The Resources of the Western District.
Warrnambool: Harrison and George, Printers, Advertiser Office1869 page break
By the solicitations of many friends, I have been induced to publish the following lecture, and as the subject treats much on the yet undeveloped resources of the Otway district, the same may be read, I trust, with feelings of interesting pleasure.
I have added as an appendix, a brief, yet truthful description of Port Campbell; its geographical position, its natural resources, &c., &c.; which, I trust, as a new and liberal land bill is shortly coming into operation, may prove beneficial to those who may have the good fortune to select land in its vicinity.
Many of my readers and patrons are well aware that about two years since, I compiled a work treating on the resources of the Western District, and numbers of the most respectable portion of our community subscribed to its publication. I obtained at the time of my canvass, over 500 signatures for the book, and received in advance money to the amount of between £50 and £60.
The money so received in my canvass was exhausted in expenses, necessarily incurred in my travels through the entire Western District, and I may further add, more than double the amount out of my own pocket.
At the time of my arrival in Melbourne, I was introduced by the worthy member for Warrnambool (Mr. Plummer), to Mr. Grant, President of the Board of Lands and Survey; with a view (as I thought) of getting the Government to assist me in publishing the work: such, however, could not be done, as assisting me in my publication would act as a precedent to others similar circumstanced, and the Government might have too much of such matters.
Mr. Grant at the time introduced me to Mr. Skene, and recommended that I should have given me a map of the page 4 County of Polwarth, as also one of Heytesbury, to accompany my book, which that gentleman assented to, and as soon as the work was ready, would be given to the publisher.
I then arranged with Messrs. Heath and Cordell, of Flinders-lane, Melbourne, for its publication. Their terms were that I was to pay them the sum of £50 to go on with the work. Since which time I have tried my hardest to realise that sum in every honourable way I could think of, but up to the present without success. I can truly say there is no man on earth feels his present position more deeply and keenly than myself, or could have tried harder for the successful accomplishment of his project; repeatedly promised assistance by one, and then by another, which has always ended in disappointment, nearly driving me to despair. For next to my God, my wife, and family, the publication of my book is closest to my heart; for on the production of that, in a great measure, rests my off springs' happiness. A few months, or a very few years at most, will call me to my long home; and I should not like to leave this world without fulfilling the promise I have made to those who have subscribed their names and money to my work.
Trusting that I may have an extensive sale for the publication throughout the Western District—the charge being one shilling, small in itself, though collectively sufficient, I trust, to place me in a position to publish "My Book and Why I Wrote it." If such should be the result, it will be gratefully received and acknowledged by
Your very humble and obedient servant,
The dubious world may cast their doubts on me,
May be vindictive—slanderous, and unkind;
I fear not them, 'tis all I want to be,
Known by but men of nobleness of mind.
The Resources of the Western District.
Mr Chairman and Ladies and Gentlemen,
The subject on which I am about to address you this evening, namely, the natural resources of Western Victoria, how they are to be developed, and how permanent and lasting settlement can be obtained, by the construction of speedy modes of transit, passing through or near to the fertile virgin soil of this portion of our colony, I trust will prove a matter interesting in itself and form the groundwork for onward progression.
In reference to the vast and varied resources that the Western District of Victoria possesses, it must be readily admitted, even by those who hold no interest whatever in this part of our colony, that in fertility of soil, adaptability for the growth of all kinds of cereals and esculents to the highest state of perfection, it stands pre-eminently over that of any other portion of Victoria, and I might also conscientiously say, to that of any other in the Australian colonies. Extensive areas of virgin soil lie dormant, which were evidently ordained to yield their increase, through man's industry, and thereby furnish homes for thousands of this race.
I shall, ladies and gentlemen, when I arrive at that part of my lecture which treats on the beneficial results obtained by a thorough and proper system of farming, endeavour to explain how a similar good will be sure to manifest itself on vast areas of land that now lie idle in the fertile district I am about to describe.
