Lake Macquarie History

Letter from Tom Fennell to his brother William, 1st July 1851

Hexham 1st July 1851

My Dear William,

You will before this I trust have received my answer to your last in which you told me of the death of our dear Mother and in which I gave you some account of myself. You have to thank two of the most dreadful days I ever saw in my life for this letter. We can see nothing before or around us but one sheet of water and I should have loved to delay writing a short time longer had not all work been stopped. I cannot omit in the first place thanking you for the trouble you have been to obtaining a continuance of Mother's pension to our sisters. I am truly rejoiced and thankful to hear you were able to do so. The news of poor John's suffering was a great cause of grief to me, it is a great trial for him and his family and must have put you to a very great deal of trouble. As I am sure that my affairs will be of the most interest to you I will first relate them. I am still with William and have scarcely had the plow out of my hand since I last wrote to you. As you will know when I tell you that I have ploughed up and sown myself 30 acres of land since the date of the last. It is slower work here than in England for we have to do all our own work with bullocks. Twenty acres was for William in which he assisted me by and as for myself we helped each other for I could not have paid a man to help me. You will see by that, that I have got ten acres cropped with hay and with wheat which if I have fair crops, will bring me in £10 clear of all expenses, so that I shall be able to creep up again by degrees. Since that I have been able to rent 12 acres more, acres I intend to plant with potatoes for only paying things and with tobacco (in which Willy and I join) and 10 with corn. I cannot tell you what a happy life a farmers is although I have not [indecipherable] a [indecipherable] of about his to put on yet. I am truly having a prospect of hard earned gains coming in which is the greatest pleasure that a man can have to know that from industry and self denial he be raised himself from not having a penny to being comfortable. I am happy to tell you that I enjoy the assistance of moral men who from poverty have become rich. I feel a [indecipherable] in their good will for they would not grant it without I deserved it. Now that I am about business I must request you if you can properly manage to send me a little help out at [indecipherable] tell me if I may expect any. I shall then know how to go on. You ask me how I stand hard work. I can thank you to be able to tell you well, for my health is perfect except now and again a touch of the rheumatism but I do not get fat for I am not as fat as when I left home, but stop till I am more settled and then I may be able to give you a better account. Richard is living down at the Lake about 20 miles from here, but it is some months since I was there, but he has been down lately and gave a very good account of himself and all of them.

As you may well imagine the gold discoveries have carried their greatest sensations throughout the length and breadth of the land, people of every grade are leaving in large parties daily and mustering [in] their thousands. They are leaving good situations and occupations in which they were doing well for an uncertainty, all leaving their wives and families to look for that gold which perisheth and God knows what will be the end of it, in fact you hear of nothing else. Many gentlemen have gone from this part who all wanted me to join them but yet I have resisted their temptation, for I see a certainty of creeping on by little and little where I am, therefore I do not feel justified in sacrificing what I have left in an uncertainty of that sort, for it appears to me no better than a gambling speculation. It is only about 200 miles from here. Some have done very, very well, others, the greater number, have had to beg their way home to endeavour to obtain that employment they as foolishly left and many who sold good farms to go there and all have been obliged again to live as servants.

Every article of use is now risen to an awful price and it appears to me that the next two or three years will be the best that were ever known in this country. For farmers, at least those that continue on their farms, if we look at the thousands who will flock into this country from all parts of the world, and more particularly from the neighbouring colonies, so that there will be none left to till the soil in those places from which we mainly obtained our supply of wheat, and look at the increase of our population and fewer growers, farming produce must continue very high for years to come. Wheat that was fetching 3/- to 3/6 the bushel is now up to 11/- and is bought at that price by speculators who hope it will rise much higher. I have been offered 4/- the bushell to be paid for wheat that has not been two weeks in the ground, the buyer to pay for 20 bushels the acre and chance whether it grows or not, on my part I was to have all above the 20b and if the price was above 6/-next year and the 1/- the bushel was to be given to me, the person who made this offer has already paid for 500 bushels on those terms, but I for my part do not intend to sell if I can get on till [indecipherable] and without for if it is his interest to buy on these terms, it is mine to keep, besides I do not approve of such bargains.

July 4th 1851.

The rain only ceased to fall in torrents today. I was at Maitland this morning and found it in an awful state, houses completely under water except the roofs, and boats going from farm to farm in all directions over ground that a few days since you saw the crops looking beautiful. Thousands of acres of wheat and corn have been destroyed and shacks are floating about in all directions, many a thriving farmer will be ruined.

They are talking about wheat fetching from 15/- to £1 next year, the usual price is 2/6 to 3/6. The large cloth factories on the North shore at Newcastle belonging to Mr Fisher were all burned down yesterday. God help those who have to buy wheat next year. Richard grew some last and is now living on corn bread and I fear he has not put in enough this year to supply his wants next, but he has no one but himself to blame for it. But I am sure, William, you will be sick of trying to read this scrawl, but as I write so seldom you must excuse me. You never sent the box that you said was packed to come. You should not encourage hopes for each week of its non-arrival appears like a month. If you have any old clothes that are of no use to you put them in, for they are all of use here, however much they are patched. Remember me to poor John and tell him how much I regret his accident. To Mary and little ones remember me, tell them I hope to see them some day. To all other friends remember me and tell them I will write to all when times meet.

and dear William remember me ever to be
Your ever loving Brother
N. Thos Fennell

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