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The history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) online

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ERECTED BY

THE PIONEERS OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA,
IN MEMORY OF

COLONEL WILLIAM LIGHT,

FIRST SURVEYOR-GENERAL,

AND BY WHOM

THE SITE OF ADELAIDE WAS FIXED ON THE 29TH OF DECEMBER, 1836.

DIED 5TH OF OCTOBER, 1839,

AGED 54 YEARS.

A more worthy and imposing monument was erected in 1892.
VOL. I. I



114 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. VI.

the neighbouring colonies for the purchase of the neces-
saries of life, and even for timber, of which there was
abundance in the colony. This was a double evil in
many respects. The Colonization Commissioners, find-
ing their coffers fill so rapidly, despatched emigrant
ships accordingly,* and the arrival of these in quick
succession led the Governor to incur expenses which
the revenue of the province was quite inadequate to
meet. For the accommodation of these immigrants
some thirty or forty wooden houses had been erected
to the westward of the city, and even these were wholly
insufficient to afford the necessary shelter. In conse-
quence of the speculation in land, and a total disregard
to its cultivation, there was little employment for the
new arrivals, and they, therefore, for the most part
were kept in the neighbourhood of Adelaide ; not only
their shelter, but their provisions having to be provided
by the Government

What to do with this unemployed labour was the
problem the gallant colonel at once set himself to solve.
Impressed with an anxious desire to improve the
colony, and feeling convinced that this could only be
done by a liberal expenditure of money, he determined
to embark in a series of enterprises. And truly he
entered upon the execution of his plan with wonderful
spirit and energy, and scattered money in a right royal
manner. He built an extensive and well-finished
Government House, commodious offices for the various
Government departments, a custom house, gaol, and
hospital ; he remodelled and extended the survey de-
partment ; enrolled a large police force, both foot and
mounted ; formed roads, sent out exploring parties, and
introduced bold and decisive measures everywhere and
in everything. This kept a large amount of money
afloat, gave employment to numbers of immigrants,
and produced what appeared at the time to be a state of
general prosperity. But, unfortunately, the erection of

* In 1838 the total land sold was 47,932 acres, realizing 47,932 ;
and the number of emigrants who left England for South Australia
was 3154 souls.



1839.] OFFICIAL SALARIES. 115



Government works on this extensive scale induced the
colonists to launch out into erecting shops and ware-
houses, and far-seeing men whispered that very soon
wages would go up as well as the price of provisions,
and that, for all the apparent prosperity, a day of
reckoning was not far distant.

The bills drawn by Colonel Gawler on the Com-
missioners, and presented to them during the first half
of the year 1839, amounted to 8560, and during the
last half to 10,600.

Besides the erection of public buildings, the Governor
tackled the subject of official salaries, which were
absurdly small,* and raised them from the 1st of January,

*_ A committee was appointed to inquire and report on this
subject, and one of the documents sent in by them, and afterwards
transmitted by the Governor to the Commissioners, was the follow-
ing statement of the weekly expenses of a tingle gentleman and
his servant at that time :

*. d.
15 Ibs. fresh meat @ Is. ... ... 15

14 Ibs. bread @ 4|d. ... ... 053

7 pints of milk @ 4d. ... ... 024

Vegetables for one week ... ... 070

Wine and beer ... ... ... 110

Minor groceries ... ... ... 070

lb. tea ... ... ... ... 020

1 Ib. loaf sugar @ Is. 3d., 2 Ibs. moist @ Is. 033
| Ib. fresh butter @ 3s. 6d. ... ... 2 7

1 Ib. salt butter @ 2s. 6d. ... ... 026

3 Ibs. soap @, Id. ... ... ... 019

2 Ibs. candles @, Is. Gd., 1 Ib. at 4s. ... 070

load of wood @ 8s. ... ... 12

load of water @, 4s. ... ... 060

ashing 3 dozen @ 5s. ... ... 17 6



Per week ... ... ... 5 12



Per annum ... ... ... 289 2 10

House rent ... ... ... 60

Man-servant's wages ... ... 45

Master's clothes, with economy ... 50



444 2 10



If such were the necessary expenses of a single gentleman and



116 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. VI.

