Elizabeth Hawkins - Crossing the Blue Mountains

The diary of an early traveller across the Blue Mountains

 
 

In 1822 Thomas Hawkins, newly arrived in the colony, was appointed commissariat storekeeper at Bathurst. He crossed the mountains with his wife, Elizabeth, his seventy-year-old mother-in-law, and his eight children, whose ages ranged from one to twelve. This was the first family of white free settlers to make the crossing. This is the account of the journey that Elizabeth sent to her sister in London. As she explains, it was written in less than ideal circumstances, which no doubt accounts for its few confusing sentences. PS – The paragraphing is apparently hers.

 My dear Ann,

 I told you in my last of our intended journey across the Blue Mountains; we have accomplished it, and as I think it may prove interesting to you I shall be very particular in my account of it. It took some time after my last to make the necessary arrangements here for a house to receive us, and for us to be certain of the necessary assistance from the Governor before we could leave Sydney; all was ready on 4th April (Good Friday), and on the morning of the 5th we commenced our journey. We had many presents and kind wishes from those around us, indeed there was not a dry eye in the family of our landlord.

 You, or no one in England, will hardly credit me when I tell you the number of horses, bullocks, carts etc., requisite to convey us, when we possessed no furniture but one table and twelve chairs; these, with our cooking utensils, bedding and a few agricultural implements, groceries and other necessaries to last us a few months, with our clothes, constituted the whole of our luggage. We had a wagon with six bullocks, a dray with five, another dray with three horses, a cart with two, and, last of all, a tilted cart, with mother, myself, and seven children, with two horses. Hawkins and Tom rode on horseback. The cavalcade moved slowly on, the morning was fine, and the road equal to any turnpike road in England, with a forest on each side; but the sun is not prevented from reaching the earth, as all the trees are lofty and only branch from the top. When within a few miles of Parramatta, Hawkins rode on to the factory for a female servant who had been selected for us. He rejoined us whilst we were partaking our dinner at the foot of a tree. We arrived rather late in the evening at Rooty Hill, a distance of twenty-five miles; the government house was ready to receive us.

 The next day being Sunday, we rested, partly to recover from the fatigue we had previous to leaving Sydney, and because the general orders were, there should be no traveling on Sunday. I could have been contented to have remained there for ever—the house was good and the land all around like a fine wooded park in England.

 On Monday we resumed our journey, and for nine miles found the road the same as before. We had now reached the Nepean River, which you cross to Emu Plains, where there is a government house and depot, but beyond these there are no habitations until you reach Bathurst, excepting a solitary house at the different places where people sleep. We had to wait at a hut many times [hours] until horses and carts were ready on the opposite side, as those which brought us from Sydney were to leave. We could only get part of our luggage over that night, and Sir John Jamison, who resided near, sent his head constable to guard the rest during the night. The next day it rained hard, but through fear it might continue, when the water rushing from the mountains makes all the rivers in this country dangerous and impassable, we had the rest of our things brought over.

 The next day was occupied in getting things dry, and the following one in making necessary preparations for the journey, unpacking many things to ensure their greater safety, arranging our provisions and bedding to enable us to get at them more conveniently. This being done at five o’clock, Hawkins and I went to dine with Sir J. Jamison, who had invited a lady and two gentlemen to meet us; here we partook of a sumptuous repast, consisting of mock-turtle soup, boiled fowls, round of beef, delicious fish of three kinds, curried duck, goose and wild-fowl, Madeira and Burgundy, with various liquors and English ale. I mention all this to show you his hospitality, and convince you it is possible for people to live here as well as in England.

