T. Horton James: 1838

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This extract is taken from Six Months in South Australia, J. Cross, London, 1838 by T. Horton James, Esq.

pp. 175-194.



(abridged from a Letter to a Friend in London.)

“Having visited now all parts of New South Wales except the south, including the cedar grounds on the northern boundary, to the fine country on the west about Wellington Valley; the author started for the rich districts about Airds and Appin, stopping for the night in Campbell Town, at a very comfortable and quiet inn, kept by Miss Andrews. It is not every day that we fall in with a landlady of the best inn in the place, good looking, single, and under thirty years of age; and it is the more remarkable in a Colony where hitherto there has been a large excess of male population over female; but owing to her very respectable character, and the manner in which the inn is conducted, it is deservedly and extensively patronized by the first people of the Colony who have occasion to travel to the southward. Campbell Town has nothing to recommend it, but a singularly pretty country, for a great part appropriated to the growth of hay for the Sydney market, though in other respects one of the worst selections for a town that could have been made by the Highland Governor Macquarrie [sic], as there is not a drop of drinkable water nearer than the Nepean river, five miles off. Stopped at the township of Appin, a miserable abortion of a place in a delightful country, and went to visit the much-talked of water-fall in the neighbourhood, called King’s Falls. No doubt they would have been very pretty, had there been any water; but, like the part of Hamlet in the tragedy, which had been omitted, on a certain particular occasion, so there seemed nothing wanting to make this natural curiosity at the King’s Falls highly attractive and beautiful, but the important feature of water. So, galloping off in disgust from this formidable cataract, there was hardly a drink for my horse in a hole at the bottom, the road, if it could be called one, lay over a high stony country, with nothing but moss and desolation for upwards of twenty miles in the direction of the sea. During the whole of this distance, the rider neither saw any human creature, fence, nor habitation; and had it not been for the glimpse of a stry cow, in the course of this mountainous journey, he might almost have imagined himself alone. Again for the twentieth time he felt impressed with the singular solitude and awful silence of this country of New Holland; nothing seems to live, or move, or have its being :- there are no trees, even, worthy the name, nor even a little bird or tiny lizard to enliven the dread loneliness of the road - nothing but the tramp, tramp, of your horse’s feet over the high, mossy, and scrubby moors. Alone and musing , now and then looking at the sun to see how the time goes, and then wondering where all this wilderness will end, you suddenly approach a fall of country in the direction of the east, and so striking and unexpected is the scene, that it is not for a few moments that you find it is the ocean, all around you and below you. You find yourself on the top of a mountain, without having had the slightest idea or recollection of any ascent; but it is in truth the ocean, and no delusive appearance of the air, such as it often exhibits from elevated lands; for there is a white line of surf for twenty miles along the beach, though                                ‘the murmuring surge                               That on the unnumbered idle pebble chafes,                      Cannot be heard so high !’

“I could not help dismounting, and tying my horse to a tree to enjoy the solemn scene. But I won’t describe; so throwing my bridle over my arm, and resting myself and horse, by walking down the rugged hill, I found the mountain pass of Illawarra, of all the bad roads I had ever experienced, in a pretty extensive travelling, exceeded them all. The character of the country had now changed from the morning, as opposite as light from darkness - it was near sun set, but from the gloom of the luxuriant tropical and giant trees over head, it seemed almost midnight - ‘till now and then emerging from the thick bush into a spot comparatively light and clear, you see that the soil is as rich as butter on every side, except just where the water courses have formed a sort of road down the hill and exposed the bare tops of rugged sand stone. There is no possibility of going slow, for you must keep your bridle at full stretch, taking care to get out of the way of your horse, who for nearly an hour, keeps stumbling and sliding behind you, every now and then frightened, at the leaps he has to make down the frequent ledges of rock. Half way down the hill, stands a hollow venerable tree, well known to travellers weary - so patting my poor horse on the crupper, I drove him into the tree and there let him rest a minute or two, while I sate down outside wiping the perspiration from my forehead. The tree was large enough to have accommodated half a dozen other horses besides mine, but as it was getting late, I then remounted, being hot and tired of my walk, supposing that after all this continuous descent we must be nearly at the bottom of the hill; so riding as fast as the bad road would let me, we presently came up to the first and only sign of humanity I had seen all day; viz, a three-rail fence, and afterwards seeing a light, for it was now pitch dark, and hearing the barking of dogs, rode up, and enquiring whose place that was, found it was Mr. _____’s cottage, on Bulli beach. I found that the family was absent, and the cottage undergoing some repairs, but the farm servants, in the truly hospitable New South Wales fashion, set to work unasked, to groom and take care of my horse, whilst the tea and damper, fried salt pork, butter and milk, were soon displayed before a rousing fire, which was not too hot though in the middle of summer, and going early to bed, I slept like a top.

