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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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with the early history of the colony were handed down
to posterity in the streets, squares, and terraces of

Fortunately there was no dispute, and could be none,
as to the name of the capital, King William IV. having
requested, before the first ships left England, that it
should be called after his royal consort, Queen Adelaide.

Soon after the site was definitely settled, the
emigrants who had been holding on at Kangaroo
Island and elsewhere removed to the "city," in the
hope that they would soon be able to take up their
country sections. But in this they were disappointed,
and many complications ensued. Amongst them was
the question of food. Before the arrival of the Governor,
when one of the most pressing wants of the colonists
was a supply of fresh provisions, Colonel Light de-
spatched the Cygnet to Van Diemen's Land for eight
hundred sheep ; but, in consequence of boisterous
weather on the return journey, very few remained alive
when the vessel reached Kangaroo Island. Then the
matter was taken up by the Governor and council, and
a sum of 5000 was voted for the purchase of flour,
horses, bullocks, waggons, barges, etc., and a committee
appointed to select and purchase the same. While in
Sydney for this purpose, Messrs. Barnard and Fisher,
two of the committee, made inquiries as to the practi-
cability of conveying stock overland, when one Mr.
Kobert Clint offered, for the sum of 10,000, to convey
to a given point 2000 young ewes in lamb, 300 mixed
cattle, 30 horses, mares, and geldings, and 24 true-bred
sheepdogs. The offer was not accepted, but, as we
shall see, the transit of cattle overland soon became an
accomplished fact. Meanwhile the vessels chartered
by the Commissioners continued to bring in supplies of
live stock from the Cape of Good Hope and elsewhere.

After completing the town surveys, Colonel Light
directed his attention to the country lands, but his
work was carried on under great difficulties. A spirit
of disaffection was abroad ; owing to the lack of means


for transporting goods, rations often ran low ; and the
survey vehicles were diverted from their proper use to
convey the luggage of new-comers from Holdfast Bay
to Adelaide. The lack of fresh water at the harbour
was a great drawback to progress. As an instance of
the cost of conveying it to the bay, it may be mentioned
that the Buffalo had twenty tons of water conveyed
from Adelaide to Glenelg, the charge for which was
100, and nearly half this amount for bringing back
the empty water-casks.

Alluding to his men, who were called " two-shilling-
a-day slaves," Colonel Light wrote, "Their complaints
had much truth. They had signed in England for
twelve shillings a week and rations, the same in quality
as allowed in his Majesty's navy, and they were some-
times many days with hardly anything but biscuit,
sometimes not that. Had there been no difficulty with
the men, we could not have detached a party from the
town, as not a single working bullock could be had.
The tents were all in use by the immigrants as well as
by the surveying parties. The rations which came up
from Holdfast Bay in small quantities were delivered
almost immediately, not only to those entitled to
them by agreement, but also to the immigrants, who
had no other means of sustenance than from the Com-
missioners' stores, and the remaining part of the twelve
months' stores purchased in England for the use of the
survey alone were now shared out to all. Humanity
required this, but the consequence was a cessation of
work, and an apparent neglect of duty on the part of
the surveyor-general, for which, of course, there were
many quite ready to abuse him."

When the stores were better supplied, surveying
recommenced under more favourable circumstances,
and a party was formed under Mr. Finniss to commence
on the western side of Adelaide, with the Torrens on
the right, the range of hills to the left, and the sea in
front, while Colonel Light began on the right bank of
the river. Still the work was hindered by occasional
strikes among the men and by bad weather. " During


this period," wrote Colonel Light, " I began to feel a
very evident change in my health, which, with anxieties
of mind, wore me down very much, and I was obliged
to neglect many days' working in consequence."