 I was delighted with his garden. The apples and quinces were larger than I ever saw them before (it is now autumn in this country), and many early trees of the former were again in blossom. The vines had a second crop of grapes, and the fig trees a third crop. The peaches and apricots here are standing trees. He has English cherries, plums and ifiberts [type of hazelnut]. These, with oranges, lemons, limes and citrons, medlars [tree of the rose family, with fruit like brown-skinned apples], almonds, rock and water melons, with all the common fruits of England; vegetables of all kinds and grown at all seasons of the year, which shows how fine the climate is. The next morning, Friday, the 12th, we re-loaded. Sir John came to see us off and presented us with a quarter of mutton, a couple of fowls, and some butter. I had now before me this tremendous journey. I was told I deserved to be immortalised for the attempt, and that Government could not do too much for us for taking such a family to a settlement where none had ever gone before—I mean no family of free settlers, and very few others. Everything that could be done for us was done by the officers to make it as comfortable as possible.

In addition to our luggage, we had to take corn for the cattle, as in the mountains there is not sufficient grass for them, and we also had provisions for ourselves and the nine men that accompanied us. In consequence of this we were obliged to leave many things behind. We now commenced with two drays, with five bullocks each; one dray with four horses, and our own cart with two; they had no more carts to give us. Amidst the good wishes of all, not excepting a party of natives who had come to bid us welcome, we commenced our journey. We had not proceeded more than a quarter of a mile before we came to a small stream of water, with a sandy bottom and banks; here the second dray with the bullocks sank. The storekeeper, superintendent, and overseer from Emu, witnessing our stoppage, came to our assistance; the two latter did not quit us until night. It employed us an hour to extricate the dray, and it was not accomplished without the horses of the other being added to it. We now slowly proceeded about a quarter of a mile further and now, my dear, imagine me at the foot of a tremendous mountain, the difficulty of passing which is, I suppose, as great or greater than any known road in the world, not for the road being bad, as it has been made, and is hard all the way, but the difficulty lies in the extreme steepness of the ascent and descent, the hollow places, and the large rugged pieces of rock. You will, perhaps, imagine, as I had done, that the mountains are perfectly barren. For forty miles they are barren of herbage for cattle, but as far as the eye can reach, even from the summit of the highest, every hill and dale is covered with wood, lofty trees, and small shrubs, many of them blooming with the most delicate flowers, the colours so beautiful that the highest circles in England would prize them. These mountains appear solid rock, hardly any earth on the surface; this land seems as if it were never intended for human beings to inhabit. There are no roots or substitutes for bread; no fruits or vegetables on which men could subsist, but almost everything will grow which is brought to it.

 
 

We now began our ascent up the first Lapstone Hill, so called from all the stones being like a cobbler’s lapstone. The horses got on very well, but the bullocks could not, so we were obliged to unload, have a cart from Emu and send back some of the luggage. Even then the horses were obliged, when they reached the top, to return and assist them. We only performed the distance of one mile and a half that day. Our tent was for the first time pitched. The fatigue to mother and myself was very great every night after the journey in preparing beds and giving the children their food. The little ones were generally tired and cross; little Edward in particular.

It was a lovely moonlight night, and all was novelty and delight to the elder children. Immense fires were made in all directions. We gave them their supper, and after putting the younger ones to bed, I came from the tent, in front of which was a large fire, our drays and carts close in view.

 

The men—nine in number—were busily employed in cooking in one place, our own man roasting a couple of fowls for our next day’s journey; at another the men [convicts], not the most prepossessing in their appearance, with the glare of the fires and the reflection of the moon shining on them, in the midst of a forest, formed altogether such a scene as I cannot describe. It resembled more a party of banditti, such as I have read of, than anything else. I turned from the view, took the arm of Hawkins, who was seated at the table with the storekeeper, and went to the back of the tent. Here we saw Tom and the three eldest girls trying who could make the best fire, as happy as it was possible for young hearts to be. Then I seemed to pause. It was a moment I shall never forget. For the first time for many a long month I seemed capable of enjoying and feeling the present moment without a dread for the future. ‘Tis true we had in a manner bade adieu to the world, to our country and our friends, but in our country we could no longer provide for our children, and the world from that cause had lost all its charm. You, Bowling, and all my friends and acquaintances, I thought of with regret, but the dawn of independence was opening on us. Hawkins was again an officer under Government, a home to receive us, and the certainty under any circumstances of never wanting the common necessaries of life. You, my dear Ann, must have suffered in mind what we had long suffered, to form an idea of what we then felt. After a little while we returned to the table. These were moments of such inward rest that Hawkins took up a flute belonging to one of the party, and calling Eliza to us, she danced in a place where perhaps no one of her age had ever trod before.

