Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 1, 1927-1931

The Founding of Australind

By E. Clifton

Clifton, E. 1927, 'The Founding of Australind', Early Days, vol. 1, part 1: 38-45.

(Read before the Society. May 27, 1927)

The official history of the Australind settlement has been told over and over again. This paper pays more attention to the personal note and mainly consists of extracts from the diary of the Chief Commissioner (Marshall Waller Clifton, Esq.), augmented by scraps of information gathered from later residents of Australind.

The surveyors of the Western Australian Company came out in the Island Queen, which was despatched from England on September 2, 1840, when “the directors gave a splendid fete at Blackwall at which the future glories of Australind were abundantly predicted.” The Chief Commissioner and the first batch of emigrants followed in the Parkfield on December 3, after the commotion, almost amounting to a panic, caused by the report of the resumption by the Crown of Colonel Lautour’s grant, which the company was buying.

The Parkfield, a barque of 600 tons, “showed herself to be a most comfortable family ship,” and “as our expected number of emigrants was not complete all classes had abundant room.” There were 125 souls aboard including the captain and crew of 32. The Commissioner writes:—

“Blessed with the presence of my wife and eleven out of my 14 children and my son Robert’s bride, with an able medical officer and friend in Dr. Carpenter, with several fine spirited young gentlemen as settlers and an excellent and useful tho’ small set of emigrants, I looked forward in confident hope that happiness and success were before us and that all our dreams of Australind would be more than realised. I wilfully stifled as there arose the thoughts of the difficulties which were also before us, in order that I might not unintentionally by an accidental word discourage one of the party, knowing that apprehension or fear once excited can never be effectually removed whereas expectation highly raised and hope encouraged would sustain our party thro’ many a tedious hour of our long voyage and many a difficulty on our first landing.”

Although of a very optimistic and enthusiastic temper the Chief Commissioner was fully awake to his responsibilities and wheq the Parkfield was threatened with probable long detentions in the Downs, owing to contrary winds, he determined to look in the face the

real state of things and to give himself up to the reflections which a contemplation of his prospects would give rise to. The difficulties which might arise were many He wrote:—

“I found myself accompanied, it is true, with two sons of my own, who had attained the rank of manhood and seven or eight other spirited young men, but in fact, they were all boys and there was not a person with me whose ,years of experience would render his counsel or advice of use Ito me under an arduous circumstance which might arise. (The Commissioner was S3 years of age, and the eldest of the young men he alluded to, Dr. Carpenter, was 29). From the slovenly manner in which the shipments of provisions, stores, implements' and utensils had been conducted the liberal intentions of the directors had been altogether frustrated ; and, while I had positive knowledge that many of these indispensable articles had been left in the docks, I had in fact, no certainty that the expedition was completely provided with a sufficiency of any of them. . . . We even knew not whether our fishing nets and guns and powder, on which we were to depend for all means of support beyond the articles of salt meat and flour, were aboard, but we knew too well that we had neither ploughs, horses, sheep nor cattle (excepting two cows), with us. No expedition so little calculated for the first formation of a col-only had certainly ever left the shores of Britain; unarmed myself with either naval, military or civil authority, and not having any people with me who were actually under my command, I could hope only to gain authority over them by acquiring during the voyage a moral influence sufficient to control them on landing.99

And so the diary continues until presently his incurable optimism re-asserts itself. On December 10, he writes:—

“I therefore, resolved now I had once contemplated fairly the difficulties before me, to apply with still greater force my whole energies to be prepared to meet them and to content myself with writing to my Board setting the case fairly before them and entrating their consideration of any sympathy for the suitation in which we should be placed, so as to anticipate our wants by sending out other emigrants and proper supplies rather than wait for our demands. . . . Having written the letter, I went on deck and to my great joy found the wind had shifted to S.E. and that if it remained in that quarter we might sail in the morning and speedily run out of the channel.”