1839. He added also largely to the police force. In
all these arrangements the Commissioners appear to
have heartily concurred. In their despatches during
1839 the following and several similar passages occur :

" I am directed to assure you " (wrote the secretary
of the Board) "that the Commissioners will do everything
in their power to sustain your proper authority ; that
so far as their information enables them to judge they
fully approve of the steps you have hitherto taken, and
that you may safely rely on their efficient co-operation
in all measures calculated to promote the welfare of
the colony."

Again

" You will observe that while certain rules are laid
down for your guidance, you are authorized to deviate
from them under peculiar circumstances, and on certain
conditions, one of the most important of which is that
the grounds for such deviation shall be placed fully
and without delay before the Board."

These sanctions and expressions of approval naturally
led Colonel Gawler to conclude that his course of action
gave satisfaction, and accordingly, therefore, he went
on in the same way.

While matters in official quarters were thus in pro-
gress the colonists were seized with the same spirit of
enterprise, and broke forth into various new under-
takings. For example

In January, 1839, the first " special survey" of four
thousand acres was applied for by Mr. F. H. Dutton on
behalf of himself, Mr. D. Macfarlane, and Captain
Finniss, colonists of New South Wales. This was
followed by several other applications of a similar
kind, and the race for them became almost as great,
in some instances, as it afterwards was for taking up
mineral leases. In one case the manager of the South

his servant, what must have been those of a married man with
a family? With the exception of the Governor and the judge,
whose salaries at this time were 800 and 600 respectively, the
highest were 400 per annum, and only two or three were in
receipt of so much, the greater number varying from 250 to 100.



1839.] A LAND-PURCHASE MANIA. 117

Australian Company proceeded to Port Lincoln to look
out for a good locality, and before he returned the one
fixed upon had been applied for and taken, the second
best being then selected by the unfortunate manager.
Soon a " rush " was made to Port Lincoln and a new
settlement formed; trading vessels proceeded there
with provisions, passengers, and building materials, and
for a time it seemed as if the capital would be sup-
planted ; the Port Lincoln Herald, was established, and
all went well until the bubble burst, and then people
began to return to the capital.

In the times of the land-purchase mania the trans-
actions were not always on a large scale ; purchasers
of preliminary or eighty-acre sections split them up
into very small building allotments, ranging from 3 to
5 and upwards in value. Besides the usual sales by
land agents there was an evening auction in Hindley
Street, where fenders and fire-irons, spades and axes, or
allotments of building land could be purchased. As in
those days the mart was, with the exception of the little
theatre and the public-house, the only resort for colonists
when the day's work was done, the clever and witty
auctioneer always kept a large audience in high good
humour, besides doing a considerable trade.

Great enterprise was shown in many other directions,
notably in the matter of minor explorations by parties
in search of suitable localities for special surveys, as
well as for sheep and cattle stations. In one instance
Messrs. Strangways and Blunden discovered a fine river
in the north, and named it the Gawler, and this gave
an impetus to the occupation of the land in this
direction. Other discoveries were made about the
same time by Messrs. Cock and Jamieson, who visited
Yorke's Peninsula, and penetrated into hitherto unknown
parts of the country, and subsequently by Mr. K. Cook
in a trip up Spencer's Gulf, where he discovered three
harbours.

In 1839 a considerable knowledge of the south-east
part of the colony was obtained from Mr. Charles
Bonney, who opened up a new route overland from



118 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. VI.

New South Wales, and by Major (afterwards Sir)
Thomas Mitchell, the explorer of a large portion of
New South Wales and Australia Felix (Victoria), who
reached the boundary of the South Australian colony
on the Glenelg Eiver, after proving the junction of the
Darling, the Lachlan, and the Murrumbidgee with the
Murray on its northern side. Governor Gawler made
a flying visit to the north-west bend of the river
Murray, accompanied by a young man named Bryan, a
visitor at Government House. Mr. Bryan's horse gave
up, and it was necessary that he should remain with
it while the Governor and his attendant proceeded to
find water for man and beast. The weather was fear-
fully hot. Before the searchers could reach the river
they were so exhausted that one of the horses was
killed and his blood drunk. On reaching the camp
from whence they had started, men and horses were
sent on their return tracks with all that was necessary
to save man and horse. But Mr. Bryan was not to be
found. Search was made in all directions for many
miles, but although, years afterwards, the horse was
found alive, " with his hoofs turned up like skates," no
trace of the unfortunate visitor to Government House
was ever discovered.* The Governor also visited that
part of the Murray within the boundary of South
Australia, and made some valuable geological observa-
tions.

