CAPT. JOHN FINNIS,
Master Mariner, Pioneer, and Pastoralist.
I.— By A. T. Saunders.
The copies of letters and documents herewith give, I think, one of the best, if not the best, accounts of Adelaide and of South Australian early pastoral history
I have seen. They begin with a letter written 21/6/38, the day before the expedi- tion started to Giles Strangways, a photo; of whom, with Spencer Skipper and H. T. Morris, of Anlaby, is in The Observer 3/1/1903. As Capt. Sturt's journal shows, the party consisted of Capts. Sturt and Finnis, Giles Strangways, George Mc Leod (a Norfolk Island friend of Capt. Sturt and the writer of the letters of Capt. Finnis), Lomas or Lomax, the after- wards self-confessed murderer of Stagg; Robert Flood, subsequently Sturt's de- voted admired, one of his 1845 expedition, and who died an Adelaide publican, and seven other men. The expedition left Fowlers' Station, New. South Wales, on 22/5/1838, the day after Finnis's letter to Strangways, and Capt. Sturt arrived in Adelaide 28/8/1838. Sturt's life, by Mrs. N. G. Sturt, page 134, quotes from Bonney's unpublished diary: — 'Not having so much experience, of Mitchell's inaccuracies, Eyre, who started later than Bonney, fared worse, and after sufferings which led to the destruction of many of his horses and the loss of some of his men, he only regained the Yarrayne some three months after leaving it.' Finnis mentions Eyre in his letter of 16/9/38 to Tooth. The wife of Capt. Finnis and widow of Col. Cameron was the mother of Mrs. W. Hampden Dut- ton, whose daughter married Dr. R. W. Moore. Mr. W. Hampden Dutton died in 1849, and Mrs. Charlotte de Silva Dut- ton, an unmarried daughter, died in 1896, (see Observer 25/7/18S6, p. 2-8 c. 2). The diary of Alexander Buchanan (father of ex-Judge,- Buchanan) records the journey with the 50,000 sheep Finnis writes of for 'Mr.. Frederick Dutton' to Mount Disper- sion., (now Anlaby), from New South Wales, July to December, 1839. This journal is printed by the S.A Geo- graphical Society, but the map therein docs not agree with the letterpress. The Mr. Cameron mentioned in connection with the sheep was a son of Mrs. Finnis and step-son to Capt. Finnis, and brother to Mrs. W. Hampden Dutton and Mrs. G. S. Kingston .
Dealings in Cattle. Monday, 21/5/1838. G. Strangways, Esq. Dear Sir— As we proceed to-morrow on our journey it may be more satisfactory to all parties if some such understand- ing as under were made before our final departure, as from Mr. Tooth's letter to me it would appear he did not make any definite arrangement with you. In the first place you, of course, understand two fourteenths of the expense of the outfit, &c, will be paid by you. In the next, that the cattle are not store from Talon- gatta nor those I previously selected from the Murrabindin herd; and, lastly, that your man and horses will render such as sistance, as circumstances may require on the journey. Should any loss of cattle occur you will bear your proportion of the loss according to your number of cattle. I have stated these thus plainly because I think it better for both parties to know what they are about as the best prevention to future misunderstand- ing. I feel assured no objection will be made by you to these proposals. I shall therefore leave the man- ner of settlement to yourself on our reach- ing Adelaide.— I am, dear sir, John Finnis Adelaide,- 16/9/1838. John Tooth, Esq., Sydney. Dear Sir— have awaited with patience for some time to notice the state of the market in this colony, and also in order to give you as full and at the same time concise account of our proceedings as circumstances may admit of. In not writing earlier myself have thought the detail afforded by Capt. Sturt would probably be sufficiently satis- factory. Our present station is about two (2) miles this side of Mount Barker, and as a run is of a most superior description. It has, however, within these three days apparently become the property of a gentleman named Hack, who, it would seem on enquiry, has a right by town pur- chases of selecting any run he may think fit and as a matter of .course, and turn those off who are merely squatters. This is the case with me just now. I have in view another run equal if not superior to that so unbandsomely taken from me by
