A settler's letter | State Library of New South Wales

A settler's letter

This letter written was by Arthur Way in September 1842 to his brother Benjamin, who lived in Durham, England. Arthur describes life on his farm Clevedon at Gresford on the Allyn River, NSW which he owned in partnership with John Durbin. In particular, he describes the farmhouse, the convict workers, his cattle and horses, and a visit to the Sydney races.

Get the latest Flash player to view this interactive content.

Get Adobe Flash player

Transcript: Letter, by Arthur Way, Clevedon, Gresford

Clevedon, Gresford, Allyn River, NSW
Sept 11th 1842

Address: Arthur Edwin Way
Sydney NSW

My dear Ben,

It is now some sixteen months since I wrote to Susan a long letter and have been for some time expecting a [Budget] of news from Denham and, as I am now considerably more settled than at that period, I doubt not that you who have always taken an interest in my welfare will be glad to know how I am getting along in this distant part of the world. The spot which I have selected for my home from where I write is about 130 miles from Sydney, and as far as I have yet informed myself it is decidedly the best district in the colony for a homestead, being within the seacoast range of mountains, a position which [ensures] us a plentiful supply of rain, one of the most important points to be looked at by a settler in this fearfully droughty country. Our farm was first purchased of Mr Townshend by my partner John Durbin, to whom I agreed to give stock of the amount which [he] had expended and so we set our heads together, and our farm is now become one of the best (for a small farm) in the district. It consists of 800 acres of which we have cleared better than a hundred, seventy acres being now under cultivation; the remaining [frontier] is fenced in and subdivided into grazing paddocks for the brood mares and one or two dairy cows which we keep at the farm. Our winter is just now ending and we have about fifty-five acres of young wheat looking as green and healthy as a farmer could desire to see it. Our home which was a miserable hut when I arrived is now a substantial edifice and having an abundance of limestone we have just plastered it within and without, which gives it a very neat appearance. It consists of one sitting & dining room 20ft square next to which is our business room & library 12ft square, adjoining is my bedroom 12ft square do, adjoining which is the Barracks or visitors room 20ft by 15ft. At the back is Durbin's bedroom, a small store & pantry, a spacious verandah runs the whole length of the front and round two sides of the house, immediately in front of the house is the garden & in the rear is the stables, barn, loose boxes, pig yard, men's huts etc: & now keeping my description in yr. mind, you have as good an idea of my antipodean stop as if you were upon the spot. We have had a great loss this last week in the death of our gardener who was a negro convict, I was talking to him at sundown apparently in good spirits, & the same evening while eating his supper, the poor fellow burst a Bloodvessel (sic) of the lungs and suffocated in a moment, he was an excellent gardener & as we cannot afford to a free one, we will miss him much, we have not at present a free man on the farm & when our convicts are free I do not know what we shall do unless emigration is kept up incessantly, of which I see at present no prospect. About 12 miles higher up the river we rent a cattle station, on which we have just built a very substantial stockyard capable of holding about 800 head of cattle, although. at present we have not more than half that no. there, among them we have above a hundred excellent cows, we are now breaking in every cow to bail as soon as they calve, this is the calving season, & in less than a month I hope to have sixty cows to milk, & the produce now that I have once [set/got] things [agoing] ought to pay every expense attached to the station, about 15 miles above the station we have just formed a heifer station which is the highest station on the river, we rent the land about 35000 acres from the Government at £20 per an: & as there is no one above us we have an unlimited extent of country beyond, there are at present such numbers of wild cattle up there we are obliged to keep our heifers herded, but a soon as the nights are warm enough for sleeping out of doors, I am going up with lots of ammunition & hope to drive the brutes back onto the mountains lying [ ] limits. There is an abundance of grass here & at the heifer station it is so thick & tangled from not having been fed down that you can hardly walk thru it. The steers thrive well on it we killed a 3yr old this last week weighing 680lbs, & considering that there is no such thing known as stall feeding, the beef is excellent here, we are now selling beef at £1.26 per cwt. The general price is 25/ but the times are so bad that every thing has fallen in price. The average weight of beasts killed here maybe said to be 600lbs. In the way of horse stock we are going on gradually, being lately sold several mares, not [proving] regular breeders, we have kept 8 [regular] breeders & every one of them will foal again in about 6 weeks or two months. The mares we keep generally in paddocks & send the grazing stock as soon as they are weaned & branded up to the station to run till 3 yrs old when we have them down to break them in and send them to market, horse stock has fallen more than any other stock in value, when I arrived you could not purchase a decent nag under 60 or 70, now you buy a very good one at 30 or 40. I gave 65 for my horse two years since nearly, but I would not sell her for less now, I have so many miles to ride in a week that I [of course] ride stock horses occasionally. In addition to our own mares we have now 20 [ ] which we take in by the year some at £5 others at £6 per annum, services of the horse included, this is [sure] pay, as we never part with a mare till expenses are paid, & I prefer taking a number of tenants, to having too many mares of our own, for the increase we charge 1/ per week from the time they are 6 months old. I was doing well with [Chinbrago] when he died & have supplied his place with a Dover colt, I think Dover (by Patron) was purchased of old Theobald. If I ever import another it will be a very compact [cart] horse the mares here being very deficient in [bone?] & there is a great scarcity of good draft horses all over the colony. [Fawdry?] the red bull I swapt away for the Dover colt and some excellent cattle and I think I had the best of the bargain as I did not find him active enough for this mountainous country. Scott of Glendon who bought him is a very large stockholder here, he has [3] [imp.] horses, Dover, Cap, a Pie, and [Akbar] an arab. He has about 200 mares of his own, upwards of 400 cattle and about 40,000 sheep! Emigrants suited to farm labour cannot go for a better country than this, really good men have no difficulty in getting £25 or 30 per an: added to which they live rent free & have a weekly ration of 12lbs beef or mutton, 10lbs flour, ┬╝lb of tea, 2lbs sugar, soap & tobacco allowed them, so that they have no expenses except their clothes and shoes & very little cloathing (sic) does in this climate, that lazy dog I brought out John Lawrence is now getting £40 per an: as stud groom to a gentleman near here. We at present have only one paid servant (all the others being convicts) a head stockpers. to whom we give £40 an: & 2 [ ] & a ration to his wife for managing the dairy. I sent word that the [text missing] Captain was dead, he was buried at sea on his voyage out I see by the April papers that poor Charles [Jones] is dead, I do not understand the system of sending a poor wretch to the West Indies to die way from all friends and relatives. You would be amused to see the immense number of old sharpies out in this colony, a poor devil of a new comer - unless he has cut his eye teeth - is cleaned out by them immediately, the plan is here, to stick in to a friend who comes out recommended to your case, scabby sheep & all sorts of stock at exorbitant high prices, & the motto of every young hand coming out should be 'Save me from my friends' for if he goes into the market to buy he has a chance, but trusting to a friend he is sure to be plundered, hitherto I know of no single exception to this rule. As far as regards my own circumstances, by the great assistance so kindly afforded me by David Lewis I have got over all the expenses inevitably incurred by a man first settling down in a new country, & unless the country goes to the dogs I am likely now to do as well as my neighbours.

