THE SWAN RIVER. THE BRITISH VISIT IN 1827. The following interesting paper, en- titled "The Visit of Mr. Charles Fraser, the Colonial Botanist, of New South Wales, in H.M.S. Success to the Swan River in 1827, and the Subsequent Settlement," was read by Mr. J. G. Hay, before the West Australian Natural History Society, at the Lec- ture-room of the Museum, on March 20:—Before entering on the subject matter proper of this evening, it might be pertinent to inquire what brought the British to the Western shores of Australia in 1827, at a period when, other than a fringe of settle- ment along the eastern coast, there was no practical colony except that of Van Diemen's Land? We find that at the end of the eighteenth century Napoleon ordered a well-equipped scientific expedition to visit and report on Australia, and so, accordingly, from 1800 to 1804 the vessels comprising this expedition were on their mission. First visiting Western Australia, they subsequently laid up at Port Jackson for some five months, and then pro- ceeded to Tasmania and the southern coasts of Australia, until they, for a second time, came round to Western Australia before they finally quitted the island continent. At King's Island, in Bass' Straits, they were over- hauled by a vessel sent after them by Governor King, and warned against entertaining any idea of taking pos- session of Austral territory in any part. Notwithstanding this, the whole south coast of Australia was afterwards de- picted on a map, published in Paris, as Terre Napoleon, and the surveys of Flinders basely appropriated as their own. The troubles and downfall of the French Emperor, however, put an end, for a time, to any French dreams of colonisation in these seas. One of the lieutenants of this expedition was sent out later in a vessel named L'Uranie, and on this occasion Capt. Freycinet landed at Dirk Hartog's Is- land, September 13, 1818, and dis- honourably abstracted the pewter plate containming Hartog's and Vlaming's in- scriptions. Again, in October, 1826, Capt. D'Urville, in L'Astrolabe, spent nearly a month in King George Sound. A little previous to this, in 01826, two French vessels—Le Thetis and L'Esperance—were off the south coast, looking for traces of La Perouse's lost ships (in 1788), but at the time their intentions were mis- interpreted. So Alarmed were the British authorities at the possible designs of the French that Governor Darling de- spatched Major Lockyer from Sydney with a military detachment and a party of convicts to form a settlement at King George Sound, where they landed on Christmas Day, 1826. Pre- viously to this, on October 2, 1824, a settlement was formed on Melville Is- land off the north coast of Australia by Capt. J. G. Bremer, C.B., of H.M.S. Tamar, but this settlement was abandoned a few years later, in 1829. In order further to checkmate the French, the Fly (Capt. Wetherall) was sent to establish a fort, called "Dumaresq," at Western Port, which the Government meant to settle as a colony, but this also, after a short time, was given up. From a journal kept by Mr. Gilbert, the clerk of the Success, we find that that vessel sailed from Sydney on Wednesday, January 17, 1827, having on board as passengers Mr. Fraser, Colonial Botanist, and a Mr. Garling. The colonial cutter Cur- rency was attached to the larger ves- sel for the purpose of being employed in suveying the coast and to carry provisions to King George Sound, but after meeting with several mishaps, she had to return to Sydney without fulfill- ing her mission. The vessels first proceeded to Hobart, of which a very pleasing account was given. Even- tually, the Success arrived off Rottnest, and after a day or two spent about the islands, the journal proceeds:— "The next day (March 7) being fixed for the expedition up the river, the first gig and cutter were ordered to hold themselves in readiness. At 8 o'clock they, accordingly, started from the ship. The boats were victualled for a fortnight, and well armed. The object of this was to proceed, if possible, to the source of the river—to examine the banks, the depth of water, to fix on an eligible spot for a settlement, to ascertain the productions of the coun- try, the nature of the soil, and the practicability of forming a harbour for shipping, and I am happy to state that our expectations are fully realised and that our report has given so much satisfaction to the Governor (Darling) that an immediate settlement is to be formed there. The boats proceeded about twenty miles (really twelve) up the river the first day, when they were prevented going further by meeting with the Flats (Hierrison Islands) that here extended themselves the whole width of the river, and one and a half miles in length. They were reduced to the necessity of taking everything out of
