Introduction - Holmesby pp. 4-6
Almost from the time of the establishment of South Australia as a Colony, authors and historians have recorded the progress made in its development since those days of tents and bough shelters. Invariably these accounts have been recorded with varying degrees of accuracy depending on, in some cases, personal involvement but generally after research from reliable sources.
Often these chronicles have centred on individuals and their families in the form of family histories with the development of the Colony as a secondary subject. In other cases the origins of the Colony have been dealt with in varying degrees of detail. Some of the latter have been accorded reference status and are often quoted as authorities.
In order to introduce this account of the activities of the Kangaroo Island Pioneers Association during it's first twenty years, I have endeavoured to refer only to those events which I am sure have been recorded with reasonable accuracy, to be able to put into its proper perspective, Kangaroo Island's place in South Australia's foundation.
Kangaroo Island acquired its name following the visit of Captain Matthew Flinders in 1802, during his voyage of discovery in the ship "Investigator" (formerly HMS Xenophon) when he circum-navigated the Australian continent. He had been commissioned in England to establish, amongst other things, whether "New Holland" (as discovered and named by the Dutch) and New South Wales (as discovered by Captain Cook in 1770) were one and the same continent. Some thought had been given to the theory that Spencer's Gulf (which had not been named until Flinders came) may be the outlet from an inland sea or that it was a strait dividing two land masses. Flinders was able to prove conclusively that it was simply a large gulf.
He landed at Nepean Bay (named by him in honour of Sir Evan Nepean) on 21 March 1802, and remained there for four days before leaving for the mainland and his historic meeting with the French navigator, Commodore Nicholas Baudin, at what was later named Encounter Bay. Baudin had two ships under his command, the "Geographe" and the "Naturaliste* and in his complement he had very efficient cartographers and naturalists -who left us with some very interesting records of the time. The experience of both men and their descriptions of conditions on the Island probably had a bearing on the decision to place our first settlement there. The rosy description by Captain Sutherland, after his 1819 risk, may also have been an inducement.
Edward Gibbon Wakefield, aided by Robert Gouger, has been credited with advancing the theory of Colonisation without relying on enforced emigrants in the form of convicted miscreants (I use the term advisedly as no doubt some of them were) as was the case of New South Wales. It also included the availability to purchase land, sight unseen, in the main town and surrounding country as a means of acquiring funds to finance the project.
In 1834 enthusiasm was such amongst disgruntled citizens looking for fresh fields to escape the dubious economic situation, that a proposition to inaugurate a new Colony was introduced in the British House of Commons. This resulted in the passing of an Act, colloquially known as "The South Australian Colonisation Act" but officially described as "An Act to empower His Majesty to erect South Australia into a British Province or Provinces (later agreed that the plural was incorrect) and to provide for the Colonisation and Government thereof". The extent of the proposed Colony was also laid down precisely as "That part of Australia between the 132nd and 141st degree of East Longitude and between the Southern Ocean and the 26th degree of South Latitude". The Act was passed by the Commons on the 5th August 1834 and following strong support from, amongst others, the Duke of Wellington, it was passed by the House of Lords on 14th August 1834. It received Royal Assent on the following day.
Following the execution of the Act the next move was the appointment of the Board of Commissioners which laid down the conditions for the emigrants including the cost of the land.
This was established as one pound per acre for lots of one town acre and 80 country acres. Later after a slump in sales the country sections were increased to 134 acres, the price for the latter being reduced to 12 shillings per acre. This ploy was successful as far as sales went although the outlay was precisely the same! Impetus was given by the formation of the South Australian Company, set up by George Fife Angas in late 1835, to organise the initial emigration parties and to acquire ships for the purpose. The first three to leave were the "Duke of York", the "Lady Mary Pelham" and the "John Pirie" and the fact that they were all fitted out and despatched in three months must have been a masterly feat of organisation, especially the "Duke" which had to be remasted.
