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Mr. Bagot's Overland Trip to South Australia Back to:   History Pages

'Mr. Bagot's Overland Trip to South Australia' was first published on 9 January 1847 in the Maitland Mercury newspaper, and reprinted three days later in the Sydney Morning Herald.  The article recounts an expedition led by Edward Meade ("Ned") Bagot to drive cattle from the Maitland area of New South Wales to South Australia.  The journey commenced on 17 March 1846 and the route followed the inland rivers wherever possible.  It took four months for Ned Bagot and his men to reach their destination.  The article is remarkable for the vivid description of squatting and competition for grazing resources along the Lachlan and lower Murrumbidgee rivers, at a time when pastoral runs had been recently taken up and when "run-hunting" was still in process.


We are glad to see Mr. Bagot has returned safely from his long journey overland to South Australia.  We have obtained from him a few particulars relative to his trip, which from the interest generally taken in our land communication with that promising colony, may not prove unacceptable.

The party started from the Barwin, on the 17th March last, and proceeding up the Castlereagh River about 150 miles, nearly to the foot of the Warambungles, struck across to the Macquarie, a distance of forty miles, 28 of which they drove their cattle without water.

After travelling up this river about thirty miles, they crossed under the skirt of the Wellington mountains to the Goobang Creek, following which brought them on to the Lachlan River.  Until they reached this river they experienced considerable difficulty in places, in watering so large a herd of bullocks at the small holes, but the feed had hitherto been very good.

During their progress down the Lachlan the case was reversed, at least until they got below the stations.

"In this part of the journey I was not with the cattle myself, having gone to Bathurst to purchase horses; but I afterwards learned that for 200 miles not one blade of vegetation was to be seen; cattle and horses belonging to the stations on the river were dying of starvation, and the last sprinkling of grass, which generally lingers about the shady banks, had been swept off by eight or ten thousand of Mr. Wentworth’s sheep, that were just before us on their way to take up new stations on the Edwards.  Indeed, only for the great exertions on the part of Mr. Bailey and the men, in pushing forwards until they came to grass again below the stations, the whole thing would have proved a failure.  As it was, we left six of our best dray horses (all since dead) on this river, and would have lost more but for some seed barley we were lucky enough to purchase when we first got on it.  For the last 180 miles down the Lachlan the grass was good, but the water, which is at all times insufficient to form stations on, was so nearly gone that Mr. Bailey had to water the bullocks in small mobs of twenty or thirty, otherwise they would have all rushed in and trampled in the holes; and it was his opinion that if we had been three weeks or a month later we could not have got down: ours were the first cattle that ever went right down the Lachlan."

The party on reaching the Murrumbidgee, found Mr. Hobler settled on it below the junction of that river with the Lachlan, on a fine tract of country, well known to former overlanders as the Lachlan Marshes.  Here he has been fortunate to secure about 25 miles on opposite sides of the river – so far out that it is even beyond the Commissioners of Crown Lands’ boundaries, but within reach of Port Phillip and Adelaide markets, so much preferable to the over-glutted Sydney markets.  Here Mr. Bagot rejoined his party with a relay of fresh horses in fine condition for work, which proved most serviceable.

"While coming down the Murray, from Bathurst, with my horses, I every day passed fresh parties with cattle, bound either for Adelaide, or to take up stations below Mr. Hobler’s; and great was the competition amongst the latter to be the first in selecting and occupying country; so great was the run-hunting from this quarter, and parties coming down the Hume and from the Port Phillip side, that the Murrumbidgee below Mr. Hobler’s to its junction with the Murray, and along that river as far as Lake Benanee, a total distance of about 100 miles, was pounced on almost while we were passing.  We were suspected by some of these vultures to be sailing under false colors, and under the idea that in reality we were run-hunters, we were given chase and passed by, of course to our own special amusement."

Hereabouts the grass in the angles had been much burned by a previous overland party, under the direction of a person whose name we forebear to mention.

"Even before they were clear of the lowest stations on the Murrumbidgee, these fellows began to burn the grass about their camps; and on some of the men belonging to the stations expostulating with them, they said they were doing it to stop other parties following them.  There is little doubt that when a substantiated statement of this disgraceful act is laid before the Governor (as it will be), the person who led the party will lose his licenses in the Murrumbidgee district."

