F. Edward (Frederick Edward) Hulme.

A Settler's 35 Years' Experience in Victoria, Australia online

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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 1000
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 £1 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 waggon. 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 picnicing 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 altitude 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
fire-place 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 born in Melbourne. It will be imagined that
by this time I had worn off all my "smooth-handedness." Yes, indeed, I
had become a "horny-handed" working man, and considered it no disgrace

"Who will hang his head in blushes
For the stains to toiling due?
There is dignity in labor,
If the laborer 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 fall. 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 wash-dirt
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. Neighbors 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 £1
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 128 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 labor
in the colony. But, remember, labor is equivalent to capital, and I was
backed with that banking account named before, viz., my seven good boys.

Commencing Farming.

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 10s. 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 laborer 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 16, 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. 1 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 labor to some farmer for a time for fetching it
out for us, or 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 18) 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. 10th v. xxviii
ch. to 1st 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. 1 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 12
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,
12 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 he was only a few miles off. 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 hills were very healthy, abounding in crystal springs, as will
be supposed, for during the 10 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 15 years. It happened in this way.
He was out with the gun, keeping the cockatoos off 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 even 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.

Increasing our Holdings.

We selected 115 acres more land the next year, and 95 the year after.
All spare time, the two eldest sons went out fencing, etc., for other
settlers, but, in a few years, we had plenty of work at home, and
our son from the station joined us; the other sons, as well, growing
up strong and useful. My wife and daughters also busy attending to
housework, dairying, etc., which now had increased considerably by
natural increase and further purchases. Horse stock also increased in
the same way. Thus we have gone on year after year, all working for one
common object and mutual welfare, and which we have now continued to do
for nearly 25 years on the farm up to this time, 1891. Two of my sons
have selected other allotments, and we have purchased two "drunk out"
farms from the mortgagees. We also, in 1884, purchased a very eligible
block of land. We had to pay dearly for it, though. It contained about
400 acres of good tillage land - good for this district, where land is
not first-class, like many parts of Victoria. For this, we gave £8 per
acre, and for 636 acres of grass land adjoining, £4 per acre, costing
altogether over £6000. This we had to get partly upon loan. With our
own great strength, now of six grown-up sons, and plenty of horse
strength besides, we have reaped in produce and stock from the same
land, quite two-thirds of the amount, and expect in a few more years'
crops to clear it, so that it was a good investment, but there has been
very heavy labor attached to it.

Although we have a large quantity of the finest land in the district
suitable for Hop-growing, we have scrupulously and conscientiously
refrained from growing the same; considering it would be most
inconsistent with our principles to have anything whatever, directly or
indirectly, to do with any product that contributed to the production
of that substance that has been the greatest curse to the world; also
putting some of the best land to a base use, instead of using it for
the benefit of mankind. The Hop is different altogether from the Grape,
or Barley, as they are in themselves a blessing, and of eminent use to
man, properly and rationally used.

The Consummation.

About six years since we erected on the "Home Farm" - our first
selection - Residence No. 3, a superior brick house, which cost about
£500, and very desirable now and appreciated, as wife and I are growing
old - self, 74; wife, a few years younger. The bush furniture has given
place to as good a suite of furniture as anyone could wish for in
sitting, bedrooms, etc., also a superior organ, with which to praise
and glorify the good God who has blessed and prospered us. I have,
besides, taken the brush in hand again to adorn the walls, and leave
some of my handiwork behind me for the children. In fact, for the last
eight years I have done a few paintings, sold a few landscapes, and
exhibited them at various places in the colonies; also sent a large
one to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London, for which I got a
certificate and medal. Heavy, laborious work, of course, begins to tell
upon me now if long continued, so that this "soft-handed" work is a
relaxation. My department now in the firm is principally in the garden
and orchard, of which we have now a large one, both fancy and useful.
We have also an orangery recently planted, have also a good many old
trees, which bear wonderfully well. We irrigate with a horse-pump.

We are all still working together in partnership, as it has always been
my policy to give my sons a direct interest in all our undertakings and
property, and this is only right and just, as to them mainly, under
God's blessing, I must attribute our success; anyhow, the labor portion

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Online LibraryF. Edward (Frederick Edward) HulmeA Settler's 35 Years' Experience in Victoria, Australia → online text (page 2 of 4)