 2s.; soldiers on duty, 6d.; swimming horses across, 2s.; and for every bag of flour, 1s. In March, 1841, a stock road supplied with ample water was opened between Augusta and Vasse, thus avoiding a boisterous voyage round the Leeuwin.
Whaling in Cockburn Sound was intermittently followed in 1839. But the Fremantle Whaling Company worked at a loss, and was eventually made over to Messrs. Samson Bros., merchants, to whom a large sum of money was owing for supplies. For some subsequent years whaling was substantially abandoned in Fremantle, although considerable profit was secured by means of a barter trade carried on with French and American whale ships. Cockburn Sound often presented a lively sight when a fleet of from ten to twenty of these vessels lay in its waters. Right down the coast American ships gained large profits from whaling, and the settlers were benefited by the opportunity afforded for selling their products. At King George's Sound whaling boats were still sent out by West Australians.
During this period there was again a scarcity of general provisions, and at times prices rose to abnormal heights. It was a repetition of previous experiences, and due to non-arrival of ships. The abundant harvests of wheat prevented any great dearth of flour.
A more regular mail service between settlements was inaugurated on 6th April, 1842. Mails were conveyed daily between Perth and Fremantle, bi-weekly between Perth and Guildford, and weekly to York, Toodyay, Canning, and Pinjarra. A weekly mail was run from Pinjarra to Bunbury, and a monthly from Guildford 0verland to Albany. Rowland Hill's system of uniform rates of postage was adopted by the Government at the same time.
There were several serious accidents at sea in 1839 and following years, which gave rise to unfavourable comment in other English settlements. While attempting to put to sea on 14th September, 1839, the barque Elizabeth struck a reef about three miles from Fremantle. No lives were lost, although most of the cargo was seriously damaged. A few nights later, on 21st September, a tremendous gale raged off the coast at Fremantle. Much damage was done to shipping, and several vessels dragged their anchors and went ashore. The greatest sufferer was the barque Lancier, which lost specie to the reported value of £7,000, and had much cargo destroyed. The Lancier struck on the Stragglers, and drifted to a spot between there and the Mew Stone. In 1841 heavy gales were experienced off the coast, during one of which the James Matthews was driven ashore at Woodman's Point.
In 1842 there were several wrecks. The schooner Amelia from Java was wrecked on the Stragglers on 15th January through a mistake of the pilot. He mistook a native fire for the light at Arthur Head. All the people were got off in safety, but after a careful survey the vessel was condemned. On 9th May the schooner Transit was wrecked on Duck Rock, in the Gage Roads, off Rottnest.
The next wreck was more serious. While the schooner Devonshire was proceeding with the mails from Fremantle to Bunbury, in June, she was wrecked in some way not related. The captain and crew—five men—were drowned, as also was the only passenger. This was the respected pioneer, Mr. W. K. Shenton, who had proved a valuable colonist since the first year of settlement.
The Ocean Queen was wrecked on the Abrolhos Islands in October. The captain and crew got off in safety, and were picked up by a passing vessel.
Among the general items of information was the holding of a cricket match at Perth on 1st April, 1839, between teams representative of town and country. In the same year society found a new means of amusing itself, and private theatricals were organised on numerous occasions. Excitement was caused in April, 1842, by the hearing of the first breach of promise case in the colony, before the Civil Court. The dissatisfied lady assessed her damages at £3,000, and was awarded £75.
There was activity in religious circles in 1840 and following years. The settlers desired that they should have religious instruction on an adequate scale. In May, 1840, petitions were presented to Governor Hurt from Perth, Fremantle, and Middle and Upper Swan residents, asking for assistance in erecting churches, and on 16th June His Excellency introduced into the Legislative Council a Bill to promote the building of churches and chapels, and the maintenance of ministers. Clergymen of the Church of England were stationed in different parts of the colony.
The foundation-stone of a new church, which was estimated to cost £4,000, was laid in Perth on 1st January, 1841, by Governor Hurt. There were five clergymen in the colony in 1842, namely, the Rev. J. B. Wittenoom, the colonial chaplain at Perth; the Rev. W. Mitchell at Middle Swan, the Rev. W. Mears at York, the Rev. J. King at Fremantle, and the Rev. J. R. Wollaston at Bunbury. These were under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Bishop of Australia, in Sydney, but colonists were desirous of having Western Australia erected into a separate bishopric, with a bishop residing among them. To secure this, they undertook to contribute 10,000 acres of land towards the endowment of a bishopric.
In 1840 the Rev. W. Smithlea, an earnest and enthusiastic member of the Wesleyan denomination, arrived in the colony, and the foundation-stone of a Wesleyan Chapel to accommodate 300 persons was laid in Fremantle. A chapel of larger dimensions was projected at Perth, and opened on 1st January, 1842, when the Rev. W. Smithlea officiated. The Fremantle chapel was opened on 24th May, 1842.
A second weekly paper, The Inquirer, was launched in Perth in August, 1840, and shortly afterwards the Government began the issue of a weekly gazette.
A Grammar School was by this time established at Perth, under the superintendence of the Rev. J. B. Wittenoom. There were two ladies' schools in Perth, and a few establishments for elementary instruction in different parts of the colony. At York a boys' school was opened by a competent teacher. A special object of this institution, it is written, was to induce parents in India to send their children to be educated at York, in Western Australia, where a healthy climate was enjoyed. There were also the two native schools.
While English statesmen and local Governors were studying colonial land laws, and pastoralists and agriculturists were pursuing their occupations in the settled country, explorers were penetrating vast new areas of Western Australian territory. The gloom enveloping the country in the north-west and east was entered, and explorers, by painful toil, went far beyond the bounds of settlement. Grey in the north-west, the officers of the Beagle on the coast, and Eyre, the South Australian explorer, in the east, gathered a mass of information for colonists.
Lieutenant Grey remained but a few days in Mauritius after his explorations in the north-west in 1838, and in September of that year he returned to Fremantle. The charter under which his ship, the Lynhen, was engaged; expired, and he was compelled to seek for another vessel. The Government arranged that the colonial schooner Champion should be equipped to conduct him to the north-west. While the necessary preparations were being made, Grey went into the country on every side of Perth, and devoted much time to studying the natives. In January, 1839, Mr. George Eliot—a pioneer of the Parmelia—was lost in the bush in the Williams district, and Governor Hutt requested the explorer to search for him. Grey set out on January 12th, and on January 25th found Mr. Eliot on the banks of the Preston River, at Leschenault. The latter had strayed off his course, and subsisted for several days on native roots and boiled tops of grass.
Finally, Grey was not able to secure the Champion, and on 17th February he and his party sailed, with three boats and five months' provisions, for the north-west in the American whaler, Russell. The party numbered twelve, including Dr. Walker, the surgeon; Mr. Frederick Smith, a bright, young Englishman, anxious for colonial experience; Corporals Auger and Coles, and Kaiber, an intelligent native. They were landed on Bernier Island, in Shark's Bay, with their three boats, and the Russell then continued her cruise, leaving the party alone. After remaining on Bernier Island for two days, Grey proceeded to Dorre Island in search of water. While trying to reach the beach, one boat was wrecked in the fierce surf and breakers.
Almost from the beginning, Grey and his men were confronted by perils and hardships. In vain was search made for water on Dorre Island, and they had to be content with quarter allowance for some days, and that under a midsummer sun. Eventually they went over to the mainland, and put their boats into a mangrove creek. Three miles inland they secured fresh water. Then, entering the boats, they coasted to the northward, where they saw another mangrove creek. Entering its mouth, though expecting little from its appearance, the men pushed past the great mangroves which grew so luxuriantly on every side, until they got about a mile from the mouth. Here the water widened, and numerous large snags endangered the boats. The appearance and size of these snags suggested that they had been carried by storm waters from an inland river. After camping the night on the banks, Grey, on 6th March, went further inland, but as the channel became dry he was compelled to walk. There were tracks on the banks of numerous natives, and cockatoos and wild fowl rose in flocks before him. Grey called this channel the Gascoyne River, after a military friend of his.
He now closely examined the country on the banks of the Gascoyne, and concluded that it was very fertile. After quitting the bed of the river, and turning south by west, he came upon what appeared an immense delta of alluvial soil, covered with gently sloping, grassy rises. In the valleys lay many fresh water lagoons, set in red clay. The little island between the two mouths of the Gascoyne was named after his friend, Mr. C. Babbage. Proceeding to it, Grey camped, and on 6th March resumed his explorations before daylight. The weather was so excessively hot that little progress could he made in the middle of the day. North of the Gascoyne, he instituted, with the assistance of Kaiber, friendly relations with a tribe of natives. The line of sand-hills running parallel with the coast was named Lyell's Range. A return was made to the coast, and the party then went further north in the boats.
