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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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ever is valued by civilized men, whether it be clothing,
the luxuries of food and comfortable habitations, or the
more worthy gratifications of the intellect, makes it no
easy matter to stimulate them to that degree of industry
necessary for acquiring such advantages ; and the salu-
brious climate of their native land predisposes very
considerably to this indolent condition of mind and

During the administration of Captain Hindmarsh,
there were no serious conflicts between the natives and
the colonists, nor were any really practical steps taken
to educate the natives within that period.

By the end of 1837 the population of the colony
had reached about 2500, and Adelaide boasted about
fifty substantial buildings and a hundred and fifty
inferior houses or huts ; the rates of wages for mechanics


and others had materially risen, and there were signs
of general prosperity.*

The activity in town presented a striking contrast to
the little progress made in the country around, due in
great measure to delay in the surveys. Unfortunately,
Colonel Light, instead of having the assistance of the
Governor, appears to have experienced much harassing
interference and interruption from him. An appeal
was made, therefore, to the Eesident Commissioner to
expedite the surveys. Colonel Light having made
known his requirements, it was decided to report to
the Commissioners, and to send Mr. Kingston to procure
additional assistance and implements. He sailed in
October, taking with him the first exports from the
colony to the mother country, consisting of oil from
the fisheries of the South Australian Company.

* Mr. Morphett, in a letter home, written in December of this
year, says, " It is not a twelvemonth since the governor proclaimed
the province on the plains of Glenelg, and very little more than
that time since the first body of emigrants landed on the beach at
Holdfast Bay the forlorn hope, as it might be termed, of a large,
wealthy, and intelligent community of Englishmen, who had fixed
upon this country as the scene of an experiment in colonization.
I recollect the disconcerted and dismal look with which most of the
party regarded from the deck of the ship the dried and scorched
appearance of the plains, which to their English ideas betokened
little short of barrenness. . . . All this has given way to approval of
the place, confidence in the capabilities of the soil, and fitness of
the climate, with the most perfect satisfaction at the steps we have
taken, and a full confidence in the ultimate benefits that will be
reaped by those who are pecuniarily interested in our adven-
ture. . . . The activity which prevails in business is healthy and
likely to last. Business in Adelaide has already been systematized
after the fashion of large towns in England. At first the retail
trade was in the hands of half a dozen individuals, who both sold
' the staff of life ' and prepared the ' trappings of woe ; ' now we
have butchers, bakers, tailors, shoemakers, dressmakers, and a
variety of tradesmen, each class following its own particular
calling. There never was a colony which, within the same time,
had assumed one-tenth of the outward signs of an independent
community that this now does. Visitors from the sister settle-
ments in Australia are surprised at the forward state of our town,
at the evidence of capital which they see, at the energy and spirit
which prevail, at the amount and character of stock, and at the
comforts which most have collected around them."


Meanwhile, the settlers who could not obtain
possession of their lands were allowed the free use
of the Glenelg plains, -where they pitched their tents,
tended their flocks and herds, and made away with the
dingo, or wild dog, for which the Government offered
a reward of five shillings per head for the male, and
seven and sixpence for the female; these prowling
depredators being most audacious in their attacks on
sheep, poultry, and other live stock.

When the first settlers landed on the Glenelg plains,
grave doubts were entertained as to the agricultural
capabilities of the soil. Only two experiments had as
yet been made, one by Mr. Menge at Kangaroo Island,
and the other by Captain Light's survey party at Rapid
Bay ; and as the suburban and country sections were
not surveyed in 1837, the cultivation of the soil was
almost at a standstill. Under these circumstances an
attempt was made to raise a small crop of wheat on
one of the South Australian Company's acres on North
Terrace, and although the crop was not a heavy one,
the yield was quite sufficient to remove the general
impression that the plains around the city were unsuited
to the growth of grain.*

