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A Glimpse of the Gold Field.

“Come unto those yellow sands.”

   SHAKSPERE.




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Chapter X. [1851.]

THE GOLD DISCOVERY—FIRST FLASH OF THE GOLD STORM—ADVERTISEMENTS—OFF TO THE DIGGIN'S—WHOSE THE DISCOVERY—CALIFORNIA—EFFECTS OF THE NEWS—NATURAL LAW—HORSE RACING AND GOLD HUNTING—REACTION — AUTHOR'S TRIP TO THE MINES — DISPIRITED MINERS—BATHURST “MAD AGAIN” — THE KERR GOLD LUMP — THE FINDER REWARDED—UNIQUE SPECIMEN—BATHURST OUT OF TOWN—SWALLOW CREEK — THE GOLD COMMISSIONER'S CAMP—DODGERS — THE MINES FLOODED.

IT was within a few months of the termination of my residence in the colony, that the astounding fact of the country of their birth, or of their adoption, being a gold country burst upon the inhabitants of New South Wales. No words can describe the excitement occasioned in all classes of society by the announcement. Those in whose hands the reins of government were held, had no precedent to guide them in their new predicament. The masters and employers of labour, of all ranks, from the lordly squatter of the distant interior, with his battalion of dependents, to the small tradesman of the townships, with his single assistant, trembled at the idea of their deserting for the diggings, and the consequent ruin of flocks and custom. The Government officers and other functionaries living on fixed salaries—


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the mere consumers of produce, to whom the presence of gold on the western slope of the Blue Mountains promised none for their pockets—shuddered at the prospect of raised prices on articles of subsistence, a prospect quickly realized by the selfish promptitude of speculators and monopolists, a few of whom, getting possession of the main staples of consumption, ran them up to a ruinous amount,—flour reaching, in a few days, 30l. to 35l. a ton, bread 6d. 7d. and 8d. the two-pound loaf, in Sydney, and in the country ascending to almost starvation prices.

The most extravagant reports of the treasures discovered reached the capital day after day, and were of course diligently circulated by those who hoped to make a good market of such commodities as they had huddled together at the first flush of speculation.

Sydney assumed an entirely new aspect. The shop fronts put on quite new faces. Wares suited to the wants and tastes of general purchasers were thrust ignominiously out of sight, and articles of outfit for goldmining only were displayed. Blue and red serge shirts, Californian hats, leathern belts, “real gold-digging gloves,” mining-boots, blankets white and scarlet, became the show-goods in the fashionable streets. The pavements were lumbered with picks, pans, and pots; and the gold-washing machine, or Virginian “cradle,” hitherto a stranger to our eyes, became in two days a familiar household utensil, for scores of them were paraded


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for purchase, “from 25s. to 40s.” in front of stores and stalls, so that a stranger or an absent-minded person, who had not yet heard the gathering cry of “Gold, gold!” might have imagined that a sudden and miraculous influx—a plague, in short—of babies had been poured upon the devoted city.

The newspapers teemed with advertisements pointing the same way: “Waterproof tents for the El Dorado”—“Quicksilver for amalgamating gold-soil”—“Superfine biscuits packed in tins”—“Wines, ales, and spirits, ready for carriage”—“Spring-carts for the diggings”—“Single and double guns and pistols for self-defence”—“Conveyance to Ophir”—“Cradles, prospecting pans, galvanised iron buckets, &c.”

“LAVER AND CO.'S OPHIR CORDIAL.

“No one who values his health or comfort should proceed to the Gold Field without a supply.”

“Soyer's Lilliputian Magic Stove”—“Digger's Handbook, or Gold Digger's Guide, gratis to purchasers of outfit at ——and ——'s stores.”

“TO GOLD DIGGERS.

“THE undersigned will give information on any unknown substance found at the Diggings in the process of washing, free of any charge whatever.

(Signed) “——PRACTICAL CHEMIST.”

“CHOCOLATE.

“Every miner should provide himself with Peek and Co.'s superior Flake Chocolate.”




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“GOLD MINES.

“Two strong, able young gentlemen are desirous of joining some respectable parties in making up a proper number for the Gold Field. They are prepared to contribute a reasonable sum. Address, &c.”

In the same paper appeared—

“PARTY FOR THE MINES.

“…. Two young men have a good opportunity of joining this party, being provided with every accommodation. Expense, 12l. each; three months' provisions. Apply, &c.”

