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

Early Days, Volume 3, 1938-1948

Captain Richard Goldsmith Meares and his times

J.E. Deacon

[Read before the Society, July 30, 1948.]

Deacon, J.E. 1948, 'Captain Richard Goldsmith Meares and his times', Early Days, Volume 3, Part 10: 5-11.

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In Kimberley’s valuable “History of West Australia,” there occurs a provocative sentence : “Substantially Western Australia has for its pioneers more highly educated men of good society than perhaps any other British dependency.” Research into the antecedents of the men who founded this colony would lead us to believe that there is a good deal of truth in Kimberley’s bold statement. There certainly appears to have been a tendency for many of the early settlers to come from a well-educated, cultured class, accompanied in some cases by their servants. It might have seemed to some of them that the new colony would provide them with the opportunity of securing large estates at a cheap rate, where the settler could, in a few easy years, establish himself in comfort. At the same time we must recognise that many men of good family, possessed with a spirit of enterprise and adventure, were prepared to put their fortune to the hazard in a new land under novel and possibly invigorating circumstances.

Early Career.

Richard Goldsmith Meares, of Irish extraction, had achieved distinction as an officer under the great Duke of Wellington during the Napoleonic struggle. He was born in 1780 and after a sound education was gazetted a subaltern in the Royal Fusiliers. In 1808 he married Eleanor Seymour from Newcastle-on-Tyne and settled in the south of England, first at High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire and later at Huish Cottage near Barnstaple in the county of Devon. It is unlikely that Meares was able to enjoy much in the way of domestic bliss while England was engaged in her titanic struggle with Napoleon, and at the end of 1812 we find him in the encampment of Wellington at Lisbon, the centre of operations on which the famous lines of Torres Vedras were based. In a long letter to Richard Haughton addressed to London we read of the horrible conditions in which the troops found themselves, with poor rations, wretched billets, and a severe shortage of ready cash. He complains bitterly to Haughton regarding the tardiness of the mails, stating that he had received no letter from his dear wife for some weeks.

A second letter, this time to his dear wife, in July 1813, is more optimistic. The previous month the decisive battle of Vittoria was fought, and it seemed at last that the French army would be broken. It was on the date of this famous battle that Meares’ third daughter, Jane Vittoria, was born.

After the successful Peninsular campaign Meares returned to England, but the Hundred Days found him in Belgium where he attended the Duchess of Richmond’s ball at Brussels before the Battle of Waterloo and on the fateful Sunday distinguished himself on the field. With the cessation of hostilities it was not long before he resigned his commission, having in the meantime transferred to the 2nd Life Guards with the rank of captain.

Pastures New.

Life as a retired officer, however, was not particularly exciting for the gallant soldier. Nevertheless, he now had sufficient leisure to devote himself to his two hobbies—horticulture and sketching—and no doubt his family of eight children, four boys and four girls, kept him sufficiently occupied.

The establishment of the Swan River Colony attracted quite a number of military men who probably saw few prospects in post-war England. Among these was Captain Molloy of the Rifle Brigade, who, having gained the Peninsular and Waterloo medals, came to these shores in 1830. On the same ship was Captain Henry Byrne, also of the Rifles. Captain Meares arrived in the Colony in December, 1829, on the “Gilmore” and because of the impossibility of obtaining any sort of a hut, his family lived in a large marquee with a fine carpet spread upon the Rockingham beach. The “Gilmore” had for its principal passengers Thomas Peel and his first party of settlers. Before leaving England Meares made over to Peel the sum of £500 for which the latter was to supply land and equipment in Western Australia. Peel was unable to fulfil his engagements and Meares made strenuous efforts to recover the money paid over. He managed to obtain some stores through Peel in 1830, but by 1831 Peel’s supplies were exhausted and Meares seems to have had great

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difficulty in getting enough provisions for his large family.

Guildford Days.

