The State and Position of Western Australia/Chapter 6

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Latest Accounts—Agricultural Society’s Report—Increase of Stock—Superior Breeds—Sheep Farming—Wool—Wheat—Kaffre Corn—Oat-Hay—Hops—Fruits—Vegetables—Timber-Trees, &c.—Bees—Flour-Mills—Brewing—Revenue, &c., &c., &c.

Since the preceding sheets were sent to press, Colonial journals down to the 24th of January have come to hand. They enable the writer to give the last Report of the Western Australian Agricultural Society; a document containing the most gratifying accounts of the progress of the settlement—accounts exceeding the expectations of the writer. From what he knows of the gentlemen who have affixed their names to the Report, and who have been already referred to, as among the leading agriculturists in the colony, he has entire confidence in the accuracy of the information it conveys; while he feels himself peculiarly fortunate in being able thus unexpectedly to appeal to such a body of evidence in proof of the general correctness of his own previous statements.


To His Excellency Sir James Stirling, Governor, &c. &c., Patron of the Agricultural Society of Western Australia.

SIR,—In laying before your Excellency our third Agricultural Report for the colony, we cannot but remark, that though the total amount of live stock in the colony may appear small, and though a great many farmers have as yet been able to procure but a very limited supply—yet, when we reflect, that only the fifth year of our existence as a community has passed, and look at the same period of any other colony on record, it will be found that we stand very far before them in this respect, as well as in the extent of land in cultivation. And when we look at the state of importance to which other colonies have arrived (Sydney, for instance, almost even within our own knowledge and experience), we think we have reason to congratulate ourselves.

From our own observations, we can state that within the last twelve months, the increase of stock has been very considerable, the holders having acted more judiciously of late, in withholding the breeding stock from the butcher, however high the price: whereas formerly, they thought merely of the present, by killing ewes &c., whenever the condition of the animal or great demand for meat gave present profit.

We believe the number of head of live stock has never before been taken, to enable us to state with precision what the increase has been within any given time; but, by as careful a means as could be adopted, we find the present numbers, and the quantity of land in cultivation, to be as follows:—

Horses, 84; mares, 78; cows, 307; working cattle, 96; bulls and steers, 97; sheep, 3545; goats, 492; pigs, 374.

Number of acres in wheat, 564; barley, 100; oats, 116; Kaffre corn and maize, 29; potatoes, 15; other crops, 94; fallow, 118; vines half an acre.

Amongst the horses we must remark, that we have your own thorough-bred stock, namely, Grey Leg and Chateau Margaux, and four mares, and your horse Napoleon, the two cart-horses of Mr. Bull and Mr. J. W. Hardy, and Mr. Peel’s Punch. Of cart-mares we have Mr. Brockman’s two, Mr. Bull’s one, Mr. Lennard’s two, Mr. Lewis’s two, Mr. Phillips’s one, Major Nairne’s two; also Mr. Smith’s fine half-bred mare.

Of cows and bulls we possess a good many of the fine English breeds—Devon short-horned, Yorkshire, Durham, Alderney, Ayrshire, &c.

Of sheep, we have the fine ewes and rams imported from Saxony, by Mr. M‘Dermott, at a great expense, with their descendants; and the pure Merinos from the flocks of the late Mr. Joshua Trimmer and others. It is gratifying to know, that the good breeds of the stock above-mentioned bear such a proportion to the inferior, that have been and may be, imported from the neighbouring colonies, that we have within ourselves the foundation for an unlimited number of first-rate horses, cattle, and sheep.

Of wool, the small quantity hitherto exported has been of course of a very mixed description, and much of it very dirty and badly packed, from obvious causes. It appears not to have fetched in the London market more than 2 s. 2 d. per lb. The clip of the present season may be rated at about 5884 lbs., and we are happy to say that a large proportion of it is fine, and that much more pains have been taken with it than formerly.