“Next morning up with the sun, which is not very early in these latitudes. Here I gazed with delight on the scene around. The splashing of the sea almost coming up the the virandah [sic] of the cottage, and behind were the lofty and thickly-wooded hills, down whose precipitous sides we had almost scrambled over night. To the northward along the shore lay Port Hacking and the south head of Botany Bay, while away to the southward, were the barren rocks called the Five Islands. So after a hearty breakfast, and bidding the servants good morning, behold me cantering off through the rich forest and then along the cheerful sands of Illwarra to the new township [Wollongong], where I was pleased to see three considerable schooners lying at anchor in the harbour, but pitching their bows almost under water. The day was calm and beautiful and if this is your harbour now, thought I, what would it be in a stormy trade wind from the north-east ? This pretty district is extremely fertile and received a very constant and favourable attention from the late Governor Bourke; but ‘till it is made more accessible by good roads and regular steamers, and a more permanent and abundant supply of fresh water is provided for the inhabitants, it cannot be expected, under any system of patronage, to be of much account. There is a road to the southward by Tom Thumb’s Lagoon, all the way to Shoal Haven and Jervis Bay; but I preferred making the best of my way to Mittagong and so on to Berrima. Nobody can help being pleased with the rich lands of Illawarra; and it would not surprise the writer to hear, in the course of ten years, that the lands there, cleared, fenced, and with suitable buildings, realize 20s. per acre annual rent. The facility of getting produce to market by means of steamers, will by that time ,ake property here as valuable as on the navigable parts of Hunter’s River. The bulk of the country between the coast and Mittagong is a poor forest country, but at Mittagong, the country rises considerably, and the climate is much colder and wetter than down at Illawarra, and the maize, which I walked through at the latter place ten and eleven feet high, will not grow at all at Berrima or Mittagong. At least they say so, though I am far from credulous; for when one looks at the fine crops of this grain growing on the north side of the Pyrenees in Europe, 45 degrees from the equator, it would seem strange that it should not ripen in Sutton Forest in latitude 35 degrees. No doubt the elevation of 2000 feet is far greater here, than any of the gaves of the Basses Pyrenees; but the author thinks it is for want of the proper kind of seed. This should be attended to, as the want of corn for horses on the south road is most expensive and inconvenient, and had that excellent agriculturalist lived, the late Mr. Atkinson, of Oldbury, there is little doubt, on his fine estate, that he would have overcome all the difficulties attending the culture of this most precious gift of nature.

“Though anticipating rather, I will here venture to copy my bill for one night’s lodging at the inn at Bogolong [south of Yass], because it shews what might be done by growing maize or indian corn of the right sort, the forty day corn.                                         


L. s. d.


0  2  0


0  2  0


0  2  0

Two feeds of corn for horse at 4s. per feed!

0  8  0


L.0  15   0



“I brought the bill away as a curiosity; all the other items are reasonable enough, but 4s. for a feed of corn, and a miserable feed too - is no doubt frightful, ‘til the excuse came out, that they had to send their waggons and bullocks for it, 150 miles ! Why not grow oats or barley if the frost will not allow the Indian corn to ripen ?

“Cutter’s new inn at Mittagong is a large fine stone building, but apparently on too great a scale for such a poorly peolped country. The new road of Major Mitchell, which passes south, completely avoiding all hills, is a great triumph of military surveying over the old mountain road, which used to be almost impassable without some accident or other at any time of the year, but especially in winter.

