Thursday, 20 September 2012

T is for ... Settler's sketch of life continued

This is my contribution to  this weeks 

My 3rd great grand uncle, Edward "King" Hulme, (1818 - 1904) wrote a small book called  "A settlers 35 Years Experience in Victoria, Australia 1856-1891"

a couple more excerpts continued from Settler's sketch of life


I joined my brothers in their claim, and we had two other mates, making a party of five. We were driving out wash-dirt and sluicing it in long boxes with the creek water. We did fairly well ‑ made from £6 to £7 per week for each man.
This year (1856) was an exceedingly wet one, particularly in the winter and early spring, This drove the miners out of shallow sinking, and the great “Woolshed Diggings" (Read's Creek) were flooded out, and thousands rushed the shallow sluicing ground of the Nine‑mile Creek; in consequence, there was great trouble about water, and “water rights," which caused endless litigation. The creek could not supply half the water required; therefore, all the hills for miles round were tunnelled for water, and an astonishing number of springs were opened. These were recognised by the Mining Warden as independent  ‑independent of the creek ‑ and a permit given for the sole use of the same. Many of these cost hundreds of pounds to cut. It was also called "created water;" that is, water before locked up in the hills, and not feeding the creek. The creek water was available to all, but this would not command one‑thousandth part of the mining ground. Our party, therefore, looked about for indications of springs, by sinking trial shafts, and then driving tunnels. We were fortunate in tapping water. This we conducted to dams, and used for sluicing purposes in shallow ground, from 8ft to I0ft, deep, washing away the whole of it.
I could not rest long with my family remaining in Melbourne, as some of the children had colonial fever; a very distressing complaint, but not very fatal. Most “new chums " had it at that time, but I don't hear anything of it now. Therefore, I tramped down to Melbourne and back twice during the first year to see them; the last time to bring them up;  so that during my first year in Australia I walked about I000 miles. The last time I was over two months in Melbourne, as our eighth child was near at hand, and I thought it my duty to be with them. I filled up my time in Melbourne decorating the new Legislative Chambers, just then finished. My wages were just about the same as what I was getting in the claim, viz., £6 to £7 per week ‑good wages too; but not high for that class of work. Masons at that time got over £I per day. I then started with the wife and family in the arduous duty of taking them 200 miles through the bush in an American wagon. We were 20 days on the road. It is now done in about six hours per rail. We had a fearful time on “Pretty Sally's Hill”  (before mentioned); it blew a gale with heavy rain. It would have blown our tent clean away had I not  “turned out " and cut saplings down and logged it all round. We pitched our tent every night, and had a long picnicking all the way. We could only procure milk at one place (Benalla) the whole 200 miles. We went per coach from Beechworth to the Nine Mile; had to place all the children in the bottom to prevent them being pitched out, the roads being so rough, and hills all the way. Glad, indeed, were we (dear wife, in particular, with baby) to arrive at our digger's home. I had previously erected the sides and skeleton of our future residence, and had only to put the calico top on, and stretch the fly roof. The sides were made of split slabs; the plates and rafters trimmed saplings, so that it took us, with the assistance of our mates, only a few hours to get it ready for occupying. It was very cold up there in the winter. I think the attitude is over 3000 feet. I often had to " turn out " in the night to shake the snow off the fly roof. We managed to keep nice and warm, though, with the huge logs on the fire ‑ the fireplace almost as wide as the hut. It took two men to roll some of the back‑logs in, and the fire was kept burning all night. In a few years we put up a better residence. Sawn timber for the frame, shingle top and a verandah; and we started a good garden from the very first, and were the first to introduce fruit trees in the district. Mine was the second formed garden on the Creek, and out of which we made many a pound in vegetables ‑ sold cabbages at sixpence per pound. Had splendid flowers also. I likewise introduced the watercress, and had a sale for them even in Beechworth. They grew to perfection with our spring water running over the beds. The boys carried them round among the miners, and they were greatly appreciated. This was long before the Chinamen thought of gardening (which they monopolize now), and there were about 4000 of them then on the Nine Mile.