To the unavoidable delay in the progress of the
country surveys may be mainly ascribed the overwhelm-
ing difficulties and disasters in the first years of the
liistory of the colony; and, next to this, the error of
the Commissioners in permitting emigration to take
place to the extent it did before the country land was
ready for selection. By the 25th of May, 1837, not
quite a year after the arrival of the first vessel at
Kangaroo Island, sixteen vessels from England had
landed upwards of a thousand emigrants, and twenty-
five vessels had left Sydney and Van Diemen's Land
with supplies of provisions and merchandise, besides
conveying many settlers. In November of the same
year the population was estimated at 2500. All
these people flocked to the city because, although
they held land orders, they could not get posses-
sion, and therefore could not enter upon their proper
business pursuits, or upon any productive labour.
As a consequence there came a state of stagnation.
The very implements required for agriculture and
the utensils for dairy work soon crowded the auction-
rooms, and were sold at absurdly low prices, that
the vendors might support themselves on the pro-
ceeds. "The majority of the settlers were without
income, and had to live upon their capital and by the
sale of their town acres. Eents being very high,
employment was given to artisans at extravagant
wages to erect buildings in the city ; but as houses soon
increased and rents diminished, those who had embarked
their capital in buildings had cause to regret making
such investments." Provisions were imported at ruinous
prices ; hard cash intended to be used in " making a
fortune" was squandered in idleness; and labourers were
employed upon works premature, if not unnecessary,
for the mere sake of giving them employment.

The Government was largely dependent upon what


it could make, and the principal source of its revenue,
for emigration purposes only, was the sale of land, but
the sales had not yet commenced; the duties upon
spirits and wine licences yielded so small a sum that
the Governor had not sufficient money to pay even
the salaries of its officers. There were no other
revenues. The Land Fund was sacred ; the English
Government could not be asked for money ; the
Colonial Treasury existed only in name.

On the 25th of May, 1837, the Governor, after much
contention with the Resident Commissioner on the
subject, proclaimed the harbour a legal port, but for
some time afterwards- it was not much used. At this
early date there was neither wharf, pier, nor jetty at
either Holdfast Bay or the harbour, and considerable
damage and loss was sustained in consequence. At
the bay heavily laden boats were sometimes in danger
of being swamped, and if the water was smooth they
could not approach near enough to the shore for the
goods to be landed dry without great care. As soon as
vehicles were obtained, the bullocks or horses were
driven into the water as near as possible to the boats,
but even then a submerging of the package or case in
course of removal was no uncommon thing. A tradi-
tion of those days records that, among other casualties,
Mrs. Hindmarsh, soon after her arrival, had the
mortification of seeing her piano floating ashore at

One of the first public works undertaken at the port
at the head of the creek was the cutting of a small
canal to enable lighters to discharge their cargoes on
terra fir ma. The silt and mud excavated formed a
bank above the reach of ordinary tides, and upon this
bank the goods landed were piled until removed by
carts or drays to their destination.* The cost of this

* There were for the first few months so few vehicles, oxen, and
horses, that it was a lonir time before the colonists could get their
belongings together, and sledges, skids, wheelbarrows, and other
impromptu devices were iu requisition to convey luggage from the
landing-place to Adelaide.


little canal, which would receive some six or eight
barges, was about 800.

The arrival of large numbers of immigrants rendered
a depot for their immediate accommodation necessary,
and a site was selected on a part of the western park-
lands, and wooden buildings, known as " Immigration
Square," were erected. In one part of the square there
was an infirmary and dispensary, and adjacent thereto
the office of the immigration agent a functionary who
had by no means an easy time during the first few
years of the colony's existence.

Up to the end of 1839 nearly all the large vessels
arriving from England came to anchor in Holdfast
Bay, and here, therefore, the immigrants were landed.
Many were the strange and exciting scenes enacted
there. In the absence of jetty or wharfs, passengers,
luggage, and merchandise had to be landed in the surf
on the beach, unless the bullock-drivers could persuade
their teams to go sufficiently near to the boats to
obviate this necessity. As a matter of course, the
greater number of persons landed had either to be
carried ashore, or to wade through the water. Soon
the beach would be thronged with the wondering and
inquiring new-comers ; a number of bullock teams
stood about waiting to convey the women, children,
and luggage to the town ; and here and there a group
of natives would welcome the visitors with strange
grimaces and modest appeals for " biccity," " 'bacca," or
" black money." Then the procession would move off,
bound for Immigration Square.

