Diary of ten years eventful life of an early settler in Western Australia and also A descriptive vocabulary of the language of the aborigines/The colony (2)
CAPABILITIES OF THE COLONY—SCARCITY OF CATTLE—KANGAROO HUNT—LOSES HIMSELF IN THE BUSH—SITES OF NEW TOWNS—ASPECT OF THE COUNTRY—MARKETS.
8th December, 1830.
This letter goes by the Cruiser to India, whence there may be an early opportunity for its transmission to England; so that, in all probability, it may reach you before my last of the 23rd November, which was accompanied by the continuation of my journal, and contained my first impressions of this place. I should not be sorry if it were so, for I can write now rather more satisfactorily with respect to several matters. I have since agreed with Mr. Lamb to take the half of his grant on the left bank of the Swan River, on condition of expending so much on my part as will secure the whole. I walked all over the front ground near the river, some days since, and it seems to be good. It is generally considered so, and above the average of neighbouring land; but I cannot speak more particularly at present.
A vein of good soil has been discovered on the banks of a river called the Avon, behind the hills, on which many of the settlers are selecting their grants. I have got one upon that river towards the south.
All the lands up the Swan and Canning have been long since granted; but some of the grantees have left the colony, and their lands may be resumed by the Government, if not occupied, at the expiration of the year. I have spoken to some practical farmers, who have not the slightest doubt that the colony posseses every capability, both for agriculture and grazing, and though the pasture lands on this side of the hills are not extensive, there is an unlimited tract behind them, and at no great distance.
Two or three vessels have come in since I first wrote, and the prices of provisions and clothing are now moderate.
Cattle are very dear, though we daily expect arrivals from Hobart Town. Good cows are as high as £25, though some have been purchased for £12. It is not advisable to bring stock from England; freight and casualties make them come too expensive. A vessel is to sail for the Mauritius in about three weeks, when I hope to write more fully.
At present I am unwilling to take the responsibility of advising any one to come out; but I have met with no difficulties for which I was not prepared.
I went out some days ago, about four miles off, to hunt kangaroos; we huntsmen saw five, but the dogs never got sight of them. I went astray returning, and no wonder, for nothing is more perplexing than walking in the bush; you have no object to steer by, except your shadow or a compass; the one is always changing with the day, and the other may mislead, unless you keep your eye constantly upon it. The country is most singular, but does not possess those features of extreme interest which I expected; there is (as far as I have seen) great sameness in the scenery, and several parties which have been beyond the mountains (perhaps to the distance of 100 miles) report the scenery to be of the same character—undulating ground and extensive plains; but no very striking object, no large rivers, no lakes of any extent—and the low lands are subject to floods in winter. The river on which I have my grant from Government has been but lately discovered, and is not, I believe, navigable; it runs strongly in winter, and forms a series of pools and shallows in summer; its course is to the north-west, the more northerly part being nearest the Swan River, but the better ground along its banks lying more to the south; on this has been laid out the site of three towns; Northam—said to be about twenty-eight miles from the head of the Swan; York—ten miles farther, and Beverly—(close to which is my grant,), ten miles more; this I know only from an unfinished map.
We are to have a monthly conveyance by boat for our goods, up to the head of the river. A store has been established at Guildford, a few miles from this, where we are sure of procuring a temporary supply of the necessaries of life, when it may be inconvenient to obtain them from Perth. Prices are now moderate. I have bought sugar at sevenpence, rice at twopence-halfpenny, and coffee at eightpence per pound, arrack at six shillings and sixpence per gallon; rum is a dearer article, generally twelve shillings and sixpence per gallon; it is allowed as a daily ration to the servants, who have got into the habit of demanding it, and grumbling if refused.