The Early Days.
SEVENTY YEARS AGO.
There are few alive in Australia today
whose memory can go back to 71 years, ago. But such a one is Mr. J. C. Sutton,
who is now living in retirement with
friends at Narracoorte. His memory is good, and his reminiscences of the early days are extremely interesting. He has written for us the following account of
some of his experiences:
My father, mother, myself and a baby brother landed in Hobsons Bay, Mel- bourne, in September, 1841. Wc remained for three months there, and then sailed
on the 15th of December for Portland.' On February 2, 1842, my father took a position from Mr. Edward Henty, at £30 a year and two rations. He remained
there until December 15, 1815, when he took 500 merino ewes as wages from Mr. Henty. Mr. John Henty was just about to take a trial trip up to the new coun- try, as the Souih-East was then called. Having working bullocks and a dray he undertook to cart our luggage, and brought
over 1,200 sheep to take up land for him- self but the coUntrv he wanted had al ready been taken up by Mr. Thomas Bates, of Batesford, Geelong, so Mr. Henty had to return to Casterton. My father remained behind, and in the follow
ing year he applied for a squatting li- cence for the Dismal Swamp- This is the same station as Dismal Swamp of to-day, and is held, by a namesake, and a grand
son of my fatner's, Mr. A. F. Sutton.
The first occupier of the country around Mount Gambier was Mr. Edward Henty. He sent up two oi his stockmen to ex- plore the country, and they reported to him that it was well adapted for cattle, and as a result of their report Mr.
Henty, at ths latter end of 1842. sent up two men with 400 head cf cattle, and they camped about the lakes until the end of 1814. Then Mr. Evelyn Sturt came overland from Adelaide, and he told Mr. Henty that he had taken out a squatting licence for all the country around Mount Gambier. Eventually a Mr. William Mit- chell, wanting country, Mr. Sturt told him he would let him have a portion o! the country he had taken up. Mitchell immediately chose Moorak, and for this he paid £500. Mil Lel was also portion of the Sturt squatting property, and he disposed of it to Mr. Trevor Winter and
Mr. John Beswick, who were in partner- ship. Mr. Winter was a brother of the late Mr. Samuel Winter, of Murndale, in the Western District of Victoria. I do not know what they gave for the pro-
perty, but it extended from a mile north of the present town of Mount Gambier, and took in Umpherston's Cave Paddock on the east. To the north-east it reached within half a mile of the Mingbool home- stead of to-day. The price paid was, however, only a few hundred pounds, I am certain. Mr. William Mitchell sold Moo- rak to the late Mr. W. Power in, I think, 1851, and the price was something about £1,500. The next time it changed owners was in 1860, and the purchasers were Messrs; C. B. Fisher and Benjamin Roch- fort. They did not keep it long, and sold it to Mr. W. J. Browne, and the price he gave was something like £35,000. Fisher and Rochfort had the Schanck run at the time, and they retained it for a while. In 1861 this station was also for sale, and
the price asked was £100,000, but the late Mr. W. J. T. Clarice, grandfather of the present owner of the estate, secured it for £80,000 cash. The first proprietors of the Mount Schanck run were two young men from Tasmania. They were named Arthur, and were sons of the then Governor of Tasmania, or, as it was then called, Van Diemen's Land. They took it up in the year 1841, but owing to the biacks and dogs being so bad they disposed of their goodwill to Messrs. R. R. and E. T. Leake, of Glencoe, for £500. The Leake brothers held it from 1841 till 1856 or 1857. At that time their manager (Mr. John Maclntyre) thought he would make a shift for him- self, and he secured the station. Later he sold it to Fisher and Rochfort for
£18,000. Mr. Maclntyre sailed home in a wool ship, and on reaching Scotland pur- chased a property in Argyle, and there resided till his death. Warrianga was the strip of country from the Glenelg River to MacDonnell Bay. It was held in the early days by Messrs. Neil Black, W. E. Gladstone, and Sargentson. Mingbool was first held by Mr. John Meredith. He was a native of Tasmania, and took up the land in 1845, and retained it till 1853. He then sold it to a gentleman named Budd, who was Minister for Edu- cation in Victoria for several years. In 1857 he sold to Messrs. T. A. and H. E. Wells, formerly of Yallum Park. Then it passed into the hands of Mr. MacKinnon, of Kaladhro, and at his death it was purchased by the late Mrs. Crowe, of Mount Bruce, the mother of the present owner (Mrs. J. F. Kirby).
