Two letters addressed to Benjamin Hurst, Wesleyan minister at Goulburn, New South Wales, from fellow ministers James Somerville (Braidwood) and Benjamin Chapman (Sydney). 1853-54.
Benjamin Hurst (1811-1857), in company with Francis Tuckfield, had been sent from England to work as a Wesleyan missionary among the Port Phillip Aborigines in 1838. Hurst worked with Tuckfield in the Geelong-Colac area for a number of years before his appointment as minister at Goulburn, the fledgling pastoral township on the South Tablelands of New South Wales located on the periphery of the goldfields that were centred around the Braidwood and Major’s Creek diggings. The two unpublished items of correspondence we offer here provide a wealth of information concerning Wesleyan activities during the first phase of the New South Wales gold rush. The National Library of Australia holds in its collection an engraving of Hurst by John Cochran.
I. Entire letter addressed to ‘Rev. B. Hurst, Goulburn’; manuscript in ink,  pp quarto; headed ‘Braidwood November 14th 1853’, written by James Somerville, Wesleyan minister responsible for a gruelling and dangerous preaching circuit covering a vast region of wild and rugged terrain stretching from Braidwood to Moruya via the Majors Creek gold diggings, north through the coastal hinterland to Bateman’s Bay, and back across the Budawangs to Braidwood’s east; the letter from Somerville to his superior is a candid exposition of the difficulties of his job and of his current demoralised and dispirited state; address panel tied with 2d blue imperforate Queen’s head, cancelled with barred numeral “36” (Braidwood) and with oval handstamp BRAIDWOOD NEW SOUTH WALES NO. 16 in black; original folds; very clean and legible.
‘Dear Bro, Your communication of the 12 Inst. came to hand last night. 1st. There has been nothing done respecting the Chapel since I saw you save one or two small Subs. promised. All interest in the movement seems to be lost, or, at least abated for the present save with Mr. Walker, and he is inclined at present to have a Wooden Building put up & thinks he could procure Sawed Stuff & labour sufficient for the purpose. What do you think of such a step? 2nd. I called at Coopers on my way up They expressed a wish to to have preaching on the Sabbath but could say nothing for a Weekday or Evening Congregation. Neither could they say where we could lodge except in their own Hut. They mentioned a Captain Gore … and promised to see his family & neighbours on the subject, and also promised to write to you, or to me and let us know the result. I told them that I was pretty sure that you could not give them a Sabbath Service, but did they succeed in getting a place & a congregation that I would give them a Midday or Evening Service once a quarter on my way to Goulburn … 3rd. Broulee [township on the south coast of New South Wales between Batemans Bay and Moruya] is still encouraging, the congregation were good. Another has joined Society. We held a meeting after preaching on Tuesday night last respecting the Chapel, when names were entered in the Subscription list to the amount of £150, and they think that they can make it another hundred, and could they get labour they would build a Stone or Brick Chapel. The week after I saw you a party came up from Broulee & were very much disappointed & seemed much displeased because I refused to marry them. 4th. In this town and also at the Diggings there is nothing very promising at present, but on the contrary much apathy. However I must not complain as I still have as good, if not a better congregation than any of the other three Ministers who labour here. I take no credit to myself, a worthless worm. They are men of learning, energy and talent. But the good Lord has looked upon my affection and has given me this encouragement; had He not been pleased to let me see some little good done I should have been crushed long since. 5. Perhaps it might be as well to let the appointments on the next plan run as they are on the present (as the other Ministers know my work and I believe have arranged theirs so as not to come in collision) save the following alterations. Give to the Little River, the Sawpit Gully Service as the Gully is quite deserted; I have been doing so latterly. Plan me at Budawang the Friday before I am at Cookanella on the Sabbath; and at Cookanella the Friday before I am at Budawang on the Sabbath. 6th. My horse is recovering, but he is not able for all the work. 7th. I don’t know how I am to create time for Study & Preach from four to six times a week, wait upon, & provide for, myself and horse. I cannot go to my appointments without my horse, and however successful I may be in catching him, I cannot have him in less than an hour, and for once that I can do it in that time, there are five, that it takes me two or three hours looking for and running after him, and Hobbles won’t remain on him the second night before they are stolen … If I attend to Study and preaching, as would be necessary to my mental improvement and efficiency, I must give up a groom & servants offices, and this will add some 30s expense per week. I have lived a life of self-denial since I came here, robbed Body & Mind of that rest, comfort, and nourishment which are necessary to promote health and life, temporal & spiritual. I believe I have been unjust to myself in so doing, but I hoped to see a better state of things and now I am fully persuaded should existing circumstances continue much longer both mental & physical energy must give way. I think I have referred to all your queries, & have also given you a long letter, and as all my former letters have been offensive it has been with reluctance & with fear that I have written the present, & whatever reception this may meet with I assure you it has been written in sincerity, and I trust in the Spirit of Charity. I shall be glad to hear from you, & remain yours affectionately, James Somerville’.
II. Entire letter addressed to ‘Revd. Benjamin Hurst, Wesleyan Minister, Goulburn’; manuscript in ink,  pp foolscap folio, cross-written; headed ‘Sydney 23rd February 1854’, written by Benjamin Chapman, Wesleyan minister; address panel tied with pair of 1d orange imperforate Queen’s heads, cancelled with barred oval (Sydney) and with circular handstamp SYDNEY NEW SOUTH WALES FE 24 1854 in black; endorsed ‘By Braidwood’, and with Goulburn arrival stamp dated FE 27; short postscript on outerside initialled BC (Benjamin Chapman); original folds, remnants of wax seal, very clean and legible.
Chapman’s lengthy and detailed report, in response to a request from Hurst, on ‘the doings of the Special District Meeting’ in Sydney, from which Hurst had been absent. The tone of the letter is quite strident, Chapman anticipating Hurst’s antipathy towards his own and others’ views expressed at the meeting. Much of the meeting, and consequently also the letter, was devoted to a controversy surrounding Wesleyan appointments in Port Phillip, where John Eggleston (1813-1879) was the leading Wesleyan minister.