Early Experiences of Life in South Australia
An Extended Colonial History
by John Wrathall Bull 1883
Preface to the 2nd edition
In complying with the demand for a second edition, the Author feels it necessary to commence the early history of the colony of South Australia by recording the steps which were taken to obtain from the Imperial Government the Act of Parliament by which the colony was founded: as well as further to extend the work from where the first edition ended — namely, from the departure of Captain Grey to the end of the administration of Sir Wm. F. D. Jervois, K.C.M.G., C.B., R.E.— during which period the colony has made rapid strides politically and materially.
The history opens as follows. So early as the year 1831, a numerous body of influential gentlemen were associated together in England for the purpose of establishing a colony in the southern part of New Holland, on Wakefield's new principle of colonisation — i.e., to open and establish new colonies, by devoting the funds from sales of land to the cost of deporting a working population. Under the auspices of that association a considerable number of persons, some with small capitals, was collected together, who desired to go out as settlers to the proposed new colony, which was to be established in a slice of country, from the southern and western parts of the large province of New South Wales, its western boundary to be the colony of Swan River.
After a long and unsuccessful negotiation with His Majesty's (William IV.) Government to obtain the desired Charter, these proposing emigrants were disbanded. A large amount of time, trouble, and money was thus thrown away in a grand endeavour to relieve the mother country of redundant labour, by converting a needy home population into prosperous colonists, and to occupy, convert, and fructify a portion of the waste and desert parts of a colossal empire.
No further steps were taken until the beginning of the year 1834, when a fresh society was formed with the same objects, under the name of the South Australian Association, and it was determined that the proposed colony should be founded, not as previously intended by Royal Charter, but by an Act of the Imperial Parliament. To carry into effect the original project in this amended form, an extended committee was elected, embracing the greater portion of the previous body, and with other influential names added.
This committee was composed of the following gentlemen, viz. : —W. Woolryche Whitmore, Esq., M.P., Chairman ; A. Beauclerk, Esq., M.P. ; Abraham Borradaile, Esq. ; Charles Buller, Esq., M.P. ; H. L. Bulwer, Esq., M.P. ; J. W. Childers, Esq., M.P. ; William Clay, Esq., M.P. ; Raikes Currie, Esq. ; William Gowan, Esq. ; Samuel Mills, Esq. ; Sir William Molesworth, Bart, M.P. ; Jacob Montefiore, Esq. ; George Ward Norman, Esq. ; G. Poulett Scrope, Esq. ; Dr. Southwood Smith ; Edward Strutt, Esq., M.P. ; George Grote, Esq., M.P. ; Benjamin Hawes, Esq., M.P. ; J. H. Hawkins, Esq., M.P. ; Rowland Hill, Esq.; M. D. Hill, Esq., M.P. ; W. Hutt, Esq., M.P. ; John Melville, Esq. ; Colonel Torrens, M.P. ; Daniel Wakefield, Jun., Esq. ; H. Warburton, Esq. ; H. G. Ward, Esq., M.P. ; John Wilks, Esq, M.P. ; Joseph Wilson, Esq., M.P. ; John Ashton Yates, Esq. ; George Grote, Esq., M.P., Treasurer; Robert Gouger, Esq., Hon. Sec.
After great exertions by the association in the same year (1834), the incorporating Bill was passed through the Imperial Parliament, having been greatly advanced by the support and influence of the Duke of Wellington ... Under this Act a commission was appointed to manage the proposed work of colonisation, and to settle the principles upon which it was to be carried out ; Wakefield's scheme being adopted.
The Act provided that no convicts should ever be sent to South Australia, and that a Constitution should be granted as soon as its population reached 50,000 souls.
The commissioners first appointed were : —Colonel Torrens, F.R.S. ; George Fife Angas, Esq. ; William Hutt, Esq. ; John George Shaw Le Fevre, Esq. ; Alex. McKinnon, Esq., M.P. ; Samuel Mills, Esq. ; Jacob Montefiore, Esq. ; George Palmer, Jun., Esq. ; John Wright, Esq. ; George Barnes, Esq., Treasurer ; Rowland Hill, Esq., Secretary.
It has been considered an act of justice to publish the names of the far-seeing patriots who, against great opposition, were the agents in founding this most prosperous colony, now one of the largest customers of British manufactures, affording happy homes for a most loyal section of the great British Empire, and still crying out for immigrants with capital, as well as hands to work.
The name of the colony, which has often led to absurd mistakes being made by residents in the mother country and elsewhere, was adopted by the committee of the association in 1 834. As the colony of Victoria was not separated from the province of New South Wales until after the proclamation of South Australia, the latter was at that time the most southern settlement in Australia [sic][Hobart Town, Van Dieman's Land?], the site of Melbourne being occupied by a solitary sheep-farmer. A reference to a map of Australia will show, however, that from the eastern boundary of the colony the coast trends considerably to the south.
Before the relation of the early occurrences in forming a new Colony, it will be profitable to go back a few years and quote from the published voyages of the following maritime explorers, viz., Captain Flinders and the French navigators Baudin and Freycinet, as well as the accounts given by Captain Sutherland at a later period.
In the year 1802, Captain Flinders, in his Majesty's ship Investigator, after he had explored the coast to the west of Encounter Bay, there fell in with the French expedition under Captains Baudin and Freycinet ; and to commemorate such a friendly encounter, named that portion of the coast Encounter Bay ; at this time the two countries were engaged in a deadly war.
By a few days only Captain Flinders was the original discoverer of the Gulfs of St. Vincent and Spencer, which he also named.
