The Coming Colony/Chapter 2

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II.


"Ancient History" of Western Australia-Discovery and Exploration—Stir­ling's Glowing Report—The French Frustrated-British Flag raised at Fremantle—Stirling appointed Lieutenant-Governor—Pioneer Settlers arrive at Kangaroo Island—Foundation Day—The First Chaplain, Immigrant Ship, Printing Press, Newspaper, and Bank.


Though the "ancient history" of the colony may be thought to have little interest for the latter-day settler, there is innate in the human mind a turn for genealogical investigation, whether as applied to family or national antecedents. In the case, too, of the colonist, there is a certain gratification in hearing of the hardships and failures undergone by his predecessors on the very spot on which more favourable conditions, or, as perhaps he prides himself, his own superior energy have enabled him to plant himself with security and success. No excuse is thus necessary for commencing with a few preliminary words as to the discovery and early history of the colony.

In 1527 a Portuguese navigator named Menezes touched upon its western shores, and gave the name of the Albrolhos to the group of islands lying westward of what is now known as Champion Bay. In 1598 these islands, which contain valuable guano deposits, were sighted by a Dutchman named Houtman, the projector of the Dutch East India Company; and in 1629 Francis Pelsart's frigate Batavia was wrecked upon them. Cape Leeuwin (or Lioness) was first sighted from a vessel of that name in 1622, and in 1644 Tasman, on his second voyage, gave the name of Tasman Land to what is now known as the Kimberley district in the far north. In 1688-9 Dampier in the Roebuck sailed along the north-west coast, entering and naming Shark's Bay, the scene since of a profitable pearl fishery. In 1697 the entrance to the Swan River was discovered by Vlaming in the Gielvink, and in 1791 Capt. Vancouver discovered King George's Sound, Flinders ten years later taking his vessel, the Investigator, in as far as King George's Island. In the same year (1801) the western coast was visited by the French corvettes Géographie and Naturaliste, the officers, Baudin and Freycinet, giving their names to various points to which they still attach. From 1820 to 1824 the northern coasts were explored and surveyed by Capt. P. G. King, and his work was continued by Captains Whickham and Stokes between the years 1837 and 1843. The colony was first permanently settled from Sydney by Major Lockyer, who in 1826 landed at what is now Albany, with a detachment of the 39th Regiment and a party of convicts, the whole contingent numbering some seventy-five persons in all. Five years later the settlement was transferred to Rockingham, a port about fourteen miles to the south of Fremantle, which was named after Capt. Fremantle of H.M.S. Challenger, who hoisted the British flag near the mouth of the Swan River on a site included within the confines of the present town, which there seems a strong determination to make the main port, not only of Perth, the capital, but of the entire colony. The settle­ment under Major Lockyer had been formed in consequence of rumours of an intended French aggression, and with a view to still further securing the country for British colonists. Capt. Stirling, R.N., was sent from Sydney in 1827 in H.M.S. Success with instructions if he were pleased with the country to select a site for a settlement, at first intended to be a "penal" one, on the western coast. Captain Stirling, whose views were endorsed by Mr. Frazer, the colonial botanist of New South Wales, who accompanied him, gave a glowing report of the country, with the result that on their return to Sydney, after examining the mouth of the Swan River, Governor Darling decided to recommend to the Home Government to form a settlement there on an extended scale. Captain Stirling took the despatch to England, and personally afforded additional information to the Imperial authorities, who resolved to act on the suggestion, and appointed the bearer of the despatch Lieu­tenant-Governor of the infant colony, which was at first styled the Swan River Settlement, as marking the narrow limits at first assigned to it. Capt. Fremantle was sent in advance in 1829 in the Challenger to hoist the British flag, and was quickly followed by Capt. Stirling in the Parmelia. The latter landed on Garden Island, which lies off the coast between Fremantle and Rockingham, on June 1st, and this date is still celebrated year by year as the Foundation Day of the colony. The pioneer party comprised an official staff of eight persons, ten artisans and mechanics, with their wives and families and servants; also fifty-one head of cattle, two hundred sheep, thirty-three horses, and pigs and poultry on a similar scale. In July the first colonial chaplain, the Rev. J. B. Wittenoom, arrived, and on August 5th came the Callista, the first purely emigrant vessel. She was freighted with a human cargo of one hundred souls, comprising persons of both sexes and all classes and ages. Numbers of the tiny vessels in which the ancestors of the present colonists were not afraid to trust themselves for the long and dreary voyage, followed in the wake of the Callista; so that in January, 1830, the Governor of the settlement was able to report the British population in Western Australia as numbering 850 persons, an d the assessed value of property at £41,550. The present capital of the colony had in the meantime been founded on the north bank of the Swan River on August 12th, 1829, and by January, 1830, thirty-nine "locations," as they were called, had been effected by the principal settlers, round whom clustered the smaller fry. The number of cattle was, however, still only 204, the horses for riding and draught, 57, the sheep, 1,096, and the pigs, 106. The year 1830 brought an increased influx of emigrants, and in the same year the first settler was murdered by natives at the Murray River. In 1831, the first overland journey from Perth to King George's Sound was made by Capt. Bannister, and in December, 1832, that great symbol and promoter of progress, the first printing press, was landed from England. In 1840, the first newspaper, the Perth Inquirer, was printed, and in May, 1841, the financial requirements of the settlers were thought worthy of being specially catered for, by the opening of a bank.