One can only guess at his life in these early years from brief references in his letters to the Colonial Secretary, of which there is a long series, mainly devoted to land questions. His early letters were all headed “The Rocks, Clarence,” so it is evident that he lived for some little time in that district. In April 1831, he wrote for and received permission for himself and family to go to Van Diemen’s Land but it is doubtful whether he made the journey. In any case he moved his establishment to Guildford early in 1832, where he had a pleasant home built, named “The Bower,” which was furnished in a manner befitting a gentleman of the old school. The house consisted of seven rooms, one of which measured 24 feet by 15 feet, a large room for any house in the colony. He ornamented the walls of his residence with representations of battle scenes. It was well furnished and contained some valuable plate. “The Bower” was surrounded by 27 acres of land, chiefly meadow, and there was a fine garden, well stocked with the finest fruit trees introduced into the colony by Captain Meares.

When Meares first came to Guildford his finances were at a low ebb. He was obtaining rations from the Government Stores but in September he received advice from the Colonial Secretary that he could not be allowed any more stores on credit. It was suggested that one of his horses might be bought by the Government in order to assist him. Captain Meares was not likely to part with any of his prized horses and he offered instead a number of alternatives by which his debt could be liquidated. He managed to struggle on more or less successfully at Guildford and, while he still held 15,500 acres of land on the Murray, he does not seem to have gained much in the way of prosperity. His house, however, had become well-known for its hospitality and conviviality. Irwin refers to Meares in his “State and Position of W.A.” in the following terms: “Captain Meares, as a settler, still retains the energy and activity which he displayed as a cavalry officer. With a view to the comfort of his numerous and amiable family, he is residing at present at Guildford, but his principal grant is on the Murray.”

One of his ideas was that of obtaining some Government post, and in this connection he received the support of the Colonial Office. In a despatch of R. W. Hay to Captain James Stirling (1833) we read: “I shall in conclusion merely direct your notice to the case of Captain Meares whom I, some time since, recommended to your favour. The testimony which both yourself and Captain Lygon (under whose command he served in the Life Guards) has borne to the merits and worth of this Officer has rendered the Secretary of State disposed to serve him, if practicable, and it has appeared to Mr. Stanley that you might derive much advantage from Captain Meares’ knowledge and experience, if he were employed in the organisation and superintendence of the Corps of Mounted Police. ... You will, of course, not consider yourself restricted by this communication, from selecting any other individual in the Colony. ...”

The office of Superintendent of Mounted Police was already held by Captain Ellis, but in October, 1834, Captain Meares was appointed District Superintendent for Guildford with the following allowances, calculated by the day: Pay, 2/6, forage 3/-, rations 1/6, stable contingencies 3d., stabling 3d., lodging 3d., making a grand total of 7/9. However, the office was abolished a few months later.

In 1837 Captain Meares was gazetted a Justice of the Peace, an honour of which he was inordinately proud, continuing throughout his life to sign himself R. G. Meares, J.P., even when addressing letters to his immediate family. Three years later he was appointed Government Resident for the Murray District at a salary of £50 a year, although he continued to live at Guildford. This position was held until August, 1841. Meantime Meares was taking an active part in the affairs of Guildford and Perth, becoming the first chairman of the Guildford Road Trust, a director of the Agricultural Society of Western Australia, and the first secretary of the Stud Club which was formed in 1839 to introduce thoroughbreds from England. The Captain himself, as well as his sons, was a noted rider, keenly interested in horse-racing and all equestrian sports. His house was a popular port of call, particularly to settlers from “over the hills.” Among these, the three Burges brothers, Lockier, William and Samuel from York, were frequent visitors and there is little doubt that his acquaintanceship with these enterprising farmers helped to persuade him to take up land in the Avon Valley.

Removal to York.