Mr. Evelyn Sturt sold the Compton Sta- tion, and the four township sections of 80 acres each, to Mr. Hastings Cunningham, of Emu Station, in the Ballarat district, and he retained the Compton station till
1856, but he sold the four sections to Mr. Alexander Mitchell, in the early part of 1852, at a price of £5 per acre. The hotel then stood at the rear of the pre-
sent Town Hall Hotel. The first hotel was kept by a full - blooded American negro named John Byng. He was a very big man, but a good man to conduct an hotel. Mr. Mitchell conducted the old hotel for several years, and in 1860 he commenced to build the present Mount Gambier Hotel, and conducted it until his
death in 1865 or 1866.
Our first clip of wool was shorn in 1847, and we had to cart it to Portland over a bush track, and the route we had to travel made the journey fully 90 miles.
We had to sell to Mr. Stephen George Henty, who was then the only wool buyer in Portland, and the price he paid for the cold water washed wool was
7d. per lb., and half price for bellies, pieces, and locks. The price stood at this until 1851, when it took a rise, and went up to the fine price of 19d. In 1855-6 it even went higher. Before the Victorian gold diggings broke out cattle were very low in price, and the best fat bullocks on any station could be bought for £2 10/, even if weighing up to 9 or 10 cwt. In 1852 cattle went up to big figures. In 1852 we sold 22 bullocks at £11 per head, and in the following year 42 head at £15 per head, and cows for miners up to £17 per head. For fat wethers we netted up to 19/-per head, all of them merino we- thers, very many of them weighing up to
80 or 90 lbs.
The first time I saw Mount Gambier,
the part where the town is now was a forest of big timber. It was rather a disagreeable trip for me, because I had to ride behind my father on a bag behind the saddle. That was some time in 1847. There was only one building then, and that was the hotel kept by the American
negro. A short distance from the gate, and nearly opposite where the present post-office stands, was a small log hut. It
was about 8ft. square, and in it two troopers were established. They were Sgt.-Major McCulloch and Trpr. John McMahon. The latter had been in the 17th Lancers before leaving the old land, and he was afterwards a drill sergeant in Melbourne. When he got out of that billet he went stock-keeping on the Dismal Swamp Station. Sgt.-Major McCulloch went to Bendigo, and was acting as a gold commissioner on the gold fields for seve- ral years.
I may conclude by saying that, before leaving the Western District of Victoria, and in the neighbourhood of what is now Casterton, on the Glenelg River, I have seen as many as 1,000 blacks at a cor- roboree, or fight, in the years 1843 and 1844. At that time there was no bridge nor township. After landing in the South East I saw as many as 500 blacks march ing in one mob from one part of the dis- trict or the other to the coast. The blacks were very warlike, especially in the Glen- elg River district. They speared several men (shepherds), and took their sheep along the banks of the river, and in most cases speared a lot of them, and broke the legs of others, so that they could not get away. Usually, however, they did not in- terfere with men who kept them at a dis- tance, and treated them kindly. We never had any damage done to our flock. It was usually the case that any damage they did was through the behaviour of the white men themselves. As far as I know there are only five squatting properties in the South-East which are held by the same families as took them up from the Government. These are-Padthaway (Mrs. Lawson), Struan (Robertson Bros.), Kil lanoola (Mr. H. C. Seymour), Maaoupe (Dr. Dickson), and Dismal Swamp (Mr. A. F. Sutton). M0st of the other station properties have changed hands over and
over again, and the majority have been
broken up for closer settlement.