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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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sioners considered it desirable that the survey party
should precede the Governor, the fast-sailing brig Rapid,
of a hundred and sixty-two tons, was purchased, and
despatched on the 4th of May, under the command of
Colonel Light, the surveyor-general. Owing to the
indisposition of Colonel Light and other causes, the
Cygnet, another vessel chartered by the Commissioners
for use in the colony during the progress of the surveys,
preceded the Rapid by about six weeks (24th of March),
having on board eighty-four passengers and a division
of the survey party.

The officers sent out by the Commissioners were
furnished with very explicit instructions how they were
to act on reaching their destination. Colonel Light
was to land two or three gardeners on Kangaroo Island,
and direct them to bring a small piece of land into
immediate cultivation, stocking it with vegetables for
the use of the colonists generally. He was also to leave
the wives and families of the officers and men with
stores and a force sufficient to protect them from attack.

The colonel was then to make a careful examination
of the coast in the central parts of the colony, excepting
only those places where the previous explorations of
Captain Flinders and others clearly showed that no
harbour was to be found. His attention was to be
particularly directed to Nepean Bay and Port Lincoln,
but more especially to the line of coast extending from
the eastern point of Encounter Bay to the northern
point of Gulf St. Vincent. An inlet and harbour
reported to have been discovered by one Captain Jones
was to be examined, and Lake Alexandrina was also
to be skirted, with a view to finding an outlet other
than that discovered by Captain Sturt. Further, he


was instructed to find out and survey the best sites for
towns and settlements, and especially for the site of
the capital ; so that on the arrival of the Governor and
the first body of emigrants, the whole machinery of the
new colony might be at once set in motion.

As an example of the care taken by the Commis-
sioners, and particularly by Colonel Torrens, the
chairman, who drew up most of the instructions, a
few details may be inserted here of the directions given
to Colonel Light to assist him in determining the choice
of a site for the capital : " In the opinion of the Com-
missioners the best site for the first town would be
that which combined in the highest degree the follow-
ing advantages : A commodious harbour, safe and
accessible at all seasons of the year; a considerable
tract of fertile land immediately adjoining ; an abundant
supply of fresh water ; facilities for internal communi-
cation and for communication with the port ; distance
from the limit of the colony as a means of avoiding
interference from without in the principle of coloniza-
tion; distance from the neighbourhood of extensive
sheepwalks. All the foregoing are to be considered
of primary importance, and the following of secondary
value : A supply of building material, as timber, stone,
or brick, earth, and lime; facilities for draining, and

In the exercise of the important duties intrusted to
him, Colonel Light was to make himself acquainted,
as far as possible, with the circumstances which had
determined the sites of new towns in the United States
of America, in Canada, and more especially in the
Australian colonies, and he was to pay particular
attention to those which, in the latter colonies, had led
to an actual change, or to the desire for change in the
sites after their first settlement.

Throughout all his proceedings he was to exercise
the utmost caution to prevent collision with the natives,
and with this view he was to avoid any unnecessary
division of his party, and take care that each detachment
was placed under the charge of an officer upon whose


intelligence, 'humanity, caution, temper, and courage he
could fully rely. Wild animals were to be considered
the property of the natives, and, if required for food,
to be purchased. Sporting was accordingly to be
discouraged, and in any parts inhabited by natives
prohibited. The colonel was reminded that not only
the safety of his party, but the future security of the
colonists generally, and the state of feeling which
would afterwards exist between the two races, would
depend largely on the attention paid to these instructions.

To the Eesident Commissioner and other officers the
instructions prepared by the Commissioners were equally
full and explicit, and they display great judgment,
foresight, and ability.

On the 30th of July, H.M.S. Buffalo, the third
vessel sent out by the Commissioners, followed, with
Captain Hindmarsh and one hundred and seventy-six
other passengers on board. The place of rendezvous,
whither eight vessels in all had preceded the Buffalo,
was Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island.

" Colonization," wrote Coleridge in 1834 (the year of
his death, and a month after attending the meeting
of the British Association of Science at Cambridge)
" colonization is an imperative duty on Great Britain.
God seems to hold out His fingers to us over the sea.
But it must be colonization of hope; not, as has
happened, of despair."