The city presented a strange appearance in the early
days. The temporary dwellings of the settlers who
had removed from Glenelg were strewn about the
valley, or lined the banks of the river, presenting the
appearance of a large gipsy encampment. Some of
the " buildings " were composed of mud and grass,
others of brushwood, and some of wooden frames
covered with canvas. One of the first residences close
to the town was " the Vice-regal Mansion," as it was
jokingly called a building remarkable for its want of


pretension to either elegance or comfort. It was built
by the sailors of the Buffalo* and consisted of three
rooms, the walls being of mud and the roof of thatch.
Unfortunately, " Jack " forgot to put in a chimney,
which caused many a joke at his expense. Of stone
and brick houses there were, of course, very few in the
first instance, and these few were erected at great
expense. But soon a building mania set in ; temporary
erections gave way to proper houses, and almost within
a year of its foundation Adelaide began to assume the
characteristics of an established town. Unfortunately,
it became the great centre of attraction, and, in addition
to the mania for substantial buildings there, many were
building castles in the air, instead of turning their
attention to flocks and herds, the growth of grain and
garden produce, and the development of the natural
resources of the colony.

It was some time before the ordinary machinery of
society got into proper working order, but the first year
of the existence of the colony witnessed many interest-
ing events and enterprises, important as being the
foundations upon which great things were to be built
in the future. It will be well in this place to see what
attempts were made to evolve order out of chaos ; and
we will first glance at some of the early operations of
the South Australian Company. The Company, as we
have shown, was the means of planting the colony.
We have now to inquire how far it succeeded in fulfil-
ling its further design to make the prosperity of the

* The marines of the Buffalo were left as a sort of body-guard to
the Governor. But they were not a very sober or reliable set. Mr.
Osmond Gilles used to tell a story of one of them who was left to
act as guard over the Treasury at that time only a tent in which
was a safe, his own private property, lent to the Government.
Returning home late one riight, he passed the tent and found the
guard helplessly intoxicated, his general impression being that he
was on board the Buffalo. The treasurer dealt with him gently.
" The truth is," he said, " as there was only one shilling and sixpence
in the safe, a guard might have been spared." At that time the
Government was completely aground as to cash, and remained so
until the treasurer, from his private purse, brought a supply.


colonists possible. It will be remembered that the
Company undertook to build and buy ships, to estab-
lish whaling fisheries and stations, to enter into
agricultural and stock farming, to embark in pastoral
pursuits, to lease land to farming tenants, and assist
them to cultivate their holdings by advancing funds.
It was pledged to build wharfs and storehouses, shops
and houses ; to buy and sell produce and manufactured
goods ; to work mines and quarries, flour and saw mills,
and generally to open up all the possible avenues to

On the 22nd of November, 1836, in a letter to
Governor Hindmarsh, Mr. Angus mentions the departure
of Mr. McLaren, chief commercial manager; Mr.
Mildred, master ship-builder; Dr. Drescher, overseer
of the Germans ; Mr. Shepherdson, superintendent
schoolmaster ; Mr. Germein, master of the trawl-fishing
vessel ; Mr. Wright, master of the white fisheries ; two
vine-dressers; one flax-grower from Germany; with
their respective families, and others in the Company's

Besides the officers already mentioned, Messrs. W.
Giles, C. S. Hare, W. Prescott, W. B. Eandell, and
E. Stephens were among the first engaged in various
departments of the Company's colonial service. To Mr.
McLaren the directors committed the entire manage-
ment of the banks, shipping, fisheries, ship-building,
and commercial affairs of the Company, while Mr.
S. Stephens had the entire charge of the agricultural

The letters of instructions furnished by Mr. Angas,
the chairman of the Company, to Messrs. McLaren and
Stephens, are models of what such documents should
be clear, graphic, explicit, and as complete and com-
prehensive as if the establishment of the infant settle-
ment had been entrusted solely to the South Australian
Company. Nothing conducive to the progress and
well-being of the colony was overlooked.