The next morning we took our breakfast, and packing up our beds and provisions, prepared to depart, but during the night our team of bullocks and Hawkins’ horse had returned to Emu. It was thought most desirable that we, with two drays, and Tom for our guard, should proceed to Springwood, as there was a house to go into. From the difficulty they had the preceding day with the bullocks they took from our cart the two horses, and gave us two bullocks. After a most fatiguing journey of nine miles we arrived. The house was inhabited by a corporal and two soldiers, kept there, I believe, to superintend the Government stock. Formerly a greater number of men were kept there, and there was a large room or store where provisions had been kept. A good barn in England would have been a palace to this place.  There was a large kitchen, with an immense fireplace, and two small rooms behind. With the exception of a green in front, the house was completely in the wood.

The corporal’s wife, an old woman, who had been transported above twenty years, with fawning manner, came forward to show us in.  We entered the kitchen, which contained a long table and form, and some stumps of trees to answer the purpose of chairs, of which there was not one in the house. Several people were here to rest for the night, journeying from Bathurst to Sydney. We were shown into the small back room, which had nothing in it but a sofa, with slips of bark laid on it for the seat. Here I felt desolate and lonely. It was nearly dark; still Hawkins did not arrive, and we got quite miserable. At length the storekeeper from Emu arrived, and said to us that he could not get on without some horses being sent to his assistance. It was nearly nine o’clock before he arrived. I went out (it was dark), but such a scene of confusion as there appeared from the glare of the fires, the carts and drays, the men, tired with their day’s work, swearing as they extricated the bullocks and horses. It was long before I could distinguish Hawkins. I felt comparatively safe when I did. The old woman, a most depraved character and well-known thief, with a candle held high above her head, screamed out, ‘Welcome to Springwood, sir!’

 

He said, when he looked round, he felt sure his welcome would be the loss of whatever she could steal from us. He was much fatigued, not having had any refreshment all day. It was my intention when I first arrived to have pitched one tent on the green, but it unfortunately was on top of the dray left with Hawkins, but having my mattresses, I spread them in the storeroom. The earth was dirty, damp and cold. We could not think of undressing the children, and when in bed all looked most miserable. I lay down with my baby. A very few minutes convinced me I should get no rest. The bugs were crawling by hundreds. The children were restless with them and the confinement of their clothes. The old woman had contrived to steal some spirits from our provision bucket which with what had been given to her made her and the soldiers tipsy. All was noise and confusion indoors; without, swearing and wrangling with the men. Never did I pass a night equal to it. Hawkins remained all night on the green or in the cart watching. In addition to other noises, a flock of sheep had been driven into the yard, and they, to avoid the men, came close to the house and kept up a continual pat with their feet. Could any of our romance writers have been in my situation they might have planned an interesting scene to add to the horrors of their volumes. You may be certain we were happy when the morning came. We got our breakfast, and packing up our beds, bade adieu to the house at Springwood.