And it was so. South Australia was not doomed
to the penalty of land monopoly as in the case of the
Swan Kiver Settlement, or to the contamination and
curse of being a penal colony like New South "Wales
and Van Diemen's Land. Prinsep, in his "Letters
from Van Diemen's Land," draws a graphic picture
of the moral contagion to which the family of a right-
minded emigrant might be subjected there. " Freemen
find so many ways of making money here, that they
will not take service, and so the convicts, or, as they
are delicately called, ' the prisoners/ supply all demands
of this nation ; and if the histories of every house were


made public, you would shudder; even in our small
manage, our cook has committed murder, our footman
burglary, and our housemaid bigamy ! " *

It was also a distinct advantage that the regulations
for the government of the new colony rested almost
entirely in a Board of Commissioners, whose whole
attention could be given to the subject, instead of being
placed, as was the case in the older colonies, under the
Colonial Secretary for the time being " a functionary
who has upon his hands the destinies of millions of
people of every clime and every race, and whose office,
being a political one, is changed with every change of

Honours are divided among the claimants to be
founders of South Australia. Edward Gibbon Wake-
field was the first to set forth the principles of the new
form of colonization ; Mr. Gouger, the secretary of the
South Australian Association, took up the idea, and
worked it into practical shape ; Colonel Torrens brought
experience and influence to bear to make the scheme
popular, and ensure its acceptance by the Government ;
while Mr. George Fife Angas made the working of the
Act of Parliament possible.

* Quoted in Stephens' " Rise and Progress of South Australia "




Arrival of Pioneer Vessels. "Governor" Walker. Mr. Samuel
Stephens. Kingscote, Kangaroo Island. Colonel Light and the
Survey Staff. Examination of St. Vincent's Gulf and Spencer's
Gulf. First Contact with Natives. Holdfast Bay. Lost in the
Bush. Removal of Settlers from Kangaroo Island. Captain
Light decides against Shores of Port Lincoln for Site of Capital.
Arrival of Governor Hindmarsh. Proclamation of the
Colony. First Banquet in South Australia. The " Makers " of
the Colony.

THE first of the South Australian Company's vessels
to arrive at Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island, was the
Duke of York, freighted with whaling stores and imple-
ments, and having on board Mr. Samuel Stephens,
colonial manager of the Company, eight other passengers
of independent means, and twenty-nine labourers.*
She dropped anchor in the bay on the 27th of July,
1836. Three days later, another of the Company's
fleet, the Lady Mary Pelham, with two settlers and
twenty-nine labourers on board, made her appearance ;

* Mr. Thomas Hudson Beare, second in command under the Com-
pany ; Mrs. Beare and four children ; Miss C. H. Beare, afterwards
Mrs. Samuel Stephens ; Mr. D. H. Schryvogle, clerk ; Henry Mit-
chell, butcher ; C. Powell, gardener ; Neale, carpenter ; Wm. West,
labourer the last four being emigrants. The first duty performed
on setting foot ashore was to read the Church of England Service,
in which all joined, the captain (Morgan) concluding with an
extempore thanksgiving prayer for the prosperous voyage.


while the John Pirie, the first to leave England, laden
with twenty-eight labourers, provisions, and general
stores, did not arrive until the 16th of August.

All three vessels, however, reached the colony before
the Rapid, the first ship sent out by the Board of Com-
missioners. The first colonist to set foot on the island
was Mr. Samuel Stephens, whose first act was to select
a site, and then to erect upon it a mud hut, surround
it by a small battery, and plant upon the roof the
British ensign. But Mr. Stephens and the first settlers
soon found that they were not " monarchs of all they
surveyed," for they were shortly afterwards interviewed
by the lord of the isle, one " Governor " Walker, who had
lived there for many years. His hut stood on a piece
of good land some distance from the shore, in the neigh-
bourhood of fresh water, and was surrounded with a
cleared and well-cultivated piece of ground.* The only
other residents on the island were a few sealers, whalers,
and convicts who had escaped from the neighbouring
penal settlements.

