Albany's Early Years: 1837 - 1846

1837: The improvement in the condition of the settlement brought about by the activity of Government Resident Sir Richard Spencer was maintained.
  • Albany town sites were sold at a minimum of £5 per acre and suburban lots at £2 per acre.
  • Early in the year, medical officer Dr Thomas Harrison paid a visit to the Hay River, accompanied by Patrick Taylor.
  • Wool shorn on Sir Richard Spencer's Hay River property realised £1/8/- per lb on the place.
  • During February James Harris and party journeyed overland from Albany to Perth in 12 days. Harris’ diary records the places they passed through as Chorkurup, Thokokup, Mt Barker, Lake Matilda, Kojonup, Williams River and Arthur River. The party consisted of Alfred Hillman, Lieutenant Armstrong, eight privates of the 21st Fusiliers, Patrick Taylor, Dr Thomas Harrison and an Aboriginal guide known as Katrel or "Handsome".
  • On March 9, John Mason was appointed constable and keeper of the jail to assist James Dunn.
  • By a proclamation issued on March 25, the first quarter sessions were appointed to be held in Albany on May 1, the court party comprising WH Mackie, commissioner of the Civil Court, AH Stone, registrar and L. Welsh, bailiff. The most important case before the court was Thomas Brooker Sherratt v George Cheyne, the witnesses being Lawrence Morley, Alfred Hillman, John McKail, William Thomas, John Sinclair and Janet Macleod.
  • During April, Albany went red, due to the distribution of crimson flannel dresses to Aboriginal women which had been sent out by the Duchess of Kent.
  • During May, Sir Richard Spencer wrote to the Bishop of Australia, stating that Albany now comprised some 45 houses and a population of 180 and soliciting his lordship's assistance, together with that of certain English societies, for funds to erect a church and provide a resident minister.
  • Two whaling establishments were formed on Doubtful Island Bay, one owned by George Cheyne, the other by Thomas Booker Sherratt.
  • The governor in his report for the year ending 30th June, recommended the provision of a military establishment, consisting of a captain, four subalterns and 50 rank and file for Albany and its subordinate stations, comprising the Kalgan, Nornalup Inlet and Doubtful Island Bay.
  • The firm of Gordon and Sinclair, carpenters, tendered for certain public works in the district.
  • Lieutenant Belches relinquished the position of harbour master and assumed command of the colonial schooner Champion.
  • Chief constable James Dunn was accidentally maimed for life whilst firing a salute in honour of Patrick Taylor's arrival with his bride.
  • During September, the colonial surgeon, Dr Crighton, arrived from the Swan River to attend Sir Richard Spencer who had been ill for some time.
  • Military posts were established at various points on the road between Albany and York.
  • In December, Henry Tulley secured the contract to clear a road to Middleton Bay and remove portions of six sand hills near Middleton Beach.
  • Messrs McKail and Dunn secured the contract to build Albany's town jetty, which was almost on the site of the old municipal baths.
  • The quantity of spirits upon which duty was paid was 948 gallons.
  • Exports for the year were whale oil £900, whalebone £180, sealskins £500.
  • On December 25, the Eudora anchored in Princess Royal Harbour. On board was the Rev James Backhouse of the Society of Friends (Quakers), who was nearing the end of a six year cruise conveying the gospel to the inhabitants of British colonies and settlements. He stayed in Albany for three days and left lamenting that such a small community could enjoy the luxury of four hotels and with commendation for nothing he had experienced during his visit except the salubrious climate. The four public houses he referred to were:

          The Commercial Tavern on Albany Town Lot B40 near Residency Point. This two-storey, brick-built, 10 roomed building was the first hotel erected in Albany and established by Diggory Geake.

          The Ship Inn on Albany Town Lot B15, near the approach to the Albany Town Jetty, close to what was Henry Wills and Company’s office in lower Stirling Terrace.

          Sherratt's Family Hotel on Albany Town Lot B28, near the former site of Dalgety and Co's office, lower Stirling Terrace.

          The Albany Hotel on Albany Town Lot S106, practically on the site of the present pub of the same name.

1838: Sir Richard Spencer asked for more military personnel, which at the time comprised of one sergeant and nine privates. He supported his statement by saying there were sometimes as many as 100 foreign seamen on shore who were mostly under the influence of alcohol.
