NOTES OF A NORTHERN TOUR,
HL— Port Pirie, via Laura and Jamestown, to Terowie.
Port Pirie has an air of consciously growing importance. The population is variously esti- mated at from 600 to 800 persons, and all seem to have plenty to do. Numerous loads of
wheat arrive daily, and as we roughly estimated the stock awaiting shipment at not less than 100,000 bushels, it will require considerable effort to get it all away before next season's produce begins to come in. Warren's Mill, a large galvanized iron structure, has at present a monopoly of the grist trade, but we heard that other and more substantial erections are about to be commenced by two well-known Adelaide millers. The wheat stores are situated between the embankment forming Ellen Street and the creek, and are built upon piles to prevent damage from the frequent high tides to which the Port is subject. Each establishment appears to have its own jetty for loading lighters and ketches, and the wheat buyers are in full swing; in fact the whole place presents an appearance of active bustling energy. The Government wharf and future railway terminus is the lowest down in the creek, and has all the appearance of superior finish and permanance. The approaches are being filled with silt dredged out of the stream, and will when complete greatly increase the facilities for rapid shipment of produce. Two or three small vessels, regular traders, were in the port, and we saw the white sails of others glistening in the sunlight on their progress up and down the stream. In the distance Mount Fergusson was pointed out to us, but the residents did not appear to fear that its alleged superiority as a shipping- place would ever lead to a diversion of business in its direction ; nor, if it be true that vessels cannot approach within five miles of it in ordinary tides, does it appear likely to be extensively used. Most of the private houses are either wood or iron, but there are a few stone buildings. The Wesleyans have a small chapel, in which the day-school is held. Both it and the Institute are of the I(r)onic order of architecture, but the foundation-stone of a more suitable edifice has been laid. We were informed that the railway works were being pushed forward as rapidly as circumstances would permit. The rails were laid for seven miles, and were being laid at the rate of a mile and a quarter per week, s0 that there is good prospect of the line being open for traffic as far as Crystal Brook before harvest. In view of the quantity of old wheat there is yet in the country, the enormous amount there will be for shipment next year should the present anticipations of the farmers be realized, and the irreparably bad condition of the roads, it seems of the utmost importance that this work should be completed with the greatest possible dispatch. The general aspect of Port Pirie is far more pleasing than we had been led to imagine. The stream is narrow compared with that at Port Adelaide, but has a considerable depth of water, and will no doubt ere long be lined with continuous wharf frontages. On the oppo site bank a belt of mangroves descends to the water's edge, and the Flinders range in the distance, bolder and grander than the Mount Lofty Range as seen from Ade- laide, and strikingly like it in many respects forms a noble background to the scene. Through a gap in the crest of the range far away to the north the head of Mount Remarkable is visible, and a ravine was pointed out through which, it is said, a practicable road can be found to Wir- rabara. We had no means of testing the accu racy of this statement; but if correct, it must be a great advantage to the inhabitants of both places, the line of communication being so much more direct than that via Gladstone and Crystal Brook. We were unable to gratify our desire of visiting the simple but efficient waterworks at Nelshaby, which have often been described, but were told that the water from an abundant spring fills a well, whence nine miles of pipes carry a never-failing supply of the precious fluid to the Port. On our return journey our good-natured charioteer took us by another road through the Booyoolee Estate to show us the almost in credible luxuriance of the herbage, which without any exaggeration more resembles a growing crop nearly ready for the scythe than an ordinary pasture. This magnificent property extends away on both sides of the Rocky River, the proprietor, who was wise in his generation, having purchased the water frontages for several miles. Being splendidly grassed, well watered, and possessing an abundance of shady trees, it is not only well adapted for stock, but renders the drive to Laura unmistakably beautiful. The lovely country just described lies on the left hand, with foothills of the Flinders Range in the rear, diversified and picturesque; while on the right is a succession of prosperous- looking farms, the houses being of a substantial character, and the crops without exception first-rate. The road being nearly level, the lofty