The wind freshened and they were soon out of the channel, “God Save the Queen/1 and “Rule Britannia” being sung in full chorus on their quitting sight of their native land. The wind increased in force and on December 17th the gale was still stronger and obliged the men to reef the fore and main topsails. The diary continues :—

“During the ensuing night the fore topsail was split by the gale and the ship rolled heavily. The morning brought us, how-

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ever, a cheerful sky, less wind tho’ still fair, and a sensible change of temperature. The invalids began to show themselves and nearly

all were on deck by afternoon.....In one of the heavy rolls

which the ship took from the heavy sea which followed her the poultry coops on the poop broke adrift and fell with violence first to one side and then to the other. The children and all the ladies were in great danger, but happily escaped with only the fright occasioned by this accident and we began to take them below. Before, however, they could quit the deck another lurch reproduced the same occurence and it was by a miracle only that the party were preserved from destruction or serious injury. The ship now rolled so grievously that it was impossible to stand or to sit without holding on. The chairs in the cuddy rolled backwards and forwards like the waves which occasioned the motion and the best arranged of our cabins were thrown into indescribable confusion. (Next day). All hands on deck and beginning to look cheerful. Several, however, of the emigrants being much exhausted from sea-sickness and M!r. Birch still ill, I directed Captain Whiteside to call at Teneriffe.”

At Teneriffe. among other things, the settlers obtained cuttings of fig trees, a couple of which are growing at Australind to-day. After leaving Teneriffe, life on board seems to have been very pleasant. A weekly newspaper, “The Parkfield Gazette,” was published every Wednesday. After a period of idleness, people began to settle down to various tasks. The weather was recorded as delightful—but it was characteristic of Mr. Clifton to find the weather agreeable. In the journal occur frequently such entries as: “Most delightful day with fine breeze”; “Never was there a more beautiful day”; “This was another most exquisite day,” and “A counterpart of yesterday, but, if possible, still more beautiful” Keenly interested in all the life of sea and sky around him, he wished to commence the museum at Australind with specimens taken in the voyage of the first settlers. They tried hard to catch an albatross with line and hook, but without success. One day he notes: “Fishing for albatross this morning and hooked a fine one, but she, pulling on my line, broke it.” On another day: “All the party shooting albatross when two were killed but none got on board.” They were similarly unsuccessful with porpoises and sharks. Repeated references are made to birds. For instance, during a storm he writes: “Numberless albatrosses, pettrells, sooty pet-trells. Mother Carey’s chickens and thousands of snow pettrells! In fact, the whole ocean covered with living nature thicker than in cornfields. This appears to me the most surprising of all the wonders we have seen.”

The Chief Commissioner was a strict disciplinarian,

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strongly objecting to any usurpation of his dignities. When Dr. Carpenter, who had been put in charge of the men, “had not authority sufficient to preserve order amongst them,” he determined to take affairs in his own hands.

“Accordingly this morning,” he writes, “George - was charged with having been found asleep on his duty as watchman to the married men’s division by which the shutting of the hatches was omitted when a shower took place. I sentenced him to be mulcted of tea and sugar for a week. Another man was accused of threatening to use his knife against some of his comrades who had teased him but as his knife had been taken away and he had been sent to Coventry for a week, by them, I contented myself with lecturing him.”

The Commissioner could use his tongue and pen with force and vigour and yet with considerable tact.

Meanwhile, plans were being made for the preservation of order and protection of property when they reached their destination. Besides reading divine service to the company every Sunday the Chief Commissioner now delivered a course of lectures, firstly explaining the circumstances under which the company had been formed, and the circumstances of the change of site of Australind, secondly explaining the course he proposed to follow on arrival at Leschenault (subsequently, on arrival at Port Grey), and thirdly to give them advice as to their conduct after arrival at Port Grey.

He made up his mind that all must work for the general good, without wages, but with such provisions from the stores and supplies obtained on the spot as might be necessary for their support and that, for protection and to ensure system and order in their employment, the best plan would be to organise the whole of the settlers into a corps, partaking of the character of a military as well as a civil force. This corps was to consist of four companies of eight or nine men each, under about a dozen officers, including four captains, four lieutenants, a quarter-master, adjutant and aide-de-campe and one sergeant-major. On March 4 is the entry: “Gave out ten muskets for drill.”

It was determined that the women, too, should work for the public fund, that all the washing for the whole of the emigrants and settlers should be done by the men and women but that all the officers and settlers should pay a moderate price for their linen being washed, the amount received going into a general fund out of which soap and starch would be paid for, “Protection, shelter,

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firing and all other things being found for the people.” the Commissioner writes. “It follows that the price to be paid must be low and we agreed that about sixpence per dozen would be sufficient—under no circumstances more than eightpence per dozen.”