  • During February, it was reported cattle had been speared at the Hay River by aborigines.
  • Sir Richard Spencer purchased two properties known as Ongrup and Langton on the upper reaches of the Hay River.
  • The ship Gaillardon landed a number of Indian coolies, who were brought out under the auspices of the then newly-formed Bengal-Australian Association.
  • In March, Lieutenant Belches and a new settler from India, Ronald McDonald, imported 300 sheep and 10 cows from the eastern Australian settlements.
  • During April four bridges were built on the Albany-Perth road by John Young.
  • In May the first Albany jetty - begun in 1837, was completed.
  • Following a scarcity of provisions earlier in the year, several vessels arrived from Calcutta and Penang with stores, one alone disposing of goods to the value of £1,000. The prices realised were: Soap 5d per lb; sugar 13d per lb; candles 8d per Ib; wax candles 1/11 per lb; flour, 3d per lb; salt pork £5/5/- per cask.
  • Visitors to the port were reported to have left funds in the hands of local agents for the purchase of land. One of these was Captain McCrea of HMS Zebra, who contemplated settling in the vicinity with his wife and family early in 1839.
  • Captain Harding of HMS Pelorus, despatched Lieutenant Forsythe with a boat to survey Torbay. Forsythe favourably reported on Torbay's anchorage.
  • In June, Albany's first stud horse of the Petworth blood, arrived from the Williams River. He was purchased by Sir Richard Spencer from Sir James Stirling.
  • Notice received from Perth of the passing of an Act of Council providing for the appointment of trustees of church properties.
  • In early June, a Mr Drake despatched aboriginal runners overland to Perth via Williams River with despatches from James Stirling and private letters which arrived in Perth during July.
  • Advice was received during August of the establishment of the Western Australian Bank.
  • Assistant surveyor Ommaney relieved assistant surveyor Alfred Hillman at Albany.
  • During September a party of soldiers were stationed at Sir Richard Spencer's Ongrup property.
  • Revenue of the port for the quarter ending September 30, was £91/1/- This comprised of import duties £41/11/-, fines £10/5/-, freights colonial schooner Champion £33/14/-, retail spirit licenses £5, post office 11/-.
  • Advice was received, that at a meeting of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge held in London during the previous March, consequent upon the receipt of an application from the Government Resident, Sir Richard Spencer, a grant of £100 was made towards the expense of erecting St John’s church, which had been estimated to cost £400.
  • On October 10, the ship Caledonia arrived from Madras. Its captain, TL Symers, was accompanied by his wife and family, an overseer Mr Johnson and 10 servants and landed as a permanent settler. After landing his retinue, Captain Symers sailed for Sydney to secure stock and a later returned with some 400 sheep from Port Phillip. Captain Symers aslo brought with him a large quantity of rice, sugar, grain and sundries. The livestock brought from India included a fine Arab mare, two good ponies, 10 Indian cows and 40 Indian sheep, these latter being the remains of a flock of 150 sheep shipped from Madras.
1839: During February, Captain John Hassell, whilst in command of the ship Dawson, called at Albany on the way to Van Dieman's Land, where he had purchased a property. During his visit he was induced by Sir Richard Spencer to change his mind and by land in Albany instead. In consequence of this, before leaving Albany, Hassell purchased a 20,000 acre property near the head waters of the Kalgan River (Kendenup), from George Cheyne, who had selected it some four years previously. This was developed and extended in subsequent years and became known as the Kendenup Estate. In March Captain Hassell sailed for the eastern colonies to procure livestock for his property.
  • The revenue collected in Albany for the first quarter to March 30, totalled £140/8/2.
  • During April, 14 bales of wool procured from sheep on Sir Richard Spencer's Hay River property were shipped to London via Mauritius.
  • In May, Albany's first regular pilot Shakespear Hamilton, arrived from Calcutta on board the ship Lulworth.
  • On July 24, Sir Richard Spencer died after a brief illness and was buried at Strawberry Hill. By his death, Albany lost a stalwart champion. When he arrived on September 13, 1833, there were only three private houses (one of them untenanted) and the total permanent population, exclusive of the military, comprised 17. There was just one acre of land under cultivation and the total livestock comprised of three horses, three cows, some poultry and not a single sheep. At the time of his death, Albany’s population numbered 139 exclusive of the military, 60 dwelling houses, many of them built of brick or stone and between 70 and 80 acres of land under cultivation. In the same period the livestock in Albany and environs had increased to 103 cattle, 18 horses, 2,000 sheep, five donkeys, together with pigs and poultry in abundance.