the boats, and landing them on one of the many islands that are formed in this part of the river by the floods, and to drag the boats over by main force, there not being sufficient water to float the gig. In doing this the party were above their knees in mud and obliged to walk over exten- sive beds of oyster shells, which lacerat- ed their feet much. The next day, however, they got the boats over, and continued their course up the river. It is strange that, immediately on get- ting over these flats, they found deep water of nearly eight fathoms. The river, after running two miles to the eastward,and takes a N.N.E. serpentine direction. The scenery was delightful; the trees growing to the water's edge, the transparency of the river, the mountains and plains alternately ap- pearing, and the picturesque points and bays formed the most interesting scenery possible, and this place only re- quires a little assistance from art to render it one of the most delightful spots on earth." On the Sunday they First Met the Natives, about two hundred in number, and had friendly intercourse with them. The narrative proceeds:—"On Monday (March 12) we reached the source of the river, and latterly it had become so narrow that we were obliged to boat the mast and pull, the trees overhang- ing on both sides, so as to prevent our sailing. Here we encamped for that and the following day, and passed our time in examining the country. We shot as many swans and ducks as we required, and Mr. Fraser made a large collection of various plants. On Wednesday, having got the things into the boat, we commenced our pasage down the sriver, and the boats had not proceeded far before both boats got staved from the large quantity of stumps of trees, etc., that had fallen into the river. We repaired this damage, and reached the flats. The captain (Stirling) here ordered the first gig to proceed up another of the rivers (the Canning), and ascertain the depth of water, and how far it ex- tended, but not to proceed further than to he enabled to be on board by sunset the following evening. The cutter continued her course down the river, and reached the ship a little after midnight in safety. The gig returned the next night at 10 o'clock, having proceeded as far up the branch of the river as they could consistently with the order to be on board by sunset. It is worthy of remark that the whole way the gig went she had five fathoms water, and it was equally deep and broad at the place from which they commenced their return as at first, and the water was extremely salt. On the gig's returning down the river she fell in with another party of natives, who were more timid than those we had ob- served up the river. The boat was obliged to pull on and off the share for some time, and make every sign and token of friendship, before the natives could be prevailed on to remain while they landed. At last, one or two remainded, and one of the people landed, and immediately gave them some presents, and they soon became more friendly. One of the boat's crew
gave the chief a jacket and another a pair of trousers, and it was strange to observe him endeavour to put it on as the other had put on his jacket, thrusting his arms through the places for his legs. It was curious to ob- serve the natives put their fingers and rub them on our people's skin, and then look to see if anything came off, being fully persuaded they were paint- ed. The natives opened their waist- coats, and laughed much when they observed that their breasts were the same colour as their hands and faces. Our people procured several spears from them, and parted good friends. We were employed from this time in surveying the islands of Rottnest Buache, and Berthollet (Carnac), and the adjacent rocks, and the coast on each side of the river. I had almost forgot that we made two gardens, about fifteen miles up the river (Mount's Bay-road) and another on Buache (hence called Garden Island). and sowed several descriptions of garden vegetables and corn. We left on Buache a cow, three goats, three sheep with young, etc. Our expec- tations of the advantages of a settle- ment at Swan River are now fully confirmed, and though it would be impossible for vessels of above ten tons burden to enter the river at any state of the tide in safety at the present entrance, it would be practicable at a small expense, to cut a canal at about four miles from the mouth of the river to the sea (Rocky Bay is two and a half miles only). The dis- tance necessary to be cut is only one quarter of a mile, and would imme- diately lead into water of twelve fathoms (sic) both in the river and in the sea. The land is rocky, and would afford excellent sides to the canal. The climate is most delight- ful, the soil is good, and in many places exceedingly rich, and capable of producing any of the European vegetables and fruits, as well as tro- pical. The prevailing botany of this place, as I have collected from Mr. Fraser, consists of the following genera, viz.: Eucalyptus, banksia, dryandra, casuarina, lepteospermum, and a species of zamia. The hills near the beach immediately north of the entrance are sandy, but on pro- ceeding two hundred yards the soil changes to a rich red loam of very considerable depth, improving as the hills are ascended to the richest vir- gin loam, and capable of producing any crop. The hills continue of the same description for seven or eight miles, beyond which their character was not observed. The stony nature of these hills renders them admirably adapted for the culture of the vine. The islands on the flats are composed of a muddy deposit, evidently brought on by the floods. Their banks are covered with thickets of casuarina and metrosideros, and their centres with submarine succulent plants. At Point Fraser there is a material change observable in the botany. A magnificent species of angophora (eucalpytus calophylla, the red gum of this State) is seen on the summit of the ranges. The casuarina on the banks assume a more arborescent character than any seen hitherto on the river, banksia grandis forming a superb feature in the botany of this part, often exceeding 40ft. in height. The zamia is seen attaining a height of 30ft.; its beautiful pinnated leaves associated with the superb xanthorreas (blackboys), so abundant here, im- parts to the forest an appearance per- fectly tropical. Preceding up the river, the country opens into im- mense plains of the most fertile de- scription. The soil is a rich brown earth, extending to the base of the mountains. The forest land between the river and the ranges is covered with the most magnificent shrubs and stupendous angophora (the red gum of the State), occupying the same situa- tion in the geography of the botany of this country that the ironbark does on the eastern coast. Stringy bark (no stringy bark exists, probably the jarrah) was likewise seen on the ranges in considerable quantities. From this time to the 20th we were employed in surveying the islands of Rottnest, Buache, and Berthollet, but my limits will not allow me to give you any particulars respecting them. On March 21 we weighed and stood to leeward, steering toward Julian (? Jurien) Bay, but the wind shifting, we bore up for Geographe Bay." At Geographe Bay the Success an- chored, and entertained a party of about thirty natives, who had kept pace with the ship for some thirty miles, going at the rate of five knots an hour. An examination was also made of the Curious Formation at Cape Naturaliste and the limestone caverns there, and a course afterwards shaped for King George Sound, which they left on April 4, arriving back at Port Jack- son on the 15th of the same month. There is an erroneous impression abroad that immediately Governor Darling received the report of this expedition he despatched Capt. Stirl- ing home at once with his recom- mendation that a settlement should be formed at the Swan River. As a matter of fact, Capt. Stirling was again sent out in the Success to start yet another colony—this time, again, in the far north of Australia. On June 18, 1827, the anniversary of the
Battle of Waterloo, twelve years pre- viously, the foundation of a new colony was laid at Port Raffles (near Port Essington, in the Coburg Penin- sula), and a fort for its protection was named after the Duke of Wellington, by Capt. Stirling. This embryo colony shared the fate of the others after a flickering existence, and no doubt served its purpose to keep off objectionable would-be neighbours. As the name of Fraser is largly mixed in with the recommendation to estab- lish the Swan River Settlement, it may be well to inquire Who He Was, or the sort of man. Other than by his botanical collections, little is known beyond the fact that he was a private soldier, who accompanied Ox- ley on his expeditions, and was sub- sequently made the Colonial Botanist and the first Director of the Sydney Botanic Gardens. Oxley referred to him in his journal as Fraser, our soldier- botanist. Though illiterate, he was an indefatigable botanical collector, and accompanied Stirling on more than one of his trips to Tasmania, as well as to Moreton Bay. Besides his official duties, Fraser made collections for Lord Bathurst, Dr. Hooker, and others. The only literary production his name is attached to is a valuable contribution he sent Dr. Hooker for the first volume of his "Botanical Miscellany," which was published in 1830, and styled "Remarks on the Botany, etc., of the Banks of the Swan River, Isle of Buache, Baio Geo- graphe, and Cape Naturaliste." The whole paper, as the original report, is of the most glowing description, not only of the many new plants to science, and their magificent appear- ance, but also as to the richness of the soil, which was not verified after- wards by the settlers. For instance, Fraser states:—"Half a mile from the entrance I found the soil, al- though apparently sterile, to consist of a fine light brown