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own words :

" I took no heed of their sarcasm," he says, " but
coolly, as if on parade, gave the order ' Halt front !
Dress ! Prepare to dismount ! Dismount ! ' I then
dismounted myself, unlocked the two strong boxes
fixed by bolts to the bottom of the cart in which the
gold was packed, quickly seized No. 1 bag, which I
quietly placed across my saddle, and then gave the
word ' Left files, take your bags ! ' In a moment,
like as many ants, each trooper secured his own
particular bag, threw it across his saddle, and then
stood to his horse. Then followed the right files, who



268 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. IX.

did the same, and, lastly, the men who had the charge
of led horses got their bags and secured them on their
respective packs. The whole proceeding did not
occupy ten minutes. Having remounted the men I
again gave the order ' Files right ! March ! '

" As we moved on, Howe gave the horses a touch of
the whip which made them bound forward, causing
the lightened vehicle to spring up like a Jack-in-the-
box, and then quickly continue its way. I then doffed
my cap, saying, ' Good-bye, gentlemen. I'll come back
and drink your champagne, be assured ! ' Whereupon
they cheered lustily. Some of them then mounted
their horses and accompanied us as far as the Lodden,
where we parted. . . .

" After crossing the river, which was much swollen,
the water reaching above the saddle-flaps, I selected
a spot and encamped for the night in some thickly
timbered country. It rained incessantly all night,
and while the storm howled through the forest, it
threatened to occasion serious impediments to our
progress. Early next morning we made a start, and
on the road met some teamsters who assured me that
the Deep Creek, near Mr. Bucknall's, was fordable, and
that they had crossed with their drays that morning.
On arriving at the creek, however, I found it greatly
swollen, and to satisfy myself of its practicability I
went across in the first instance and then returned, and
quickly gave directions to the men to take possession
of their respective bags ; then, taking the lead across
the ford, I gave strict orders to each trooper to follow
closely my own horse, whilst Kowe was to remain on
the bank with the cart. During the time occupied in
the removal of each bag of gold from the cart, and
making them securely fast on the led horses, the
water rose rapidly, nevertheless a safe crossing was
effected. The bags, of course, got thoroughly soaked
in the crossing, as we were up to our waists in water,
and had it not been for the dead weight each horse
carried, the whole cavalcade would have been swept
away by the torrent. As the last led horse reached



1852.] GOLD ESCORT ADVENTURES. 269

the bank, I called out to the driver, Kowe, not to lose
a moment, but to drive the cart (in which six bags of gold
remained, also the mail, provisions, etc.) and quickly
cross the ford ; which he attempted to do, but the
animal in the shafts was unable to arrest the impetus
of the vehicle, which rushed down the declivity and
became fixed in a flooded hollow at the bottom. Eowe
then endeavoured to urge the horses on, but the two
leaders plunged into deeper water, and were there
held by the traces, whilst the force of the current bore
the shaft horse down and prevented him from rising.
Seeing this mischance, I threw aside my cloak and
sword, and dashing into the water, swam my horse
across to the drowning animal, laid hold of the reins,
and assisted it to regain its footing and reach a less
dangerous part of the creek. Howe was afraid to
venture further in the attempt to get it across the
creek, and urged fairly enough that, as he could not
swim, the task was too great. Mr. Bucknall, jun.,
who was amongst the persons attracted to the spot,
volunteered to take Eowe's place, which offer I
gratefully accepted ; and, having removed the bags of
gold by dropping them into the water, and saved the
mail, I mounted one of the leading horses and headed
him to the ford. The water had, however, still risen
while the cart was being unloaded, and it was necessary
to swim the horses over. In attempting to do so I
had a very narrow escape of being drowned, for when
the current was strongest the horse on which I was
mounted lost its equipoise, turned over, and plunged
out into the turbid torrent, that had now formed itself
into a river of considerable magnitude. I had very
great difficulty in extricating myself from the dan-
gerous position I was placed in by this untoward
event ; and, to add to my embarrassment, the top of one
of my large riding-boots was turned down by the action
of the water, and my spurs became entangled in the
straps. My presence of mind did not, however, forsake
me at this juncture, and, having freed my limbs by
adjusting my dress I struck out and was about to



