Owing to the action of the Government in closing the hospital much inconvenience was experienced; but the people were not long in moving. They first held a meeting, and as a result an application was made to the Colonial Secretary asking him to make over to committee of gentlemen the hospital stores, instruments, etc.
The reply received was astonishingly satisfactory: the Government would do what they were in the habit of doing for others; they would consent to make over the hospital for the benefit of the public and contribute £200 annually towards its support providing an equal amount was raised in the district by private subscription.
After various meetings the Benevolent Society undertook to manage the institution, which it did, and was further assisted by the Government in so much that the fines imposed for drunkenness were handed over to the hospital. Out of this small beginning - a few relics are still to be found at the rear of the Lands Office in George street - has sprung the present fine institution which is a credit alike to the colony and to its management.
South Brisbane had long been wanting better postal facilities, and though the residents there had to pay for the convenience the concession granted was better than nothing at all. Instead of having to pay 4d. to cross the river in order to post their letters a box was fixed on the south side, and on their affixing a penny stamp extra to their correspondence it was sent to its destination by the Government official in the usual manner. The Experiment was also made a mail boat, and thus postal communication with Ipswich was obtained.
Church matters had, like those of business, been exceedingly quiet, the Anglicans (the pioneers of St. John's) meeting in a portion of the "lumber yard"- now used as a volunteer fire station, by the way - at the back of the Longreach Hotel, while the Roman Catholics assembled in an old shed which then stood at a point about opposite the Theatre Royal in Elizabeth Street. But the congregations of both grew, and with them grew the desire for better worshipping accommodation.
The Catholics had not been idle, and at about the same time they were able to announce that a tender had been accepted for a new church, which is now to be seen adjoining the more imposing structure of St. Stephen. The Wesleyans' first place of worship was in Queen street, but this was sold, and they removed to a building in Charlotte Street, which of recent years I believe has done duty as a boarding house.
The Congregationalists, Baptists, and Presbyterians joined issue, and sometime afterwards raised an edifice in William Street, and named it Dr. Lang's Church. Mr. Beal, the Government Printer, now occupies this building as a residence. But I am anticipating.
The visit of the Right Rev. William Tyrell, Archbishop of Newcastle, in June of 1848 gave church affairs an impetus. He arrived here on the 3rd of June in the Tamar, and during his stay, which was not very long, he was the guest of Captain Wickham at Government Cottage, better known now as Newstead, the residence of the late Mr. George Harris.
His lordship could not have chosen worse weather, for it rained during the whole stay, but this was perhaps compensated for by the enthusiasm of his flock, who presented him with an address, and who drew from the distinguished visitor the statement that the district was one of the most important in his diocese, and also his cheque for £30 to assist in making up the sum necessary to obtain the subsidy of the Government. The site now occupied by St. John's was approved of, and two years later the building was commenced.
The agitation for the establishment of a bank had assumed a more definite form, for on the 20th June a committee of gentlemen drafted a letter to the board of directors of the Union Bank of Australia asking for the establishment of a branch here. This communication contained much useful information, some of which will serve as a comparison between the exports of 1844 and those of 1847.
The figures are as follow :—Bales of wool (averaging 3501b.), 3593½ ; casks tallow (averaging 4cwt.), 968 ; hides, 3129 ; tierces beef, 142 ; sheepskins, 12,560; staves 27,500; feet of cedar, 28,000; feet of pine, 54,900; tons of bones, 2; estimated value, £72,297 10s.
By reference to the table of exports published in a previous chapter it will be seen how enormously our products had grown in the brief period of three years. Shortly after this letter had been despatched the Courier changed hands, Mr. James Swan (who recently died) rising from the position of printer to proprietor. In its first issue after the change (1st July) Mr. Swan wrote : " The paper will be conducted on the same independent and consistent principles which have hitherto distinguished it, and by the same person to whom during the last three or four months its literary management has been chiefly intrusted."