In June, 1840, Meares acquired Locations Y5, 6, and 7 on the north side of Mt. Bakewell, not far from the fine Burges estate of “Tipperary” and advertised in The Inquirer that he had pastures for 500 sheep. Claiming to be a distant connection of the writer of “The Deserted Village” and perhaps with a sense of humour or else of pride, he named his farm “Auburn.” There is a touch of tenderness about this—“Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain”—and Meares, who was over 60 years of age when he came to York, had a pleasant 20 years of life before him, enlivened at times by

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arguments with some of his fellow settlers These squabbles were occasionally ventilated in the columns of the newspapers causing some annoyance and considerable embarrassment to the Colonial Secretary.

R. H. Bland had acted as Government Resident at York since 1834 with considerable success and some distinction. He had originally come to the Avon Valley in 1831 to form a Government stock station, and his own farming activities had been eminently successful. In addition, on the resignation of Peter Barrow, he did valuable work as Protector of Natives. Captain Meares succeeded him as Government Resident in September, 1842, a position which he held for 17 years. During the time that he was in charge of the district, he saw the Avon Valley at its worst period during an acute stage of depression, and he saw the resurgence of the country with the improvement in prices and the general buoyancy of the colony's finances. His task was later immensely increased by the establishment of a convict hiring depot at York, but he proved to be a not unworthy successor to the great Bland.

His daughter Victoria was to marry Samuel Burges, and in 1849, Margaretta Meares became the wife of William Burges, now settled at “Woodlands” which was formerly occupied by Dr. Viveash. Today the descendants of the marriage of Samuel Burges and Victoria Meares are still in possession of “Tipperary.”

It was some years before the Residency was built on the east side of the Avon River, and in the meantime Captain Meares lived in his residence on the “Auburn” estate. The office of Government Resident was no sinecure. The Resident was required to collect squatting fees and dog taxes, to act as local Registrar, to attend to church and school affairs, to make up the annual census of produce and stock and prepare vital statistics, and, in company with his fellow magistrates, to dispense justice. For all this a salary of £100 a year was provided.

Official Life.

Periodically he would arrange for one of the local constables to assemble a number of farmers together in order to put the York Road into sufficiently good condition for wool-carting. This was evidently an annual event and it would seem that the settlers with their servants would join together as a working party, filling in ruts and removing obstructions after the winter rains. The wool would then travel to Guildford in a series of convoys.

A good deal of annoyance was caused the settlers by the presence of packs of dogs in the possession of natives. Efforts had been made from time to time to prevent the natives from owning dogs at all but every attempt to carry out this prohibition had been fruitless. Captain Meares reported disgustedly to the Colonial Secretary that the dogs were a constant menace during the lambing season. “I have seen (the women) feed the puppies at their own breasts” says Meares; but the only suggestion made by the Colonial Secretary was to the effect that it was the duty of the Resident and the constable to see that the dog-tax was collected, and if this was done, it was anticipated that the dogs would soon disappear.

In one of his chatty letters to the Government, the worthy Captain remarks: “There are at my house or near it a large party of natives, and they have got three half-bred kangaroo bitches, one of which has got a litter of eleven promising cubs—having seen them I wrote immediately to Pattison our worthy constable, to tell him that it would pay well at 6d. a head to come over at once and take them away—he came—but he had no gun—and his life was worth more than 6d. and so there they are still.”

York Court House.

York's first Court House was erected in May 1842. It served as a house for the policeman J. N. Drummond and was used for all sorts of business as well as for petty sessions. The official correspondence of the Colonial Secretary's office indicates that the district was now sufficiently populated to warrant the erection of a public office as numerous cases of trespass and breaches of contract were continually being brought before the magistrates. Moreover, there was the routine business concerning the issue of squatting licences, surveys, spirit licences and so on.

The building consisted of two rooms—one 14 feet square, the other 14 feet by 10 feet— made of mud, roofed with poles and thatched with blackboy leaves, the usual covering for buildings in the Avon Valley. A few months later the Court House was enlarged by the addition of an extra room. Evidently no furniture was provided, because Meares applied for a couple of stools or seats. “Mr. Yule says his seat has been a ten-gallon cask, Mr. Landor's a size larger, which might create a jealousy.” The Government, wishing to uphold the dignity of the law, arranged for Meares to provide two chairs at a cost of six shillings each.

