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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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operations of the Company were favourable to the
advancement of the colony ; in fact, but for its large
capital vastly beyond any other available for similar
objects employed judiciously in giving remunerative
occupation to the people, and in developing the
resources of the country, there would have been a
dead-lock at the outset. Unfortunately little unity
of action characterized the proceedings of the Commis-
sioners and the Company, and if these two bodies could
have worked together more harmoniously, beneficial
results would even more speedily have followed, and


some serious evils would have been averted. The
Company was too energetic and expeditious in its
movements for the Commissioners, and they, in turn,
were too much so for the Colonial Office, and conse-
quently none acted in concert.

Having glanced thus far at the operations of the
South Australian Company, we must turn again to the
early settlers, and the administration of the first Governor.

The history of the rise and progress of religious
institutions in South Australia is of exceptional interest.
One of the main points for which the early friends and
founders of the colony contended was that there should
be no dominant Church ; that no provision should be
made by the State for the promotion of religion, but
that the voluntary principle should be put fairly to
the test. Nevertheless, there crept into the South
Australian Act of 1834 a clause giving power to
persons appointed by the Privy Council to appoint
chaplains and clergymen of the Established Churches
of England and Scotland, and under this Act the first
colonial chaplain, the Rev. C. B. Howard, was ap-
pointed by Lord Glenelg, on the recommendation of
the Bishop of Chester. A strong protest was made by
the " founders " against the appointment, not on per-
sonal grounds, but as being an evasion of the non-
establishment principle; and in the amended Act,
passed shortly afterwards, the clauses relating to such
appointments were omitted.

Mr. Howard arrived in the Buffalo with the Governor
and other Government officers, and being anxious to
commence work at once, religious services were held
under a huge sail, borrowed from a captain in port,
until a temporary building could be erected. To get
the sail from the port, some miles away, was a
" labour " of love, and it is on record that the worthy
clergyman, assisted by Mr. Osmond Gilles, the colonial
treasurer, accomplished the task by drawing it on a
truck with ropes over their shoulders along the dusty
track in blazing hot weather.


Better accommodation was, however, in store for the
worshippers. An association had been formed in
England, in connection with the Society for the Propa-
gation of the Gospel, to assist the colonists in providing
for themselves the means of public worship and re-
ligious instruction, and, subscriptions amounting to
over 800 having been collected, a wooden church,
capable of accommodating 350 persons, and provided
with communion plate and books, was sent out in
frame, together with a parsonage house. It was soon
found that the wooden church did not answer the
purpose, and it was determined to erect a stone
structure. Mr. Pascoe St. Leger Grenfell, having
offered a town acre for the erection of a church and
parsonage house, acre No. 9, at the corner of Morphett
Street and North Terrace, was selected, and on the
26th of January, 1838, the foundation-stone of "the
Church of the Holy Trinity " was laid by the Governor.

Shortly after Mr. "Howard's arrival, it was rumoured
that the Bishop of Sydney regarded the new province
as a part of big diocese, and had appointed the colonial
chaplain as his surrogate for granting marriage licences,
and examining the certificates of clergymen. This
gave rise to the first religious dissension in the colony ;
but it was found that the bishop and the colonial
chaplain, without any wish to violate the provisions of
the South Australian Act, had been under a misappre-
hension, as the Act distinctly stipulated that South
Australia should not be subject to any law passed for
any other part of Australia, and consequently the
letters patent of the Bishop of Sydney could have no
force in Adelaide. A frank explanation settled the
little storm, but a watchful eye was kept for a time
upon the movements of the Church party. It was soon
found, however, that Mr. Howard was a warm-hearted
catholic man, whose one object in life was to do good,
and he succeeded in winning the confidence and affec-
tions of the colonists of all classes and creeds.

