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18 January 1840 Samuel Stephens

 18 January 1840     Samuel Stephens

Samuel Stephens died in an accident on 18 January 1840. He came to South Australia as the first Manager of the South Australian Company, travelling out on the Duke of York , one of three ships which arrived at Kangaroo Island in July 1836.

From the start the settlement there did not go well. The site chosen on the western shore of Nepean Bay proved to have no suitable timber for building. The soil was infertile and the water from the well which had been sunk turned brackish within a few weeks. There were problems with the men as well. Stephens' journal reveals:

            a good deal of quarrelling on the ships and shore .........
            the rats, ants and divers other rational and irrational
            beings being very troublesome ... the men impertinent                                                                                                 
            idle and dissatisfied and ... all but impossible to keep
            ... in anything like working trim.

There was further trouble when, on 25 September, he married Charlotte Beare, sister of the Company's Superintendent of buildings, and issued a rum ration to celebrate the occasion. The celebration turned sour and Stephens dismissed four of his officers for allegedly threatening his life and attempting to burn down the store. Reports of the problems connected with drink, and Stephens' mismanagement, reached London in March 1837. He was suspended from his position in November of that year. 

In January 1840 he went with John Morphett, to see the special surveys taken they had taken near to the Murray River. Returning to Adelaide on 18 January, he was last seen on the brow of a hill above the city, called the Tiers at that time. It was there that it was usual to dismount because of the steep descent. His companions found him at the bottom, badly injured and unconscious, and took him to the home of Mr Geeson where he died half an hour later.

Douglas Pike, Paradise of Dissent,   Melbourne University Press, 1957, pp. 198-201.                                                                                                 
The South Australian Register, 25 January 1840, p. 4.

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