Proposal For A Hospital.

Dr. Henry Landor was at this time acting in a semi-official capacity as a medical officer among the natives. He was a brother of E. W. Landor, the clever writer, whose letters under the name “Colonicus” so often enlivened the pages of The Inquirer. He later published The Bushman, an excellent account of life in the colony. Dr. Landor was very much concerned at the spread of disease among the natives and he applied to the Colonial Secretary for the establishment

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of a hospital at York for their treatment.

It was his opinion that the contact of the white settlers had been the cause of the appearance of virulent diseases and he took it upon himself to gather in to York as many natives as he could with the laudable idea of looking after them properly. The Government, however, while prepared to pay for a certain amount of medical treatment, had no intention of incurring the expense of a hospital, in spite of the warm support of the proposition by Captain Meares. Landor was advised that any sick natives should be sent to Perth. A hospital was not established in York until well after the formation of a convict depot.

The township itself still presented a most forlorn appearance, consisting of a few wretched buildings with wide gaps separating the houses, which followed an irregular line more or less parallel with the Avon. There seems to have been an effort by R. H. Bland to develop one end of it, while most of the property at the northern end was in the hands of J. H. Monger, where he had his inn and store. The southern part of the town was usually termed “Bland’s Town” and here it was that the first church was erected.

The First Church.

The building was made by volunteer labour prior to 1840, and accommodated about 100 people. The church has long since disappeared but a large white cross will indicate to the curious the former position of the chancel. Here too was the burying-ground, but its neglected appearance today— the rank grass and the broken headstones— makes the spot singularly depressing. Among the weeds and rubbish one can find graves of early pioneers who were laid to rest in this spot. Many of the inscriptions are on slabs of jarrah, mouldering to pieces with the ravages of white ants and dry-rot, the names entirely illegible. Many of the graves have never been marked, and all record of these is lost. The more substantial headstones should, one imagines, be carefully preserved as historic records.

In March, 1842, a memorial was presented to Governor Hutt by the members of the church, asking that the Government should find the money for the minister’s salary. The list of names attached to the memorial gives us some idea of the people resident in York at this time. R. H. Bland, as Government Resident, heads the list, and his name is followed by the Dodds brothers, John Thompson of Mt. Hardy, J. H. and J. T. Monger, Peter Barrow', the Protector of Aborigines. Thomas and George Wall, W. Dunnam, R. G. Meares, Ellen Meares and six of their family of eight, John Parker and Stephen Parker of Cold Harbour, Thomas Brown of Grassdale, R. Grindall, William Landor, the three Burges brothers of "Tipperary,” J. W. Hardey and R. J. Brockman.

Rustic Scene.

On the opposite side of the river stood the mud barracks for the soldiers, and near at hand the little brook that runs into the Avon, and which is still called Bland’s Brook, meandering quietly through green meadows surrounding the homesteads. For miles in every direction limitless bush was the only feature of the landscape. No bridge yet spanned the Avon and in winter it was difficult and dangerous to attempt the crossing. All the road communications were unspeakably bad, but a movement was made by the Government in January 1843, to set up directors in each occupied district, who should have as their care the construction and maintenance of roads. The officers appointed for York were S. Burges, H. Landor, T. Carter, R. H. Bland and T. Brown. This move was of considerable importance, as we may consider that the first Road Boards were established by this new arrangement.

A Ruinous Year.

The year after Captain Meares took office as Government Resident was marked by a disastrous depression with a sudden and severe drop in the price of commodities of all kinds. The constant importation of stock had drained the country of specie and although during the previous year the price of stock had slightly receded, there was no indication that sheep would now be sold at bankrupt prices. Dependent as the Avon Valley settlers were on their flocks for material prosperity, farmers who had viewed with satisfaction the steady growth in numbers of their stock soon realized that large flocks did not necessarily mean great prosperity. In fact the recession was so bad that many saw nothing but ruin before them and a number of the less substantial landholders abandoned their properties in despair.

