A CHAT WITH AN OLD COLONIST.
(By our Special-Reporter.)
The ranks of the pioneers in the settle- ment of this colony are gradually being thinned, and there are not many now amongst us whose experience of South
Australia extend over fifty years. A chat with one of these old colonists is always of interest to those who remember and honour them as having "borne the heat and burden of the day." Mr. John Chambers is well known as a pioneer, and on Tuesday morning we had a long talk together over the old times. ' Oh, yes,' said Mr. Chambers, ' I am an old colonist now, and know something of what life was In those early days. The ship I came in was the John Rennie, which arrived here on February 7, 1837, so that I have been in the colony nearly fifty-one years. My brother James was here before me, having come in the the CoromandeL The Hon. John Baker was a great trader in those early times between here and Tasmania, whence he brought pigs, sheep, and all kinds of general produce for the colonists. The first bullocks which came to this colony were from Tasmania too. They belonged to Mr. J. B. Hack and his brother Stephen, who fetched them here. There were five altogether. It was only about a fortnight after I landed that they came, and I can recollect well meeting Stephen Hack walking up the Adelaide Plains from Glenelg to Adelaide, just past the place where Sir John Morphett now resides. He was looking at the country before he landed the bullocks. Mr. James Fisher arrived shortly after with a small mob of cattle which he had bought in Sydney. They had to be taken care of when they landed through fear that they would be injured by the blacks or lost. It was part of my duty to see that they were looked after at night, and what a trouble I had in finding a man to do the work. At last a man named James Howford was engaged, but he would not do anything unless we found him a cutlass and musket as he was afraid of the natives. I got these for him from the Government store, and, stayed with him most of the night. The cattle were quiet after a feed, and next day we took them to Adelaide.
There were about thirty in the mob, and most of them were killed for food. Shortly after this between forty and fifty head of bullocks, which my brother pur- chased at the Cape while the Coro- mandel was there, arrived. We used to run them on the plains all round the city. Some of them were killed, and others were used as working cattle, which were very valuable then. They were carefully watched but once I recollect they got away. My brother and a man named Levi got on their tracks and followed as far as they could. They had no provisions, and were obliged to come back. Then they employed a man named William Fergusson to get them. Fer- gusson and another man followed the lost cattle, and found them somewhere near the Light, about 40 or 50 miles from Ade- laide. The country was quite unknown at the time, and Fergusson, when he re- turned, was made quite a lion of. They had Government horses, for there were hardly any others in the colony at the time. Mr. J. B. Hack had a few, about half a dozen, Mr. Osmond Gillies had a horse, and Sir John Morphett had a little white pony. Governor Hindmarsh owned two mules, and for the rest there were about twenty horses belonging to the Government. I was the first man who built a house in the colony with a fireplace, door, and glass window. It was made of mud, rushes, and grass. The situation was between the Railway Station and where the Government Garden now is. I be- lieve the old place is standing, at any rate the walls: are, and after I left it the Government Gardener lived there for years. While it was being built Governor Hindmarsh, the Colonial Architect Mr. White, and others used to come and see my work. They were very pleased with it at the time, but were afraid that the reeds and grass in the mud might burn. The house was 16 by 10. I carried the rafters and everything required. The rafters and battens were taken from the Pine Forest beyond North Adelaide, just above where the Windmill Hotel now is. It was hard work to carry these things on my shoulders, but when the work was done I had a more comfortable hut than any one else here. 'Well, yes, there was a deal of variety in the structures first put up in Adelaide. They were all tents; poles and rails covered with all kinds of bed clothing, blankets, patchwork quilts, and anything , else which would serve the purpose of giving shelter; all sizes and all shapes. It is something to think of when one looks at the city to-day and considers the contrast of then and now. The chief of these residences were along North-terrace from below Trinity Church as far up as where the Buck's Head now stands. They were placed there in that position because it was the most convenient for obtaining water from the Torrens. Water-carting was a great work in the early days. Barrels of all kinds were fixed on wheels, and men, women, and children all had to help drag these filled with water from the Torrens to the tent door. The work in those days was hard. It had to be done, and there were few here to do it. Along the track from the Bay to Adelaide, which extended from the end of Hindley-street directly past Netley to the mouth of the Patawa- longa Creek, one could see all kinds of goods left lying while the owners rested or went for a drink. There was no fear of anything being stolen. Our community was so small that if a man did take any thing he could not sell it, and it would soon be recognised by the rightful owner. It was this, and not the honesty of the people altogether, that prevented robbery. People living on the Park Lands, as we were, only did so on sufferance, and I was the last to leave. Extra liberty was given to me because I had a good deal to do with the Government. We did all the Government carrying work, and moved the surveying parties wherever they required. Governor Gawler at one time thought of taking a long tour, and asked me to go with him. He gave instructions that I was to remain in the house I had built till he returned. He never made the tour, but I went with him on a trip he did make down to the south of Encounter Bay, Currency Creek, the Meadows, and Willunga. All that country was at the time perfectly new to the colonists. I recollect when we were at Willunga the men cried out about want of rations. I told the Private Secretary of this, and Mr. Gell and myself went out to secure meat. We killed three kangaroos, which gave us fresh meat for a time. At another time on this same journey we divided into parties, Governor Gawler giving instruc- tions to the Surveyor where they were to camp. The Surveyor made a mistake, and guided the drays into the wrong place. The others did not come at nightfall and we fired off guns, and lit fires on the top of a hill to show where we were. The Governor got to the camp, after travelling all night, about 7 o'clock in the morning. Mr. Hall, the Private Secretary, came in about. 