Sat 25 May 1878, The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1889) Trove

Having been commissioned to pay a special visit to various parts of Southern Yorke's Peninsula to report upon the progress of settlement there, I left Adelaide on Tuesday, May 14, in company with two members of Parliament who were en route for Warooka and Maitland, and took passage by the Ceres to Stansbury. The trip across the Gulf was a quiet one, devoid of any incident except what was described as a race between the Ceres and the Wakefield, in which our steamer had the best of it. She towed a vessel down the river to the lighthouse, and while doing so was passed by the Wakefield, which obtained fully a mile start in the open Gulf. When the ship was cast off our skipper gave instructions to the engineer to put on more steam, and made a mild wager with one of the passengers that he would reach Stansbury before the Wakefield, which he accomplished pretty easily, as we had landed and reached the township when the Wakefield drew up alongside the jetty. We only lingered for a brief space at Stansbury, but long enough to see that several new buildings are in course of erection, and tbat the pleasantly-situated township has made some progress since last season.

Driving to Yorketown, we arrived in time to observe the masons at work on the new school, and to hear complaints against the site selected for the new police station. The inhabitants wish their public buildings to be placed on the street fronts, but the authorities seem to think that a "back slum" is a fit position for the building which is intended to sustain temporarily the majesty of the law. New stores are going up at Yorketown, and generally the place looks healthy and thriving. Before we reached Yorketown we visited the lagoon, where the salt works are erected, and inspected the vat wherein an unfortunate man was scalded to death a few days previously. From information that we gathered of the manager it appeared that the man was working in the night skimming salt from the boiling brine, and being half asleep tumbled into it. and was immersed up to his neck. He quickly scrambled out, but was in great suffering, and desired to be "removed at once to the Adelaide Hospital. There was not proper accommodation for him at the saltworks, but his removal appears to have brought the censure of the Jury upon a local medical man. From what we could gather there were others who also deserved censure in this matter, as although tbe man's life could not bs saved he might have received more attention than he did during his last moments. The saltworks, though conducted on a comparatively small scale, may be regarded as a success, having been established two years, during which period some 350 tons of salt have been refined and sent to market, realising about £4 per ton.

From Yorketown on the following morning we drove to Moorowie Station, where we were most hospitably entertained by Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, and thence made our way across the swamp, to Warooka. The "swamp" ie a dismal tract of country, over which at no very distant period the sea must hare flowed from Hardwicke Bay to Sturt Bay, on the opposite side of the Peninsula, thus converting tbe foot of the Peninsula into an island. Sand hummocks have been thrown up on each side, and the water has disappeared from the swamp, which is about I5 miles long by two or three miles in dreadth. It is composed of salt sludge upon which a very rank herbage exists, and when fresh water falls upon this dreary waste it is quickly converted into brine, so that no living thing can find any sustenance on the swamp. Every person who lived on the fine lands of the Peasy Ranges and beyond had to cross this slough of despond, and many are the stories which are told of misadventure in doing so. Fortunately a sum of £1,900 was granted by the last Parliament for making a road of abont two miles across, and the work is now in satisfactory progress. It will lie a great boon to the settlers when the road is completed, and there is some talk of a public demonstration being held in celebration of tbe event. McCabe's hotel at Warroka is a new and substantial building, which must be of service to the travelling public, and I need not speak of the gathering which took place there on the 15th. One of the principal requirements of Warooka is a school or a teacher, as it appears that if the Council of Education appointed a teacher the use of a chapel would be given for school purposes. Warooka was, only a year ago, according to Mr. Ward, a place on the very outskirts of civilization, but one would not imagine this to see the signs of prosperity that are growing up on all sides, and the quantity of land that is being cleared and put under crop. The progress of the settler south-westerly is blocked by natural barriers, the country in tbe direction of Cape Spencer being dense scrub, unfit for cultivation. There is a good deal of excellent land, however, beyond the Peasy Ranges, where tbe finest wheat in South Australia is grown, and settlement is going on very fast towards the northwest coast right up to Corny Point. The representatives of several Adelaide business firms have their square-mile blocks in this locality, and besides fulfilling all the conditions of fencing and cultivating, they are looking round for more land to make up the thousand acres each which the new Act permits them to take up. To give access to these new settlements some miles of bush road require to be cleared, and there are a few stony places on the road already made that would be tbe better for some attention from the District Road Board, The steamer. Glenelg continues to make weekly calls at Point Turton, Minlaeowie, and Port Victoria, carrying implements and stores to the farmers and returning laden with wheat. The approach to the Point Turton Jetty by a roadway cut on the hillside is dangerous, and should either be fenced or made wider. A crane would be a great convenience on tbe jetty. Good crops were obtained in this neighborhood last season on land which had been cropped one or two seasons previously, but, as might have been expected, very little grain was got off the newly-cleared land owing to the prevalence of black grass. During the hot weather a bush fire raged for a week or more, and extended from the sea coast up to and over Para Wurlie Hill, so that the landscape, which in its normal state affords a picturesque stretch of waving green foliage, is now browned and in places blackened with burnt sbeaoak, ti-tree, and mallee, and the charred remains of stumps at stated distances round the cleared paddocks and pieces of twisted wire upon the ground snow where the fencing was destroyed. Miles of bush and wire fence have thus fallen, and the work of replacing them will be an additional tax upon the financial resources of the settlers. Every evil is said to have its attendant good, and thus while the fire has been destructive to the fences, and even threatened tbe farm buildings, it has cleared many acres of dense scrub and black grass, which will enable feed to spring up for the cattle and sheep. The lambing bas been satisfactory, but the feed somewhat scarce, except on Hannay's section aud at Moorowie. The latter station supplies most of tbe settlers with sheep, and butchers come from Ardrossan, Moonta, and more distant places for Mr. Fowler's fat flocks, which are turned out in capital condition by Mr. Phillips.