Geelong being situated on the eastern limits of the Western District, and Portland on the far west, I shall endeavour to describe the intervening space between the two seaports. The distance between Geelong and Portland is about 200 miles. Leaving Geelong in a westerly direction, the line of traffic passes through Ceres, Winchelsea, Birregurra, Colac, Camperdown, Teerang, Warrnambool, page 6 Woodford, Koroit, Belfast, Yambuk, Narrawong, and Portland. The valley of the Wannon and the Merino Downs, containing an extent of land amounting to near 500 square miles, and well adapted for agricultural pursuits, is situated within a reasonable distance of the great western line of railway. Supposing a railway say constructed from Geelong to Portland, the distance as before stated being 200 miles, and if for every lineal mile of transit made there should be taken up at a convenient distance on each side of the road, for agricultural purposes, a square mile for permanent occupation, the number of 200-acre farms would amount to 1,282, giving constant employment to 25,840 people, according to the number usually employed on a 200-acre farm in the parish of Koroit. Even supposing that only half of the areas of each 200-acre farm were in a state of cultivation, and the yield of produce only to be at the low rate of one ton to the acre, 128,200 tons of agricultural material would annually require being moved to an outlet. This would be exclusive of all natural resources that exist in localities near to which the line of transit would pass, such as timber, freestone, lime, &c.
It would be almost superfluous to describe the nature of the soil and the country near Geelong. I will therefore describe a country now isolated, but which shall yet furnish homes for many families, and the immense natural resources it possesses, which when developed will certainly add materially to the wealth of the Western District. One article of export available will be the timber of the pencil-wood, valuable for its superior adaptabilities as a material for furniture making.
The portion of the country I am about to describe is situated on the west slope of the Dividing Range in the Cape Otway district, from which, near to the debouche of the river Gellibrand, a road has recently been cut in the direction of Camperdown. There are also two other lines of road in course of formation, one of which is from Colac, and has been surveyed, and one from Warrnambool, already completed as far as Curdies River. For the natural resources of this vast extensive and isolated peninsular of the Western District, Geelong in the course of time must eventually become a chief outlet. The resources of this now wild and uninhabited country are many and various. It possesses gold, although not yet found in payable quantities for the individual miner; yet to my idea at the present time there exists in the localities where gold has been found sufficient page 7 inducements for the introduction of capital in providing machinery for washing the auriferous drifts known to exist; and the way in which it might be managed I shall presently call your attention to. At a short distance and on the eastern side of the River Gellibrand, is to be seen oozing out of the crevices of the calcareous rocks a mineral containing a per-centage of sulphuric acid, thus giving unmistakable evidence that the source of the mineral cannot be far distant, and when found would no doubt prove to be of commercial value. At a short distance from the place spoken of, a dribbling stream of a slightly discoloured water is seen running down the carboniferous sandstone cliff, and so much is the liquid impregnated with alum, that it would be almost next to an impossibility to swallow the smallest quantity. Proceeding eastward bold sections of sandstone rock appear in beautiful relief. In many of their vertical fissures gypsum is seen in small quantities, while in some detached portions of the rock lignite is frequently met with. At about three miles distant, and still on the east side of the river, a small cave in the sandstone cliff is met with, the bottom of which is entirely composed of pebbles of various sizes .and forms. Their variety of colour is really beautiful, some resembling the blood-stone, others the Scotch pebble, while agates are frequently found. All these stones would take a polish well, and would make handsome brooch and other ornaments. This spot is marked on the map of Heytesbury and Polwarth recently published by the Government as "Pebble Point."
I will now return from the eastern side of the River Gellibrand to three miles on its western, describing the character of the soil from the river to Glenample Station, which is situate at that distance. I will then endeavour to describe the character of the country in a north-easterly direction to the spot where gold in small quantities has been obtained by myself. At the same time I shall endeavour to show how paying results may attend the investment of capital, to work the thinly-distributed auriferous drifts, which are known to exist in the locality.