Mother, myself, and three girls, as the morning was fair, walked on before. It was such a relief to get away from that place that I never enjoyed a walk more. We gathered most delicate nosegays from the flowering shrubs that grew amongst the trees. You must understand that the whole of the road from beginning to the end of the mountains is cut entirely through a forest, nor can you go in a direct line to Bathurst from one mountain to another, but you are obliged often to wind round the edges of them, and at times to look down such precipices as would make you shudder. We ascended. Our cart had now three bullocks, as we had so much trouble to get on with two, but we were worse off than ever. As the ascent became worse they refused to drag, and every few minutes first one and then another would lie down. The dogs were summoned to bark at them and bite their noses to make them get up. The barking of the dogs, the bellowing of the bullocks and the swearing of the men made our heads ache, and kept us in continual terror. That was exactly the case every day of the journey. Frequently it was necessary we should all get out, and more frequently our fears made us scream out: ‘Oh, do let us get out. I am sure there is danger.’ At length we came to a hill so steep it seemed as if we could never get up it. We alighted, and seating ourselves on a fallen tree, waited for the event. We were on the side of it; in front it was almost perpendicular; behind was a valley so deep the eye could hardly distinguish the trees at the bottom. To gain the top of this mountain the road wound along the side. The first dray with the horses got up. They were then brought back to assist the rest with the bullocks, but they could not succeed in raising them from one rock to another. With great noise a sudden effort was made, and one shaft was broken. This had to be repaired as well as we could, some of the luggage was taken off, and with the assistance of the other horses, etc., it was got up; the other was got up in like manner. When at the top the men, who were much fatigued, sought for a spring of water, and with the addition of a bottle of rum, were refreshed. We again set off, and for the last two miles it was perfectly dark, attended by heavy rain. You can suppose the danger and misery we rode in, not being able to see where we went. We were obliged to go on until we came to water. There our tent was pitched in the road, and was dark, damp, and dirty. We were obliged to remain in the cart until the bedding was put in the tent. Of course we again lay down in our clothes. This very fatiguing day’s journey we had only accomplished eight miles. For fear I should tire you with a repetition of the same scenes, I will now tell you that every day on the journey from Emu to Bathurst we were subject to the same things, such as our bullocks lying down constantly; the others, not able to draw their load, compelled to have the assistance of the horses, which caused great delay.

Our provisions consisted of half a pig, which was salted for us at Emu, and some beef. We had flour to make bread, tea, sugar, butter, and when we stopped at night we made our tea and had some cold meat. It was our man’s business every night to boil a piece of meat for the next day, and bake a cake under the iron pot. Breakfast and supper were the only meals we had. I used to take a small basket in the cart with me, a little just to keep us from starving, and some drink for baby, and during the eleven nights we rested in the woods, Hawkins never laid down until about three in the morning, when the overseer would get up and watch, and never but twice did he take his clothes off as we occupied the tent, his only resting place was the cart. It rained the next morning, and was very uncomfortable. The men went in search of the cattle (they were obliged to be turned loose at night to get water and food), could not find them at all. After waiting some time, we thought it better to proceed, excepting one dray, which the overseer was to watch while his men sought the bullocks. As the road this day was something better, we got nine miles to two bark huts, which had been erected by the men employed in mending the roads, but were now empty. We were very glad to take possession of one, and our men of the other, as it rained all day.

In England you never saw anything like these huts, and I fear from my description you will not understand them. Some stakes of trees are stuck in the ground, the outside bark from the trees is tied together, and to these with narrow strips of what is called stringy bark; being tough, it answers the purpose of cord, and the roof is done in the same manner. There was a kind of chimney but neither window nor door, but a space left to enter. As many men had been obliged to sleep here, all round were placed small stakes, and across and on the top were laid pieces of bark, so as to form a kind of broad shelf all round. Here we spread our beds. Mother and I soon found it was impossible to get any rest from the bugs and fleas. Helen and Louisa were laid head and foot. Finding them restless, we looked, and found, poor things, that from some of the pieces of bark not being close to the outside, they had tumbled through, and being suspended by their arms, we had some difficulty to drag them up.

The next morning another overseer came to us from Emu to say the bullocks had again reached home, but would be sent to the dray with two more to assist us. We were obliged to wait that day at the huts for its arrival, and now Mr. Riley, a person who had acted as assistant to the former storekeeper at Bathurst, and who had left Emu with us [found that] two young horses belonging to Government, which he was to take to Bathurst, [had] got away from him, and could not be found. He had likewise lost his bridle, but declared he would hasten on and get the commandant to send us some assistance. With a piece of rope round his horse’s face, and slips of sheepskin tied to it for a bridle, and a merry heart he left us. Another night was forced to be passed in the hut without rest.