On the morning after casting anchor in Nepean Bay, Captain Flinders writes : — " On going towards the shore a number of dark brown kangaroos were seen feeding upon a grass flat by the side of the wood, and our landing gave them no disturbance. I had with me a double-barrelled gun, fitted with a bayonet, and the gentlemen (my companions) had muskets. It would be difficult to guess how many kangaroos were seen, but I killed ten, and the rest of my party made up the number to thirty-one taken on board in the course of the day. The least of them weighed sixty-nine, and the largest one hundred and twenty-five pounds. These kangaroos had much resemblance to the large species found in the forest lands of New South Wales, except that their colour is darker, and they were not wholly destitute of fat. The whole ship's company were engaged in the afternoon in skinning and cleaning the kangaroos, and a delightful regale they afforded after four months' privation from almost any fresh provisions. In gratitude for so seasonable a supply I named this southern land ' Kangaroo Island.'
" These poor animals suffered themselves to be shot in the eyes with small shot, and in some cases to be knocked on the head with sticks. I scrambled through the brushwood and over fallen trees to reach the higher land with the surveying instruments, but the thickness and height of the wood prevented anything else being distinguished. There was little doubt, however, that this extensive piece of land was separated from the main land, and accounted for the extraordinary tameness of the kangaroos and the presence of seals upon the shore, thus also proving the absence of human inhabitants, of whom no traces were found.
" On a day following, the scientific gentlemen landed, and in the evening eleven more kangaroos were brought on board, but most of these were smaller, and seemed to be of a different species (qy., wallaby?). Some of the party saw large running birds, supposed according to description to be the emu or cassowary.
"A thick wood covered almost all that part of the island visible from the ship, but the trees in a vegetating state were not equal in size to the generality of those lying on the ground, nor to the dead trees which were still standing. Those on the ground were so abundant that in ascending the higher land a considerable part of the walk was made on these fallen trunks. They lay in all directions, and were nearly of the same size and in the same progress of decay; whence it would seem that they had not fallen from age, nor yet been thrown down in a gale of wind, but had succumbed before a general conflagration.
" The soil of that part of Kangaroo Island examined by us was judged to be much superior to any before seen either upon the south coast or upon the islands."
The above quotation is confirmed by the reports of the French navigators and Captain Sutherland, as they all agree in the descriptions they give, which represent such an extraordinarily different condition of the island, both as to the size of timber and the animals they found on their visits, from what was found when the first ships arrived in Nepean Bay, to form the first settlement there, under the direction of the Board of Commissioners in London. Remarkable changes like these can only be accounted for by such an overwhelming conflagration as in the opinion of Captain Flinders must have happened before his visit.
The French navigators also give an account of the vast number and large size of the kangaroos which they found on the island. They took full advantage of the opportunity to secure a number, and " took on board twenty-seven alive, besides numerous carcases." They found no traces of man.
Captain Sutherland, who was employed by some merchants of Sydney to obtain a cargo of salt and seal-skins from the island, writes : —
" On the 8th January, 1819, we arrived at Kangaroo Island from Sydney after a pleasant voyage of 14 days, and anchored in Lagoon Bay (part of Nepean Bay) in about four fathoms of water close in shore. Two boats were dispatched with five men in each to discover the salt lagoon, and to ascertain on what part of the bays seals most resorted. Another boat with three men also started to seek from whence a supply of water could be obtained. During our ramble from this boat a shallow well with a small supply of fresh water was found, with a flat stone near it with writing cut upon it, giving the names of the captains of the French expedition, and the date of their visit. Not far from this spot, and close to Point Marsden, Nepean Bay, we dug a well, behind the sand bank, about four feet deep, which immediately filled with fresh water. The period during which I stayed on and near the island was from the 8th of January to the 12th of August in the before mentioned year. The soil was thickly covered with timber and brushwood. Some of my men landed at several different places on the main. I never saw or heard of any native dogs on Kangaroo Island, and from the very great number of kangaroos I do not believe there are any. Some of the kangaroos I killed weighed one hundred and twenty pounds. I have known our men to have taken as many as fifteen in one morning. We never made use of any part of them but the hindquarters."
He also says he travelled across the island in company with two sealers who had been living on the island some years, but he does not give their names.
The concurrent testimony in the reports which have been quoted should remove all doubts which may have been entertained as to the number of kangaroos said to have been originally found there, and also as to their tameness. The excessive timidity of these marsupials in all other parts of Australia is universally known ; in those localities, however, they had been joint occupiers with native aboriginal hunters.
As to the timber which the discoverers report to have found covering the country differing so greatly from the saplings found by our first arrivals, it may be remarked that an explanation will occur to those colonists who have had experience in heavily timbered or close scrubby districts. To such persons it is well known that when a strong bush fire occurs, and is extinguished by rain before it has quite consumed the trees or scrub, the vitality of which it has destroyed, after a sufficient time has elapsed to allow fresh saplings or strong scrub to make considerable growth, a succeeding fire, aided by the dry material left, will make a clean sweep of the country, and the subsequent state of the locality will be either open ground or a close eucalyptus scrub. A few scattered ancient trees, which were perhaps always detached, may possibly survive, and this is considered to be a reasonable explanation of the state of the island as to timber when our colonists arrived, and that the kangaroos had also been nearly exterminated by the overwhelming fires.
As to the future fruitfulness of the island, it is a reasonable expectation that as clearing progresses it will become a prosperous agricultural district, but probably at a great cost to the farmer. A few small farmers are at the present time taking up and clearing portions of the island, the soil of which is found to produce good crops of excellent malting barley, but is not so well suited for the growth of wheat. The climate is both pleasant and healthy.
For the following account of Kangaroo Island and its first occupants, the author is partly indebted to information obtained from two of the original islanders many years after he himself became a settler on the mainland, in addition to information he had previously gained. He is thus enabled to correct one erroneous impression early extant, that they were principally runaway convicts, the fact being that the majority of the early inhabitants were men who had left whaling and sealing vessels or surveying ships at various times before the founding of the Colony.