270 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. IX.

make for the bank, when I perceived the current was
carrying the horses and cart down the course of the
stream. Although greatly exhausted, I made another
effort, and succeeded in laying hold of the reins to turn
the horses towards a landing-place, and cut the traces
of the two leaders, which, upon being freed, were swept
down the stream and managed to scramble ashore on
the opposite bank. The cart, in which were the pro-
visions of the party, and other matters, and the shaft
horse were then carried away and lost. There were
from thirty to forty persons witnessing these exhausting
efforts, and, with the exception of Mr. Bucknall, no one
volunteered to assist me. One man indeed, acting
under a generous impulse, threw off his coat, but the
bystanders dissuaded him from 'risking his life to
save a horse.'

" After recovering myself somewhat by sitting on the
bank and resting my back against a gum tree, I set
about to recover the six bags of gold, which were then in
a deep part of the creek and about six or eight yards
from the bank, which I succeeded in doing by diving,
each time seizing a bag, with which I reached the bank
by taking a few long strides. The next momentous
task, attended with difficulty and risk of life, was
swimming my horse backwards and forwards across
the swollen torrent with the gold, which I likewise
successfully accomplished ; but on returning again for
the fourteenth time, bringing over the mail, on account of
the exhausted condition of both the horse and myself, we
were swiftly carried down the stream, and, had it not
been for Mr. Bucknall and one or two others, we must
have been drowned ; for, about a quarter of a mile below
the ford, there was a rickety wooden bridge, submerged
at both ends, with a space of about six inches between
the under part of the arch and level of the water,
against which the horse and myself were jammed.
One moment longer, without the help before men-
tioned, we must both have been forced under the
bridge by the strength of the current, and of course
lost our lives.



1852.] EFFECT OF THE BULLION ACT. 271

" The horse which performed this almost incredible
feat was a splendid animal, very powerful, and stood
about sixteen hands high ; as a fencer there was not his
equal in the colony."

Eeferring to this incident a few years later in a
petition to the House of Assembly, Mr. Tolmer gave
a summary of the events, thus : " Your petitioner
suggested and brought into active operation the gold
escort, and was for several months engaged in travelling
therewith, on one occasion swimming his horse nineteen
times across the overflowed Deep Creek in Victoria,
recovering nine bags, containing 30,000 worth of
gold, which were in imminent danger of being swept
away by the torrent, in consequence of one of the horses
harnessed to the cart containing the gold being drowned
and the cart itself lost ; for which last-mentioned
services the Legislature addressed his Excellency Sir
H. E. F. Young, then Governor of this province, request-
ing him to award your petitioner as a gratuity 100 ;
which gratuity your petitioner unfortunately never
received, inasmuch as his Excellency did not accede to
the prayer of the said address." *

The Bullion Act not only saved the mercantile
community from impending ruin, and the colony from
general disaster, but it secured the speedy return of
the colonists who had left at a time when the absence
of such an inducement might have led to their
permanent removal. As early as the month of March,
unsuccessful gold-diggers returned in hundreds, and the
vacant offices in the various departments of the public
service began to be filled up. In the months of April
and May the arrivals exceeded the departures, and in
June eleven vessels arrived in Adelaide, bringing 687
passengers from Victoria.

As the season drew near for ploughing and sowing
many of the successful as well as the unsuccessful
diggers returned to put in their crops, and things in

* There appears to be some discrepancy here, but we quote
verbatim from " Reminiscences of an Adventurous and Chequered
Career," by Alexander Tolmer, vol. ii. p. 245.



272 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. IX.

general began to assume their ordinary aspect, with the
addition of an abundance of wealth, and of a far more
than ordinary amount of business. The first to benefit
extensively by the reaction were the drapers and
clothiers. The wives of fortunate diggers seemed
determined to welcome their husbands in a way com-
mensurate with their suddenly acquired wealth, and
many ludicrous instances of absurd and unbecoming
extravagance in dress occurred.

When the land sales were resumed a large number
wisely invested their savings in land and house
property. A great impetus was also given to the wheat
and flour trade, large quantities of which were exported
every week to Melbourne, and in consequence the
price went up in Adelaide from 12 per ton to 37,
while other provisions rose proportionately as the rate
of wages increased.