In the face of many difficulties such as lack of water
near at hand, tent-life in an inclement winter, salt beef
and pork as the only meat obtainable, the proximity of
convicts and whalers, apprehensive imaginations, and
uncertainty as to the site of the chief town a pleasant
picture is given by a visitor to the island shortly after
the first colonists landed. " Before us," he says, " were
the hills, on the slope of which lies the town 'Kingscote.'
These 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 had been cleared at the slope of one of these
hills, and there stood a solitary white cottage, the
property of Mr. Samuel Stephens. On the brow of the
hill, looking down a steep precipice into the sea, were
some half-dozen wooden huts of former immigrants.

* "Governor" Walker continued to reside on the island for
nearly ten years after the first settlers landed, and died while on
u visit to Adelaide, in 1856.


On the beach was the skeleton of a storehouse then
under erection, around which were four or five huts
built of bushes ; in one of them they were performing
Divine service, the summons to attend which was
given by means of a bell hung up in a tree."

This is a pleasant picture, but, unfortunately, it was
soon found that the settlement on Kangaroo Island was
a mistake. Flinders, it will be remembered, had given
a flourishing account of it as an eligible site for a
settlement, and this had been confirmed in much
stronger terms by one Captain Sutherland, who visited
the island in 1819. He described the land and timber
as excellent, and intimated his intention of settling
there when the colony was founded. Flinders spoke
chiefly of the number of kangaroos and other animals
he found, and his account of the prodigious number of
pelicans on a lagoon of the island inspired James
Montgomery's imaginative poem, " The Pelican Island."
Sutherland, on the other hand, described in glowing
terms the interior, the fertility of the soil, and its
beautiful tracts of level ground. As a matter of fact,
it was little better than a desert island, deficient of
every resource, except abundance of salt, and in every
respect unsuitable for settlement, and incapable of
repaying the South Australian Company for its outlay
of money. But early lessons had to be learnt by
experience, and the Company, influenced by the favour-
able reports they had received, could hardly be held
responsible for the mistake of placing their first colonists
on this wretched island. Moreover, they had other
motives. At Kangaroo Island was the only port of
the new province where there were any European
settlers ; the eastern shore of the Gulf of St. Vincent,
which afterwards became the great centre of population,
was practically unknown. In addition to this it was
imperative that the first settlers should have a means of
livelihood, and the island had long been known as an
eligible station for the whale-fishery, a branch of industry
which the Company intended to largely develop.

It was, however, soon to be demonstrated that with



the mainland before them, almost boundless in extent,
and rich in every kind of natural wealth, it was a fatal
error for the settlers to remain on Kangaroo Island.

On the 20th of August the brig Rapid, with Colonel
Light and the survey staff on board including
Lieutenant Field, R.K, Mr. J. S. Pullen (afterwards vice-
admiral), Messrs. W. Hill, Wm. Jacob, and G. Claughton,
surveyors; Dr. Woodforde, and Mr. Alfred Baker, mate
arrived at Nepean Bay. The colonel was no ordinary
man, and his life had been full of romantic adventure.
He was of mixed race half European, half Malay
and was born in 1784, at Malacca. His mother was
the daughter of King Quedah, sovereign of the Malacca
territory. Young Light was brought up in England,
entered the navy and afterwards the military service as
a cavalry officer, and served in the Peninsular War
as lieutenant of the 4th Light Dragoons. He was an
excellent linguist, and in the Intelligence Department
of the army rendered important service to Lord Wellesley
by his thorough knowledge of French and Spanish.
Some of his remarkable adventures are recorded in
Napier's "Peninsular War." He left the army soon
after the battle of Waterloo, and married the daughter
of the Duke of Richmond. He next accompanied Sir
Robert Wilton to Spain to aid in the Spanish revolu-
tionary war, and received the rank of colonel in the
Spanish forces. Later on he accepted service in the
navy of the Pasha of Egypt, where he became ac-
quainted with Captain Hindmarsh, Governor- Elect of
South Australia.

After examining the South Australian Company's
settlement at Kingscote, and satisfying himself that it
was an impossible place for colonization, Colonel Light
proceeded to a bay which he named Rapid Bay, after
his brig, and thence to St. Vincent's Gulf, landing
occasionally to ascertain the nature of the coast.
Several days were spent in fruitless search for the
harbour, said to have been visited by Captain Jones.
He could not identify it, however, but found one which
he considered would be valuable at a future time.


