History of West Australia/Stephen Stanley Parker

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IT must be exceedingly pleasant to a pioneer to take a retrospect of his career. The first few years spent in the old country amidst charming scenes and associations will ever hold a dear place in his memory. A man does not forget the scenes of his youth, and often looks longingly back to them. Then comes the day when he embarks on some old-time sailing vessel and passes day after day and weeks of quiet life, with hopes of the brightest hue, drawing pictures of his colonial career and the subsequent home-going, rich and charitably inclined. He lands on Australian soil and sees before him a comparatively unknown country. Although he meets many difficulties, and doubtless many disappointments, yet there is a charm in the new strange life, which now looms more attractive in his imagination after the lapse of years. Quick are his movements, and quick the transformations. Working quietly and determinedly he extends his possessions. At first he intends spending but a few years in the colonies, but they become so satisfying that he determines to make his home here. He remembers the steady increase year by year of population, and the foundation of towns—and, perchance, of cities. Industries are established which are felt at the uttermost parts of the earth. Sylvan beauty is changed and peace and plenty are taking its place. Yet, though his position may now be ever so much more comfortable, the thoughts of olden days revive the wish that he might live them over again. Unmistakeably, it is a pleasant retrospect.

Stephen Stanley Parker.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

No short sight can peer back a distance of nearly eighty years, but Mr. S.S. Parker, J.P., ex-M.L C., can do this. He has been in Western Australia since the dawn of its history, and naturally he has had many strange experiences. It is a stirring sight, that of the witnessing the rising on the horizon of a large new community. His years in the colony have been well spent, and he has maintained a name which commands respect. Stephen Stanley Parker is a native of Lyminge, Kent, England, and was born on 24th May, 1817. Like many other West Australians, his father, Mr. Stephen Parker, came to the colony in connection with the extensive land proposals of Mr. T. Peel. Mr. Parker's special mission was to represent several gentlemen who desired to acquire land from Mr. Peel, but as the latter was unable to carry on his intentions the pioneer went to Guildford and began agricultural operations. He brought his family with him from home, and thus Mr. S. S. Parker arrived in February, 1830. The efforts of Mr. Parker, sen., in tilling the soil were necessarily somewhat modest. It was no easy matter to clear the ground and then prepare it for the seed, and it must have been a strange sight some time later for the natives to observe the plough overturn the sweet-smelling virgin turf. From Guildford Mr. Parker went to York, where he combined grazing and farming, principally devoting his energies to the former. He erected his home at Northbourne, ten miles from York, and there he continued in the Australian bush during the remainder of his life. About seventeen or eighteen years ago he died, when eighty-four years of age. His son succeeded to the property, which he still owns. The estate comprises 2,500 acres of rich land, and about 1,000 sheep feed on its pastures.

Mr. S.S. Parker remained with his father until 1844. His earlier colonial career was entwined with the vicissitudes of the colony, and he well remembers the struggles made by pioneer settlers to secure a bare living in West Australia. Unfortunately, their hardships exceeded those experienced in other Australian colonies, and what with scarcity of food supplies, distance to the markets, and conflicts with the natives, they might well have wished themselves back in England. But they persisted, and out of their persistence came the prosperity of more recent years.

The year 1844 is celebrated for two important events in Mr. Parker's career. In the first place he was married to a daughter of Mr. John Sewell, of Northam; and secondly, he immediately afterwards branched out in business for himself. He became a grazier and agriculturist at York, in a small way to begin with; but by fair seasons and good management he was soon able to increase his acreage. He bought a property hard by his original land, which, however, he relinquished in five years' time to purchase 4,000 acres from Mr. R. H. Bland, Government Resident of York, who died about two years ago in Melbourne, This estate is in the York district, and has proved lucrative. Some twelve months afterwards Mr. Parker acquired several leases, and thereby considerably increased the extent of land open for his enterprise. Quietly supervising and managing these years passed. About 1858 he erected a steam flourmill in York, which he conducted in conjunction with his pastoral and farming pursuits. From that year he continued in business until February, 1882, when he retired and took up his abode in Perth, where he well bears his revered old age. Mr. Parker never experienced any difficulties with natives. He treated them with uniform kindness and firmness, and recognising this the blacks came to respect him. His father showed him this excellent example. While living in Guildford serious disturbances took place between the natives and the small white population, and it was to the late Mr. Stephen Parker's house that the poor natives went to make terms of peace. They placed implicit trust in him.

Mr. S.S. Parker was created a Justice of the Peace by Governor Weld in the sixties. He rendered considerable assistance to local government in York, and was eight years chairman of the Roads Board, and was also a member of the Town Council. He was esteemed as one of the prominent men in the colony, and Governor Robinson during his first term of office appointed him a nominee member of the Legislative Council. For eight years he sat in the Council under the terms of office of Governors Robinson, Ord, Robinson, and Broome, retiring shortly after the last-named gentleman took up the gubernatorial duties. He was a useful member of the Legislature, and showed an intelligent interest in the deliberations. Mr. Parker now takes little part in public matters. He is a member of the Aborigines Protection Board, and, because of his sympathy for and experience among the natives, he renders material assistance in their government and protection. He is a Diocesan trustee in the Church of England in Western Australia,

The sons of Mr. Parker have prominently identified themselves with the colony. Foremost is Mr. S. H. Parker, Q.C., M.L.C., whose biography is published in these pages. Mr. Edward Parker manages the Northbourne estate. Mr. George Parker is in partnership with Mr. S.H. Parker in his legal practice; and Messrs. James and John W. Parker are in partnership in connection with their father's other properties. These have become very valuable since the foundation of Coolgardie.

Nearly eighty years of age, Mr. S.S. Parker survives to tell the story of early settlement in Western Australia. The many years of his life have been borne with quiet dignity, and there are few such highly-respected gentlemen in the colony. He has not been idle, and many of his good works are memorialised.