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Week 26 - the expanding settlement

[ 14th of August 1836 to 20th of August 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 26: Whose story? ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 26 - the expanding settlement ]

On Kangaroo Island

The fledgling settlement on Kangaroo Island is now into its third week and it is not a happy place. Samuel Stephens and Captains Morgan and Ross are increasingly anxious about their failure to find an adequate supply of fresh water nearby. Both the Duke of York and the Lady Mary Pelham need to replenish their stocks so that they can leave to start whaling and they are finding it very difficult to control their crew members. The well they have dug at first seems brackish, which causes near panic. When they reach fresh water the well fills very slowly, delaying the work of re-provisioning the ships. Stephens desperately needs a boat to bring casks of fresh water from the River Morgan, but is not prepared to pay the price the first of the established settlers on the Island they meet are asking.  Luckily more of the existing settlers hear of their arrival and come to the beach to introduce themselves.  Stephens meets William Cooper, then two days later George Bates and Nathaniel Thomas. A relieved Stephens is able to reach agreement with William Cooper both for the use of his boat and his general assistance for the foreseeable future. That settled Stephens can turn his mind to other pressing problems – notably controlling his workforce! The crew of the Lady Mary Pelham is mutinous, threatening to desert and refusing to work.  They are constantly drunk, and there is a good deal of pilfering. Moreover they seem to a have found allies amongst the Company’s workers. A nervous Captain Ross arms himself, afraid of an all-out assault. There is a great deal of quarrelling too and Stephens gets heartily sick of listening to all the complaints.

Amid all the strife there is some good news. On 14 August Captain Morgan brings Miss Beare and the Beare children on shore and delivers them to Stephens‘ tent, where they are to sleep.  Mrs Beare is still too ill to care for the children and their aunt seems to have assumed this role. We learn that Stephens is to marry Miss Beare. In the interim he is careful to record in his diary that he intends to ‘mount guard until 2 am’ and then sleep wrapped up in his Boat cloaks provided protection against the cold. An example in the collection of Britain's National Maritime Museum was made in 1836. It was made of navy wool with a plush lining and was gathered at the shoulders into a high standing collar. boat cloak , to preserve appropriate decencies no doubt.

Then on 16 August the John Pirie arrives safely, bringing the total of new arrivals to 101. And we learn that Stephens plans to name the new settlement Kingscote. He anticipates a fine future for it – if the water supply problem can be solved.

scene: kangaroo island

Kangaroo Island. Edward Snell, 1849.

At Sea

The Africaine is in the doldrums and has managed to travel only 390 miles south in the past month. The heat is getting on people’s nerves and the animals are suffering too. Robert Gouger has brought several cashmere goats on board, along with a dog and a bird. When a favourite kid dies, he arranges for the others to have the run of the deck, which must have made life interesting for everyone else. He does not mention who cleaned up the mess. It is now obvious that this will not be a quick journey and the captain must consider seriously whether to put in at a port to replenish supplies.  The Gougers hope that he will decide to call at the Cape.  They have a long shopping list ready. But then the winds pick up and it seems they might lose the chance after all.

On the Buffalo meanwhile Young Bingham Hutchinson is in a pensive mood. He turns 30 on 14 August and mourns the passing of his youth. It is an ‘awful and painful reflection’ he writes, ‘being still a bachelor, and likely to continue so for some time.’ This is an interesting comment on popular ideas about maturity, and perhaps on what he thought was the proper time to marry. Evidently none of the unattached young ladies on board has taken his fancy. Or perhaps he is suffering from unrequited love? We will have to wait and see what transpires. George Stevenson, meanwhile, continues to find his employer, the Governor, unimpressive.

The surveyors on the Rapid seem less given to self reflection.  Captain Light’s journal is brief and factual, noting his arrival near Encounter Bay, which he finds ‘exactly as described by Flinders.’ In the end the John Pirie and the Rapid arrive within a few days of each other, at the ‘New-Colony’ of ‘South Australia’ as the Pirie diarist notes. Dr Woodforde, surgeon on the Rapid can’t wait to head off on shore with his gun, and like those before him explores the River Morgan, shooting ‘seafowl’ for the A fresh serving of food. mess that night. By the end of this week there are 128 newly arrived souls on the beach at Nepean Bay. The quiet and secluded life of the tiny community around Henry Wallen, Nat Thomas and their families will never be the same again.

Next week: The Rapid, captained by Colonel William Light, moves to a final anchorage at Nepean Bay and the Lady Mary Pelham tries to depart, although some of the crew have deserted.  We learn that Samuel Stephens may not be as sober and virtuous  as his diary would suggest.

At sea  - wrangling continues on the Cygnet between Kingston, the captain and the doctor.  The Africaine crosses the equator, but Mary Thomas is more preoccupied with the poor quality of the provisions. The Buffalo makes steady progress.

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5 Responses to “Week 26 – the expanding settlement”

  1. Bob August 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Stephen Gower arrived in the 449-ton ship ‘Somersetshire’ on 24 August 1839. He was accepted as an emigrant as recorded in the ‘Register of Emigrant Labourers applying for a Free Passage to South Australia’, and his application number was 4388.

    If you live in Adelaide you can inspect a copy of the Register in the Family History Section of the State Library, or if elsewhere it is available on microfilm produced by the Australian Joint Copying Project, reels 874 and 875.

  2. Joan Lutz August 16, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    My Great Great Grandpa, Stephen Gower, was on one of these ships, from Kent, England to Adelaide, Australia. Do you know which ship he was on? It would be fascinating and exciting to know!
    Thank you, Joan

    • Allison August 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

      Hi Joan,

      Thanks for your quetion. We don’t have him listed as a passenger on any of the nine ships that arrived in 1836, but we’ll see if we can find out for you. Do you know whether he was a crew member?

      Allison – History SA

  3. Pamela Jones August 15, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Very much enjoying the series. The link for the full diary of the John Pirie diarist for 16/8/1836 does not seem correct.

    • Allison August 16, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

      Thanks for that. We’re looking into what is going on there. Hopefully we can fix it up.

      Allison – History SA

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