Gundagai to Tumut
A Tour in the Southern Districts. (By Our Travelling Correspondent.)
Australian Town and Country Journal
23 February 1878
The Royal Alfred Bridge connects North with South Gundagai. In 1852 the river Murrumbidgee flooded the flats, and swept away the town of Gundagai, then situated on it, causing a known loss of 93 lives.
To secure the traffic of the Great Southern Road from interruption by such recurrences the present bridge and high level approaches were erected and finished about eight years ago. The iron bridge itself is only 300 feet long, and 50 feet above the bed level of the river, while the approaches, built of timber, are 2775 feet in length, and in 1870, shortly after being finished, the strength of the whole structure was tested by a heavy flood which made little or no impression on the piles except washing some of the drift from around them.
The toll-bar over this bridge lapsed at the beginning of the year, so that it is now free to man and beast. I have been informed that several new buildings are shortly to be erected in North Gundagai, especially new premises for both banks - the New South Wales and the Commercial.
South Gundagai more resembles a deserted township, the buildings nearly all wearing a dilapidated appearance, and the owners not thinking it worth the candle to keep them in thorough repair; the reason seems that nearly all business is conducted on the north side. Near the bridge on the south side is Mr. Fuller's Bridge Hotel; a hundred yards further is a store, and the South Gundagai post-office; on the opposite side of the road is Mr. Deighton's Royal Oak Hotel and store. Three or four private residences scattered around make up South Gundagai.
Thiodon's Wonders have been located at the court house, North Gundagai, for four nights, and, though the entertainment is unique and unsurpassed in the colonies, still I am sorry to say Mr. Thiodon did not receive the support he so well merits - why is hard to account for, except it is put down to the, drought, or coming just after the Lynch Family, who performed for one night to good business.
Mr. Thiodon is on his way to Sydney, where he will open a big show in a short time. For the benefit of those residing around Gundagai, I may mention, en passant, that Mrs. Davidson is the agent for the Town and Country Journal and Evening News, copies of which can be obtained at any time.
I was detained a day or so in Gundagai in consequence of the wet weather, which I am glad to say has been gentle but steady, soaking well into the ground, and causing those elongated visages of the residents to assume another and far more pleasing shape. This rain has been general over the whole district, and hopes are entertained that the drought has at length broken up.
The weather holding up and apparently passing off in showers, I started in the afternoon to visit the new mining venture on the Kangaroo Ground but I had not proceeded more than a mile of so on the Tumut road when it commenced to pour down in torrents, and after plodding along a piece of wretched road, I was compelled to make for the first domicile I could perceive; it fortunately turned out to be Mr. Colman's, Stony Creek, four miles from Gundagai, where I arrived late in the evening, wet through to the skin. Mr. Colman soon had a good fire under way, at which I was enabled to dry my apparel, and after a heavy supper, I was only too glad to retire to rest.
In the morning the dams, tanks, &c, were found to have been filled, as the heavy downpour lasted till near midnight, also causing a small quantity of water to run in the various creeks. Stony Creek Farm on the banks of the creek, contains in all about 500 acres, mostly of good arable land. This last season the wheat crops have been a fair average some 90 acres having returned 1950 bushels of grain. The oat crop was not so good, and was turned into hay, making about 40 tons. Mr. Col-
man has one of Robinson's strippers, with which he is well pleased. During harvesting operations great difficulty is experienced in obtaining the necessary labour. Mr. Colman had at least a week's hunting round to get hands sufficient to supply his wants, and then had to pay 10s per day besides five meals; in the ploughing season he has often had to beg as a favour some neighbour to assist him, hands not being procurable.
If some of the newly landed immigrants were sent up to Gundagai and Tumut, due notice and time given to the residents by the Government of the fact, I am certain from what I have heard the immigrants would be quickly snapped up, that is providing they were general farm hands.
Some miles of fencing are required to replace the old and rotten ones on the various farms, but fencers are not to be had. Mr. Colman himself requires some half dozen, of which he has only been able to secure two, yet people in the large towns complain of not being able to obtain work; let them only go into the farming districts of the colony, and if they are at all inclined to work they will not be long unemployed.
Adjoining Mr. Colman's, but on the Big Ben Creek, is Mr. M'Lean's fine farm of 1200 acres. There is some good arable land on the banks of the creek, mostly placed under wheat; the result of last season's yield is not yet known as only 1000 bushels have been threshed, and there are two more large stacks to pass through the machine.
From present results the average is expected to be 26 bushels to the acre this is about the average year after year from off the same land. The farmers hereabouts do not go in for rotation of crops, but occasionally after the fifth or sixth crop of wheat allow the land to lie fallow for a season; then sow the same grain again and again, so strong and productive is the land on these flats. Mr. M'Lean had a good yield of oaten hay, and the remainder of his land is used for the purpose of fattening cattle, of which there are some 150 head, besides 50 horses. I saw one of Robinson's side delivery reapers and mowers, and another of Nicholson's make, side and back delivery; these economise labour wonderfully.
Mr M'Lean, in conjunction with Mr. Plows, has a steam thresher and engine made by Hornsby, and obtained from Messrs Ainsworth and Co., Sydney So much does Mr. M'Lean appreciate the labour saving processes, that by next season he hopes to have one of the self-binding machines at work in his paddocks. There has been a great demand for the steam thresher, several farmers wanting the machine at one and the same time. On the opposite side of the creek is Mr. M'Lean senior's compact farm of 600 acres.