A second accident happened on the evening of the 9th; as the boats were putting in shore one of them swamped, and though the men landed in safety, the provisions were much damaged. Their outlook was not a pleasant one. Sand-hills rose with ugly continuity around them, and there was nothing to relieve the dismal scene. Then they experienced a dispiriting effect from the impressionable Australian atmosphere, which has brought suffering and death to so many men. A lake rose on the horizon, and towards it they proceeded with feelings of deep satisfaction. But though they travelled many miles they came no nearer to the lake, and when thoroughly weary they were bitterly disappointed to find it but a wanton mirage, which, with a siren's witchery, cruelly mocked them in their privations.
On 10th March, while Grey and his men were camped near the sea-shore, thirty or forty natives swooped down from a sandhill. They seized some of the provisions, but at the report of guns fled in intense fear. The explorers now put to sea and returned to the Gascoyne River, and on the 20th March left there for Gantheaume Bay. A provisions store had been left on Bernier Island, but upon going to the place they were greatly put out to find the provisions totally destroyed. Proceeding down the coast they at last reached Gantheaume Bay, where they sought to land in a heavy sea and a strong surf, A greater misfortune now befell them. The sea was so fierce that both boats were wrecked and broken. Despite all efforts to refit, they could not be used, and the explorers were confronted with a prodigious journey to the nearest settlers at Swan River, without provisions enough to last more than a few days.
The food was shared out in equal proportions to each man, and the sailors made bundles of their slight effects and salvage from the wrecks, and placed them on their backs. With heavy hearts, but with strong hope and determination on the part of the leader, they started on their long march of 300 miles over unknown country, through regions which might contain the most sterile deserts for all they knew. The Murchison River was discovered in Gantheaume Bay, and then the little band slowly wended its way to the south through a valley, which they followed for about a mile. There they came upon a romantic and picturesque-looking estuary, and from their commanding station they descried black swans gliding over the water's surface and natives fishing, all unconscious of the presence of intruders.
A thick scrub was penetrated, and gave such difficulty to the anxious people as to tire them more than the distance traversed warranted. Native paths leading to native wells were followed for considerable distances. On 5th April they emerged into what Grey described as a rich and fertile country. A band of natives confronted them, and seemed to dispute their right of progress, but the firing of a gun dispersed them. At another point they met what appeared to be the same estuary, where a river entered it from the east. Native dwellings adorned the banks, and Grey conferred the name of Hutt River on the stream, in compliment to Mr. William Hutt, M.P., brother of the Governor of Western Australia. Two remarkable hills near by were called Mount Victoria and Mount Albert. The river passed through a deep-wooded valley, bordered by rich flats and high hills.
Grey deemed that it would be necessary to make forced marches to Perth if he wished to bring his companions out of their perils in safety. The provisions could not hold out, and their only hope was to make all haste. He tried in vain to impress his opinions on the others. They took the task before them lightly, and believed that ample food would be obtained on the route. Consequently they repeatedly stopped and rested, greatly to the chagrin of the leader. Nor would they lighten the unnecessary burdens which they carried, though Grey begged them to do so. It would seem that those bundles of rags and small valueless articles were possessed of great wealth for all the loving care that was taken of them. Indeed, when the effects of the severe journey began to tell on the foolish men, hallucinations seized hold of their minds of the inestimable value of these bundles.
A long chain of regular and flat-topped mountains was named the Victoria Range, after Her Majesty. Between that range and the sea-board were other hills and rich valleys. Grey was convinced that this neighbourhood was the most fertile in Australia, and he therefore marked it on his chart as the Province of Victoria. Two other rivers were crossed, and named the Bowes and Buller, and then a rich valley was entered containing ample grass. A watercourse meandered through this near to Mount Fairfax, and received the designation of the Chapman River.
The men continued to afford annoyance to Grey, and one in particular straggled behind the rest though be still persisted in carrying his bundle. On the 8th April this man was missing, and in the successful effort to find him Grey discovered and named the Greenough River, a stream which traversed very fertile land. The town of Geraldton now drains the Greenough country. Next day (9th April) the Irwin River was crossed and named after Major Irwin, the commandant of the Western Australian military forces. Water Peak was then named.
During these days Grey strove zealously to impress upon his men the necessity of hurrying forward. He addressed them collectively and individually, but they seemed to prefer to chance obtaining sufficient food, and to rest occasionally. Different members of the party now began to show the effects of the journey, and it was with the utmost difficulty that Grey was able to keep them moving. He repeatedly requested them to throw away their useless baggage, and finally was compelled to destroy it, an act which met with their serious opposition. The headway made each day was very slight, and Grey chafed under the necessity of waiting every few hundred yards for some straggler. He did not wish to abandon anyone, but he believed that the only hope of relief was to reach Perth as early as possible. The safety of the whole party was at stake.
Eventually he decided to divide the party into two. Taking with him Corporals Auger and Coles, besides two other men, and Kaiber, he, wearied and anxious as he was, started to make forced marches to Perth to obtain succour for the weaker men left behind. Dr. Walker was placed in charge of the second party, and was given copious instructions to push on as quickly as the strength of each man would permit. Mr. Smith, though one of the bravest, was also one of the weakest. His boots wore worn through, his clothes were tattered, and he was compelled to lie down at short intervals to rest.
Determined, though fatigued, Grey and his companions separated from Dr. Walker's band. With astonishing hardihood and resolve, they dragged their weary legs over mile after mile. The country appeared unusually heavy and rough, as if to prevent the successful consummation of their task. Dense woods alternated with waterless tracts, and at times the sun beat down so fiercely upon them that they would fain have rested and given up the fight. Grey more than once felt as if he could go no further, but the thought of the lives dependent on his efforts buoyed him up. It was days since any of the band had eaten a full meal, and their infinitesimal allowance would soon be ended. Then they became hungry, thirsty, and feverish.
The Arrowsmith River was discovered and named after John Arrowsmith, the distinguished hydrographer. Upon first seeing the signs of a watercourse in the distance they pushed towards it with a great hope in the expectation of obtaining ample water. But when they reached the banks they saw that the river was dry. Their supply of water was quite ended, and they proceeded to dig, and a spring trickled into the hole. Sixteen miles to the south-east Grey observed a range of hills, and from where he stood he named the topmost peak Mount Horner, after a friend, Leonard Horner.
Grey now travelled by night in order to rest in the heat of the day. Gardiner's Range was named after Gordon Gardiner, of the Colonial Office, and other points were described. Kaiber all this while had been the right-hand man of Grey. Throughout the long journey he had remained bright, and his prattling talk served to lighten the anxiety of the suffering white men. In searching for water, in leading through dense bush, and in discovering food, he proved indispensable. To him Grey owed much satisfaction for his safe arrival at Perth. Kaiber found some zamia nuts, and presented them to the travellers, who greedily eat them. He searched in the trees and in the earth for food, and one day, when the provisions were all done and Grey and his men had been half delirious for want of food, he came upon a native storehouse. Some tribe of natives while passing by had planted By-yu nuts in holes in the ground, which might be useful to them at any future time. There were two or three holes, and Kaiber doubted whether it would be right to rob them. The question was put to Grey to decide, and after consideration and debate Kaiber was instructed to rob part of the stores, leaving the rest for any hungry black who might be in dangerous need of food. Grey by some remarkable means shot a hawk, even though his hand was so unsteady that he could hardly hold the gun to his shoulder. The bird proved a source of great relief to them.
The feeble and distressed men came to the dry bed of a river which Grey named the Smith. The country now traversed was very barren, and huge waterless tracts were penetrated under a broiling sun. Each man became almost a shadow of his former self. Haggard, trembling, and footsore—for two days they marched over the desert way without water, suffering the excruciating pangs of thirst. Their lips and tongues were so swollen that they could hardly speak, and their minds occasionally wandered. On 17th April they found a moist mud-hole, where they were able to obtain a thick and slimy drink. The country on every side was arid and melancholy. Then Grey with strange strength shot a cockatoo, which sustained their drooping frames and spirits.
Just when at their worst a party of friendly natives was met on 18th April. From them they learned that the nearest settler was but seven miles away. Leaving his suffering companions Grey went forward with the native Imbat to obtain assistance. Imbat cheered him with news of the settlement. The settler was not at home, but when the whole party assembled at the hut they prepared a meal of frogs, and then slept soundly.
On 21st April, an hour and a half before daylight, Grey and Imbat started for Perth, and five miles away came to a hut, wherein the owner (Mr. Williams) and his wife were taking their morning meal. These good people were so alarmed at the sight of the gaunt and tattered man at their door that they mistook him for a mad Malay. Grey protested that he was not mad, but was "a starving man," who had experienced all the horrors of a long and foodless journey in the bush. Imbat confirmed his story, and then with feelings that cannot be described, Grey sat down to a nutritious breakfast. His famished companions arrived at the door while he was yet at table, and all partook of a frugal but delightful repast.
