Early South Australian Memories - Miscellaneous Authors

The Following Information was Compiled by Reg Butler (Hahndorf) and extracted from his computer working files.


[ Forword ]     [ Early Days in the Colony - by Thomas Battersby ]     [ Old Memories - by James Chittleborough ]     [ My Early Colonial Life - by Thomas Hardeman ]     [ Recollections of Early Days and Old Colonists - by Wm Pedler ]     [ Bibliography ]


He could tell the story of the growth of Adelaide from the time it was laid out; indeed, he remembered the scrub which previously covered the site of the present great city.  The Chronicle 9 March 1918.

Born between 1827-1832, Thomas Battersby, James Chittleborough, Thomas Hardeman and William Pedler were almost contemporaries in age, as well as in colonial experience.  All four arrived as young boys in South Australia, between 1836-1838, and retained vivid memories of their earliest years in the new province.

The Battersbys and Pedlers left a secure life in England.  A cabinetmaker, upholsterer and silversmith, Thomas Battersby Senr derived a prosperous income from clients in fashionable St Johns Wood and other nearby villages in rapidly-spreading northern London.  Thomas Junr never really understood what made his parents re-establish themselves in the Antipodes.  William Pedler Senr had become a shoemaker in the vicinity of Truro, Cornwall’s largest town.  What links brought South Australia’s Emigration Agent John Hutt all the way from London to persuade the Pedlers to leave their native land?

It could not have been much of a wrench for James Chittleborough Senr to abandon his career in the Royal Navy; naval life was not renowned for ease.  As yet, Richard Hardeman’s occupation in Worcestershire is unclear; but possibly he was an agricultural labourer, as the Hardemans were the first of the four families to leave the relative security of infant Adelaide for adventures in the outback.

The Battersbys, Chittleboroughs and Pedlers delayed their departure from South Australia’s capital.  In each case, the relevant memoirs reveal that these families either formed or already had close links with some of the leading colonists.  Poor business judgement ruined William Pedler Senr’s early hopes of substantial wealth, shortly before economic conditions forced many much more well-heeled colonists to the bankruptcy courts from 1840 onwards.  Only James Chittleborough Senr remained in Adelaide when severe depression gripped the population.  Although he had opened the Buffalo’s Head (now the Princess Berkeley), one of Adelaide’s earliest hotels, too many hostelries were chasing paying customers at the commencement of the 1840s.

By the mid-1840s, the Chittleboroughs, Hardemans and Pedlers had become farmers at Hurtle Vale (east of McLaren Vale), Echunga and Salisbury respectively.  Thomas Battersby Senr contented himself with a tradesman’s existence at Houghton and Millbrook at the entrance to the Torrens Valley.  Thomas Battersby Junr and James Chittleborough Junr had the added adjustment of their mother’s death to make, just as the various moves to the country were under way.

In 1851-1852, James Chittleborough and Thomas Hardeman made for the Victorian gold diggings.  Young Hardeman’s involvement with gold continued on his return to his father’s Echunga farm.  Thomas and his mate, William Chapman, noticed the similarity of the countryside between Bendigo and Echunga; the men’s gold finds near Echunga began the first (and by far the most successful) of a number of relatively minor South Australian gold rushes over the years.

When they married, James Chittleborough Junr and Thomas Hardeman returned to live in Adelaide.  For many years, James operated hotels, before further careers as brewery traveller, foundry bookkeeper and land agent.  Full of years and honours, he retired in Hindmarsh, where he still played cricket well into his 70s and attended the annual Proclamation Day celebrations at Glenelg on 28 December, to commemorate the now far-off landing he had made as a child.  Thomas Hardeman lived nearby - in Milner St, Hilton, where he had established himself as a carpenter.

William Pedler Junr remained on Trevalsa Farm, Salisbury, for the rest of his life.  Thomas Battersby Junr took up land in the Hundred of Yalpara, north-east of Orroroo, and retired to Terowie, where he died.  The Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (South Australian Branch) had the foresight to collect the reminiscences of these four sturdy pioneers and publish them in its 1902 volume of Proceedings.  With the permission of the Society Librarian, these memories are reprinted for a new generation of South Australians to enjoy.