I will not dwell long on our life on the diggings. I was not a “lucky digger,"  with the exception of one little patch (which see particulars further on). We lived, however, a comfortable, happy, healthy, and a very independent life, and brought up a large family ‑ they now had increased to eleven, seven boys and four girls. This ten years on the diggings was, by far, the longest rest down, up to then, of our married life. For instance, of our seven children born in England, not two were born in one house; here, in our digger's home, we had three in addition, one being also horn in Melbourne. It will be imagined that by this time I had worn off all my “smooth‑handedness." Yes, indeed, l had become a "horny‑handed " working man, and considered it no disgrace either.

Who will hang his head in blushes
For the stains to toiling due?
There is dignity in labour,
If the labourer be true."

I worked like a navvy for ten years. through many hardships and danger. I had two narrow escapes in falling banks of earth ‑ had my pick caught each time, and buried as I was dragging it in running out of the way of the fan. I had also, during the first year, a very narrow escape of being buried alive, working underground when the ground was rotten and dangerous from the continued wet, mentioned before. It happened thus: Just before knocking‑off for dinner, I had given up the washdirt to the man at the windlass, and put a prop in. On resuming work after dinner, I remarked that the prop had got “as firm as a church," and that I did not like the appearance of things at all, as this was a sign that the ground was giving. I also said that, as the stuff would hardly pay for driving much further, I would sweep it out and try in another direction from the shaft, which my brother had pointed out, where he had got a fair prospect. I had just sent up the few buckets of sweepings, and was pointing out to the windlass‑man the direction I intended driving, when, all of a sudden, without the least warning, the sides of the shaft commenced cracking; large masses also from the lower part breaking off. Of course, the rope was immediately let down, and I was hauled up, but not before a large block of earth struck me on the knee, which lamed me for about a week. Well, in about an hour afterwards, the whole of the ground, for about half an acre, sunk bodily down. The ground was completely honeycombed with drives. I was thankful I put that prop in before dinner, as it gave the indication of danger.

As the mines are not now very interesting or attractive to intended emigrants, it is not necessary to enlarge further. It will be sufficient to say that when we broke up our partnership, my wife's brothers, being single men, had saved, I think, about £400 each, but I only had my share of the water right, which we also sold. My share was about £60. The whole of my earnings, therefore, had gone to bring up my large family. My money was invested in them, to be drawn upon some day, by God's blessing, with interest ‑and compound interest, too. Neighbours used to think they could command and use my boys as they liked. “ No," I said, “you cannot draw upon my bank in this way; you must remunerate them for their services."

About this time, the Government were beginning to sell the country lands in the district. My brothers went with their savings and purchased land some thirty miles from the diggings, and started farming ‑an occupation they had been used to in the “ Old Country." I continued working on the diggings with the boys for some time longer, sinking and driving for  “a patch" I thought should exist from the formation and dip of the ground ‑but failed. A short time after, though, a party went down one of my shafts, and only drove a few feet and struck what I had been looking for so long. I believe it was about £90 worth. This is a very common fate on the diggings. The largest nugget ever got in Australia was found in an old drive only two or three inches under the bottom. The original occupiers had actually driven over and knelt over it, but the mass of gold, being so heavy, had sunk into the pipe‑clay, below the ordinary run of wash‑dirt. I could tell of many curious incidents of the sort. After this I and the boys worked a puddling machine; some of them were able to do a fine day's work now. We only just made a living, though, and had to keep the horse; feed, also, was very expensive. I can remember hay being worth £50 per ton and that only bush hay; of course, it was only then used for the Government ‑ for police and gold escort horses.
By this time (1865), these old diggings were nearly worn out.

About this time (1865) the Government passed a new land Act, opening the lands of the colony for free selection, and deferred payment at £I per acre, payable in half‑yearly payments of one shilling per acre, without interest; certain improvements to be effected in residence, fencing, clearing, cultivation, etc., enforced. Of this liberal Land Act I thought I would avail myself. I could select up to 320 acres; but that was beyond my means. At the next sitting of the Land Board I selected I28 acres­ the most suitable to my capital. A river‑side lot. Of this, 30 acres were river flat, not suitable for cultivation, being subject to floods; 35 acres only were fit for cultivation, the other portion being inferior, crab‑holey, grass land. I said above, this was most suitable to my capital. Upon selecting, I had only just cash sufficient to pay the first deposit, as the first half‑year's rent, viz., £6 8s. Little enough, it will be said, after 10 years' hard labour in the colony. But, remember, labour is equivalent to capital, and I was backed with that banking account named before, viz., my seven good boys.