One of them, George Bates, arrived on the island in the year 1824, and was engaged in sealing and hunting, and occasionally in making visits to search the beach of Encounter Bay for the bones of stranded whales. On one occasion, shortly after the whaling stations were formed at the Nob and what is now called Victor Harbour, he and some mates had collected whalebone on the beach near the mouth of the River Murray, which they estimated to be worth over £200. This was taken from them by the recently-arrived authorities, and sent by Captain Hart to be sold in Sydney, and yet no salvage was given to them, which they deemed a great hardship. When George Bates forwarded the above information, he stated his age to be seventy-eight years.
In the year 1835 William Thompson, a seaman, landed on Kangaroo Island from the cutter William, Captain Wright, after he had fulfilled his engagement in a sealing voyage. He then joined William Walker, who had been some time on the island. At the time Thompson landed there were about seven male white settlers, engaged in sealing and catching wallaby, and in preparing the skins for export. The first settler was Waller, who was said to have been on the island fourteen or fifteen years before Thompson became a resident, say 1819. He had assumed the title of Governor of the island, and to his rule the others yielded such obedience as was necessary in so primitive a state of society. Several of the men had coloured women living with them, some obtained from Tasmania and the others from the tribes occupying the Cape Jervis and Encounter Bay districts. One of these women, not satisfied with her promotion from the position of slave to one of her own race to that of help to a white man, took to the water and swam across the straits, nine miles wide at the narrowest part. Despite the dangers of the powerful currents, and the multitudes of sharks, for which this passage (now called Backstairs Passage) is notorious, she landed safely in her own country. [disputed as being unlikely]. Some four or five years after this extraordinary swim was accomplished, this woman was pointed out to the writer, and she was then a fine specimen of her race.
These primitive inhabitants of the little settlement had cleared small patches of land from the scrub, which they cultivated or worked with strong hoes, thus producing vegetables and wheat, which latter was ground between two flat stones, and from the meal produced they made their unleavened bread or dampers, which were baked in wood ashes.
The late Captain Hart, when in the employment of Mr. Griffiths, of Launceston, was in the habit of visiting the island to trade with the islanders for their seal and wallaby skins and salt, gathered from various lagoons in that part of the island, and to furnish them with goods in exchange. The settlers had pigs and fowls, and varied their diet with the flesh of wallabies, wild-fowl, and fish.
One of the earliest islanders was a young man of the name of G. Meredith, whose father was an inhabitant of Tasmania, in a large way of business. He had been dispatched by his father in a small vessel amongst the islands to catch seals, and had the misfortune to wreck his vessel on Howe's Island, and escaped in a boat with a Dutchman, who was known afterwards as Jacob Seaman. They had with them, on landing on the island, a Tasmanian black woman, called Sal, who had lost half of one of her feet when young, by sleeping with them too near the fire. She was owned by Meredith. He took up his residence at Western River, on the coast of the island opposite the Althorpes. He had also with him two native boys whom he had procured from the mainland, and whom he was training to be of great use to him in his sealing trips. In one of his boat voyages with the black woman and the two boys, he landed on the part of the coast now known as Yankalila, and whilst there encamped Meredith was killed by his black boys, of which sad occurrence the black woman afterwards gave the following account to the islanders : —
" Whilst their unsuspecting master was sitting near the campfire partaking of porridge, the boys stole behind him." It was supposed that they had been instigated to commit this act of treachery by some black fellows, who afterwards took possession of the black woman, the boat, and all its contents, with which they made their way to Encounter Bay. In the then unsettled state of the country no steps were taken in the matter, as this occurred before the first colonists from England arrived. The boat, it was reported by the islanders, was for some time used by the Encounter Bay natives in sealing and fishing, and was ultimately lost by getting adrift from their careless fastenings.
Sal eventually managed to escape to the island, and joined a settler (an American black), named George Brown. He had been engaged as headsman in one of the whaling companies. After the colonists arrived George Brown left the island, and was engaged at the first occupation of Holdfast Bay. He had become acquainted with an emigrant girl who was in the service of Captain Lipson, our first harbour master, who was, I may mention, officially and privately held in universal esteem and respect. Brown was legally married to this young woman, and they left a family, who are now in respectable positions.
Sal, after parting from Brown, joined William Cooper, one of the sealers, who acted as interpreter to Colonel Light in his intercourse with the aboriginals on the mainland.
It was more than twelve months after William Thompson became a resident on the island that the first South Australian ships arrived from London. The Duke of York, a barque which had left Torbay on the 17th or 18th of April, 1836, arrived on July 29th, with passengers and emigrants, and dropped anchor in Nepean Bay at noon. This was the first vessel which arrived with colonists. Passengers — Mr. Samuel Stephens, first manager of the South Australian Company in the colony ; Mr. Thomas Hudson Beare, second in command under the Company ; Mrs. Beare and four children, with Miss C. H. Beare (afterwards Mrs. Samuel Stephens) ; Mr. D. H. Schryvogle, clerk; Hy. Mitchell, butcher; C. Powell, gardener; Neale, carpenter; Wm. West, labourer, — the last four being emigrants.
The Board of Commissioners in London granted to the management of the South Australian Company a most extraordinary, not to say questionable favour, in accepting and passing the entire crew of the Duke of York, as well as those of the John Pirie, Lady Mary Pelham, Sarah and Elizabeth, and the South Australian, as emigrants, so that the lists which were published (and have lately been republished) as to the numbers of emigrants arriving by those ships were really incorrect. The party from whom this information comes was a passenger in the Duke of York, and adds : — " Hardly one of these men remained here. A few of them returned years afterwards, and settled in the colony." Information was not further given whether those who returned succeeded in getting passed as emigrants a second time, but that they were paid for as emigrants the first time by the commissioners was positively stated.
All on board the Duke of York were ready to go ashore as soon as the vessel was made snug, and a landing was effected in a little bay, at the spot where the Rapid Bay and Cape Borda submarine cable has been since brought ashore. The time the passengers set their feet on the land was 2 p.m. The first duty then performed was the reading of the Church of England service, in which all joined. Captain Morgan concluded the service by an extemporary prayer or thanksgiving for the prosperous voyage which had been granted to them.