“There is nothing to recommend the selection of the county town of Berrima, except its dry and healthy position, on the banks of rather a respectable river called the Wingecarrabee; the public buildings, church, court-house and jail are very good, but the country to the north and west appeared to be barren and unproductive. The estate at Oldbury is one of the best in these parts, and has got a steam flour mill, which is a great convenience to the neighbourhood. The gardens and buildings are also equally good with the farm management, and altogether makes an appearance almost English. Indeed, I may almost venture to say that it would be difficult to find any thing in England, exactly resembling the Argyle country of New South Wales, though by the facility of raising English fruits, damsons, currants, and gooseberries of the old country, one is constantly reminded of home. But the superb and lofty hills round Sutton Forest, velveted to the top with a flowery grass, and looking on a wide spread extent of the richest flats, is more like the Scotch scenery of the Ochill Hills, and the celebrated view from the summit of Dumyatt, near the village of Dumblane. The best lands hereabouts yield forty bushels of wheat to the acre, whilst in the low country, the average id hardly fifteen bushels; and we had a green goose for dinner weighing ten pounds, although only nine weeks old.

“Here I cannot help recording a degrading and disgraceful atrocity, that was committed at the foot of one of those magnificent and beauteous hills. Mr. and Mrs. _____, the owners of one of the finest estates in the neighbourhood, and who of course employed a great many convict servants, ordered their horses to be saddled one afternoon, after an early dinner, and attended by a man servant, took what they expected would turn out a very romantic ride, about eight or nine miles from home; they had long left the fields and fences of the small settlers in Sutton Forest, and had got into a wild part of the country amongst ravines and rocks, and all of a sudden, to their great astonishment, they were hailed up by a party of bush-rangers, commanding them to stop and dismount or they would be shot instanter ! The gentleman was known to the ruffians, who called him by his name, adding, in the hearing of the affrighted wife, who was looking on, the most opprobrious and offensive epithets. The man-servant was ordered to go back immediately the way they came in charge of the lady, but as for the gentleman, they would take that opportunity, which he had fortunately given them, of shewing him that they could flog as well as he could. So ‘strip,’ was the brutal order, whilst his timid and affectionate wife was only just far enough removed up the hill, without any power of resistance, to be the unwilling witness of what was going on. The wretches would listen to no terms - remonstrances, entreaties, or promises of reward - and the cries of the lady were as much attended to as the rustling of the breeze; they were in a secure place - their enemy, as they considered him, in their power, and nothing would gratify their fiendish dispositions, short of a severe flogging, in the presence of his wife. The gentleman was accordingly stripped to the skin, whilst Mrs. _____, who told me the story, was fainting with fear not far off, equally frightened to stay or go away, and not daring to interfere; whilst the merciless scoundrels, after tying Mr. _____ to a tree, never left off flogging him ‘till his back was one fearful wound, streaming with blood ! They then hailed the man, to come and throw his master across his horse, and ordered all to be off as quick as possible, threatening that they would shoot the first among them who dared to look back, and wo [sic] betide them if they made any complaints ! The party were met on their return home by the other anxious members of the family, and there was nothing but tears and lamentations among the children, at the outrage that had been committed on their father. It was many weeks before Mr. _____ recovered from his wounds; the men were never apprehended, at least for that offence, nor has any part of the injured family ever ventured since so far from Home.