The next morning was fine, and we again ascended the cart. This day we accomplished nine miles, much in the same way as before. The following morning, the 18th, a morning never to be forgotten, for to all my complaints about the road I was continually silenced by, ‘Say nothing about it until you get to the big hill.’ We were now within eleven miles of it, but the road being tolerably good and the morning fine, in expectation of something very wonderful, our spirits were by no means bad, for after this day our greatest difficulties were over. Hawkins shot some birds, the boys hunted a kangaroo rat; we laughed and talked, and went cheerfully on until we were within a mile of Mount York, or more commonly called the ‘Big Hill’. I desired Tom to ride on and give us some account of it. He soon came galloping back. ‘Oh! Ma, you will never get up, I am sure you won’t. [Presumably Tom said, or meant to say, down.] I can’t see much of the road, but I can see the valley you are to reach. It is dreadful.’ Our courage began to fail by the time we reached the top.

Here, my dear Ann, I think I had better stop. I leave it to your imagination. I feel it out of my power to give a proper description of it. I have offered the pen to Hawkins, but he refuses. I tell him I must take a leap from top to bottom, but that he will not allow, so I must write on as well as I can.  So now all stopped to recover resolution. I gave all something to eat and some wine to drink. The men began to cut down trees necessary to chain behind the drays. This appeared a terrible precaution to take. We thought it better to commence our walk down. First Tom led his pony, Hawkins his horse. We had proceeded but a short distance when it appeared so impossible for any cart to descend the place we were at that Hawkins refused to go any further with me. Ann was forced to be carried, and mother and myself had to carry Edward. How we got down I cannot tell, but I believe the fear lest any accident should happen to him gave us strength and resolution to keep our own footing. We were often obliged to sit down on a fallen tree, but when we did the pains in our legs and the violent trembling all over us made it difficult to get up again. We at last reached the bottom in safety.

To give an account of the road is not in my power, but you have read Miss Porter’s Scottish Chiefs, where the rocks and glens are so well described; but even that can convey but a faint idea of this mountain. The descent is about a mile. It is four thousand feet above the level of the sea, all rocks and cavities, awfully grand to behold, but from it being impossible to make some parts of the road safe from the projecting pieces of rock, we were rendered very uneasy about our luggage. It was about three o’clock when we seated ourselves on some trees. It was extremely hot. I had given a piece of sugar candy to one of the children in a small tin can we had brought down, and as Tom and Eliza found a spring of water, the can became useful to us to drink from and the sugar served to quiet the little ones. We waited a considerable time, could hear nothing of the rest, and then desired Tom to go and meet them, and when he found them safe, to call out. An hour passed and still we heard nothing. Mother and I then thought to walk a little way and listen. Sometimes we could just hear the sound of voices, and all again was still. We returned to our children. It was nearly sunset, and in this country it is dark almost immediately. I asked Eliza if she would venture up with the female servant to inquire what we were to do, as I was convinced some accident had happened. It was nearly dark when they returned with two cloaks, lantern, and tinder-box, on account of the first dray having upset at what is called the ‘Forty-nine mile pinch,’ and [saying] that the cart would be sent down to us. I soon after heard Tom’s voice high above my head. I blamed him for keeping me so long in suspense, but he said I had desired him to call if they were safe, which he did as soon as the dray was unloaded and reloaded. Tired as we were, all were employed in breaking wood and making fires.

It was quite dark before the cart came. In it were two great coats and a shawl, a piece of bread, and a little arrowroot. I gave it to the poor children. To little Neddy I gave the arrowroot, and we hushed him off to sleep. Mother sat down with him in her lap before a fire. Ann and George were wrapped up and laid on the ground beside her. The four girls I laid in the cart with a great coat over them. I began to feel very weary and chilly. About nine, two drays arrived, but to stand and listen as I had previously done to the noise of the men endeavouring to cheer the cattle, and the dreadful rumbling with which they descended, was enough to create a sensation of terror in a very stout heart; to see them was impossible until they got close to us.