Just before the party left the Duke of York, a magnificent rainbow appeared in the heavens, and the captain remarked it was a good omen. The rambling and weary party returned late on board ; still sleep was not obtained, owing to the excitement of their new position. Between 12 and 1 o'clock the vessel heeled over, and the commotion was general. All were rushing to the boats; but the captain allayed the universal alarm by explaining that he had anchored in too shallow water, and the ship had swung round and grounded on a muddy bottom in an ebbing tide, of the rise and fall of which he had been ignorant.
The following day tents were pitched ; and that night the passengers remained on land, and felt the chill of a very severe frost. On the morrow guns and ammunition were the order of the day. The new arrivals early in the morning had been greatly astonished by the clamour of a number of laughing jackasses, as those birds (a variety of the kingfisher) are called. At first some of the people believed the blacks were laughing at them, and had arrived to make an attack.
A few days after they landed, some of the sealers living on the island paid them a visit, and brought a splendid supply of vegetables, including a quantity of very fine water melons. Though not quite ripe, these were quickly disposed of. It was not long before patches of land were cleared of the tall scrub, which abounded on all sides. The seeds of vegetables were sown, and soon green food was indulged in.
On the 4th of August two large boats with twenty men started on a trip across Backstairs passage, and a landing was made at Rapid Bay — afterwards so named by Colonel Light.
On the way back they fell in with the John Pirie, Captain Martin, who was on the look-out for a whaling station. It is here proper to mention the fact that Mr. Menge, who had been engaged and sent out by the South Australian Company to examine the country for minerals, was one of the boat party, and pronounced the ranges to be highly metalliferous.
At a meeting of the few scattered inhabitants, Mr. S. Stephens called on the self-elected primitive Governor Waller to abdicate, which he did magnanimously. The manager purchased all his stock and crops on his small squatting farm, situated about ten miles from Nepean Bay, and since known as " The Farm."
I may here mention that Mr. Stephens married a lady passenger on the voyage out, and she was subsequently long known and respected as his widow. I shall later in this history relate the fatal accident by which Mr. Stephens lost his life.
The first selections of land were made at Kingscote, and unfortunately so, for the Company and some private individuals, who at once commenced to work and build houses, &c, which were shortly abandoned after the arrival of the Surveyor-General, Colonel Light, in the brig Rapid, on the 20th August, 1836.
Colonel Light brought with him, as his staff, Lieutenant Field, R. N., Mr. J. S. Pullen (now Vice- Admiral), Messrs. W. Hill, Wm. Jacob, and G. Claughton, surveyors ; Dr. Woodford, Mr. Alfred Barker, mate, and other survey hands.
Of the above are surviving at the time of publishing this work, Messrs. Wm. Jacob, Hiram Mildred, William Hodges, and John Thorn. There is also now residing in England Vice-Admiral Pullen, who has risen by his extraordinary merits, and by his services on one of the expeditions to the North Pole in search of Sir John Franklin's remains, also in Besika Bay and other parts of the world.
Colonel Light, after sufficient examination of the island, as a first place of settlement, pronounced it to be unsuitable, although it possessed in Nepean Bay a grand harbour scarcely surpassed in any known country. In a short time most of the officers, servants, goods, and plant were removed to Port Adelaide or Holdfast Bay. The buildings, gardens, &c, were left to be generally occupied by the original islanders. Colonel Light promised them that they should not be disturbed in their original squatting holdings ; but this promise he was not able to fulfil.
When the colonists arrived no kangaroos were to be seen on the island ; the first sealers, however, reported that when they became residents a few remained, but were soon killed off. At this time, however, the appellation of Kangaroo Island is a misnomer. But Thompson says that he saw bones of kangaroos at Hog Bay and several other places. Hog Bay was reported to be so called from pigs found there by sealers, supposed to have been left by the French navigators, as at that place there was writing in French, cut in a rock near a spot where they obtained fresh water.
Mr. C. W. Stuart has kindly furnished me from his notes with the account of his landing at the island, which is interesting as mentioning the arrival of a cargo of goods which had been shipped to find a market in Swan River Settlement, but which were purchased by Mr. S. Stephens, and formed the first opening of trade between the infant colony of South Australia and the much older colony of New South Wales. Mr. Stuart says : —
"In September, 1833, I left London in the barque Atwick, 500 tons, Captain Hugh McKay, bound for Hobart Town and Sydney. The latter place we reached after a fortnight's detention at Hobart Town, in a little less than five months from Gravesend. I left the ship in Sydney with little less grief than I had felt at leaving home. After recruiting for a few weeks at a friend's house in Sydney, to whom I had letters, I took a passage in the Lambton cutter to Port Stephens, about 180 miles to the north of Port Jackson. Here I remained about two years, my attention chiefly directed to cattle, the country near the coast being well adapted for cattle and horses. While still living at Port Stephens, early in 1836 I received from London a land order for a preliminary section of land and a town acre, in a new colony to be called South Australia.
" My determination was soon made to start to Sydney and to find my way to Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island, as directed, where they were first to rendezvous. My friends did all they could to persuade me to remain in New South Wales, hinting that the new colony must be a failure — land at one pound an acre and free labour against land at five shillings an acre, as it was in Sydney; and convict labour available. On arriving in Sydney, I found that South Australia was scarcely known there ; and as to communication with Kangaroo Island there was none.
" The late Emanuel Solomon had at that time a place of business in George Street, on which was posted a notice that the schooner Truelove was to sail for Swan River on a day mentioned, and would take passengers from Sydney to that place. I went into the office and asked Mr. Solomon if the Truelove would put into Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island.
" He was astonished at my question and said he did not know, and asked my object in inquiring. On my telling him I wanted a passage there, and information about the new colony, he seemed to think that I had been duped, and advised me not on any account to go to Kangaroo Island till I knew positively that some vessels had arrived there from England. He told me to see the captain of the Truelove, who would give me more information on the subject than he could.