On March 18, 1841, the Parkfield anchored in Koom-bana Bay. Next day is the entry:—

“Embarked at an early hour this morning and proceeded up the inlet to the site of the town of Australind as originally proposed and went over the whole with Mr. Austin. It took us about two hours to row up in a whaleboat, being about five miles up. Much gratified with the site and the nature of the soil and with Mr. Austin’s exertions to survey the townsite, the plan of which, as far as cursory view and inspection enabled me to judge, was most judicious. Walked across to the Brunswick, which was found to be 40 to 45 yards wide and deep enough for craft; pursued its course to nearly the junction with the Collie, and found the land excellent. Fine timber on every part of the townsite but no difficult underwood nor too much timber. Limestone in plenty on the hill. Found the establishment in rather a disorganised state. Dined with Mr. Austin and then returned on board. He returned with me and we spent the evening in talking over all matters. Allowed the emigrants to go on shore two and two in charge of their officers. They all behaved very well and came off again at night. Weather delightful and heat not oppressive tho’ we walked for four hours.”

The surveyors at the colony had no information regarding the proposed removal to Port Grey, and Mr. Clifton immediately rode to Perth (120 miles distant), to consult with the Governor. It was finally decided to fix Australind at Leschenault. On April 5, the Chief Commissioner writes:—

“I proceeded to establish myself at Australind and assume command. The emigrants came up in the evening. Mr. Eliot and Mr. Stirling having brought Louisa and Mary up, they got everything comfortable and all hands dined with us. Mr. Eliot good-humouredly making the damper. We all slept in tents or bivouacked The emigrants all good-humoured and pleasant. Brilliant moon— April 6—Called all hands together and addressed them explaining my plans which on the whole were well received.”

Work at the settlement went on rapidly. A storehouse had been built by the Governor’s orders at the mouth of the inlet and all stores had to be brought up to Australind by boat, about six miles. On the night of April 19, heavy rain came on and prevented the flat and boat from arriving. The diary continues:—

“In the morning when Mr. Eliot and I met at seven it was blowing almost a hurricane from the north-west and hail, rain and lightning fell tremendously. About eight, the wind in the last

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squall having come suddenly to south-west, a squall came on of the most furious character attended with vivid lightnings and most awful hail and rain. In an instant every tent in the encampment excepting Mrs. Clifton’s and Dr. C.’s, were swept down and a scene of desolation presented itself such as was seldom witnessed, and considerable loss was sustained.”

Further reference to the storm is contained in the diary of my father’s mother (Christina Clifton), who writes:—

“In the first storm nearly every tent in the settlement was blown down and the loss of property in consequence considerable. Most providentially none of us suffered from cold for which we cannot be too truly thankful after having been every one of us drenched to the skin and forced to sleep in damp beds the following night. The poor girls have been most unfortunate for their tent was blown down in the last squall again and so much torn that it cannot be erected. The store has been also flooded, and many boxes filled with water, during last week, therefore, the poor girls have done nothing but unpack and dry the things out of their various boxes. Many things have been utterly spoiled.”

This journey to Australind was my grandmother’s wedding trip. Only 19 years of age when she came out, she lived the rest of her life at Australind. She always wore the little side curls, which were fashionable when she left England, and even when she was old, with white hair, the side curls made her look charming. She used to tell us stories of the early days. I remember her talking of the awful winter they met when they first came out and w*hat joy it was when the ladies were allowed to take shelter in the new store. The store, which had a thatched roof, was finished on June 1, when a large dinner party was held in it. The weather was so bad that they had to dine there the next day too, and prepare beds for the girls and children in the building. My grandmother used to say she would never forget the relief of having a firm roof over their heads once more. By degrees wooden houses or rooms were built for all, although tents were used for many years.

When my grandmother paid her first visit to Perth, she travelling in a bullock cart, carrying to a doctor her eldest child, who was dying with diphtheria. There was little in the way of medical facilities in those days. Bleeding was fashionable, and when one of the “young ladies” had inflammation of the lungs she was bled. Then 72 leeches were applied to her chest—but she got better.

The first child to be born in Australind was Master John Stallard, who arrived on May 28, 1841. The

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first wedding among the settlers took place on August 29, 1841, at Bunbury, when John Morgan was married to Miss Maria Feast. The first death was that of Dr. Carpenter in March, 1842.