During the year (1837) the settlers visited the neigh-
bourhoods of Hurtle, Morphett, and McLaren vales in
the south, Mount Barker in the east, and Lyndoch
valley in the north-east and elsewhere, and satisfied
themselves that there were large tracts of land admir-
ably adapted for agricultural pursuits, although the
most sanguine never imagined that in the course of
a few years South Australian wheat would carry off
the prize in the Great Exhibition of the products of the

When the country lands were surveyed and allotted,
the settlers found, in commencing operations, that they
had almost everything to learn, for experience gained
in the mother country was of comparatively little use

* Colonel Light never had any doubt on the subject, and was
wont to say to grumblers, " This country will not only produce
cereals, but all the products of Spain and Portugal."


in the infant colony. The climate, seasons, and soil
were quite different ; there were no hedges or fences ;
oxen and horses were very scarce; provisions and
labour were exorbitantly high. The land first occupied,
on the Glenelg, Gilles, and Gawler plains, was but
lightly timbered, and as the greater part of it did not
bear sufficient for fencing, posts and rails had to be
brought from a distance namely, from the " tiers," as
the timbered hills were called.

In this work the "splitters" from Van Diemen's
Land rendered good service until the labour market
became stocked by new-comers from Great Britain.*

After fencing his land and building his house or
hut, the next process was "clearing." If the wood
could be sent into Adelaide at a paying price, this was
done ; if not, the farmer would select sufficient for his
own wants and burn the rest. Then came the grubbing
of the stumps or roots, although those were often left
in the ground until the first crop had been raised.
Many with limited capital depended upon this crop
for carrying on future operations, and if it proved a
failure, or gave but a small return, they were thrown
back for years. A " first crop " has determined the
whole future of many a colonist.

These small growers, who constituted the majority
of the agriculturists of the colony, were rarely free-
holders in the first instance ; they leased a section for
three or more years with a right of purchase, the rental
being so much per cent, per annum on the purchase-
money, or so much per acre according to agreement.
Every nerve was strained to become possessors of the
land ; the strictest economy was practised ; but if the
first crop failed, there followed, in many instances,
the forfeiture of the land through inability to carry out
the terms of the agreement. It was for some years a
common practice for merchants and storekeepers in

* More recently wire fences were very largely used, horned
cattle having become adepts at working out wooden slip-panel rails
with their horns the patience, perseverance, and ingenuity displayed
in getting access to a field of standing corn being truly surprising.


Adelaide to supply these impecunious settlers with
provisions till harvest-time, when wheat would be taken
in exchange.

The fact that so many of these small growers
succeeded and became men of position in the colony,
after commencing with little capital and less experience,
speaks well, not only for the productiveness of the
soil, but for their own indomitable energy and per-

A large proportion of those who were termed farmers
became, as a matter of fact, only growers of wheat;
instead of improving and extending their homesteads,
they aimed mainly at adding section after section of
land for wheat-growing purposes, without devoting even
a small plot to the production of fruit and vegetables,
which when planted require very little attention.

The question of raising stock was one of absorbing
interest, and the first beginnings of pastoral pursuits
deserve some notice here.

In 1836 the arrivals of stock from England consisted
of half a dozen rams of the Merino^and Leicester breeds,
sent out by the South Australian Company, two cows
brought out by the Africaine, and a few goats. With
the exception of one cow, these importations were
landed at Kangaroo Island, the one cow being taken to
the mainland, where it was sold for fifty guineas, and
calved a few days afterwards. Her progeny, a bull
calf, was actually put to work within a twelvemonth
afterwards, and earned for its owner, Mr. F. Garden,
thirteen pounds per week in drawing water and building

In the same year seventy sheep were brought over
from Hobart Town, where they had been purchased at
twelve shillings per head ; a fine mare for the use of
Mr. S. Stephens, first manager of the Company ; and a
grey gelding, which was lost in what was then called
" the bush," the skeleton being found some three years
after in Coromandel Valley.