" I saw the captain of the Truelove, Colton. His advice to me was much the same as Mr. Solomon's, but at the same time, for a certain sum, he would take me to Nepean Bay, and, wind and weather permitting, he would remain there twenty-four hours, and if no ships from London had arrived, and I did not like to remain, he would take me on to Swan River and back to Sydney for the same money. It was a liberal offer, and I accepted it.
" A few days after I went on board the Truelove, with about one ton of stores and two kangaroo dogs. After a pleasant run of fourteen days we were caught in a heavy S.W. gale, and being near the island, the vessel was hove to for the night. Next morning at daylight a brig was descried seven miles ahead, evidently steering for Nepean Bay. We followed her, and a few hours later let go our anchor near to her in Nepean Bay, and she proved to be the John Pirie, belonging to the South Australian Company, and had just returned from Hobart Town. There were then lying in Nepean Bay the ships Cygnet and Africaine, and the brig Rapid. I went on shore immediately in the ship's boat, and on landing was surprised to see the (to me) strange appearance of the people just come from England, many of them clad in smock frocks, with gaiters, &c.
" On asking where the Governor was to be seen, I learnt that he had not yet arrived, but I was introduced to the Manager of the South Australian Company, Mr. Samuel Stephens. Mr. Stephens was very courteous ; and on my telling him my name, and informing him that I had land orders, he warmly welcomed me, asked me to his tent to lunch, and introduced me to Mrs. Stephens. The Truelove was the first vessel that had arrived in Nepean Bay from Sydney, and being laden with stores and provisions on a trading venture for Swan River, Mr. Stephens asked me to take him on board and introduce him to the captain. The consequence of this introduction was that Mr. Stephens bought the cargo of the Truelove, and sent her back to Sydney for more necessaries.
" The day after I landed I was introduced by Mr. Stephens to the following colonists : Mr. J. Hallett, Captain Duff, Messrs. C. S. Hare, T. H. Beare and M. Smith, Esq., solicitor, and to the sons of the last two gentlemen, W. L. Beare, Esq., Justice of the Peace, of Clare, and H. J. Smith, Esq., S. M. Naracoorte, the only survivors at this time.
Colonel Light arrived in the brig Rapid and landed on Kangaroo Island on the 20th August, 1836. Extracts from his published journal, at the present time out of print, are now given.
" Having sailed from Nepean Bay, after deciding that the island was a locality not suitable on which to fix the capital, I put into Rapid Bay, from thence sailed up the Gulf, and came to anchor in less 5 fathoms on September 24th, 1836. Opposite to the brig appears a very extensive flat, to the northward and east of which mangroves were to be seen lining the shore.
" September 25th. — Left the ship to examine what appeared to be an inlet, and on passing up the same at about half a mile the boat grounded ; on getting off I returned on board. On the report of Mr. Hill, second mate, that he had seen from the mast-head a considerable river, I again left the ship in the hatch boat to explore, and after walking along the beach without success, returned to the brig. At 4 p.m. an opening was plainly seen from the brig. I had gone along the shore south-ward. Mr. Field during my absence had gone in the jolly-boat and had entered and sounded the mouth of a considerable river, which I determined to explore next day.
" September 26th. — At 9 a.m. entered the river ; the first reach runs about two miles. After passing the channel we came into a good wide river ; on going some distance and finding it did not accord with Captain Jones' description of the harbour he discovered, I determined to run higher up the Gulf, and to examine this place at a future period, and returned to the brig.
"September 27th. — After running up the Gulf, at 3 p.m. anchored in three fathoms. From this position could see the head of the Gulf as laid down by Flinders. Dispatched Mr. Field in the jolly-boat ; on his return he reported no harbour could exist there ; returned to the last anchorage. I now despaired of ever finding the beautiful harbour described by Jones.
" September 28th. — At half-past 6 sent Mr. Pullen and Claughton in the hatch-boat. They having shaped their course along shore, we got under way to run with easy sail as nearly abreast the boat as we could. We had after a little time the satisfaction of seeing them enter an inlet, and soon after disappear. I was now full of hope that Jones' harbour was at last found, and at 1 p.m. came to an anchor in our former berth to await the return of the hatch-boat. At half-past 2 Mr. Field went in the jolly-boat to look at the same river I had been in on the 26th.
" Mr. Field met Mr. Pullen in the gig, who had left the hatch-boat at anchor at the northern entrance ; each party, after communicating, separated, Mr. Field returning to the brig, Mr. Pullen to the hatch-boat. I now remained in great anxiety between hope and fear. A report brought back by Mr. Field that Mr. Pullen had seen no fresh water damped me much, and I could only remain till his return before determining what course to pursue.
" September 29th. — Mr. Pullen returned and reported his entrance by the northern channel, and no fresh water met with. He further stated that there were two separate channels. This was so different to the account given by Jones that I felt a great disappointment.
" September 30th. — Left the ship in the surveying boat, and got into the harbour by a small channel about a mile to the northward of the southern entrance, and with a fine breeze from the north-west passed up a reach fully three miles in extent to the southward, carrying three or four fathoms all the way. We went on the island (Torrens) and found no fresh water. At the end of this reach a large inlet appeared still keeping a southwardly direction ; but I was anxious to examine the creek to the eastward in a line with Mount Lofty. Into this I bent my course with the strong hope of finding it prove the mouth of some fresh-water stream from the mountains. On the rise of the tide I returned to the hatch-boat, which being now afloat, we got under way, and having now fully persuaded myself that no part of this harbour could be that described by Captain Jones, I resolved on returning to the brig to run again down the coast (south) and see if by any chance we could have missed so desirable a shelter."
I here bring forward Captain Jones' account as given subsequently in Colonel Light's diary, on which he so unfortunately depended, and in doing so endured great trouble and loss of time.