The soil from where the Gellibrand debouches to the sea is of fair and good quality all the way in the direction to the station. It is well adapted for agriculture, and is not over heavily timbered. The principal trees the soil gives birth to are the she-oak, lightwood, and small gums. The soil is well adapted for the growth of English grasses. Several patches of self-sown clover on the bank near the river by page 8 luxuriance of growth give unmistakable evidence of the fertility of the soil. Glenample Station is situated in a very romantic and rather picturesque valley, a running stream of pure fresh water passing near to the homestead. The station itself is an old weather-board building with two or three detached slab huts, all of which are rapidly falling into decay. This station has of late years only furnished employment for a man with his wife and family, the man's duty being principally looking after the cattle which graze on the run. The next nearest place to this is the Berkly Creek Station, a distance of twenty-eight miles in the Warrnambool direction. There is, I should judge, on the Glenample Estate a sufficient quantity of land adapted for agricultural purposes to cause the occupation of ten 200-acre farms, which when occupied would furnish employment for 200 persons, where now only is employed a man and his wife.
But as I must take my leave from Glenample, and proceed on my journey to the diggings, a description of the intervening country may prove interesting. The distance from the station to the auriferous region being about twelve miles.
For the first three miles some very fair land is passed on each side of the track, well adapted for farming purposes, and at that distance a rather extensive open area is met with, giving birth to the grass-tree in quantities, so thick that they resemble a plantation of beet-root in the regularity of their growth. The soil is of a light sandy formation. The grass-tree interspersed with small heather, bearing flowers of beautiful colour and form, greatly relieving the monotony that would otherwise exist. The soil is considered of an unproductive character by some persons, and by others to be highly adapted for the cultivation and growth of all kinds of cereals and esculents, that contain in themselves a superabundance of saccharine matter. It is a well-known fact that the grass-tree indigenous to our soil possesses a great amount of saccharine substance, and it is therefore very natural to suppose that it derives its virtue from the soil, consequently it may be presumed that the soil which gives birth to the grass-tree and furnishes the saccharine matter it contains, is also adapted to furnish that substance to other plants, such as the sugar-beet, sorghum saccharatum, or barley. In reference to the latter cereal, the light soils in the north-east portion of the county of Norfolk in the old country produce the very best of barley adapted for page 9 malting purposes, therefore the light soils which exist in this part of our country, giving birth to saccharine matter in the primitive grass-tree, would doubtless in like manner produce the like here.
Many open areas of grass-tree are passed on the journey, here and there intercepted by narrow belts of undulating timbered country,. stringy-bark predominating. On the summit of one of these grass-tree planes, and at an elevation, I should suppose, of about 500 feet above the sea level, a most beautiful view of coast and mountain scenery presents itself. The Latrobe Range of the Moonlight head country stands out in bold relief, while looking a little to the north of the range the barren peaks of the treeless hills, with their covering of the water-worn quartz pebbles, gives in perspective the appearance of some old deserted city lying in ruins.
About six miles from Glenample the timbered country is met with. It is not approached in the ordinary manner of ascending a range, but the reverse; you descend—
Leaving the grass-tree plains, while scorching sun,
Whose heat compels the weary traveller there
To seek a shelter where some streamlets run,
To slake his thirst, to breathe a cooler air.
Then step by step the traveller descends
Down the deep chasm in a dark profound,
Where nought but silence reigns, as onward wends
The pilgrim over this untrodden ground.
The crystal water rippling at his feet,
Like sparkling diamonds in the gloomy shade;
The numerous shrubs with od'rous scent so sweet
Waft their pure fragrance up and down the glade.
The pond'rous trees with lofty up-stretched arm,
As if to grasp the azure-blue of sky;
The fern-trees in the hollow give a charm—
An air of calm and deep solemnity.
