News From The Interior, Wagga Wagga
4 June 1851 The Sydney Morning Herald
With feelings of deep and sincere gratitude we chronicle a bountiful fall of rain over our thirsty land, and although the quantity which has fallen is comparatively light to that which has deluged neighbouring localities, and the conterminous districts to the south and cost, it has been sufficient for our immediate wants.
How true is that beautiful passage, "God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb," and how sensibly illustrated in the character of the late delightful atmospheric changes!
Had the ordering of the seasons been accorded to ourselves, we could not have brought about this blessed change more favourably to our interests than it has been ordered for us.
The rain has been soft and warm, unaccompanied by cold piercing winds (generally prevalent at this period of the year,) and the atmosphere since has been most invigorating, sunny, bright, and cloudless, so that the poor animals, wasted as they are by the hand of famine, have scarce felt any ill effects from the change, whilst the earth not being suddenly chilled, (which we might have expected as the result of rain at so late a period of the year) is giving forth its vegetable treasures rapidly and in abundance.
Our plains have already lost the seared and desert aspect which so long blasted their beauty and deformed their loveliness, and are rapidly clothing themselves in robes of green and gladness.
Upon old and fallow lands agricultural operations tire going on, but the late rains have not been sufficiently saturating to allow of new soils being turned up, especially as animal strength is now so low.
More rain would be hailed with satisfaction, to enable the settlers to extend their agricultural operations, the late scarcity of flour having taught these obtuse gentlemen the egregious folly of sparing the seed in a season of fruitfulness.
For several days last week, the atmosphere to the south and east wore a dense and murky aspect, indicative of "heavy wet" in these points, and although we had naught but bright and vivifying sunshine in this district, the river rose from the effects of distant rains referred to fully 22 feet perpendicularly.
The flood commenced on the night of Saturday the 18th, and continued until the morning of Tuesday the 20th, when it commenced subsiding, and the river is now not more than 10 feet above the limit which bound its stream on Saturday.
All the noble lagoons in proximity to the river have been filled by this timely yet unlooked for flood, and the extensive points and low lands have been innundated. On these latter places there will be an abundant supply of rich young grass in a very short time.
The thousands of dead animals that lined the river's brink, and polluted the beds of the lagoons and water courses near the river, have all been swept away, to furnish the good people of Adelaide with proofs of the nakedness of our land.
There is a circumstance connected with this flood which should not be passed unheeded by, affording as it does to the observant mind food for deep and pleasing reflection, and marking in so strong a degree the wonderful operation of that attribute of animals not gifted with reason, which man for want of a more definitive phrase has termed "instinct," but which appeals upon reflection rather as the unseen but ever watchful influence of that protecting Providence, without whose will not even n sparrow falleth to the ground.
The circumstance we refer to is this:- The extraordinary foreknowledge of this flood, evinced by the emmet tribe, whose colonies were (as shown by the result) within its influence.
We have already stated that down here we had nothing but bright unvarying sunshine, not a cloud shadowed the sky during the whole of the past week ; the river was clear and unusually low, being fordable in many places in not more than two feet of water, and there was nothing present to indicate the slightest probability of a change so great as that which so speedily ensued in the condition of the river.
Nevertheless on Thursday morning, the 15th, we were astonished at observing dense columns of ants moving in parallel lines from the river's bank towards the high ground in every direction; six of these columns occupied the ground in front of our dwelling, upon which they advanced in regular light infantry fashion.
At distances within these columns came bodies of the principal personages of the emmet cities and government, and most certainly we were struck by their diversity of appearance.
The ants we speak of were of the small black kind, which I am not naturalist enough to classify, but which I believe is well known to most persons who use sugar, or who happen occasionally to leave the stoppers out of their jars of preserves.
Notwithstanding the diminutive size of the labourers of the colony, the aristocratic portion of the community were gigantic, numbers being half an inch in length, with broad wings, and exactly resembling the queen bee, judging from the full breast, the taper waist, and other characteristic proportions, together with the quick and timid step, and the obsequious attentions of several hundreds of gay Lotharios who attended their every movement with the most gallant perseverance, we set these down at once as the ladies of the Court.
At intervals, too, came great burly fellows, without wings, whose independent stride and look of intense care, added to the deep respect paid them by the plebeian throng, who stepped quickly out of their way, and paused to look after them awhile, convinced us were the Executive Officers.
Our imagination being alive, we could readily distinguish a prime minister, a secretary of state, a lord high chancellor, and all the other dignitaries of a well regulated Government.
With the exception of the gentleman courtiers in attendance on the ladies, the ministerial pismires, and the ladies themselves, every ant was laden with ova or pupa, which they conveyed to places of safety. In a short time our verandah posts and all the house was swarmed with these indefatigable creatures; and here we had full opportunity of observing the end and aim of the general movement.
In all the mortices along the wall-plate of the verandah, masses of the eggs and pupa were deposited, and in fact in every dry, warm, available place, and the quantity conveyed into our residence from Thursday morning until Monday is beyond conception.
All the winged ants, before described, were lodged in the same crevices or sheltered places with the eggs, whilst those ants we conceived to be the Executive, lodged by themselves. We were highly delighted with the proceeding, and found on inspection the same movement going on all along the river bank; in every stump, in the mortices of post and rail fences, and in every other secure place, there were cups full of eggs and pupa.