Even on the chance of it being considered monotonous I must again turn to the subject of labour and its counterpart - immigration. Immigration I have said was to be revived. It was revived, but of the 7000 persons who availed themselves of the system to reach New South Wales during 1848 not more than 130 found their way to Moreton Bay until the Artemesia arrived.
The first of those who came via Sydney were eight families, comprising twenty seven persons, and these were placed in the prisoners' barracks. The cost of bringing them to Brisbane was partly defrayed by the Government and the other half by those hiring them. All these quickly found engagements.
In July (1848) forty-one immigrants who had arrived in Sydney by the Equestrian were accommodated at the old barracks. These consisted of fourteen married and twenty-seven un married persons and were soon engaged, the single men receiving £20 per annum with rations. The girls obtained situations in the Settlement at wages varying from £14 to £18 per annum.
The military (the 99th) had left on the 22nd June, and thus the barracks were empty. Of course the Government was memorialized, asking that another detachment should be located here. The Government was some months in replying, so long indeed that it was thought that the intention was to ignore the demand.
The settlers then thought they would try to get the barracks set apart as an immigration depot, and in this they were successful. Judge of their surprise, though, when a detachment of thirty privates and five non-commissioned officers under Lieutenant Cameron arrived and took possession of the barracks. The surprise, however, was an agreeable one, for the immigrants could be accommodated elsewhere.
At about the same time that the military made their appearance thirty-seven immigrant orphan girls came on to the scene, having been supervised by Mr. George Watson, who had been appointed immigration agent here. The girls were located in the hospital (which had been closed), and several ladies formed a committee of advice, but their services were scarcely needed as the girls were almost immediately engaged at wages averaging £14 per annum, and in a very brief period became independent of both supervisors and employers judging by the following paragraph which appeared in the Courier :-
"In connection with immigration it is rather an important circumstance that nearly the whole of the young women who arrived in the Mary Ann about three months ago have, in the language of newspapers, ' contracted matrimonial alliances' already. It will be gratifying to those who are yet to come to learn that there is a fair chance of their catching the fish in an equally short period. Many honest and industrious men who until lately never dreamt of the silken chains have come to the conclusion, now that temptation has been thrown in their way, that matrimony is not such a terrible humbug after all. In all seriousness we are rejoiced at the gallantry displayed in the district equally for the sake of the poor girls themselves, who will be placed in situations whence their own frugality may raise them to comparative independence, and because of the vacancies for other servants which are created by these marriages." Who after this can say the Courier did not consider the interest of all classes of the community ?
A mystery which took some eighteen months to solve was that of the missing schooner Selina, the launching of which had been made the occasion of much display. It will be remembered that this boat was built in Petrie's Bight, and on being launched on the 15th May, 1847, was christened by Miss Petrie. On the 1st June she left Brisbane for the Pine, to take in a cargo of cedar. Having been loaded she set out for Sydney, but nothing was heard of her until the 20th October, 1848, when the little craft Will-o'-the-Wisp found her lying on the sands of Keppel Bay.
When discovered she was in an upright position, and her cargo was safe, even a log which had been lashed to the dock remaining in place. Her mainmast and sails were missing, but her foremast was standing. Two holes had been made in the deck, one forward and one aft, and from these it was conjectured that the vessel having become water-logged the holes were made to facilitate pumping or bailing.
No trace, however, could be found of the crew, Cameron and two men, and it was believed that they had perished at sea for want of sustenance, for on leaving Brisbane the Selina was only provisioned for seven or eight days. Thus terminated the career of the first local shipbuilding effort.
An event which was regarded as of significance was the receipt of the news that the Government proposed to devote the following sums towards the payment of the salaries of teachers of schools in the district for the next year (1849) :-Church of England, £40; Roman Catholic School, £15; Ipswich Church of England, £40; Ipswich Catholic School, £35. This may be taken as the first step towards the education of the young colonists at Moreton Bay, and, as may be expected, was thoroughly appreciated by the adult population.