The crops here again have been very good, the rains having fallen just in time to save them. In front of the house is a nice garden, but not in such good order as it might be, as other work has demanded all the proprietor's time and attention. The apple trees were fairly loaded with fruit, but the vines did not show up well, the berries being small and shrivelled, and such is generally the case with the vineyards in the district.
Higher up the creek is Mr. Hazlitt's farm, which runs up to the head of the valley, here terminating m scrubby hills. Returning by way of Mr. Col- man's I called upon Mr. Tutty's, whose land joins on to the Stony Creek farm. Mr. Tutty's land runs alongside the main Tumut road, containing in all 280 acres; hay was the principal crop grown last season and turned out well.
A mining company has been formed to take up a piece of ground that was formerly worked as a gold mine, and from which some payable wash dirt was obtained. This ground is partly on Mr. Tutty's property. It is expected that operations will shortly be commenced.
In company with Mr. Tutty (who kindly offered to act as pilot) I once more started for the Kangaroo Ground. We struck off the main road nearly opposite Mr. Tutty's residence, and after following a track over hill and dale, steep sidelings and scrub, for two miles, we at last arrived at the scene of operations. This claim, the Dulce Gold Mining Company, is 15 acres in extent, besides other leases along the line of reef.
It was formerly worked by some Gundagai persons, the stone having to be carted to Adelong to be crushed, and although it gave excellent results, still the cost of getting the stone, and the heavy price of cartage over some very ugly country, left the profits too small, and the capital not being forthcoming to erect machinery on the spot the mine remained unworked for some time.
Recently some miners, hailing from Beaufort, Victoria, threw their energies into the matter, and formed a small company, principally from the sister colony. They at once saw the folly of having to pay exorbitant rates for cartage, so decided on erecting a battery of their own. A machine was purchased from Messrs. Higgins and Shaw, Kimo, and after great trouble and expense the whole of the machinery was placed on the ground and soon erected. It consists of ten head of stampers driven by an engine of 25 h.p., having a boiler 22 feet long, built in with bricks; over the whole is a large shed 40 feet by 40. The battery has been erected on the side of the hill, and a good fall obtained for the tailings. The tables are covered with the usual blanketing, and will, in course of time, be improved. The water required for the use of the machine is obtained from a dam thrown across the creek.
This dam is fed by a spring, besides having a good watershed leading into it. From the dam the water is conducted by 850 feet of piping to the engine house and machine, and is easily regulated by a valve at the dam. All things being ready the machine was christened the Duke of Beaufort last week, and on Monday, February 4, started on its first crushing: everything has gone on, so far, smoothly, and the indefatigable manager, Mr. Moore, seems well pleased.
A quarter-mile up the hill is the mine, the quartz from which has to be carted to the machine by bullock dray, which is able to keep the machine carefully supplied, as at present they are only working daywork, water being too scarce to keep it going night and. day. Before descending the mine I was invited to partake of some refreshment, not of the orthodox digger's damper and rancid bacon, but something far more palatable. After justice to the comestables, we first descended the northern shaft where the shift were at work. The sinking is through hard slate, the reef here being 5 to 7 inches, widening out as they get down on it. Gold is easily seen by the naked eye all through the stone. The reef is dipping south about 1 in 4. After looking through, this drive, which is in about 40 feet, we returned to the surface, and then descended the main shaft 60 feet deep. Here the reef has widened out to 18 inches, but in some places here and there it pinches. I have no doubt but as they go deeper the stone will widen. The reef carries gold freely all through it.
The drive from the main shaft is in about 80 feet along the reef, so that there is plenty of stone opened to keep the machine going. Only some twelve hands are at present at work on the claim, but if this, their first crushing, turns out anything near the mark full time will be made, that is three shifts will be employed, thus finding work for at least fifty hands. Several claims have been taken up along the line of reef, and the result of the present crushing is most anxiously looked forward too, if favourable quite an impetus will be given to gold mining in this locality.
The New South Wales miners have not the spirit of speculation of their Victorian brethren, or this ground would not have remained idle so long. The whole country around here has an auriferous look, reefs cropping up in all directions. Wishing our Beaufort friends success in their venture, we returned to the main road with the sound of the stampers going, long strange to my ears. Thanking Mr. Tutty for his kindness, I proceeded on my way towards Tumut. The road is up and down hill, and in fair order.
After a six mile ride, with nothing to be seen except a small selection on the way, pulled up at the halfway accommodation house, kept by Mr. Matthews. After a breather, I journeyed on, and a mile further passed Mr. Hammond's farm in a small bend that the ranges here make. The maize crops were looking healthy, and their green appearance was quite a relief to the eye so long accustomed to the brown tinge. The road from this becomes more open on the left hand, as the coast range makes a large bend with well cultivated plains to the foot of these ranges.
On the right hand side the road is made up of hills and ranges. Ten miles from Matthews's brought me in sight of Tumut, and crossing Gilmore creek, down which the muddy waters from the diggings were running, I entered a nice flat - a permanent reserve. Over the Gilmore creek a new bridge is greatly required, the present one not being at all safe, and in bad repair. Passing over the reserve I arrived in the township of Tumut just at dusk.
[TO BE CONTINUED.]