The journals of the early days are so full of interest that it is difficult to decide what passages to read. All was activity and bustle, visitors coming and going, dinner parties and exploring parties. Notes are given of the various works proceeding, of the question of supply, the problem of the drink traffic, the progress of the Chief Commissioner’s wonderful garden, as well as petty troubles with the natives, such as the usual thefts of flour from the old store. The Chief Commissioner did not admire the native race. For instance he mentions “a corrobory of the natives at tea-time by the store which we all attended, but it was degrading to human nature to see men in such a state of monkeyish action.”

I think I cannot do better than to conclude with an extract from an account of one of the Chief Commissioner’s journeys. He and Mr. Durlacher were riding from Perth, and a Mr. Wright was accompanying them as far as Mandurah.

“We were very wet before we reached Mandurah, at a quarter before 12. Mr. Wright, our companion walked in at the rate of five miles an hour. Here we were hospitably received by Mr. Peel and invited to remain, but in the first place, I declined as I was most anxious to cross the Murray at once. After taking, therefore, a glass of hot wine and water to try and warm ourselves we started at 2 o’clock, but the gale and rain increasing, and the ferry boat not being able to be found after two hours vain attempts, we had to return to Mr. Peel’s and accept his hospitality. The wind and rain and cold were wonderfully great and we rejoiced at our detention except that it was painful to me to accept Mr. Peel’s kindness as I saw that from the state of his household it must be inconvenient to him. Mrs. Peel is in England and to say truth everything bespoke wretchedness and want of comfort in his house. To me it was most distressing to see a gentleman of his former fortune and now possessed of a tract of land of 30 miles in extent almost in each direction living in such perfect discomfort. The house he dwells in, situated at the northern point of the embouchure of the Murray or Peel’s Inlet with the sea, is a miserable or rather two miserable stone hovels, built for his men. One contains his sitting room and kitchen divided only with a stone partition six feet high, not reaching to the bare roof, so that noise, smoke and smell from the kitchen come right in to the parlour. This room is floored with slabs of stone, with one wooden shutter window and one door. Cold and wretched as it is the bedroom building, a smaller hovel ten feet from it is worse. Peel’s bedroom, a spare one and the servant’s are all divided only in the

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same way. His garden is also in wretched order. No food for our horses and I know not what I could have done had I not fortunately got the man who manages the ferry to take charge of the horses for the night. Mr. Peel gave us but poor fare, but as good as his house and wretched sort of want of system allowed. We had a long conversation during the evening and I was disappointed at not finding him the sensible man I had expected. He never could have succeeded in an undertaking so much beyond his powers. I slept but little owing to fleas and was up at the earliest dawn. Mr. Peel got up and gave us breakfast and I bought of him two very fine kangaroo dogs, Smiler and Spicy (?) for which I gave him £20. We started before seven and immediately proceeded to the mouth of the inlet, over which we swam our horses without difficulty. On the opposite side I found Mr. Watson, late a Government Surveyor, and a man of the name of Smith, of whom I bought a beautiful sheep dog named Lydia, for £3. Unfortunately soon after we started on our road in the bush she got away from us. . . After proceeding south a few miles between the Murray Inlet and the Sea Range, after ascending a pretty high hill from whence we had a view of the two splendid inlets we sat down to rest for an hour and take luncheon. The land, generally good. The sea range three quarters of a mile and the estuary not more than a quarter of a mile from us. Up to this moment, the weather, tho’ threatening, had not been bad and we were preparing to depart again when an event took place which1 changed all our views-and intentions. My horse was close to us but Durlacher’s pony could not be found. A tremendous storm of rain and hail and wind came on at the moment. We were close to the shore of the southern estuary, here quite fresh, but no trace of the pony could be found and after two hours’ fruitless search we left the saddle behind and proceeded . . . (In the evening) we got fire and water, and after drying ourselves had really a most comfortable bivouack. This was Sunday. . . A delightful country opened up on us in the morning. . . At this point happily we killed a kangaroo. Most fortunate it was for us that we did or we should have starved on the road. We skinned and cut it up regaling the dogs on it, and roasting the liver as the blackfellows do for our lunch.”

Two days later, the travellers reached Australind at 1 a.m. On reaching home at so late an hour, all were in bed, but they “got tea, and rejoiced at the termination of the journey.”


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