“DISSOLVE FRIGUS.”

“As the Colony is now advancing to a state of unprecedented richness, and the empire of Australia will yet rival the age called the Golden, Leopold Morgan & Co. offer their recently compounded cordial—the Elixir of Life—which will expand the benumbed veins of the gold washers, &c.”

“THE GREAT GOLIAH OF THE AUSTRALIAN DIGGINGS.

“THIS magnificent specimen of virgin gold, just arrived from the Ophir Mines, near Bathurst, weighing above four pounds troy, will be on view this day in the window of Messrs. Brush & Macdonnell, Jewellers, George-street, prior to its shipment for London for The Great Exhibition of all Nations.

Sydney, 30th May, 1851.”

The conversation of the Sydneyites had resolved itself into one exclusive subject: “Are you going to the diggings? Have you been? Have you seen anybody from the mines? Have you seen the lump of gold? Have your servants run yet? My coachman is off!” &c.

In less than a week the diminution of the street population of Sydney was very visible, while Paramatta, previously half-deserted, became almost depopulated.


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As to Bathurst, the ordinary movements of trade were absolutely paralysed. My coachmaker deplored the loss of ten of his workmen—my tailor of seven. My stationer and bookseller complained that his trade admitted of no exaltation of prices, while he paid 3½d. a pound for his bread, 8s. for getting his horse shod, and his people demanded increase of wages to meet the increased expenses of life. So little time or taste was there for lore of any kind, that he considered the gold-find had lost him 50l. a-week in his counter-trade alone. My veterinary surgeon averred that the gentlemen of the leathern apron and paper cap had given him the option of raised pay on his part or a trip to the diggings on theirs, and that those who had stuck to their work were “continually flashing their independence in his face,” a graphic figure of speech accurately descriptive of the demeanour pretty generally assumed by those whom actual or anticipated success in the gold field had lifted above their natural sphere.

Nothing, indeed, can have a more levelling effect on society than the power of digging gold, for it can be done, for a time, at least, without any capital but that of health and strength; and the man inured to toil, however ignorant, is on more than equal terms with the educated and refined in a pursuit involving so much personal hardship.

It was on the 15th May, 1851, that the Sydney Morning Herald announced to the public the discovery


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by Mr. Hargraves of indigenous gold in the Bathurst district. The Editor gives what he terms a “history of the progress made from time to time in the investigation of the auriferous rocks of the Colony.” An extract from this excellent article will be found in the Appendix; as well as a transcript from The Bathurst Free Press, containing a sketch of the proceedings of the above-named indefatigable explorer, who, it appears, made his first “find” in February last. I annex also portions of an article by the Rev. W. B. Clarke, which appeared on the 24th of May in the same well-conducted and useful journal.note

To my distinguished friend, Mr. Clarke, the scientific theory of the existence of an Australian Gold Field—its geographical position, and its first specimen, are due. To Mr. Hargraves is due the practical opening up of the mines. The reverend geologist may be said to have discovered that the Bathurst Mountains were in labour; and the resolute adventurer brought the glittering offspring into the world! Each disowned, with some emphasis, previous acquaintance with the person and writings of the other. Their respective claims to credit cannot possibly clash. It was California, without doubt, that gave the direct impetus to seek, as well as the practical skill to find and to wash, the golden alluvium of Australia.note




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The extraordinary concentration of the population of New South Wales in and about its capital; the consequent ignorance of the interior regions, and their abandonment to mere pastoral pursuits, doubtless operated to delay the important discovery. It was in repairing the race of a water-mill, I think, that the accidental discovery of gold was made in California. Had that wealthy province remained in the hands of its Aborigines, or even in those of the Mexicans, it had probably retained to this day its treasures within its own bowels.

How wonderful the history of that now opulent State! Discovered by the Spaniards in 1543, it was by them colonized in 1769—(Sir Francis Drake having meanwhile nibbled at it in 1578.) In 1822, California became a province of revolted Mexico. It was conquered from the Mexicans by the Americans in 1846; “annexed” in 1847; and in February, 1848, the gold was discovered. From 1846 to 1848, the white inhabitants amounted to but 10,000 souls. At the end of 1849, 200,000 persons had congregated there from all parts of the earth. In June 1850, there were 250,000, and 60,000 more were expected from the United States, by way of the Rocky Mountains.