The home of Williams was on the bounds of Perth, and after breakfast Grey entered the streets and proceeded to the Governor's residence to procure assistance for Dr. Walker's party. He had left the town but a few months before in the vernal bloom of youth, but he returned a lank haggard wreck of humanity. The Governor did not at first recognise him, nor did his other friends in Perth. The news of the disastrous return and the poignant sufferings of the explorers was taken from lip to lip, and Grey and his companions received eager hospitable treatment from Perth residents.
No time was lost in proceeding to relieve the second party under Dr. Walker. Private people went out in bands, and before Grey was sufficiently recovered he again entered the bush. After a few days a strange man of mere skin and bone leaning on the shoulders of a resident was observed hobbling along Perth streets. A bit of blanket hung over his shoulders, and he was horribly marked with sores and bruises. It was Dr. Walker, who had pushed on alone, and fearing that Grey might be lost, intended to obtain assistance for his companions. He suffered intensely in body and mind, and his friends for some time despaired of his life.
Most of the private parties searched fruitlessly for the missing men. But the experienced and energetic Surveyor-General, Lieutenant Roe, hurriedly struck northwards, on horseback, accompanied by native trackers. With his knowledge of bushcraft he was better fitted for this task than anyone else, and his big heart—the heart of one who had suffered himself—would not allow him to rest until he learnt the fate of the unfortunate men. He knew that no time must be wasted, that the only chance of rescuing the wanderers was to relieve them early.
Dr. Walker's party had slowly plodded on. Mr. Smith was one of the chief sufferers, but each man was reduced to the last resource of thirst and weakness. Day after day they drew but little nearer to settlement, experiencing such suffering as makes it surprising that any one of them survived. By-and-bye they began to straggle, and one went in one direction, another in an opposite. Some of them, in order to slake their thirst, resorted to the most offensive substitute for pure wholesome water. It would be impossible and gruesome to relate the condition to which they were reduced.
Lieutenant Roe secured the country in the direction he considered they would take, and at last he found one or two under a headland that they had not sufficient strength to ascend, nor were they able to round it by the sea-shore. They had kept as near to the main as possible. Just before the arrival of Roe one of them knelt on the hot sand and prayed to the Almighty for assistance. Another had bitterly remarked on the uselessness of such a supplication. A few minutes later, as if in reply to the supplication, Mr. Roe and his party appeared on horseback on the ridge above them.
Mr. Frederic Smith had been left behind, and so bewildered were the rescued men in their confused feelings and awakening from despair, that they could give no clear account of him. But Roe was determined to rescue him if possible, and made all speed to the northward. He found the poor fellow not many miles to the rear quite dead in a bush, with his blanket wrapped around him. A sand-hill rose above him, and it appeared that the exhausted man tried to scramble to the top, but in the effort fell back in the bush and died. He was reduced to a skeleton; he had been starved to death.
Carrying the body to the hill-top, Lieutenant Roe and his companions dug a grave there, and amid their tears consigned the remains of Smith to the earth. A piece of board was placed on the grave to mark the spot. It was a lonely place, and, says Roe, the red full orb of the setting sun seemed to linger on the horizon as if to look for the last time on the remains of the dead explorer, and shed a stream of fire over the sea, which rolled with a mournful dirge-like sound on the strand close by. As they performed their melancholy task the solemn stillness was alone broken by the occasional painful howl of a wild dog.
Mr. Roe returned with the remainder of the party to Perth, and merited greater thanks than he received for his task. By his energy several lives were saved, for had he arrived a few hours later, the whole party would assuredly have succumbed.
Lieutenant Grey, who was raised to the rank of captain, did not leave the colony for some time, and filled a local appointment. On 24th July, 1839, the Government Resident at King George's Sound, Sir Richard Spencer, C.B., died after forty-eight hours' illness. Captain Grey was appointed to the vacant office, which he filled for several months, and returned to England late in 1840.
Sir Richard Spencer was not merely identified with Albany in his official capacity. By his enterprise he set an example which was soon widely followed. He introduced stock, cultivated the soil, and encouraged settlement. Though there were but seventeen people with a few sheep and other stock in the district when he entered it, at his death there were 139 settlers, 103 cattle, 2000 sheep, 18 horses, 15 donkeys, and pigs and poultry in abundance. Albany contained sixty dwelling-houses. His presence and power were greatly missed in Albany, and though he may have been slightly autocratic, he was popular.
Captain Grey devoted still more attention to the study of the aboriginal race while at Albany, and began the preparation of a valuable work dealing with them and his explorations, which was published two or three years later. In 1840, he was married to a daughter of the late Sir Richard Spencer. Albany continued to progress, and received still more important stimulus from the whaling industry. Early in 1839 John Hassell, sen., landed in Albany, while in command of the ship Dawson. He eventually settled there, and purchased 20,000 acres of land, which he stocked with sheep and cattle, procured in the eastern colonies. In pastoral affairs he took the place vacated by Sir Richard Spencer.
The Beagle returned to Western Australian waters in 1840. During the interim since her leaving Swan River, in 1838, she had made surveys in Bass Strait, and on the north coast of Australia; had visited the islands in the north, and returned again to the north coast. There the officers discovered the Adelaide and Victoria Rivers, and after they carefully explored them they sailed for Swan River on 12th December, 1839, and reached Fremantle on 31st January 1840.
While at Point Pearce, in the neighbourhood of the Victoria River, Stokes (who had been gazetted a captain) was speared by a native. With others, he had gone on shore to take observations, fixing the instruments beneath a high cliff, upon whose summit was a cluster of silvery-stemmed gum trees. He preceded his followers, and had just turned his head to look for them, when a spear violently quivered in his shoulder. At the same time a loud, long, savage yell rose from the edge of the precipice, so lately the abode of silence and solitude, and glancing up, Stokes observed numerous dusky forms of natives testifying in exuberant action their delight at spearing the white man. He drew out the spear, which had entered the cavity of the chest, and, though bleeding profusely, hurried off. The blacks descended the cliffs, and, with ferocious yells, started in pursuit. Most providentially, Stokes was rescued by an armed party from the ship. He suffered severely for some weeks, and it was many months before he was quite recovered from the wound.
In March the officers of the Beagle completed a chart of Rottnest Island, and selected a hill for the site of a lighthouse. On 4th April, after the expedition was able, through the improved state of the colony, to obtain supplies at Fremantle, the Beagle returned to the north-west, particularly bent on examining the Abrolhos coral group, Two days later the long line of white breakers rolling in on the Abrolhos Islands was observed, and Captain Stokes was able to distinguish from their foaming turbulence the limit of danger. He anchored near one of the islands, and a boat was hauled over a low, sandy neck, and entered a lagoon. A few remarkable clumps of mangroves pointed out the position of some lagoons near the south end of the island. A line of low, overhanging cliffs rose near here, upon which rested a layer of soil, in places eighteen inches deep, in others four feet, which Captain Stokes believed to contain the much sought after guano. In different parts of the island he saw similar signs of the presence of this fertiliser, and suggested that those parts were worth exploiting for it. This description led Mr. C. E. Broadhurst many years afterwards to test the soil, which resulted in a remunerative industry being initiated.
On closer examination of the island, Stokes discovered the beams of the wrecked Batavia (Captain Pelsart), and he named his anchorage Batavia Road, and the whole southern group of islands Pelsart Group. He now went over to the main near Moresby's Flat-topped Range, and anchored in a bay which he named Champion Bay, after the colonial schooner; the projection sheltering it from the south-west he designated Point Moore, in compliment to Mr. G. F. Moore.
Some time previously, in January, 1840, an expedition, under the Advocate-General, Mr G. F. Moore, had proceeded to this part of the coast in the colonial schooner Champion. The special object to be attained was to more thoroughly explore a bay, which Grey named Port Grey, and the contiguous country, which the same explorer had characterised as suitable for an extensive settlement. Moore landed near Moresby's Flat-topped Range, made inland incursions, and reported favourably on its potentialities. It was also said that the harbour was protected by a reef running north and south from the extreme point of the bay. The part he examined was evidently Champion Bay.
Stokes made a plan of the bay, and took the elevation of two neighbouring heights—Mount Fairfax (585 feet) and Wizard Peak (700 feet). Then he again returned to the Abrolhos, and named the Easter Group and Good Friday Harbour, from the time of year of his visit. Next he conferred names on Rat Island (from the quantity of vermin infesting it), Snapper Bank, Gun Island (from a gun, besides other relics discovered from the Zeewyk, wrecked in 1727), Zeewyk Passage, Middle Passage, East Wallaby Island, Pigeon Islands, Recruit Harbour (from its affording supplies of small kangaroo and fish), West Wallaby Island, Flag Hill, North Island, Record Hill, and Slaughter Point. At the last-named point Stokes shot thirty-six of a species of wallaby in four hours, averaging in weight about seven pounds each.
