Hundreds of Dudley and Haines

Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), Saturday 18 April 1908, page 45




[XII.—By our Special Reporter.]

The proportion of cultivated land in the Hundred of Dudley and that part of Haines under the jurisdiction of the Dudley District Council is not really so large as the enormous quantity of barley and oats shipped from Hog Bay might lead one to infer. The explanation is that the best of the country is so rich that 40 and 50 bushel crops constitute a regular standard. This land, however, is limited in area, and mostly confined to the north coast and odd river sections adjacent (to the south coast. In the circumstances it is not surprising that there has been little fresh agricultural settlement on this side of the island during the last decade. Invited to express his opinion on the opportunities for and probability of further immigration of the nature indicated, an old farmer remarked—"We came here years and years ago to make homes, and of course we snapped up all the choice lots. Then, as time passed, we remembered that our families had to be provided for, so we took care to add to our original blocks all availble surrounding country which gave the slightest hope of profitable utilization. No." (with a shake of the head). "I reallv don't think you will see much likely buyable land hereabouts. And I reckon we ain't to be blamed. 'The early bird catches the worm' is an ancient, but wise and true saying." He hit the nail on the head.

While in Kingscote I was advised—"You will find the Hog Bay farmers as cool as icebergs when you call upon them.'' Consequently I was somewhat unprepared for the cordial welcome which was extended to me on all sides. At every house I visited I was given the hand of right-goodfellow ship and could not have been entertained more hospitably if I had been an Imperial guest.

—At American Beach.—

One of the first with whom had the pleasure of a long and interesting chat was Mr. Charles D. Willson, of American Beach, or Eastern Cove as it is sometimes termed. In response to my enquiry, two of Mr. Wilson's bonny sons explained that "Father is painting the dinghy on the beach over the sandhills." Thither I wended my way, and sat down on the edge of an antiquated fish box while Mr. Willson, who is a son of the late Mr. Thomas Willson, of Lincoln Cottage, furnished information concerning himself and his work as a farmer and pastoralist. He was bom in 1850 off the Cape of Good Hope on the ship which brought his parents to South Australia, and is therefore a true son of the sea. His father and mother, after having resided at Yankalilla for some time, decided to settle on Kangaroo Island, and took up land at American River, where they engaged in sheepfarming. The following year—1865—Mr. Willson came over to assist his father, whose leasehold extended from the River to Hog Bay, and was composed almost entirely of wild scrub and bush. When the country was surveyed in 1873 Mr. Willson secured possession ot the homestead and 624 acres at American Beach, and his father was granted another section near lo Hog Bay. There he erected Lincoln Cottage, in which he .resided with the sharer of all his joys and sorrows until his death a few years ago. Mrs. Willson, sen., a fine old lady. whose noble attributes and motherly heart had endeared her to everybody, died only recently in her ninety-fifth year. When Mr. Charles Willson assumed control of the homestead only a small patch ot land about the buildings was clear. Under the conditions imposed by the Government he was obliged to extend this area and go in for farming. A few years later new land laws were introduced, and made it possible for settlers to hold as much as 1,000 acres —a circumstance of which Mr. Willson promptly took advantage to the fullest degree. Then he secured two right-of-purchase leases, and now has 1.000 acres free hold and 1,300 acres leasehold. Barley growing and sheepraising occupy his attention, and have enabled him to win a position of considerable affluence. His run is stocked with about 1,400 first-class merino comebacks—big-framed animals, that produce good wool. The highest yield of barley which he has obtained was 50 bushels, and last season he reaped 40 bushels—a most satisfactory return. He has a number of prepossessing Short horn and Jersey dairy cattle and a strong contingent of admirable farm horses. Mr. Willson, who, by planting couch grass on the flat in front of his house, has prevented the drift of the sand and converted an unsightly space into a pretty lawn on a large scale, spends nearly all his leisure hours in fishing. In his pursuit of the finny tribe, he has seen many strange sights and hooked trophies which have caused not a little wonderment. One of these is a whale's rib, which, until he learned that it used to alarm horses passing along tlie road, formed an arch over his front gate. Now it serves as a seat in Mrs. Willson's flower house. A similar object of even greater interest, lies on the beach opposite to the homestead, where it has pro bably reposed for over half a century, not withstanding determined efforts to dislodge it. It measures 21 ft. in length, and is just submerged at low tide.

—More Farmers.—

Half a mile beyond Mr. Willson's house is that of his son Thomas, who, with his brother, farms on his father's land. They do not fallow in the ordinary acceptation of the word, but plough twice in winter, and have never experienced a failure. Mr. Thomas Willson owns a capital vegetable garden, and has every reason to he proud of the flowers, grape vines, almond, peach, and apricot trees, which enhance the appearance of his premises. Still further on, toward American River is the homestead of Mr. J. McArthur. who has 440 acres, and a beautiful home within a couple of minutes' walk of the sea. He also owns another freehold of 111 acres at Grassy Flat, two miles south of Hog Hay, and 1,444 acres leasehold near to Mount Thisby, at the head of American River.

As one continues along the north coast other farms passed are those of Messrs. W. Gray (whose freehold and leasehold to-gether aggregate 785 acres), G. Gobell, Salt Lagoon 12,251 acres; J. H. Davies, Salt Lagoon (378 acres); Gavin Barr, American River (472 acres); Malcolm Buick (Ameri can River (1.023 acres); R. Hart, American River (1,348 acresi; D. O. Thomas (Newland Bay (4,636 acres); and K. Jeffcott, near to Point Morison (436 acres).