Early Days in the Colony  -  by Thomas Battersby

I am an old pioneer, but as unsuccessful as any one in the colony, through misfortune that could not be avoided; but fortune is not for all, nor the race for the swift.

I came out with my father in the Prince George, and we landed on New Year’s Day, 1839.  When I was at the Bay I saw George Bates, who lived on Kangaroo Island, with his black gin and two little half-caste youngsters.  He had left an American whaler, and landed on the island.

My father brought out from England a wooden house painted like brick, and sold it to Mr Bray, a master shoemaker and shipmate of ours, who put it up for a shoe shop in Hindley-street.  In those days I have seen the mud in Hindley-street knee deep, so that a boy might have been smothered in it.  I often wondered at my father coming here, for he was doing very well in England, generally earning £3 and £4 a week at his trade of carpenter, cabinet-maker, and silversmith.

My cousin, Henry Parkes, kept on writing to my father to come to Sydney.  He was a great man for politics, and became Premier of New South Wales, and was titled Sir Henry at last.  My father did not care to leave England; still, to please Sir Henry (though he was not knighted at that time), agreed at last to go; so we sold out and came to Adelaide, and then wrote Sir Henry that if this did not suit we would go on to Sydney.

Father got work at Mr Elphinstone’s, carpenter and builder, adjoining the Trinity Church yard, North-terrace.  He was known at that time by the name of Diabole, for he was a drinking man, which brought headache in the morning; and through not keeping sober he failed.  I was kept to go on errands, and to go to Mr Monck at the cemetery to tell him the size of the graves to sink, for all the coffins were made at the shop.  Mr Monck was proclaimed sexton when the Town Cemetery was first started.

Then we went to Mount Barker, building the manager’s house, men’s huts, and stockyards, for a dairy station, just between Mr Hack’s and Hahndorf, on the Three Brothers Survey, not far from Mr McFarlane’s cattle station.

Mr Shepherdson was manager then, and Mr and Mrs Robert Rankine were head dairy people.  Then we went to live at Houghton village, and lived there a good few years, and afterwards at Gumeracha, sawing timber for the builders.  Then came here to the North, where I lost my little all, and am now getting too old to knock about; still, thank God, I am able to do all my own work, such as wheelwrighting and carpentering, and anything.

I am seventy-four years old, and have been in the colony sixty-three years.  I knew Mr Thomas, that started the first printing office just behind the Royal Oak Hotel, in Hindley-street, where, I remember, I had to go for the newspaper.

Old Memories  -  by James Chittleborough

I arrived at Holdfast Bay with my parents in the ship Buffalo in 1836, and after my father got his goods and chattels landed we camped across the plains through the bush to the River Torrens, the site of the present gaol; and the first few nights slept in a sort of wurlie made of reeds cut from the river, until my father put up a reed hut in Buffalo Row, which was situated midway between the present slaughter-house and the Gaol.  Coromandel Row extended towards the present sheep market, where Colonel Light and James Hurtle Fisher had their camps and tents.

While living in the Row, John Barton Hack arrived in the colony, bringing with him a variety of stores and merchandise, a quantity of which he sold to my mother, who opened a small store in the Row, and this was, I think, the first store in the colony.  Unfortunately, our reed premises one night caught fire, and were burned to the ground; being dragged out of our beds while asleep, we were barely saved, and everything was burnt.  Many of us had nothing to wear, and were dependent on the kindness of our neighbours for clothing, who rendered all the assistance they could from their own limited stock; the Fisher family in particular greatly helped us.  I cannot here forebear mentioning the great kindness of John Barton Hack (who had supplied my mother with her stock), and although we were somewhat in his debt at the time, directly after the fire he called on my mother, and tried to cheer her up, offering to start her with another stock as soon as she had a place ready.  He kept his word, things prospered again, and this memory will always live with us.