By Monday morning, the migration was completed, and on Monday night all their deserted habitations were beneath the flood. The insects have made no attempt to return to their old homes, although they are now above water mark.
Probably this is because they are still damp and uncomfortable, but we are disposed to think their present "fixity of tenure" is indicative of another flood. We shall watch their movements with interest, and although we are assured numbers will consider the subject we have referred to as too trifling to occupy a column of your valuable space, we also feel there are many, who, like ourselves, will regard it as an extraordinary and interesting circumstance, particularly when they reflect that here the river was clear and bright, and more than ordinarily shallow, and that not a cloud had darkened the sky for days when the migratory movement commenced. The heavy appearance to the south and east, which we have referred to, was visible only on the edge of the horizon, where was a settled haze.
Flour is now 30s. per 100 lbs. with us, and is likely we fear to be much higher. We regret that our remarks on this subject in our last, have raised the bile of the Goulburn Herald. We could forgive him all he says except the atrocity of calling us a "scribbler."
Had he called us an ass, or a fool, we should have been content, because these orders of animals admit of generic classification, but a "scribbler" is such a nondescript, such a perfect "hybrid" that we must insist on his retracting. We are aware, however, that lie has always been envious of our style of writing, and "hinc illę lachrymę."
Now we are perfectly satisfied that the high price of flour in Goulburn and Yass, and consequently in all the southern districts, has arisen, not from a scarcity of wheat, but from gross monopoly.
Now if we look at the impossibility of the sale of wheat at 1s. per bushel before last harvest, and the present large quantity unground in the hands of one individual in Yass, it is fair to presume that the anticipated supply from the harvest last year was so large as to render it impolitic in the millers to buy wheat at 1s. Per bushel, and that the result of that harvest had been so large that they have not been able to grind up their old stock of grain, having their granaries filled with ready ground flour.
No doubt the same causes operate in Goulburn, and the people are suffering not from a dispensation of Providence, but from grasping monopolists, who would literally "grind the people to make bread."
There is but one mill in Yass and one in Goulburn, and these two establishments afford the only outlet for agricultural produce in the immense districts within which they are in operation.
To each of the mills a large general store is attached, and a floating currency is established between the two concerns: the miller draws on the storekeeper, and the storekeeper on the miller.
The farmer has no outlet for his produce, but at the mill and the New South Wales farmer is an improvident animal, always allowing the end of the year to find him without even the bread he grows.
He goes to the mill, and he must sell; the miller will not buy unless he takes half goods; he takes half goods, and for the payment of the other moiety gets an order on the store- keeper": to cash this the storekeeper gives him a number of small orders on the miller, and these he takes as cash to meet his household expenses.
By this system the miller, from his position, soon becomes possessed of all the small farmer's produce, frequently at prices from 9d. to 1s. per bushel, and seldom at the higher rate than 2s. 6d. per bushel, giving as we have shown, half goods, and the remainder in I. O. U.'s, or what is the same thing " orders" on his own stores.
Having filled his granaries he can come into the market and buy from a large settler a quantity of wheat at 5s. or 6s. per bushel, and this forms the standard by which to dispose of his own stores laid in at an average of Is. 3d. per bushel.
This is the character of the monopoly, and its " modus operandi," and from what we have stated, some idea may be formed of the result of such a system if (as has been the case this year) a dry season should set in.
We have no hesitation in asserting, from what we have been told by persons of respectability, (residents in the districts of Goulburn and Yass, and acquainted with the working of the " system,") that at this moment there is a sufficiency of wheat and flour in the two mills (i.e., now held by the two millers) to supply the joint districts for a whole year abundantly; without, of course, calculating on the forthcoming harvest seven months hence.
We have been long surprised that some spirited capitalist does not start a second mill, in one or both of the towns of Yass and Goulburn: we are assured it would pay them well.
The Goulburn Herald attempts to show that a deficiency in the wheat crop of last year was caused by the operation of the Crown Land Regulations. No such tiling it is the result of this same monopoly, the farmer being convinced he had better turn shepherd, than grow wheat at ninepence, or even two shillings and sixpence, per bushel.
Since the date of our last, the Rev. T. H. Wilkinson, Episcopalian Clergyman, has per formed divine service several times at Wagga Wagga. At present the districts of Wagga Wagga, Albury, Gundagai, and Tumut, subscribe jointly for the support of the rev. gentleman. We, in common with most others, have a great abhorrence of such a system as this, and we hope next year that the Government will be in a position to vote a stipend for a clergyman for each of the places indicated.
We have a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Patrick Fitzgerald, stationed here, under the direction of the Synod of New South Wales. This gentleman's stipend is also raised by voluntary subscription. Mr. Fitzgerald performs service every Sunday at Wagga Wagga.
We are preparing for the performance of our duties under the Electoral Act, and by next post we shall perhaps be justified in stating the name of the gentleman likely to represent us.
It is rumoured that Mr. Councillor Flood intends to canvas the districts of Lachlan and Lower Darling, and his sudden appearance in the district, with some other circumstances, would appear to strengthen the report.
It is to be hoped that the settlers will act with caution in the first election; an error committed then may never be retrieved, and we would beg of them to bear in mind that they had better not be represented at all than mis-represented.
In our next you shall receive the return of the population of the district, with other matters in reference thereto.