It was patent from the first that a banking estab-
lishment would be an imperative necessity, and the


prospectus of the South Australian Company stated, as
one of its objects, "the establishment of a bank or
banks in or connected with the new colony of South
Australia, making loans on land or produce in the
colony, and the conducting of such banking operations
as the directors may think expedient." But it was
equally clear that it should not form a branch of a
commercial company, and therefore, with great wisdom
and forethought, it was omitted from the original plan
submitted by Mr. Angas to intending shareholders.
Negotiations were then opened up with the Bank of
Australasia, but they fell through ; and as applications
were being received by persons wishing to proceed to
the colony to transmit their money, the original 50
shares in the Company were divided into two of 25
each, and additional shares were issued at a premium
to afford sufficient capital for the commencement of a
bank or banks in the colony.

Accordingly, a supply of specie and small notes was
sent out in one of the first vessels despatched by the
Company; and 'the entire plant of the bank, together
with a framed banking-house, iron chests, and so forth,
were forwarded by the ship Coromandel, in charge of
Mr. Edward Stephens as cashier and accountant. This
vessel arrived in South Australia on the 12th of January,
1837, a few days after the colony had been proclaimed
a British province, and in March the bank commenced
operations. The notes, which were engraved in London,
varied in value from ten shillings to ten pounds, and
represented in the aggregate 10,000.

In a letter of instructions, drawn up by Mr. Angas,
Mr. Stephens was advised that the bank was to be one
of issue, discount, deposit, and loan, and that it would
also undertake the collection of debts and receipt of
moneys by commission ; give in exchange for the notes
of the bank, bills on England, and open up a system of
exchange between the colony and the mother country.
Besides the ordinary business of a bank, it was also
practically a savings bank, the smallest deposits, when
they reached 1, bearing interest at 5 per cent. Loans

1837.] THE FIKST BANK. . 75

were also to be advanced on the security of property at
moderate rates of interest, although, when the mania
for speculation in town lands took place shortly after
the colony was established, the Company gave no
encouragement to the proceeding, either in disposing
of their own property or in making advances to private

To the early settlers, however, these loans were a
great boon, and enabled them to commence farming
operations and pastoral pursuits which they could not
have done without such assistance; while a place of
security for their savings was also a desideratum in
those days of tents and mud cottages. As soon as
capitalists arrived, these subsidiary operations of the
bank ceased.

For the first three or four years the rate of discount
charged on bills having three months to run was 10
per cent, and 12 per cent, for those of longer periods.
Interest at 4 per cent, was allowed on the daily balance
of current accounts, and 7 per cent, on cash deposited.

The bank at once became a medium of exchange
between Great Britain and the colony, and in course
of time secured agencies at Sydney, Hobart Town,
Launceston, Canton, Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Ceylon,
Mauritius, Cape of Good Hope, St. Helena, and

It was foreseen from the first that the Government
would need the aid of the bank, and the directors inti-
mated to their agent that, as the Governor had only
taken out 1000 in specie, both he and the Kesident
Commissioner might require assistance, in which case it
was to be given within reasonable limits. Events soon
justified that anticipation. On one occasion, during
the administration of Governor Hindmarsh, the bank
advanced the sum of 5000 when there were no funds
whatever in hand. An important arrangement was
made with the Commissioners that the notes of the
bank should be received in payment for land, and for
any taxes to be levied for the support of the Government.