I have a very vivid recollection of the hanging of the first man (I think his name was McGee) at the foot of North Adelaide Hill.  The culprit was brought in a cart and driven under the branch of a gum-tree, to which the rope was attached.  The cart was then driven on, and after the culprit had swung out of the back of the vehicle the hangman jumped on his horse and rode away.  The man kicked and struggled, and the crowd became very excited, and cried Shame!  A policeman then galloped off to bring the hangman back, who, when he returned, had to pull the man’s legs to finish him.

In those early days, when we lived in Buffalo Row, a good sized bell was fixed up (by Colonel Light) on a post between the Colonial Camp and the southern end of Gray-street, near where the Buck’s Head Hotel now stands; and the bell was rung every day at 1 o’clock.  Persons who now look at the Park Lands and River can have no idea of the beauty of either in their natural state.  The River then was very pretty - a chain of large pools or waterholes, with trees, reeds, rushes, and shrubs growing all round the edge; and these large ponds extending across to the present outer banks, some being quite 200 yards long.  Over one of these waterholes, near where the present weir is, there was a punt, in charge of Mr Rogers, worked by a rope fixed across the river to take passengers across when it was in flood.

Near the banks of the river was a regular camping ground for the blacks, whom the whites designated as the Adelaide tribe.  They held frequent corroborees, and also had various games of their own, some of which took the form of a friendly contest when the natives of another tribe visited the locality.  But once at a distance I saw a regular pitched battle near Hilton between the Adelaides and a tribe that came from the hills, somewhere about Mount Barker.  The women also took part in the fray, using their cuttas, or yam sticks.  One native was killed, and some others wounded by spears and other weapons.  Nearly all the white young people learned to talk the Adelaide tribe language, which is of a very limited nature, and several knew it well enough to converse with them.

My Early Colonial Life  -  by Thomas Hardeman

My father and mother brought us out in the Lord Roderick (sic).  We landed at Holdfast Bay in April, 1838, and first went into a wooden house in Emigration-square.  We afterwards shifted up into the Old Tiers (now called Crafers), and took a contract to put up a large cattleyard for Dr Brown (sic), of Lyndoch Valley.  Mr Crafer, after whom Crafers was named, was a shipmate of ours, and kept a publichouse in a wooden place opposite to where the present Crafers Inn stands now.  Mr Crafer made money fairly fast, and many worked at high wages for three or four weeks, and then came to Crafers to knock it down.  The Tiers at that time were inhabited by a very low class of men, mostly old hands from New South Wales and Tasmania, and some of them arrant thieves, who often robbed the teams that stayed there for the night laden with food.

The roads at that time were in a very bad state, and nothing but bullocks were of any use.  I knew one place on Pickering Pinch, on the Green Hill-road, where the two pole bullocks had to fix their feet and slide for about 6 ft., with a drop of fully 3 ft.  One man was passing this spot, and his polers got their heads down, when their noses caught the ground and tipped them both over and broke their necks.  The first few times yoking we had to pull them up to a post with a rope to yoke them, for they were as wild as birds, and mostly crossed with the buffalo breed of cattle.  As there were very few fences they strayed about in all directions, and unprincipled fellows would collect all they came across, whether they were strays or not, and after putting another brand over my brand, they would sell them.  We once lost one of the steers, and after two years found it in a team opposite the Exchange Hotel, Hindley-street, Adelaide.  We found the owner had come by it honestly, having bought it from one of the dealers.  My father produced his receipt, showing that he gave £20 for it, but he was too easy with the owner, and accepted the £7 the dealer got for it.

In the beginning of the year 1852 I went to Bendigo diggings, where we made a little, and the winter coming on we came back to Echunga.  Four of us made up a party to prospect for gold at that place, in the hope of getting the reward offered for the discovery of payable gold in South Australia.

The late William Chapman and myself had been mates on the Victorian diggings, and we then thought the country about Echunga presented very much the same appearance as the country about Bendigo.

After prospecting for some time we dropped on the gold on Chapman’s surface hill, and after reporting the discovery to the Government, the place was heavily rushed.  A good quantity of gold was got, and several that I afterwards knew realised £200 a man in five or six weeks; but the extraordinary richness of the Victorian diggings quite eclipsed anything found at Echunga, for men there have been known to make £2,000 in six weeks.