Captain Jones' report : — " The inlet (miscalled Sixteen-mile Creek) is a stream of fresh water, at about fifteen or twenty-miles north of this river. I (Captain Jones) discovered a fine harbour, sheltered by an island, which is about three miles in circumference, with abundance of fresh water upon it, as well as some streams running into the harbour from the main land."
Continuation of the diary: —
" October 1st. — At 6 a.m. made sail for the brig, at half-past 8 got on board and got under way once more in search of Jones' harbour."
So much for the misfortune of having relied on an exaggerated description of what Captain Jones saw. Thus Colonel Light again turned his back on what he ultimately adopted as Port Adelaide, making light of the work accomplished by Mr. Pullen, in the first passage up the Sixteen-mile Creek, in his truthful but less florid report, furnished to his superior officer on September 29th.
On the subject of the ultimate adoption of Port Adelaide, it is only necessary to continue to give extracts from Colonel Light's diary, to be followed by information gained from Admiral Pullen's letters, recently received.
" October 1st. — Running down the coast south, was enchanted with the extent of the plain to the north (qy., west?) of Mount Lofty. All the glasses of the ship were in requisition. At length, seeing something like the mouth of a small river (Glenelg Creek), and a country with trees so dispersed as to allow the sight of most luxuriant green underneath, stood in, and anchored in three and a half fathoms, in mud and seaweeds, about one and a half miles from the mouth of the river (Pattawalonga).
" October 3rd. — At 9 a.m. went on shore to examine plains. A gardener (with a spade), named Laws [a.k.a William Lawes], was landed. The gig's crew were desired to pull along shore and stop at the mouth of the river. Messrs. Claughton and Woodford accompanied Laws, keeping some way inland to examine the soil, while Pullen and myself kept along the beach. We proceeded about two miles, but found nothing but a wide indenture of the coast. We walked five miles further, and then returned to the place where we landed. At 4 p.m. all returned on board. I was much gratified at the report Laws gave me of the soil, he being a good judge.
" October 4th. — Went on shore at 9 a.m. to examine the plain. I cannot express my delight at seeing no bounds to a flat of fine rich-looking country, with abundance of fresh-water lagoons. The little river, too, was deep. After walking some distance through long grass returned to the beach at 2 p.m., and getting into the gig pulled on board.
" October 5th. — Sent Messrs. (Caughton and Jacob to trace the river up. At 1 p.m. these gentlemen returned, and said the river at four miles up was fresh. It was then a very narrow stream bending to the N.E., and appeared to have its source in the plains.
"The brig proceeded down the coast. At 1.30 p.m. hove-to on the 10th abreast a river — (qy., Onkaparinga ?). A native woman on board had mentioned this, and I sent Mr. Pullen in the gig to examine the entrance. At 2.10 he returned, and reported his seeing a large river for some distance, but, the sand bar having much surf over it, he was nearly upset. Again disappointed in my hopes of finding Jones' harbour, I now felt fully convinced that no such thing could exist on this coast, at least as described by him.
"October ??th. — At 5.45 got under way. At noon we observed a boat coming towards us. At 2 p.m. hove-to ; the boat brought Mr. John Morphett and Mr. Samuel Stephens. They reported the arrival of the Cygnet at Nepean Bay, and the landing of stores, and that the people were hutting themselves. I now resolved on going into Rapid Bay, and after landing some stores there, to send the brig to Kangaroo Island to fetch over the assistant surveyors, that they might be employed in the survey on this side the gulf during my examination of Port Lincoln, &c.
" November 2nd. — Divided the surveying party into two, Mr. Kingston having the largest party, and Mr. Gilbert with the greater part of the stores, to embark on board the Rapid for Holdfast Bay. Mr. Finniss, with his party, including Mr. Jacob, Mr. Hiram Mildred, and others to remain at Rapid Bay, each party to make as many observations as possible during my absence at Port Lincoln or elsewhere.
" November 6th. — At 4 p.m. the Africaine, Captain Duff, arrived at Rapid Bay with Mr. Gouger, Colonial Secretary, Mr. Brown, Emigration Agent, and other passengers. Mr. Gouger questioned me as to where we should settle. I could only recommend his proceeding to Holdfast Bay for the present, but stating that I could not guarantee permanent settlement there. With Captain Duff I embarked at 10 a.m. on the 7th.
"November 2??. — Landed at Holdfast Bay, was met by Mr. Field and Mr. Morphett, who had been out exploring. The accounts given by these gentlemen, though not unfavourable, did not cheer the spirits of the newcomers. Messrs. Field, Kingston, and Morphett had made a few miles inland, and had found a fresh-water river (the Torrens) much larger than any yet seen. Looking generally at this place I am quite confident it will be one of the largest settlements, if not the capital, of the new colony ; the creek will be its harbour.
" November 20th. — Sailed for the creek (i.e., Sixteen-mile Creek, Port Adelaide), taking Mr. Kingston with me. At 6 p.m. we came to anchor in the first reach, all hands overjoyed at the little brig's berth in so snug a spot.
" November 21st. — Left the brig by the hatch-boat with Messrs. Kingston, Morphett, and Pullen, to examine the southern reach which I had before left unnoticed."
Extract from letter to the Commissioners : — " November 22nd (dated). The Harbour. I could not leave this coast without looking once more at this harbour. We steered at once for this beautiful anchorage, and ran the brig in, where we now lie at single anchor although it is now blowing a gale of wind from the south-west with thick rainy weather. We were more than delighted to find the creek running into the plain so far. I am now more than ever persuaded that it is connected with the fresh-water lagoons. It is one of the finest little harbours I ever saw. We had three fathoms water and very often four fathoms at dead low water in sailing up. I have sent Mr. Kingston to trace the connection between the head of the salt-water creek and the fresh-water, and to make his way back to the Glenelg camp by land."
