There was a gathering of survivors of the 1852 Gundagai Flood in Gundagai, 8-10 June 2002, for a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Flood (24 June is the actual anniversary date).

The Letter

by My Great-Great-Grandfather Henry Hargreaves (1811-1899)

From Australia to England, Summarizing His Life in Australia (1840-1870)

[Original kept in the Mitchell Library, Sydney]

See Also: Fragments of another letter by Henry about the period 1840-1861

June 11th 1870

Dear Nephew & wife,

I am glad to have another Relation to correspond with. I received your letter on the 11th June this month, and am sorry to hear of you being deprived of your only child by death. But no doubt you have learned to say in the language of Scripture ``The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away, Blessed be the name of Lord''. Now I think I cannot do better than give you an account of life since we left old England, it may be amusing to you if not instructive.

In the first place I will begin with our entering on board the Brigg ``Champion'', Captain Cockrane Master. We sailed from Liverpool on the 8th of May 1840. We had many things to learn and trials to endure. I was 29 years of age, my wife was 27 and we had 4 children, the youngest was 3 months old, a boy, but he died on the sea about a month after we started. It was a great trial for us at the time, but it proved a blessing to us as we had to suffer for want of food before we got to Sydney. We landed in Sydney on the 29th October and according to Emigration Regulations we were put in the Emigration Barracks until we got employed. I did not remain long there before I engaged with a Mr. John May to go up the country 320 miles. I was to watch 2 flocks of sheep, and do rough carpentering work. My wages was to be 30 Pounds a year and two Ration. The ration was 20 lbs of beef, 16 quarts of wheat, 1/2 lb of tea, 4 lbs of sugar. My time was to begin from the day I hired. Now began our troubles in earnest. We were 6 weeks on the road and had to Pitch our tent every night in company with convicts who were engaged by the same Master. There was 8 of us in the tent and two others slept outside. We had to put up with all kinds of obscene language and abuse, we had to learn to make our bread in the ashes, make our tea in an iron pot, boil our beef in the same, and many other things that came very strange to us. After we arrived at the station in two days we were removed 4 miles to a sheep station out in the Mountains to take charge and watch 2 flocks of sheep. I had not been there long before I was given one flock to shepherd, and my wages was 40 pounds and 3 rations. We stayed there 18 months after which I bought 2 bullocks made myself a dray out of an old cart that I bought for 6 pounds, out of 29 pounds that we saved, it cost 27 for the bullocks and dray. We started on our journey down to Gundagai where we arrived safe and I immediately engaged to work at the punt at 15 shillings a week and ration for my family, I remained there with various success until beginning of 1844 when we removed into a Paddock about 2 miles down the river and began farming, we were washed away by the flood of 1844 in the month of September. We lost no lives being saved by a blackfellow in a bark canoe. Then to recover our losses we hired with a squatter for 20 Pounds a year and no stint of rations, only stayed 12 months, got only 8 Pounds in place of 20, At this time I was bad with pains, the doctor said I should never get better, I was bad for 12 months. In 1845 I engaged with another squatter to form a dairy station and break in as many cows as I could and make butter and cheese. I to have half of the proceeds, We kept at this for two years but could not make anything to pay, so we gave it up. We then engaged with another small squatter to take his station and work it on the halves, We made about 50 Pounds in 11 months. We left this place and came to Gundagai and I bought a half acre allotment, this was in 1848. I built myself a house of wood, we had then got a team of 8 bullocks & dray and Richard my eldest son helped me to drive it. We got on very well, while in 1852 when we had everything swept away. [See news note above.] But we managed to save our lives. We got a little ration and a few clothes out of the fund that was distributed, but no money. I soon earned 30 Pounds by boating people and property that was going to the diggings in Victoria. Me & two of my sons started to Bendigo diggins. We took 3 horses and a pack horse was 3 weeks going sold our horses etc. got about 90 Pounds. We had spent all our money before we got an ounce of gold, but before we had been 6 weeks we had got near 6 lbs weight of gold that gave us another start in the world, We came home and followed gold digging for some time. In 1852 we began farming on Adelong Creek and supplying the diggers with beef, butter, & eggs. In 1855 I commenced keeping a Public House, only kept it 9 months, During this time I bought this land we are now living on, after leaving the Public House we removed to Tumut and lived there for some time, then the Adelong Reef diggings began, to which we removed, and we lost over 300 Pounds, having had no luck we then removed to our farm where we have been living ever since 1861. I have been in Queensland a distance from here of 1,000 miles. We went to the Gympie diggings, myself & son Wm. Henry my nephew James Blomley and another young man. The 3 young men only stayed about 3 weeks and returned home. They left me in the city of Brisbane, here I stayed about 9 weeks. After that I took another tour to Gimana diggings a distance of 100 miles. I bought an old mare for 13 shillings which carried my swag within 6 miles of the diggings and then died. I remained on the diggings about 7 weeks and was just beginning to get gold when I was suddenly called away by my son-in-law who had burst a blood vessel and was then in Brisbane where he had come for the good of his health. I immediately started and I walked the 100 miles within 3 days and I found him very weak. We stayed 6 weeks but he got no better so we set sail in a steamer and landed in Sydney on the 3rd day. There we stayed one week and started for home on the Railway to Goulburn, where we arrived at 6 P.M. started at 3 in the morning by stage coach for Gundagai I landed 12 P.M. same evening, but left my son-in-law at friends 25 miles behind. Next morning I was accommodated with a horse saddle and bridle and arrived at my son-in-laws place soon after dinner, to the great joy of them all having been away over 6 months.