Since making our last Report, explorations that have been made by individuals have not only confirmed our opinions of the extent of the pastoral districts in the interior, but have added some not before known. Added to which, the increased experience of those settlers on the only located district of this description, more than confirms the opinions formerly entertained of it for the breeding of fine-woolled sheep. On this subject, Mr. Bland, one of the largest flockmasters in the colony, says, “With regard to the land in this district, my opinion is, that it is as healthy a sheep-run as can be found; we have resided here with a flock of sheep for nearly three years, and have not had any disease amongst them, excepting the foot-rot, which has been brought up from the Swan. Both sheep and lambs require clipping early in the spring, to prevent a grass-seed with a barbed point from working into the skin. We find the grass certainly increase where it has been most fed off. As to the comparative expense of keeping a flock here, and on the Swan, I am scarcely able to say, not having kept one at the latter place myself; but two men can keep from 700 to 1000, with an extra hand in lambing time, and two or three at clipping time. I think the country, on the average, will keep about one sheep to three acres.” But as the feed increases by feeding, a larger proportion may be kept.

We are sorry to say, that the disease mentioned in our last report as having proved so serious a drawback to keeping flocks on the Swan, has not yielded so entirely as we had hoped it was doing to the medicines employed; nor, with all the care of the owner and shepherd, has it been kept off so long as the sheep have remained in those districts of the Swan in which it had before prevailed. But this has hastened the flockmasters here in sending them to the Avon, to which river three individuals have lately removed their sheep, and where there are now no less than eight flocks. It is the intention of more of the principal settlers to send their stock over the hills, when the Government shall have so far improved the road as to enable them to take over supplies, which, for the present, must be taken from their farms on the Swan and Canning. It is very gratifying to be able to state, that of some of the Merino lambs from the Avon, only six months old, killed at Perth, the carcasses have weighed upwards of ten pounds a quarter, and this after having been driven over in two days.

On the number of acres in wheat showing so small an increase on that of last year, we would remark, that the great scarcity of seed prevented more being got in; had it not been for this cause, we can venture to say, that it would have been very much greater. Nearly the whole of the land now fallow would have been in wheat, besides a great deal of new land, had seed been procurable.

Kaffre-corn appears to be almost entirely superseding maize, the former being found not only productive, but answering well on inferior soils; whereas the latter does not succeed well in this country without a great deal of manure, except in soils that are moist in summer.

During the present season oat-hay has been made, for the first time, in the colony, and with complete success; the crop being four or five times as great as that on the natural pastures.

From the great increase in the number of working bullocks within the last year or two, we may reasonably calculate on a very considerable increase in the extent of land under cultivation next year, if the periodical scarcity which has hitherto usually visited us be averted, so that we be not obliged to use for food the wheat intended for seed.

We deem it right to make one observation on the wheat crop, to prevent an erroneous opinion being formed as to its produce,—that though the quantity sown is considerable, and is generally looking well, there are many acres that are sown on inferior land without sufficient tillage, or sown too late, that cannot be counted on.

Amongst the plants introduced since our last report, we notice one of some importance, which is now established; namely, the hop.

The white mulberry, of which there are a great number in the colony, grows most luxuriantly.

We have now growing in the colony plants of nearly every kind of European fruit-tree and shrub, all of which appear to thrive well, as do such of the tropical fruits as have had a fair trial—as the date and banana.

Of figs and vines, the fruit appears to be as good as that grown in any part of the world. Of the vine, one settler has half an acre planted. Indeed this, and other fruit-trees and plants, are becoming very generally cultivated throughout the settlement, especially the fig, vine, and peach, which here grow to a certainty from cuttings.

The olive, although regular plantations have not been made, grows remarkably fast, and there is one plant at Perth now in fruit.

Although garden vegetables cannot be grown in perfection during every month in the year on dry soils, yet in moist ground every description of vegetables can be grown at any season, and our supply of them is certainly very superior, with common culture, to what can be obtained in England, without artificial heat and the greatest care.