Hawkins was still at the top of the hill, remaining with the last drays, which from the darkness and the fatigue of the horses and men it was found could not be got down that night. They had now to get water and put the tea-kettle on, and some were obliged to walk up the hill and bring down our provisions, and many things which we could not do without, and two men to remain and watch the dray. Hawkins came down with the others, very much fatigued. We now had our supper and the tent pitched. It was eleven o’clock when it was ready for us. We got the children from the ground and cart into it, and laid ourselves down.

The next morning we all felt the effects of being exposed so long to the night air, and the great fatigue we had. After breakfast we walked up to a small rock, and, sitting down, viewed the scene around, and felt thankful that the little property we possessed was safe, for the injury caused by the dray’s upsetting was trifling. Here as we sat we observed three persons winding among the trees in the valley on horseback. They proved to be a clergyman from Parramatta, another gentleman, and a servant. They spoke in rapture of the country from which they were returning.

I now felt myself so ill from fatigue that I was forced to go into the tent and lie down. I fell asleep, and did not wake until the last dray came rumbling by me. Before commencing the journey again, which we did about one o’clock, I cannot help remarking on the extreme fatigue the men endured the preceding day without any refreshment from breakfast until their supper at eleven o’clock. One man in particular, who was the head driver of our cart, a Folkstone man, a countryman of our own, behaved uncommonly well when the dray overturned.

Nothing saved the lives of the horses and our property but the stump of a tree by the roadside. It was suspended over an immense precipice. This man was the first who got on top, and, hanging by the ropes, laboured hard to lighten the dray. He, likewise, was one who went at night to bring down our provisions. Hawkins told him his conduct had been such that he should strongly recommend him to the commanding officer, which he has done, and in all probability he will either be made an overseer of a party; or have a ticket-of-leave given, so that he may work for himself, which is a reward given to them when their behaviour has been very good.

There are but few birds on the mountains, but their plumage is more beautiful than I ever beheld before. They are called ‘Blue Mountaineers’. Then, with a green variety of parrots, which may be heard chattering in the trees, there are also birds called ‘Laughing Jackasses which startled us the preceding evening just at sunset. They appeared to be all round us, making their horrid noise. It was the same at sunrise. I should say there never before was such a party of females without any protection for so many hours at the foot of the mountains. Had any snakes attacked us I fear we should have lost our lives, for none of us would have had the courage to kill them.

Our journey for five miles was very good. We now had reached Cox’s River, which has a bridge over it, but a very steep bank to descend, and when there has been much rain on the mountains it is rendered impassable from its overflowing the bridge. Fortunately we got safe over. We had now reached the spot we had looked forward to from the time of leaving Emu as a place of rest, as here it is customary for all drivers of cattle and luggage to rest for a day or two, as there is good grass. We were all much fatigued. We pitched our tent in a field in front of the house, which was inhabited by a corporal and his wife. She was both clean and civil. Hearing of our coming, she had procured a bucket of milk, and never was anything more enjoyed.

In the evening, Mr. Lowe, a chief magistrate, arrived, a traveler like ourselves. He commenced his journey in the morning, but we remained. I took this opportunity of giving the children all a good washing and change of clothes.

This, as the day was extremely sultry; and not a tree to shade us in the tent, made it, instead of a day of rest, one of great fatigue to me. Being all now so completely sick and tired of the journey, we decided on setting off the next morning, more particularly as the weather was showery and from the season of the year heavy rain might be expected. We were reinforced by a cart and two horses from Bathurst, accompanied by Mr. Riley, as he had promised.