But all these exploits sank into insignificance in
comparison with the heroic attempt of Mr. E. J. Eyre
to open up overland communication with Western
Australia. The idea had been suggested by Captain
(afterwards Sir) George Grey when on a visit to the
new colony en route to England, and Colonel Gawler
warmly encouraged the fitting out of the expedition.
The story has been many times and splendidly told, but
by no one better than the late Henry Kmgsley.f We
can only give a meagre outline of it here.

* Mount Bryant, in the locality where he was lost, is named
after him.
t See MacmiUan's Magazine, vol. xii. p. 502.



1840.] EXPLORATIONS OF MR. E. J. EYRE. 119

On the 18th of June, 1840, Mr. Eyre, accompanied
by Mr. Scott, a personal friend and travelling com-
panion, John Baxter, an overseer, Corporal Coles, of
the Sappers and Miners, and two native boys, together
with drays, horses, and sheep, started, amid the cheers
of the whole populace, to explore the interior of South
Australia. But in this he was unsuccessful. He
forced his way for four hundred miles to the north of
Adelaide, and got into what was then known as the
basin of Lake Torrens, a fearful country of alternate
mud, brackish water, and sand. Proceeding into the
basin of the lake, he found it coated with an unbroken
sheet of salt crust, into which the foot sank at every
step. Beaten back from the north at all points, and
bitterly disappointed, he came to the conclusion that
he could proceed no further in that direction.

" I had one of three alternatives to choose," he wrote
at this critical juncture, " either to give up the expedi-
tion altogether, to cross to the Murray to the east and
follow up that river to the Darling, or, by crossing
over to Streaky Bay to the westward, to endeavour to
find some opening leading towards the interior in that
direction. After weighing well the advantages and
disadvantages of each (and there were many objections
to them all), I determined upon adopting the last."

After many difficulties and dangers, he formed a depot
of his party at Streaky Bay, and spent weary months
in trying to find a way to the westward or northward.
His attempts to round the head of the Great Bight
a part of the coast described as " a hideous anomaly, a
blot on the face of nature, the sort of place one gets
into in bad dreams " were desperate. Water was only
to be obtained by digging, and then it was generally
brackish ; the heat was terrific ; the cliffs were parched
and barren ; everything along that desolate coast, where
for seven hundred miles no harbour fit to shelter a
small boat, and for eleven hundred miles no rill of
water so big as a child's finger, are to be found, was
forbidding and horrible. After a journey of twenty-
four days in an attempt to round the head of the



120 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. VI.

Bight, he returned to the camp unsuccessful, but only
to start again with a dray-load of water, and after
making a distance of 138 miles, to return again with
his task unaccomplished, although within twelve miles
of the Bight. A final effort was made, and he reached
the head of the Bight. The actual distance was only
153 miles, but to reach the goal he had to ride 643
miles and to labour incessantly for forty days, while a
dray laden with water was driven backwards and for-
wards for 238 miles. But the Bight was only one
incident of the expedition. He was convinced he could
not penetrate to the northward in that direction with
drays, and he came to the heroic determination to
reduce his followers and go westward to King George's
Sound, the original goal of the expedition, with pack-
horses only.

Then came a day when he informed his companion,
Mr. Scott, that they must part, as he intended only to
take three native boys among whom was one named
Wylie, of King George's Sound as they would be of
most service in the country to be passed over. To
Baxter, the overseer, and for some years his faithful
servant, Mr. Eyre pointed out the extreme peril of the
undertaking, in which he was resolved to succeed or
perish, and left it to him to decide whether he would
go forward or return. The faithful fellow never hesi-
tated for a moment, but resolved to go forward at all
hazards. For some weeks the horses were fed up and
rested for the task before them; meanwhile, those of
the party who were to return to Adelaide had long
since left in the cutter placed at the service of Eyre by
the Government. But on the 24th of January, 1841,
the day when Eyre was making his final preparations
to leave, he was startled by the report of a gun. It was
fired by Mr. Scott, who had returned from Adelaide
bearing letters and verbal messages innumerable, urging
Eyre to abandon his dangerous task. But he was not
to be moved, and on the following day, after bidding a
final farewell to Scott, he started with Baxter, WyUe,
two other natives, nine horses, a Timor pony, and some