As my companions were both bound for Maitland, where they had promised to attend a farmers' meeting in reference to overdue payments, &c, we left Moorowie on the morning of the 18th, and drove in the direction of Minlaton. Passing over some seven or eight miles of scrubby country, with limestone cropping up through the surface—but which, nevertheless, has been selected for pasturage—we got upon the main road, as indicated by the telegraph wires, and passed alternately through a quantity of cleared land, which was being ploughed or already sown, and the young crop looking green and healthy, and through some miles of dense mallee scub. Here and there in the mallee was a small clearing with a primitive brush fence and a " wattle-and-dab" hut, with humble surroundings necessary for a family. Children, borses, a few cattle, and a dog or two were to be seen on each clearing, and although the labor of grubbing the mallee is a herculean task there can be little doubt but that the advancing footsteps of the agricultural pioneer will in the course of a few years conquor the scrub, and convert the whole of this area into fruitful selections that will be covered with smiling homesteads and fields of waving corn.

Minlaton (or " Gum Flat") is one of the newest of the Peninsula townships, having been surveyed only a couple of years ago, and it already boasts of two places of worship; Baptist and Wesleyan, a State school, a fine Hotel (Mclnerney's) of 20 rooms, two large stores (Long's and Baker & Calder's), three blacksmiths shops, two or three other business places, and some private dwellings. Nearly all these are substantially built of stone, and the trade of the township is sufficient to induce the National Bank to make arrangements for erecting a branch there. Township and suburban blocks realised very high prices, and the agricultural lands in the neighborhood were sold at £3 10s. to £5 10s. per acre. Minlaton is centrally situated between Stansbury, Minlacowie, and Port Rickaby, so that ito products can be easily shipped from either of these ports, where there are jetties. A bad piece of sandy road exist between Minlaton and Stansbury ; but the Moonta Road Board has passed a sum of £3,000 for making it, so that in a very short period the Minlatonians will be able to get to their principal port with any description of loading. One of the drawbacks of Minlaton, in common with other inland-townships on the Peninsula, is a want of fresh water, but this difficulty will be met in course of time by the construction of tanks and dams, and in certain places fresh water is to be obtained by sinking wells. The yield at last harvest in this district was from 10 to 15 bushels per acre, and an excellent sample of grain was produced. As there are a number of families about here the delay in opening the State school, which was finished some three months ago, is causing dissatisfaction and "uncomplimentary remarks upon the Council of Education.