After a comprehensive examination of the Abrolhos Group of Islands, the Beagle sailed further north, and began a careful survey of the coast east of Depuch Island, where Captain King had not been. In Depuch Island were found numerous drawings, some possessed of merit. Stokes wrote that possibly the native artists expended as much patience and labour on their works of art as Raphael and Michael Angelo, and perhaps received as much applause from their fellow countrymen, and opined that because of their simple efforts to emerge from the circle of mere animal wants, there was hope that civilisation would yet have an efficacious influence over them. He continues:—"These savages of Australia, as we call them, who have adorned the rocks of Depuch Islands with their drawings, have in one thing proved themselves superior to the Egyptian and the Etruscan, whose marks have elicited so much admiration, and afforded food to so many speculations—namely, there is not in them to be observed the slightest trace of indecency."
The neighbouring islands and waters were surveyed, Breaker and Oyster Inlets were named, and in July the Beagle went up to Timor. After supplies were obtained, she returned to the north-west coast at Dampier's Archipelago, where the dreary, sterile country repelled the navigators. On the 27th September the Beagle anchored at the east end of Rottnest Island. More beacons were erected on rocks there. Swan River was left on 25th October, and the Beagle proceeded to King George's Sound, and from thence to Sydney.
She subsequently made surveys in the Gulf of Carpentaria, visited the Indian Archipelago, and returned to Port Essington. Thence Timor was made, and the north-west coast was cursorily visited, and Swan River was reached in November, 1841. Much comment was circulating concerning the locality of Champion Bay, because of a map published by Mr. Arrowsmith, the hydrographer, of Grey's explorations, and because of reports of the fertility of the surrounding country published by the Western Australian Company (Australind) upon statements made by Grey.
Mr. M. W. Clifton requested Captain Stokes to make another examination of the bay and country, and he complied, taking Mr. Clifton with him. Upon his return Stokes sailed down to Koombanah Bay, and round the coast to Sydney.
A voyage was made to Tasmania and other places, and in April, 1843, the Beagle paid her final visit to Fremantle. By this time the lighthouse on Rottnest Island had been erected by natives imprisoned on the island. On the evening of 6th May, 1843, the Beagle sailed from Swan River. The officers were presented with a letter of thanks from Governor Hutt and the Legislative Council testifying the services they had rendered the colony. Two excellent volumes written by Captain Stokes indicate the splendid work conducted on the Beagle during these years.
An exploring feat of paramount importance to geographical science, and to Australian settlement, was performed in 1841. John Eyre traversed the country between settlement in South Australia and Western Australia, and bridged a tract of unknown territory, which had hitherto occasioned general speculation. Regions were penetrated under circumstances of extreme difficulty, which stimulated the emulation and commanded the respect of energetic men throughout Australia. Eyre was an illustrious member of a line of brave explorers, who knowingly took life in their hands as courageously, and under less inspiring conditions, as did ever bold British warrior. He continued the bloodless fight of the gloomy Australian deserts and wildernesses, and by the force of physical endurance and mental hardihood, surmounted sullen, lifeless obstacles which would have daunted less determined men. It would be a dereliction of duty due to the dead not to place him among the world's most determined explorers. At the expense of intense pain and tragic anxiety, he proved the fallacy of the belief of those geographers, beginning with Dampier, who conjectured that a considerable waterway bisected Australia from north to south. By his journey, Australia was completely penetrated near the coast from east to west.
In 1840 correspondence took place between gentlemen in South Australia and Western Australia, in which the former requested Messrs. Roe, Moore, and Leake to co-operate with them in encouraging the exploration of a route for overland communication. Were a practicable route discovered, they affirmed, trade between the two colonies might be profitably carried on in live stock and other products by land transit. Moreover, geographical science must receive valuable accessions from the successful exploration of such a large tract of unknown country. One outcome of this correspondence, and the general interest it excited, was the determination come to by John Eyre to cross the border. Colonel Gawler, the Governor of South Australia, tried to dissuade him from such a dangerous enterprise, but Eyre was inflexible, and announced his intention to keep to the southern coast. He was then at Fowler's Bay, after having explored Lake Torrens, and the home of misery and hopelessness stretching from there on every side. Then he went to Fowler's Bay. Three times did Eyre attempt to round the Great Australian Bight, and twice he was driven back by want of water and food for the horses. On the other occasion he penetrated some fifty miles beyond the head of the Bight, but three of his best horses perished, and he returned to Fowler's Bay. He now determined to reduce the size of his party, which included six Europeans, and prepared to go forth on one of the boldest enterprises that it is possible to imagine.
The charter of his cutter—the Hero—which lay at Fowler's Bay with provisions, did not extend beyond the South Australian boundary, and Eyre had to send her back to Port Adelaide. In January, 1841, the cutter departed, and the brave fighter of the wilderness and his little band were left alone face to face with an undertaking which might well strike cold fear to their hearts. On a previous excursion Eyre traversed country, beyond which natives informed him was no water for a ten days' march. Desolation and hunger reigned supreme, and 800 miles of solitude lay before him. The band consisted of one European—Baxter, who had for some time been in Eyres' employ as an overseer or factotum—and three natives, including Wylie, who is reputed to have been a King George's Sound native. Ten horses, and nine weeks' provisions, including a few sheep, completed the equipment. A few weeks' rest was taken to recuperate, and gather up strength for the tremendous journey. On 24th February, just as Eyre was ready to set out, the Hero returned from Port Adelaide, conveying Governor Gawler's earnest solicitations that the expedition should be abandoned, as the risks were too great and insuperable. But Eyre remained undaunted, and next day he raised his camp.
The first part of the journey over country already traversed was easily accomplished, and then Eyre, Baxter, and the three blacks entered on the waterless tract mentioned by the natives. The story of suffering, tragedy, and horror began. For six days they travelled over the weary waste without water. The horses were jaded and spiritless, the black men sullen and discontented, knowing well what was before them. Then water was found in a native well. It was with the utmost difficulty that the horses could be got to travel. Before them now were 600 miles of unknown dangers, at the rear that terrible six days' march, and what lay beyond.
The natives lost heart and ran away. They were without food, and at last hunger compelled them to return to Eyre and the miserable camp fare. Baxter became low-spirited, and dreaded the future. Eyre alone, with true British courage and determination to conquer, kept up heart. The circumstances surrounding the six days' journey will be comprehended from an extract from Eyre's diary of 11th March:—"At night the whole party were once more together, after having passed over 135 miles of desert country without a drop of water in its whole extent. In accomplishing this distance the sheep had been six and the horses five days without water, and both had been wholly without food for the greater part of that time. The little grass we found was so dry and withered that the dry and thirsty animals could not eat it after the second day."
The native well was left with forebodings from Baxter and the blacks. No improvement took place in the nature of the country, and an enduring silence reigned round the struggling band. For seven days they laboured on, and 160 miles were crossed. On 29th March the last drop of water they had carried with them was consumed, but next morning they obtained a little by digging in the sand drift. The country round the Great Australian Bight consisted of a fossil formation, and was generally destitute of timber or vegetation. In places, however, an almost impenetrable sickly scrub challenged their right of progress; no surface water, no creeks, no watercourses.
They remained by the hole in the sand drift until the 27th April. Then they went forwards to horror and tragedy. Two days' march was accomplished, and on the night of the 29th April they camped in one of the most desolate spots ever created or imagined. A hopeless stunted scrub grew round them through the interstices of adamantine rock. The night was cold, and a strong wind drearily moaned over the plain, constituting melancholy the king of the desert way. It was Eyre's turn to watch the horses during the night to prevent their straying. Some little distance from where he was standing lay Baxter, with the natives around.
Suddenly the silence was disturbed by the report of a gun, which Eyre construed to be a signal from Baxter to indicate the whereabouts of the camp. He therefore remained where he was, but presently the native Wylie rushed up to him crying—"Oh, massa, come here!" Beyond that, Wylie could say no more, for he was seized with uncontrollable terror.
Eyre rushed to the camp, and was appaled to find his old companion Baxter mortally wounded and in his death agony. The two black boys watched in the night bent on murder. When the opportunity came they seized a gun and ruthlessly shot the unsuspecting traveller dead and decamped with nearly all the provisions. The horrible position of Eyre is best described in his own words, which bring the scene almost into real life:—"At the dead of night, in the wildest and most inhospitable waste of Australia, with the fierce wind raging in unison with the scene of violence before me, I was left with a single native whose fidelity I could not rely upon, and who, for aught I knew, might be in league with the other two, who perhaps were even lurking round to take my life as they had done that of the overseer. Three days had passed away since we had left the last water, and it was doubtful when we would find more. Six hundred miles of country had to be traversed before I could hope to obtain the slightest aid, whilst I knew that not a single drop of water or an ounce of flour had been left by these murderers from a stock that had previously been so small."
