The Foundation of South Australia

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), Saturday 28 December 1929, page 13

THE FOUNDATION OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA (1929, December 28). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 13.





A few years prior to the foundation of our State a band of patriotic and philanthropic men in the old country had turned their attention to emigration. They were not self-seeking men; they had no personal end to serve in a pecuniary sense; their one desire was to be of service to their fellows. There was distress in the old land. Apparently it was suffering from over-population. These men, sometimes called "the theorists of 1830," had come to the conclusion that the panacea for social woes was emigration. Amongst the number were Robert Gouger, Colonel Torrens, George Fife Angas, Edward G. Wakefleld, Wolryche Whitmore, William Hutt, William A. Mac-Kinnon. Jacob Montefiore, and George Grote, the famous historian. The reader will note how these names have become perpetuated in the nomenclature of our State. These men were anxious to establish a colony on a new principle, the "Wakefield system," which means that the land was to be sold at a certain price per acre, and the total proceeds were to be devoted to the emigration of laborers. The south coast of Australia appeared to be a suitable location for the desired experiment. To this end negotiations were opened up with the British Government. Great difficulties stood in the way. Before the colony could be founded £35,000 worth of land had to be sold, and a sum of £20,000 had to be raised as a guarantee that the proposed colony would not become a burden upon the mother country. The land would not sell, nor could the guarantee be raised. It was at this juncture that George Fife Angas came prominently upon the scene. He suggested the formation of a company to buy up the necessary quantity of land, and to raise the guarantee fund. The South Australian Company was formed, of which Mr. Angas was the chairman. We must ever keep in mind that the foundation of our State was made actual by the South Australian Company.

The First Settlement

The first settlement was to be established at Kangaroo Island, and it is with that settlement that I wish more especially to deal. The first three managers of the company (Samuel Stephens, David McLaren, and William Giles) lived on the island. In the founding of our State these splendid pioneers played an important part. The company secured 320 acres of land at Nepean Bay; they also had the right to lease eight square miles at less than one farthing per acre. Vessels for service in the new settlement were purchased, and laden with stores. Tools and materials were selected, and frames for dwelling houses. All the emigrants sent out by the company were to reside at Kingscote, so called after Henry Kingscote, a member of the South Australian Company. It was the intention of the directors to allow each family the use of a cottage, and half an acre of land, and also to assist them in obtaining what would be a special service, namely, a pig and a cow. The first immigrants in the early part of 1836 the John Pirie and the Duke of York, vessels belonging to the company, set sail for the new land. The first to arrive was the Duke of York; this was on July 27, 1836. It seems strange to me that our fathers did not set apart this day as "Foundation Day," constituting it a public holiday. In his MS. journal (now in the Mitchell Library) Captain Morgan, of the Duke of York, wrote: -

"At 8 a.m. we saw the Island of Kangaroo ahead. At 5 p.m. shortened sail. Ran, during the night, a moderate distance from Kangaroo Island. In the evening held a prayer meeting. Read Acts 20. Four prayed. Sang several hymns, and found it good to pray almost in sight of our haven."

The vessel anchored in Nepean Bay. There was some discussion as to who should be the first to land. The captain soon settled the question. The youngest child on board ("Baby Beare") was placed in a boat; the sailors rowed to the land, and placed her tiny feet on the beach of Nepean Bay. The first adult colonist to land was Samuel Stephens, the first manager of the South Australian Company. The names of the pioneer settlers were Samuel Stephens, Thomas Hudson Beare, his wife (Lucy Ann Beare), and the following children: - Lucy, Arabella, Elizabeth, and William L. Beare; also Charlotte Hudson Beare (afterwards Mrs. Samuel Stephens), and Messrs. Thomas Mitchell, Charles Powell, D. H. Schreyvogel, William West, and C. Neall. Samuel Stephens was a very fine character. He was the son of tbe Rev. John Stephens, president of the British Methodist Conference to 1827. He was also brother to Edward Stephens, our pioneer banker, founder of the Bank of South Australia and brother to John Stephens, who founded the "South Australian Observer." The first immigrants must have landed in Nepean Bay, somewhere between Beare's Point, on which the jetty now stands, and Reeves Point. An old colonist, who had unique opportunities for securing correct information, said: -

"A landing place was effected in a little bay at the spot where the Rapid Bay and Cape Borda submarine cable has since been brought ashore, and the time the passengers set their feet on the land was 2 p.m."