The locality first occupied by the imported stock was
the plains near Glenelg and around the embryo city of


Adelaide. Here the emu and the kangaroo gave place
to flocks of sheep, while the dingo, or wild dog, found
himself "in clover," greatly to the annoyance of the
shepherd and to the loss of the importer or owner. For
a few years certain localities around Adelaide were
known as No. 1 Sheep Station, No. 2 Sheep Station,
and so on ; but these were destined soon to become the
sites of flourishing suburban townships. In 1837 fresh
arrivals of stock were landed from Hobart Town, the
Cape, and elsewhere, and it was soon found that
South Australia was eminently suitable for pastoral
pursuits. The promoters and founders of the colony
gave the subject of common pasturage early attention,
and the Commissioners afforded facilities to those
desirous of engaging in such pursuits, by providing
for the occupation of land on lease at the rate of ten
shillings per square mile, two square miles being
allowed for each country section.

On the 3rd of April, 1838, Mr. Joseph Hawdon
arrived at Adelaide with a party of nine men, and
announced the fact that he had succeeded in bringing
overland from New South Wales 325 bullocks, cows,
heifers, and horses, all in good condition after a journey
of nearly one thousand miles, which had occupied
about ten weeks. The cattle were driven from their
station on the Hume to the Port Phillip mail estab-
lishment on the Goulburn, at which place the drays
from Port Phillip, carrying supplies for the party,
joined the expedition. The tracks of Major Mitchell,
the explorer, were next followed for some distance, and
then, descending the left bank of the Murrumbidgee
and crossing the Murray at the ford near its junction
with the Darling, Mr. Hawdon discovered a lake at
the head of the Kufus, which he named Victoria (after
her Majesty), and another which he called Lake
Bonney, after his friend, Mr. C. Bonney. Four bullocks
were killed on the road by lightning, and many natives
were seen, but all were quite friendly.

Mr. Hawdon was the first to open up the overland
communication for stock ; three months later, however


Mr. E. J. Eyre, with three hundred head of cattle,
arrived in Adelaide, having made the journey from
New South Wales by an almost entirely different route.
He discovered a lake, and named it Lake Hindmarsh ;
on leaving it he found no more fresh water, and was
for three weeks engaged in attempting to reach the
Murray. At length, after many adventures, he fell in
with Mr. Hawdon's tracks, which he followed.

A third overland party, under the command of
Captain Sturt, arrived in Adelaide in August, with four
hundred head of stock. Sturt had fallen in with the
tracks of both Hawdon and Eyre, and considered that
Mr. Hawdon's route was the best that could be taken.
In this second visit to South Australia, Captain Sturt
was confirmed in his first impressions, and gave a
glowing report of the great pastoral capabilities of the
country at the base of Mount Barker, " far exceeding
in richness," he says, " any portion of New South Wales
that I ever saw."

In addition to these overland arrivals of stock, large
numbers of sheep and cattle were sent by ship from Van
Diemen's Land and New South Wales. To further
promote such importations, a " Joint Stock Sheep and
Cattle Company " was formed, with a capital of 20,000,
and large purchases were made. In October, 1838, it
was estimated that there were in the colony 22,500
sheep and lambs, 2175 head of cattle, and 233 horses.

We must now go back a little in the narrative to
follow the fortunes of "the dwellers in the city."
Although in the very early days of the colony those in
authority might not always have been very loyal to
one another, there was never a period when South
Australia was not absolutely loyal to the throne.

In 1837 the birthday of King William IV. was
celebrated by a ball and a supper and other demonstra-
tions, but within a few days of these rejoicings the
King had ceased to be, and the Princess Victoria had
acceded to the throne. On the 19th of October a
"Gazette Extraordinary" was issued, informing the


colonists of the fact, and on the day appointed the
members of Council, magistrates, officers of Government,
and a number of the principal inhabitants of the
province assembled in front of " Government House,"
when the Governor read the following :

" Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God to call to
His mercy our late Sovereign Lord King William the
Fourth of blessed and glorious memory, by whose
decease the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland and all other his late Majesty's
dominions is solely and rightfully come to the High and
Mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria, saving the right
of any issue of his late Majesty King William the Fourth
which may be born of his late Majesty's Consort, we,
John Hindmarsh, Knight of the Eoyal Hanoverian
Guelphic Order, Captain in her Majesty's Eoyal Navy,
Governor and Commander-in-chief of the Province of
South Australia, assisted by the Honourable Members
of Council of the said Province, the Magistrates, Officers
of Government, and numbers of the principal inhabitants
of Adelaide, therefore do now hereby, with our full
voice and consent of tongue and heart, publish and pro-
claim that the High and Mighty Princess Alexandrina
Victoria has now, by the death of our late Sovereign of
happy and glorious memory, become our only lawful
and rightful liege Sovereign Victoria, by the grace of
God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, saving as aforesaid,
Supreme Lady of her Majesty's province of South
Australia and its Dependencies, to whom, saving as
aforesaid, we do acknowledge all faith and constant
obedience, with all hearty and humble affection, beseech-
ing God, by whom kings and queens do reign, to bless
the Eoyal Princess Victoria with long and happy years
to reign over us. God save the Queen ! "

Among the early Bills passed by the Council were
the following " For establishing a Court of General or
Quarter and Petty Sessions ; For fixing the qualification
of jurors ; For the summary determination of disputes
between masters and servants ; For granting licences



for the sale of wine, beer, and spirituous liquors ; For
the promotion of good order in public-houses ; For the
establishment of a Court to be called "The Supreme
Court of the Province of South Australia."

The plan adopted for announcing any Bill about to
be passed was to issue a notice that " the said Bill
could be inspected at the office of the Colonial Secretary,"
and affixing such notice to a tree opposite " Government

But this early legislation was not regarded with
favour in England, and only the last-named Act was
permitted to occupy a place in the statute-book of the
colony. Meanwhile the young community was to be
governed by the laws of the mother country so far as
those laws would apply.

Although the early colonists in South Australia were
probably the most reputable that had ever gone forth
as pioneers to a new land, in the matter of crime the
infant settlement was not entirely free, and on the
13th of May seven prisoners were brought before
the " Court of General Gaol Delivery " for trial In
addressing the grand jury the judge, Sir J. W. Jeffcott,

" You are aware that in the neighbouring colonies it
has been considered inexpedient to concede the full
right of trial by jury. The reasons which have been
considered as justifying such a restriction elsewhere do
not, however, happily prevail here ; and I feel no slight
degree of satisfaction in being able to congratulate
the free inhabitants of South Australia, not on being
admitted to, but in being able to claim as their birth-
right the full and unrestricted privileges of the British
constitution amongst which not the least valuable is
that which has justly been styled the palladium of
English liberty, trial by jury, an institution which,
however it may have been occasionally abused (and no
human institution is free from imperfection), has been
proved by the experience of ages in our native land
to have well deserved that appellation. This valuable
institution, in the fullest sense of the term that is,

1837.] DRUNKENNESS. 99

trial by the grand and petit jury will from this day
the first on which a court is held in this province be
in operation, and I again congratulate you on it."

In continuing his charge to the grand jury, Judge
Jeffcott said, "I am sorry to find that the vice of
drunkenness, notwithstanding the exertions of the
Governor and the authorities to check it, prevails here
to an alarming extent. It must, however, be checked
amongst our own population, and if the fine of 2,
which the colonial Act directs to be imposed upon every
man who is proved to be drunk, be not sufficient, other
and still more coercive means must be resorted to."

It was easy to talk of more coercive measures, but it
would have been very difficult to put them in force.
Three months earlier than the date of this charge, the
Governor had written to Mr. G. F. Angas

" February 15, 1837.

" What I shall do without a small military force I
do not know. It is true I can institute a police force,
but who am I to make policemen ? Those of sufficiently
respectable character are able to earn much higher
wages than I dare offer, and I am restricted in the
salary to a police magistrate to 100 a year. Where
shall I get a gentleman fit to do such duty who will
give up his time for so small a sum ? I have suggested
to Lord Glenelg that he should allow me to make
it 200. . . ."