From Lake Benanee to the Darling, a distance of about 100 miles, the party proceeded without any interruption from the blacks, although swarms of them were constantly round their camp.

"On the 29th of June, we crossed the Darling.  The river was about eighty or a hundred yards wide, and we floated the drays across by lashing on to them empty puncheons which we brought with us on a cart appropriated to the purpose for the double use of crossing rivers and carrying water, if required.  Here we had a good horse drowned.  We had no difficulty in getting the bullocks across."

* * * * "We now got on Capt. Sturt’s track in from the interior, which was a great saving in distance, his previous knowledge of the country enabling him to cut across from water to water, without following the river round." * * * *

"Forty miles below the junction of the Darling is the Rufus, the gut of Lake Victoria, and nearly the boundary of the colony of Adelaide, which has not yet been exactly defined.  Here we came on the first settlers on the Adelaide side; and from this on, though few and far between, were cattle stations."

"The Murray here had an imposing effect from the tall cliffs, often 200 feet high, which overhung it.  It was about 250 yards wide, and running at the rate of four or five miles an hour.  The country got worse and worse as we advanced, the river flats underneath the cliffs containing the only feed for the cattle, and even this had been swept off by parties in front of us." * * * *

"I could not help contrasting the humane and effectual management of their native blacks pursued by the Adelaide government, with the careless and inhuman disregard of them by the government of this colony."

"There a few police patrol every station about once a month, ready to act on any emergency, and, at all events, by their presence awing both blacks and whites from mutual aggression.  These police have their headquarters at Mooroondi, where a police magistrate, who is also protector of aborigines, resides, and has a certain quantity of flour and blankets at his disposal for all the natives in his district; and it has been ascertained that the blacks, as far up as Laidley’s Ponds, on the Darling, have come down to Mooroondi for flour.  The effect of all this, that though the worst parts of the Murray for blacks, in the days of former overland parties, have lately been taken up, not a single case of aggression on either side has occurred."

"Here, with a license fee double what it is there, government quietly pockets our money, leaves us with a police beyond the boundaries, in efficiency and number merely nominal, and allow us and our black neighbours to carry on the war as best we may."

After passing the great north-west bend of the Murray, the party left this river, and, turning westward through the scrub, after a stage of thirty miles, without water, made the hilly country of Adelaide.

"While mounting these beautiful hills, we looked back over the sea of sand, scrub, and barrenness we had emerged from.  We were in a new country, new birds, new trees, new flowers, grass like an English meadow about us, and the ground soft with recent rain."

* * * * "Two days afterwards we arrived at our destination, fifty miles from the city of Adelaide, having travelled a total distance of 1,130 miles in four months to a day.  We arrived in the middle of the wet season, which is there periodical."

Footnote:  The final destination of the cattle drive was probably "Koonunga" station on the River Light in the Kapunda area of South Australia.  "Koonunga", comprising 1500 acres, was leased by Charles Harvey Bagot (Edward M. Bagot's father).  In 1842, Charles Samuel Bagot, the youngest son of C.H. Bagot, had discovered an outcrop of copper ore on "Koonunga".  Bagot and his neighbour Francis Dutton kept the find a secret until by 1844 they were able to acquire an 80-acre section of their leaseholds (at 20s. an acre).  The mine opened on 8 January 1844, becoming Australia's first viable mine.  (Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1788-1850 - 'Charles Harvey Bagot', pp. 47-8).

In 1848 Edward Meade ("Ned") Bagot set up a string of cattle and sheep stations on the north bank of the Murray River (west of the Darling Anabranch), which included "Moorna", "Wangummma" and "Reminnia" runs.  Bagot also owned "Murtho" station in South Australia, about 30 kilometres above Renmark.  In 1849 he acquired Tingcombe's (south bank) holdings, which he linked with "Murtho", to create the vast "Ned's Corner" station, with his head station at Wal Wal Creek.  (Information from Peter J. Reilly - see Murray River, South Australia web-site)

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