skylight of S[?]'s brewery is visible from a long distance, and prepares the visitor for what is in some respects without doubt the finest town of the area. The township of Laura is scattered over a con- siderable extent of perfectly level tableland. Its surroundings are exceedingly pretty, and, judging by the number of tenements, it has a larger population than either of its rivals. The mill, brewery, stores, and hotels are substantial stone buildings, and there are several neat wooden dwelling-houses, but the majority are of more durable material. The machinists' yards an large, and display great amount of active preparation for the coming harvest. The five ecclesiastical buildings for a population which cannot much exceeed [?] favour the idea that there must be a waste of power somewhere. The Wesleyan Church, a plain but good-sized build- ing, is used for day-school purposes, and the Baptist Church, which is in course of erection, being built of freestone, large, lofty, and with much attention to ornamental details than is usual will be when finished the finest church in the area. A building for an Institute has also just been commenced. The telegraph line leads north through Wirrabara to Melrose, but as we wished to visit Appila we took a north-easterly direction, which led by a gradually ascending road for about five miles through continuous and excellent crops on either side to Pine Creek. When at Glad- stone we had heard the opinion strongly expressed that the railway instead of passing through Wirrabara should follow this line of country, it being averted that the Wirrabara farmers would not use the railway even if con structed, but would adopt the more direct road through the ranges previously referred to. Naturally enough we found the Appila people with whom we conversed decidedly in favour of this route. The Appila Plain, which is of great extent, looked drier and less promising than most of the country through which we had been passing, rain being much needed, especially for the later -sown wheat. We halted at a farm-house to make enquiries, and the day being showery found the farmer contentedly reading Roman history to his wife, who was mending stockings. The appro priate incident upon which our bucolic friend was engaged when we interrupted him was the dictatorship of Cincinnatus. May he rise to equal honour! When within sight of the township of Yarrowie, 12 miles from Laura, we turned to the southeast in the direction of Jamestown, through low, rounded, and gravelly hills, which were unculti vated, are principally covered with tussocky grass, and form excellent wheat land, except where they are too stony to plough. These are general characteristics of the south-eastern part of the Hundred of Appila and of the adjacent portions cf Tarcowie and Caltowie. The tussocks deserve particular notice. From the centre of each hard coarse tuft springs a handful of brown stems, perhaps three feet high, at a distance looking like a diminutive kind of wheat, which is said to be the original form of 'drake'— one of the farmers' greatest plagues. The work of breaking in new ground is extremely laborious, for when both coulters of tha double-furrow catch simultaneously in these obstructions a team of four horses is brought up standing; the ploughman finds it difficult to keep either a straight line, an even temper, or a subdued voice, and he has to calm his mind by the remembrance that they are Dame Nature's promise, for wherever the tussocks are abundant there, under proper treatment, the land will produce splendid crops of wheat. The proper
treatment appears to be to plough the land roughly but deep, and let it lie fallow for a season before putting in the seed. 'Green land,' as it is called, which is sown im mediately after the first ploughing, yields but a poor return either that or the follow ing season. Time is required for the rank vegetation to decay and the land to sweeten under the genial influence of air and sun before it can do its best, but after that it is almost all that can be desired. This pecu- liarity accounts for many of the unsatisfactory crops for which at first we could see no reason, the fact being that slovenly farming, the mere scratching of the surface, will no more pay here than elsewhere. From Appila to Jamestown, a distance of 15 miles, took us through the Caltowie Area. The general topography of the country for many miles in every direction may be described as consisting of extensive plains, or rather valleys, running nearly north and south, and bounded by low gravelly hills which occasionally rise into a certain degree of picturesqueness, the prin cipal summits, such as Mount Lock and the Hogshead, having distinguishing names, and showing conspicuously above their fellows. Almost the whole of the land is occupied and under cultivation, the majority of the crops looking exceedingly well; but there was a general outcry for the rain which has since descended in copious abundance. The Caltowie Area is large and fertile, but