South Australia having been designed as a " Para-
dise for Nonconformists," the various religious denomi-


nations were soon well represented. The Wesleyans
were among the first in the field, and early in 1837 a
few individuals set to work to provide funds for a
chapel and schools. Through the liberality of Mr.
E. Stephens and others, a neat brick building was soon
erected in Hindley Street, at the back of the South
Australian Bank, and here Mr. D. McLaren, manager
of the South Australian Company, conducted service in
the morning, and other laymen in the afternoon and
evening. But in course of time they felt the need of
a regular minister, and early in 1838 one was sent to
them in a singular fashion.

The Eev. William Longbottom, Wesleyan minister,
sailing in the Fanny with his wife and child from
Tasmania to fill a vacancy in Western Australia, fell
in with a gale which increased in fury, until at midnight
the vessel struck on an unknown coast, and they were
landed through the surf by means of a rope. They
suffered for want of a fire, till on the second day of
their escape some friendly natives ventured near them.
After a fortnight spent in a forlorn condition, and not
knowing whither to turn, a crew of shipwrecked
mariners found them. By means of a chart they had
saved they had travelled a hundred miles, and were
going fifty more in search of a whaling station. The
two companies made common cause, and for forty-five
days they wandered through the bush, and, reaching the
station, they were taken by sea to Adelaide, where
the pastorless society of sixty members welcomed the
minister, and would not let him go. He lost all his
worldly possessions by the disaster, but a subscription
was set on foot to recoup him for some of his losses.
He soon commenced his ministrations among the people,
and carried them on with such success, that he may be
regarded as the founder of Wesleyan Methodism in
South Australia.

The first minister of the Congregationalists a body

destined to play a very important part in the political

as well as in the religious history of the colony was

the Rev. Thomas Quentin Stow, for several years pastor

VOL. i. G


of an Independent chapel at Halstead, Essex. He was
selected for the colony by the Colonial Missionary
Society, whose attention had from the outset been
directed to the new settlement, with its peculiar con-
stitution in regard to religion, as an important sphere
of labour for Independents. Until, however, the infant
settlement was in a position to maintain Mr. Stow, the
London Missionary Society agreed to grant him 100
per annum, and Mr. George Fife Angas made himself
responsible for his outfit and other expenses.

In a letter to friends in the old country, Mr. Stow
thus describes his early labours in the colony :

" March, 1838. ... I am pleased to say the clergy-
man is evangelical and active. The Methodists, too,
I rejoice to add, have a society and are doing good.
I have been kindly received by all persons, and hope,
by God's grace, to be enabled to do something here.
Mr. Giles is at Kangaroo Island, where he preaches,
and where his services are much needed

"Mr. McLaren is sometimes there and sometimes
here ; he is a Baptist, manager for the Company, and
is said to be an excellent preacher. I am gathering
a congregation, though, of course, not very fast. Our
Church has been formed about two months, consisting
of thirteen members and two candidates. We have
also begun a Sunday school, which promises well The
Governor and most of the officials have been to hear
me. It is well you allowed us a tent, for no house
was to be had. I determined, therefore, to build on the
same acre where my house stands (a most eligible spot
for worship) a temporary place of gum-wood posts,
pine rafters, and reed thatch, and the walls, at present,
of old sail-cloth canvas. The size is forty feet by
twenty, besides a schoolroom at one end fourteen feet
by twelve, and can be opened into the main building
in half an hour, if called for, thus giving us a building
of more than fifty feet in length. To pay for this I
sell the tent. It is a good edifice of its kind, and is
reported to be the best thatched place in the colony.
It was done by two Halstead men of my Church there.


I worked regularly with them, felling the pines, cutting
the reeds miles from the town, thatching, etc. . . ."

The first Baptist Church in the colony was under
the care of Mr. D. McLaren, the members belonging
to various sections of the Baptist body. They met at
first for worship in the School Society's building in the
park-lands, but after a time they removed to a chapel
in Hindley Street, vacated by the Wesleyans.

In course of time other religious communities came
upon the scene, until scarcely a section of any deno-
mination remained unrepresented.