When I first entered one of these deep ravines a peculiar kind of awe-stricken feeling seemed to take full possession of my mind. Looking up at one of those giant trees, with a barrel of at least 100 feet before it gave out a branch, and to its very top, a distance of 300 feet, I would ask myself the question whether it would not fall before I reached the bottom. Such is the steepness of these singularly formed chasms, that were a tree felled so that it would fall on the opposite range, a distance of some 400 or 500 feet would be saved by walking across its barrel. The density of the page 10 growth of the underwood, the straightness of its form, the many varieties to be seen that these peculiarly formed natural chasms nourish, is truly astonishing; and when arrived at the bottom, taking a seat on some fallen log, the pure and limpid water rippling at your feet, the ferntrees on its margin appearing in many and various forms, festooned with vines and creepers, suspended from which are various coloured berries from the clear amber to the blood-red crimson, together with the beautiful fragrance emitted from odorous shrubs, imparts a feeling of pure and reverential solemnity not easily to be forgotten. The soil at the bottom and along the banks of these chasms is of the richest description, and from their peculiar sheltered position, should be well adapted for the growth of the hop. Many of these chasms have to be crossed before arriving at the gold deposit, producing trees of immense size and perfect straightness, principally of the stringy-bark and gum variety. I have measured a stringy-bark tree ten feet above the butt, and its circumference at that distance was thirty-three feet, the timber appearing perfectly sound, as no decayed branches were seen.
Some of the surface soils on the table or higher lands from the gullies consist of a light pink loam substance, and when a fire has been made on its surface for a few consecutive days, the soil partially melts and forms into clinkers, resembling discoloured thin glass in a molten state. The gully from whence I obtained the sample of gold is about twelve miles from Glenample station, and runs nearly north and south. The depth of sinking was eleven feet, the first two through rich surface loam, about five feet of a yellow and red mottled clay, and about four feet of quartz pebble drift, intermixed with burnt cement and quartz boulders resting on a kind of pipeclay bottom The gold appears to be thinly distributed amongst the drift, or what is termed wash-dirt, not resting on the clay. The width of the auriferous strata is about a chain, the colour of gold obtainable on each extremity. In the centre of the auriferous strata the gold seems to be more plentiful. A small gutter of about three feet in width, and where some fair sized quartz boulders rested on the sin-face, is the spot where I obtained forty small pieces of the precious metal out of the washing of about a shovelful of dirt. I should certainly have followed this gutter up had I been prepared to do so, for I do firmly believe that paying gold exists in the range from whence the gold obtained seems to have proceeded. page 11 The reason why we did not further prospect was, on the night after washing our last trial the weather changed from fine to wind and rain, and in the morning following, when we proceeded to our work, two large trees had been blown down across our cutting, their roots had taken with them a quantity of soil, filling our workings completely up, so that it would have caused us at least a fortnight's work to clear away the damage. Our provisions also becoming nearly exhausted we were obliged to leave.
In reference to this gold producing locality, I believe that if sufficient capital was invested in the construction of a dam, say a quarter of a mile up the creek, and sluicing carried out on an extensive scale, so that many hundreds of loads of drift could be washed in a day, it would handsomely pay, the drift requiring no puddling. I am perfectly well aware that Mr. Selwyn has pronounced against this locality as a paying gold-field. The science of geology is both useful and noble, but where the opinions of geologists have turned out wrong those of the practical miner have been right, to illustrate which, I will mention results of practice against theory:—Mr. Parker, manager of the Perseverance Company at Moyston, asserts the deeper the quartz reef is found the better the stone, and he is of opinion that the present claim will go down to the depth of 2,000 feet with paying results. Mr. Hutton, of the Southern Cross Company at Moyston, asserts that the lead at the present depth of the claim—thirty-three feet—is four times the amount that it was at the water level. I have mentioned the names of these gentlemen in order to show that the theory of geologists is not at all times right; and in reference to a paying gold-field being found in the Cape Otway Ranges, I hope and trust their theory will also prove incorrect. According to the geological report on the formation of the Otway district, the whole area is occupied by rocks of secondary formation. Now at the spot where I obtained the sample of gold, the quartz boulders rest on a kind of pipeclay, covered over with three or four feet of strata, consisting of quartz-pebble drift. Geologists assert that the quartz boulders were at one time a portion of the Silurian rock or quartz reef, and that such silurian rock is the matrix of the gold. I should like to know where, and at what distance that reef exists. It is contrary to all reason to suppose the quartz boulders found in the Otway ranges did at any time belong to a portion of the silurian rocks of the established gold-fields of the colony. It strikes me very forcibly that the reefs, of which they at page 12 one time formed a portion, exist in the locality at no very great distance from where the boulders have been found. A few years since, when the water level was arrived at on Pleasant Creek, letters appeared in the leading journals from professed scientific men that it would be of no use to prosecute the search for gold beyond that depth, but a little perseverance on the mind's' part set the matter for ever at rest, for by going deeper, and beating the water, not only was gold obtained but also in better paying quantities. The water level at the time spoken of was 240 feet, and the depth of sinking now obtained is 516 feet, yielding better returns.
