Report from Gundagai
The Sydney Morning Herald
22 January 1845
Gundagai. January 14.
Harvest is generally completed in this district, and I am sorry to say that nearly all the late wheat which promised so large a yield has been seriously injured by rust and blight, consequent, I imagine, on the sudden changes of the atmosphere which we have experienced since the date of my last communication.
Christmas Day was excessively hot here; but about nine o'clock in the evening a sudden change took place, a cold cutting wind sprung up from the eastward, so piercing as to compel the closing of doors and windows, and additional clothing on beds and persons.
The change was instantaneous, and the result general catarrhal affections of rather a severe kind amongst the bipeds of the district.
The weather, however, again set in fierce and fiery until Sunday, the 29th, and on the night of that day succeeded a sharp frost- so sharp that at daylight on Monday the reapers could scarce work.
This very unseasonable chance caught the late wheat in the "milk," or half ripe state, and injured it seriously.
I am aware that many writers on the subject date the existence of "rust" as primeval with the vegetation of the seed, and the seed itself, and maintain that it cannot be considered as a subsequent epidemic, if I may so speak; but in this particular instance I can vouch for the fact, that up to Sunday night the late wheat here was of a most splendid appearance, and healthy to a degree, whilst on Monday p.m. it had changed its aspect altogether, and looked uncommonly dark, which attracted my attention at a distance, and on inspection I found it covered from root to ear with rust, so thick, as in places to obscure the stem.
It ripened very quickly, and the grain had the appearance of wheat two or three years old, or which had been "stack burnt;" it was, in fact, only about two-thirds of the size it would have been had it not been rusted, and had the rust struck it earlier, we should not have had a grain.
I attribute this solely to the frost, and i the same effect was produced on the natural grasses, in low situations, where the late flood had left much deposit; all the grass, in fact, upon our flats, is destroyed by it, and in walking through it, your "nether garments" are covered with a ferruginous dust, which will not wash out, but stains like iron mould.
We want rain badly here, and the weather is very oppressive, thermometer at 95° degrees in the shade; bush fires are prevalent, and this, added to the parching heat, will soon produce a serious effect on our cattle runs if rain does not fall.
The body of a Mr. Payne, a resident grazier near the Murray, was found dead last week in a water hole; whether the act which resulted in his death was murderous or a purely accidental occurrance has not yet transpired.
The fresh arrangements for running the mail twice a week, under the management of the new contractor, commenced on Monday, the 6th instant, when we had the first post from Sydney.
Mr. Green's appliances "are very creditable," and there is no doubt of his performing his contract with every credit to himself.
The mill at Gundagai is so far forward towards completion, that the proprietor will commence grinding on or about the 1st March.
The meteor described so fully in your various correspondence was seen here agreeably to time, position, and appearance, as detailed by you.
The Comet has been visible every night since it was first seen here by us.
The news of O'Connell's liberation has caused a little display of repeal influence here amongst the natives of the "Green Isle."
A report had obtained general credence in Gundagai, that Mr. Commissioner Bingham, of the Tumut, had been in correspondence with the Governor on the subject of a removal of the township from its present site to the opposite or south-western bank of the Murrumbidgee.
This is now placed beyond all doubt, Mr. Bingham having shown one of the inhabitants of Gundagai the Governor's letter on the subject.
A letter to his Excellency the Governor from the Gundagaites is being got up, praying a suspension of all decision on his part, until a memorial can be prepared from the District generally, all the inhabitants of which are loud against the measure prayed for by the Commissioner.
The township of Gundagai is situation the upper side of an almost semi-circular bend of the river, and is divided nearly equally by a water course or creek, which flows from the Murrumbidgee on the eastern side of the village, traversing it, and entering the river again on the western side.
The south western boundary of the township is the river, and the north eastern allotments rest on and extend up: a range-the only point of safety in the late flood; that portion of the village lying between the creek alluded to and the river- (and at present the only portion inhabited) is intersected by channels from the creek, and during the late flood was from this cause covered with water.
Now, the portion from the creek to the range is undulatory and above high water mark, and not more than 120 rods from the river, has been surveyed and is open for sale. It is to this portion of the township the inhabitants are desirous of removing their goods and chattels, and 16 or 17 allotments are already applied for by them; but owing to some question of finance between the Governor and the Surveyor, Mr. Larmer, they cannot yet be sold, the squares not being marked off into allotments.
It is the intention of the inhabitants to memorialize for an exchange of allotments to this spot, and which the Governor cannot, we should think, refuse, seeing that one half of the site of the present township is untenable in flooded seasons.
The two scoundrels who have so long annoyed the residents on the Lower Murrumbidgee, are at length apprehended. Two of our Commissioners (Beckham's) troopers passed here with them, in custody, a few days back.
Too much credit cannot be accorded to these men for their untiring perseverance in pursuance of these villains, and the circumstances of the capture redeems, to a great extent, the general character of the border police for apathy and want of energy.
The two troopers in question followed the robbers many hundred miles, and came upon them at the junction of the Lachlan with the Murrumbidgee.
They were in company with about 400 wild blacks who decamped with a "sauve qui peut," so soon as the carbines made their appearance.
The fellows had a number of cattle with them, and were regaling the aboriginals with fresh beef daily, as their wants demanded.
This would appear to be in order to quiet the savages, and induce them to consent to their departure, they being en route to Adelaide.
It was very questionable policy however. The police took three horses from them, belonging to Messrs. Oakes and Dallas.
The cattle principally belonged to Messrs. Rudd and Oakes. The men were well armed, and largely furnished with tea, sugar, flour, ammunition, &e.
The settlers hereabouts ought to raise a small sum for the benefit of the troopers, to mark their sense of a due performance of duty, in contrast to that carelessness which too strongly marks the character of the border police generally.
Mr. Wall, Curator of the Sydney Museum, has been some time in our neighbourhood, collecting specimens in ornithology, and has succeeded in classing many new species, as well as establishing some interesting distinctions between well-known varieties of this district, and birds of the same class inhabiting other ports of the country.
There is a wide field open for the naturalist in this splendid part of the country, and Mr. Wall has roamed it and gleaned its curiosities with untiring exertion.
The weather has undergone a vast change here since yesterday, up to which period it had been suffocatingly hot. Last evening a strong north-west gale set in, which veered round to south-west towards night, and was accompanied by some thunder and rain.
The night subsequently became intensely cold, and the wind blew in strong gusts from the eastward.
To-day is clear, and uncommonly cold for the period of the year, and the wind is all round the compass, and rain is very badly wanted here now.
The showers last night I hope have extinguished the bush fires, as no smoke obscures the atmosphere to-day.