Now, striking out my digger's experience, I will dwell a little. It may be asked, Why did I put upon the title page of this “Life Sketch,”  “How £6 8s. became £8000?  Why did I not start with the I0s I landed with? It is this. My object in writing at all is to induce others, under similar circumstances and conditions, to settle upon the land; therefore, I put down £6 8s., the amount I started farming with; or it may be seen further on that I might have put down £76 8s, but, the other £70 was only prospective, or hardly that at the time, as will be seen. Well, even this is no great sum, as many a labourer can earn that, or rather, can save that sum, In a little more than a year, at present wages; pick and shovel men getting 7s. to 8s. per day. Had I a large sum of money saved from mining, it might have been said ‑" Oh! with that amount of capital, anyone ought to succeed."

So myself and two eldest sons started to make a home on the land. At this time I had one son, the third, aged about I6, living upon a station with squatters, not far from where we selected. He was getting small wages, but at the same time he was getting good experience with cattle, &c., and his masters were gentlemen of high character, and for whom I have the greatest respect. The two who joined me were now able to do a good hard day's work, and they had to do it, too. So we started at once. I left the wife and the smallest of the children (seven of them, one other son being at a dairy some few miles off) for a time, at the home on the diggings, and registered our claim for a few months to prevent anyone “jumping " it.

We put up residence No.I on the farm, composed of two side logs, and sheets of bark for top. We got a party to plough about an acre ready for potatoes and vegetables, and then started into the bush, about six miles off, to split fencing stuff; living under a few sheets of bark, for about two months While there, I wrote a letter to my good mother in dear old England, and just in fun, headed it, “Splitters' Hall." This was taken in earnest, and I received a letter in due course, addressed to “Splitters' Hall." This gave us much amusement. Having got our stuff split, a difficulty arose.  How to get it out of the bush! We must either give our labour to some farmer for a time for fetching it out for us, return to the claim, and try for a few pounds, as we only had one old horse we used in the puddling machine, and no dray We determined, therefore, to go and wash a few machines of stuff on the claim. I took one of the boys with me, and, to our agreeable surprise and astonishment, we washed out £70 worth of gold (alluded to before at page I8) in one week. The only “patch" we ever got, and for which I trust we were thankful enough; and grand indeed did it look as we washed it off, and it followed the sluicing fork in the clean water in washing down the boxes. But it was only just a “ patch." and ran out the next day. We call it our “Providential patch." On coming from the bank, where I sold it, my pocket felt nicer than I ever recollected (except upon one other occasion), and we all felt quite jubilant!
This other occasion I will insert here, although it should have been in the sketch of my  “Artist Experience."
This is an  occasion which I shall always remember with pleasure and gratitude to the individual who interested himself so kindly in my interest. I went into Norfolk professionally, portrait painting, drawn on this occasion in that direction by the attractions of a certain individual whose acquaintance I had formed in London.
The Bishop of London, who was always my friend, and always kindly gave me letters of introduction, gave me one to the Bishop of Norwich (Bishop Stanley), the father of the late honoured Dean Stanley, of West­minster.
He kindly introduced me to the Mayor of Norwich, Mr. Freeman, as the best way to introduce my profession.
The first portrait I painted there was the Mayor's, in his robes of office. He also kindly took charge of some paintings of fancy subjects I took with me, to show to his friends.