But leaving England was not going to be as easy. Although the three left London within a few days of each other, gales and generally bad weather during which the ships suffered severe damage set them back almost two months. Nevertheless, after leaving Torbay the three made steady progress and arrived at Kangaroo Island within the space of three weeks, the "Duke" arriving first on 27th July, followed by the "Lady Mary Pelham" on 31st July, and the "John Pirie" on 16th August, 1836. Actually the "Duke" and the "Lady Mary" seemed to be in a match race as they caught up with each other in mid-Atlantic in becalmed conditions. But it was a sad meeting. Captain Morgan of the "Duke" and First Mate William Richards paid a visit to the "Lady Mary" to be met with the news that its First Mate had died, allegedly due to an excess of alcohol leaving his wife who was a passenger, a widow. That was not all, as the Third Mate had also died although the cause was not known.
In all the discussions leading to this situation the general area was well known but the location of the principal town could not be assumed and was subject to conjecture; in any case the sole responsibility for the selection of the site had been given by the Board of Commissioners to the newly appointed Surveyor-General, Colonel William Light. By this time, too, the favourable reports of the country by the explorers Captains Charles Sturt and Collett Barker had added to the enthusiasm.
In the meantime the Commissioners were busy appointing the chief officers of the first Government including Captain John Hindmarsh to be Governor (he was actually second choice as the board preferred General Sir Charles Napier) and the Surveyor-General Colonel William Light. The latter arrived at Kangaroo Island on 20 August, 1836, in the survey ship "Rapid" but he was hampered in his immediate plans by the late arrival of his companion ship "Cygnet", which had the remainder of the survey team and equipment on board. The "Emma" with Company stores, the "Africaine" with 87 passengers (another account gives the number as 100 including a baby born a few days earlier), and the "Tam O’Shanter" (after an adventurous voyage) had all arrived at Holdfast Bay by early December before the Governor and his staff arrived on 28th December. There had been plenty of activity under extremely primitive conditions at Kingscote before the arrival of the Governor's party.
All the above ships, with the exception of the "Buffalo", had Nepean Bay as their initial destination which had been laid down by the Board in London prior to their departure and the first settlers and Company employees set up the Company's first settlement. The "Buffalo" had approached close to Nepean Bay but did not enter. Also by direction of the Board the settlement was to be named "Kingscote" in honour of Henry Kingscote, one of the board members of the South Australian Company, who had made a very valuable financial contribution to its finances. The settlement was later known for a time as Queenscliffe, but Samuel Stephens, the Company Manager, referred to it as Kingscote in all his correspondence and as early as a month after the landing. Apparently in 1883 the original settlement had fallen into disrepair and was relocated and named Queenscliffe.
Colonel Light also had very precise instructions and had no hesitation in brushing aside suggestions that Port Lincoln or Encounter Bay would be ideal locations for the principal town. At the request of King William IV the town, when fixed, would be known as "Adelaide" in honour of his Queen.
For some time Kingscote remained the first port of call for many ships, especially if they had any connection with the SA Company which maintained a storehouse there. Notable among these was the "Solway" which brought the first batch of German settlers to the Colony, landing in October 1837, a venture sponsored by George Fife Angas.
All the people involved in the foregoing, and others who followed later and could be identified as "Pioneer", became the focus of the Kangaroo Island Pioneers Association which seeks to honour their presence and achievements in the establishment of the Colony of South Australia. The presence and activities of "unofficial" settlers who were living on Kangaroo Island before the arrival of the Company's first ships have also been the subject of our attention.
Also mentioned above is the fact that the South Australian coastal territory was well known following the activity of Flinders, which led to a number of visits from opportunists from Sydney and Hobart. There were several colonisation proposals from Hobart which collapsed, probably from lack of interest and finance, and there was some lively trade after the presence of people on the Island was known. The latter let it be known that there were kangaroo and seal skins for sale and that salt was there for the taking.
An interesting claim was made by a local family that their forebears had explored the SA mainland prior to the 1836 settlement which would have to have been started from either of the above two bases. But the only record we have is that a family of the same name landed at Kingscote late in 1836 from London. Mr Beare was not very impressed with the father whom he accused of slygrogging.
Another interesting claim came from another family. This was to the effect that the original family at Kingscote had entertained the then Governor, Captain Hindmarsh, at dinner. We have a record that this did take place but the claim included the presence of Colonel Light, one purpose of the meeting being to discuss the probable location of the main town of Adelaide. The problem here is that the family did not arrive until late in 1837 and the dinner took place in June 1838, some 18 months after Light had determined the location and the town surveyed. It is also very doubtful that he would have had the time for such a social event plus the fact that his regard for the Governor was well known to be not of a very cordial nature!