With the closing months of 1848 came renewed hope to the squatters, whose efforts to secure a reasonable supply of labour had from the very start been one of their chief troubles. As a preliminary experiment fifty-six Chinese immigrants arrived in the Nimrod, and these were quickly snapped up as shepherds. The conditions under which they were hired were : The employers paid the passage money (some £15) and a wage of £6 per annum with two suits of clothing; the Chinese on their part hired for five years.
They, however, proved more unreliable than the runaway Europeans, and if the truth, must be stated the squatters were rather glad to rid themselves of them. As they were discharged (some of them ran away, but were not followed) they came to the Settlement, where they were subject to mean annoyance at the hands of the tribes of blacks who took up their abode in York's hollow and other spots adjacent to Brisbane.
Sensational scenes were of frequent occurrence, and the Chinese soon disappeared - where is not known. They may have gone South - some of them undoubtedly did; but it is asserted that others were converted into epicurean dishes for the blackfellows' table! One old resident related to me a somewhat amusing incident which occurred in Queen Street one Sunday morning a few days after his arrival. Several Chinese were passing down the thoroughfare when they encountered six or eight blacks, who saluted the Celestials with observations in a mixed gibberish formed by the patois of the natives and the elegant language of their earlier instructors.
Of course these were not understood by the subjects of the Moon's brother, but as the actions of the blacks were tolerably significant without being equally flattering, the offended parties tucked up their sleeves and prepared for a bout at fisticuffs à l'Anglaise. This was opposed to the tactics of the aborigines, who hastened to possess themselves of waddies, to the infinite disgust of their antagonists. The latter strove in vain by voice and gesture to convince the grimy savages of the unfairness of such a contest, but the others failed to "catch on," and a battle-royal commenced.
A crowd, however, soon collected, the better- disposed portion of which separated the warriors and stopped the fun. My informant, though a peaceably inclined man, avows that he was a long time before he could forgive the peacemakers for spoiling what he then regarded as " pleasant Sunday recreation." But this is drifting somewhat from the labour question.
The Chinese were a failure, but rumours concerning Dr. Lang's immigration crusade at home were wafted across the continent, and the doctor's efforts, coupled with the report that the Government did not intend to be defeated by a clerical agitator in the introduction of immigrants, gave the pastoralists fresh hope. Various systems of immigration had been experimented with, that of granting a bounty to each adult imported obtaining for some time.
This, as might have been expected, was subject to very great abuses, the immigrants naturally being the chief sufferers; and the scandal thus caused resulted in a change being effected. The proceeds of lands sales were applied sometimes directly and sometimes in anticipation by way of mortgage raised on the security of the land fund for the payment of passages. This was supplemented by the Imperial authorities occasionally defraying the cost of charter and providing the necessary equipment of vessels.
In addition, intending purchasers of land acquired, by a deposit of their money with the home authorities, a right to nominate emigrants for free passages in the Government vessels at the rate of one adult or two children for every £20 so deposited. It was an indispensable condition, however, that all arrangements should be left with a body styled the Land and Emigration Commissioners sitting in London. The views of the commissioners regarding colonial requirements were extremely misty, and it is therefore in no way surprising that the class of emigrant sent out was often altogether the reverse of what was needed.
This system was in vogue in 1848, the year which saw Dr. Lang "up to his eyes" in his emigration crusade. The rev. gentleman had visited Moreton Bay in 1845, and had set out on his mission in the following year, reaching England in December, 1846. He had, while in Northern Australia, made several efforts to test the suitableness of the soil for the growth of cotton, and since Manchester merchants had reported favourably on the specimens sent home and had stated that large profits might be made by its cultivation.