Mr. Delbridge, who is manager for the New St. George's Company, Pleasant Creek, after stating the lasting resources of auriferous reefs in that district says:—"I believe the theory of geologists has been entirely wrong in reference to auriferous gold deposits, the deeper the quartz reef is found in most cases the better is the stone."
Mr. Williams, an interested shareholder of Pleasant Creek, asserts as follows:—I do not believe in the theory of geologists in reference to not obtaining paying stone below a certain level, the deeper the auriferous stone is found in most cases the more prolific is its resources." Mr. Taylor, manager of the North Star Company, Moyston, is of the same opinion.
Admitting that rocks of mezoic origin occupy the Cape Otway country, may there not be fissures in places where the silurian rock might be found to exist? Might not the rock of secondary formation stand out in bold relief on each side of the gully or ravine, and might not the intervening space be occupied by the silurian rock? If there are no silurian rocks in the vicinity where the small sample of gold has been obtained, then that gold must have been produced through the agency of the carboniferous sandstone, which is at direct defiance with the principles of geology.
I know very well that the head of the Geological department will be much offended at my remarks made in reference to the possibility of paying gold being found in the Otway Ranges; but all I can tell the gentleman if he is so, he must endeavour to get pleased again. I remember well when the geological survey party, which consisted of a field officer, an overseer, two workmen, and a cook, together with three packhorses, were sent out to thoroughly survey the Cape Otway country. Mr. Wilkinson, a young man possessing abilities which no doubt highly qualify him for such page 13 an undertaking, and of whom I must speak in the highest terms of praise for the untiring zeal he displayed in examining the various kinds of stone, &c.,—headed this party; but for the whole time expended, I do not think a shaft had been sunk in any portion of the ranges to see what might exist beneath the earth's surface, except in the Blue Cliff near to Glenample station, for the purpose of obtaining fossil shells; indeed, the appearance at the end of the time of survey of the tools, such as picks and shovels, did not indicate by their blunt or bent appearance, that they were too roughly used in works for which they were made, but rather imparted an idea to the observer that geological surveyors never require a travelling blacksmith to accompany them in their explorations.
There is no doubt that mines of wealth lie buried in this isolated spot, which in due course of time will be developed. Gold has been found; a malachite specimen has been sent from this part to Melbourne; precious stones, also; kerosene shale of an ordinary kind has been met with; small seams of coal have been seen; sulphuric acid oozing from the crevices of the calcareous rocks; water strongly impregnated with alum; areas of surface soil which no doubt by its melting properties, is adapted for glass-making purposes; and last, not least, exists an almost unlimited supply of beautiful timber, studding the banks of the tortuous Gellibrand for scores of miles, growing luxuriously in its wildness, the wood of which, when converted into furniture would grace the drawing-room of Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace. There appear to be two distinct varieties of the pencil-wood tree (for such it is named by the bushmen). It undoubtedly belongs to the order of lightwood, only much superior. The lightwood tree timber, when dry is heavy, while that of the pencil-wood is comparatively light. The pencil-wood tree is timber to the very smallest branch, and every particle of the tree is available to be converted into articles of use. The kind growing near to the river bed resembles in appearance the elm of the old country, giving out limbs at a few feet distant from the surface as large as the trunk itself, with very many of them. The average dimensions of this kind would be from two feet six inches to four feet in diameter, and taking into consideration the number of limbs in most cases as thick as the barrel itself, the value of timber in one of these trees could not be anything short of £200, that is, when landed in the Geelong or Melbourne markets. The other kind of pencil-wood grows on the flats page 14 and in the vicinity of swamps adjoining the river. Its barrel is perfectly straight, its bark smooth, and it attains the height of from thirty to sixty feet without a branch. Its grain is very free—its fibre tough—the colour of its grain, red—it is very easily worked. Having broken a paddle belonging to our boat, my son replaced it by making one from a small pencil-wood tree which stood near to our camp. After felling the tree and cutting the barrel into an eighteen-feet length, one blow was sufficient to sever the timber in two. Possessing only a spokes have, tomahawk, and an axe to make the paddle with, we could not polish it off as well as if we had suitable tools; but, however, we managed to make a very creditable paddle, the strength of which I have seen tested by placing the end of the loom on a log as also the thin end on another, a man sitting on its centre, swaying and springing the timber with all his force, could make no impression on its fibre; it appeared to possess as much spring and elasticity as whalebone. This kind does not possess as much timber as the kind before-mentioned.