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In 1851, eighty-three steam-vessels were engaged in the river trade of California.note

Judging à priori, what are now the prospects of New South Wales? If the deposits of the precious metal turn out as prolific as they promise to be, or half as productive as the Californian mines, her prospects should be infinitely more cheering, more glorious, than those of the American state. There—a heterogeneous crowd, rushing from distant countries, with every tie broken, without laws or leaders, without experience, converged madly upon the gold-bearing Thule—producing gold alone to sustain life—a bare wilderness, with a severe climate and a fierce race of aborigines. Here—the gold, as it were, comes to a community already firmly established, the machinery of government, of the law, of social protection complete, with a fair share of agriculture in the golden land itself, and a knot of sister colonies close around her, able to assist her augmented population with the necessaries of life.

It was curious to mark how the first gold news affected different persons and different temperaments. The cautious smelt a hoax, “a cruel hoax,” as some correspondent of a Sydney paper styled it. The suspicious went further, and averred that the hoax was got up by the Bathurst folks, in order to attract


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custom; that the specimens circulated in Sydney were of Californian origin, and had been planted and found again with a view to tempting crowds of persons inland. The Government, even, was afraid to act on the first rumour with the promptitude and vigour suited to the occasion, lest the whole thing should turn out an “invention of the enemy,” and thereby throw an air of ridicule on the edicts, proclamations, and enactments which collective wisdom was prepared to launch at the emergency. The timid predicted scenes of riot and outrage at the diggings, bush-ranging on the highways, desertion of families by the men, and starvation to the wives and children left behind. The sanguine plunged at once into an ocean of golden dreams—some dashing into all kinds of wild speculation—others sacrificing everything in present possession,—homes, trades, appointments, however well paid,—in order to scrape together a sum sufficient to buy or hire a dray, arms, stores, tools for mining—and off to the diggings!

May 20th.—The Government issued a proclamation claiming all mines of gold, and all gold found in its natural place of deposit, as the property of the Crown; threatening prosecution criminal and civil against all those digging without due authority, and notifying that licences would be issued, and regulations published. The licence fee was fixed at 30s. per month, paid in advance; and was expected to cover the expenses of


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extra police and other exigencies arising out of the gold-find.note The only regiment serving in New South Wales had just been reduced from 900 to 640 men. The garrison of Sydney amounted to about half the latter number, the residue being stationed in other colonies. Moreover, the Legislative Council had but lately displayed their thrift and foresight by voting and carrying into effect the disbandment of the mounted police—an excellent force of 150 officers and troopers selected from the corps serving in the colony, as described before in this work. The pay of these military constables was merely their army pay, defrayed by the colony instead of by the Queen. The Executive was now compelled to scramble together a force consisting of a score or so of men, chiefly the remnants of the disbanded corps, with the slight difference, however, that the troopers having since got their discharge from the army and become civilians, their pay would be 3s. 9d. or 4s. a-day, with rations besides. A commissioner of Crown lands for the gold district was appointed, and immediately started for Bathurst, with a small party of the police to enforce, or rather induce order at the mines, and the payment of the licence fee.

There was great croaking in Sydney, to the effect that a magistrate with a dozen troopers, representing the law of the land and the standing army, would


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be able to do nothing in the way of levying a tax, founded on a new law yet unknown to Britons, upon a motley crowd of three or four thousand men, half of whom carried fire-arms, and especially upon those improvident wretches who, ill supplied with implements and stores, were scarcely earning enough to feed themselves. An active military officer, with a few horsemen, as a sort of movable force, was entrusted with the general guardianship of the Blue Mountain road.

May 24th.—According to the last accounts from Summerhill the miners are all working together with great harmony — only one act of personal violence having occurred, and that merely an instance of the exertion of the natural in the absence of the established law. Two young men, having discovered the roguery of their comrade in appropriating a portion of the general earnings, thrashed him away from the creek with saplings—an act of justice in which they were joined by other indignant diggers. All will go well until drunkenness sets in! Rum and riot go hand in hand. A drunken man with a loaded musket is no better than a mad dog. There is no little risk to life and limb in the mere living in a canvas house or a bough hut, surrounded by neighbours possessing an arsenal of loaded weapons — many of them wholly ignorant of their management.

May 27th.—Mr. Hindson, a Sydney merchant, returned from the gold field with about 1,000l. worth,


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among which was a piece weighing forty-six ounces. It was sent to England for exposition in the Crystal Palace. Its own intrinsic value and the prospects for the colony which it carries with it will make rich amends for the unaccountable neglect by the inhabitants of this colony to take advantage of the ample space allotted by the Commissioners for the display of their produce at the Great National Exhibition.