The York farmers generally felt that most of their troubles were due to the high wages demanded by the labourers and a petition was forwarded to the Government asking that the existing land regulations should be amended, thus encouraging a steady flow of immigration. The brightest spot in a ruinous year was the harvest which proved to be one of the most bountiful yet produced.

The York Fair attracted a rather smaller crowd than usual but the report of the Agricultural Society indicated a most striking improvement in the district generally. “The whole valley of the Avon is now a continued succession of fertile and well-cultivated farms.” writes the secretary. It speaks much for the ebullience of the York settlers that in this year of distress (1843) the York Race Club was formed and no doubt Captain Meares and his sons showed a particular interest in the first meeting held in October. The racecourse was selected on the left

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bank of the river fronting the York Hotel and circled round the base of a gently rising hill from the summit of which the whole of the race could be viewed distinctly.

In course of time the York Fair was to extend for a whole week, providing one of the chief social events of the colony, during which time there was a general cessation of work as well as a good deal of conviviality. The late Mrs. Wansbrough who died at Beverley last year (1947), in her 97th year, remembered when the Fair was held on the property of J. H. Monger, near his hotel, while stalls stretched along the whole of Avon Terrace.

The Daily Round.

Life in the district was by no means intolerable. Certainly the farm work was sufficiently tedious—shepherding sheep, sowing and reaping by hand, threshing, which continued at odd times more or less throughout the year, sheep-washing and cleansing from scab. But there was a constant coming and going in a period when free and open hospitality was expected and mutual assistance the order of the day. Bush fires were frequent, and the suggestion was made by the Government that natives should be enlisted to fight this constant menace. There was a semblance of grim humour in this suggestion, as it was generally recognised that many of the fires were started by natives to secure game more easily. Mr. Andrew Muir of “Deeside” near Manjimup has told me that in the south-west districts, the bush was fired by separate tribes at regular intervals, the fires being lit in a wide circle, so that the hapless game was driven to the centre where it could be easily speared or clubbed. The drive concluded with a grand corroboree and feast. This practice was, in all probability, pursued in a similar manner in the Avon Valley.

During the dry season the Avon consisted of a series of water-holes, round which cattle sheltered in the shade of paper-bark trees, and here and there, lower down the river, were sandy tracts where cricketers met to contest a match. Water was obtained from deep wells, one centrally placed in front of what is now the old “Chronicle” office, while another of these wells was situated some little distance away, by the side of the road near Monger’s store.

Government House.

The social life of the Colony was naturally centred round Government House, and the established settlers of York would make it their first duty to call on the Governor when business or pleasure took them to Perth. It was usual to start the 60-mile ride in the afternoon, and after a night’s rest at the Halfway House at the Lakes, to proceed to Guildford and Perth early in the morning.

Captain Meares continued to play a distinguished part in the community life of the Swan River Settlement. He and his family were always welcome visitors at the Governor’s residence, and no social function of any importance was complete until his well-known figure appeared. In a letter from Mrs. Kennedy, the Governor’s lady remarks that she had just received a note from Captain Meares, which she would always keep among her treasures as a memento of so distinguished a Waterloo veteran.

Captain Scully acted as Government Resident at Toodyay when Meares received his appointment at York, but for some reason or other, the two men did not seem to get on well together. From the letters of Captain Meares, we find that Scully refused to offer much co-operation in the administration of the two districts, and Meares complained to the Colonial Secretary that he was unable to make complete returns about York while Scully flatly denied him any information.

By 1844 gardens and vineyards were in a flourishing state, particular reference being made in the report of the York Agricultural Association to the efforts of Thomas Brown and Stephen Parker in this regard. Both of them had proved conclusively that the district was well adapted to the cultivation of the grape-vine. It has already been mentioned that Captain Meares had a decided interest in horticulture, and he was responsible for the introduction of skinless barley into the colony.