Owing to the increased cost of living, which for some
time past had exceeded on the average one hundred
and fifty per cent, on the cost of corresponding items
when official salaries were fixed, an increase of salary
to all Government officers claimed the attention of the
Legislature in 1853, persons in the public service
being the only class either deriving no advantage, or
suffering loss from circumstances which had been so
favourable to the condition of the large majority of the
colonists. Moreover, official duties had become per-
manently more extended and more onerous by reason
of the enlarged political and social station to which the
colony had attained.

In August (1852) the dwellers in South Australia
were again thrown into a state of great excitement by
the reported discovery of a gold-field of their own at
Echunga, about eighteen to twenty miles from Adelaide.
A commissioner was appointed, Government officials
and mounted police were despatched to the scene or-
action, huts were erected, the Register and Observer sent
special reporters, all requisite machinery was soon in
working order, and in a few weeks a thousand licences
were issued. It was thought that a second Ballarat or



1852.] MR. G. TINLINE. 273

Mount Alexander had been discovered, but soon the
excitement quieted down, and though many continued
at the diggings, earning a fair, and in some instances a
very good, rate of wages, the existing state of things in
the colony was not seriously disarranged, although the
state of the labour market was such that many public
works sanctioned by the Legislature could not be
commenced.

When the Council met again in September (1852)
the Governor announced the extinction of the bond
debt of 85,800, which had been hanging as a millstone
round the neck of the Exchequer Department, and
referring to the operation of the Bullion Act, he said

" This Act, by which the requisite increase of the
currency of the bank-notes was regulated on a basis of
present convertibility into assayed and stamped bullion,
and of eventual convertibility, at no distant date, into
coin of the realm, has, up to the present time, in its
practical results, almost compensated for the absence
of a Mint, has surpassed the expectations of the most
sanguine, and has completely vindicated the prudence
and sagacity of the Legislature of South Australia."

The Bullion Act was assented to by the Queen, and
her Majesty's Government communicated to the
Lieutenant-Governor " their disposition not to interfere
with the discretion of the local authorities, who have
exercised so much ability in their mode of dealing with
this subject."

Early in 1853 a handsome testimonial was presented
to Mr. G. Tinline, manager of the South Australian
Banking Company, for the important part he had taken
in furthering the objects of the Bullion Act.

It should be mentioned that no sooner had the mass
of diggers returned to resume their various avoca-
tions, and had gathered in the harvest of 1852-53, than
another exodus was threatened by reports of extensive
and astounding gold discoveries in Victoria. The
nuggets found were said to weigh respectively 76 Ibs.,
85 Ibs., 120 Ibs., and 134 Ibs. Hundreds sped away
at once, but the more sober-minded were deterred by

VOL. I. T



274 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. IX.

the fact that very few out of the many thousands at
the diggings were successful.

The overland escort continued to run throughout the
year (1853), but was discontinued in December, the
gold diggings having spread over a much larger extent
of country, rendering it more difficult to collect the
gold, and in consequence greatly increasing the cost of
the escort. Arrangements were then made with the
Victoria Government for the transmission of gold by
the vessels running between Adelaide and Melbourne ;
but, gold having risen considerably in value in Victoria,
there was not the same inducement to send it to
Adelaide.

Great service was rendered to the colony throughout
the whole period of the gold rush by the Register and
Observer newspapers. When the North Eastern mails
were stopped, this establishment undertook the trans-
mission of a weekly mail to Houghton, Gumeracha,
Chain of Ponds, and other places. A " Diggers' Edition "
of the Observer was also regularly forwarded to the
gold-fields, by which communication was kept up
between the South Australian diggers and their friends
at home, numbers of personal messages being sent
through its columns, and, having a special corre-
spondent at the diggings, authentic information was
conveyed from time to time of the success or otherwise
of the South Australian diggers.

Another important series of events, with which the
name of Sir Henry Young will always be intimately
associated, was in connection with the navigation and
opening up of the river Murray.