Dr. Lang sought to secure the co-operation of the Manchester and Glasgow merchants in populating the Northern Territory and establishing remunerative competition with the growers of the Southern United States - as Mr. Coote concisely put it :
to create a new industry, to form a new colony, to deal to slavery no slight blow, and to relieve his fellow countrymen from poverty and suffering were, singly, objects worthy of all the energy that could be thrown into the support of their combination, and assuredly in the doctor's case that energy was in no wise spared.
His communications to the British Banner on those two subjects - immigration and the cotton industry - caused a good deal of discussion and did much to popularise this part of Australia. His writings reached the West Indies, where the Slave Emancipation Act had brought ruination to the growers, and where there was a manifest desire on the part of the British born youths to migrate to a country more congenial. He actually received overtures from several of these, regarding which he wrote :
"The extension of slavery in the West Indies up to the period of emancipation was not the crime of the British-born youths of those islands but their misfortune. It appears to me they are in a peculiar manner deserving of the sympathies of the British nation for the ruin that has overtaken them in consequence of the total revolution of West Indian society which that great measure implied. Indeed the native-born West Indians of British descent can no longer maintain the position they have hitherto been accustomed to hold in their native islands, and are naturally unwilling to be depressed below the level of the African free labourer. They are desirous of being enabled to emigrate to Australia and to settle in those parts of that extensive country where the soil and climate will enable them to turn their knowledge and experience in intertropical agriculture to profitable account. "
One would almost suppose from the tone of the letter in question that the doctor was not in sympathy with the framers of the Emancipation Act, but this is entirely dispelled by a letter which he sent to a ruined planter in Jamaica, in which he stated :-
" I approve of the Act from the bottom of my soul. At the same time I sympathise cordially with those unfortunate colonists of European origin whom that Act has hopelessly depressed from their original position in society, and who now feel themselves sinking gradually to the level of the commonest negro labourer." This laudable effort was highly appreciated in Moreton Bay, and doubts were never entertained that the scheme would be brought to a successful issue. Still nothing ever came of it.
To turn, however, to the question of European immigration, the desire of the Government to get in the first shipload was gratified by the arrival of the Artemisia on the 13th December, 1848. She was of 558 tons burthen, was owned by Mr. A. P. Ridley, and commanded by J. P. Ridley. The arrangements made for the comfort of her immigrants, who numbered 240 souls, were complete, and the voyage was accomplished in 120 days.
Her immigrants were brought to Brisbane from the Bay in the Raven on the 16th and 17th December, and were quartered some in the old barracks, others in the hospital. The Courier heralded the event thus :-
" The arrival of the first immigrant vessel direct from England is an important event in the annals of Moreton Bay - an epoch to be often reverted to by future historians of the Northern colony. For that reason we give that ship the place of honour in this day's issue, instead of confining our notice of her to the less conspicuous space usually occupied by our shipping intelligence."
Many of our prominent residents today will well remember this " historical event," and to read of it here will doubtless recall many pleasant memories. Previous to the vessel leaving Deptford she was inspected by Lord Ashley, the benevolent promoter of the Ragged Schools at Westminster. This generous nobleman placed on board seven boys and two girls who had received shelter and instruction through his instrumentality.
The following particulars of the Artemisia's immigrants will doubtless be read with interest:-Adults- married couples, 49 ; single-47 males, 19 females; children, between 1 and 14-males 38, females 27 ; children under 1 year-males 7, females 4. Three persons died during the voyage, one only being an adult; while there were four births. The trades of the male adults were :-Agricultural labourers, 38 ; carpenters, 4 ; weavers, 5 ; labourers, 6 ; smiths, 7 ; cart- wrights, 2 ; sawyers, 2 ; miners, 2 ; slater. 1 ; shepherds, 7 ; ironfounders, 2 ; cowherd, 1 ; wheelwrights, 2; and mason, gardener, and coachman
It will be seen that the real amount of available labour was very small indeed as compared with the wants, but the supply was seasonable. The Artemisia brought news that the first of Dr. Lang's ships, the Fortitude, was to leave London direct for Moreton Bay on the 6th September ; therefore it was felt that the squatters' hopes were soon to be realised. Had they known, however, that the coming labour was to prove the "bee in their bonnet" that it did the pastoral lessees of the Crown would, I verily believe, have contented themselves - with going on as they had done.