The visitor to Kingscote,with the historic imagination, can sit down on the cliffs to-day and mentally visualise the scene.

A Tragic Position

The position is really tragic. These heroic men and women are destitute of all the comforts of civilisation. There are no houses, shops, streets, nor gardens, no flocks nor herds. Save the cry of the birds or the moan of the ocean no sounds other than that of their own voices are heard. All their surroundings are sombre, solemn, and awe-inspiring. By 16,000 miles of water they are cut off from the dear old land and stranded, as it were, upon an inhospitable shore. Close to them are the rugged cliffs of Nepean Bay, and stretching away in the distance the wild and impenetrable jungle of the island. No wonder that in the course of two or three years the mother of the Beare family passed away. The strain —especially to a mother with a family of young children—must have been intense. Apparently they settled around the tongue of land now called "Reeves Point," and called by the sealers "Snake Point." Here to-day the visitor may see the remains of the primitive jetty, the old mulberry tree, and the pioneer cemetery—the oldest in our State. On this strip of land were the tents, primitive huts, and stores of the pioneer settlers. In the store of the South Australian Company the first Methodist service was held, the preacher being Samuel East, a servant of the company. For his reading desk he had a barrel, end up, and the congregation sat round the stores on casks and cases. On the road now leading past the old cemetery, towards the present township of Kingscote,was a row of houses, called "German Row." Higher up on the hill, back from the old cemetery, was a cleared patch of land, and on this stood the little white cottage of Samuel Stephens. A writer not long after the settlement was founded says-

"Kingscote is situated on the point of land which divides the Bay of Shoals from Seal Bay, commanding a full view of Nepean Bay from Point Marsden, including the opposite coast of Cape Jervis."

Another passenger who came by the Cygnet in 1836 (probably John Morphett, after whom Morphett-street, Adelaide and Morphett Vale are named) wrote—

"Three ships of the company were here three weeks before us, and the manager (Samuel Stephens) has made a temporary settlement on the south-western shore of Nepean Bay. The soil from the small hill, at the base of which the tents and huts are fixed, is a light black loam of a rich productive quality."

Another, speaking of the settlement a little later, as seen from the deck of the vessel, says: -

"Before us were the hills on the slope of which lies the town. The hills are covered entirely with wood, having, from the sea, the appearance of an impenetrable jungle, with here and there a group of dead trees rearing their gaunt and withered limbs above their fellows. A little patch bad been cleared at the slope of one of these hills, and there stood a solitary white cottage, the property of Samuel Stephens, commanding a fine view of Nepean Bay and a part, of the island. On the brow of the hill, looking down a steep precipice into the sea, were some half-dozen wooden houses. On the beach (this would be in the vicinity of what is now called Reeves Point) was the skeleton of a store-house, then under erection, around were four or five huts, built of bushes; in one they were performing Divine service, the summons to attend which was given by means of a bell hung up in a tree. Kingscote is built on a tongue of land which by the islanders is called Snake Point."

