When an Illawarra dairyman decided to seek his fortune "on the arid prairies of California" in the early 1870s, he discovered that the US grass was far from greener.
The unnamed farmer's exploits were published in the Mercury, and included his yearning to return home.
Such was his disillusion, and that of others, he was anxious to turn whatever stay he made into a mission to induce people there to immigrate to Australia.
In a letter dated May 16, 1877, the farmer said that had he seen the country beforehand, "I would not be here at present".
"This part of the State of California is subject to droughts … As a regular thing there is seven months of every year without rain.
"All the land that I have seen is naturally destitute of timber, and also of surface water. I have not seen any creeks with water, as in Illawarra.
"As a general rule, all stock drink out of troughs. The water is not good, owing to the ground having alkali in it, giving the water a somewhat offensive taste."
The farmer said that the US taxation system was rampant, almost to the point of being out of control.
"Every man from 21 to 60 years in the state has to pay a poll tax of eight shillings per annum, and for every dog there is a tax of eight shillings per year to be paid.
"Cattle, horses, sheep and pigs are also taxed, as are likewise houses and furniture. If you carry a watch, that is taxed. Even fowls are taxed. All this is something new to me.
"If I determined to become a citizen of the United States, I would have to swear against her Majesty the Queen, under whose good laws I have lived 47 years in peace and plenty."
The farmer said the general mind of the people appeared to be "unsteady".
"If they hear or read of anything in other parts of the world that they consider better than their own, they at once have a desire to go and see after it. If work be slack here, some of the coal miners go to Australia as fast as they can manage to do so. A drought will cause a farmer to sell out as speedily as possible."
An article published in the local paper said that 603 emigrants had left New York for Australia, 80 of those being Americans, and the farmer said he would gladly help agents carry out their "emigration mission".
Picture: An Illawarra farmer traded the "Garden of NSW" (the Illawarra, pictured) for California and soon decided to encourage people there to move to Australia. CREDIT: From the collections of the Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society.
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