As if to prepare them for the hiring-out ceremony the Courier delivered itself of an article on the duties of immigrants generally, and of those who had arrived by the Artemisia particularly. In some respects the remarks made may be said to have been the reverse of complimentary, and the writer has been told that they had a somewhat depressing effect on many of the new arrivals.
One of the things referred to was the rate of wages. The Press representative had glanced over the list of wages some of the immigrants had stated they were receiving prior to embarkation, and had been terribly surprised. This is how he summed the matter up:-
"The rates for agricultural labourers, according to the list, vary from 9s. a week, and in one case is 15s. Knowing as we do the general depression of affairs in England, Ireland, and Scotland, we cannot suppose that any such wages have been given except in some very extraordinary instances. The rate of wages would be nearer the usual average if put down at from 5s. to 8s. We take this notice of the circumstance because we think it extremely probable that the immigrants may have been led into erroneous statements from the hope of obtaining in this colony something very much higher' than the stated wage at home, and without being aware that employers here know as well the state of the labour market in the United Kingdom as those who now reside there. We would caution immigrants against any attempt of this description."
A neater way of putting the matter would be difficult to devise. But whether the immigrants had been "led into erroneous statements" or not the fact remains that in a week all the single ones were engaged from £20 to £25 per annum and rations, and married couples and their families at from £30 to £50 ; while applications were made for 200 more toilers. Some of these came from the Wide Bay district, which had been systematically tabooed by the Artemisia folk.
This was carried out to such a noticeable degree that the paper had again to step in. For the benefit of those who are interested in the district named, I give the extract, which is as follows:-
"Amongst other mistaken notions that have found entrance into the heads of the Artemisia people is the idea that Wide Bay is so dangerous a locality that they are bound to avoid it. A strong repugnance exists to hiring for that district. We can only account for this ridiculous objection by the supposition that they are influenced by some indistinct recollections on certain passages in Dr. Lang's ' Cooks land,' of which some copies were on board the Artemisia. The doctor speaks of Darling Downs and other parts of the interior as places which had long been known and inhabited while Wide Bay has a mysterious veil of obscurity thrown over it; and it is not at all improved in character by the republication of certain affrays with the blacks which occurred there about six or seven years ago. The district has widely changed since then."
"A Government commissioner has been appointed to superintend it; at least three storekeepers have established themselves on the river Mary; and stock and stations are to be found in all directions. Vessels are trading between the port and Sydney; and so little is thought of the trip from this river that a small coaster of 16 tons burthen runs constantly between the Brisbane and the Mary, performing her trip with great regularity and proving of very considerable service to the residents of both places. Next month a post office is to be established there, and in all probability a Government township will before long be laid out in the neighbourhood." The commissioner referred to was Sir Maurice O'connell.
With the approach of a new year all seemed bright, and spoke of greater prosperity. The Boxing Day sports were entered into with enthusiasm, and both at South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point some of the new arrivals distinguished themselves in the good old English games of climbing a greasy pole and hunting a pig with a greasy tail. On the way to the Settlement in the evening several accidents happened, but these it was confidently asserted were in no way connected with the sports!
"When the iron tongue of the Experiment's bell announced to the unwise the arrival of midnight strange and diabolical sounds issued from the neighbourhood of South Brisbane. A combination of roaring, yelling, singing, and huzzaing-mingled with the spirited barking of youthful dogs and the melancholy howling of the more aged and lazy-created a discord which struck upon the tympanum with an effect more novel than musical; while the ill-regulated explosion of firearms -embracing the whole gamut - assisted in producing an effect compared with which the eternal 'nix my dolly' of an amateur pianist would be merciful.