We tried to extend the Echunga diggings so as to fulfil the conditions on which the Government reward was offered, but as the Government would not give us the reward we memorialised Parliament, and they gave us £500, and left the reward still open.  Dame Fortune was a very fickle goddess on the gold diggings, and appeared to take pleasure in tormenting me.  For one spell of six months my mate and I sunk (sic) thirty-four holes, and only got three quarters oz. out of the other we gave up afterwards turned out 1 cwt of gold.  After this we had two claims again.  The one we sunk (sic) we got 54 oz. of gold out of, the one we gave up gave 12 lb. weight to the man that came after us.

Then I went to the Teetulpa diggings; spent £25 on the trip and got 14/- worth of gold.  Those diggings were about enough for 300 diggers, and 2,500 went to them.  After this I went to Forest Range diggings, which turned out very poor, and yet I believe the largest nugget of gold that was got in South Australia was found there, viz., 49 oz.

The first owner of the Adelaide town acre on which the Exchange Hotel stands (Mr Payne) was likewise a shipmate of ours.  He owned the Payneham section, and gave it his name.

Sly grog-sellers were about in those days as well as now.  A man named Miller kept a sly grog shanty on the top of Gleeson’s Hill, which proved very handy to travellers to the Tiers, after slaving up the fearful hills.  Mr. Crafer was very much annoyed with these shanties, and did all he could to stop them.  One day he got an Adelaide trooper to ride with him and go ahead to the shanty and ask for a nobbler (it being a hot day).  Miller told him he did no sell any, but he would sell him a drink of water and charge him 1/- for it, as he had to carry the water a long way.  The trooper agreed to pay, but before he began to drink the water Miller said he had some spirit he kept for his own use, and would put a drop in the glass to kill the water.  He then poured a good stiff nobbler into it, so Mr Crafer found that Mr Miller had been too much for him.

My father kept some fowls in the Tiers, and a kind of squirrel used to kill them during the night.  It would get hold of the fowls by the neck and suck their blood.  We found as many as three birds dead in the morning.

The first substantial gaol we had was built by the firm of Borrow & Goodiar, and was not paid for for a long time, when they sued the Government for the money, and got a verdict for over £29,000.  The firm owned Goodwood Park (on which the town of Goodwood is built) and adjoining lands, and I think also they were the owners of Parkside up to the Lunatic Asylum before the Glen Osmond-road was cut through the sections.  There were at that time some pretty well-stocked libraries, but being so far away from any settled population the charge for the loan of books was high.  On the loan of a valuable book the deposit was as much as £4, which had to be left in the hands of the owner of the library.

A gold-digger’s life was anything but cheerful in the earlier times.  The tents were not very substantial, and sometimes a gale of wind came along and wrecked them.  If a man was getting gold it was all right, but if he was unfortunate it was a dull and monotonous life, and very rough living.  But later on, when people got used to it, they found the knack of making themselves comfortable.

Recollections of Early Days and Old Colonists  -  by Wm Pedler.

I well remember, coming home from school one day, seeing a gentleman from London with my father; that gentleman was John Hutt, Esq, the Emigration Agent and one of the founders of the colony.

Through his persuasion we sailed from Falmouth on September 25, 1837, and cast anchor at Kangaroo Island on January 14, 1838.  The next day we sailed on to Holdfast Bay.  The longboats carried our luggage ashore, and the seamen leaped into the water and carried the people on their backs to dry land.

On landing we were sheltered in a tent belonging to the Commissioners, made of old sails.  Nothing could be done but to make the best of it under the circumstances, and as there was a large cask lying on its side, my mother got into this cask, and took the three youngest children with her.  I being the eldest had to shift for myself as best I could, so I stretched myself on the spars on the side of the tent, and as I could not keep warm I longed for the morning.  The wind was blowing very cold from the hills on that night of the 20th January, 1838.  The morning came at last, and we were conveyed to the iron store at the foot of Montefiore Hill.  From the iron store we went to Emigration-square.  These houses were built for two families, a door at each end, so they lay side by side with only the boards between them.  My father licensed an allotment in Leigh-street from Mr John Morphett, on which he erected a sort of mud hut.  After living in Leigh-street, my father and another bootmaker got a seven years’ lease of the first auction room built in South Australia by Mr Robert Cock and Mr William Ferguson.  Close by Leigh-street the present site of the Galatea Hotel was first occupied by Mr HJ Shepherd’s grocery store at the corner, a good weather-board building, and Mr John Bentham Neale’s auction rooms, with a back entrance from Rosina-street.  My father and his partner had the same right-of-way.  We could look through the boards and see Mr Neales conducting his sale till 9 o’clock on Saturday nights.