Another kind of small wood, called by the natives wooloojong, and by the bushmen stinking box, is very useful for tool-handle purposes. Mr. Wilkinson, the gentleman before referred to, having had the misfortune in his early set-out to break the handle of the American axe, it was replaced by a handle made from the wooloojong, which was necessarily in use for the whole time the party was in the Ranges, and when leaving for Melbourne, I was shown the article, which appeared to be perfectly sound, and had evidently done more service than the picks and shovels had.
I could dwell on the vast and varied resources and what artificial means might be employed to convert each into its intended use, and could tell you that every main gully possesses streams of beautifully pure and limpid water, in most cases stocked with small specimens of the finny tribe of the trout variety. The water resources afford ample power for the working of mills in almost any number. It would occupy your time too long. I will, therefore, for the present, conclude my brief description of this uninhabited portion of our country by stating, in reference to the resources of the River Gellibrand, the following:—
Here is a river only known by name,
Where Nature in magnificence is seen;
Whose banks are studded with the finest wood;
Whom Nature caused for this our country's good.
Distant although it be from settled town,
Its vast resources knoweth not a bound;
Here ships of stately form could well be made,
Finding employment for that manly trade.
Though long-neglected hath its products been—
Known by but few, and scarcely ever seen,—
The time draws nigh when men within this land
Shall hail with joy the River Gellibrand.
I must now reluctantly leave this isolated spot and endeavour to describe briefly the agricultural areas that a line of railroad to the Far West would either directly pass through or near to. Colac possesses an extensive agricultural area, but being situated at such great distance from a port for the shipment of produce, farming pursuits are not followed up with the spirit that they would be if railway construction afforded easier access to Geelong on the one hand and to Warrnambool on the other. Leaving Colac, and proceeding in the direction of Camperdown, good agricultural areas are met with, with the exception of that part of the road known as the Stony Rises. In Camperdown, and everywhere in its vicinity, land of first-class quality is met with, and tens of thousands of acres will, no doubt, be cultivated when a speedy mode of transit is established. All the way to Terang, and from that place to Mortlake, agricultural areas exist able to furnish employment for thousands of men. The road to Warrnambool is one vast agricultural area, although now principally occupied by timber indigenous to the soil. Warrnambool and its vicinity speaks for itself, as to the fertility of its surrounding soil, and the happy and beneficial results attending its settlement —the value of its exports for the past year being over £170,000, accruing chiefly from the produce of agriculture in its vicinity. At Woodford and Tower Hill—where as good and productive 'a soil as any, in the world exists—thousands of extra acres would be cultivated were there a speedy mode of transit established. Belfast and its surrounding country is highly productive, inasmuch that the value of her exports were last year over £170,000, and being only eighteen miles distant from the port of Warrnambool, speaks for itself what immense wealth is contained in the surface of the soil by which it is surrounded. At Yambuk is another agricultural area, twelve miles from Belfast, where there are many thousands of acres of first-class land. A few miles from Yambuk, in the direction of Portland, the soil becomes poor, but when arriving within page 16 ten miles of that place, at Narrawong, another area of fertile soil is met with. Forty miles from Portland, in a N.E. direction, an area of nearly 500 square miles of agricultural land exists, which is only now occupied for the grazing of sheep and cattle. Then, starting at a right angle from the port of Belfast, in a northerly direction, to Hamilton, tens of thousands of acres of land are met with adapted for agricultural purposes. An extensive agricultural area also exists in the intervening space between the town of Warrnambool and that of Mortlake, thus undoubtedly and unmistakably showing the vast and varied extent of fertile soil existing in the Western District, only awaiting the time when every acre shall be taken up, its varied surface producing in abundance, according to its respective adaptability, tobacco, chicory, wheat, oats, barley, peas, beans, with every variety of esculents, from the potato to the sugar-beet, to perfection. When speedy modes of transit are established, not only the artificial products will want conveying to a market, but the natural resources also; then will be brought to use the timber of the Otway Ranges. The beautiful and unlimited supply of free-stone that at present exists in the ranges near to Dunkeld, no better or more durable of its kind anywhere is to be met with in the Australian colonies. Clays of various kinds, adapted for pottery and delf-making purposes, will be developed, and furnish fresh employment in the establishment of new industries.