  • Four ships claimed Albany as their port of registry, one of which, the Emma Sherratt, had been built at Torbay and two others were in the course of construction.
  • Sir Richard Spencer's successor as Government resident was a young Lieutenant of the 63rd Regiment, George Grey, who subsequently occupied important official positions in South Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
  • Towards the end of the year Joseph Harris again successfully overlanded a large number of sheep from Albany to the Swan River.
  • Assistant surveyor Alfred Hillman completed the survey of the town site of Kojonup.
  • Captain TL Symers, who arrived the previous year, made the first purchase of farming property in the Kojonup district at 8/- per acre.
  • During October, as a consequence of a large red gum tree falling on the kitchen at  Hay River Farm, Horatio Spencer, the third son of Sir Richard Spencer, was killed, as was farm servant William McKath.
  • Governor Hutt, who had succeeded Sir James Stirling at the beginning of the year, paid an official visit to Albany, having travelled overland via the Williams River and Kojonup.
  • Hops, sugar cane and cotton were planted as an experiment. The cane was planted on the site of the National Bank, the Town Hall and Matthew Cull's residence, on Middleton Road, but it was found the climate was too mild to mature it. The cotton and hops were tried out at Strawberry Hill farm, but the experiment did not prove successful.
1840: Edmund John Eyre, who landed 100 ewes, 450 lambs and 70 cattle in conjunction with his partner Mr Mundy, overhanded the sheep in York, after which he visited the Swan River settlement. On his return trip to Albany, he selected two Albany town lots, B95 and S109 and returned to South Australia, taking with him a King George Sound Aboriginal called Wylie.
  • Gloom was cast over Albany by the untimely deaths of John Lawrence Morley, harbour master and original settler, who built the house now known as Patrick Taylor’s cottage and Seymour Spencer, the son of Richard, who was killed during a boating accident in Princess Royal Harbour on March 5.
  • In April, a party comprising Captain Symers, Lieutenant Peter Belches, Mr Gilbert, Henry Townsend, Mr Trimmer and William Nairn Clark, led by assistant surveyor Alfred Hillman, examined the country between Albany, Gordon River and Kojonup. They later reported that the localities visited during the trip were Kinunup, Yarenup, Joseph's Wells, Belgarrup, and Mandalup.
  • The ship Runnymede arrived from Hobart in June with a detachment of HM 51st Regiment (King's Own Light Infantry) sent to relieve the members of HM 21st Regiment then stationed in Albany. The personnel of the relief comprised Captain Bolles, Lieutenant GE Egerton-Warburton, a sergeant and 31 rank and file. Lieutenant Warburton subsequently sold his commission and settled on Plantagenet Location 20, which he named St Werburg's.
  • Government Resident Lieutenant George Grey returned to England and was succeeded by J. Randall Phillips, who occupied the position until 1846.
  • In October the Government botanist, James Drummond, assisted by a visiting scientist named Preiss, examined and classified the flora of Albany and its environs.
  • During the latter part of the year, it was notified deposits would be received locally by a Mr Neill on behalf of the recently formed Western Australian Bank.
  • Authentic record is provided of the names of some of Albany's residents at the close of the year by the list of deeds of grant in respect of Albany Town Lots issued on December 22. They were: T. L. Symers, Albany lot B39; George Grey S100, John McKail B15, George Swift S116, Patrick Taylor S108, James Annice S111, Henry Townsend S19, Edward Lane S101, John Mason S35, John Young S102, James Cooper S43, John Williams B24,  John Robertson B32, George Cheyne S13, Thomas B. Sherratt S171.
  • Albany's present cemetery on lot S51 Middleton Road was granted to the Church of England. Prior to this, there was an unofficial cemetery on the hill overlooking Gordon (now Grey) Street on the western end of the present Albany Town Hall block S112. On the opening of the new cemetery, the remains of a number of people were transferred. These included Dr Alexander Collie (government resident 1831-32) who died at Albany on November 8, 1835.