loam, containing a small proportion of sand, and cap- able of nroducing any description of light garden crop. The character not only applies to the immediate bank as far as the reach below Peli- can Point, but likewise to the hills, as far as my observation led." And, again, writing of the opposite shore, he says :—"The soil at the North Head is sandy : its productions much the same as that of the South. Two hundred yards from the beach the soil changes to a light red loam, improv- ing, as the hills ascended, to that of a fine virgin earth. The valleys se- parating these hills are, along the coast, of the richest description as far as my observations led : and in- land, extending to Pelican Point, be- yond which their character was not ascertained. These hills are admir- ably adapted for the site of a town, their elevated situation commanding a view of the whole of Canning Sound (now Gage Roads and Cockburn Sound), with the adjacent coast, the interior for some distance, and the meanderings of the river. Their lying open to all breezes, too, is an additional advantage." Buckland Hill, the principal of those here referred to as the site of a town,
is over 300ft. in height, and was after- wards intended to be fortified, being only half a mile from the ocean beach, while also commanding the river. The groves of bananas at Mount's Bay-road owe their origin to Mr. Fraser, who refers to this neighbourhood as fol- lows:—"The valleys and headlands furnish an excellent soil, more par- ticularly that of Garden Point. Here we planted several bananas and seeds of all sorts of culinary vegetables." A second garden was likewise started some distance further west, probably what was afterwards called Stirling Square, the present gardens of Mount Eliza, of which the following description is given:—"The cliffs, which are of very considerable elevation, are formed of fossil lime and sandstone. The view from this point of the meanderings of the river and the Moreau, with the surrounding country and distant mountains, is particularly grand. This seems to be the extreme easterly boundary of the limestone." This is not quite correct, as lime- stone has lately been quarried out of Moore-street, in excavating some cel- larage for a hotel. The river proper from the Causeway and the suitable- ness of Burswood Island For Cotton-growing are thus alluded to:—"At Point Fraser the bank may be said to ter- minate, and the channel appears to be that of a beautiful inland river. From the entrance to this spot it may be more properly called an estuary. The flats or levels at this point are very fertile, composed of a rich allu- vial deposit but evidently occasionally flooded, drift timber having been seen 5ft. above the surface. Here are ex- tensive salt marshes, admirably adapt- ed to the growth of cotton. This has already been produced at Sydney, and pronounced by the ablest judges in Britain to be of very superior quality. There can be no question that, both as to soil and climate, the banks of the Swan River would prove better adapted to the cultivation of this plant than Port Jackson, and the seed that should be tried is that of Sea Island cotton." While in this locality Fraser men- tions an incident similar to that of the French:—"While attending to a boat in the river, which the party were dragging over the mud, I dis- tinctly heard the bellowing of some huge animal similar to that of an ox, proceeding from an extensive marsh farther up the river. (Could this be the dugong of the French?") The French did not say it was a dugong, but it would be exceedingly interest- ing to determine the probable kind of animal. Might it have been a sea- lion or bear? The French party had been the whole day endeavouring to get their boats over the mud flats, as they returned from exploring the river, probably is far as Guildford. The time was winter, and the day cold and rainy. The following are the words of Mons. Hierrison, the midshipman- in-charge:—"Night descended upon us in the midst of all these mishaps and dangers which had fallen upon us. We were preparing to go ashore to dry ourselves and restore our ex- hausted strength, when all of a sudden a terrible howl met us, freezing one with terror. It was like the bellow- ing of an ox, but very much stronger, and appeared to issue from the neighbouring reeds." This happened near what is now the foot of Bennett- street. Another Interesting Feature of Natural History. is thus recorded by Fraser :—"The ridges on the banks are perforated with immense numbers of deep pits, the origin or cause of which we could not, at first, ascertain. They proved to be made by the natives for the purpose of catching land tortoises, with which these ridges abound." This was at the navigable extremity of the river, where also the party met with gigantic thistles, 11ft. in height, which must have been introduced to the country. At the head of Geo- graphe Bay the