I knew Mr. Robert Thomas, the founder of the Register, and his son also, and have been in the printing office when it was off Hindley-street.  The Port Lincoln Herald was printed, and I was sent round to try to sell copies, but met with indifferent success.

I saw the houses of Mr (afterwards Sir) James Hurtle Fisher and of Colonel Light before they were destroyed by fire on or near the site of the present market yards, and I saw the funeral of Colonel Light, and remember looking at the bricklayers working at the vault.  The first minister I heard preach was the Rev Thomas Quinton Stow, in the Congregational Chapel on North-terrace.

In politics I took the side of those who opposed the grant in aid of religion, and also supported those who were for no taxation without representation, vote by ballot, and manhood suffrage.  I supported Mr William Giles, Sir RD Hanson, Sir Arthur Blyth, and generally those who have been returned for the District of Gumeracha, in which I reside.

Mr JB Neales, Government Auctioneer, succeeded Mr Richardson as auctioneer when he went to the Exchange corner.  When I was in the auction rooms Mr Frederic Wicksteed, at one time a well-known accountant in Adelaide, and Mr George Debney did the clerical work, and Mr Henry Heard was warehouseman.  Mr TC Bray commenced business as a boot and shoemaker, and by industry and business tact his progress in its ratio was like one in geometrical progression.  From there he carried on a thriving trade at the second door eastward from Rosina-street.  As the years rolled by there was a family of two sons and two daughters, and I remember Mr Bray taking his two sons to England to complete their education, after beginning at St Peter’s.  The journeymen shoemakers of that time considered they had a grievance in having to compete with imported goods, so they combined and set up business on their own account, and had the best work of colonial manufacture displayed in their window, the principal attraction being a caricature by Opie, the scenic painter, which in its conception and execution was first class.  While looking at the picture one day one of the men came outside, and a man standing near me asked what it was all about, and he replied, The devil among the shoemakers.  In Mr Bray’s shop in Rosina-street, on calico, were the words, Competition prevents imposition, apparently as a counterblast to the caricature.

My father, besides doing his own work, helped to fill up Mr Bray’s shelves with colonial work for many years, and the process of clearing them went on by sending the shoes in quantity to the different stations.

My father worked at his trade of shoemaking for one Mr Draper soon after his arrival, while residing in Emigration-square, for 10/- per day.  I do not know what cash he received, but I know that he took a pair of boot trees as payment for £5.  In the second half of 1838 my father left his trade, and with some others opened a quarry near the foot of the hills, at the First Creek, and as a working partner with the following gentlemen: Mr CB Newenham, Sheriff; Mr Nixon, Surveyor; Mr John Gleeson, and the Hon BT Finniss.  The working partners were Wm Pedler, John Bankhead, Thomas Richards and Wm Hamlyn.

They discovered good slate on the surface, with well-defined lines of lamination, but on working it it became solidified.  Mr Gordon, the architect for the leading contractors of the day, said it was good for hones for sharpening plane irons and carpenters’ tools generally.  My father made a great mistake in leaving his trade to work at the quarry, and after some time returned to his own trade; but the best work had then passed into other hands.  I might here mention that my father made the slippers in which Mr John Hallett danced at Mr John Morphett’s wedding.

I used to see small flocks of wild turkeys west of Adelaide, and the large gum-trees in the Park Lands swarmed with paroquets and rosella parrots, and the crested cockatoos when they alighted would cover the top of a gum tree.

I remember once a native woman saying to some of the arrivals, You go to England, that your country; this our country.


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