1841: During February, William Nairn Clark conducted an expedition in a whale boat from Albany to Deep River, Nornalup Inlet and Point d'Entrecasteaux, discovering several Jarrah and Karri forests. In his record of the trip, he commented on the immense values of these forests and lamented that all whaling in the locality was in the hands of Americans. He recorded that during this whaling season there were upwards of 150 sailing boats operating off the coast, averaging some 300 tons each.
  • The values of Albany allotments and the land in the neighbourhood were rising rapidly. A man who bought two allotments for £35 each from the government, disposed of them for £700 in Sydney.
  • During April, the ship Lord Glenelg arrived at Albany. On board was Captain Grey, the former government resident who was en-route to Adelaide, to take up his duties as Governor of South Australia. It transpired that during his visit to England, Grey had exercised his influence to secure the appointment of a chaplain for Albany, an office which had never been filled from the very foundation of the settlement.
  • On March 19, James Dunn, who had been appointed constable in 1830 was succeeded by James Cooper.
  • On June 22, a monthly mail overland between Albany and Perth via Kojonup and Williams River was established.
  • On July 7, Edward John Eyre and Aboriginal scout Wylie were warmly welcomed by Albany officials and residents after completing the historic transcontinental journey from Fowler's Bay, South Australia where they had left on February 25. Prior to their arrival, all hopes for their safety had been despaired of. Eyre swore an affidavit before Peter Belches JP,  concerning the murder of his sole white companion, John Baxter, who was murdered by his native assistants, Neramberlin and Cootachabm and also despatched a brief report of his momentous trip to Governor Hutt.
  • The government expenditure in Albany for the quarter ending June 30,1841, was; government resident £25, tidewater £4/3/4, jailer £12/10/-, postmaster £6/5/-.
  • Protector of Aborigines Peter Barrow paid an official visit to Albany overland from Perth.
  • The year closed with prosperity in fulltide - skilled craftsmaen were in great demand at a wage of 15/- per day.
1842: Early in the year, Major Irwin and a party from Perth visited Albany after calling at the Williams River, Kojonup and Mt Barker. A Mrs Bland and Miss Wittenoom accompanied the party. This was only the second occasion upon which white women had made overland trips from Perth.
  • RH Bland, the protector of natives, paid a visit of inspection to enquire into the case of cattle killing in the neighbourhood. He subsequently travelled overland to the Vasse via Mt Barker and the Hay River. He was accompanied by Mr Singleton and three soldiers.
  • During this year, grants of land in the Plantagenet County were made to (figures in brackets represent acres): G Eliott (2,560), estate of Sir Richard Spencer (1,920) (1,000), J Mason (400), Sir James Stirling (4,000), J Curry (2,560), C Brown (2,560), HE Henderson (2,000), J Hart (2,511), SG Watson (2,560), TL Symers (122), WH Drake (600), John Hassell (19,872) (1,022). The 19,872 acres was Plantagenet Location 27 and is the area upon which KendenuP. The deed for this area was issued to John Hassell by Governor Hutt on January, 11, 1842. The majority of these grants were made to residents in Perth, which caused considerable dissatisfaction amongst Albany settlers, because they were selected and granted before local residents were even aware they had been thrown open.
  • Licenses granted for the year provide authentic information concerning the names of early residents. They were: Public House Licenses, TB Sherratt, J Daniels, H McKenzie, G Swift. Retail License: George Cheyne. Dog Licenses: JN Andrews, J Annice, T Barrett, J Craige, S Cooke, George Cheyne, J Dunn, J Daniels, E Geake, John Hassell, T Harrison, S Hamilton, J Young, H MacDonald, L Mooney, K Meally, H McKenzie, J Mears, Jk Phillips, J Robinson, M Symers, Em Spencer, H Tulley, G EE Warburton, J White and D Young.
  • A new overland mail service between Perth via Guildford and Albany was inaugurated on April 6. In the annual report to the Home Government, the population of Albany was given as 213 (male 141, female 72).
1843: Early in the year, under the provision of an Act of Council to provide for the improvement of towns in the Colony of Western Australia, the following residents were selected: Chairman, TB Sherratt, Committee: JRPhillips, W Townsend, J Daniels, J Sinclair and A Gordon. This committee was the forerunner of the later municipal councils.
  • At the civil court's general session presided over by Advocate-General WH Mackie at the end of February, Thomas Prescott and George Swift (a local publican) were found guilty and sentenced to 10 years transportation for stealing 250 sovereigns from the dwelling house of mariner John William Andrews.