On examining the camp Eyre found that the two natives had carried off both double-barrelled guns, all the baked bread and other stores, and a keg of water. All that remained was a rifle with a ball jammed in the barrel, four gallons of water, forty pounds of flour, and a little tea and sugar.
There was no possibility of Eyre burying the body of his dead companion. For miles around the country presented one unbroken surface of sheet rock, which no labour of his could penetrate. At any moment the natives might creep upon him and take his life, and the watch there through the, unutterable solitude of the pitiless night, might well put years of life upon his head. He afterwards wrote:—"Though years have now passed away since the enactment of this tragedy, the dreadful horrors of that time and scene are recalled before me with frightful vividness, and make me shudder even now when I think of them .... Death will alone blot out the impressions produced." Ernest Favenc, in his work on Australian exploration, says:—" The picture of the lonely man, separated from his fellow-creatures by countless miles of weary untrodden waste, in his plundered camp beside his murdered companion, is one that for peculiar horror can never be surpassed."
When daylight came Eyre gathered his horses together, placed his reduced provisions upon them, and left the body of Baxter in the midst of the wilderness. Wylie remained faithful, but fear had still the mastery of him. The shocked white man and his dark friend had not moved far away before they observed the two murderers following at a distance. This order was maintained for some little time until the natives were lost sight of. There they drop out of history, and without doubt they perished miserably in the desert.
For seven painful days the two weary travellers passed over a waterless stretch, mostly by a long line of cliffs which frowned over the Southern Ocean. At the end of the cliffs water was discovered in a native well near the sand dunes, and the poor thirst-tortured horses were given the first drink for seven days. Some of the horses had died, and it was astonishing that any survived the terrible privations. From the cliffs Eyre moved on in easy stages, getting water at the foot of the different sand hills he encountered. On 8th May a horse was killed, and a supply of meat was dried and carried away. From this out the country improved, water was more plentiful, and the wretched horses that were left began to regain some strength.
But all this while the flour for the men had slowly diminished, though they had eaten in carefully-measured quantities. At length, on 2nd June, when they were quite exhausted, they sighted a ship at anchor in a little southern haven known as Thistle Cove. It was a gladsome sight to the traveller so near to death, and he at once felt assured that he would accomplish his great journey in safety. The ship was a whaler—the Mississippi—under Gaptain Rossiter, who attended to all the wants of the emaciated men with hospitable care. For ten days Eyre remained on the ship, and then with new clothes and sufficient provisions, which the generosity of Captain Rossiter had given him, he set out for King George's Sound with refreshed horses and more hopeful spirits. Albany was reached on 8th July, and though at the cost of incredible suffering, the journey was productive of good in advancing the exploration of Australia one further step.
The vast proportion of the country passed over was quite useless for settlement, and gave little hope of a stock route ever being established. Those oppressive desert stretches held in them no pleasant prospect, and beyond a few narrow strips of grassy plots here and there, the land resources of the colonies interested
were not materially enhanced. Well-grassed lands were observed near Esperance Bay, and approaching King George's Sound an improvement in scenery took place.
On his return to Adelaide Eyre was received with enthusiasm. He was appointed Police Magistrate on the River Murray, in South Australia, and a protector of natives, who obtained his earnest sympathy. In 1865, as Governor of Jamaica, he quelled a rising among the natives there in such a manner as to cast England into a fever of excitement. Wylie was made much of at King George's Sound, and to this day local people talk proudly of the faithfulness of their black boy.
A new and important settlement was established in the colony in 1841. Although previous Western Australian history was marked with disappointment, and doleful and unwarranted reports were circulated as to the destitute condition of the inhabitants, there were still numbers of influential gentlemen in England who consistently believed in the productivity of local soils. Even when the colony was dangerously near an unhappy consummation, they persistently asserted that the land resources were in no way to blame. Attempts were, therefore, frequently made to form companies to take up land on a gigantic scale, and it was only through lamentable ignorance of local affairs among the general mass of investors; and their readiness to listen to annoying and untruthful canards, that some of them were not launched. Those bad reports initiated in 1829-30 did incalculable harm to Western Australia, and caused her to miss golden opportunities for at once becoming brightly prosperous, even beyond the early success of her sister colonies. The distance of Western Australia from the large centres of English population, and the consequent tardy means of obtaining information, returns from products, and answers to correspondence, were infelicities which prevented a few isolated people from utilising the land as it deserved. The colony did not contain such magnificent resources of soil as Eastern Australia, but her convenient position and wide pasture lands should have more than counterbalanced any weakness in that regard.
Several instances have already been narrated where companies were projected to form settlements in Western Australia, and were allowed to fall through. The application of Mr. Thomas Peel, which resulted in the subsequent foundation of the colony, was the first. Had it been successful an immense impetus would have been given the colony. Numerous other projects were announced in England and in India. In 1839 a company was formed, which, while its fate was unhappy, served to announce the confidence placed by certain English circles in Western Australia. This was the company which formed the settlement at Australind, in the Wellington district. It was misreport which really consummated its failure.
Late in 1834 and early in 1835 several gentlemen actively agitated in England to form a company which should purchase a large area of land in Western Australia, and despatch an army of settlers and labourers to cultivate it. It is believed that Colonel Lautour was among its most energetic advocates, and proposals were made that his grant of 103,000 acres on the Leschenault Inlet should be purchased, or that land be obtained from Mr. Thomas Peel.
The nascent scheme slumbered for some time, but found new life and new advocates in 1837 and 1838. In those years the gentlemen whose names are mentioned in a preceding part of this chapter formed themselves into a committee, termed the Western Australian Committee, and sought to obtain privileges from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. One of their objects after land was purchased was to apply certain principles of colonisation recently enunciated by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, which were popular among a coterie of thoughtful gentlemen in London. Upon Lord Glenelg refusing to meet the wishes of the committee, nearly every member abandoned the scheme.
Mr. Wakefield advocated colonisation by means of Companies, which should acquire land, and carefully choose a class of settlers and labourers for its cultivation. Areas were to be cut up into small sections and sold to the settlers. His great object was to keep a constant balance between capital, land, and labour. The colony of South Australia was largely founded on the views, at this time published, of Mr. Wakefield.
A very short time elapsed after the failure of the Western Australian Committee and another company was projected by one, at least, of its members—William Hutt, M.P. The name of the Western Australian Company was taken, and under its supervision the settlement of Australind was established. Mr. William Hutt did not abate one jot or title in his interest in the prosperity of Western Australia, and with several other prominent gentlemen, including the Clifton family, he again entertained the desire to apply to some part of the colony the principles of colonisation and emigration proposed by Mr. Wakefield. The latter gentleman himself assisted in forming a company.
While touring on the Continent with Colonel Lautour, Mr. Robert W. Clifton, then in his teens, was asked by the returned West Australian to proceed to this colony in the interests of his property at Leschenault. The idea was attractive to the young man's mind, and upon his arrival in London he mentioned the proposal to his father, Mr. M. W. Clifton, and other gentlemen. Colonel Lautour was anxious to sell his grant, and now offered it to those gentlemen who were seeking a field where their intended company could begin operations. Mr. R. W. Clifton twice called upon the Secretary of State for the Colonies to acquire information about the property, and negotiations were entered into with Colonel Lautour for the purchase of his land. The question arose as to whether the grant had been apportioned under the first or second land regulations. If under the first it was not liable to resumption for twenty-one years, but under the second it was liable ten years after the allotment in 1830. This question was decided by Lord Glenelg declaring on 23rd November, 1839, that it was held under the first regulations, and in his communication he stated that he had advised Governor Hutt to that effect.
Terms of purchase were arranged with Colonel Lautour, and then the parties interested proceeded to form a company, to consist of 100 shares of £500 each. This was no difficult matter, and on the 12th May, 1840, the Western Australian Company was formally constituted, and on the same day the shareholders appointed directors and officers. The directors were William Hutt, M.P. (chairman), John Chapman (deputy chairman), T. H. Brooking, Captain M. H. Sweny, R.N.; Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Henry Buckle, Chas. Enderby, Jacob Montefiore, Jas. Irving, and Geo. Robt. Smith, M.P.. Thos. J. Buckton was elected Secretary, M. Waller Clifton, F.R.S., Chief Commissioner in Western Australia, and his son, Robt. W. Clifton, Secretary to the Chief Commissioner.
Sir James Stirling and others described the country in Colonel Lautour's grant as eminently suited for the purposes of the company. A prospectus was published, setting forth its objects, and offering part of the property for sale in allotments. A map was also issued symbolical of the directors' intentions for the projected city. In this map were drawn public squares, wharves, market places, churches, theatres, indeed all the concomitants of a large and flourishing city. Most attractive of all was the picture of a man, smoking a cigar while lying beneath a trellis of luxurious vines, and reaching above him to pluck a luscious bunch. "The name of Australind was awarded the city," writes Mr. M. W. Clifton, "from the connection it was expected it would possess with India." The company also purchased large areas from Sir James Stirling, part of the grant of Mr. James Henty in its vicinity, besides the rights of further grants, which Colonel Lautour stated he was entitled to on the value of stock and stores he introduced into the colony. Through some misapprehension on the Colonel's part this right was not registered, and an additional grant was never apportioned.