A few miles further on we reached Wauraltie, due east about 20 miles from Wauraltie Island, situated in somewhat poor country, but which has nevertheless been selected, and crops of seven to ten bushels to the acre taken off the best portions. A solitary store and post-office and one or two small dwellings make the Township of Wauraltie. Passing onwards we rose the hill towards Mount Rat, where the land improved, and a beautiful view was obtained of Spencer's Gulf, and Para Wurlie was clearly seen some 40 miles in the rear. Beyond Mount Rat the character of the country and the nature of the soil changed so remarkably aa to excite expressions of wonder and admiration from our party. Gently sloping hillocks on our left shut out the view of tbe sea as we followed the telegraph line through a picturesque piece of woodland that any English gentleman would be proud to own as one-of the brat bits of his parkland. Handsome aheoahs, tallpeppermint-, native pines, and other trees of varied brand foliage grew so luzuriantiy that a heavier class of soil was indicated by their presence on the hillsides and hollows, while the sturdy appearance of the dense mallee forest that stretched far away on our right showed where a heavy expenditure would be required for dealing, but where the agriculturist might be rewarded for his enterprise by possessing soil that with care would be comparatively inexhaustible. In the centre of this oasis we came upon the homestead of Mr. R. Cottrell, the late member for West Adelaide, and were taken by that gentleman over his farm. It consists of nearly 80o acres of splendid land, for which he pud from £4 to £6 10s. per acre, and several pounds more for clearing. His neighbors also paid a similar price for their holdings. Although but two years resident in the locality, Mr. Cottrell has built a commodious and substantial dwelling under the shelter of the hill, and erected a cottage and heds on the farm below. He has some very large ricks of hay, and has taken crop off one of the paddocks, but his principal attention appears to have been given to a work which cannot fail to be a large source of profit to him in future years, and that is the conservation of water. Being aware of the difficulties under which other settlers labor for want of the liquid element, and perceiving from the situation of his farm that he possess a large catchwater area on the high ground above him. Mr. Cottrell has wisely caused races to be cut to ths place where he has effected his storage. This he has done, first by building a goodsized tank of stone puddled at the back with clay, which is situated midway between the farm cottage and the stables and sheds, and which supplies water for general purposes. Some 50 yards lower down on tbe slope is a dam two chains long by more than half a chain in width and 12 feet deep in tbe clay subsoil, where the bulk of the drainage is received; from thas dam when it is full a by wash carries the water to another dam of similar size and construction in the adjoining paddock; and both dams are covered with thick brushwood to prevent evaporation and keep the water cool in summer. In this manner Mr. Cottrell has already conserved at least three years supply, and he estimates that he has storage capacity sufficient for six years' use, and that the dams will be filled by the coming winter rains. What Mr. Cottrell has done in this respect is deserving of the attention of every settler in the district, as the same plan might be carried out to advantage en many of the holdings where the same subsoil exists.

From From Mr. Cottrell's to Maitland we travelled in the gloaming, and I was therefore unable to form any idea from personal observation of the nature of the county we passed through. Reaching Maitland at half-past 7, we found the farmers assembled about the hotel, waiting in groups for the arrival of our party before commencing their meeting. What took place at that meeting was duly reported, but we could not help being struck with the odd character of the proceedings, and the peculiar termination that was given to the meeting by the Chairman producing a telegram, which he had received hours before from Mr. R. D. Ross, M.P., stating that the Government would grant tbe concessions asked by the farmers, and that overdue payments might be deferred by making personal application to the Minister and paying interest on the sums that were allowed to remain in abeyance. From what was said at the meeting it appeared as though the majority of the farmers had suffered greatly by a very severe frost on the night of the 19th November last, and by red rust during the past and previous seasons. We could not help, however, being amused at the idea of one of the principal speakers being a man who boasts that be clears £2,000 a year by farming in that neighborhood, and who "did not care very much whether the Government did or did sot grant the concessions asked for!" At another meeting held subsequently in the same room other wants of the district were discussed, which will no doubt be pressed upon the attention of the Government in due course.

Maitland is another township which has made rapid progress since the town allotments were sold four years ago. It now comprises four places of public worship— Episcopalian, Wesleyan, Independent, and Roman Catholic—a State school, a branch of the Bank of South Australia, two large hotels—Driscoll's and Pearce's, the latter being a new two-storied structure containing 20 rooms, erected at a cost of £2,000— and a number of stores and dwelling-houses. Overlooking the Gulf on the west, and the fertile fields of Yorke Valley on the east, Maitland is exceedingly well situated, and must in time become a place of importance.

Leaving Maitland on the morning of the 20th, we crossed Yorke Valley, and on the south-easterly side of the ranges met with miles of poor scrubby country that will always remain a waste, as the limestone shows itself upon the surface. This continued till we reached Ardrossan, where the steamer Wakefield was lying at the jetty.

Ardrossan as a port of shipment for the Hundred of Maitland, Tipara, Clinton, &c. will always be a place of some consequence to farmers and the trading community, while it also possesses seaside attractions to visitors from the metropolis. Its principal buildings are two churches, a State school, Freeman's mill, Darling's grain store, and Smith's and Francis's hotels. The last named is a handsome structure of 20 rooms, which will be completed and finished about a month hence, at a cost of nearly £4,000, and is intended for the accommodation of families. The jetty at Ardrossan is a source of great annoyance to the inhabitants, because it requires an addition of more than a thousand feet to enable the steamer to get alongside on all occasions. We were conveyed in a dray to a boat, which took us out to the steamer, and cargo, except during a very high tide, has to be removed to and from the Wakefield in the same awkward fashion. When the trucks are loaded they run off the shore end of the jetty in consequence of the rails being out of order, and the shoot intended to facilitate the shipment of grain is too narrow to admit of the bags sliding down, and is therefore never used. It would be well if these drawbacks to the development of the tirade of Ardrossan were removed, and it is absolutely necessary that the jetty ahould be lengthened if the money already expended upon it is sot to be thrown away. The Wakefield is a very comfortable boat, and after a "pleasant return journey of five hours' duration we again set foot ashore at Port Adelaide.