From the letter of another pioneer we have still another picture of old Kingscote which for South Australians will have a perpetual charm. Under the guidance of this old pioneer we see the huts already described at "Snake Point." A few people are moving about the beach, some dressed in smock frock and gaiters. A boat is being rowed from an emigrant vessel to the shore. Depth of water fails, and the boat is of no further service. The passengers are carried to the shore by the sailors, or they wade through the surf. On the beach they are met by Samuel Stephens. The site on which his cottage is to be erected is on a gentle slope. In the foreground there are native shrubs, almost to the water's edge, and a fine view of the sea. Several Cashmere goats, imported by the South Australian Company, and under Samuel Stephen's care, are browsing the herbage. Some poultry are busy examining the nature of the new country. Cattle, sheep, and horses have not yet been introduced. Mr. Stephens takes the party for a short walk in the bush. They come to a piece of land that has been cleared. What is it? A place of burial - the old cemetery that the visitor to Kingscote may see to-day. Already there are two graves in it. The party walk to the beach, gathering shells and sponges as the tourist may do to-day. Farewell words are spoken. The visitors once again take their seats in the boat, and the sailors pull for the vessel, whose destination is Holdfast Bay.

Samuel Stephens did not live long in the new province. After the South Australian Company had abandoned Kangaroo Island as the leading place of settlement, in the year 1840, he was on his way from the Murray to Adelaide, a party of pioneers being with him. Samuel Stephens rode on in advance; when the party came to the foot of one of the the hills between Mount Barker and Adelaide they found his body on the road. He was speechless. His horse had stumbled and fallen. About an hour after his friends had picked him up he passed away. Like his brothers, Edward and John, he was a man of singular force of character leading a most exemplary life.

Thomas Hudson Beare

In this history of the founding of our State, Thomas Hudson Beare must have special mention. He was second in command to Samuel Stephens. In the old country be was interested in the founding of our province. Before leaving the old land, I think he held a good position in Oxford-street, London. Thomas Hudson Beare's home in the little settlement at Kingston was a tent, in the centre of a group of five or six gum trees. Outside of the tent was the fireplace, made with a few stones, and over the fire a pot swung a la gipsy. Mr. Beare, his wife, and four children, were put into a small canvas tent where they endured sad privations. In the midst of these troubles the wife was taken ill, and no doctor being on the island the husband could only watch the progress of the malady in silent agony. In some measure the dangerous symptoms for a time abated, but returned with renewed energy, and ere long, after giving birth to a daughter, the wife and mother passed away. Her grave in the old cemetery at Kingscote is one of tbe oldest, perhaps the oldest, in the State. On the tombstone is the family crest with the words,"'Bear and Forbear," beneath which is the following inscription: - "ln loving memory of our mother. Lucy Ann Beare, wife of Thomas Hudson Beare, who died 3rd September, 1837, aged 34 years. Arrived by the Duke of York 27th July, 1836." At a later date Thomas Hudson Beare went in for farming at Myponga, and died on November 7, 1864, aged 63 years. A son, Sir Thomas Hudson Beare, is a professor at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Menge

Studying the early history of our State we cannot but admire the prudence, forethought, and wisdom of the South Australian Company, who actually founded the province. The company deemed it necessary to appoint an expert in mineralogy, which they did in the person of Johannes Menge. In one of the pioneer reports of the South Australian Company these words occur:—

"The directors consider themselves peculiarly fortunate in meeting with a gentleman of such extensive knowledge as Mr. Menge, who has been engaged during the post twenty years in the pursuit of science, and in the acquisition of languages, for which objects he has visited the four quarters of the globe, and is connected with several eminent literary and scientific societies in the chief cities of Europe."

Menge was to take out with him some German quarrymen and miners. No doubt this will explain why a row of cottages in the settlement at Kingscote was called "German Row." Menge arrived at Kangaroo Island in 1836. In the scanty records that have come down to us from these primeval times there are frequent references to this learned but singular man. I infer, from a study of the locality, that his place of residence was somewhere near the present old mulberry tree. Tradition says that it was planted by him, but tradition is often untrustworthy. An early visitor to the island says:—

"This great scholar (for he is eminent as a linguist as well as a mineralogist} is the completest specimen of an eccentric student I ever knew. He is by birth a German. He lives on tobacco smoke and pancakes, a more perfect hermit could not be. His den (for it cannot be termed a hut) is underground, with the mound, or roof, just hummocked above the level. On one side is his fireplace, where he may be observed at daybreak and evening frying his cakes."

