Fragments of Another Letter

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

Written After 1861, Summarizing His Life in Australia (1840-1861)

See Also: The full letter by Henry, covering the period from 1840 to 1870


A previously published letter written by Henry Hargreaves to “Nephew and Wife” appears in the 1974 Tumut and District Sesqui Centenary book. The fragments printed in this book[1] [i.e., below] are from a second letter written by Henry and found by the family in the early 1990s. Ed. [H. E. Snowden]

[1] Henry Ernest Snowden, Pioneers of the Tumut Valley: The History of Early Settlement (Tumut, New South Wales: Tumut & District Historical Society Inc., 2004), 43, 60–61, 69.

On May 8th 1840 we sailed from Liverpool Eng. in the bark Champion 800 tons burden, Captain Cochrane master over 300 steerage passengers on board beside cabin passengers. Our voyage was very pleasant until we got to Rio Janario where we stayed 10 days. We experienced no squalls or very bad weather but soon after leaving Rio we were put on short rations although there was plenty of food previous to this. We had had only 1 death & that was our infant of 4 months old, but before we landed in quarantine there were 21 deaths. We stayed in quarantine 22 days & on the 29th Oct. we were landed in Sydney. On the 2nd Nov. I engaged with Mr John Hay as sheep watchman over them & rough carpenter for 2 rations and £30 a year – namely 16 quarts of wheat 20 lb. beef 1/2 lb. tea & 4 lb. sugar. Our journey up the country was anything but pleasant, travelling with bullocks & drays & black-guard drivers, bad flour & post rail tea & dark sugar, had the mortification before we were long on the road to see any amount of drunkenness which soon brought on sudden death of one of the drivers named Corky who rolled off in front of (lost pages)

. . . 

Myself, wife & 3 children being in log canoe anchored to a tree stump about 15 ft high in the middle of the paddock on the highest piece of ground I could find dry.

In the morning where we made a fire & dried our clothes which had got wet in crossing a creek which ran from the river into a lagoon which then ran parallel to the river.

We did not remain long on dry ground before it rose & put out our fire & we had to get into the canoe where we soon got cold & wet having nothing to cover us with but a small wet rug & blanket. About midday the water seemed to be at a stand still & we were in hopes an abatement of the water would take place, but to our astonishment in about an hour a sudden rise took place which soon rose over the fence on seeing which I said to my wife I would let go the painter & try to get to land, but she said for God’s sake don’t Henry.

Before she had done speaking we were drifting with the flood & I said now lay down as low as you can & mind if we should come under those brambles that are floating just above the water duck your heads, I had only a piece of paling to guide her with, I could not help her from going round like a top.

I must confess that a wise providence was watching over us, once I thought it was all over with us we were going broadside on against a large gum tree the head of the canoe going right for the main stream when to my surprise & joy the hind part of the canoe struck the tree & we were safe in the eddy of waters behind the tree. I rested for a few seconds & looked and saw people running along the river bank & as our canoe was head on shore I struck out & in a few minutes was safe on land.

The first person that spoke to me was Joseph Morley who said that there had been 8 drowned out of the big boat that day. We had no place to go to every house was full of people who had fled or been rescued from the flood, so we were glad to take shelter in a small bark place used for a horse there, we 5 laid down on a sheet of bark in our clothes with 1 rug & blanket to cover us with. During the night it was awful to hear the shrieks of people amid falling houses & the roaring of the waters.

When the day began to dawn we got up to see if anything was left of our effects but not a vestage of anything to be seen the wheat stack gone our boxes which was placed on a platform made on a level with the body of the dray, both boxes & dray gone, my wife said she would go & drown herself, I said we ought to be thankful to God that our lives were spared. Our losses I estimated at near £300 besides my business which was worth over 2 hundred a year.

I was nothing daunted while I had my health I soon got a job on the river boating people & property over at which I made over £30 in less than 3 weeks at the end of which time our son came over from Mount Alexander & brought 15 pounds in money which gave us sufficient to start with to the Bendigo diggings where we arrived safe after 3 weeks travelling. Sold our horses saddle etc. for over £80 with which we commenced to dig, took in one mate which made four of us. We did not get anything scarcely ounce of gold, when our money was all spent 5 weeks was gone no signs of striking anything. We had sunk 7 holes in the ironbark gully & was going down with the 8th when my son said to me father I will go down to the Bendigo creek & see if I can strike something there & let us not leave this hole unbottomed, had no opinion that there could be any gold there as it was close to the dray road along side of the gully. We were at dinner at the time our John had gone down 3 or 4 ft. After dinner we went into the hole & before we had dug 6 ft. deep we had taken 7-pound weight of gold. Our partner then said he would go home so he & me & another bought saddles & bridles & started for home. Left my 2 sons behind who made over £80 more in less than 2 weeks. I left gave them £20 to go on with. I got home all safe & sound although we could hear the robbers & bushrangers were murdering on our right & left. I started down to Sydney immediately to fetch our eldest daughter, (who we heard was there) & who wanted to come home. Our journey was not very pleasant however we got home safe after all this time. Adelong creek had broken out & gold was being got in the bed of the creek, so we started digging again which we kept at off & on until 1861 when we moved to our present farm 145 acres at Tumut, where we are now living.