In those early days of which we now write, com-
paratively little was done with regard to education,
although Mr. George Fife Angas, as representing the
South Australian Company, had from the first made
it a leading consideration. It will not be uninteresting
to " set in order " the story of the introduction of
schools into the new colony.

Among the earliest settlers was a man whose main
object in life was, strange to say, not to make money,
but to assist in forming the new community on a
moral and religious basis. This was Captain Bromley,
who for nearly a quarter of a century had been the
unsalaried agent of the British and Foreign Bible and
School Societies, and had in 1813 established the first
British School in British North America. He was
living on his little freehold property in Boston, Lincoln-
shire, when he heard of the South Australian enterprise,
and foreseeing a field for his own peculiar benevolent,
and to a great extent self-sacrificing, labour, he was
among the first to depart for the new settlement. In
December, 1836, he commenced his work on Kangaroo
Island, and the following is the first educational report
from South Australia :

" I collected," he says, in a letter home, " all the
children I possibly could, but the whole number only
amounted to twenty-four, and nearly half of these were
infants ; they were, therefore, taught on the infant-
school system, and all except one, a mere babe, could
either spell or read before I came away. While thus


employed I could hardly obtain money enough to
purchase bread and cheese, the weekly pay of the
children not amounting to more than ten shillings, so
that, instead of building a hut, I was obliged to buy
common necessaries to live upon. I had, therefore, no
alternative but to teach the children under the shade of
a large and beautiful tree, which would have accommo-
dated forty or fifty more." Captain Bromley afterwards
contrived to erect a hut with his own hands, so that,
" when a change of weather drove them from the tree,
he was able to shelter his little flock from the rain."
He left the island for the mainland in May, 1837,
when he was appointed Protector of Aborigines, and
in May of the following year was accidentally drowned
in the river Torrens.

Such is the history of the first school and school-
master in South Australia.

Long before Captain Bromley went to the colony,
however, Mr. G. F. Angas had elaborated an educational
system for the new settlement, and had established in
England "The South Australian School Society," to
create and sustain an interest in education in that
colony. Mr. J. B. Shepherdson was selected to make
himself acquainted with the best school systems in
operation in the mother country, and at the end of
1836 he set sail for South Australia with strong
recommendations to the Governor, and backed by
sufficient voluntary contributions to make a good start.

In April, 1838, the school-house, a wooden building
in the park-lands nearly opposite Trinity Church, was
opened for the reception of children over five years of
age. The school continued under the management of
Mr. Shepherdson until July, 1840, when he resigned
the appointment.

The cause of education was greatly indebted to the
ministers of the various places of worship, who, in
addition to organizing Sunday schools, night classes,
and so forth, undertook in some instances to teach the
higher branches of learning. It should be remembered
that all these powerful influences for good were being


exercised at a time when, in the early history of several
other colonies, the thoughts of the settlers were almost
exclusively engrossed in matters far other than those
of a religious and educational character.

Nor was the welfare of the aborigines overlooked.
In the Act of 1834 South Australia was declared to
consist of " waste and unoccupied lands," thus failing
to recognize the existence of the aborigines. Further
than this, the Act declared all the lands of the province
to be public lands open to purchase by "British
subjects," and thus excluding the natives from any
possession in or advantage arising from the land.

Nevertheless, from the outset of all negotiations for
colonizing South Australia, the Commissioners made
special provision for their welfare, while in the plans
of the South Australian Company the chairman in-
variably set the claims of the natives, and the duty of
the servants of the Company in regard to them, in the

One of the earliest appointments made by the home
Government was that of a " Protector of aborigines,"
whose duty was to study their interests generally, to
see that no violence was done to them by the colonists,
that their grievances were, as far as possible, redressed,
and that food, shelter, medical treatment, and education
were afforded when necessary. Certain lands were
reserved for their use, but, as we shall see, the wild
children of the forest never took kindly to " eighty-
acre sections."