A lady of education and refinement, who arrived at Kingscote about a year after the settlement had been founded, says:—

"Amongst the first inhabitants we became acqainted with was a strange old German geologist. He failed to find water, though close beside his cottage door. In his outward appearance he resembled one of that hook nosed fraternity—the Hebrew clothes man. His manner and habits were no more prepossessing than his personal appearance. He was a remarkable linguist, being acquainted with onwards of twenty languages."

Menge severed his connection with the South Australian Company, left his "dug-out" on Kangaroo Island, passed over Backstairs Passage, and travelled overland and alone through the bush to the small settlement on the banks of the Torrens. He spent much of his time prospecting in the Middle North, and, in pursuit of his hobby, travelled up to the Flinders Range. It is said that his chequered career came to an end on the Bendigo diggings, Victoria, in 1852.

David McLaren

David McLaren was the father of the celebrated Manchester preacher (Dr. McLaren), and was sent out as the second manager of the South Australian Company, a position for which he was well adapted. David McLaren arrived at Kingscote in 1837. He was a Scot, and has been described by a lady who landed at Kingscote towards the end of 1837. She says:—In a short time a boat was seen putting out to the ship, containing the company's chief manager, his second in command (this would be Thomas Hudson Beare), and one or two others, from whom we received a polite, though not very cordial welcome. The first-named gentleman (a sharp, shrewd Scotsman, and clever man of business) presided over the mundane concerns of his employers during the week, and also officiated on the Sunday in a neat commodious tent appropriated to Divine service. He was a good man, of that there could be no doubt, though maybe somewhat strait-laced, and puritanical in his religious views. Indeed the was not unlike one of those stern old Covenanters we read about in history, and might have sat for the portrait of even the renowned John Knox."

David McLaren evidently occupied the white cottage on the hall that had been built by Samuel Stephens. One of the pioneers says—The manager's house

"stood on a gentle eminence, overlooking the beautfiful harbor (Nepean Bay). Some two or three acres of land hand been fenced in, and laid out neatly for a garden, where vegetables and a few flowers, principally double stocks, were growing luxuriantly."

David McLaren soon removed to Adelaide, and took a keen interest in the social and spiritual life of the people. He preached in the pioneer Congregational tent, on the banks of the Torrens, with Governor Hindmarsh seated before him on a box. It was this pioneer who planned and carried out the formation of the Port-road, and the construction of the wharf at Port Adelaide known as McLaren Wharf. McLaren Vale bears his name. After a few years' service he left the province, and passed away in the old country in 1850.

William Giles

The progress and permanence of a nation, in the last analysis, does not wait on anything material But ?? ? ????? that is purely spiritual. What a community needs - especially when the ???? course of its corporate life is being ???? —is good, morally robust men. In this respect South Australia has indeed been fortunate. Many of the men who founded our province in a moral and spiritual sense, as well as intellectual, were "splendid men." The Directors of the South Australian Company were very careful in their selection of them for official positions. From their first report I take the following—

"Your directors are unanimously of the opinion that to select men of temperate and steady habits as their servants in the first instance, and to adopt every pressure that is adapted to perpetuate ???? habits in the colony, are the best ???? of succeeding in their project. They have resolved, therefore, not to be the vendors of ardent spirits, not to give any countenance to such as do; but as men of social habits may require places to meet at for refreshment, they are negotiating with some persons of respectability and character to go out and establish a coffee house, and also an hotel, on these these principles (temperance principles) in the town of Kingscote."