Of the various kinds of timber-trees and shrubs from Europe, Africa, &c., that have been tried here, all appear to grow remarkably well.

Bees have been landed at King George’s Sound since our last report.

We are happy to state, that four flour mills are now in operation, and two others are now in course of erection; also, that brewing is becoming more general. And notwithstanding the scarcity of money that continues to be felt, we have ascertained that upwards of two thousand pounds are ready to be laid out in the purchase of sheep (including some already sent for), to be sent to the fine pastures on the Avon and the Hotham.

It has been ascertained that in upland, two, and in moist soils, three, crops of potatoes can be produced in the year.

(Signed by)
Wm. Locke Brockman. Thomas N. Yule.
E. P. Barrett Lennard. W. B. Andrews.
J. W. Hardy. Henry Bull.
Geo. Fletcher Moore. Richard G. Meares, late Captain
William Burges. 2nd Life Guards.
Michael Clarkson.
Michael Clarkson. William Tanner, Honorary Secretary.

A few observations are suggested by this Report. The general reader’s attention is first requested to what is there said of the quality of the Live Stock already in the colony. After enumerating the particular breeds of horses, cows, and sheep, the Report adds, “It is gratifying to know that the good breeds of the stock above mentioned bear such a proportion to the inferior that have been, and may be, imported from the neighbouring colonies, that we have within ourselves the foundation for an unlimited number of first-rate horses, cattle, and sheep.”

The great importance of this circumstance, as connected with the future prosperity of the settlement, will be duly appreciated by those who have visited the Cape.[1] The colonists there are possessed of large flocks and herds, but they derive little profit from them, owing to the inferiority of the breeds, the nominal value of cattle in the interior being somewhere about 1 l. and sheep 2 s. a head, for the use of the butcher; and mares being sold for 5 l. The “Fatherland” breed of cattle there is, however, a fine description of stock; and during the last twenty years some excellent horses have been bred, from the first-rate kinds introduced by Lord Charles Somerset and others. The colonists also seem now alive to the advantage of displacing their large-tailed sheep by Merinos; but the foregoing remarks are intended to apply to the general description of stock to be met with on the farms.

In Van Diemen’s Land, also, are large herds of cattle, only of value for their carcass, and as wild as deer, paying little more than the cost of catching and driving them to market. The writer, some years ago, purchased, at a cheap rate, as he then thought, two cows imported from that colony; but, after being a short time on his farm, one took to the woods, and was not seen afterwards; and the other strangled itself in an effort to break loose. The importance of avoiding these errors, into which the other colonies of Australia have fallen, at their commencement, will be appreciated by every practical farmer.

Another very important fact is confirmed by the preceding Report, viz., the existence of extensive pastoral districts in the interior. Alluding to one of these, Mr. Bland, a high authority on such a subject, is quoted as giving his opinion that it is “as healthy a sheep-run as can be found.”

It appears, from the W. A. Journal, that several cargoes of sheep to the colony were expected, and on the point of being conveyed thither. The paper of the 18th of December last, states that Mr. S. G. Henty, a merchant at Fremantle, had freighted the Adams for 600 fine-woolled sheep, having previously made contracts with some of the settlers to deliver them at that port at 35 s. a head. A subsequent number says, “Mr. Sherwin, of Sydney, we hear, has written to his correspondent in this colony, intimating his resolution of visiting us in the Australian freighted with sheep. This gentleman expects to be able to put on board about 1200. We may look for his arrival about March next.”

In a previous paper it is mentioned that Mr. Taylor, the master of the Helen, a vessel trading between Sydney and Swan River, was expected to arrive there from the former port with stock and sheep on his own account, having purchased a grant in the York district, where he intended to place them.

Various accounts agree in stating that colonists in New South Wales are seriously turning their attention to Western Australia, and that some intend removing thither with their flocks and herds. One cause of this has been already alluded to, namely, the difficulty of finding pasture for their rapidly increasing flocks.

