This letter was sent by a customer D. Menzies at Skipton to the Mortlake Mill, detailing an unusual payment method for the processing of his wheat into flour. David Menzies was a Scots farmer who lived in Skipton c. 1860's on a bend in the Mount Emu Creek. He helped establish the local school and a lane in the township bears his name.
The letter illustrates the nature of commerce and the difficulties of communication and life generally in the country at the time. The bluestone Mortlake Mill built in 1856, has been a prominent landmark in Mortlake for over 150 years. It played a significant role in the commercial life of the town and was initially a wind-mill to process district grain for sale. The goldrush at Ararat 100 km. away led to a temporarily increased population and demand for foodstuffs. In 1857 the Mill was sold to Aikman, Hamilton and Geddes who converted it to steampower and later built the prominent chimney, which is on the Heritage Register as part of the National Estate. D. Menzies at Skipton lived at least 85 km away - his wheat which urgently needed milling, faced a slow and arduous journey by bullock dray. After the demise of the Ararat goldfields and the decline in population (as well as the district soils proving unsuitable for sustained wheat cultivation), the operation of the Mill declined too and the proprietors increased their involvement in other activities - supply of building materials, timber felling and sawmills. Despite the apparent difficulties of conducting business in the 1850's, it is notable that commerce thrived at that time in country districts, as an examination of Mill accounts and records show.
Handwritten letter dated 1864 (water-stained)
Inscriptions & markings
Skipton March 7 1864
[to] Messrs. Hamilton & Co. Mortlake.
I was in hope of hearing from you before now that you had commenced working the Mill, & that I could have sent you the enclosed money [for a] load of wheat for Gristing. Please receive the enclosed 2 halves of 2 [two] 5 [pound sign] notes forwarded to your account. the other halves will be sent on receipt of your stating you having received those notes sent. As I am out of flour be so good as say how soon I may send a load of wheat.
I am Gentlemen