“In this part of the country commences the first limestone formation, south from Sydney, and near Wingelo and Wombat brush are found beautiful specimens of red and white marble, and a coarse description of jasper and porphyritic rock. The country round Wingelo is rich and beautiful, and at Paddy’s River and Murrimba, an intended township, it is barren and romantic. Another township, six miles further south, has been fixed on, called Marulan; but except at the junction of the two south roads, it would be difficult to see any great reason for the choice, as all the way to the Wollondilly river, sixteen miles further, there is nothing but a tolerably good station of Shelley’s and Lockyer’s to relieve the character of the counrty, as wretched and unproductive. But at this celebrated river, the Wollondilly, the dull and repulsive style of country becomes entirely altered, and after a four mile’s ride through open and cheerful plains, abounding in bright and even noisy water courses, you arrive at the well-known township of Mulwarree, and for miles you can hardly see a tree. This, to a New South Wales eye, is the perfection of rural beauty, merely, of course, from its rarity. Though enjoying the pretty native name of Mulwarree, yet the parasites of the late Colonial Secretary must insist on calling this place ‘Goulburn,’ in common with twent other Goulburn’s. Had the solemn Major rejoiced in the name of Smith, Brown, Jones or Robinson, it would have been the same, and the shocking bad taste of some sycophant in office would just as easily have prevailed over the liquid and sonorous names of the aborigines. The farms and sheep establishments round Mulwarree are in every direction great and valuable, and many handsome fortunes have been amassed, through sheep farming, by the resident gentlemen emigrants, as well as the humbler classes of convict origin. Labourers, I was informed, at this season of the year, get 30s. per week, with rations and three glasses of rum daily; but it was the busy time of the year, when the whole of the work of the Australian farmer comes at once. In the cold winter months, for it must be piercingly cold from March to August, field work is most likely dull enough, though the wealth which is being realized by the settlers will enable them to expend more money in their dwellings, and then give employment to mechanics in the winter months. Although so far in the interior, there is a branch bank and avery large steam flour mill in Mulwarre or Goulburn, as we suppose it must be called, and there can be little doubt that it will continue to be a thriving place, as the centre of a well-settled and extensive fertile country - there is also a very good society in the neighbourhood, a pack of hounds, and very one seems to keep a carriage. Doctor Gibson’s is a very complete, gentlemanlike place, and can exhibit a garden superior to any thing of the kind in New South Wales, and equal to any which the author has seen in Van Dieman’s Land. Captain Rossi, formerly of the second Ceylon Regiment, not exactly one of the most crack regiments in the service, has also got a very beautiful place in this neighbourhood, quite rivalling Doctor Gibson’s. This Italian gentleman, though now living on his property, was a few years ago and for a long while, chief magistrate of police, in Sydney, and there are many amusing stories told of his mistakes on the bench from an imperfect knowledge of the English language and idiom. Indeed the appointment of a foreigner to such a situation, as the first magistrate of an entirely English Colony, was no bad proof of the sort of estimation in which ministers formerly held Botany Bay; for although the rogues who were brought up daily before his worship richly deserved all the floggings that Monsieur ordered them, yet it might have been a slight alleviation to have been sentenced, at any rate, by one of their own countrymen.

“We were now 140 miles from Sydney, more than 2000 feet high above the ocean, and next after Bathurst, in the genteelest and most desirable district in the Colony. The place is also as salubrious as it is prosperous, and the town though small can boast of several pretty buildings and two or three good stores.

“Not far off is what was once a large expanse of water called Lake George, but wanting now the chief ingredient of all lakes, namely water, they must find it some other name.

“One of the inconveniences of an inland town is the high price of every thing, except what can be raised on the spot, which is very trifling. The carriage of goods from Sydney is thought low a L14 per ton, and rum here is 20s. per gallon, tobacco 8s. London porter 3s. per bottle, iron 6d. per lb., and salt 20s. per cwt. A brewery and tannery would both answer well at this place, for the country is as hot in summer as it is cold in winter, and the place is cursed with swarms of innumerable grass-hoppers, who fly about the plains, which are forty miles round, and eat up every green thing. The following property was for sale in the neighbourhood, and the price asked may be interesting to settlers in the Colony of South Australia, as shewing from small beginnings, what a property may be accumulated in the course of a few years.

“The first bargain offered, was an estate of 2000 acres of land, with 200 cleared, and 50 acres in cultivation, with a fresh water creek, as they call it, running through the ground.

“With the land would be given 600 head of cows and bullocks, with thirty-five working bullocks, and thirty-five horses and mares, together with all waggons, carts, harness, &c. There was also to go with the estate, 6500 sheep, with their fleeces on, a good cottage and out-buildings, poultry, pigs, &c. &c. &c., and the price asked was L20,000, and the owner would probably, it was said, take half. The next bargain, and the only other I shall mention, to give an idea of the scale on which things are already done in this Colony, is the following:             

“Lot No. 2.

    “12,000 sheep.

    1,500 head of cattle, cows, bullocks, calves, &c.