The extracts given from the Sydney Herald, when noticing the petition from King George’s Sound, and which were inserted in the notes, will be fresh in the mind of the reader. If room allowed, such extracts might be greatly multiplied. Suffice it to say, that an increasing feeling of disgust is exhibited at the consequences a penal settlement inflicts, and that a perpetual dread exists of brutal outrages being committed, which latter circumstance alone occasions great uneasiness; but, operating along with the former, cannot fail to cause many to migrate; especially whenever the looked-for communication shall he opened between King George’s Sound and Swan River. In the meantime a proposal has been started in New South Wales so bold and difficult of accomplishment, and yet related so circumstantially, that however chimerical the writer must confess it appears to him to be, yet considering the channel through which it is communicated, he feels called upon to give it publicity in the note below. At all events, the suggestion alone, the bare idea of so arduous a plan being in contemplation, and the mention of so large a sum offered by the people of Sydney for such an object, afford additional proofs that a considerable revolution of opinion respecting Western Australia has taken place there.[2]

It is satisfactory to learn from the W. A. Journal, that almost the whole of the crop of wheat is free from smut and drake. Taking the quantity of land cropped with grain last year to have been as stated in the Report, it is probable that it has not fallen much below a twelvemonth’s consumption. To guard, however, against the recurrence of a scarcity, the Government will in future retain a corrective supply of flour in the Commissariat stores, which will be thrown open to the public whenever the price rises beyond a maximum fixed upon. As the want of seed alone has limited the aggregate of the harvest to the amount of acres stated, and the Government has begun to apply the above expedient, the expectation of the Agricultural Society, that there will be “a very considerable increase in the extent of land under cultivation next year,” is likely to be fulfilled. This cannot fail very materially to bring down the price of bread in the colony. The price of fresh meat also seems likely to experience a great reduction. The Colonial Journal computes that about 700 wethers will be brought to market in the ensuing year, besides an increased number of bullocks, pigs, poultry, &c. Add to this the fresh importations and accumulating stock, and in the following year “we may reasonably calculate,” continues that journal, “upon a very considerable fall in the prices.” Though an infant colony must always be prepared for more or less of fluctuation in the price of the necessaries of life, yet the causes for uneasiness on that score, in a country where soil and climate are propitious, may be expected rapidly to diminish.

No apology can be necessary for introducing the following extract from a letter, dated Fremantle, Jan. 29, 1835, and addressed by Mr. James Stokes to Messrs. F. and C. E. Mangles. It is peculiarly valuable, as being written by a settler, who has just established himself in the colony as a fellmonger and woolstapler, &c, and who states that he has had nearly twelve years experience in the wool trade. He fully corroborates, as far as he goes, the preceding statements.

“Having been in this part of the world now seven months, including great part of the winter and also the summer, I am convinced of the capabilities of the colony for the growth of fine wools, also as to the superiority of the climate, soil, and grasses, &c., for the prevention of diseases and the general health of sheep. I have visited the farms &c. on the Swan several times, and was much pleased with the progress made, as also with the growth of all sorts of fruit, vegetables, corn, &c. I am now just returned from an excursion into the interior of the country in the “York District,” having been sixteen miles beyond York with a young man who has settled there as a sheep farmer. I proceeded on four or five miles more to the southward; and also, when I returned to York (to remain a few days, as per invitation, to Messrs. Bland and Trimmer’s), I made a tour to the northward: thus travelling over an extent of near thirty miles of splendid country, well watered, with an abundance of grass, and a very superior feed for sheep, or that may be ploughed without almost any clearing, and very properly described by some parties in former journals as having more the appearance of a gentleman’s park in England. I was highly gratified with the country. Messrs. Bland and Trimmer’s flocks, and in fact all the farmers’ sheep here, I cannot but speak of in the highest terms; and Mr. Arthur Trimmer informs me, that it is a very rare occurrence to lose a sheep, and they are particularly fortunate in the lambing season.

