T H E O V E R L A N D E R A
The reference material for this abridged account is:
THE RUFUS RIVER "MASSACRE" - (or was it?)
by Pat and Brian GLENIE
(Recommended reading for anyone interested in this historic era)
Written for the Renmark/Paringa/Cal Lal Historical and Preservation Society Inc.; South Australia:
NB; - To mark the Centenary of the Overlanders ... Joseph Hawden's diary. Written during the first overland epic. Was reprinted in its entirety in "The Murray Pioneer" March 1938; - and can be perused at the Mortlock Library; North Terrace; ADELAIDE:
THE ERA OF THE OVERLANDERS
Land on the north side of the River Murray, between the Darling and the SA border, remains remote and sparsely inhabited even to the present day. -It is, however, country of indelible historic importance to South Australia. For it was through this country that The Overlanders, from as early as 1838, drove countless herds of cattle and sheep, without which, the early colonists of South Australia would have been unable to fed their burgeoning population.
Up until 1851, the colony of New South Wales extended all the way down to Bass Strait: -On its southern coastline, at Portland Bay; -discovered by French navigator Nicolas Baudin in 1802; -there existed the only deep-water port preceding the oftentimes treacherous entry into Bass Strait; -For that reason it was well known to all the skippers of the whaling and the sealing fleets: -The grazing potential of the lush hinterland bordering the bay was self-evident to anyone who viewed it. In 1834, without any official sanction, Edward Henty and his brothers sailed across from Tasmania, with a flock of sheep, and set-up a sheep farm by the 'Bay': -The presence of a farm, adjacent to the anchorage, was all that was required to spawn a de-facto settlement. Thus, Portland became the first European settlement on the southern coastline of the Australian Continent.
Both of the above locations were to become intrinsically associated with the Overland Era, which spanned from 1838 to about 1855.
In 1836; -when the Colony of South Australia was "Proclaimed", there were upward of 200 Europeans encamped on the Adelaide plains: -New settlers poured in by the boat-full and feeding them became a problem. On the grazing land of NSW there was an abundance of meat available but the only means of conveying it to Adelaide was, via sailing vessels around the coast: -The quantity of meat on-the-hoof imported into SA by this means, did not come anywhere close to satisfying the demand... A fortune, therefore, awaited anyone who could walk livestock to Adelaide, by the "herd-full".
THE FIRST OVERLANDERS
December 21 1837; - Edward John Eyre
was the first to try; - He started with 300 cattle from his property, which was located near
present day Canberra, and tried to cross in a straight
line directly to Adelaide. It was a bad choice. The arid central-west region of
Victoria, the so-called, "Big
Desert" wilderness area, which abuts "The Mallee" at the SA
proved to be waterless, and much time was wasted. -Eyre had no option but to retreat
to the Murray and, along the way, several
of his drovers deserted him. -The Hawdon & Bonney party had, meanwhile,
passed him by: - Eyre then followed the Hawdon trail along the
Murray, crossed the Rufus on June 17th - arriving in Adelaide
in July 1838, approximately 3 months after Hawdon/Bonney's
January 22 1838; - Joseph Hawdon and Charles Bonney, who'd previously had success in driving cattle south to the lush grazing country surrounding Port Phillip Bay, departed the Goulburn district with 340 cattle for Adelaide. Their chosen route, based on details supplied by Charles Sturt, was to follow the Murray River: -At 8 o'clock on the 22nd Hawdon's party, headed by Mr Bonney, moved off; -On March 1st they crossed the Darling; -On March 4th they discovered and named Lake Victoria; -On March 12th they discovered and named Lake Bonney. -Their successful arrival in Adelaide was reported thus; The Register - April 7th 1838; "Mr Hawdon arrived from NSW with 335 cattle after a journey of 1,000 miles in 10 weeks". - Shortly thereafter the Hawdon/Bonney route became known as "The Sydney Road":
May 1838; - Charles Sturt with 400 cattle started from his property near Mittagong. -Sturt never considered any other route except the Murray and, arriving in Adelaide in late August 1838, they were the third party to complete the route in that year.
December 1838; - E J Eyre, having returned from his first trip, set-off again from the Canberra region, this time with 1,000 sheep and 600 cattle. He arrived in Adelaide on February 23rd, 1839: -These sheep were the first to be overlanded to Adelaide.
February 26 1839; - Charles Bonney, again left the Goulburn district for Adelaide with 300 cattle. This time he went via Portland Bay and Lake Albert, crossing the Murray at Wellington. This route became known as "The Portland Bay Road", and was hailed as a shorter route than the "Sydney Road": ... Actually! A cursory look at modern maps reveals very little difference, distance-wise, between the two routes, but the "Portland Bay Road" was, doubtless, more lush and less-boring than the "Sydney Road".
TWO OVERLAND ROUTES WERE NOW ESTABLISHED and COUNTLESS OVERLANDING PARTIES FOLLOWED, DRIVING MANY THOUSANDS OF LIVESTOCK TO ADELAIDE.
The complete booklet of Pat and Brian Glenie's, which contains a great deal more information than can be shown here, is available, and can be obtained by inquiring hereunder - or - online via the River Murray Shop:
Peter J REILLY 1997 ... E-mail Inquiries
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