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Mr Inman, the Inspector of Police, was still out, and I and another of the party went to look for him. We found his saddle some distance from the camp, but could not see him. Afterwards we lit a fire on the top of a hill, and about 6 o'clock Mr Inman turned up, half dead with hunger and thirst. This was at Currency Creek then a quite unknown country. After returning to Adelaide I removed to Cherry Gardens. There were only three other persona residing there at the time. I did the first ploughing in the colony. It was the city acre 55, where the Castle Inn now stands, on the Morphett street frontage between Hindley-street
and North-terrace. The land belonged to Mr. Birdsey, who gave me £10 for the work. The plough was of the most im- proved description. It was brought here by the Hon. B. T. Finniss, who came here before Mr. Allan McLean. I see that Mr. McLean has claimed that he turned the first sod here, but it is a mistake. I have two letters here, one from Mr. John Templer, of Two Wells, and another from Mr. Winde- bank, of Hamilton, mentioning that I ploughed the first acre of land in South Austalia. Windebank, who came out as farm bailiff to the late Mr. Robert Thomas, was I remember well the first constable in the colony. The ploughing was done with a team of six bullocks. I guided the plough, and George Parsons drove the bullocks. Afterwards I ploughed 2 acres of land on the south corner of Hurtle-square for Mr. George Milner Stephen, who paid me £20 for the work. The land which Mr. McLean ploughed was about 3 acres near where Keswick now is, and that he sowed with wheat. Mr. Donald McLean built a house there, and he and his family resided at the place for some years. The natives on the Ade- laide Plains in those early days were very numerous. I think there were as many blacks in the vicinity of Adelaide as any where I knew, except perhaps on the Murray. They were never any trouble, poor fellows, if they were properly treated. It is true that I had a good deal to do with Mr. Stuart and his explorations. He was at Port Lincoln with his friends when, through Mr. Finke, I got him to survey our Northern stations. There were the Oratunga, Bobmuna West, Palsey's Springs, Mount Chambers, Bal- caracana, and others. We wanted them surveyed, and I took him up to do the work. While up there in the course of conversation he said that he could cross the colony. I promised to supply him with everything he wanted if he would make the attempt. He agreed, and I fitted him out with horses and food, and men off the station formed the party. No one off the station knew of' the enterprise till he had started. I hardly remember the year, but I think it was 1857 or 1858. After failing in his attempt Mr. Stuart returned to Oratunga Station. In subsequent ex- peditions of Stuart my brother James, Mr. Finke and myself, all assisted in fit- ting him out. I started him on his final expedition from Mullooloo, which was made the head station instead of Oratunga. William Cave and myself shod all his horses and punched all the spare shoes which he took with him on that journey. When Stuart was returning after his successful journey I was at Bolmuna West when the first news that he was coming back arrived. I went up to Leigh's Creek, now a railway station, below Farina to meet him. At that time the furthest settlement north was Chambers's Creek Station, about 150 miles further up, held by Humphrey & Barker, and that was the last point of civilization Stuart passed on his way out, and the first he touched at on his return. At Leigh's Creek I met him and his party, and brought them through to Adelaide, about the last 400 miles of their journey. They were all emaciated when I saw them. Stuart would never have got through but for Auld and others of the party. Coming down I had the great pleasure of witnes- sing the receptions of the party at the Burra, Kapunda, and Gawler, and the enthusiastic termination of the journey ings in Adelaide. I lived at Cherry Gardens till 1855, when I removed to my present residence at Richmond. During this time I looked after the stations at Lake Bonney and the other places I have mentioned, which were situated: about 350 miles north. When these northern runs were first taken up they were the furthest north, and were looked upon as quite out of the world. Others soon took up the sur- rounding country, however, but it was so new that the Government paid Stuart for the surveys which he made for me. Yes, it is a pleasure to look back on those old days and see what the colony is now. We had to work then, and did work, but we were all the better for it. We had a new land before us and had to prove it. Fresh meat was worth something in those days. I remember Basil Sladden, who lived at the Horseshoe, and used to supply the people with kangaroo meat and wild turkevs at 1s. a lb. Vegetables were
scarce, too. The first man who grew vegetables here was a shipmate of mine named Hobbs, and the first produce he sold was some cabbages. Another man used to sell some native vegetable, which he called cabbage, in small bunches at 6d. each, and we were glad to buy it. Although the life was hard then we used to enjoy ourselves and were very happy. We never expected to see such progress as has been made. To receiva letters from England in a month we could not have believed possible. If we got a reply from the old country in eighteen months it was very good. And the Exhibition— no you are right — we never thought to see any thing like that in Adelaide. N'o, but it is pleasant to look back now and see what has been done here, compare Adelaide now and as it was when I first knew it, or to have a chat with one whom I knew in those old timea.