— Nearer the Town.—

Two sons of that worthy old pioneer of American River, Mr. John Buick, have palatial residences, and properties which return them handsome revenues. The elder Mr. W. Buick, who has resided on Kangaroo Head for nearly 30 years, assisted his father until he had celebrated his twenty-third birthday. He then entered life's battle on his own account, and made such good use of his opportunities that today he is one of tbe wealthiest men on the island. He owns 1.000 acres of exellent, though somewhat rough, freehold land, and has 7,000 acres on perpetual lease. Last season be drilled in 20 acres of malting bar ley, and reaped an average of 40 bushels. In his plan of campaign, however, agrictiltural work takes only a secondary place. By far the greater part of his time is devoted to sheepraising. The best of his 2,000 jumbucks-—principally merinos—graze in what might be termed the home paddocks. Those in the bush are not of such a high standard. During our chat I asked Mr. Buick for the name of his farm. "Name!" he replied, "it has not got one." "Not after all those years?'' I exclaimed in surprise. "It does seem strange,'' he continued, with a smile, "nevertheless, it is a fact. For some time I have been thinking of calling it "Kangaroo Farm,'" and that, I suppose, is what it will be known as eventually.'' Thereupon I suggested that he should allow me to publicly christen it without further delay. To this he laughingly consented. Mr. Fred Buick, the other son referred to, is the possessor of a fine section of land on the southern boundary of the town, in addition to numerous other blocks. The total area of his leasehold and free-hold land is 4,000 acres, and under his astute management it has produced eminently pleasing results. Mr. Buick docs not believe in fallowing, yet he grows splendid crops—a tribute to the fertility of the soil. Assisted by his sons he puts under cultivation between 100 and 130 acres annually, and last season garnered 25 bushels of Chevalier barley and 30 odd bushels of Calcutta Cape oats to the acre. The highest return he has ever secured was 60 bushels of malting barley per acre in 1870. Mr. Buick runs about 1,000 crossbred sheep, the wool from which brings in a substantial cheque each year. Others who reside in and around Hog Bay,and are engaged in the farming and pastoral pursuits, include Mrs. D. Buick, Kangaroo Head (350 acres); Messrs. E. S. Bates (803 acres, at Hog Bay, Grassy Flat, and Pig's Head Flat): E. S. Bates, jun. (town blocks and 738 acres at Cape Hart, on the south coast); H. F. Bates (704 acres at Hog Bay); H. Neaves (221 acres at Hog Bay); W. & R Johnson (115 acres at Hog Bay and 423 acres at Willson's River); Simpson Brothers; A. F. Willson; and T. T. Willson (1,113 and 568 acres respectively near to Hog Bay on the Americacan River road).

—Willson's River.—

A thoroughly enjoyable ride is that from Hog Bay through the bush to Mr. Martin Willson's homestead at Willson's River, nine miles from the bay. Tall umbrageous gumtrees trace the course of the stream for some distance on the north side of the farm, and are in striking contrast to the comparatively low scrub—consisting of mallee, narrow-loaf, broom, acacia, yacca, and other kinds of brush—which covers the landscape elsewhere as far as the eye can reach. Mr. Willson is a brother of Mr. Charles Willson, and is one of those jovial, large-hearted men whose company does one a world of good. In Mrs. Willson he has a bright, cheerv wife and a passionate lover of flowers. Among her horticultural gems are an exceedingly meritorious collection of roses and a Saumoratum guttatum, or as it is more commonly called Monarch of the East. This bulb, which she believes is the only one of its species on the island, has the extraordinary power of being able to sit on a table or mantlepiece in the winter, and without earth or water send forth a huge flower 18 in. high of a glorious yellow colour, richly spotted with velvety crimson. After the flower has faded the bulb is placed in the garden, and in the spring it throws up a stout stem 2 ft. high, ornamental with dark purple spots, and bearing at the summit an immense umbrella-shaped leaf. In the ensuing autumn the bulb is unearthed and transferred to the house again. "Come, sit down and have some dinner with us" were almost the first words which Mr. and Mrs Willson uttered alter I had introduced myself. At the conclusion of the meal Mr. Willson ushered me into his cosy parlour, and under cross-examination there gave a brief resume of his career. Born in 1856, he arrived on the island with his parents about 10 years later, and settled at the river in 1878. The usual dense undergrowth had to be cleared before any cultivation could be done. Mr. Willson's land comprises 900 acres of freehold 1,800 acres of leasehold, and 200 acres are set apart for agricultural purposes. Last seeding time Mr. Willson sowed 30 acres of black loamy soil with Chevalier barley and Algerian oats. and had wonderful crops. Some of the oats grew 6 ft high—the average was 5 ft. 8½ in.—and went 80 bushels to the acre. The barley yielded 40 bushels per acre. Although Mr. Willson uses super (bone), he does not fallow. Besides his harvest returns he derives a considerable income from a flock of 700 merinos, which cut fine weighty fleeces.

—Forest Fighters.—

Half a mile south of Mr. Willson's place is that of his late brother, Mr. T. Willson, which is farmed by the latter's son Lincoln. The property consists of 612 acres (freehold), and contains some superior agricultural land, on which oats and barley, assisted by an average annual rainfall of 24 in., flourish splendidly. The latest crops, for example, produced approximately 20 bushels to the acre. The next neighbour is Mr. S. Neaves, who conducts mixed farming on about 1,000 acres, and more than makes ends meet. Four miles further on again is the homestead of Mr. A. T. Sawyer, who with his family came from the west coast four years ago. In the intervening period he has cleared a large tract of heavily timbered country, erected a four roomed cottage and provided tanks, and purchased a comprehensive assortment of implements, machinery, and livestock. Indeed, he and his stalwart sons have demonstrated that pluck, perseverance, and economy will work marvellous changes, and often command success which at first view seems wholly to defy materialization.

KANGAROO ISLAND. (1908, April 18). Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 - 1931), p. 45.

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