After painting for some time in various parts of the country, in the meantime I got married, and this act, I suppose, under the circumstances, would be considered (and what is generally called) “ improvident " and “ im­prudent," as I had no settled home of my own. It then became imperative that I got one. My wife's home was about 22 miles from Norwich, and, as I always was a great pedestrian, which I have mentioned before, I started off one fine morning early to Norwich, to see my good friend, the Mayor, and inform him of my position, and see what could be done with the paintings he had charge of. We were dining together when I broached the subject.  He said my pictures had been much admired, and he thought several of his fellow citizens would like to purchase them. He at once then, at the table, wrote a note stating my intention of leaving for London, and would they make me an offer for one or more of my pictures. An answer was soon back, but the answer and offer was not satisfactory to him. “No," he said, “ he shan't have it for that;" sent a note to another, and thus this novel auction went on until he got rid of several of my pictures, and, as the term is “ at satisfactory prices," and before the evening I had the money in my pocket (between £66 and £70), and, indeed, it felt warm, as my heart also did, with gratitude. On starting back the same evening, how I “lift my feet!" Like Jacob of old after his dream and receiving the blessing. (Read from Gen. I0th v. xxviii ch. to Ist v. xxix ch.). It says‑ “He went on his journey;" but the Heb. in the margin is far more expressive to one who has gone through a somewhat similar experience It there says ‑ " He lift up his feet." Light of heart ~. light of heel. I well remember the son of the Mayor, a fine young fellow, about my own age, accompanying me for a few miles on my journey back, conversing by the way (as Christians love to do) of God's good providence and love; and who knows but what there was a third person in spirit with us. as He was in person with the  “two disciples on the road that evening journeying to Emmaus?" But it could not be said of us that “we were sad," as they were. They were sad because the “Comforter " had not then come, but we were in full enjoyment of that "Comforter." And they, also, when the Saviour revealed Himself, had “ burning hearts of love;" and did not our hearts burn with love also? On our parting, with a good‑bye and a hearty and friendly grip, I shall never forget his kindly words.
They were these. " Remember how sweet is the day of prosperity to those who have tasted adversity's cup."
And thus we parted on that memorable day and evening on the Norwich high road.

I hardly felt the remainder of my long walk. It was rather late in the evening (or rather night) when I reached
home, and, upon entering, threw the proceeds of my trip into my young wife's lap. Our feelings may be imagined. We then went up to London and furnished our first home at Clapham, as narrated in the sketch of “My Artist's Life."
 It will be seen that this transpired before my health broke down from over study.

But to resume. With this £70 from the claim we purchased a good draught horse, new dray, etc., so that we were enabled to cart our fencing stuff, and felt quite like getting on. After erecting the fence around a good part of the allotment, we commenced clearing the land, as there was a good bit of timber on. Grubbing trees, chopping up, and burning off, occupied us during the winter. We found hut No. I rather cold some nights, as our fire was outside.  I often took my blankets and slept outside by the large fires, where the large logs were being burned off; these, also, required  “rounding up " during the night. ‑ we got about I2 acres cleared, ploughed, and sown with wheat and oats by the month of June. We started then with the orchard and garden, planted about 50 fruit trees of various sorts, and put in a few vines. This should always be done as soon as possible, but very few do it. We considered now we had got fairly started. Thus: A good deal of the fencing done, I2 acres cleared and under crop, orchard and garden dug and. planted, one good horse and dray, also old puddling horse, being light, was useful for riding, etc.; three cows, with calves, from the station; out of my son's wages ‑2 pigs in the sty, and a few dozen fowls. Therefore we began thinking of shifting the family down. I sold our claim for a few pounds, and as our house on the diggings was still good, we shifted the materials down, and erected farm residence No. 2. This put us up till nearly our first harvest time. Thus we were all together again, except the son at the station, but be was only a few miles oft. Our youngest child at this time ‑a boy‑ was 2 years old. We did not leave the digging's home, though, without some regrets. God having, blessed us with many peaceful years of comfort and independence, and, although we had not saved much money, it did not interfere with our happiness; and the bills were very healthy, abounding in crystal springs, as will be supposed, for during the I0 years' residence I had no occasion to consult a medical man. It was a great blessing with 11 young children. I had, however, made it a duty to study medicine to some extent, which is necessary in a colony like this, and, particularly in those early days. Up to this time all our furniture had been home‑made bush furniture, with the exception of one sofa‑bedstead, and one American rocking chair, but then it matched with the bush residences. I now made a new set of furniture for our farm‑house.