It was a most fortunate thing for me that I came out at the time I did, one month later and I should not have got convicts, in which case I must have looked out for a situation, or have been ruined in attempting to settle up the country with free servants at most exorbitant wages. The great drawback here to an Englishman fond of sport is the total absence of game of any kind to give variety to a country life. The only amusement I get is the Sydney Races twice a year when I go down to act as clerk of the course. They commence on the 20th the Spring meeting & I shall reserve the remaining space for the sport.

Australian Club Sydney Sept 24th. The Spring meeting is over & the sports have been very good, the attendance on the last day was so numerous that the Raceground looked like Ascot, I send with this a newspaper with a full account of the running & I feed today at Governmt. House with his Excellency & return home tomorrow, it being about the busiest season of the year to a settler. Give my best love to My dear Mother also to Susan and all Bros. & Sisters. The last letter I received was from the Vicar of [Hxxbury], I wish my good friends in England would write a little oftener. I shall send this letter by the Candahar to Bombay & it should reach you if it reaches you at all by the 20th January.

My next epistle will be to My dear Mother & the next to David to whom with dear [Tish] & my dear little niece Miss Franz I desire my special love, & now my dear Ben hoping that I may hear from you if not from you very often. [Bestlove] as ever yr aff. Brother,


Postmarked 13 March 1843
Post Candahar to Bombay for overland mail to England via Marseilles

Benjamin Way Esq.
Denham Place