May 28th and 30th.—Driving on these two days to the races at Homebush—the Epsom of Sydney—ten miles from the city—I counted nearly sixty drays and carts, heavily laden, proceeding westward with tents, rockers, flour, tea, sugar, mining tools, &c.—each accompanied by from four to eight men, half of whom bore fire-arms. Some looked eager and impatient—some half-ashamed of their errand—others sad and thoughtful—all resolved. Many, I thought, would never return. They must have thrown all they possessed into the adventure; for most of their equipments were quite new — good stout horses, harness fresh out of the saddler's hands, gay-coloured woollen shirts, and comforters, and Californian sombreros of every hue and shape. It was a strange sight—a strange jumble of images. The mind could hardly reconcile a thoroughly English high road, with toll-bars and public-houses—thoroughly English figures travelling on it to a country race-course—stage-coaches-and-four, omni-buses, tandems, scores of neat private equipages and


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hack carriages, sporting butchers and publicans in “spicy Whitechapels,” Sydney cockneys on squaretailed hacks, “happles and horanges,” “cards of the 'osses,” &c. — with the concurrent stream of oddly loaded drays and other slow-moving vehicles, piled with business-like stores and unfamiliar utensils, and escorted by parties of no less English men, armed to the teeth, clad in a newly adopted dress, utterly indifferent to and apart from the merry scene of the race-course, and carrying with them a dogged, resolute, and abstracted air—as though in a time of profound peace they were bound on some desperate and doubtful deed of war. One's mental obfuscation was hardly cleared up by the reflection that these British men on this British-looking turnpike road were simply journeying some hundred and fifty miles—the distance from London to Manchester—for the purpose of—digging gold!

June 1st.—On this day it was reported there were about two thousand persons at the mines, and about as many more on the road. Average daily earnings stated at from 10s. to 1l. per head;—a correct calculation difficult, because the people were generally silent on the subject of their gains. Rewards advertised at Goulburn, Maitland, and other townships, for the discovery of gold in their vicinity — a stroke of policy intended to prevent the desertion of their operatives to Bathurst, and to bring customers to their own districts. The leading journal giving excellent advice to


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agriculturists not to allow the gold mania to make them neglect their crops, and predicting that with the certain influx of consumers the cultivation of their farms will prove more profitable than slavery in the gold creeks. The same paper computed that about this date five hundred families in Sydney had been deserted by their natural protectors, the lust of gold proving stronger than conjugal and paternal love.

June 5th.—Intelligence from the mines that 300 workmen had taken out licences for the first month. The commissioner had allowed some “law” to the poorer and less successful people. In the Bathurst Free Press of yesterday, is the following account of parcels of gold purchased by Mr. Austin, a wealthy shopkeeper of that town:—

“Murray's party, consisting of five men, four of them teetotallers, who had been at work ten days, received 165l. for the proceeds of their labour. The metal consisted of pieces weighing from three ounces downwards. Fitzpatrick's party, 184l. 10s., had been a fortnight at work, their earnings, averaging 40l. a man. This parcel consisted of lumps weighing 11, 9, and 8 oz. and downwards, there being but very little dust amongst it. McGregor's party of five were five days at work and did not clear their expenses, but made up for that lost time in the following five days, their combined earnings amounting to 65l., or 13l. per man. Besides the above, he has purchased many


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small quantities from 1 to 4 ounces, in which the average earnings are considerably lower than those given above.”

June 7th.—I saw at Mr. Donaldson's counting-house a parcel of gold weighing one hundred and eleven ounces and a half — which he had just bought for 372l. to send home. It was curious to see and handle native gold just fresh from the deposit where it had been concealed for countless centuries, now so strangely come to light. The metal was in atoms from three and a quarter ounces downwards to the minutest dust.

An emigrant ship arrived from England to-day, and about 200 impoverished Englishmen jumped ashore, unexpectedly, in a gold country!

June 26th.—The rains and the over-crowding of the Summerhill Creek has produced a reaction among the miners. I was not sorry to see red shirts and Californian hats at the ordinary operations of daily labour in Sydney. It proved that fools had got a lesson. I bought an excellent horse from a cabman for 12l., hot for the mines at the beginning of the week, and at the end he offered me 16l. to get him back, he having cooled down without having even reached the gold field. The miserable appearance of the crowds returning, had been enough to slake his slight attack of gold fever. I sold the beast by auction for 22l. 10s. when I had done with him—i. e. after he had taken me to the diggings.