party also came across similar thistles the same height, among herbaceous plants. Speaking of The Climate, the paper states:—"The climate dur- ing our stay was the most delightful I ever experienced, the thermometer seldom ranging above 85deg., and the nights agreeably cool. The sea-breezes set in at two hours after sunrise and cease at sunset, when they are immediately succeeded by the land breeze, which, even in February, is so agreeable that, while surveying the river, we preferred sleeping in the open air to lodging in tents." In this a very serious mistake is made, as it was March, not the month of Febru- ary, when the expedition was here. Touching Animal Life, the following was the principal fauna: —"The quantity of black swans, peli- cans. ducks, and aquatic birds seen on the river was truly astonishing. With- out any exaggeration, I have seen a number of black swans which could not be estimated at less than five hundred rise at once, exhibiting a spectacle which, if the size and colour of the bird be taken into account, and the noise and rustling occasioned by the
flapping of their wings previous to their rising, is quite unique in its kind. We frequently had from twelve to fifteen of them in the boats, and the crews thought nothing of devour- ing eight roasted swans in a day. The animals are the same as in New South Wales—the kangaroo, emu, native dog, etc. Fish were abundant, and the Sound swarmed with tiger sharks." Berthollet (since named Carnac) is referred to as "producing abundance of hares, seals, and mutton birds." The description generally given of The Flora is fairly accurate, the principal and excusable mistakes being the red gum of the State (eucalyptus calophylla), set down as belonging to the ango- phora or apple trees, the jarrah re- ferred to as stringy bark, and the flooded gums as blue gums. The summing up of the Report on which a Settlement was Determined was set out in these words:—"The ad- vantages which this country holds out to settlers above those in New South Wales, besides the important circum- stance of its vicinity to India, the Spice Islands, Java, the Mauritius, and the Cape of Good Hope, and, in- dependent of its situation as a place of call for East India and China ships, are, in the first place, the great ease with which a settler can bring his land into cultivation, the forests averaging not more than eight to ten trees per acre. Secondly, the facility with which he can bring his produce to market, either by land or water, the coast being easy of access on any part near the river, and no impediments existing in the interior. Thirdly, the great advantage of fresh water of the best quality—an advantage which New South Wales, east of the Blue Moun- tains, does not possess, excepting on the immediate banks of rivers and creeks. Fourthly, the great abund- ance of limestone." Upon these re- commendations the British Govern- ment Sanctioned a Colony, and allowed grants of land at the rate of one acre for each shilling and six- pence of value of goods introduced to the country, or expended in connec- tion therewith. Capt. Stirling, in his visit of 1827, had named the range of mountains through which the Swan River passed the General Darling Range, and called the very conspicu- ous bluff in the river Mount Eliza, after Lady Darling's first name. When interviewing the Secretary of State for the Colonies, he asked for his ser- vices on this occasion to receive Gar- den Island and the progeny of the stock he left there in 1827, and 90,000 acres besides, at Cape Naturaliste. On Sir George Murray granting this, Capt. Stirling bestowed the name of Perth on the new capital he subse- quently founded in 1829, this being the birthplace of Sir George Murray, in Scotland. Subsequently, however, Stirling asked, and was allowed, to select the 90,000 acres, prac- tically where he liked, a large portion of which he took up at Guildford and Woodbridge, which he so named after the birthplace, in
England, of his father-in-law, Mr. Mangles, who sat for Guildford in Parliament. With what favour the English immigrants looked upon the country after Mr. Fraser's eloquent description of it, is shown in a letter still preserved in the Sydney Botanic Gardens from a friend of his, one Dr. Davis, who, writing from King George Sound, informed him that The Settlers Found Nothing but Sand, Sand, Sand, and that they would be glad to in- terview Mr. Fraser for a short time if they could. Perhapls it is an ill-wind that blows nobody good, for among many immigrants who left the coun- try were the Henty family who went to the Derwent, and subsequently went over from Van Dieinen's Land with considerable stock to the main- land, where they squatted down on what was afterwards known as Port- land, and though their occupation of the country was unanthorised by the Crown, they may justly be looked upon as the founders of the pastoral wealth of Victoria.