In 1849 a committee was appointed to inquire into
the practicability and cost of establishing places of
shipment at the heads of St. Vincent's and Spencer's
Gulf, and at the Onkaparinga, and of opening up a
communication from the river Murray to Encounter
Bay, to report on the capabilities of these localities
and of their requirements to make them available as
shipping places for colonial traffic.



1850.] THE RIVER MURRAY. 275

Also (it was an age of progress, and it was carrying
out the ideas propounded in the first speech of the
Governor), they were to report on the shoals, reefs,
sunken rocks, soundings, extent of anchorage, winds
and range of exposure, height of waves, currents, and
all kindred matters touching the safety of shipping.

In opening the session of 1850, on the 23rd of May,
the Governor called attention to the difficulty of a direct
communication from the sea mouth of the river Murray
a difficulty which had hitherto baffled and disap-
pointed the hopes and enterprise of the friends of South
Australia, both European and colonial, and still re-
mained insuperable. But, aided by the good services
of Captain Lipson, E.N., and Mr. Eichard T. Hill, C.E.,
he was satisfied that the long-coveted desideratum was
practicable by the construction of a railway entirely over
Crown lands, along the sea-board of Encounter Bay,
connecting the Murray at Goolwa with Port Elliot.
He argued that if his project were carried out it would
not only immediately and directly benefit the province,
but eventually would be of great value to the whole
of Australia. There was not a ready response to this
scheme, an undertaking nearer home that is to say,
the City and Port Eailway being considered of more
importance. Nevertheless the larger scheme was
destined to be the first to be carried on and completed.

On the 6th of June, 1850, Captain Bagot moved
that a sum of 4000 should be placed upon the
estimates of 1851 for the purpose of granting a bonus
of 2000 each for the first and second iron steamers
of not less than forty horse-power, and not exceeding
in draught two feet of water when loaded, that should
successfully navigate the waters of the river Murray
from the Goolwa to, at least, the junction of the
Darling. In August the bonus of 4000 was duly
advertised.

On the 10th of September Sir Henry and Lady
Young, accompanied by Mr. (afterwards Sir Arthur)
Freeling and Mrs. Freeling, Mr. and Mrs. Torrens,
and Mr. W. S. M. Button, started from Adelaide for



276 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. IX.

the purpose of proceeding some distance up the
Murray, to ascertain from personal observation, by
taking soundings in various parts, the practicability
of navigating the river. The gentlemen proceeded
on horseback, and the ladies were conveyed in a
carriage to the Eufus, two whale-boats having been
sent up from Wellington for the use of the party.
They started on the 25th from the Eufus, and reached
the Darling on the 29th, thus satisfying themselves
that, so far, the river could be successfully navigated.
On the return trip they proceeded by water to the
Goolwa, with two other boats in company. In crossing
Lake Alexandrina they experienced a little rough
weather. On arrival at Port Elliot the Yatala was in
waiting to convey the party to Port Adelaide, where
they arrived after an absence of about two months.

Soon after this, a marvellous exploit was performed
by Captain Francis Cadell, who had arrived in Australia
a few years before, and was as enthusiastic about the
navigation of the Murray as Sir Henry Young was
himself. Leaving Melbourne with a canvas boat carried
on the back of a pack-horse, he arrived at length at
Swan Hill Station on the Upper Murray, launched his
frail craft, and, with four diggers he had chanced
to meet, descended the stream to Lake Victoria, a
distance of thirteen hundred miles. On his arrival
in Adelaide, he announced the important result of his
observations, namely, that the river could be safely
navigated by steamers of shallow draught. The matter
was taken up with great enthusiasm : the Murray
Steam Navigation Company was formed, principally
through the efforts of Captain Cadell and Mr. William
Younghusband, for some time Chief Secretary of the
colony; and a steamer, the Lady Augusta, so named
after the wife of the Governor, was soon placed by the
company upon the river.