We need not discuss here the many theories that
have been put forth as to their origin, or whether they
were descended from a higher or a lower race, but there
seems little doubt that all the aboriginal tribes of
Australia originally belonged to one and the same
branch of the human family ; the root of the language
spoken throughout the entire coast-line of the continent,
the personal appearance of the people, their rites and
ceremonies, manners and customs, all point to a common
origin ; and all are alike in having neither legend nor
tradition, scrip nor inscription as to how, when, or


whence they came. Like most other savages, the
Australian looks upon his wife as a slave. To her
belongs the duty of collecting and preparing the daily
food, of making the camp or hut for the night, of
gathering and bringing in firewood, and of procuring
water. She must also attend to the children, and in
travelling carry all the movable property, and fre-
quently the weapons of her lord and master. In wet
weather she attends to all the outside work, while he
is snugly seated at the fire. If there is a scarcity of
food, it is she who has to endure the pangs of hunger
in addition to ill-treatment and abuse.

The natives, although robust in appearance, do not
possess muscular strength in a proportionate degree.
In expertness they will successfully rival most white
men, and even in the case of a brief trial of strength ;
but they are no match for the white man in long-
continued hard labour. Six or eight days' consecutive
work generally taxes their endurance to the utmost

When first known they appeared to have been free
from any hereditary diseases, and were comparatively
free from those of an epidemic character. In the treat-
ment of their ailments they resorted to sorcery or

In those days they had ample resources, according
to the localities they were in, for finding food, which con-
sisted of fish, indigenous vegetables, roots, birds, snakes,
lizards, luscious grubs, manna, honey, emu and other
eggs, kangaroos, opossums, wallabies, pelicans, swans,
geese, ducks, and other fowl. Their dress in their natural
condition was very simple, consisting of the skins of
the opossum, kangaroo, or wallaby ; or, on the sea-coast,
if these could not be procured, seaweed and rushes
were manufactured into garments. Their dwellings
consisted, in fine weather, of a few bushes laid one
upon the other in the form of a semicircle, as a pro-
tection to the head from the wind, and in the winter
of rough huts supported by branches, or the protection
of projecting or overhanging rocks, caverns, or the


hollows of large trees. They were, however, almost
always on the move, and their buildings were in con-
sequence of a very temporary character, intended only
for a few weeks' occupation at most.

In their domestic arrangements polygamy was prac-
tised to its fullest extent, and wives were considered
the absolute property of their husbands. Little real
affection existed between them, and in innumerable
instances women, children, and old people were known
to be treated with gross inhumanity, especially when
helpless and infirm. Few women were to be found free
from frightful scars upon the head, or marks of spear-
wounds about the body. Infanticide was very common,
and was practised solely to get rid of the trouble of
rearing children, and to enable the woman to follow
her husband in his wanderings, which she frequently
could not do if encumbered with a child.

The natives had several superstitious ceremonies and
customs peculiar to themselves varying in different
localities relating to circumcision, marriage, death, and
burial; but their religious ideas were of the most
meagre kind. That they had a notion of immortality
may be gathered from the fact that they regarded
Europeans as dead blacks resuscitated, and who had
changed colour in the process ! They had a whole-
some dread of evil spirits, believed in sorcery and
witchcraft, but had no knowledge whatever of God,
nor had they any special objects of adoration or

Dancing was one of their principal amusements, and
throughout the entire continent there were points of
resemblance in the manner of conducting the dances,
such as the practice of painting the body with white
and red ochre, carrying boughs in their hands, or tying
them round their limbs, adorning the head with feathers
or down, beating time upon sticks or folded skins, and
in the dance representing the actions of animals, the
circumstances of the chase, of war or of love.