I have now to record a great sorrow which befell us. We had not all been together on the farm many weeks when we lost our fifth son, by drowning. He was a fine lad of I5 years. It happened in this way. He was out with the gun, keeping the cockatoos oft the crops, but seeing some ducks in a lagoon near the river, he shot one of them, and stripped and swam in to secure it. He was a fine swimmer. He, however, did not, in his hurry, take the precaution to keep his cap on, as he always did when bathing, and, it being an exceedingly hot day, I believe he got sunstruck, as his younger brother, who was with him, said he laid upon the top of the water some time. There were several parties sunstruck on that day. He was a good boy, and had that morning, as usual, with his brothers and sisters, said their prayers, and sang together their little hymn

“Come to this happy land,
Why will you doubting stand?'

There is one there awaiting us “ beyond the river."

Myself and boys kept grubbing and clearing, and got in four acres of maize by harvest time. Two of them then went to assist their uncles at harvest ; they resided about six miles from us. They coming, in return, to help us. So our first harvest‑home in Victoria was completed. ',The wilderness was, indeed, blossoming as the rose," and we felt proud at being permitted to fulfil the Heavenly behest of  “subduing and replenishing the earth." What occupation on earth can equal that of the husbandman, to raise man's mind from “Nature to Nature's God"; that is, to a properly‑regulated mind. To see the beautiful order of all Creation. The unerring instinct of animals. The song and wonderful plumage of birds, so very beautiful in Australia. The sweet hum of the busy bee fructifying the beautiful flowers, and modelling their cells so wonderfully and as unerringly as in the garden of Eden. Man, in his regenerate state, standing thus amid these surroundings, and leaning upon the merits of his Saviour alone, to atone for the sin of the first Adam, and with his face and aspirations raised heavenward, must feel that Paradise is, in a measure, restored oven in this world. He has, at least, a foretaste of the Paradise above.

Unregenerate man alone appears the only contradictory element and anomaly in the universe.


I am not so sanguine as many that Australia, in the near future, will have such a very large population, and particularly a European one.  There is not temperate climate enough.  I have already stated that wheat cannot be profitably grown beyond 30 degrees of latitude North, and we may say most of the European products also, and the climate, beyond another 20 degrees, is not suitable for European constitutions to labour in.  If we, therefore, draw a line at 30 degrees across the map of Australia, we shall see the insignificant portion there is left in the temperate zone; we shall find it not one-fourth of the continent.  Take it through Western Australia, and there is just a little corner.  What then, is the future of the enormous country north of 30 degrees, and which is only suitable for tropical and semi-tropical products, all of which will grow to greatest perfection?  The question then is, will Europeans grow these products?  I think not.  At least,  not European labour.  It must, and no doubt will be done, by large companies, by employing Chinese, Coolie, or Kanaka labour, under the superintendence of Europeans.  These hotter regions, otherwise, will never be utilized.  Therefore, it is my belief that instead of persecuting and expelling these races as the fashion is now, we shall be glad to invite them to assist in developing this vast territory.  I think this conclusion will strike everyone as correct, who calmly reflects upon the subject.  Besides, the products of these districts, such as sugar, rice, tea, coffee, etc, require so much land labour, that, to compete with these with other countries which have cheap labour, will be impossible.  Even at the present day, neither Englishmen or Europeans will do the necessary work in the northern districts, and even in Victoria our tobacco, hops, and vine industries can hardly be carried on without the despised Chinese.  We have an example already in the sugar industry in Queensland.  Recently a plant was up for sale that cost ₤26,000 and the highest offer was ₤5000.  What are we then to do without this cheap labour?  Without it this vast territory must evidently remain in a state of nature, or still be devoted to wandering herds of cattle, and by their vast numbers cripple the farmers of the more temperate parts by competition.  Where, then, are the boasted millions of population to come from, which so many calculate upon?