We again ascended our cart on the twenty-first. We had been sitting for some time on the banks of the river seeing the whole cavalcade cross, and when it came to our turn it was with many fears we entered the water nearly up to the horses’ bellies, and the bottom covered with large pieces of rock and stone, enough to overturn the cart and jolt us to death. A man offered to carry little Neddy over in his arms. With anxious eyes I watched him through fear his feet might slip and our darling boy have his head dashed against a stone. With talking, swearing, beating our poor bullocks, we got safe on the bank on the opposite side. We had now a very long and steep hill before us, and, as usual, they refused to go. It was decided that we must have two good horses, as it was impossible we could ever get on. ‘Sir Noby Redmond’ and ‘Lion’ (names I can never forget) were placed in a dray with a horse behind and another before them, but from it being a constant succession of steep hills, we were only able that day to perform eight miles, and rested at eight in a valley. Here we were joined by five more bullocks from Bathurst.

We set off early next morning; after going eight miles reached the Fish River; after crossing which we had to ascend our last hill, which was very long, very steep. I thought I could never have walked to the top. The drays were a considerable time In getting up and were obliged to assist each other. We now descended into a most beautiful country to Sidmouth Valley.

We had to go through a very bad swamp before we got to our resting place, which was where Mr. Lowe’s overseer lived, who had the care of his stock. He had desired his tent to remain for us, and we were very glad to take possession of it, as it was raining here. A gentleman from Bathurst, whom we had known in Sydney, came to meet us, and accompanied us back. We had now, my dear Ann, accomplished our journey over the mountains. The last ten miles we had hardly a spot of level ground; all was steep hills.

We were now but eighteen miles from Bathurst, the country extremely beautiful, gently rising hills covered with wood. We passed Macquarie Plains, crossed Fish River, and entered on the plains of Bathurst. The road was good, and, being determined to reach home that night, we almost trotted, which jolted us so dreadfully that I thought every bone would be disjointed. It was as much as we could do to keep ourselves on the seats and hold the children. As if to the very last our journey was to be made uncomfortable, a fine rain began, which beat in our faces, and made us very cold. At length our house was pointed out to us. What a welcome sight! The rain was now powerful, and before we could reach home we had to cross the Macquarie River, the most dangerous of all. You descend a steep bank, and suddenly plunge into the water, which was as high as the bottom of the cart. The first dray got over, but the rest, being lower, we were obliged to seek another ford for them. We remained alone. The driver of the first brought one of his horses over, put it to ours, and in we plunged. We felt more alarmed for our personal safety at that moment than we had done during the whole journey. We reached the opposite side, and all at one moment exclaimed, ‘We are over.’ A few minutes brought us to our house, where there was a blazing wood fire to warm and cheer us.

On this side of the river the land is chiefly belonging to Government; on the opposite side to the settlers, or, more properly speaking, grants to gentlemen, who as yet have only huts there for the stock-keepers to reside in and they pay only occasional visits.

The Governor is coming in the spring, when great improvements are expected. Two hundred men are to be employed on the roads to make them passable, and a plan for the town will be laid out, and if a chaplain and surgeon are sent we shall have a little society.  They are beginning to build a very good brick house for us, which Sir Thomas, on account of our family, has consented shall be of two storeys. It will be some time before it is ready for us, but when we get in we shall be very comfortable. The one we now occupy contains three rooms and a pantry, all brick floors. The front door opens into the sitting room, immediately opposite is the back door, between the two is a ladder which leads into a loft, to which, as yet, there is no trap door. Our bedrooms, likewise, lead from the room, and where we all at present sleep is open to the roof, which is shingled slips of wood, which at a little distance look like slates. Mr. Lawson, the commandant, who resides in the Government House, has ordered two additional rooms to be added, and in another month I hope to be able to sleep in them. We shall then be much more comfortable, for though in England this would be considered a homely residence, here it is thought a very good one.