Their songs were of a very rude and unmeaning
character, consisting of endless repetitions of one or


two meagre ideas. One of the most fruitful sources of
strife and warfare was the meeting of different tribes,
for however friendly they may have been in the first
instance, they rarely parted without a quarrel or blood-

Such, briefly, were the lords of the soil on whose
territory the all-conquering Europeans had come to
live; and one of the earliest questions the friends of
the new colony had to consider was how to civilize and
Christianize the natives, and secure to them the due
observance of justice and the preservation of their

In the first report of the. Commissioners, published in
1836, the subject was made one of chief importance,
and their benevolent intentions with regard to the
natives took this form to establish asylums for them,
consisting of weather-proof sheds, in which they might
at all times obtain gratuitous shelter and lodging ; to
train them in the use of European eating and clothing,
and in habits of useful industry as assistants to the

An account of their first contact with " the higher
civilization," in the person of the representative of
Majesty, is given in letters written by Captain Hind-
marsh to Mr. G. F. Angas, from which we quote

"February 15, 1837.

"... Many natives have visited us, bringing with
them their women and children, and altogether ex-
hibiting confidence that is quite pleasing. Instead of
being the ugly, stupid race the New Hollanders are
generally supposed to be, these are intelligent, active,
and handsome people, being far better looking than the
majority of Africans ; not perhaps so good looking as
the East Indian, but an intermediate between the two.
The women exhibit a considerable degree of modesty.
A party of about twenty, who came down a few weeks
ago, and who brought the first women and children I
had seen, were placed under the shade of a tree in little
family groups. When I first came up to them I soon


became well acquainted with their names, which were
musical and pretty, such as Alata, Ateon, Atare, and

Later on in the same year he wrote

" September 3, 1837.

"We have a very grave case now under our con-
sideration. A sailor left Encounter Bay a few weeks
ago under the guidance of a native and his two women.
At about six miles from Encounter Bay the native
murdered the sailor for the sole purpose, it would
appear, of possessing himself of the poor man's bundle.
The murderer is now a prisoner on board the South
Australian. We have not yet decided how to proceed
with him, but evidence is being collected. It would,
however, be worse than useless to bring him before a
jury unless there is almost a certainty of his conviction.
To release him under any circumstances (his tribe
knowing him to be guilty) would be naturally ascribed
by the natives to fear. We hardly know what evil
this may lead to, as they make a practice of taking the
life of one of any tribe who may have taken one of
theirs, and this without regard to right or wrong. I
am sorry to tell you that from the examination of the
women, who have acquired a little English by living
with the whalers, murder appears not to be considered
a crime, and does not entail any disgrace, but only the
retribution of the avenger of blood, whose right to
exercise his office is known, and once exercised no more
is thought about it. As to this prisoner, had the whites
knocked him on the head on discovering his guilt, I
believe his relatives would have considered it quite in
the way of business, and then thought no more about
it. Not so, I fear, should a regular process condemn
him. And yet ' the bull must be taken by the horns.'
The colonists must be protected, and we must do all
that we can to show these poor people that justice is
equal between us.

"I have not yet been able to discover that these
aborigines have any notion of a Supreme Being, though


it is clear they believe in an evil spirit, who they con-
sider the author of ill, and who they fear, but do not
worship. Indeed, we know but little about their
notions on this head. One fact, however, that occurred
the other day was interesting. A boy who had acquired
a little English was accused of having committed a
theft. He denied it very stoutly, and appealed for a
confirmation of his denial to his father and mother,
both of whom are dead."

If the Governor was in doubt how he should deal
with an individual native, it is not to be wondered at
that Mr. William Wyatt, Protector of Aborigines, should
find it difficult to deal with all the tribes of the
province, and his first report is unwittingly amusing.
After announcing that twelve huts in the aborigines
" location " were nearly ready for habitation, and that
rations of biscuit were distributed twice a day to
whomsoever might apply, the report proceeded

" Many natives, especially children, are becoming ac-
quainted with a great number of English words " it was
proverbial that they swore like troopers " and are very
eager to learn the names of everything which attracts
their attention. But their general indifference to what-

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 8 of 34)