After exploring the gulf he returned to Eapid Bay,
where he was met by Mr. (afterwards Sir) John Morphett
and Mr. Samuel Stephens, who brought the news that
the Cygnet had arrived in Nepean Bay. The Eapid was
at once sent thither to bring t over the assistant-

The Cygnet had brought over eighty-four passengers,
namely, fifteen cabin and sixty-nine steerage. Mr. (after-
wards Sir) G. S. Kingston, deputy-surveyor, was in com-
mand of the division of the survey party brought out in
this vessel, and among others on board were Mr. B. T.
Finniss, assistant-surveyor ; Captain Lipson, E.N., har-
bour-master ; Mr. Edward Wright, surgeon ; and Messrs.
Morphett and Powys, unattached. According to in-
structions, the passengers and stores were landed at
Kingscote Harbour, but after hearing from Colonel
Light that Kangaroo Island was totally unfit for
colonization, they were reshipped, and the Cygnet
proceeded up the gulf and anchored in Holdfast Bay.
Here the passengers and stores were landed, and the
tents pitched on the beach near the creek. One of
the first cases unpacked contained twenty-four muskets,
which were distributed, and a watch set to guard
against a sudden attack by the natives, whose encamp-
ment was known to be at no great distance. The
precautions were unnecessary, as the natives were very
shy, and did not venture to approach the new-comers,
until Mr. W. Williams went to^ their encampment, and
induced one of them to return with him to the settle-
ment, where the man remained for four days, and then
suddenly disappeared to tell his tribe of the wonders
he had seen, and to bring them back with him to behold
some of the novelties of civilization. A friendly feeling
thus sprung up between the sable children of the forest
and the new-comers.

The camp of the first settlers at Holdfast Bay,
viewed as the nucleus of a nation, was novel and
interesting. The dwellings, like those on Kangaroo
Island, were frail, tents predominating, but interspersed
with huts constructed of reeds, bark, and branches of


trees. Boxes and trunks served for tables and chairs.
As there were neither vehicles nor animals, all wood
had to be carried, and water conveyed on skids, or
sledges; cooking operations were carried on in the
qpen air, the triangle with hook and chain, the three-
legged pot and camp-oven, the hook-pot and frying-pan
being the utensils most in use.

There was work for everybody to do in providing the
necessaries of life baking, cooking, hunting, and fish-
ing. Daily discoveries were made of fresh phases in
the features and character of the country and its
singular inhabitants, and, in the absence of any news-
paper, every one took up his parable and told of exploits
in killing kangaroos, emus, opossums, snakes, lizards,
wild dogs, or other animals and reptiles.

Meanwhile Colonel Light was making important
explorations and examinations of the plains on the
eastern side of the gulf. On the 4th of October he

" I cannot express my delight at seeing no bounds to
a flat of fine rich-looking country, with an abundance
of fresh-water lagoons, which, if dry in summer, con-
vinced me that we need not dig a deep well to gain
a sufficient supply. The little river, too, was deep, and
it struck me that much might hereafter be made of
this little stream." On the 5th Messrs. Claughton and
Jacob were sent on shore to trace the river up, if they
could, until they found fresh water in it. On their
return they reported that the river was fresh about four
miles from the mouth, and that it was then a narrow
stream bearing to the north-east, and appeared to have
its source in the plains. "A circumstance," wrote
Colonel Light, " that led me to suppose that more of
these lagoons existed in that direction, and as every
appearance indicated that these lagoons would be dry
in summer, I felt convinced that the torrents from the
mountains would be the fountain from whence they
were now filled. My previous observations at sea,
before I saw this country, were, that all the vapours
from the prevalent south-westerly winds would rest on


the mountains here, and that we should, if we could
locate this side the gulf, be never in dread of those
droughts so often experienced on the eastern coast of
Australia. And I was now fully persuaded by the
evidence here shown, as well as the repeated collection
of clouds, and by rain falling on the hills even at this
season of the year."