    50 Breeding mares.

    50 working bullocks, carts, drays. &c.

all to be disposed of for L2000 a year for ten years; and at the end of that time, L10,000 to be paid in cash, in full acquittance of the entire purchase. This was not accompanied by any land, but would do very well for a squatter. Looking at the usual rate of interest in the new Colony, this last property may be considered cheap, for it is after all, nothing more than a purchase of L10,000 at ten year’s credit, paying in mean time interest at the rate of twenty per cent. per annum.


“In leaving Goulburn, or more properly Mulwarre, one rides away over the downs under an expectation of not seeing any thing so good for the rest of the journey; but this, I am happy to say, was not the case, for in fourteen miles further, two or three of the prettiest little gems of places in all the Colonies may be seen, in what bears the name of ‘Breadalbane Plains.’ They are not very extensive, but remarkable for their rich and velvety appearance, and the first appears like a green race-course of about nine miles round. No one can forget Breadalbane Plains that has once seen them. The evening was now closing in fast as I left the last of these little plains, and was glad to rest myself and horse six miles further, at a good station called


“This place belongs to a gentleman in India, of the name of Reddall, but being merely in the care of one or two convict servants, th up-putting, as the Scots call it, was not exactly first-rate, and I was glad, after some coarse tea and damper, to stretch myself before a good fire on the wooden slabs of the floor, with nothing round me but a cloak, and fall asleep. Next morning, riding through the cold and solitary forest, and past a dairy station of Mr. Hamilton Hume’s [the same as on the Clyde Expedition], the well known traveller, thirteen miles brought me to a high bleak country called

“GUNNONG [Gunning],

“a township containing two houses, a store and an inn. Though in the height of summer, I found the parlour fire at breakfast very agreeable. The lime-stone formation had now ceased, and there was no lack of granite. The country was large and apparently unoccupied, but all of it good for sheep and cattle. Thirteen miles further brought me to


“a public-house kept by one Grosvenor, where the whole country again was a lime-stone formation, and neither quartz nor trap to be seen. The head springs of the river ‘Lachlan’ are not very distant from Jerrawa, and in every direction the country appears sound and valuable for sheep pasture. Twenty-two miles further, and passing a remarkable gap in the mounatins, brings you to the township of


“the approach to which is very beautiful, on account of the abundance of the grass. There appears here no limit to the rich feed for sheep, and yet it is well known that the whole country is occupied by large flocks and herds. Yass is two hundred miles from Sydney, over a very practicable road, and standing in a remarkably interesting and abundant country, might be supposed to exhibit signs of greater advancement than it does. But the serious difficulty of having to drag every thing such a journey as two hundred miles, will for ever prevent these interior towns of Australia from rising to any eminence. There is a pretty and respectable Court-house in the town, and one or two inns and stores, and within the circle of a short ride, some tasty and agreeable places belonging to the principal proprietors, who live in an elegant not to say profuse style, forming a very pleasant society. The Yass river is a very paltry affair, and is nothing more than a mere puddle. Every thing is extravagantly dear, and owing to the universal neglect of tillage, my horse being saddled and bridled without getting a feed of corn, had not the dray and team of bullocks just arrived, laden with maize, all the way from Campbell Town, about one hundred and seventy miles off ! The precious grains are therefore doled out as if they were green peas at Christmas, making this a bad place for horses. Still everyone must feel pleased with Yass - it is a fine cheerful country, and of such extent that we can hardly fancy any deficiency of grass for years to come. It was on the breezy tops of the delightful hills surrounding this little township, that the author first got a glimpse of the great Alpine chain of the Wororogong mountains to the southward and eastward, the snowy source of the great rivers which flow westward, and uniting in the great river Murray, fall ultimately into Encounter Bay, in the adjoining colony of South Australia. This range of mountains is by far the most important that has hitherto been discovered in the whole Continent, and are considered about 8500 feet high, and are covered with snow seven months in the year.


“We are now outside the boundary and beyond the civil jurisdiction of New South Wales, which terminates about eight miles south-west of Yass, at a remarkable and lofty hill, called by the natives Boonyun. But though beyond the Colony, the inhabitants seem rather to increase than otherwise, and though every inch of land belongs to the Government, yet there is just as much fencing and cultivation going on as if it belonged to the temporary occupants.