We are allowed certain rations for six months, of meat, wheat, tea and sugar, sufficient for our family and servants. In respect of the situation, the nominal value of it is but five shillings a day, with rations for Hawkins and servant, but there are many advantages attached to it sufficient to supply the wants of our family and prevent our wanting any ready money for housekeeping. We live very well, get excellent fish, and the wild ducks are delicious. We are supplied with vegetables from the Government garden, and we are allowed the use of two cows, which, with two we have of our own, give us butter and milk. You must not judge of the produce of four cows here by what they give in England, for, being naturally wild, and the calves never weaned from them for fear they should not thrive so well, they can only be milked once a day. I am desired by Eliza and Mary to tell their cousin Ann they churned the first butter. The Government carts bring us a good supply of firewood, so that, altogether, my dear Ann, we have no reason to complain of our present situation, if retirement and seclusion from the world is not considered a trouble, which I am happy to say it is not. I often wish we could have beer and yeast to make bread, for not having the means of properly dressing our wheat, our bread is not English bread. Our candles we make ourselves.

I have now, my dear Bowling and Ann, brought you to the end of my journey, but I cannot close this long letter without adding a little more. I tell Hawkins that had it been possible to have gone any further (as he was always famous for moving us about) we should have done it, but beyond here there is no road. Mother bore the fatigue uncommonly well. A journey such as I have described of eighteen days was, at her age, a very great undertaking, but she has recovered from it, and is better than I am, for I am very thin and not very strong. Our children are all well and happy.

I think there can be no doubt but we shall do well, and in a few years prosper; but I would never persuade anyone with a large family as mine, and slender means as we possessed, to leave England, for not one in a thousand could expect to be as fortunate as we have been, for without the appointment we have, and the assistance of the Government to bring us here, we never could have come, or without it we must have been subject to many hardships and privations that we have never felt. But I do wish that a few respectable families, who on their arrival here would be in possession of a few hundred or one thousand pounds, would come, for with such means they must do well—there can be nothing to prevent it.

Before I entirely take leave of the mountains I must tell you that the tree which we chained at the back of the last dray when descending the big hill was forty-eight feet long, and at the extremity, on the boughs, were seated three men. By this necessary precaution you will be enabled to judge better than I have described it to you the steepness and hazard for luggage to descend. Till bridges are thrown over the river, and the road much improved there can be little communication with this country; but that is to be done after [the governor] has crossed the mountains. The land on this side is so good for rearing cattle that nearly the whole consumption of the colony depends upon it, and many who cannot obtain land here are glad to send their cattle. In addition to our cavalcade, we had thirty-four head, which belonged to our landlord, on the following terms: One third of the produce to be ours, to be divided at the end of seven years. We have an increase of one calf since we have been here. Although we have not got our own land marked out for us yet, Hawkins has selected his spot, and applied for it, still until then we can have the use of as much as we want for any cattle we may possess.

The Commandant’s eldest son took Tom last week to visit their men and cattle. They returned with a bullock to kill and put in store. Yesterday they again left us to be absent a week. He has huts on different parts of their land where their men reside who take care of their stock; at these huts they will rest at night, and he desired me to give his love to his cousin Tom, and to ask him how he would like to sleep before a large fire on a sheep-skin laid on bark, and in the day to go into the woods and hunt the kangaroos. He has gone away very happy, mounted on a large horse, accompanied by young Lawson and a man with seven or eight dogs, and he promised to bring home a kangaroo, an emu and a wild turkey. We must encourage him in this kind of life, for in a few years I hope he will be of great service to us.

The greatest drawback in this country are the snakes, which are so extremely venomous that no person who has been bitten has been known to live many moments. They will not attack you unless molested. The only one I have seen was brought home by Tom the other day. It rose to bite the dog that barked at it, and the man killed it.

Tom and the children are all well; George is the most delicate; little Edward, the plaything of our leisure moments, and the darling of all.  He has ever been a treasured babe from an idea that he was deprived of those little comforts attached to infants; he is a most lovely and healthy and lovely child, and it will be worthy of remark that, born in England, his first birthday was spent at Bathurst, the day on which his father took on himself the duties of commissariat. No child so young, I should ever travel so far.

hope, my dear friend, I have not wearied you in the perusal of this long letter, which has not been written without many interruptions, but I cannot undertake to correct its errors. And now, and for ever, may God bless you all.

Bathurst is 137 miles from Sydney; we were eighteen days on the road.

E. Hawkins