It was many years before York began to take on the appearance of a settled town, although the first town allotments were sold to Bland and Trimmer as early at July, 1835. Early in 1845 a town allotment was sold to Kenworthy, a local blacksmith, this being the first allotment sold in York since Meares had been appointed Government Resident in 1842.

The Sandalwood Trade.

During the same year a new article of export is recorded in the official returns of the Statistical Office. When Robert Dale reported his discoveries in 1830, he stated that he had encountered sandalwood of high quality in the Avon valley, and the first consignment of 4 tons was marketed in 1845 for £40. This was the commencement of an important trade with Singapore and Shanghai, by which the York settlers in particular greatly benefited. The history of the sandalwood industry in those early years makes interesting reading. The wood was readily acceptable as a medium of exchange, and while the prices obtaining in China were disappointing, they provided an adequate return to farmers who were able to exchange sandalwood for provisions and goods at a time when money was scarce. J. H. Monger was for some years the leading merchant in this community. York farmers would bring their sandalwood to

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Monger’s Store in York and in exchange would receive such articles as were required on a farm. J. H. Monger had advertised his hotel for sale in October 1844, and from that time onward he started to build up that enormous business which was to be so vital when gold seekers passed through York towards the rich fields of Southern Cross. In addition, Monger had large pastoral interests and he was one of the first men to realize the value of fencing and the necessity of paddocks, instead of shepherding. He ultimately found himself in possession of upwards of 90,000 acres, and it is interesting to recall that his was the first great estate to be broken up in the ’50s for the purpose of closer settlement. Much of the later development of York is due to the enterprise and competence of this man.

Search For Minerals.

During 1846 there was considerable activity in the Colony regarding the possibility of discovering mineral deposits. The Government had noted the effect of the discovery of copper in South Australia and the revenue that was being derived from this source. Land remissions were offered to any settler who could produce evidence of the existence of certain mineral ores in payable quantities. Captain Meares and his sons spent some little time in scouring the country and in October 1846 Meares advised the Colonial Secretary that specimens of,copper had been discovered near York by himself, his son Seymour, Stephen Parker and by a number of other York farmers. These reports seem to have caused some little excitement in the York district, because Eliza Brown, in a humorous letter to her father, stated that they were now all on the look-out for minerals. Nothing came of these discoveries but York did at least possess building stone of very high quality.

The first use made of this stone was the construction of a windmill of conical shape, built between Avon Terrace and the river. In April 1849, Captain Meares wrote to the Colonial Secretary in the following terms: “A person named Solomon Cook has applied to know whether he will be permitted to take stone from the Government land for the purpose of erecting a windmill at York, which he is about to do immediately, and as there is nothing more required in the district, I have informed him that I should lose no time in soliciting His Excellency’s sanction.” This Solomon Cook was one of the first men to start business as a wheelwright, coachbuilder and iron founder.

In his correspondence with the bridge-building committee in York during 1850 it would appear that Cook was a foreigner and this is confirmed by Mrs. Millett, who stated that the mill at York was built by an American. It was of a circular type surmounted by a peaked roof out of which rose a weathercock, (This weathercock now adorns the roof of the York Post Office.) The foundations alone are all that is left today of this picturesque building.

Bridging the Canning.

In the same year (1849) Solomon Cook built the first wooden bridge over the Canning and in 1850 a committee was set up at York to arrange for the construction of a bridge over the Avon. Captain R. G. Meares was the chairman, and Cook, who at this time was resident in York, estimated the cost at £160. The Government, however, while agreeing that such a bridge would be of material advantage to the district, could promise a subscription of only £50. The sawyers were soon busy in the bush cutting the timber and the settlers hauled the wood into York, but the advent of convicts into the colony seems to have caused the committee to abandon the scheme and the bridge was completed by Government contract in 1853.