1841.] EYRE'S PERILOUS JOURNEY. 121

sheep, on one of the most daring expeditions ever
conceived. *

Leaving Fowler's Bay, they kept along the coast, and,
beyond the Bight, came upon high cliffs unbroken for
many miles by a single ravine, and here the terrible part
of the journey began. On one occasion they were four
days without water, and the horses and sheep with
scarcely a particle of food ; on another they were reduced
to such straits that Eyre found it necessary to cast away
everything that was not essential to life ; sometimes
they were rejoicing over a quart or so of water collected
by a sponge from the dew on the grass. Some of the
horses died, some were abandoned; the sheep failed;
two of the natives became disaffected and absconded,
but, being unable to find food in the desert, returned
apparently repentant.

One day it was the 29th of April having made an
early start, and the weather being intensely hot,
Baxter pleaded for an early halt. After some hesita-
tion Eyre consented, and agreed to take the first watch.
He saw Baxter and the boys lie down in their respective
break-winds, and then went a short distance from
the camp to look after his horses. It was a wild,
cold night ; the wind was blowing hard from the south-
west, and scud was driving across the moon. Just as
Eyre was leading his horses round, towards the end of
his watch, he saw a flash, and heard the report of a
gun. Calling out and receiving no answer, he ran
towards the spot, and was met by Wylie, crying, " Oh,
massa, massa, come here ! " To his horror he found
Baxter on the ground by the camp-fire, weltering in
his blood, and in the last agonies of death. A glance
around showed that the place had been ransacked by
the two disaffected native boys, who, having aroused
Baxter while securing the rifles and other things, had
shot him in the breast as they decamped.

Alone in a waterless desert, five hundred miles away
from all human aid, Eyre covered the body of his
faithful friend, gathered together the few things left
by the treacherous natives, and with the boy Wylie



122 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. VI.

proceeded on his lonely journey overwhelmed with
unutterable grief.

On the 3rd of May, water was found at a distance of
a hundred and thirty miles from the last supply ; on
the llth a hill was descried, the first properly so called
that had been seen for many hundred miles, and then
there was a marked change for the better in the
character of the country ; water became more abundant,
and an occasional kangaroo was killed.

On the 2nd of June, while in Thistle Cove, Eyre,
weak and exhausted, but bearing up against despair,
beheld a gladsome sight. It was a boat being pulled
towards a French whaler, the Mississippi. Almost wild
with joy, the lonely man stood on the verge of a wave-
worn rock, and made signals to the vessel. A boat was
at once put off to take him and the boy on board, where
they were treated with great kindness, supplied with a
stock of clothes, and for twelve days enjoyed rest and
boundless hospitality. Refreshed and invigorated, and
furnished with an ample supply of provisions, the
travellers started again on their journey. On the 4th
of July some horse tracks showed them they were
approaching the haunts of civilized men, and on the
7th they were received in the town of Albany with
enthusiastic delight. " Wylie was in the bosom of his
enraptured tribe, and Eyre was shaking hands with
Lady Spencer," after his thousand miles' journey. A
week later he left King George's Sound, and on the
26th of July, after an absence of little more than a
year, was once more in Adelaide, the ideal hero of all
classes.

The geographical knowledge gained by this remark-
able expedition extended little beyond a description of
the coast-line between Streaky Bay and King George's
Sound, but the gain to South Australia in other respects
was nevertheless incalculable. The minds of the settlers
were moulded to delight in brave deeds and glorious
enterprise ; they were all more or less making history,
all interested in one way or another in the development
of the vast territory they had come across the seas to



1840.] FINANCIAL POSITION OF COLONY. 123

possess, all fired with ambition to do their best in their
respective spheres, and the courage, piety, and self-
sacrifice of Edward- John Eyre set them an example
and taught them a lesson that was worth the learning.

Leaving this field of stirring adventure, we must now
return to follow the more prosaic course of events in
Adelaide.

