Albany's Early Years: 1847 - 1856

1847: On January 17, Albany celebrated its 20th anniversary, but the improvement of its fortunes anticipated by Sir Richard Spencer had yet to eventuate. R H Eland, the Protector of Aborigines, reported that Albany's Aboriginals were generally well behaved, although one or two cases of cattle stealing had occurred.
  • The members of the Albany Roads Trust appointed for 1847 were JR Phillips, Patrick Taylor and E Spencer.
  • Flour was fetching £28 per ton.
  • During February, a fine specimen of bitumen obtained by T Sherratt on one of the local beaches was forwarded to Perth for examination.
  • Tenders called for the conveyance of mails to Perth indicate that, at this time, there was no through road from Albany to Perth. The route in use was from Albany to Kojonup, Kojonup to Bunbury and Bunbury to Fremantle via Rockingham.
  • During the early part of the year, the Torbay constructed ship, Emma Sherratt, made a trip to London, her master was a Captain Chinnery.
  • Governor Andrew Clarke died on February 11 in Perth.
  • On May 17, a public meeting was convened by Patrick Taylor to decide what how the town could obtain the services of a resident clergyman.
  • The weather during August was particularly bad, the rivers being swollen and the country flooded.
  • The mail contractor, T. Watson, left Albany on July 28, following the route previously referred to. He finally arrived in Perth at the end of August.
  • Albany merchants and others developed the sandalwood trade, their cutters operating as far north as Kojonup. The wood was carted to Albany for shipment.
  • Henry Camfield succeeded RH Bland as government resident, continuing in the position until 1860.
  • Several small vessels were built on the King and Kalgan Rivers.

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Captain Sale's Memories Part 1: Pioneer settlers and whalers

In 1932, early Albany resident, Captain James Sale,  inspired by interest shown in his contributions to the West Australian concerning the history of Albany, decided to write down his memories of the people he grew up with and who he had associated with for much of his life. He wrote about 30 letters setting down isolated facts as they came into his memory.
Captain John J. Sale (my father) accompanied by his wife, reached Tasmania from Britain over 100 years ago. He was a soldier in the Dragoons, to which he held a commission. Later he was drafted to the 96th Regiment and sent out with 450 prisoners to Van Diemen's Land. From there he was sent to Norfolk Island and thence to Sydney, still on military duty. A transfer to Fremantle followed and finally he was sent to Albany to take charge of the prisoners there, his detachment relieving the 51st Regiment.

At Albany he was pensioned off and instead of returning home he elected to stay. I never saw my father. He died in 1848, six weeks before I was born. There had been 79 babies born in Albany before me. I arrived there without a shoe on my foot or a rag to my back; now I am all rags. Standing back from the corner nearest the harbour on the west side of York Street was a house on high ground. This we called the 'Brass Castle' because it had a brass knocker on the front door. I believe this is from where I arrived in 1848.

There are only two or three of us left who went to the first government school which was held in the First Institute, a small building at the back of Mr McKenzie's residence behind where now stands the Freemasons Hotel. My mother re-married, my step-father being James Peter Covert, who was closely associated with the development of Albany, both the town and the waterfront.

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Captain Sale's Memories Part 2: Families and ships

The following article continues the memories of the late Captain James Sale, compiled from letters written by him in 1932. Captain Sale was for many years engaged in whaling and other maritime activities on the south coast.
Albany was an extremely busy port - not only was it the mail steamer port but it served as the clearing house for most of the southern and south-western portions of the State. In its mailboat days the P&O Company had a big establishment at Albany, employing about 300 men at then coaling depot. The company paid their men weekly and that money in circulation made trade brisk. The coal was all put into one cwt. bags, landed and carried up to the stack.

There was often 5,000 to 10,000 tons in the stack. This company has progressed from steam vessels of a few hundred tons to gigantic liners of 25,000 tons. This speaks volumes for the development of Australia with its handful of people. The Larkins brought out from England the first load of coal for the Albany depot of the P&O. She brought about 1,000 tons. Barques mostly brought the coal from Britain. They were largely Norwegian and Swedish owned and small, being only 500 to 600 tons.

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Captain Sale's Memories part 3: The town and its residents

In March 1936, the West Australian published the memories of Captain James Sale, compiled from letters written by him in 1932. For many years he engaged in whaling and other maritime activities on the south coast. At the time of his death in 1933, he was the last surviving member of the exploration party led by Lord Forrest, which in 1870 travelled from Albany to Adelaide, surveying the route for an inter-State telephone line.

 I can best tell you about other residents of the town in those days by telling you something of the settlement and where the people lived. I have already mentioned that Mr Cheyne built a house where Miss Dynes now lives and that that house was the eastern extremity of settlement. The next building in the terrace to the west was the home of Mr James Dunn, a wooden structure.

Mr Dunn kept a hotel and a store. The place immediately to the westward was Mr Alexander Moir's who here kept a store. This was a better structure of two storeys. It was built of stone and stood about where the Royal George Hotel now is. The next place was a small lean-to wooden building in which Mr John McKail kept a store. During the 1860s he built a store where the White Star Hotel now is and in the 1870s he built another store where the National Bank now stands.

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