Such were the observations made, and the impres-
sions formed by Colonel Light on visiting for the first
time the arm of the sea, or salt-water creek, which was
destined to become the principal harbour of South
Australia. In his further examinations along the
coast, can be traced, from his journals, visits to what
are now known as Torrens Eiver, the Eeedbeds, Hold-
fast Bay, the creek at Glenelg with the little river
Sturt flowing into it, and so on.

A highly favourable opinion of the locality was
impressed on his mind, and, although he had not yet
fixed upon any part of it as the site for the capital,
his examination of other localities confirmed him in the
opinion that the land-locked creek he had entered on
the eastern side of the gulf was the best harbour in the
most suitable locality of any he had seen.

Early in November the Africaine, commanded by
Captain Duff, and having on board, amongst others,
Mr. Gouger, the colonial secretary ; Mr. Brown, emigra-
tion agent ; and Mr. Thomas, printer of the Gazette and
Register, arrived off Kangaroo Island. Deceived by
the glowing language of Captain Sutherland in his
description of the island, six of the passengers landed
on its western side, with the intention of proceeding
overland to the new settlement. They took with them
two days' provisions, but soon found that the dense
underwood made their progress slower than they had
expected. With hatchets they chopped their way
through scrub and bush, until, becoming exhausted, they
made for the beach, hoping to reach the settlement by
the sea-coast. But here their course was checked by
the heavy surf beating against the high cliffs, and again
they were compelled to force their way through the


bush. For the first three days they found fresh water,
but not a drop afterwards, and on one occasion they
had to quench their thirst with the blood of sea-gulls.
After being out for nine days, four of the party, in an
exhausted state, reached Nepean Bay, but the other
two (Dr. Slater and Mr. Osborne), being unable to keep
up with their companions, perished in the bush.

On finding that Colonel Light had ordered all the
surveying party and stores away from Nepean Bay,
the Africaine proceeded forthwith to Eapid Bay, where
the colonel happened to be on her arrival. He went
on board, and was at once besieged with inquiries.

" Mr. Gouger was, of course, very anxious to know
where we should settle a question I was by no means
prepared to answer ; and the only thing I could do
was to recommend his proceeding to Holdfast Bay for
the present. This was not at all satisfactory, every
one in such circumstances being anxious not to move
again after landing all his embarked property. I could
only recommend this place as one from which they
were the least likely to re-embark, but stating strongly,
at the same time, that I could not guarantee perma-
nent settlement there. To make the best of a doubtful
case, both Mr. Gouger and Mr. Brown agreed to take
their chance, and Captain Duff having very kindly
offered me a passage, I embarked on the 7th of

Next day the Africaine arrived at Holdfast Bay,
where the Eapid was lying at anchor, and, in company
with Captain Duff, Mr. Gouger, and Mr. Brown, Colonel
Light set forth to examine, and, if possible, ascertain
the mouth of the river Yatala, afterwards called the
Torrens, which had been discovered by Messrs. Field,
Kingston, and Morphett. But the river was found to
exhaust itself in the lagoons afterwards known as the
Eeedbeds. As they were returning to their ships they
observed the Cygnet standing in for the bay, and soon
after it blew a gale of wind. Eeferring to this, the
colonel wrote in his journal, " It is impossible to
describe my feelings on this occasion, seeing three

1836.] PORT LINCOLN. 55

English vessels on a lee shore, riding safely at the

Many difficulties were in the way of Colonel Light
at this time. Scurvy was breaking out among the new-
comers from long abstinence from fresh food, and he
had to enter into arrangements with Captain Duff to
proceed to Hobart Town for a supply of fresh provisions ;
there were no proper appliances for penetrating into
the interior with stores and baggage, and he had to
write full and urgent letters to the Commissioners for
vehicles and animals.

After more vain searching for Jones' harbour *
(which was probably identical with Captain Barker's
"sixteen mile creek" seen under a different aspect),
Colonel Light again visited the localities on the eastern
coast of Gulf St. Vincent, and became more and more
confirmed in his opinion as to this being the most
eligible site for the capital. Nevertheless, as the letter
of his instructions bound him to look at other places

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 34)