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July 1st.—A grand rush to the new-found diggings on the Turon River. About 1,000 persons at work there. Although for many years past gold in the virgin state had occasionally found its way to Sydney, and been sold to jewellers there, some infatuation appears always to have led them to doubt that it was indigenous. An old prisoner named McGrigor disposed periodically of bits of the precious metal, whilst he was employed as a shepherd in the Wellington District. This man being in prison for debt at Sydney, when the gold-find took place in 1851, a party proceeding to the diggings engaged to pay his debts and to liberate him on condition of his binding himself to them for a term, and giving them the benefit of his gold hunting experience. He soon disengaged himself, however, from this association, and when I was at the mines, he was supposed to be “lying up” in some “blind gully,” near his old haunts, with a countryman named Stewart for his companion. I have heard that in 1823—so far back—a convict of an ironed gang, working on the roads near Bathurst, was flogged for having in his possession a lump of rough gold, which the officer imagined must have been the product of watches or trinkets stolen and melted down!




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Trip to the Diggings.

July 14th.—Having secured my passage for England in the Mount Stuart Elphinstone, advertised to sail on the 15th August next, and feeling ashamed to return home without having visited England's Gold Field, this morning I once more faced the Blue Mountains, on my way to the mines of Ophir on Summerhill Creek and of the Turon River.

The roads were in a frightful condition from the late heavy rains and the continual traffic of heavy vehicles laden with stores and materials for the new population of the diggings. The weather, moreover, was by no means propitious to my object. However, having a good, active pair of horses, a servant who was an excellent bush-hand, my own whip, and a friend's light phaëton, ruts, rocks, mud-holes, broken-backed bridges, and sidlings, possessed for me no great terrors. As it turned out, my carriage was the only one of a higher or more fragile order than a bullock-dray—except, indeed, the Bathurst Mail—I saw on the road in my up-and-down journey. All were travelling on horseback or afoot. The route had nothing new to me, with the exception of its winter aspect, and the altered character of the way-farers. The latter were almost exclusively gold-hunters. The former gave me an opportunity of tasting the sweets of an Australian snow-storm on the top of Mount


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Lambey. This was a novelty, at least; for I had seen no snow for upwards of five years. It was an ill-conditioned, bad style of snow; melting on one's gutta percha as it fell, from want of frost. Small drifts, however, lay on the shady side of the gum-logs, and I found myself admiring them as rare phenomena. With all his despotism, Napoleon could not have established a nivose month in the yearly cycle of Australia.

The gold mania, so rabid at the outset, had begun to abate towards the end of June. The weather at the mines had become bitterly cold, wet, and tempestuous; provisions were exorbitantly dear, owing to the difficult transport of stores across the mountains at this season. The Summerhill Creek was flooded, whereby the working on its bed was put an end to. In short, gold was not so plentiful as was anticipated,—not to be picked up on the hill-sides in an afternoon's stroll; nor were nuggetsnote to be dug up, like potatoes, by the bushel. The privations inseparable from gold-digging were more severe than suited the expectations of the sanguine, the ignorant, and that large class of idle, feckless creatures, known in this colony by the name of Crawlers.

In my four days' journey across the Cordillera I met, as I calculate, about 300 men returning, disheartened and disgusted, towards the townships; many having


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sold for next to nothing the mining equipments, tents, carts, cradles, picks, spades, crows, and washing-dishes, which had probably cost them all they possessed in the world three weeks before. They had nothing left but tin pots, 'possum rugs, and a suit of ragged clothes. A few had gold with them,—“no great things,” they said. Some had drank and gambled away, or had been robbed of their earnings. Mortified, half-starved, and crest-fallen fellows, so able to work and so easily dispirited, these were not the men for winter mining! Some looked so gaunt, savage, ragged, and reckless, that my thoughts turned involuntarily to my pistols as they drew near. They were returning to their deserted homes and families in a state of mind by no means likely to redound to domestic peace and comfort. A good many of this ebbing stream of would-be gold-miners wore a sort of shy, embarrassed, repellent air, of which I could make nothing, until I found out that they were ticklish on the subject of a cant phrase with which it appeared they had been pelted by the villagers and upward passengers on the road. “Have you sold your cradle?” was a verbal dagger in their bosoms!