Of Colonel Lautour's grant 51,000 acres were thrown open to the public for selection in allotments of 100 acres each, with four sections of a quarter of an acre each in the intended town attached. A price of £101, or £l an acre, was asked for these allotments and sections, while £10 was fixed upon as the price of town sections without the rural allotment. It was stipulated that half of the purchase-money in the mixed allotments should be applied to convey passengers and emigrants to the settlement or upon improvements in it, and half of the sum obtained from the separate town allotments should be devoted to improvements and works of public utility in the town, which was to consist of 1,000 acres, or 4,000 allotments, exclusive of streets, reserves, &c.
To Mr. M. W. Clifton was entrusted the conduct of these sales. Mr. Clifton had filled positions of great trust and confidence in the Public Service. For nineteen years he served in the Admiralty, at Whitehall, and in 1821 was appointed, at £1,000 a year, with an official residence, secretary to the new Victualling Board, which was formed when the reorganisation of the Victualling Department took place after the discovery of certain abuses. At the same time Lord Melville promised him the position of second secretary to the Admiralty whenever Sir John Barrow retired. He was, therefore, admirably adapted so far as official experience was concerned, to his important position of Chief Commissioner of the Western Australian Company.
The objects and possibilities of the proposed settlement seized hold of the minds of people with money in England. So rapidly were the sales effected that between July and September, 1840, the whole of the land offered was disposed of. In other words, 400 mixed allotments, having 1,600 town sections, were sold, together with 1,500 separate town allotments, while the remaining 100 rural allotments, with 400 town allotments attached, and 500 separate town sections were placed in the names of trustees, to be subsequently sold to settlers only. Indeed, more allotments were applied for than the number to be sold, and every allotment subscribed for was paid up in full on the day appointed for the completion of the purchase.
These necessary preliminaries completed, the official staff was appointed. The salary already fixed on for Mr. M. W, Clifton was £800 per annum, with the promise of an increase when the affairs of the company would admit it. Mr. R. W. Clifton was to receive £200 a year as secretary to his father. Dr. A. F. Carpenter, M.D., was appointed medical officer at £150 a year. Mr. James Austin, chief surveyor, at £400 for the first year, £500 for the second, and £600 for the third; Messrs. H. Gaudin, Thos. Grensell, and T. W. Thompson, assistant surveyors, at £200 each; and Messrs. Treen, J. Harrison, H. R. Johnstone, Henry Smith, Robt. Austin, and F. Humphrey, junior assistants. All these officers were engaged for three years.
A splendidly-equipped yacht or schooner, the Island Queen, was chartered to convey to Western Australia the survey officers, who preceded Mr. Clifton and the main body of settlers in order to have part of the surveys completed for their reception. On the 2nd September, 1840, this party left England in charge of Mr. James Austin. The future of the settlement appeared so glorious that a brilliant fête was given by the directors on the eve of the departure of the Island Queen. Numerous invitations were issued and accepted, and a fashionable assemblage congregated at Blackwall. The future success of Australind was abundantly predicted, and all considered with delight its possibilities.
Next day Mr. Clifton advertised for a ship to convey himself, his family and establishment, together with settlers and emigrants, to the colony. The Parkfield, a fine barque of 600 tons, was chartered, and preparations were set in motion to embark. By the end of September Mr. Clifton arranged to fill the first ship with picked settlers and emigrants who were intended to form the nucleus of the settlement. A chaplain to the settlement was chosen in the person of the Rev. J. R. Wollaston, who had purchased land in the company. Preliminary measures were also taken to charter a second ship, which should convey a further body of settlers and emigrants to Australia under the Rev. Wollaston. On the 10th October the order of choice of allotments was decided on by lottery. The 20th October was named as the latest day on which the Parkfield would leave England.
A more auspicious beginning could not have been made. The objects of the company were received so eagerly and flatteringly, and the whole arrangements had been made with so little difficulty, that no one entertained the possibility of failure. The directors were determined to conduct the company on an efficient and elaborate scale, and their efforts were received with approbation on every side. But just as all concerned were satisfied with the successful development of their plans, an unforeseen circumstance arose which threatened to completely annihilate the very existence of the company.
On the 12th October intelligence reached London through Captain Grey, the young explorer, that Governor Hutt, in ignorance of the decision of Lord Glenelg, intended to resume Colonel Lautour's ground owing to the non-fulfilment of the improvement conditions within the ten years allowed by the second set of land regulations issued. The board was astounded, and the interested public who had purchased allotments feared that this announcement would mean the loss of their money. Moreover, it was rumoured that Captain Grey had declared that Colonel Lautour's grant was sterile. Thus consternation raged among those who a few days before were so hopeful of the glorious future of the Australind settlement. It appeared that Governor Hutt had not then received Lord Glenelg's instructions of 23rd November, 1839.
The position of the directors of the Western Australian Company was now decidedly awkward, and they became alarmed at what would follow on the unforeseen announcement. They had sold land to the value of £60,000, had engaged emigrants, and arranged for them and the settlers to proceed immediately to the colony. Marriages had been contracted on the faith of their proceedings, and other binding contracts had been entered into. It was, therefore, impossible for the directors to abandon the enterprise. Yet, if they despatched the Parkfield, Mr. Clifton might find on his arrival in the colony that Governor Hutt had already disposed of Colonel Lautour's grant to other settlers before he was aware of Lord Glenelg's decision. Delay, disappointment, and misfortune would most certainly ensue.
The directors determined not to run such a risk, "forgetting, indeed," writes Mr. M. W. Clifton, "that their prior title from the Colonial Office would have at once superseded every subsequent act of the Local Government, even if the colony contained within it persons who could have so immediately purchased the tract of land in question." When they had no hope of extricating themselves from their dilemma, an opening of relief apparently came. Captain Grey had recently arrived in London fresh from Western Australia. He told the directors that north of Perth, between Gantheaume Bay and the Arrowsmith River, was a highly fertile and well-watered country, containing a salubrious climate: An admirably protected harbour existed at Port Grey, which could be used as the port for any settlement they might make. There, and not at Leschenault, was the suitable country where they might satisfactorily apply their scheme, for this district was one of the finest in all Australia. This was Captain Grey's description of the country surrounding the present town of Geraldton. Leschenault, he oracularly said, was low and sandy, and Colonel Lautour's grant was hardly ornamented by a single tree.
Captain Grey suggested the removal of the scene for future operations from Leschenault to Port Grey, and, under the circumstances, the directors eagerly accepted the proposal. Mr. William Hutt, the chairman, immediately communicated with the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who had no objection to the company transferring its operations to the new and "splendid district of Port Grey." The directors announced their determination to transfer, and, so the record narrates, unfortunately "congratulated land purchasers on the happy change they had made, which congratulation at once gave the lie to all that they had themselves printed of the advantages of the original site," and to all that Mr. Clifton had stated at public meetings and at land sales. The latter gentleman preferred to rely on the descriptions of Leschenault of Sir James Stirling and other returned colonists he had met,. as well as published accounts from the Swan River, to these gloomy statements of Captain Grey. He even doubted whether the explorer had ever been to Leschenault, and therefore advised the directors, collectively and separately, in private and at meetings of the board, not to rely on Captain Grey's report, and not to transfer the projected operations from Leschenault to Port Grey.
The directors were determined. In announcing the intended change, they, with a sense of honour which deserved a better fate, gave land purchasers the option of adopting the proposal, or of taking back the purchase-money with interest at the rate of £5 per cent. for the time it had been paid. The complete reversal of the proposals affected the prospective settlers more than was supposed. The conflicting accounts left grave doubts in their minds, and for the first time led them to dwell on the risks and trials of colonising work. They did not know who to believe. For a few days a limited number availed themselves of the liberal offer of the directors, but then a panic set in. Many men who, at the solicitation and advice of Mr. Clifton, had purchased land, and proposed to devote their energies to cultivating it in Australia, withdrew. Among them was the chaplain, the Rev. Wollaston. Those who had purchased as a speculation became alarmed, and those who in the lottery had drawn distant numbers of choice recognised a good opportunity to get out of a bad bargain. They applied for and received their money. The action of the latter cut in two ways. It not only took from the directors the sum with interest paid for allotments, but threw into their hands the remote allotments, which, naturally, could only be sold at a lesser price than those near to the town site.
To allay the panic, if possible, Captain Grey was asked to meet from eighty to one hundred of the landholders at Mr. Clifton's house in London, and to answer any questions which might be put concerning the country at Port Grey. The explorer acquiesced, and was subjected to such a searching enquiry, and answered so straightforwardly, that many wavering minds were convinced; and several persons who had made application of withdrawal cancelled the application forthwith.