the township is not much ot a place. It is advan tageously situated on the line from Kooringa to Melrose and from Jamestown to Port Pirie; but there is nothing else to indicate that it possesses any special importance, and the principal object of interest was Siekmann & Moule's wheat stack. The traffic has evidently been very heavy, for much of the road between here and Jamestown is as thoroughly cut up as a ploughed field. We had worn our stock of eulogistic adjectives completely threadbare over most of the crops through which we had been passing, so it was a relief— though not altogether plea surable — to find a stretch of country which required some of an entirely opposite character. This was a length of about two miles, which was absolutely yellow with the common milk-thistles, of which donkeys are said to be so fond. Being in the neighbour hood of Caltowie we had naturally been talking about a certain testimonial which was not presented and the proceedings con nected therewith, when this unexpected subject ckecked our conversation, and we gazed in wonder, for our experience was at fault ; we had never seen anything like it. It is only the simple truth that for acres together there were more thistles than anything else. We were fairly puzzled, and at last Strickland, who is an enthusiastic admirer of the beautiful, got down and waded into the crop to examine. He next lit bis pipe, to assist his meditations, and after smoking savagely for a while, broke out with— ' Tell you what it is — (puff)— we are in Caltowie -(puff). Perhaps some of the famous Com- mittee own this land— (puff, puff, puff)— and it's a bountiful provision of nature. She knows thistles were wanted more than wheat— she never makes a mistake. Drive on. We drove on. The Burra-road crosses the Belalie Plain at right angles, and at the intersection stands Jamestown, in a pretty, fertile, well-grassed plain between two stony rises, which contain an abundant supply of excellent and perfectly white freestone. Unfortunately surface stones have been used for the mill and most of the large buildings, which gives them a some what dingy appearance, but future erections will no doubt be far more attractive. A day school assembles in the Wesleyan Chapel, which is of fair size, but unpretentious appearance. There is a Roman Catholic Schoolroom, and Baptist and Episcopalian Churches are in pro gress. The population appears to be less than that of Laura, bat larger than any of the other Area towns, and from its geographical situation, and the great extent of agricultural country by which it is surrounded, Jamestown bids fair to be a place of considerable importance. We were disappointed to find that telegraphic communication had not yet been established here, as most of the other important Area towns we had visited were in daily speaking terms with Adelaide, but probably this will be in good time supplied. Tho township contains same good business premises, hotels, &c, and a branch of the National Bank of Australasia. Its main street being about twice as wide as King William-street, and in winter equally muddy the whole width, we could imagine that the pleasures of shopping and social intercourse had to be pursued under serious disadvantages. All round Belalie the crops, though later than in some places, are in excellent condition, and the same remarks apply to Belalie East, through which we passed for about five miles on our way to Terowie. We were reminded of a statement as to the quantity of last season's wheat which yet remains to be carted by seeing at least 150 bags in the barn connected with a farmhouse where we called to enquire our way. Our road lay for 12 or 14 miles through the Yongala Run, close to Brown's Hill, and near the head station— a fine new building, leaving the Yongala and Mannanarie agricultural areas considerably to the north of our track, which lay for the most part over a rough hilly country, but little of it being at all suited for agriculture. The gates are numerous, but the roads are sur- veyed all the way. We had our little snake story in the Port Pirie scrub, but missed securing the reptile, as our John could not pull up quickly enough; but on the Yongala Run we were more fortunate. His snakeship, with head erect, awaited the attack, but the whip-handle, nervously wielded by Gus, was too many for him. The specimen was about five feet in length. We were told that 'any amount' of kangaroos were about, but only saw two, who seemed to be of a remarkably retiring disposi tion. About 20 miles from Jamestown we emerged from the sheep country in the Area of Yarcowie, which, comprising parts of the Hun- dreds of Whyte and Terowie, is of a most irre- gular shape on the map, and struck us as being dry and not very fertile in its appearance. We pulled up at Mitchell's Hotel, the principal building in the private township of Terowie, which consists of just seven houses arranged in single file, and looking out over an immense extent of level country away to the south-east.