During Bland’s term of office several attempts had been made to form a school but without success because of the scattered nature of the farms and the difficulties regarding transport. However, in January 1846, Thomas Sweetman, who had come to York with his large family to act as clerk to J. H. Monger, applied to Captain Meares for permission to establish a Government school, Meares stated that the townspeople consisted of the clergyman, the blacksmith, two publicans, the wheelwright, who also acted as -post master and the soldiers at the barracks. It was anticipated that about thirty-four children would attend the school. A room had been taken by Sweetman at a rental of £5 per annum, but as he had had notice to quit it was thought that a house occupied as a forge and which was bigger, could 'be rented for £12 per year.

The Government was very willing to encourage such a project but was not prepared to pay the rent. Sweetman would receive the usual grant (in this case £20) given to schoolmasters. Sweetman carried on the school for a few months but he became ill and moved to Fremantle. A man named Robert D’Arcy applied in November, 1847, for the position of schoolmaster. He used his own house as a school room, and early in 1848 he asked the Government that the rent of his cottage (3/6 per week) be paid for him. This was too much for the Government, which gave an absolute refusal, and this seemed to discourage D’Arcy to the extent that he abandoned the school and left for Perth. The school was then closed until August 1848, when Captain Meares reported that “a person named Teed (sic) who lived for some time at Guildford is about to open

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a school at York and begs for the patronage of the Government.”

A Permanent School.

It is from this date that York secured its first permanent school, for in this year the York school was taken over by the Education Committee as a Colonial school, G. R. Teede continuing as the master. In the York district at this time there were seventy-four boys and sixty-five girls who were between the ages of three and fourteen, of whom twenty-five boys were taught at school; no provision was made for the education of girls.

Teede was made postmaster early in 1849 and the school and Post Office were combined. The noise of the Post Office business must have been sufficiently distracting, as the whole building consisted of only one room, which had to serve as a kitchen as well!

In 1850 Captain Meares applied to the Government for an allotment of ground so that the people could build extensions. The Education Committee in reply, pointed out that while the Government would probably give land, there was little possibility of obtaining any financial assistance. The first local committee for the York Colonial School was appointed in October 1849, the 'members being Captain R. G. Meares, Thomas Brown, William Burges, Thomas Carter and Charles Wittenoom. These men appear to have taken a serious interest in the work of the school and kept constant supervision of the work of the scholars and their teacher. For example, when it was thought that the children of indigent parents were being neglected Teede was forcefully reminded that all children in Colonial Schools were to receive similar instruction, irrespective of whether their parents could pay or not.

The inauguration of Western Australia as a penal settlement brought about the establishment of a hiring depot at York very soon after the arrival of the first convict ship in 1850. In the annual report of the York Agricultural Society for the year 1852 satisfaction was expressed that this depot had been established. Moreover, every convict ship brought a number of free labourers to the colony, and the men were willing to work at more moderate rates.

The York Road was at last put into good order; tolls were abolished; York obtained the advantages of an established hospital. The spiritual needs of the convicts were looked after by the local chaplain who would conduct services in the church on Sundays and make frequent visits during the week to the convicts employed on road making. Quite a number of pensioners were given their cottages and their little plots of ground on the east side of the Avon, and every Sunday morning they would be drawn up in their scarlet uniforms outside the little Church to march in military formation to the service. One or two of these pensioners' cottages still remain in York.

Halcyon Days.

With the passing of the years Captain R. G. Meares achieved a mellowness and contentment after a long life of fine public service. The earlier quarrels and disputes with his fellow settlers were long forgotten. His daughters were happily settled down as the wives of substantial farmers. His sons seemed to have inherited a good deal of that “pride of family’* which had so marked the temperament and disposition of their gallant father. Eventually one by one they left the district to seek their fortunes in other parts of the Colony. Captain Meares relinquished office in 1859, he at this time being 79 years of age. His “most affectionately loved and gentle wife" as her tombstone records, had passed away on the 20th January, 1851.

Richard Goldsmith Meares was gathered to his fathers on the 9th January, 1862. He was buried in the old York burying-ground and on the gravestone you will find the Arms he bore as a veteran of the Peninsula, Toulouse and Waterloo:

“How sleep the brave."


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