About this time, settlers as well as Government
officials had to employ banished men, ex-convicts, who
were in many cases skilful splitters, sawyers, fencers,
and hut-builders. High wages were paid to them, but
it was considered undesirable to inquire too closely
whether they were " expirees " or " runaways." As
the Port was free and drink abundant, there was much
disorderly conduct at times. On one occasion a serious
disturbance occurred, and after the reading of the
Eiot Act the marines were ordered to load and fire with
ball cartridges, when some of the rioters were wounded,
and a few taken into custody. Not long after this the


Government store was broken into, and food, ammuni-
tion, and other goods stolen ; the hut of the sheriff, Mr.
S. Smart, of Tasmania, was attacked, and a pistol was
fired at the sheriff. Volunteers were at once sworn in
as special constables, the delinquents were captured, and
a man named Magee, who fired the ball, was hanged.

It is almost a matter of surprise that, with^the bad
example set at this time by those in authority, there
was not more lawlessness among the people. The
colonial secretary had assaulted the colonial treasurer
for violent language, and the former was suspended.
The emigration agent had been charged with dis-
obedience to the Governor's commands, and was sus-
pended. One official was charged with inciting the
people to sedition, and another with setting the judge
at defiance, and so on.

As an illustration of the state of the times, an inci-
dent of a visit to Kangaroo Island, made by the Governor
in June, 1838, may be recorded. While he was there
a mail arrived, and the captain of H.M.S. Pelorus, in
which the Governor had voyaged, was anxious to know
if there were any despatches for him. Captain Hind-
marsh, in the presence of an officer, who for the nonce
he dubbed postmaster-general, opened the mail. At a
meeting at Adelaide, his action was very strongly

Apropos of this, it may be stated that postal irregu-
larities were a source of very great trouble to the
colonists at this time, and the following curious adver-
tisement in the Sydney Monitor was intended to give a
friendly hint as to where the missing letters went :
" Post office in South Australia. The Governor ought
to be reminded that owners and masters of vessels
trading to new colonies are deeply interested in de-
stroying all letters between the new colony and the
colonies they trade with, and that until a judicious law
regulating the mails between Adelaide and these
colonies be passed and regularly enforced, letters and
newspapers will continue to be purloined, as they have
hitherto been, and now are."


The dissensions in high places were soon to be aggra-
vated by the freedom of the press. The first number
of the first South Australian newspaper was published
in London, on the 18th of June, 1836, before the first
vessel sent out had sighted the shores of the new
colony. The newspaper dealt more largely with pro-
babilities than certainties, but it was the wish of
Messrs. Eobert Thomas and Co., the proprietors, and
Mr. George Stevenson, the editor, "to print the first
number of the South Australian Gazette and Colonial
Register in the capital of the civilized world, and the
second number in a city of the wilderness," the site of
which was then unknown.

Printers, presses, type, and paper, identical with that
used in the first number, were shipped to South
Australia, and on the 3rd of June, 1837, the second
number was issued under many difficulties, the printers
and workmen engaged in England having "bettered
themselves" in other employments. Moreover, the
printing-office was only a tent. But by degrees all
difficulties were overcome, and the Gazette and Register
occupied its well-earned position.

The first colonial issue, however, was not well received
by all, nor indeed could it have been, for the dissensions
and disputes consequent upon the divided authority of
the Governor and the Eesident Commissioner had, as
we have said, led to the formation of two parties, and
as the Gazette and Register stood by the Governor's
party, it became necessary to establish another news-
paper, and the Southern Australian, edited by Mr.
Charles Mann, at that time advocate-general and Crown
solicitor, came into existence, as a party organ on the
other side. Official matters were sufficiently compli-
cated before the press asserted its liberty they became
more so when the two newspapers took up their
parables, and commenced wordy warfares not infre-
quently in strong language, garnished with personalities.

While such was the state of affairs in South
Australia, matters at home were taking a serious turn
for some of the colonists. Eeports unfavourable to the


administrative conduct of the Governor had reached the
Commissioners from so many quarters, that they were

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 34)