HENRY MAXWELL LEFROY
Misfortunes as a Settler.
By F. W. G.
INHERE are many Lefroys in the State today, but he was the first to arrive here. His choice of the Swan River Settlement, was no sudden thing. When
he left Gravesend in August, 1840, it was the culmination of a long cherished ambition. Whether it originated through his acquaintance with the Stirling family while he was at the Guildford (Surrey) Grammar School in the early thirties, or through his conversations with a son of Captain Yates, R.N., when he was an undergraduate at Oxford, it had cer tainly become a fixed idea in his mind that Western Australia was his destiny. Henry Maxwell Lefroy was born in August, 1818, and was the son of the Rev. John Henry George Lefroy, rector of Compton and Ashe. When he was five years old his father died, leaving a widow with nine children. After the death of her husband, she resided at Ewshott House, Crondall, and it was here that Henry Maxwell Lefroy spent most of his boyhood. I have just finished reading a memoir of his life written by his son, the Rev. C. E. C. Lefroy, whom I met for the first time 28 years ago when he was Archdeacon of Perth. One puts down this small book with a dis tinct impression that here was a man who had fought valiantly, who had looked failure full in the face and refused to be dismayed. Whatever Henry Maxwell Lefroy thought of his own life, the perusal of his correspondence leaves one with
Henry Maxwell Lefroy.
Henry Maxwell Lefroy.
the sure conviction that he had triumphed gloriously. How narrowly he missed the kind of success he had come to Western Australia to achieve! He was sensitive and trusting. At the Guildford Gram mar School he had met a certain school fellow named 'M.,' and as will be seen, this acquaintance had an adverse in fluence on the whole of his manhood. H. M. Lefroy matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1836, but did not go into residence until Whitsuntide, 1837. He took his BJL. degree in 1840. On a tour of the Lake Country in 1839 he met the poet Wordsworth, and in the same year he visited his second cousins Anthony O'Grady and de Courcy Lefroy, at Carriglass, Co. Longford, Ireland, into whose minds he instilled his own de termination to seek fortune in Western Australia. Shortly after his arrival in the colony in January, 1841, he found himself pledged to his old school fellow 'M.' to the tune of £4,500, and was most unfortunate in speculations in land and stock. He had become so involved that he was never afterwards able to extri cate himself. He purchased 27 head of cattle for £460. Within a few weeks four of them had died, and two had got astray in the bush; a fire destroyed his hay and corn valued at £100. He had taken a lease of a farm at York, and was paying £30 per hundred per annum for the rental of sheep. His servants were 'insolent and unmanageable.' In a letter dated May 25, 1841, he says: I find the natives very useful — laughing, good tempered, happy creatures. I have now a strange one from the Northward, who strongly reminds me of Gipsy Ned. In the course of the next few weeks I sha'll make some expeditions into the in terior, to find a good run for my sheep. I hope to tiud it within 20 miles, but may have to go 100. I shall keep two shearers and a hut keeper there for the prcater part of the year, and visit them myself every two or three weeks. An Impression of Feel. In April, 1842, he reported that no ship had visited the colony since October 20. He had made a visit to Australind and Bunbury, which he had reached by com pass and a line of marked trees. He called on Thomas Peel, nephew of the Prime Minister of England. His impression of Peel may be given:— Peel was a man of large frame and imposing appearance; but I never saw disappointed ambi tion and corroding care so strongly marked on any man's face as on his. He was living in most uncomfortable conditions, but still a man of com manding presence, outstanding force and great ability. But I believe that a more signal failure than his could not be found in the whole history of colonisation. Any sensible man, ac quainted with conditions here, could have pre dicted that failure before Peel left England. On January 6, 1843, his cousins, An thony O'Grady and de Courcy arrived in the colony, and lived with him for some time at Dutannunlng, York. They did not join him on their arrival, for, on January 9, he left York, with Henry Landor, on an exploring expedition. They had two riding horses, and one pack horse to carry their provisions for one month. They took with them three na tives, one of whom was Kowitch. Natives had told of a vast inland sea. It was a bad time of the year to start out, as everything was so dry. For ten miles they held to the Albany road, and then turned south-east into the Corbiding country, and on to the Hotham River. They found and named Landor River, Kowitch Pool, and Lefroy River. After traversing hot, scrubby plains, a point on the Williams River was reached, whence they returned to York after an absence of 14 days. Lefroy was anxious to get reading mat ter, and we find him writing home in 1843:— Send more books, especially on philosophy. I don't mind how tough and deep, provided they are not too technical. I want Whewell's Philo sophy of the Inductive Sciences, Herschel's Study of Natural Philosophy, Butler's Analogy, and any works on political economy, discovery, or the progress of society and nations. I should also like a few dramatic works; Schiller's Wallenstein I am particluarly fond of. Work as Naval Instructor. About this time he was envisaging an Income of two or three thousand pounds for life. In April, 1844, he left the colony with only £100 in his pocket. He was an idealist, and was obviously unfitted for a