All parties now having money to invest, are about doing so in sheep, as they begin to see that wool will be the staple article of the country. I think the settlers here may congratulate themselves when they look back to Sydney in 1806. That settlement then, after being established about fifteen years, exported “one” bag of wool, and this colony, next shearing time, will have been established about six years and a half, when I calculate, with imports of sheep, and their increase, there will be from “thirty to forty” bags exported from here, all done by individual enterprize and private capital, free labour, &c, without having our “Society” contaminated by “Convicts.”

Towards the expenditure of the civil service of the year 1834, amounting in all to 12,175 l. 12 s. 10½ d., the sum of 6290 l. 19 s.d. was provided by parliamentary grant. The remainder was met by the revenue derived from the sale of Crown property in the colony, namely, 3580 l. 1 s. 11¼ d.; and by the proceeds of the internal revenue, amounting to the sum of 2304 s. 12 s.d.

When it is considered that the first land was given in September 1829, too late for growing crops till 1830, and that only FIVE harvests have been reaped; and when—and it is the only way to arrive at a just conclusion—“we look,” to use the words of the Report, “at the same period of any other colony on record,” the settlers may justly be proud of the position in which they stand. How premature and rash have been the opinions to which some writers stand committed! Where are the proofs of that “failure,” of which the author of the work entitled “England and America” speaks? And what can be said of the still more extravagant statements introduced into a very recent work from the pen of Colonel Napier, that the colony had existed for TEN years! and that the Governor had made a requisition for 600 soldiers![3] It is much to be regretted that the Colonel should have been so easily misled, and have taken apparently so little trouble to be correctly informed on the points to which he referred. The military force of the colony has lately been completed to 150 men; and the writer does not believe that any further increase has been contemplated or applied for by the Local Government, though that amount is certainly as small as is compatible with the wants of the colony.

  1. See Appendix, No. 10.
  2. The following is an extract from the Western Australia Journal, of the 27th of last December, and is taken from an article headed “Overland expedition from Sydney to Swan River.” “A scheme, having for its object the conveyance overland from Sydney to this colony, of sheep, horses, and cattle, on a very extensive scale, has been set on foot in the neighbouring colonies Dy Captain Bannister and Mr. Clint, both late residents in this colony,—and our Government, we are informed, have been solicited to extend their aid and countenance to the enterprize. No pecuniary aid is required; but in consideration of the magnitude of the undertaking, and the capital risked in the endeavours to accomplish this desirable object, a recompense is sought in a grant, in fee simple, of a certain (we believe moderate) number of acres of land, in proportion to the capital embarked, and the several persons engaged in the expedition. The capital is rated at 10,000 l., and the persons comprising the expedition, it is estimated, will amount to about 24.” Should this intelligence prove authentic, the author fully concurs in the inference drawn from it by the Editor in the following paragraph: “The proposition, emanating as it does from Captain Bannister, who was the first to penetrate through our distant wilds, affords an assurance, were further confirmation required, to our neighbours and the friends of the colony, that this country possesses advantages of a high order for the purposes to which this expedition is directed; and further establishes the fact of the absence of pasturage on the eastern coast for their rapidly extending flocks. The flocks and herds of New South Wales, it now appears, are driven as far as the Morumbidgee river for pasturage, and are increasing beyond the capabilities of the country to support The sheep-owners, it is represented to us, are constantly and anxiously looking for districts more advantageously situated.”
  3. “I have heard, but cannot vouch for the truth of this assertion, that the Governor of Swan River Settlement wants more soldiers, and has applied for his force to be increased to 600 men!” From a work, entitled “Colonization; particularly in Southern Australia:” &c., &c, by Colonel Charles James Napier, C. B.” p. xxvi. In a note in the succeeding page, the Colonel quotes, on the Authority of the Hobart Town papers, the following passage:—“‘The Swan River Settlement CONTINUES to be affected with a scarcity of provisions,’ after being planted about ten years. Pray mark that, reader!”