But the action of numbers of enterprising landholders of Halifax, in Yorkshire, precipitated matters. These gentlemen, who had invested about £12,000 in allotments, and had applied for more, now withdrew their money. No amount of candid explanations and flattering reports could allay the subsequent contagion, and within a few weeks a sum between £35,000 and £40,000 received from land sales was reclaimed. The only gentleman who stayed the drift, and prevented the total extinction of the company, was, according to Mr. Clifton, the Right Honourable J. W. Croker, F.R.S., P.C., who refused to reclaim his investments.
So far the directors had suffered keenly by their credulity. The report that Colonel Lautour's grant was resumed, and that the land at Leschenault was comparatively valueless, was too readily accepted, and their wavering had caused them considerable loss. The eyes of a great part of London was upon them; articles had been published relative to the company and the explorations of Grey, and apparently conclusive arguments were tendered of the superiority of the Port Grey country. The directors deserve praise for the liberal and honourable opportunity they gave to purchasers to withdraw their money, and although crippled by these enormous withdrawals, and also by the unfortunate failure of their bankers, they determined to proceed with the plans, and to fulfil all their obligations to those settlers who had remained faithful, and to the emigrants who had been engaged. Preparations were resumed with renewed energy, the Parkfield was engaged under a new agreement, and instructions were given to Mr. Clifton to proceed to Leschenault for the survey officers, thence to Perth to interview Governor Hutt, and, afterwards, to repair to Port Grey.
The Parkfield hauled out of the London Docks on 2nd December, 1840, and on the 4th Mr. M. W. Clifton joined her at Gravesend. Next day the deputy-chairman of the company, Mr. John Chapman, went on board, delivered final instructions to Mr. Clifton with power of attorney in Australia from the company, and addressed a few words of comfort and advice to the emigrants. A religious service was held, and then the ship sailed out of port for Western Australia. There were on board, including the Clifton family, about thirty settlers, and about 120 emigrants.
The scheme of the Western Australian Company was viewed with generous interest in the colony itself. Settlers heard with pleasure of this projected arrival in their midst of such a number of people, and Governor Hutt, when he received the instructions of Lord Glenelg, immediately withdrew a notice of resumption which he had issued on Colonel Lautour's grant. While English people were so doubtful of the suitability of the country at Leschenault, Western Australians were apparently convinced that no better site could have been chosen. Repeated visits to Leschenault increased their good opinions of its resources. Governor Hutt, in his speech at the opening of the Legislative Council in 1840, said that the establishment of a new settlement at Leschenault was the most striking event which had lately occurred in the colony. Settlers hailed with some excitement the introduction of capital and labour which the colony had so long needed. Everyone believed the settlement would hold Western Australia forth in an imposing and attractive light before the English public.
The chief surveyor and his staff reached Leschenault late in 1840, and at once set to work to disembark instruments, wooden houses, rations, and other articles. Governor Hutt, in expectation of the arrival of the Parkfield, appointed Mr. George Eliot Government Resident of the district, and sent Lieutenant Northey, with a picket of soldiers, to protect the settlers. In February, 1841, the site of the town of Bunbury was surveyed and shortly afterwards proclaimed, the name being conferred upon it in compliment to Lieutenant Bunbury, who was attached to the military forces. The southern districts soon rose in popularity, and settlers began to utilise the land in parts of the Leschenault district, at Picton, on the Capal, at Wonnerup, and in the Vasse country. The expected arrival of the settlers attached to the Western Australian Company encouraged enterprise in the surrounding districts, which from 1841 began to assume importance among the best in the colony. The upset price of allotments at Bunbury was fixed a £25, and during 1841 several land sales were held on the spot. Koombanah Bay became a favourite resort of whaling craft, and at one time in 1841 there were no fewer than fourteen ships anchored in her waters. A license for the sale of spirits and other liquors was issued to a settler who had erected a tent near Point Casuarina, and many drunken orgies were held on shore.
On the 18th March, 1841, the Parkfield entered Koombanah Bay, after a splendid passage. When nearing the Australian coast she struggled through a severe storm, and when she entered the bay an American whaling vessel lay stranded on the beach. The only inhabitants in that month of the immediate vicinity of Point Casuarina were Mr. Robt. Scott and his companions, Mr. Eliot, the military, Captain Coffin—of the wrecked ship—and the surveyors attached to the company. The Government Surveyor, Mr. Ommany, was stationed at Picton, and soon marked out the town site of Waterloo.
By this time the surveyors possessed comfortable quarters on Colonel Lautour's grant, but Mr. Clifton instructed them to pull down their huts and re-ship all their stores preparatory to going to Port Grey. He interviewed Mr. Eliot, and then with his secretary, Mr. Pearce Clifton, and Mr. Ommany, went rapidly overland to Perth to call on Governor Hutt. His Excellency was made acquainted with the instructions of the directors, and also with their desire to take up land at Port Grey. He refused to give the necessary permission to form a settlement in the north, stating as his reason that he had no means of communication with those parts, and with his small staff it was quite impossible for him to adequately protect or govern the settlement. Moreover, he advised Mr. Clifton to return to Leschenault and proceed with the original proposal to form a settlement on the estuary. The latter had to decide whether to act in opposition to his deliberate and pointed instructions, or to proceed to Port Grey. After consideration, he took the Governor's advice, who then promised to aid him in convincing the directors of its wisdom.
Thus all the turmoil—alarm, anxiety, loss—in London was uncalled for. Mr. Clifton now believed that the country at Leschenault contained many rich stretches, and afforded one of the most charming of Australian sites for a settlement such as theirs. His chagrin was great. It was only the unfortunate arrival of Captain Grey in England at such a juncture that prevented the directors from founding a promising venture. One thing was lacking—experience.
On the eighth day after setting out Mr. M. W. Clifton and party returned to their people, who were anxiously awaiting them at Leschenault. The surveyors were prepared to set out for Port Grey, but, such was the insecurity of location, they needs must land their goods once more, and re-erect the structures they had pulled down. In a few weeks, settlers, emigrants, implements, and general stores were disembarked, and, led by Mr. Clifton and the surveyors, the people proceeded up the estuary to the site chosen for the town of Australind, some seven miles from the anchorage. The stores were landed at point Casuarina, and a rough wooden building was erected to protect them. Then began many severe and annoying trials. The winter was coming on and soon the weather became exceedingly boisterous and cold. The surveyors had learnt the art of making dwelling-places on the lines of those erected by the natives. They were therefore able to institute some comfort and protection for themselves. Not so the general body of the unfortunate people. Mr. Clifton and his family, inured to the luxuries of London, were compelled to live in tents through part of the winter, and their sufferings and privations equalled those experienced by the Parmelia pioneers in 1829. The settlers and emigrants were in a similar plight. To add to their discomfort their food supplies were gradually being exhausted, and for some time they were without many necessaries of life. By degrees the stores were removed in boats from the point to Australind, and this labour, together with that of erecting wooden quarters, occupied some months.
The surveyors were soon engaged in marking out town and rural allotments. So stormy was the early winter, especially the month of June, that their surveys were necessarily protracted. A prettier spot could hardly have been chosen for the town. Situated as it was on a few rich patches of sandy soil, the place was adorned with leafy tuart, flooded gum, and banksia trees, rising in picturesque grouping. Running to the rear, and to right and left, was wooded undulating country, whose open soil, containing fructive organic matter, seemed to offer splendid inducements to cultivators. In front was a bright stretch of water forming the estuary, bounded on the opposite shore by roiling sand hills, covered with dark vegetation. A glistening sand patch on one of the ascents was the only blot. The climate, though cold at first, was soon found to be mild and bracing, free from those enervating qualities so common in many parts of Australia.
By June Australind was surveyed into streets, and some settlers had taken charge of their rural allotments. The thoroughfares were named after directors and prominent members of the company, such as Wakefield, Hutt, Chapman, and Croker Streets. Throughout the month gales of astonishing severity, with heavy falls of rain, raged continuously, and heaped additional suffering on the anxious people. They now saw in reality what colonising work entailed, and recognised that there was much to do before they could expect to obtain results. The town site stretched for some distance along the banks of the estuary. A storeroom was the principal building erected, and was forty feet long by twenty feet wide. It was completed in June, and was used as a storeroom, dining room, and sleeping apartment through the stormy weather. Around on the inclines of a slope leading from the water's edge were the buildings of officers and members of the establishment. A flood gum tree projected its branches over most of these. A few scattered weather-worn old stones are all that survive of this embryo city of good intentions.
Some settlers erected abodes for themselves. The number of men actually attached to the establishment was small, and it was not long before emigrants began to drift beyond Australind boundaries to neighbouring districts, and to Swan River.
