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In mid 1836 Governor Stirling decided that a military post should be established at Pinjarra. The officer in charge was one Lieutenant H.W. Bunbury of the 21st Regiment. Bunbury remained here for several months and left a most interesting account describing Pinjarra as it then was.
Barracks for the soldiers were built at the end of what is now known as Camp Road, and therefore quite close to the site of the encounter with the Aborigines two years earlier. The structure was located on a point of land overlooking the river and the surroundings were very pretty, however the main reason for its position was for proximity to the ford and safety at night — the natives would never go to a place where death had taken place, and especially avoided such areas at night.
A short time after coming here, Bunbury journeyed overland to the Williams River settlement with two companions. He was apparently the first white person to do so.
The locality of Pinjarra was extremely beautiful in those days. The natives burnt the bush every couple of years, and this had produced a park-like effect, where there were broad expanses of native grasses, studded with large trees. At Pinjarra these were usually Red Gums or Jarrah. Wildflowers abounded during the Spring, and together with the large quantities of wildfowl, it must have been a most pleasant place for both old and new residents.
Bunbury so liked the place that he decided to buy land near the barracks and settle here for a while. The townsite of Pinjarra was surveyed a short time later, but the lots which Bunbury wished to purchase were priced at £1 per acre. This was too much for him, and he did not go ahead with the idea.
After being here for several months, the lieutenant was transferred to the Vasse district. The Governor was very pleased with the work Bunbury had done, and he named the little townsite of Bunbury at the mouth of the Leschenault Inlet as a commendation. Bunbury left the colony and returned to England. He appears to have continued to lead an interesting life, and saw a great deal of the world. It would not be surprising if his thoughts often wandered back to Pinjarra. (Richards 1980: 42-43.)
When I last wrote to you I was just starting on a journey to the southward to establish a new station at the ‘Williams’ river which took me five weeks. A few days after my return I was ordered over here with a detachment to make war upon the Natives, who have been very troublesome lately, robbing farms and committing other depredations, even attempting to spear White people.
My duty is very fatiguing and disagreeable, as my men are stationed at the different farms on the ‘Avon’ through a district nearly fifty miles in length, and my constant occupation is patrolling from one end to the other. I have no fixed residence or Quarters, but live sometimes at the Magistrate’s house here, or else anywhere I may happen to find myself towards night, and in the middle of winter with a pleasing alternation of rain and frost I do not find the life very pleasant. I hope, however, it will not last very long as the Natives seem inclined to be quiet since I shot a few of them one night. I have no doubt, however, that ere long they will revenge the death of those we shot by spearing some White men when they can meet them alone and unarmed.
They are extremely cowardly, but very revengeful, never forgiving an injury; they take life for life but are not particular whom they spear. Any White man will do or else a Native of another tribe. But in all their own quarrels their unfortunate women are sure to suffer in the end.
The spears which the Natives use are about eight feet long, slender and tough, sharp pointed and either barbed or else edged with sharp stone or glass near the point. They throw them with great precision by means of a throwing stick.
Many White people have been speared by them since this Colony was established; their usual way is to lie in ambush in the bush until the person has passed and then throw their spears into his back. They always run away from the soldiers and are so active and, from their colour, so difficult to see that they easily elude our pursuit. (Bunbury & Morrell 1930: 27-28)
Barker & Laurie:
Following further expeditions—both private and public—in 1835, Lieutenant Henry St Pierre Bunbury, an officer of the 21st Fusiliers, pioneered the overland route to Port Leschenault on a journey from Pinjarra to the Vasse accompanied by a native guide, Monay. A rendezvous with Stirling, who had arrived by sea at the Vasse, on 21 December 1836 produced a formal christening without a birth. “A township has been formed,” wrote the lieutenant, “or at least laid down on the maps, comprising the southern promontory and part of the north beach at the entrance of Port Leschinault [sic] Inlet, which the Governor named ‘Bunbury’ in compliment to me.” Stirling had intended to re-establish a military station there under Bunbury’s command and the lieutenant always regretted that he did not. He believed that Gomburrup, which was the Aboriginal name for the locality (and which he would continue to use in his writing), had great potential, with a safe anchorage, navigable rivers, abundant good land and strategic position for developing the inland districts of Williams, Beaufort and Kojonup. (Barker & Laurie: 1992: 5-6)
Barker, Anthony J. & Maxine Laurie 1992, Excellent Connections: A History of Bunbury, Western Australia 1836-1900, City of Bunbury.
Bunbury, W. St Pierre Bunbury & W.P. Morrell eds 1930, Early Days in Western Australia: Being the Letters and Journal of Lieut. H.W. Bunbury 21st Fusiliers, OUP, London. Text version here.
Richards, Ronald 1980, Mandurah and the Murray: A Short History of the Old Murray District of Western Australia 1829-1900, privately published.
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