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1-202 (Text)

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author,female,Hawkins, Elizabeth,39 addressee,female
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Private Written
Private Correspondence
Clarke, 1992
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1-202-plain.txt — 18 KB

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I had now before me this most tremendous journey. I was told I deserved to be immortalised for the attempt and that Govt. 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. Every thing that could be done for us was done by 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 9 men that accompanied us. In consequence of this we were obliged to leave many things behind.  We now commenced with two drays with 5 bullocks each, 1 dray with 4 horses, and our own cart with 2; 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. 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, it was 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 from 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 & descent, the hollow places and the large ragged pieces of rock. You will perhaps imagine, as I had done, that the mountains are perfectly barren. For 40 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 rocks, hardly any earth on the surface. This land seems as if it was 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 lap stone, 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 our 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 very 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 to bed I came from the tent in 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 days 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 any thing 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 elder 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 charms. 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, there 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 corporal's wife an old woman who had been transported above twenty years with fawning manners 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 there to rest for the nights journey 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 we got quite miserable. At length the storekeeper . . . 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 but such a scene of confusion as there appeared from the glare of the fires the carts and drays the men tired with their days 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 the 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 basket which with what had been given to her made her and the soldiers tipsy all was noise and confusement in doors, 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 the 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 the 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 waiting 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 these 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 taken off and with the assistance of the other horses, 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 into 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 thing such as our bullocks lying down constantly the others not able to drag 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 11 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 every thing was very uncomfortable, the men went in search of the cattle they were obliged to he 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 hullocks. 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 around 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 to 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 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 Noll." We were now within eleven miles of it but the roads 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 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.  
The men began to cut down the 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 4000 feet above the level of the sea all rocks and beauties 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 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 and could hear nothing of the rest and then desired Tom to go and meet them and when he found them all safe to call out and an hour passed, and still we heard nothing. Mother and I then thought to walk a little way and listen some times we could just hear the sound of voices and all again was still we returned to our children. It was nearly sun set and in this country it is dark almost immediately. I asked Eliza if she would venture up with the female servant to enquire 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 49 mile pinch and 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 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 9 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 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 11 o'clock when 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 in 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 possess was safe for the injury caused by the dray 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