" November 2??h. — Got under way and out of the harbour with a light breeze. At 1 p.m. anchored in Holdfast Bay."
Extract from Mr. Kingston's letter : — " I kept along the banks of the river (creek) about two miles, when I think it had its source in the marshes (lagoons) in which I found the river (before alluded to) losing itself. The following day I crossed the river (Torrens) running down from (direction of) Mount Lofty. I again traced the plain, being able to view the course of the river by the reeds, until I found it again running through a regular bed."
Colonel Light, after giving instructions to Mr. Kingston to follow up his discovery of the running river Torrens, left for Port Lincoln. What he found there is described in another chapter. On his return to St. Vincent's Gulf on December 17th, "at daylight, Mount Lofty and the range of hills were seen. At 10 a.m. came to anchor, and went ashore to see our party. The time now lost in much extra labour, and the arrival of many people from England made me anxious to find some place to locate the land purchasers and others, and from every answer from the sealers and from the view I have had of the western coast (of the Gulf) I felt convinced I should never find anything more eligible than the neighbourhood of Holdfast Bay.
"As for Encounter Bay, I resolved on leaving that to a future period, for the following reason : — I never could fancy for one moment that any navigable entrance from the sea into the lake could possibly exist. On looking at Flinders' chart, and considering the exposed situation of that coast, moreover the very circumstance of so large a lake being there, was a convincing proof to me that the Murray could not have a passage sufficiently deep or wide to discharge its waters into the sea.
Deep and fine harbours with good entrances are only found where the shore is high, hard, or rocky ; sand alone can never preserve a clear channel against the scud of the sea such as must inevitably be thrown on the coast about Encounter Bay.
" On my arrival at Nepean Bay reports of the sealers I obtained, confirmed the opinion I held that there was no such thing as a harbour along the coast, I therefore thought I should be throwing away valuable time in examining there.
" December ???? — At half-past nine got under way with the Tam o' Shanter for the harbour. At six entered the first reach and came to anchor ; about ? a.m. the Tam o' Shanter struck on the edge of the western sandspit, having three fathoms of water within half her own length ; she remained here until the 22nd; about 4 p.m. she was hove off, both crews assisting, and both ships made sail for the higher part of the harbour. I preceded both ships in my hatch-boat.
" It was really beautiful to look back and see two British ships for the first time sailing up between mangroves in fine smooth water, in a creek that had never before borne the construction of the marine architect, and which at some future period might be the channel of import and export of a great commercial capital. Having got both ships up the harbour, I shall leave my narrative of the marine part of the expedition and proceed to my work on shore.
" December 24th. — Walked over the plain to that part of the river where Mr. Kingston had pitched his tent (the site of the future capital). My first opinions with regard to this place became still more confirmed by this trip. Having traversed over nearly six miles of a beautiful flat, I arrived at the river, and saw from this a continuation of the same plain for at least six miles more to the foot of the hills under Mount Lofty, affording an immense plain of level and advantageous ground for occupation. Having settled future work with Mr. Kingston, I returned to make arrangements for finally leaving the ship.
" December 28th. — Pitched my tent near Mr. Kingston's at the side of the river. I heard of the Governor's arrival at Holdfast Bay, but having much to do had not time to go down to meet him.
" December 30th. — His Excellency the Governor arrived at our camp, and we walked together that he might see the spot I had selected. His Excellency expressed his sense of the beauty of the place, but said it was ' too far from the harbour.' "
But, nevertheless, the site was adopted, on which is now built the most beautiful city in the Southern Hemisphere. Colonel Light, in deference to the Governor, entertained the idea of placing the city on the banks of the Torrens about one and a half miles lower down, but finding both above and below his first choice marks of the river overflowing its banks, he fortunately returned to it.
As bearing on the question of selecting Port Adelaide as the principal port of the province, the following extracts from Vice-Admiral Pullen's letters to the late A. Barker, Esq., who was also an officer on board the brig Rapid, are given : —
" I see in portions of Colonel Light's journals which have appeared in the papers that not one mention of my name is made in them in connection with the discovery of Port Adelaide. I believe I was the first in it (i.e., the southern reach of the present harbour). You cannot forget the brig dropping me with the hatch-boat on September 28, 1836, when I got into an opening above the present entrance and finally anchored in the North Arm, thence proceeding southerly in the gig I passed up the long southern reach. On my return I met Mr. Field in the jolly-boat.
" On the next day I sailed out in the hatch-boat by Light's Passage, and on arriving on board the Rapid reported what I had discovered in my trip up the long southern reach, on receiving which the Surveyor-General decided to return with me the next day, on which occasion he confined himself to an examination of an eastern branch of the creek, and a patient search for fresh water.
" I have to complain of much the same treatment as to the Murray Mouth, as I was the first to enter that river from the sea. I feel great interest in that champion stream, and in the colony generally, in the establishment of which we had something to do, and which seems to be flourishing wonderfully. I am now giving all the help I can to an engineer to go in for the docks in the port just above the North Arm.
" A few days ago I was called on by a gentleman to tell me that such a thing was likely to be undertaken, whom I informed that it was possible I might be able to give him some important information. The spot chosen is near where I got turned out in the water on the capsizing of the hatch-boat, by the force of a heavy squall, in beating up for the head of the creek (Old Port). I do not remember the names of my men, but it was a narrow escape, especially for poor Nation [sic ?], who was with us. I heard of his sad death with great regret."
Note. — As to the circumstances which confused Colonel Light in the essential difference between the state of the water he found in the Sixteen-mile Creek, and the somewhat exaggerated account of it given by Captain Jones, such a discrepancy may be explained from the different season of the year when the creek was seen by them. It is natural to suppose, although the date of Jones' visit is not given, that he arrived and found the fresh state of the heads of the various branches of the main creek after a heavy and continued rainfall, when the freshets were still running, and that fresh water had displaced the salt at and below their unapproachable heads, as we know is the case more or less periodically at the present time. Jones may also have landed on Torrens Island when he found lodges of rain water on it. I may mention that when ships were lying at or a little below the Old Port (Misery) I heard reports of buckets being let down from ships' sides and fresh water obtained.