The style of weather with which I was favoured on the journey, as well as at the Summerhill Mines, was certainly far from encouraging to gentlemen or shop-boy miners obnoxious to the caprices of the elements, or to persons hesitating between a damp bivouac and a “damper” diet at Ophir, with the distant chance of a


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nugget, on the one hand, and a comfortable cottage in Sydney, plenty of beef and potatoes, good and sure wages, and indisputable possession of a notable wife, on the other. I did not overtake a single person going westward,—so complete had been the reaction. Its duration was not long. I met the cause of a second spring-tide of mining mania the very next day!

On the 16th, the third day of my journey, I encountered two gentlemen on horseback, travelling towards Sydney, one of whom, addressing me by name, inquired if I had “heard the news,” and proceeded to inform me that a mass of pure gold, weighing upwards of one hundredweight, had been found a few days before on the sheep-run of a gentleman, named Kerr.

At Binning's Inn, whilst halting to bait, the Bathurst mail came up. The passengers confirmed the golden tidings, and I got a sight of a Bathurst newspaper, of that morning. The second leader ran as follows. The details of the discovery of the monster gold mass cannot be better given. “Bathurst is mad again. The delirium of the golden fever has returned with increased intensity. Men meet together, stare stupidly at each other, talk incoherent nonsense, and wonder what will happen next. Everybody has a hundred times seen a hundredweight of flour; a hundredweight of sugar, or potatoes, is an every-day fact; but a hundredweight of gold is a phrase scarcely known in the English language. It is beyond the range of our ordinary ideas,


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a sort of physical incomprehensibility; but that it is a material existence, our own eyes bore witness on Monday last. Mr. Suttor, a few days previously, threw out a few misty hints about the possibility of a single individual digging four thousand pounds' worth of gold in one day; but no one believed him serious. It was thought he was doing a little harmless puffing for his own district and the Turon diggings. On Sunday, it began to be whispered about town, that Dr. Kerr, Mr. Suttor's brother-in-law, had found a hundredweight of gold. Some few believed it, but the townspeople generally, and amongst the rest the writer of this article, treated the story as a piece of ridiculous exaggeration, and the bearer of it as a jester, who gave the Bathurstonians unlimited credit for gullibility. The following day, however, set the matter at rest. About two o'clock in the afternoon two greys, in tandem, driven by W. H. Suttor Esq., M. C., made their appearance at the bottom of William Street. In a few seconds they were pulled up opposite the ‘Free Press' office, and the first indication of the astounding fact which met the view, was two massive pieces of the precious metal, glittering in virgin purity as they leaped from the solid rock. An intimation that the valuable prize was to reach the town on that day, having been pretty generally circulated in the early part of the morning, the townspeople were on the Qui vive, and in almost as little time as it has taken to write


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it, 150 people had collected round the gig conveying the time's wonder, eager to catch a glimpse of the monster lump, said to form a portion of it. The two pieces spoken of were freely handed about amongst the assembled throng, for about twenty minutes.

“Astonishment, wonder, incredulity, admiration, and the other kindred sentiments of the human heart were depicted upon the features of all present in a most remarkable manner, and they were by no means diminished in intensity, when a square tin box in the body of the vehicle was pointed out as the repository of the remainder of the hundredweight of gold. Having goodnaturedly gratified the curiosity of the people, Mr. Suttor invited us to accompany his party to the Union Bank of Australia, to witness the interesting process of weighing. We complied with alacrity, and the next moment the greys dashed off at a gallant pace, followed by a hearty cheer from the multitude. In a few moments the tin box and its contents were on the table of the board-room of the bank. In the presence of the manager, David Kennedy, W. H. Suttor, T. J. Hawkins, Esq., and the fortunate proprietor, Dr. Kerr, the weighing commenced, Dr. Machatti officiating, and Mr. Farrand acting as clerk. The first two pieces already alluded to weighed severally 6 lbs. 4 oz. 1 dwt., and 6 lbs. 13 dwts., besides which were sixteen drafts of 5 lbs. 4 ozs. each, making in all 102 lbs. 9 ozs. 5 dwts.

