PIONEERING IN THE MALLEE.
Yorke's Peninsula's Prosperity. '
The electoral district of Yorke's Peninsula, in County Ferguson, is now one of the richest agricultural centres of the State.' The story of its development from mallee scrub and wheat-sick lands' to prolific cereal country is graphically told by Mr. J. T. Collins, who was a pioneer farmer at Urania, and now resides at John's road, Prospect. Starting with little capital, he struggled against many adversities and setbacks, until the introduction of the drill, the use of superphos phates, and improved methods of cultivation stemmed the tide. Preliminary experiments by Professor distance at Rose worthy Agricultural College in 1879, and later demonstrations and lectures by his successor, Professor Lowrie, paved the way for the rejuvenation of the wheatgrowing industry, but it was the mallee farmers on Yorke's Peninsula, at their wits' end to make ends meet, who led the van in practical application outside, so that in a few years land for which buyers could not be found at 25/ an acre increased in selling value from £3 to £13 10/ per acre. Even higher prices have been paid in specially favoured localities.
Born at Enfield.
The late Mr John Collins, a native of Somerset, emigrated to South Australia in the Royal Admiral, and arrived at Holdfast Bay about the year 1840 or 1841. For a time he worked for the Government for 9d. a day and rations to support his family. A sawyer by trade, he obtained employment near Mount Lofty, and as sisted in the construction of some of the early bridges before he settled at Enfield, on the sparsely settled portion known as Poor Man's Section. There were few neighbours, and one of them was a Mr. Heycocks, at whose suggestion the name was change to In Enfield, in honor of his birthplace at home. The Collin's lived in a house abutting, a 20-ft. lane, which has since been converted into a street, and after the death of Mr. Collins, sen., was named after him. It was here that the subject of this sketch was born in 1847. Young Collins received his early schooling m a little school at Enfield, where a lady teacher received a salary of about £38 a year, and the parents paid 1/ a week for each, child. Tuition was completed al the Gepp's Cross school, held in portion of the district council chamber, first under Mr. Sweetman, and finally under Mr. Fitzgerald.
Carting and Roadmaking.
At the age of 14 the young Australian was engaged in woodcarting from the neighbourhood where the Millbrook Reservoir has since been established. The wood was brought to Adelaide and cut and sold as low as £1 per ton. From 1861 to 1867, Mr. Collins did much carting with horse teams, his activities including car riage of wattle bark for Messrs. Wilkie Brothers from Blumberg to Port Adelaide; copper ore from the Reedy Creek Mine, three or four miles south of the present township of Palmer; wool from the Hummocks and Mount Remarkable to Port Wakefield; and wheat from Auburn to Port Adelaide, at from 1/ to 1/3 per bushel,, at a time when the farmer was receiving 4/ per bushel. For the following nine years road contracting occupied Mr. Collins, his last job in this connection being the construction of 20 chains at Rake's Corner, for the District Council of Yatala. Stone was carted from the Stockade for bottom metalling and local limestone for forming the road.
Into the Mallee Scrub.
There had been considerable settlement in the more open country on Yorke's Peninsula, but thousands of acres of mallee scrub was still virgin in 1876, when portions of it south of Maitland, in the Hundred of Wauraltee, were thrown open for selection at the upset price of £1 per acre, of which 10 per cent, had to be paid on allotment. Mr. Collins met with no opposition in securing a block near Urania, and the first payment left him with little capital. Two hundred acres were sparsely covered with big mallee and teatree, which could be cleared by manual labour at an average rate of about half an acre a day. The remainder of the block was dense scrub until in later years the process of clearing known as mul lenizing' was introduced by a man named Mullens at Grace Plains, near Mallala.
A Disastrous Beginning.
Let Mr. Collins tell his, story in his own words: — I put up a temporary shack, thinking I would only, have to live in it for a couple of months, but it was two years before I could make improvements. Farmers over there now would not stable a horse in it. That year was very dry,' and some of the settlers with interests nearer the city cleared out for the season. I was only a small 'cropper that year, and from 14 acres I got nothing. The Kellys and some other neighbours who had sown areas up 'to 100 acres fared similarly, and they did not get a straw for their trouble. The next year we had to pay from 4/ to 6/ per bushel for seed wheat to far mers in the Maitland district, where the soil is heavier and the rainfall had been greater. In our locality there had not been a rain during the season to make the water run of the land surface, and the crops withered off when four or five inches high. Water carting was constant, and the nearest source of supply was Mount Rat, in may case a distance of 10 miles. In later years crops were better, but the peninsula never really established itself till superphosphates came to the rescue. The occasional dry years proved a serious source of loss and inconvenience, as dams could not be filled and good water could not be obtained by sinking or boring, although on the eastern side of the peninsula, and particularly from Port Vincent to Curramulka, good stock supplies can be tapped, at depths of from 90 to 100 ft.
Ravaged by Red Rust
'I had a splendid looking crop the second year when red rust put in an appearance and lowered the average to 6 bushels, pinching the grain so much that I had to accept from 7d.. to 9d. per bushel below market price. The wheat was carted to Port Victoria. We did not have the rust-escaping or rust-resistant wheats then like they have to-day. Varieties we grew, such as Purple Straw, Rattling Jack, Lammas, and Dart's. Imperial, yon never hear of now. As time passed we had better results with Gluyas, Marshall's selections, Federation, King's Early, and other similar types.' 'But 'you have had some heavy' yields?' 'Oh, yes! Before the introduction of super I got as high as 20 bushels to the acre off cleared scrubland, and after from plain land which without manure had returned only 2 bushels, I averaged 9 bags off fallow.'
From Poverty to Plenty.
'The. pioneering work was heavy?' 'I should say so. Some weeks, we could not get a supply of fresh meat unless we shot a kangaroo, mobs of which used to break into the crops at night-time and eat and trample down the growing corn. Many a night towards harvest have I spent dogging them of the wheat. Before mullenizing, drilling, and fallowing became general many early selectors were starved out. On one occasion I got disheartened myself and offered to sell my block for £l.per acre,' including improvements. Despite the fact that the land was nearly freehold, the offer was refused. Only recently that land changed hands at £13 10/ per acre. I remember another settler who refused to believe in the usefulness of mullenizing and he threw up his block. It was taken up by Mr. Koch, now of Kadina, who did so believe, and the very first year he got a return of from 20 to 24 bushels per acre. Credit for the rise of the mallee scrub farmers from poverty to.comparative affluence must be largely given to Mr. Joseph Parsons, of Curramulka, who was the first I know of to practically demonstrate the importance of drilling and manuring, and Mr. J. Cudmore, who induced many doubting Thomases to give it a trial. Before the advent of the drill I could have bought hundreds of acres in the Hundred of Mooloowurtie at 5/ per acre, and to-day you cannot buy the same land under '£10 to £12. per acre.'