In further explanation it is observed that the time when Colonel Light made his inspection of the island, and of the easterly branch creek which points towards Mount Lofty, was late in the month of November, probably after a dry season.
Moreover, his idea was a natural one, that a main stream might be found joining the eastern head of the creek, and thus he was led to neglect the southern reach on which Mr. Pullen had reported, the course of which runs parallel to the coast, and separated from it only by a narrow sandy strip of land. It is seen by these now published facts brought side by side that to Admiral Pullen and Sir G. S. Kingston belong the credit of proving that the sixteen-mile salt water creek and the constantly running water of the River Torrens have a connection, although after dry months the surface junction disappears.
I continue to extract from the Admiral's letters to show his work when a master's mate at the Murray Mouth, and his taking a boat in and reaching what was called Port Pullen, now the Goolwa.
It has given the author great pleasure in being able to publish the foregoing resumes of Admiral Pullen's public services, both in the Imperial and Colonial services.
Postscript. — Mention may with propriety here be made of the late Mr. Henry Mildred, who was one of the few who joined in the work of founding the colony.
Mr. Henry Mildred was born at Portsea, England, in March, 1795. For some years before South Australia was spoken of as a colony, Mr. Mildred had determined to emigrate. The new colony of South Australia presented such attractions that he dispatched his son, Hiram Mildred, in the brig Rapid, under Colonel Light, to South Australia, intending to follow himself with the remainder of his family. At this time the South Australian Company retained his services to proceed to the North of England to purchase the appliances required for a ship building yard, a patent slip, and steam saw and corn mills.
On his return he proceeded to the colony with the manager, Mr. David McLaren, in the barque South Australian, which arrived at Kangaroo Island on the 22nd April, 1837.
After some delay, part of the plant was removed to the mainland and the engine and mills were erected near Adelaide, being known as the Company's Mill. The other parts of the plan were abandoned by the company. An offer was then made to Mr. Mildred to continue in the service of the Company, which he declined.
He accepted a seat in the Municipal Council in 1841, and took an active part in all public questions of the day. He was a most determined opponent of the project to introduce the Parkhurst boys, and greatly assisted in causing the scheme to be abandoned.
In 1850 he was appointed a justice of the peace, and in 1858 a special magistrate. In 1857 he was elected a member in the House of Assembly for the district of Noarlunga. In April, 1860, Mr. Mildred was returned for East Torrens, and sat a second time for the same district. In 1866 three vacancies occurred in the Legislative Council, and of ten candidates Mr. Mildred was returned second on the list. The honourable gentleman retained his seat till 187 1, when it became vacant by effluxion of time and he then retired from public life. He died in the year 1877, aged 82 years. In his public life he was consistent and active, in private life exemplary, and it may be said he left no enemies. Mr. Henry Mildred left two sons and one daughter, who are still living. Mr. Hiram Mildred, the eldest, is a member of the Council of the City of Adelaide ; his second son, Henry, who some time ago sat in Parliament for East Torrens, is a solicitor ; the daughter is the wife of Mr. J. Varley, special magistrate, of Kapunda.
Captain Hindmarsh arrived in the ship Buffalo, 28th December, 1836, to take up his office as first Governor of South Australia. With him came the Rev. C. B. Howard, first Colonial chaplain, Osmond Gilles, Esq., treasurer, with a few other officers and some emigrants. On landing, the governor proclaimed the colony in the presence of government officers and settlers on the spot, under a bent gum tree at Glenelg, near the mouth of the Pattawalonga Creek.
My intention is to avoid a relation of the little political squabbles which disturbed the harmony of the first few months of the colony, but it is necessary to record something of the causes which produced the disagreements. Captain Hindmarsh was strongly impressed with the importance of the grand waterway of the Murray and its tributaries, and pressed his views perhaps too warmly on the Commissioner of Crown Lands and the Surveyor-General. He also objected to the site chosen for the city, and desired to have it placed adjacent to the port ; but Colonel Light, after careful examination of the country nearer the landing place, adhered to his first choice.
Thus arose two parties in the colony and much excitement was caused. The governor had no official voice in the matter, but nevertheless it must be admitted that he put a correct value on the importance of utilising the grand stream which, coming from the heart of Australia, finds its mouth at Encounter Bay. In this matter, however, Captain Hindmarsh was in advance of the times, for as far as this colony is concerned, the Murray flows mostly through poor country, and in 1838 we knew little or nothing of the value of the pasture lands about the upper Murray and its tributaries, and the Riverina trade was then a thing of the future.
Yet the value of the River Murray as a navigable watercourse, with its far-stretching feeders, having been proved by Captain Sturt, in his successful boat trip down the Murray and back, all that was required in the first place was to remove snags in its channel and provide harbour accommodation through or near its embouchure.
Lieut. Pullen, R. N., was early after his arrival with the Surveyor-General, detached by him to explore and survey the mouth of the Murray with a small boat's crew and a whale boat under his command. I was, as far as I know, the only individual who rode down to meet Mr. Pullen after he entered the river mouth in an open boat, and I spent a night with him where he was engaged in surveying the channel past Goolwa, as it was subsequently named. He had expressed his confidence that he would be able to succeed in entering the mouth with a sailing craft, and this feat he subsequently accomplished in the cutter Waterwitch, which afterwards foundered off Moorundie, where she was anchored.
It will hardly be believed by strangers that after doing this he was coldly received in Adelaide, and left us in disgust. I must mention that before he left the colony he accompanied Captain Hart in assisting to bring overland a herd of cattle from Portland Bay which had been purchased by the brothers Hack from Dr. Imby, of Twofold Bay, employment very different from the high and honourable professional services he has subsequently rendered to the nation.
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