One great factor which will stay the progress of this great country more than any other is the present jealousy and war between Capital and Labour.  No country can advance without there is perfect security for life and property.  If capital cannot find security in one country, it can easily go to another.  Social order must be maintained at all costs.  It appears coming to this, whether the Elected Government is to rule the country, or the Trades Hall Council.  There is a class of men in Melbourne who want to fix things according to their own Utopian ideas, and upon such “hard and fast” lines that would be totally unbearable and tyrannical even to their own class.  It would be well for them to ponder the wise words recently uttered by President Harrison, viz., “The safety of the State, the good order of the community, all that is good, the capacity, indeed, to produce the material wealth, is dependent upon the intelligence and social order.  Wealth and commerce are timid creatures, they must be assured that the rest will be safe before they build.  So it is always in those communities where the most perfect order is maintained, where intelligence is protected, where the Church of God, and the institutions of religion are revered and respected, we find the largest developments of material wealth.”
There is far too much “dog in the manger” feeling among the well-to-do artisans in Melbourne.  They were glad enough to come themselves.  It is the fear that a few shillings will come off their own wages.  It is strange that sensible men, with any idea in their own heads, can listen to, or be guided by the strange contradictory logic of the leaders of the labour party.   Recently, one of them said, speaking against the “Bloated Capitalists,” “those who are living upon those who do work, and that all independent people are “loafers or parasites” on the State.”   Holding that independence is a crime.  Well, many of their own class, by industry and frugality, are independent or approaching to it.  These, then, are graduating to this new species of crime.  Another said these “loafers and parasites” should be compelled to turn out and work, and in the next breath called competition the work of the devil, and over-production the curse of the colony.  According to this logic, if all were workers, and all producers – what then?  The greatness of Melbourne consists of the great number of independent non-workers, who employ and consume the produce of the workers, and this is also the secret of England’s greatness, and their wealth is assisting the great national works of the whole world.  These wiseacres even dictate to the farmers in this matter, thinking, I suppose, that they cannot see a yard from the plough-tail.  If we get an overplus, and the prices consequently lower, and of which they reap the benefit, they tell us it is over-production again, and say, “Why don’t you just produce what the colony requires, and then you would be all right?”   But should we do so, and their loaf be double the price, which it would be, they would be the first to cry out that “we were not utilizing the land.” 

Not considering that in advocating this grand remedy, this colony, instead of exporting millions of bushels of wheat to feed the hungry in Europe, would simply revert to a sheep walk, or nearly so, and two thirds of the agricultural population would swell the present too over-crowded cities, and increase their own ranks with double the number of workers – and what then?  The railways also might shut up, as sheep, &c, can travel to market on their own legs.  But enough of this.  The farming and the town interests are identical, the on cannot prosper without the other, but the farmer can get over a pinch best.  Farming also is paramount, and Governments should see to it as soon as possible and establish farm colonies – see that the large estates are put to the best use.  Previous Governments have frittered away the best of the land by special surveys, and permitting dummyism.  They should also see that the remaining unalienated land is kept in the hands of the State, and only leased to tenants.  A 20 years lease, renewable, is almost as good as a freehold, and suits thousands better.  Large estates in England have been let in this way, and have remained in the hands of the same tenants for generations.  As I have previously said, I now emphasize again, viz, - Put the people on the land at all costs ! – without which it is impossible, even in Victoria, to have a large population or prosperity in town or country.


In concluding, I trust this little “Sketch From Life” and personal experience and advice therein contained, may cause many in the “dear old land” who are situated as I was, and others, to take heart and courage, and I doubt not the same blessing will attend them.  They may have a rough time for a few years, and many ups and downs, but what of that?  Labour with plenty, gives the best health, strength, enjoyment and longevity.  Thus, with a firm trust in the “All-wise” to direct their path, their feet shall never slip, and they shall cause the “wilderness to blossom as the rose” and “by the good hand of God upon them” build up a home, as surely as Nehemia built up Jerusalem, and to cheer their hearts I will give them a song to sing all along their pilgrim journey.


All the way my Saviour leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know whate’er befalls me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Saviour leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Give me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living bread,
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo, a spring of joy I see!

All the way my Saviour leads me,
Oh, the fullness of his love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my fathers house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song, through endless ages,

N.B. – The profit, if any, from the sale of this little sketch will be devoted to the furtherance of True Temperance.

 My family history through the alphabet list

© AncestorChasing blogspot 2012


  1. What a wonderful book! Thanks for sharing so we can get a glimpse of how life was back then.

  2. Once again, this is pure fascinating reading :-)

  3. Another one for Mr Cassmob as he had family on the diggings incl Yackandandah.