All these facilities for transacting monetary affairs


should have been, and, as a matter of fact, were, of
great benefit to the early colonists ; but, unfortunately,
owing to the open hostility between the Governor's
party and the Kesident Commissioner's party, neither
the Company nor its bank were regarded with favour
by the authorities in the colony. Nevertheless the
bank outlived this petty opposition, and became a
permanent and useful institution. From the first it
more than justified its existence. During the first year
of its operations moneys were lodged at the London
office of the Company for repayment in South Australia
amounting to upwards of 15,000, while the drafts
drawn on England in the colony amounted to nearly
7000. In 1840 the business of the bank had increased
to nearly a quarter of a million, and was yielding a
profit to the Company of 15 per cent. ; but as it was an
obstacle in the way of the Company in its efforts to
obtain a charter of incorporation, it was in the following
year transferred from the Company and established
upon an independent footing as " The South Australian
Banking Company." Mr. McLaren, the general manager
of the South Australian Company, on his return to
England in 1841, stated to the shareholders, " I do not
hesitate to say that the progress of the colony, and the
success of individual colonists, has been more owing to
the Bank of South Australia than to any other cause
whatever perhaps I might say, than to all other causes
put together."

The total quantity of land possessed by the Company
in the first instance was 102 town acres, 13,770 country
acres, and 330 acres for the first settlement at Kangaroo
Island. At the sale of town land in March, 1837,
sixty-six acres more were purchased in the " city,"
making a total of 168 town acres, including six at the

Pastoral pursuits were among the first labours entered
into by the Company in the colony. Pure merino rams
and ewes, selected with great care and at much expense
in Saxony, were early sent out, as well as some pure


Leicesters and South Down sheep and Cashmere goats.
Later on choice stock of various kinds were sent out
by the Board in London to improve the breeds in the
colony. The number of prizes awarded from time to
time to the exhibitors of the Company's live stock was
evidence of the value of the importations.*

In horticulture the Company introduced the vine,
Zante currant, olive and other fruits, but beyond estab-
lishing the fact that the soil and climate were suitable
for their growth and culture, and the formation of a
small nursery, no attempt was made to enter into com-
petition with the settlers in the production of fruit and

The fishery operations of the Company were on an
extensive scale, and embraced the sperm, black, and
off-shore whale-fisheries, besides white fishing for home
consumption, salting, and exportation. Five of the
Company's vessels were employed in this industry ;
off-shore stations were established at Encounter Bay
and Thistle Island, the former soon after the landing
of the first settlers, and the latter at an early period
of the Company's existence.

The loss of the South Australian and the stranding
of the John Pirie in Encounter Bay, and also the loss
of three other vessels engaged in this service, led to the
relinquishing of what had once been a profitable pursuit.
Some of the produce of the Company's fisheries con-
stituted the first export from the colony to the mother
country, and as early as the 26th of December, 1836
(two days before the colony was proclaimed), the Com-
pany's manager shipped at Kingscote for exportation
to Van Diemen's Land three barrels of salted fish, con-
taining 1359 mullets and 605 Ibs. of skipjacks. The
trade did not, however, prove profitable, and was soon

One of the largest and most beneficial of the early
undertakings of the Company was the laying out and
opening up of the New Port, as it was called; the

* In May, 1851, the Company relinquished its pastoral pursuits
altogether, and disposed of the whole of its flocks and herds.


erection of wharfs and warehouses, and the construction
of a good road across the swamp to connect the port
with the city. The road was formed at a cost of
about 13,000, and soon after its completion the Com-
pany took in exchange an equivalent in land of the
Government at the upset price, so that the road might
become available for public purposes. This spirited
undertaking greatly enhanced the value of the Com-
pany's property, and was also of incalculable benefit
to the young colony.

The Company in its early days was largely engaged
in the erection of buildings ; but these operations, like
many others, were relinquished in course of time, the
idea of the founder being that the Company might be
compared to a scaffolding, needful to the erection of
a large building, but to be taken down when the building
is completed.

In the early days the Company held a prominent
place in the estimation of the first settlers, who were
indebted to its various establishments for much of their
supplies; hence the "Company's Stores," the "Com-
pany's Cattle Station," the " Company's Ship Station,"
the " Company's Dairy," the " Company's Steam Flour
Mills," the " Company's Buildings," the " Company's
Wharf," and the " Company's Bank," were familiar as
household words. Many of the Company's servants
became most useful colonists, and attained to wealth
and influence.

Enough has been shown here to prove that all the

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 34)