Remembering the Past Australia

Swan River 1832

A letter penned by William Thomas Stocker, originally printed in the Hobart Courier on 7 September 1832, giving an account of Swan River, Port Augusta, and King George's Sound, and republished in the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal on 12 January 1833.

Part Of A Panoramic View Of King Georges Sound Part Of The Colony Of Swan River, 1834 / [after] R. Dale

Part of a Panoramic view of King Georges Sound part of the colony of Swan River, 1834 / [after] R. Dale. State Library of New South Wales.


We have great pleasure in presenting the reader with the following account of Swan River, Port Augusta, and King George’s sound, from the minutes taken by Mr. Stocker, during his late visit to these settlements. Such an account must be highly satisfactory to all parties, after having been wearied with the conflicting reports, which have all along reached us, and from Mr Stocker’s long experience in colonial matters, and his correct judgment as an agriculturist, we do not know any one on the correctness of whose opinion we could more safely depend:

The crops in Western Australia, (July 1832) looked as promising as any I ever witnessed in Van Diemen’s land, of which I am one of the oldest residents. Those on the Swan and Canning rivers, consisting of wheat, barley, oats and potatoes are remarkably luxuriant, and give every promise of abundance. The wheat grown last year, weighed from sixty-four to thirty-six lbs. per bushel, and sold from 25 to 30s. The Messrs. Trimmers over the mountains (so called) but which I could see nothing that was entitled to that name, have this year from 30 to 40 acres, cultivated, looking very healthy and promising. Their sheep and cattle look particularly well, equal to any that I have seen here. The farms on the Swan and Canning, belonging to Messrs. Philips, Youl, Brockman, Bull, Tanner, &c. are well conducted, the crops well got in, and the whole exhibiting a neat and farmer-like appearance much more in the English style, than the generality of the farms in Van Diemen’s land. The land after you pass over the Darling range (or as is called the Mountains becomes good and capable of feeding extensive numbers of stock, sheep, oxen, or horses, and of growing any kind of grain. Several gentlemen who have proceeded much farther than I did, informed me that the further they travelled into the interior, the better they found the land. 

The greatest difficulty the settler has at present to encounter, is the great expense he incurs for provisions for his establishment, and the general bad conduct of his indented servants, brought into the colony with him. And this will be the case until the Magistrates are empowered to compel the indented servants to fulfil their engagements with their masters. Another heavy expense the settler has to contend with, is that for conveyance of goods from Fremantle to the country, either by boats or other means. Fremantle to appearance is certainly  a bed of sand, but in most parts of the township, upon the several allotments is found a vein of sandstone, about two feet from the surface, in sufficient plenty to build a cottage on each, and to wall round the same; and I was much astonished, as doubtless all those who have visited that settlement, have been (whilst others would consider it incredible) that the same bed of sand will produce vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, turnips, onions, potatoes, and peas — than which nothing can be finer. The radishes are superior to any I have ever seen, cucumbers melons and pumpkins are grown to the greatest perfection, and I am of opinion, that the orange, lemon, and vine would flourish, and be productive at Fremantle and Perth. There is scarcely an allotment in Fremantle fenced in and inhabited that has not a well of excellent fresh water from five to ten feet deep. 

Returning from Swan river to Hobart town, I visited Port Augusta and King George’s Sound. The land at Augusta is generally very good, and capable of growing almost any thing, the wheat, oats, and potatoes, when I left on the 22d of July, looked well and healthy. The farms of Capt. Molloy, government resident, Mr. Turner, Messrs. Koller, &c. have been much improved; the land here is very heavily timbered, chiefly with a species of Mahogany, (specimens of which may be seen at Mr. Stocker’s Hobart town) and red gum. There is a fine bay, commonly full of whales in the season, but a bad bar harbour. 

King George’s Sound is a beautiful and safe harbour from all winds, there is very little land in cultivation, I saw only a few acres of wheat about 3 miles from the township, formerly the government farm, but now in the possession of Mr. Morley of the Commissariat, the wheat looked very promising the land is very good. In the township there are many fine gardens and plenty of vegetables; the natives are very friendly, I was with them daily during my stay, and took one of them with me on board the cutter, they presented me with spears, waddies, &c in return for which I gave them biscuit, at this settlement there are not more than 80 persons, including the military. Doctor Collie, the government resident, Mr. Morley, Commissariat, and a Mr. Chyne. a gentleman establishing himself here as a merchant, from all of whom I received the kindest attention. 

Hobart Town, Aug. 30, 1832.

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