A slumbering and somewhat testy gentleman was roused from his peaceful dreams and rushed from his dormitory, bearing in one hand an ignited taper and in the other flourishing a formidable club. As he stood, elevated by a veranda stage, above the opposing crowd, the faint gleam of an expiring bonfire cast a sickly light upon his indignant features, which for a moment awed the ungodly revellers. In stern accents he demanded the cause of this frightful uproar, and was informed that the old year was going out and the now one coming in: at which he retired, taking with him his candle, and also his bludgeon.
North Brisbane was roused by the beating of a drum. In the pauses of the strokes you might hear a screaming flute. There was laughter - and a fiddle - and a clatter, and a hum ; and nobody heard another speak though nobody was mute. With tramping feet through every street the wild musicians went; through windows wide on every side astonished eyes were bent.
Yet there were some on whom the drum had no effect at all; and others, grunting, yawned and turned their faces to the wall. It might have been fondness for gin that kept half the town in a daze; or horror of shelling out tin -o r indolent love for repose; but certainly a chilly welcome met the sleepless coveters of heavy wet; and all unanswered was the hearty shout that brought the new year in and kicked the old one out.
Now a domestic reminder tolled something very like 1 o'clock. Valiantly thundered the drum, drowning the flute and the violin. Fading in distance away lost were the sounds on the morning air. Nothing was heard but a snore drawn through the nasal tubes heavily."
Thus was the closing year of the forties heralded in by the windmill reporter. Profiting by past experience the residents decided to commence the year well - by agitating. This they did for a twofold object - for a Custom house and for the cutting up of another portion of the reserve, which as has previously been stated was located on the riverside.
Things had so far progressed with the first named that the Customs officer was requested to select an eligible site, which he did. But he maintained a silence about his choice which gave rise to the rumour that it was in the vicinity of the tide surveyor's residence, Kangaroo Point (the late Hon. W. Thornton's property), and close to an allotment of land which had recently been purchased by the sub-collector. Of course this was condemned, and the people rose in a great state of indignation.
South Brisbane wanted the Custom-house on their side, though they expressed a willingness that it should be erected on the north-eastern corner of Queen street, while another faction submitted that Petrie's Bight was the central position, and this, as is known, was eventually selected.
While in the throes of this agitation Mr. Warner, the district surveyor, received a communication from the Surveyor-General (Sir Thomas Mitchell), stating that he did not perceive the necessity at present for throwing open the riverside reserve for sale. For this he was roundly censured, and a memorial framed which agreed that Sir Thomas a high scientific reputation, but at the same time he was despotic, and gave him to understand that his peremptory flat might be all right in his own department, but could not be safely be extended to the people.
Unfortunately for Sir Thomas he had previously instructed the authorities here to survey and sell some waterside frontages in South Brisbane and this action was construed as giving that side a privilege to the detriment of the other, notwithstanding the fact that in one place the land had been reserved and in the other it not. The differences which are inseparable from North and South Brisbane management are, it will be observed, of ancient origin. However, the Surveyor-General had at last to accede to the desires of a few merchants - it would have been well had he not done so.
The news of the breaking out of the Californian goldfields reached Brisbane on the 6th January, 1849, and the glowing accounts from the new Eldorado thoroughly disorganized business here. Some prepared to go away at once, others preferred to wait for further particulars, and when these came there a general exodus.
Indeed it promised that Brisbane Town would be depopulated, and it had the effect of stagnating almost everything. Even a meeting to consider the question of holding a regatta could not be got together while the subscriptions were equally difficult to get, and must have thoroughly disgusted the organisers, the chief of whom was Dr. Kearsey Cannan.
And little attention was paid to the continuous depredations of the blacks on the Pine River people's attention being taken up in the Californian discovery. Had not Dr Lang's first immigrants arrived just as the fever was at its height it is doubtful indeed whether the few shopkeepers would not have put up their shutters and sought fresh field, and pastures new.