From the first, disappointment attended the efforts of Mr. Clifton and his people. The influence of the misreports in London, and the doubts which assailed the minds of the Australind settlers seemed to fatalise whatever attempts they made at development. A blight had fallen upon them, and despondency too often pervaded their actions. There was drunkenness among a class of labourers, bickering between the surveyors and the men, and insubordination to the orders of Mr. Clifton, the Chief Commissioner.
That gentleman did what he could to withstand the tide of misfortune. He, his sons, and the surveyors worked zealously day after day. Wet or dry, they attended to their duties, and Mr. Clifton himself laboured in the garden, or helped to cut timber and split posts in the woods. His time was fully occupied for some months in supervising the surveys of his officers, and the work of his men. Carpenters, blacksmiths, sawyers, lime burners, gardeners, and ordinary labourers had all to be attended to. Vegetables were sown in the ground in front of his quarters; bridges were begun, canals were surveyed, and roads were aligned to Koombanah Bay, Brunswick River, Picton, and to various parts of the property. Sites were chosen for piers, markets, and public gardens; fruit trees were planted, and on 29th September the first sod was turned with a plough, drawn by several oxen. A cemetery was prepared, which ultimately proved to be the last resting-place of Mr. Clifton himself. A literary and scientific society was projected, and preliminary meetings held, and visits were received from the gentry of Augusta, Vasse, and Swan River. Mr. M. W. Clifton was early gazetted a Justice of the Peace, and a commissioner of the court for the recovery of small debts. Maps were carefully drawn of the site of the town and rural allotments, and forwarded to Governor Hutt and to the Board of Directors in London.
The settlement possessed a whale boat, dingy, and cutter. The natives thieved from the store at Point Casuarina, and removed casks of flour and meat. They were arrested, committed, and sent to Perth to stand their trial. Mails were brought by sea when any vessel happened to be calling at Bunbury, but more often Mr. Clifton was compelled to send to Pinjarra for them. Mr. Knight was the postmaster at Bunbury. Dr. Carpenter passed his time in attending people attached to Australind or to neighbouring settlers, and in making careful researches in natural history. He acquired a splendid botanical collection, and enjoyed the regard of all the residents of the district. The Rev. Wollaston had migrated to Bunbury, and officiated as clergyman at Picton and also at Bunbury and Australind.
Mr. Clifton and his sons, Messrs Robert and Pearce made several excursions into surrounding country. The first of these was in September, when some attractive-looking scenery was surveyed, but the land was considered to be very patchy. Mr. Clifton decided that there were some excellent areas of soil in the company's immense property, yet parts of it were poor and unfit for high culture. Generally, he was pleased with the Australind land, and laboured energetically to bring portions under cultivation. But he contended with depressing odds. No more settlers and emigrants reached the settlement in 1841, but in London the annual meeting of shareholders of the company passed off successfully. The various and voluminous despatches of Mr. Clifton were considered, and appeared to inspire more confidence in the prospects of Australind. At any rate, a vessel was chartered to convey additional settlers and emigrants to the settlement.
Accustomed to thorough and immediate obedience in his high official positions, Mr. Clifton did not succeed with some of his officers at Australind, and complaints were made of his autocratic supervision. Before the end of 1841 a serious disagreement took place between him and the chief surveyor, Mr. James Austin. The latter was dismissed, and brought an action against Mr. Clifton for salary due. By the terms of the original agreement in London, the surveyors were engaged for three years, but Mr. Austin's insubordination was such that Mr. Clifton discharged him before a year was expired. The case was heard before Mr. Mackie, when Mr. Austin was awarded a verdict for £200. Mr. Clifton appealed—the first appeal case in the colony—to the highest court on 22nd February, 1842. The court consisted of His Excellency the Governor (president), the Hons. Major Irwin, P. Brown, and J. S. Roe. After a lengthy deliberation the appeal was dismissed.
But before this, Mr. Clifton made a trip to the Port Grey country. The manner in which the Western Australian Company had advertised the attractions of that place, based on the descriptions of Captain Grey, was ridiculed in Western Australia, and it was inferred that this had been done purposely and deliberately, and not in ignorance, as was the case. Mr. Clifton watched for an opportunity to proceed to Port Grey to prove what truth there was in Captain Grey's statements. Late in 1841 the Beagle was at anchor in Koombanah Bay, and to decide the nature of Port Grey as a harbour, and to correct the contradictory impressions which existed, Captain Stokes agreed to conduct Mr. Clifton there. Port Grey was believed to coincide with Champion Bay, discovered the year before, and if so it did not possess the high recommendations claimed for it by Captain Grey.
In December, 1841, the Beagle sailed up to Port Grey with Mr. Clifton on board. Captain Stokes decided that the port was not the perfect haven pictured by Captain Grey, and that while it provided a good summer anchorage it had no protection from the prevailing gales of winter. Captain Stokes, Mr. Clifton, and a party of forty men, landed and examined the surrounding country. They remained for two days on land, and traversed a barren belt of sand plains and hills, exhibiting a scrubby growth of desolate-looking trees. Strange to say, although they went scores of miles, they saw no fine country, and they returned to the ship overburdened with the sombreness around them. Today it is well known that Captain Stokes, Mr. Clifton and party, had the misfortune to explore a belt of sterile country, and that immediately outside that belt is some of the best land in Western Australia.
Mr. Clifton returned to Australind more satisfied in mind. He made several excursions throughout the Wellington country, and obtained a better idea of its resources. When he received despatches from London stating that the directors intended forwarding another ship load of settlers and emigrants he became hopeful, and was led to believe that the settlement of Australind would soon be firmly established, and prove a source of gratulation and gratification to all concerned. In April the Diadem arrived at Koombanah Bay with 170 people for the settlement. In December another ship, the Trusty, landed 173 people, and returning to England brought a few more in 1843. So disappointed were some of these new arrivals when they did not find the city their thoughtless minds expected from the published maps, that we are told they sat on the shore and wept bitterly. And, without sufficient food, and homeless, they had something to weep for.
On 6th April Mr. Clifton received a communication from the directors announcing their approval of his decision to establish the settlement at Leschenault, and also of the site chosen for the town. In consequence of this he gave notice that the town allotments were open to appropriation. The first lots were granted in May. The people of the colony began to hope more and more of the success of Australind.
Activity now temporarily marked the settlement, and men and women moved to and fro among the trees in the near Australind country. They suffered keenly, and their activity was concentrated on obtaining sufficient food. Small dwelling-houses were erected on the different allotments, but Australind lacked vitality, and the seeds of decay were already apparent. Information concerning the subsequent trials and history of the company is meagre, and difficult to collect. Notwithstanding the most strenuous efforts on the part of Mr. Clifton and his officers, no substantial progress was made. The people lost heart, and the settlement appeared more blighted than before. The Board of Directors did not render Mr. Clifton that assistance which he considered was warranted, and his enterprise was therefore confined within impossible limits. About the middle of 1843 the final distribution of Australind rural lands took place, and a few months later came a despatch from the directors ordering the cessation of sales, and discharge of the surveyors. Later still, in 1853, the directors determined to wind up the company's affairs, and the Chief Commissioner was released from duty. Thus, within three years, a company of magnitude and importance was projected and formed in London, began work in Western Australia, and became extinct, leaving officers, settlers, and emigrants to their own way. Through misapprehension, lack of vitality, essential experience, and liberal assistance, the company appeared doomed from the date of the beginning of difficulties in London in October, 1840. Mr. M. W. Clifton was in 1844 presented by his late officers with a token of respect and regard. The luminous anticipations aroused by Mr. Wakefield's principles of colonisation ended there, and in the light of subsequent colonial experience, it is apparent that the company was doomed from the beginning. There was not the slightest possibility of a settler gaining a livelihood on 100 acres of ground, no matter how fertile, in those days of intermittent and protracted communication, when no markets were to be had within thousands of miles. The population of the colony could not absorb the products, and there was no chance of exporting them. Had a commonage been allowed each settler, where he could run a flock of sheep, he might have fared better, and had more hope of success. Shareholders, directors, officers, settlers, and emigrants lacked essential experience, and purchased it at the price of great tribulation.
Several original settlers and migrants, or their children, continue to reside within the Australind Company's land. Mr. Pearce Clifton was appointed the agent for the company after the cessation, and he disposed of the bulk of the land at 2s. an acre. Numbers of people who purchased rural allotments in England did not take possession of them, and in course of time they were seized by people in the colony. By the land laws, any person who enjoys twelve and a half year's undisturbed occupation of a block can obtain the fee simple of it from the Government. Most of the rich lands on either side of the Brunswick River, which were cut up into 100 acre lots, were obtained by their present occupants in this manner.
The Cliftons had an honourable association with Western Australian affairs, and Mr. Robt. Clifton resided within the bounds of the otherwise almost deserted site of Australind town until 1897, when he died. The company did the colony substantial service in introducing a fine body of people, among whom were some of the best mechanics ever in Western Australia.