To describe to you all I saw is out of my power, although I experienced many difficulties I never despaired. My desire for wandering about is still great. Since then I have been out prospecting on the Australian Alps near to Mount Kosciusko. Two of us were away for 6 weeks looking for gold. There is an extensive tract of country which is gold bearing and will last for ages, I have found a mineral but it is not gold. W.B. Clarke says it is Chalcedony a muriat of Opal. We have taken a lease of 30 acres from Government at 5 Pounds a year. Should we come across the Precious or Noble Opal we shall do well. Now I have given you a short account of our state etc. I shall tell you a little about our present affairs.

While I am writing the sun is shining and the weather looks promising, the lowlands are flooded, crops are being kept back from being put in, the ground traffic is suspended and roads impassable for loaded teams, even the mail is delayed by the floods, our town of Tumut is 20 miles from the main Southern Road, all our surplus Produce has to be carted by Bullock Drays or Horse Teams. I cannot name all the Farms in the district, but I can name our own relations who live in place. My son-in-law together with my son Wm. Henry, grow upwards of 1600 bushels of maize every year, My eldest son Richard grows over 800 bushels of maize and 400 bushels of wheat, besides Potatoes and other vegetables. My brother-in-law James Blomley grows 600 bushels of wheat, over 1000 bushels of maize, 25 tons of potatoes besides other vegetables. We grew last year near 300 bushels of wheat, but we don't have any servants. My wife, myself and the youngest son does all the work. We have a large orchard and that keeps us at work, besides a vegetable garden which my wife keeps well stocked with Peas beans, cabbages and pot Herbs. We milk our own cows, fatten our own bacon & have plenty of dried fruit such as peaches grapes. We have plenty of Jam both Peach plum, apples quinces, I must say we have cause to be thankful to God for all his goodness he has done to us all our family are doing well and are round about us. Although we are getting on in years we enjoy very good health, thank God.

Sunday 19th June

Just now as I am writing my son Richard has rode over to our place to show me a piece of Quartz with gold in it which they have found up in the mountains where they are digging, they think they are near a Reef and they want me to go out to them, it is about 20 miles from here, most likely I shall, (if all be well) go next week. So you must excuse this scrawl, and give my best regards to my old acquaintance Peter Hargreaves and tell him I will write him a letter some of these days if I can get his address our family was very much pleased with your portrait and if I can get our likenesses taken I will send them to you next time I write.

Give our love to all enquiring friends, to my only sister and her family and all my cousins and accept the same yourselves from your affectionate Uncle

Henry Hargreaves

We sent a letter to my sister 3 weeks ago with my wifes photograph in it, I hope she has got it.

I now wish you good bye, and God bless you some of our children will write bye and bye and send their Portraits.

This letter was transcribed to computer form by Alvy Ray Smith (III) on August 15, 1984. The original was posted to England to Richard Hargreaves, nephew of the writer, and brought by him back to Australia. A copy was made by Stella Hargreaves Crampton in 1947 from which a typewritten copy was made by Hilary Hargreaves Owen in 1965. I worked from the typewritten copy and have preserved the spelling and punctuation of it.

The Hargreaves come from the Burnley, Bolton, Bury, Blackburn area of Lancashire, north of Manchester, principally Burnley.