  • A new contract for a monthly mail between Perth and Albany was secured by N Shaw for £140.
  • The proposal in Perth to form a company to export ship timber (then called mahogany) prompted the Government Resident  JR Phillips to stress the many advantages of the jarrah forests at Torbay.
  • A large number of foreign whaling vessels continued to operate off the coast. George Cheyne conducted a lucrative business at Cape Riche supplying these whalers with water, fuel, vegetables, fresh meat and provisions.
  • At the end of September, the population of Albany and its hinterland had increased to 260 (males, 170, females 90).
  • During November HMS Bramble in making Princess Royal Harbour during a gale, went aground at the entrance, but was got away with little difficulty.
  • On November 4, 1843, Dr Brady, Father Justines and Father Patrick O'Reilly arrived in Albany. They celebrated mass on three occasions during their visit, one of which was held in the open air in the shade of two round rocks, one on top of the other at the corner of Brunswick Road, above the site of the old deep water jetty. This spot became known as Pulpit Rock and is also where a visiting French priest held surmons towards the end of the 1830s.
1844: On January 8, Andrew Muir arrived on board the ship Ganges to join his cousin George Cheyne at his Cape Riche establishment.
  • The following residents were appointed to the committee under the Town Improvements Act: chairman, S Knight; committee: Peter Belches, H MacDonald, H McKenzie, J Sinclair and A Gordon.
  • Four hotel licenses were granted this year. They were: Commercial Inn (John Sinclair, B40), Ship Inn (Hugh McKenzie, B15); Albany Hotel (John Craige, S106), Sherratt's Family Hotel (Hugh MacDonald B28).
  • Slaughtering licenses were granted to John Hassell (B27, Stirling Terrace), John Young (S102, York Street), Hugh McKenzie (B10, beach), James Cooper (B42, Duke Street), Thomas Gillam (B13, beach).
  • A boat license was granted to WS Aspinall for the lugger Mary Ann.
  • Towards the end of the year, the town became so crowded that it became necessary for the Advocate-General WH Mackie to hold a special session. The offences were mostly of a minor nature consequent upon the prevailing depression.
  • Later in the year, two locally built ocean going boaats were launched. They were the Fairy, built by Captain TL Symers at the Kalgan and weighing 70 tons and the Emma Sherratt, built on the banks of the Torbay Inlet and weighing 130 tons. Both vessels were subsequently used for  trading to the Eastern Colonies and Mauritius.
  • Exports from Albany comprised: sperm oil 30 tons (£1,800), black whale oil 60 tons (£1,800), whale bone 107 cwt (£482).
1845: The license of Albany's first hotel, the Commercial Inn, was not renewed this year.
  • An influenza epidemic killed a large number of local Aboriginals.
  • Records for the year show nine babies were born - six males and three females, three men died and no one was married.
1846: Just two hotel licenses were granted in 1846 - the Sherratt's Family Hotel and the Ship Inn.
  • In March, a band of Roman Catholics arrived. They were part of a mission despatched by the Congregaion of Propaganda under Dr Brady, an Irish Bishop and had arrived at Fremantle on the ship Elizabeth during January 1846. On arrival the party divided into three. The section for Albany left Perth on February 6 and after travelling overland on foot reached their destination in March.  The mission was awarded a grant of 20 acres by Governor Hutt. On arrival, members of the mission sought Aboriginal children, a task beset with many difficulties. Resident Protestants, sailors and residents generally afforded them all possible assistance. After a laudable struggle to achieve their purpose, the health of the missioners deterioated owing to the absence of regular supplies, so they left for Mauritius where they were afforded refuge in a mission supervised by an English Benedictine bishop.
  • HMS North Star arrived in Princess Royal Harbour for a visit of inspection, the commander having been instructed to report to the Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty as to the suitability of the harbour for the construction of a naval dockyard.
  • The winter was very violent with phenomenally heavy rains causing severe damage to the town.
  • Towards the end of the year Government Resident JR Phillips was succeeded by RH Bland.
  • Just below the site of Albany Hospital was a large well fed by a spring known as Phillips' Well, after the government resident. A stream ran from it into the harbour below the site of the old gasworks. It was unusual as it was the only permanent white water in the town - the water in the town's other wells were brown with an earthy taste.