“These squatters are a noisy and joyous set of young men, feeding sheep on the Crown lands, and appear to be as happy as the day is long, though living in the rudest huts, and principally upon salt, beef, tea, and damper, with an occasional sheep or two, and a constant supply of game. Many of them are well educated, and well connected young gentlemen; but as looking after sheep is rather a lazy life, except at lambing and shearing, they have plenty of time upon their hands for galloping about the country, and may be seen adopting the short black pipe of tobacco, and the tin pot of tea, in preference to the most precious of porcelain. It is a life that has evidently great attractions for young men, and the rapid increase of their sheep soon makes them independent.

“The country now was evidently falling to the west-ward, and the station and inn at Bogogolong are placed in the midst of a good well-watered forest country. Here was a good paddock of green wheat, but every thing very dear in the store, which was chiefly supplied with tea, sugar, liquors, tobacco, and clothing, with leather and a few common articles of ironmongery.

JUKIONG [Jugiong].

“We approach this station with considerable interest, as I had been informed we should have to cross the Murrumbidgee River, and I shall never forget the first burst of the noble stream. We were now nearly 250 miles from Sydney, and though enjoying the most robust health, the natural result of moderation and exercise, yet after riding through so many vast and solemn solitudes, the sight of such a volume of fresh water rolling along its living and noisy course was truly refreshing.

“ ‘Flow on thou shining river,’

“and long may you continue to fertilize and make happy this rich and undulating district.

“Where we could possibly cross this river, wide and deep as the Thames at Kew, I was at a loss to conjecture, ‘till riding some two or three miles further down, we came to the fording place, where the water was up to our saddles, and rushing past with a fearful violence; but by keeping the eye constantly on the same object on the opposite shore, without any regard to the apparent upward motion of the horse, you at last exchange the roar of the torrent for the more welcome grating of the shallow pebbles under your horse’s feet, and mount all dripping, up the crumbling bank.

GUNDEGHY [Gundagai].

“We were now cantering over a fine grassy country, abounding in sheep and dairy stations, whilst the cheerful Murrumbidgee, was sometimes on our right and sometimes on our left, as if determined by its tortuous and meandering course to do all the good it could. There were some reapers of rye, and I was astonished to see a young woman among the number. It required no ghost to tell us that she did not belong to the lazy convict or factory class of women in New South Wales, or she would never have been in this sort of violent employment. On riding up to the hut we were kindly asked to come out of the sun and refresh ourselves with a drink of milk and water, the usual beverage in the heat of the day; an invitation which we readily accepted; and we found the dwelling, though not worth five shillings, was neatly and abundantly furnished with every comfort. The wife was a pretty girl, who had just arrived from England, and been happily married to this worthy and industrious young man, and the happy couple seemed to prove in this out of the way and remote part of the world, a singular instance of colonial love. They each seemed to strive which should out do the other in their mutual contributions to the common stock of happiness, and while their eyes seemed modestly to confess that possession had made no diminution in the ardour of their first attachment, he was evidently proud of such a woman, and might have said,

“ ‘Give kingdoms to those who choss’em,

 This world can offer to me

No throne like beauty’s bosom,   

   No freedom like serving thee.’

“We had just day-light enough left to see our way across the lofty hills, called the Money-Money Range, and amidst the barking of dogs, and the glare of fires among the folds, dismounted at our lonely hut.

“The next morning we rode over to Warramore or Stuckey’s station, and the punt carried us across the Murrumbidgee for the last time, whilst our horses were swam over. There is no doubt for six months in the year, there is water enough in most places to take any flat-bottomed barge down this river 1000 miles to the sea, but at present it is too soon to think of such traffic, though rum was 20s. per gallon, tobacco 12s., flour 6d., sugar 1s., tea 6s.; and in process of time this ferry at Warramore must become an important settlement: the river has a noble appearance, and the extent of the fertile alluvial flats of Gundeghy, so immediately adjoining, is great enough to maintain a much larger amount of population than this interior country is ever likely to possess.”