“From Dr. Kerr we learned that he had retained


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upwards of 3 lbs. as specimens, so that the total weight found would be 106 lbs. (one hundred and six pounds), all disembowelled from the earth at one time! And now for the particulars of this extraordinary event, which has set the town and district in a whirl of excitement. A few days ago, an educated aboriginal, formerly attached to the Wellington mission, and who has been in the service of W. J. Kerr, Esq. of Wallawa, about seven years, returned home to his employer with the intelligence that he had discovered a large mass of gold amongst a heap of quartz upon the run, whilst tending his sheep. Gold being the universal topic of conversation, the curiosity of this sable son of the forest was excited, and provided with a tomahawk, he had amused himself with exploring the country adjacent to his employer's land, and had thus made the discovery. His attention was first called to the lucky spot by observing a speck of some glittering yellow substance upon the surface of a block of the quartz, upon which he applied his tomahawk and broke off a portion. At that moment the splendid prize stood revealed to his sight. His first care was to start off home and disclose his discovery to his master, to whom he presented whatever gold might be procured from it. As may be supposed, little time was lost by the worthy doctor. Quick as horseflesh could carry him, he was on the ground, and in a very short period the three blocks of quartz containing the hundredweight


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of gold were released from the bed where, charged with unknown wealth, they had rested perhaps for thousands of years, awaiting the hand of civilized man to disturb them. The largest of the blocks was about a foot in diameter, and weighed 75 lbs. gross. Out of this piece 60 lbs. of pure gold were taken. Before separation it was beautifully encased in quartz. The other two were something smaller. The auriferous mass weighed as nearly as could be guessed from two to three hundredweight. Not being able to move it conveniently, Dr. Kerr broke the pieces into small fragments, and herein committed a very grand error. As specimens, the glittering blocks would have been invaluable. Nothing yet known of would have borne comparison, or, if any, the comparison would have been in our favour. From the description given by him, as seen in their original state, the world has seen nothing like them yet.

“The heaviest of the two large pieces presented an appearance not unlike a honeycomb or sponge, and consisted of particles of a crystalline form, as did nearly the whole of the gold. The second large piece was smoother and the particles more condensed, and seemed as if it had been acted upon by water. The remainder was broken into lumps of from two to three pounds and downwards, and were remarkably free from quartz or earthy matter. When heaped together on the table they presented a splendid appearance, and shone with


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an effulgence calculated to dazzle the brain of any man not armed with the coldness of stoicism.

“The spot where this mass of treasure was found will be celebrated in the golden annals of these districts, and we shall therefore describe it as minutely as our means of information will allow. In the first place the quartz blocks formed an isolated heap, and were distant about a hundred yards from a quartz vein which stretches up the ridge from the Murroo Creek. The locality is the commencement of an undulating tableland, very fertile, and is contiguous to a never-failing supply of water in the above-named creek. It is distant about fifty-three miles from Bathurst, eighteen from Mudgee, thirty from Wellington, and eighteen to the nearest point of the Macquarie River, and is within eight miles of Dr. Kerr's head station. The neighbouring country has been pretty well explored since the discovery, but with the exception of dust no further indications have been found.

“In return for his very valuable service Dr. Kerr has presented the black fellow and his brother with two flocks of sheep,note two saddle-horses, and a quantity of rations, and supplied them with a team of bullocks to plough some land in which they are about to sow a crop of maize and potatoes. One of the two brothers, mounted on a serviceable roadster, accompanied the


  ― 330 ―
party into town, and appeared not a little proud of his share in the transaction.”

July 17th.—For the last two days I had satisfied myself that, but for the honour of the thing, I might as well have walked afoot as travelled on wheels over such bottomless roads as those of the Blue Mountains in winter—bottomless as the Irishman's famous sedan. Indeed, I did walk the greater part of the way.

At the commencement of the granite region my coach-man exclaimed, “My word, Sir, they've been at the rocks here with their picks.” The travelling miners, naturally attracted by the glittering of the mica, had indeed been trying some experiments on the tough crags which looked so dazzling in comparison with the dull sandstone of the county of Cumberland.

After halting for breakfast at my old acquaintance's, widow Jones, of Green Swamp, I reached Bathurst at two P.M. Driving towards Mrs. Black's Inn, across the dreary, treeless, herbless flat—which acts the part of esplanade or “Alameda”—I met Mr. Suttor, who forth-with conducted me to the Bank, where, in a couple of minutes, I found myself in the presence of the monster gold-block. The larger pieces looked, I thought, something like the coralline sponges so common on the sea-shores of Australia. The smaller were in rude battered fragments, slightly whitened by the admixture of bruised quartz, just as they had been knocked in hot haste from the matrix.