William Giles was was one of the finest of our nation builders. He was sent out in the service of the South Australian Company, and ??? mately took the position vacated by David McLaren. He and his large family landed at Kingscote in 1837. A member of the family, giving his first impressions, as the vessel sailed around Kangaroo Island, said—"What a wild, uninhabited "Robinson Crusoe" sort of island they had come upon, thickly covered, as it was, as far as the eye could reach, and down to the very beach with that dense scrub no human being could penetrate without axe in hand to clear the way. The slender saplings, from 12 to 20 feet in height, seemed only a few inches apart, and were interlaced with an undergrowth impossible to break through without implements. Not a sign of human habitation was visible. But after some hours' sailing a brighter prospect spread out before them in the shape of a ship or two lying in a magnificent harbor, or new cottages scattered here and there and some signs of the human race evident. Mr. Giles and his family at Kingcote had to submit to the privations endured by the early settlers. He had to share a house with another employe of the company, having two rooms, and the use of the kitchen. These not being sufficient, three tents were pitched amid the scrub at Kingscote. For some time a home had been in course of erection for this family. It was built about a mile from Reeves Point, and I believe, stood very near where the momument to Captain Flinders now stands.

The founders of our province had their sorrows. I have already dealt with the death of Mrs. Beare. ???? at Kangaroo Island, helping to lay the foundation of our State, William Giles suffered a more than ordinary bereavement. In the old primeval cemetery at Kingscote is a stone, with the following inscription—

"Sacred to the memory of Samuel Giles, died 18th February, 1839, aged nine years; also Edward H. Giles, died 18th July, 1839, aged eight months. This stone is erected by their brothers and sisters."

The story of little Samuel's death is a pathetic one. He was a bright and beautiful lad, passionately fond (as children living on Kangaroo Island must have been) of the sea. Many were the trips he had by boats to the whaling vessels in Nepean Bay. One Sunday little Samuel slipped away from home at Beare's Point to go crab fishing. It was a hot day in the month of February, and the little fellow suffered sunstroke, which terminated in death. In its sadness and solemnity the "long ago" funeral was beautiful, and the visitor to Kingscote, standing by the grave in the old cemetery, can visualise the scene. Eighty-nine years ago, late on a summer's afternoon, when the sun was setting, and the shadows falling, a funeral procession wound slowly up the hill to the little cemetery overlooktng the sea, and there, in that wild spot, the father, with his head uncovered, and voice tremulous with emotion, held a service for the dead, committing to the grave the mortal remains of his little lad. A number of friends and sympathisers had assembled, and in after years more than one of these, ???? the innumerable troubles and ????? ties with which they had to contend in the stablishment of our State never forgot the the glowing words of faith and hope uttered by the Christian father on that sad and and testing occasion.

[apologies for the numerous ???? but the original image of the newspaper article becomes quite illegible in parts - Ed]

After Colonel Light had decided where the capital of the province should be located, interest in Kingscote gradually waned; consequently William Giles and family removed to Adelaide. He held for many years this position of manager of the South Australian Company, and did splendid work in the founding and building ??? of our State. He passed away on May 11, 1862.

As I pointed out, at the beginning of my article, our State was was practically founded when the heroic men and women who came by the Duke of York to establish it, landed at Kangaroo Island on July 27th, 1836. We pass on, for a moment, to Proclamation Day, Governor Hindmarsh ??? ???? Robert Gouger, busy around his tent by the Old Gum Tree, has received a summons to meet the Governor, and to make arrangements for the Proclamation. He goes on board the Buffalo. The programme is drawn up. It was now 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The Governor and officers of the ????? have landed. Immigrants were hurrying from their tents, dressed in their best. It is "a great day" not ??? ??? the experience of the immigrants ??? in the history of the British nation, ??? move to the shade of a large gum tree. The proclamation is read. ???? British flag is unfurled. A royal salute is fired. The air rings with ?????. A cold lunch, consisting ????? salt pork, with some luxuries from the Buffalo's larder, are served up in a very primitive style. The national anthem is sung. Speeches??? ?????? and Proclamation Day ???? ????? end.