To give some idea of the productive character of the soil in the Western District, I will briefly mention the capabilities of one farm, the property of Mr. A. C. Kell, situated in the parish of Koroit, containing an area of 200 acres. A sixty-five acre paddock, cultivated with wheat, yielded 60 bushels to the acre, or nearly 4,000 bushels in the gross; an eight-acre paddock on the same estate, planted with the potato, yielded 100 tons, exclusive of small ones; another paddock, planted with mangold wurtzel, yielded the extraordinary crop of forty tons to the acre—these crops are exclusive of peas, beans, &c., which are annually grown on the farm. Of course, these extraordinary yields are not produced by the mere slovenly way of sowing and reaping without paying due attention to the adaptabilities of the soil for the growth of the various crops, or without proper manuring. Mr. Kell keeps on his farm 100 sheep of the Cotswold breed, the lambs bred from them the first year were 120 in number, which were sold when six months old for the sum of ten page 17 shillings each. Some of the sheep clipped ten pounds of wool to the fleece, which realised elevenpence per pound. On this 200-acre form are kept twenty horses, forty head of cattle, and a number of pigs. There are also three acres of the estate occupied as an orchard, where every variety of fruit attain the highest state of perfection. This gentleman's table is supplied with all its viands of his own growing, exclusive of tea and sugar. He grows his own bacon, kills his own beef and mutton, makes his own cheese and butter, grows his own flour and horse-feed, preserves his own fruit, and gathers in his honey. He gives average employment for the year round to twenty persons. Now, if all our country in the Western District, with its fertile soil, now lying dormant, was occupied by farms the like of this, and managed in the same systematic style, what a people we should be! To see this form now, and see it in its primitive state, scarcely anyone would believe the contrast; then the surface soil was occupied by trees of great dimensions, the underwood and scrub rendering travelling impossible. To see it now, with its verdant fields, its luxuriant crops, its neat homestead, containing the happy and joyous countenances of the family of its occupier, to see the cattle fallowing in plenty, and the orchard yielding forth its fruits in abundance, the several workmen at their respective work, submitting to their days toil in pleasant willingness, all speak the undeniable fact, that settlement on the land of our country is a desire, emanating from the great Creator of all, that man should do so and enjoy the fruits of his labour. Therefore, cursed must that man be that has it in his power and does not make good use of that gift which is given to him, in striving to settle the people on the lands of their adopted country. What is the use of 100 acres of land lying dormant for twelve years? why, it would bring no revenue in whatever. But if that 100 acres had been occupied and cultivated for that period it would have contributed to the State more than four times the value of the upset price in indirect taxation for the wants supplied in domestic matters to its occupants. Melbourne may well look with a jealous eye on the towns of Geelong, Warrnambool, Belfast, and Portland, each possessing, according to their respective positions, greater facilities in a commercial point of view of being the inlet to, and the outlet of, one of the richest areas in all Australia. Once was a time when vessels arrived direct from England to the three western ports as well as to Geelong, bringing with them cargoes to supply the wants of page 18 the settled inhabitants. Now the case is quite altered, all and everything in the shape of imported merchandise is received in Melbourne, while the inhabitants in the outports have to pay extra for their requirements. Many will say that if a railroad through the Western Province were made, the land it passes through is nearly all purchased or taken up by the squatters. Well, admitting such to be the case, we are not in any way worse off than the farmers in the old country; for as soon as ever the squatter finds, when speedy modes of transit are established, there is a chance of turning the agricultural portion of the soil to good account, he will surely do so in preference to grazing sheep or cattle, and either cultivate himself or lease the land for others to do so. Indeed it would be an easy matter for the Legislature to appoint a Minister of Agriculture, whose duty