Mr. Hack, but in availing mvself of it I expect I shall again meet with opposition by the cattle company with which this person is more or less connected. No immediate sale of the herd is at all practicable. I have no expectation what ever of being even asked my terms. Mr. Eyre has sold his for £9 a head, suffering (however much he may disguise the fact) a.serious loss. We have not yet parted with any, and as a consequence the whole establishment at present is outlay, although not in itself material from the reduction of four of the party a day or two ago. Yet it is an expense I wish to avoid, and for that purpose I submit to your superior judgment the propriety of at once opening a butcher's shop and killing as occasion requires when the bullocks are in condition. Price of Beef. If I find the herd, is as I wish and expect in the course of six weeks or two months, I don't know a wiser plan than at once lowering, the price of beef and thereby gaining a more rapid sale. Permit me to make one observation as regards bringing cattle from New South Wales here. Mr. Hawdon could not sell his herd, and to his credit he lost no time in bring- ing fat meat to the shambles by which only he could be repaid, for I believe from observation that no single individual in Adelaide is poseessed of a tithe of the amount in cash they are reported to be owners of. In Mr. Eyre his cattle at the ruinous price of £9 a head we have sus- tained a heavy blow, inasmuch as the only parties who cared about purchasing have become as it were independent of the market. Capt. Sturt started for Lake Alexandrina four days ago, with the inten- tion of setting at rest the question of an available outlet to the sea from that place. Three of our men have proceeded to Sydney by the schooner John Pine, Capt. Martno, for whose passage as well as balance of wages Capt. Sturt and myself have drawn upon you. Cash for use or otherwise is not to be procured in Ade- laide. Settlement with Mr. Strangways has not yet been effected, partly in conse- quence of our unsettled state and partly that just now he is absent with Capt. Sturt. I am not in good health. I do not know whether it - may have proceeded from anxiety or cold or both combined, but I have had a serions attack, and. although better, I cannot compliment myself upon much improvement. The
journey has been to me one of extreme anxiety, disgust, and misery. Believe me, dear, sir, &c., &c. John Finnis. ' -.' A Fatiguing Journey. Mount Barker, 25 miles from Adelaide, 9th October, 1838. Mr, George Tolle- mache, c/o Syders Brothers, .Bathurst, New South. Wales. MyDear Tollermache— As I promised before you left Sydney for your station to acquaint you with the result of my then intended expedition overland to South Australia with a herd of cattle, I avail myself of the present opportunity of keeping that promise. We
have arrived safely at our destination as you may perceive by the top of this letter, and although your journey was both fatiguing and long we may consider our selves lucky in reaching at all, by the route we adopted, that of following the Hume from the Messrs. Fowlers' Station on its banks to nearly Lake Alexandrina. We left these gentlemen's hospitable house on May 23, 1838, proceeding down the right bank of the river, which con tinued until we fell in with immense marshes of high reeds, occasionally varied by extensive plains nearly flat. and to where there appeared no boundary. The reeds were so high and strong that we all but gave up hope of effecting a passage through them, so dense were they. But acting on your motto, 'Perseverance ,' we continued labouring on though slowly, and ultimately succeeded in reaching a better country, where travelling was easier and safer. At this time we were on the left bank of this noble river. Continu- ing our route ofter crossing the Goul- burn on Juns 14, 1838, we passed succes- sively the junctions of the Yarrain, Mur- rumbidgee, and Darling Rivers. It is only after the junction of the lattcr that the Murray assumes its name; previously this it is the Hume, and I can truly assert I had not the slightest conception it would have proved the magnificent stream it does. I say I had uo concep- tion of it, because reports were generally so oxtravagantly exaggerated, but I think it has not been one-half so well repre- sented as it should have been. I am cer- tain it cannot be at all equalled in any other part of New Holland. It is not a noisy, brawling torrent, but if I may so speak, 'a gentlemanly, quiet, and withal , majestic river; it glides so evenly along you would not suppose its current more than half a mile an hour, when in reality its average is three miles, with a general width of 320 yards. The depth I cannot exactly say. but where we did note this it was at least 15 ft. You may there- fore judge what a body of water flows through hundreds of miles of country of surpaissing sterility. Trouble with Aborigines. Our intercourse with the aborigines was only marked by one attack on their part of a sanguinary nature, when they suc- ceeded in wounding one of our party. No retaliation was offered, as travellers now must, by the shameful arrangements of Government, and the farcical laws on the subject, receive every injury from the aborigincs in thankfulness, or else be hung like dogs, to satisfy what they disgracefully term justice. We were therefore very fortunate in coming off as well as we did. We have been robbed, and otherwise injured night and day by these barbarians, and I can only regret that those who arc such mawworm advo- cates for Christianising the blacks have so little Christian charity for those more deserving their sympathy. For my own part, I should like to have all such gen- try left with natives at the Darling River for a few days. It would be a just punishment for those with the cant of religion, and otherwise, who enconr- age murder and robbery because done by poor ignorant blackfellows,. forsooth; but what a digressi'on. We were rather un- fortunate a losing a good number of the herd, but as this occurred chiefly to- ward the end of the journey I am in ex- pectntion of shortly recovering a portion of them. You must write me. leaving your let- ters in the Sydney Post Office, to be called for; as I expect again to be there in January. 