On the first voyage (in 1853) she was commanded
by Captain Cadell, who was accompanied by Sir Henry
and Lady Young, a special party of ladies and gentle-
men, and two representatives of the press. At Swan



1853.] A TRIP UP THE MURRAY. 277

Hill, thirteen hundred miles from the sea, the Governor
addressed a despatch to the Duke of Newcastle,
Secretary of State for the Colonies, acquainting him
with the success of steam navigation on the Murray.
The following is an extract from the despatch :

" I have the honour and gratification of acquainting
your Grace that the project of the steam navigation of
the river Murray, the promotion of which has never
ceased to engage my attention since my arrival in
South Australia, has thus far been prosecuted with
perfect success. The distance from the river Murray
terminus near the sea at the Goolwa, in South Australia,
to as far up as this place, is now ascertained to be an
easily navigable course of thirteen hundred miles.
The wool, with which this vessel is now about to be
laden, is only the commencement of a large future
carrying trade, beneficial to the greater part of the
extensive continent of Australia. Under these circum-
stances I beg leave to make known to your Grace the
conclusions at which I have arrived after personal
observation in regard to the further measures it would
be politic to adopt in order to promote the colonization
of the vast basin of the Murray. . . . As respects measures
actually progressing towards completion, I have briefly
to state that the connection of the river Murray
terminus, styled the Goolwa (a designation applied to
it by the aborigines at Encounter Bay) with the sea
at Port Elliot will immediately be effected by an
animal-power iron tramway of only seven miles in
length. The tramway connects the river at the
Goolwa with Port Elliot, and is laid on jetties at both
places. At Port Elliot there are means of supplying
fresh water to the shipping, and the anchorage is
furnished with moorings for large ships. These im-
provements will have cost the Government 23,000,
in addition to 6500, which will probably become
payable from the same source, as premiums for the
introduction of river steamers. . . ."

After describing the extensive tracts of land on the
banks of the river, the Governor continued :



278 THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA. [CHAP. IX.

" Considering, therefore, the importance of facilitating
the location on its banks of persons whose industrial
pursuits would be promoted in connection with the
carrying trade of wool, and the return supplies to
the stockowners ; considering, too, most especially, the
probability that large numbers of British emigrants,
whether intending in future to settle in Victoria, New
South Wales, or South Australia, are likely to be
attracted to the vast basin of the Murray when its
navigability by steamers shall become known, and it is
found to be a most convenient route to the gold-fields
1 have come to the determination at once to submit to
my Executive Council, on my return to Adelaide, the ex-
pediency of proclaiming the lands on both banks of the
river within the bounds of South Australia to the extent
of two miles, to be the ' Hundreds of the Murray in
South Australia.' Surveys of villages will be made
in select spots, as traffic and population require, and
roads leading to and from the river will be reserved for
public use and as a means of access to the back lands,
whilst the alluvial flats, subject, at present, to periodical
inundation, may, by embankment, be rendered perfectly
available. . . . '

The return journey was successfully accomplished,
and the arrival of the explorers in Adelaide was the
occasion of great popular festivities. The promised
Government bonus was presented to Captain Cadell;
the Legislature directed a gold medal to be struck to
commemorate the event; several other steamers were
soon placed upon the river, not only by the Murray
River Navigation Company, but also by enterprising
colonists; popular opinion, at one time dead against
the expenditure of so much money on the scheme,
turned in its favour, and the Legislature which had
stoutly opposed it, gave a grand banquet in the Council
Chamber to celebrate " the unparalleled triumph."

However much the community generally approved,
the squatters, who wished to remain the sole and
undisturbed occupiers of the vast tracts of pastoral
country adjacent to the Murray river, were by no



1853.] THE MURRAY TRADE. 279

means pleased. The Murray Hundreds, when declared,
became for years a subject for the discussion and anim-
adversion of those who considered that their rights and
territory had been unnecessarily invaded and encroached
upon, by reserving the whole of the water frontages
for hundreds of miles on both side of the river, while
the back country was destitute of water.

No one rejoiced more sincerely in the successful
opening up of the Murray than Sir Henry Young. It
had been his pet scheme from the commencement of
his administration. He foresaw the development of a
great water-way for the commerce of the adjoining
colonies ; he foresaw the valley of the Murray teeming
with a wealthy industrial population ; he prophesied
that Port Elliot would soon be " the New Orleans of
the Australian Mississippi."

It is painful to record that the dreams of the Governor
never came true, and the sequel to the story we have
briefly told here is a melancholy and disappointing one.



Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 24 of 34)