In January, 1840, in order to satisfy the Commis-
sioners that the excessive expenditure during 1839 had
been absolutely necessary, the Governor appointed a
board of audit, consisting of three colonists not belong-
ing to the Government, to act with the auditor-general.
This course, he thought, would relieve him of some of
the responsibility he felt in sanctioning so many over-
drafts, and would justify him in entering into further
engagements of an urgent character.

It was this question of urgency that was at the root
of all the main difficulties of the Governor. He could
not consult with any one. Those who held the reins
were sixteen thousand miles away. " The regulations
issued by the Commissioners in London, as published
in their third annual report of April 23, 1839, look
very complete and ingenious on paper, but they in-
volved an amount of complexity and delay which
rendered their observance in a new country an impos-
sibility without an absolute stoppage of all government,
and these are the extenuating circumstances with
which all the financial proceedings of Governor Gawler
must be regarded." *

As a means of partial relief the colonists in April
memorialized the Secretary of State for an extension of
the Legislative Council, urging only two points as
essential to the good government of the province,
namely, that there should be a certain number of non-
official members chosen freely by the people, and that
if any law were unanimously opposed by the non-
official members it should not take effect without the
sanction of her Majesty. Nothing, however, came

* " The Constitutional History of South Australia," by B. T
Finniss.



124 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. VI.

immediately of this, and in the mean time South
Australian affairs at home were undergoing consider-
able change.

In June tidings reached the colony that the Board
of Commissioners had been disbanded, and that a new
Commission of only three members had been appointed
as a Colonial Land and Emigration Board.

Of course the members of the old Board were not
very well pleased with their summary dismissal, espe-
cially when, about six months afterwards, they were
asked to attach their signatures to a report of their
proceedings not even drawn up by themselves. Mr.
Jacob Montefiore declined absolutely to sign the
document.

For five years the Commissioners had given the most
faithful and zealous gratuitous attention to their
arduous work, and now when, as it appeared, the colony
was approaching a state of unparalleled prosperity, the
action of Lord John Kussell in disbanding them imme-
diately an application had been made by some of their
number to receive remuneration for their services, was
very keenly felt.

Colonel Torrens, who had been chairman of the Board
of Commissioners from the first (at a nominal salary
of 600 per annum), occupied a similar position on the
new Board. Not long after his appointment to the new
Commission, he entered into correspondence with Lord
John Eussell on the propriety of resigning his seat
in consequence of having interest in some land in
South Australia to the value of 1000. Lord John
took the same view of this case that Lord Glenelg had
taken in the case of Mr. Angas, already cited, and all
that Colonel Torrens could obtain was permission to
hold office temporarily.

On the dismissal of the Board of Commissioners, an
association was formed in London called "The South
Australian Society," the members of which comprised
several of the late Commissioners, directors of the
South Australian Company, and other friends of the
colony, its main object being to guard against any



1840]. MCLAREN WHARF. 125

encroachment on the leading principles contained in
the Act of Parliament upon which the province was
founded. On many occasions this society, as we shall
see, rendered the colony essential service in the mother-
country.

While these matters were going on at home, affairs
in the colony were in a very complicated state. The
Governor was becoming more and more embarrassed
with financial and other difficulties ; speculators were
pushing their schemes with redoubled vigour, as if fear-
ing an approaching crisis ; wages of mechanics and
labourers had risen to almost fabulous rates, and the
price of provisions was extravagantly high.

The position of the Governor was as peculiar as it
was difficult. He had to work out new principles in a
colony that had sprung into existence at a bound, and
had advanced with a rapidity unequalled in the history
of British colonization. Nevertheless, he stood firm to
the policy he had initiated at the first, and watched the
progress of events with alternate feelings of anxiety
and good hope.

The important work undertaken by the South
Australian Company in constructing an admirable road
to the port over the old swamp, and in erecting a suit-
able and much-needed wharf and warehouses, was so
far advanced that on the 14th of October, 1840, they
were thrown open to the public, the event being
celebrated by a fitting demonstration, at which the
Governor presided. In honour of the manager of the
South Australian Company, by whom these improve-
ments were projected and successfully carried out, the
wharf was named the " McLaren Wharf " a name it



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