should be to possess a thorough knowledge of land adapted for agricultural purposes, and watch over the interests of the agricultural community in general. An assessment might be levied on all land adapted for agriculture and not applied thereto, and, if situated within a distance of five miles from an outlet or railway, for every acre kept idle a tax of five shillings annually should be paid; fifteen miles, three shillings per acre; twenty miles, two shillings; and twenty-five miles, one shilling; over which distance the assessment should cease. Such an Act would make it imperative for the owner to cultivate or lease to others to do so; or, if he possessed that spirit which characterises the dog in the manger, he would have to pay something to the State for his stupid obstinacy. In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, if the construction of a railway through the far west takes place, it will, I have every reason to believe, invite capital into the whole district, and cause the permanent settlement of thousands of families, when the soil now lying dormant shall produce in abundance, sending tens of thousands of tons of her produce annually to distant lands, and finally stamp the Western District as one of the greatest producing localities of Australia.
Distant from Warrnambool to the east, 36 miles—from Curdies Inlet to the east, 6 miles—from the river Gellibrand to the west, 11 miles—from Terang to the north a little west as the crow flies, 35 miles—and from Camperdown about the same distance.
The Port consists of a small narrow indentation of the sea, between two calcareous cliffs of about 150 to 200 yards apart, with a bold bluff headland on its western side. From both western and eastern headlands, a broken reef runs to the south, seaward, a distance of from ¾ of a mile to a mile. Across the entrance or passage is a sunken reef with not more in some places than from 10 to 12 feet of water at low tide; the sea continually breaks over the entrance when the wind blows fresh from the south east, south or south west, but the water is perfectly smooth when the wind blows from off the land. The space inside is very small and in its present position cannot be considered a safe place for a vessel to put in.
From the beach, and at a distance of not more than 150 yards, is a creek containing a depth of from 12 to 20 feet of water, sufficient to always float a large number of ordinary coasting vessels, while the natural facilities and position of the back ground are such that no impediment is presented for making Port Campbell as splendid and safe a little harbour as possibly could be desired, and at comparatively little cost.
Stone for building purposes and lime-stone abound—good spring water, and some of the finest soil that can be met with in any other part of our colony in its vicinity. I am informed by undoubted authority and by men possessing a practical knowledge of the fertilising capabilities of soil, that within a distance of seven miles of the Port there is sufficient space for the establishment of fifty 200 acre farms on as good a land as our colony can boast of, which will be occupied as soon as ever the law of the land allows them to take possession. The country in the interior from the Port presents an almost impenetrable aspect, from the dense growth of the scrub and underwood, yet when penetrated sufficiently far, a fine timbered country with gums growing perfectly straight from 50 to an 100 feet in height, without a branch, and being from 2 to 3 feet in page 20 diameter, present themselves, the surface soil in place of scrub giving birth to grass of a most peculiar kind growing from 5 to 6 feet in height, not in tussucks as is ordinarily met with, but giving the appearance of an entire crop over very extensive areas, the soil being black loam of the very richest description.
Timber suitable for building and fencing purposes is to be met with in abundance, and the only drawback to the success of intending settlers is the want of a safe harbour for the outlet of their produce, which if accomplished would not only benefit those who may live in its immediate vicinity, but would eventually cause to be utilised the vast timber resources which now abound in the vicinity of the river Gellibrand, and would also cause permanent occupation of all lands worth cultivating situated between the towns of Terang and Camperdown and the southern sea-board.
Space will not admit of my entering into detail of a further description of this part of the country, but brief as my statement is, it is nothing but the truth.