settler's life. But he possessed an indo mitable spirit, and high enthusiasm. He went to Adelaide, and stayed with the Governor, afterwards Sir George Grey. He arrived home at Plymouth in January, 1845. Writing to his mother, he said: 'The loss is mine, as the gain would have been, and I am content. I have had my money, spent it imprudently, and lost nearly all of it.' His relatives and friends desired to help him, but he preferred to work out his own salvation. He became naval instructor on H.M.S. Endymion in 1845, and went on a three years' cruise of the West Indies. We find him estab lished for a short time in an office at Charing Cross as the secretary to the Canterbury Association in 1848, but, shortly after, he was again a naval in structor, this time on H.M.S. Southamp ton, and bound for the Cape station. Writing to his brother, Henry, in 1850, he says: 'By the end of next year I may be obliged to go back to Australia. I can not foresee the end of my business with 'M.,' but it will probably strip me of everything I possess in Australia.' Opposition from members of his family delayed his departure. It was while he was attached to H.M.S. Impregnable that he married Annette Bate in December, 1853, and almost immediately received an appointment as assistant superintendent at the convict establishment at Fremantle. He embarked from Plymouth on Christ mas eve in a small vessel, the Sea Park, and was never again to see England. He became superintendent of the convict establishment in 1859, and held the po sition until his retirement, in 1875. As a contrast between the means of travelling then and now, a description of a journey taken in 1857 is informing: — A short time ago we drove our gig (from Fre mantle) to Caversham, to see- the Robert de Burghs. The journey occupied from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., owing to the shocking state of the roads. I had to walk nearly the whole way. That journey today could be covered comfortably In three-quarters of an hour without stepping too heavily on the ac celerator. In 1856 he purchased land near Fremantle and laid out £1,000 on it straight away. It was afterwards a per petual drain on his income and was sold at his death for £500. His views on the convict system were drastic: — The Convict Establishment here is badly organ ised and shamefully conducted. In all my life I never saw labour 6O thrown away, and 1 never saw men, individually, do so little work. From the- day the first convict arrived, namely, June, 1850, till June, 18f-7, the Home Government has spent at least £650,000 for the maintenance of an average number of a thousand convicts for the whole seven years. The total sent hitherto lias been 4,200. The total value of the work done would, I believe, fall Ehort of £45,000. I have no belief in the power of any -Government to conduct any industrial organisation with any success. I begin to think that prisons might be leased to private individuals. . . The Colonies are fast realising the fallacy of the system and are fast going over to the anti-convict side. Federation and Gold. In January, 1858, we find him pre dicting Federation: 'I firmly believe that before many years have passed all the Australian colonies will be brought into a federal union.' In a recent article in Life and Letters on Pinjarra's first rec tor mention was made of Bishop Hales' small farm at Serpentine. In 1867 H. M. Lefroy had purchased a property joining this, and was renting the Bishop's cot tage for two months, and hi 1869 pur chased this from the Bishop. In January, 1863, the York Agricul tural Society urged the encouragement of exploration to the east, and on May 7 of that year H. M. Lefroy led an ex pedition accompanied by Messrs. Robert son, Edwards and Hall, two natives and 16 horses, which went first to Mr. C. Smith's station 100 miles east of York. Before they returned to York on July 31 they had covered 945 miles. Lake Lefroy, south of Kalgoorlie, was dis covered, and they travelled over the country which 30 years later became famous as Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, and the Golden Mile. Mt. Burges and other places which now appear on the map were named by him. He predicted a grain producing future for most of the eastern portions of the country traversed. He said: 'I think it very probable that in these quartz reefs gold will be found.' But it was 30 years before that silent desert suddenly burst into life. And Henry Maxwell Lefroy was the first white man to traverse it. Before starting on this expedition he sent his wife and family to England. In 1866, when Capt. Newland retired from the position of Controller General owing to a difference of opinion between him and Governor Hampton numerous difficulties arose over the appointment of a successor. Kim berley in his history says that 'it was held hi the colony that Mr. O'Grady Lefroy should have received the appoint ment.' He has probably confused O'Grady Lefroy with Henry Maxwell Lefroy. In 1874 the latter says hi a letter to his brother: You will have heard that I am to be super annuated from this service on March 31 next. This takes place in the ordinary course of events, but I ought to have beon Controller Gene ral instead of Superintendent only. It was Governor Hampton who prevented me, because he wished to get the appointment for his own son. My pension will be £300 per year or pos sibly £60 more if my six years Naval service is included. With my eight children, the eldest 18 and the youngest only 5 months, we shall have hard work to get along. It was hard work to the very end. He received his pension for only four years. He visited his old friends the de Burghs at Cowalla, Moore River, at the end of May, 1879, and soon after his return died of pneumonia at Fremantle. He was buried at the old cemetery at Fremantle on July 21, 1879, but to 1920 when his widow died his remains were removed to repose beside hers at Karrakatta.