1839, at the furthest. Let me know prices, and number of different cattle about your place, what number yon have for sale, &c., and as you pro- mised, I expect you have looked up some good horses for me — this, if yon have not yet done, you must not, my dear Tolle- mache, omit. One more particularly for my own use. In fact, tell me every- thing about stock, and so on. We are in a delightful country. The pasturage is not surpassed anywhere in New South Wales. It is also very well watered, advantages most favourable for rearing stock. The market, however, I am sorry to say, is not what I expec-
ted. There is cash in Adelaide, and as you may suppose, I am not over and above fond of private bills on England. I do not know of anything very par- ticular, and shall therefore close this, the more so as I am just about drafting part of the herd. Should I remain longer than I anticipate I will again write. Be- lieve me, &c., John Finnis. Marketing Stock. Station near Mount Barker, 25 Miles from Adelaide, 12th October. 1838. John Tooth, Esq., Sydney. Dear Sir— By the opportunity afforded me by Capt. Sturt's return to Sydney, I do myself this pleasure of sending a few lines, but for fullness of report of details I, of course, must trust to him to afford you that ver- bally which would be too lengthy for writ- ten communication. Your letter of 18th July, 1838, I only received on the 22nd September, 1838, and although of so old a date. I was much gratified at its receipt. I did myself the pleasure of writing you some days back by the John Pirie, and in my letter complained of Mr. Hack having taken possession of the run on which we previously had settled, but since then I am glad to say an amicsble arrangement has been made by which his cattle will feed in an opposite direction. Regarding the stock, the only profitable way of dis- posing of them is. I conceive, by acting altogether independently of those who are already holders, and by waiting a few months. Since my last I have learned that not more than 100 bullocks are now in the market. By the time they are consumed ours will be in condition when the market to a certain degree must be guided by our supplies. So far, this is gratifying, besides which I have been already applied to to furnish butchers with carcase meat, and although, of course no price has been fixed, as they are not yet fit for slaughter. I am quite warranted in saying it will be remunerating. With respect to the breeding— (pages 13 and 14 missing). . . . As every exertion will be made to expedite the sale of the herd con- sistently with prudence, I would fain hope I may succeed m reaching Sydney in Janu- ary, 1839. The old working bullocks I can sell for from £20 to £25 each, but as same are required to assist in break- ing in the young ones, I think it much better to hire the others out for a time. I am in hope, and I have reason to think the next vessel after this I will be enabled to remit you some money. It. is possible I might have done so before but for the sale of Mr. Eyre's herd at the extra-
ordinarily low price of £9 per head, and that partly in bills. I think the utmost publicity should be given to this sale to prevent others in Sydney travelling hither wards. On his (Eyre's) route he lost no less than six horses; he also lost some cattle, besides which his outfit was beyond any comparison far greater than ours, and how he could sell at the price he did seems very singular. He has hurt himself, and others also. A sale of the herd could be effected by accepting private bills on Eng- land, but to this I make a decided stand, and I need scarcely add your instructions on this head will be strictly obeyed. I have made a calculation, a close one, by which I find the herd will stand us in nearly £11 a beast. Had we been better supplied with horses than we were, their sale on arrival would have been highly remunerating. There is a constant and in- creasing demand for cart and carriage animals. Should you have any cedar lying about fitted for building, I feel quite as- sured it would sell well here, say from 6d. to 8d. a foot. Mrs. Tooth, I trust, is in good health, and also yourself; pray pre- sent to her my best respects, and with the- assurance of writing by next vessel, believe me, &c, John Finnis. (To be continued.)