Location: Mount Barker, South Australia, Australia
Research page of the Tonkin Name Study
The Emigrants' Penny Magazine
Plymouth: J.R. Rowe, Whimple street
volume 1 no. 7
EXTRACT FROM AN ORIGINAL EMIGRANTS' LETTER
Peringa Village, Mount Barker
South Australia, Oct 11th 1849.
My very dear brothers and sisters,
I suppose you are waiting to hear from us after being absent so many months. And now being settled, and making some observations for nine months past, I take up my pen to write you some information, as far as I can, about the country of South Australia.
And first I would just observe we were favoured with a very fine passage, about 105 days, and all landed in safety. We found William at the Port with his two brothers-in-law, with 18 head of cattle, and three carriages calculated to carry three tons each.
We all went strait to William's place at Mount Barker, and found his wife and children all in good health, and every preparation made, that could be made; while a good stock of provisions was provided. We found William in very flourishing circumstances; he has eighty acres of land, I should think as good as can be found in the world. We came there a week before Christmas, and found harvest begun, and so fine a wheat crop I never saw in England. William had 40 acres of wheat, and plenty of barley, oats, potatoes, &c. We all stopped with him and got in the harvest before we left.
After harvest our boys settled about ten miles from Mount Barker, at Peringa Mine, and Betsy and I soon went there too. I had liberty to build a house on the mine land, and the proprietors offered me materials for the work; so I set about the building, the boys helping me; we soon got up the best house in the village; it contains a kitchen 225 square feet, two bedrooms that comfortably contain two beds each, and a schoolroom. I have enclosed a garden at the front of the house, about thirty yards of fine land, and all planted, and everything growing abundantly.
I would just here observe we pay no rent while the boys work at the mine; if this house was at home it would make £20 per year.
We have a very great privilege, for we can keep as many cows as we like, and they can run over thousands of acres of land and fine pasture, while they can feed home close to the door. There is no hay nor houses wanted here for cattle; the winter is even the best time for feed. We have three cows and calves, and the way we manage is as follows - we have a yard in which we milk our cows, and we take off what milk we like, and then let the calf take the rest. We are obliged to keep it so that we may get home the cows, for we have no fences, and they can run a thousand miles or twice that distance; but after a little while we put a long rope to the calf, and place it a short distance from the house, and the cows will go off to feed, and come home regularly in the evening, and at night we put them in the yard. Two of my cows are very fine, and if they were at home they would not stand five minutes in a market at £16 each; but here they are cheap, I bought the first of them about five weeks since for £4 10s.
Meat here is about 2½d. per lb., wheat 5s. p bushel, barley 3s. oats 3s. potatoes 10s. cwt. tea 2s. sugar 3d. per lb. Clothing is a little dearer than at home; shoes are very dear 15s. a pair, yet men's shoe leather is very cheap, so you may see a shoemaker is a very good trade here. I have just begun to make shoes, and am getting on very well for a learner; I have made five pair of shoes and three pair of boots, so I think I might get on if I had more time; but my school and garden take up most of my time.
My dear brothers and sisters, this is a fine country for an industrious family; people that are willing to work can do well; poor people's dogs eat more meat than whole families could at home; this too is a very healthy climate, and we never enjoyed better health than we do now. Betsy is getting very stout. she can scarcely put on any of her clothes she brought from home, and my clothes is very tight for me; indeed we were never so comfortably situated as we are now; the country is become so natural to me as if I had been born here; we are surrounded by our own country people.
There are some natives here, but not very many; they are a very harmless race. They are not very black, being rather brown; and they go naked in general; they will carry water or wood for a bit of bread; and they have no house nor provisions; but live on what they can find in the bush. There are many things here raw, which they eat, a very stupid set, ignorant of God and everything spiritual; they worship the sun and the moon, and believe when they die they shall go to England, and come out white people; and we cannot persuade them out of it; we have a chapel about half a mile from us, and preaching twice every Sunday; it is the Primitive Methodist Society; but we are going to build another chapel directly.
