News From the Interior - Gundagai
The Sydney Morning Herald
20 August 1844
Since the date of my last communication, the weather here has formed a striking contrast to the reported condition of the "atmospheric influences" with you of the low country.
We have had a few days of invigorating and genial sunshine, the effect of which on vegetation has been materially checked by severe frosts, but, generally, the atmosphere has been damp and chilly, and a considerable quantity of rain has fallen since yesterday morning it has descended in soft and soaking showers unintermittingly, and this evening harbingers another wet night.
The river is swollen and turbid, and quite impassable (save by the punt) here.
Last week, a fatal accident occurred at the Ovens River.
It is difficult to obtain facts in detail here unless you witness an occurrence, but the following circumstance may be relied on as correct, I believe.
The man who drives the mail-cart from Port Phillip, on that portion of the road which passes the Ovens, found, on his arrival at the usual ford, that the stream was impassable without imminent risk, from its swollen state by a sudden and heavy fall of rain.
Being a good swimmer, he pushed into the torrent; but from inability to trace the line of the ford, he unconsciously diverged into the deep bed of the river, and was immediately drowned.
The horse and cart reached the opposite bank in safety, and from the absence of any complaint on the part of our Postmaster. I presume the mails were delivered safely in Gundagai.
Another accident of a very distressing character has also occurred at Bego, the station of E. Crispe, Esq, in the Tumut district. Mr. Crispe was removing his stock to another station and encamped for the night on a creek about seven miles distant from Bego.
One of his servants, a married man, was accompanied by his wife and on only child, a little girl of about three years old, at the bivouac, about sunset, the child playfully told her parents she would go back to Bego, and started along the track in that direction.
No notice was taken of her absence (owing to the bustle and hurry of encamping) for some time, and in the interval Mr. Crispe had strolled away, when the child was missed, the impression was that she must be with that gentleman, but on his being found by the father, and ascertaining that Mr. Crispe had not seen her, the alarm and distress of the parents may be more readily conceived than described.
All parties proceeded in search - for night was closing in, and with it a heavy full of snow and sleet; Mr. Crispe used every exertion to discover the infant, but without success; the waterholes were dragged, and the forest closely examined but no trace of the little sufferer could be discovered.
A tempestuous and intensely cold night passed away- and with the light the search was renewed, with the like success, and the unfortunate parents were compelled to adopt the distressing conviction that their infant was gone forever.
Another night wore away - and on the second day, Mr. Watson, of the Monero, on his way to aid in the search, discovered the body of the little suffer lying beneath a tree rigid and stark: having no doubt perished during the first night of her absence, in the snow.
It is a most distressing event. Sometime in the beginning of the year, a child about the same age was lost by his mother, in the middle of the day, near the same place or neighbourhood and never was found again.
The inhabitants of this district have long been anxious for the establishment of a mill at Gundagai, and we are now.
I am happy to say likely soon to see and enjoy the fulfillment of our wishes.
A party, whose name I do not know (a practical man), has lately visited us for the purpose of taking notes of our condition to sustain "a milling:" and so satisfied is he with the agricultural capabilities and resources of the district, as well as with the position of the place, that he has determined upon erecting a water-mill without delay, and will be ready to grind by the end of the year.
This will indeed be a giant stride towards the creation of an "Oasis in the Desert" To us, "the mill" ever forms and has proved one of the most striking points in the features, as the condition, of an agricultural district.
It is a practical illustration of the industry and resources of the people and the neighbourhood.
A mill in full operation is I fancy one of the most pleasing sights that the eye can dwell upon: the buzz and hum of its machinery, the most greatful to the ear, no man can regard it without interest; it is associated with every feeling that is agreable to the mind; in contemplating it, all the beautiful attendants on, and the graritifying results proceeding from "industry" force themselves upon us; the song of birds that "ushers in the dawn;" the ploughman with his long team; "turning the furrows of the well ploughed field”, the stirring seed time (season of hope and expectancy); the green and waving fields, the spring, the summer and the harvest-field; the will stored barn, and cheerful cottage, all are reflected upon our contemplation of a mill; Goldsmith claims it amongst the "charm" of a district:-
How often have I gazed on every charm!
The shelter'd cot, the cultivated farm:
The never failing brook: the busy mill!
The decent church that topp'd the neighbouring hill.
We of Gundagai however, without pretending to sentimentalize on the subject, shall hail the erection of a mill is a great benefit and saving to the district, and it will have the effect of abolishing at once those abominable instruments, those Gorgons to a hut keeper, the steel mills.
Flour is infinitely cheaper to the propietor than wheat, as a ration to his men. A bushel of good wheat (which will weigh 60lbs ), will yield 50lbs of excellent ration flour if ground by a steam or other mill and this is five rations, and the proprietor has the siftins for his pigs, horses, or poultry.
The same bushel of wheat issued to the men as wheat, to be ground by themselves at a steel mill, will only yield four rations, (which is a peck to each), and you lose the bran.
The cost of a mill and seive I suppose will be now £1, and the cost of keeping the mill in repair is up here, exactly 20s per annum.
As the water mill is the most economic of all mills, I presume we shall get our grinding and dressing done up here for 1s per bushel, and of course for 20s get twenty bushels ground. Thus for the annual lost of keeping a steel mill in repair, we shall have one hundred rations of flour dressed, which is within forty pounds sufficient for two men for a year; and a mill and sieve is very frequently monopolised by two hands, and more than three men never occupy one sheep station.
Thus the economy of four will be apparent to one who will trouble himself to calculate it. It will also have a good effect in another way, it will reduce the labour of hut-keepers very materially, and consequently their wages.
The mill will bring grist to other places besides its own hopper, it will increase the trade of Gundagai vastly, by bringing many of the Tumut settlers there, and others living at a distance.
The labour market in this district is well supplied, as will with mechanics as other labourers.
The general average of rates for shepherds is £ 14 and £ 15, and for watchmen, £12 and £13. This time last year, the same description of servants had £23 mid £20; this is a great reduction, and as the flocks on almost all establishments comprise one thousand sheep, the cost of sheep breeding, is, I conceive, now reduced to a figure which must remunerate those who are not already clogged by debt. Mechanics wages are very low here.
In my last communication I alluded to the boiling down of fat sheep, and other stock, by the proprietors themselves.
I shall soon be enabled to lay before you an account of the result of such an experiment by gentleman in this neighbourhood, who has been carrying it on for the last month, boiling a score per day, he informed my brother, a few days since, that he calculated his expenses would not exceed three farthings per sheep when his tallow was delivered.
This of course does not, I presume, include casks.
The Tarrabandra establishment has ceased operations for want of material to boil - all parties who can at all afford it, are now holding back their flocks for the fleece, which this year promises to be heavy, and it is anticipated the shearing will be done for two shillings per score.
In a few weeks our lambing will commence, and in most establishments a large percentage of increase is anticipated, provided the weather is genial.
August 12 - Nothing but a succession of heavy showers since Friday night, and the appearance of the atmosphere to-day is indicative of anything but fine weather.
Stock have suffered much from the continued inclemency of the season; sheep in particular have fallen off fifty per cent in condition.
We would gladly participate in a months sunshine.