I have plenty of work, and long crooked lanes; but we ride through the bush, and the scene is more beautiful than any gentleman's lawn I ever saw; the birds singing on every side, and in many places it is like a flower garden. Sometimes when I look on this country, and think of home and past circumstances, I cannot tell how thankful I feel to the Lord for directing us to this glorious place, a land with every blessing. Oh! how glad I should be if you were all here to enjoy some of the good things of this land.
We are just the other side of the globe; and there is ten and a half hours' difference in the time, and we are that ahead of you; it is your night when it is our day; when it is twelve o'clock in the day with us, it is half-past one in the morning with you; the sun is north with us when it is twelve o'clock; we have very little twilight here, not like it is at home, the sun is up; and so in the evening when the sun leaves, it quickly grows dark. We have plenty of fine weather, and in the summer it is very hot; it was very hot when we came, and we found it tedious to us at first. The flies are very plentiful, and troublesome to strangers; and we have hot winds at times not very pleasant.
We have no wild beasts in this part of the colony, nothing but a few opossums, they are something like a rabbit, kangaroos are very plentiful, and their skins make the best of leather. We have a plenty of wild fowl, ducks, geese, swans, turkeys, pigeons, and many sorts of birds. The country looks best in the winter, our trees are evergreen and instead of their leaves they cast off their bark every year, and never loose their leaf; and at this time the wilderness is blossoming, and it is quite impossible for me to point out its beauty. Some parts of this country are very mountainous and rocky! and abound with copper, silver, lead, and iron ores; the soil is generally good for crops; some of it is black, and deep under the surface is a kind of soapy clay very rich. We can sow year after year without any manure, and the finest crops are produced.
We have no hedges, our fences are split wood, and will last for many years; we have as much fire-wood as we like. Some of our trees are very large, but the largest are generally hollow; there is one at William's place in which a man, his wife and three children, lived a fortnight. The timber here is not very good for working, being hard; no such timber as at home; we have many sorts, such as red, blue, and white silver wattle; the oak, black wood, cherry wood, white bark, peppermint bark, and some pine; but all is very coarse, the black wood is the best.
Cattle are very fine, from six to ten hundred weight and very plentiful; hundreds of bullocks are slaughtered, and boiled down for their fat, and the meat made no use of; but thrown out to the dogs. I do often think of poor people at home who are starving for want of it; if they were here, they would think they were in a land of luxury; the people indeed, here, live on the very best the world can produce, and I am much afraid that many who were pious at home, forget the most important thing; they are like Israel of old, they "grow fat and forget God" but ah! rather should they be thankful and live to His praise and glory.
We have all sorts of professions here, Methodists, Primitives, Brianites, Church of England, Roman Catholics, and some few Quakers. Our Wesleyan Methodist Missionaries are very fine men; one of them is expected to preach in my schoolroom to morrow evening.
My family give their kind love to all they left behind in our native land; they are in good health, and well pleased with the country, and only sorry they were not here before. My dear sister, I wish when you have read this, you would forward it to the rest of my brothers and sisters, and I hope all will not neglect to write to me often, and I will do the same. I would just remark that if any of you intend to come, you have no need to burden yourselves with clothes; take a few things on board for your use, such as onions, pepper, cheese, ham, pork, or some fish - dried pollock would be the best; and if I had to undertake the voyage again, I would take a bushel of flour, and then you might have good bread. I here remark, I do not persuade any one to come; I should be glad to see you here, but you must follow your own mind. I have simply laid before you the state of the country; but I come very far short of pointing out its real beauty and excellence.
Please give our love to enquiring friends; my family give their love to you all, and hope if we never meet more on earth, we shall all meet in heaven. God bless you all!
Yours truly, W. and E. Tonkin
^Paringa Mine was in Callington, South Australia
Written by William Tonkin
First published in the Emigrants' Penny Magazine November 1850 digitised in the collections of the State Library of New South Wales
and reproduced in Tonkin World, newsletter of the Tonkin Genealogical and Historical Society vol 1, issues 2 and 3, 1981
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