  ― 331 ―

I am no worshipper of the golden calf, nor of Mammon generally; but I must confess that, when my eyes surveyed, and my hands weighed, the shining and ponderous mass of that precious substance which, by universal consent, has become the great purveyor of the enjoyments and the elegancies of life, thrown loosely into an ordinary tin box, fresh from its native deposit,—I must confess that visions of pick and spade, pan and rocker, for a moment crossed my mind. I recognised the first symptoms of the mania, and resolved to apply a strong and early remedy, viz. one day of hard work in “prospecting,”—a remedy which I found occasion to carry into effect with the best result.

It was, indeed, impossible to avoid lamenting that this unique specimen of virgin gold—rock and ore—had not been removed in a state of perfect integrity from its native bed to Sydney, and from thence to London. The excitement natural on such a windfall, and, perhaps, the apprehension of robbery and violence, may have induced the fortunate finder to break up and carry away, as quickly and quietly as possible, so precious a freight from those wild regions to a place of safer deposit. Great Britain could have afforded, it is presumed, to preserve, as a national cabinet curiosity, the finest specimen of gold in situ ever yet beheld. If the Emperor of Russia possesses a finer, I am willing to be corrected. The Rev. Mr. Clarke, in a useful pamphlet, published at Sydney soon after the gold-find, states that there is a


  ― 332 ―
specimen of native gold in the Imperial School of Mines of that country which weighs seventy-eight English pounds.

Looking at the monster lump in a speculative light, Mr. Barnum would have realized 50,000l. in a couple of years by exhibiting it round Europe and America with the black fellow who found it, and the saddle-bags in which it was abducted, and would have sold it afterwards for at least twice as much as Dr. Kerr got for it. Mr. Hardy, the gold commissioner, in talking of this gentleman, described him, not as the lucky man who had made 4,000l. by a day's ride, but as the luckless individual who had lost 40,000l. in failing to constitute himself the travelling showman of his easily acquired treasure.

Whilst I was in the Bank at Bathurst, Mr. Suttor lodged there, to the credit of his boys, who had accompanied him to Wallawaugh—the native name of the spot where the block was found — nearly 70l., the price obtained for the crumbs that had fallen from the breakage of the great mass. “Bathurst was mad again,” as the newspaper truly said—or, at least, it would have been so, but that it was empty. The townsfolk had with one consent put down their heads, shut their eyes, and run full tilt after the kindred gold lumps with which their ardent imaginations peopled the slate ridges and quartz veins around Wallawaugh! It never rains but it pours, and this day gold was actually found in a pebble


  ― 333 ―
picked up in the streets of Bathurst, on its being smashed by a blacksmith's hammer.

The quarter sessions were going on—as great an epoch as the assizes of an English country town—yet no one was visible but the chairman and two or three policemen. An unusually large number of Aborigines, male and female, were, indeed, idling and gaping about the tavern doors, picking up, from the usurpers of their native land—now ripping riches from her bowels—scanty scraps of subsistence, tea, sugar, or tobacco, and the certain causes of ruin and death—ardent spirits.

The shops and stores seemed generally deserted. Some few were driving a smart trade in slops for the diggings. Carpenters were employed on rockers only. Shoe-makers on mining boots. Saddlers were stitching dog-skin bags for the gold-dust. I bought one, determined to fill it by dint of money if not by work—little thinking how much of either it would take to do so—small as the pouch looked!

Dropping into Austin's stores for some small article of outfit, I was civilly shown a largish tea-tray, thinly sprinkled with scale gold from the Turon, the first I had seen. The grains were but little coarser than bran, very bright, with convex surfaces, evidently polished by the action of water. I was surprised to find, that trifling as the quantity seemed to be, this “parcel” of gold weighed no less than 11½ lbs.—worth about 450l.

The inns were helpless, in the American sense of the


  ― 334 ―
term. You were at liberty to ring the bells of parlour and chamber as much as you pleased, but there was no response—not even the too delusive “Coming, Sir” of the London waiter as he vanishes from your sight, leaving you to sigh or swear, according to your constitution. But though the comforts were fewer, the charges were no lighter. Ten shillings a night was the cost of putting up a pair of horses at Bathurst, and 11s. at more than one of the mountain inns. Such is one of the effects of gold! In California, prices were somewhat higher—dollars for shillings, in short.

The Government, as I have said, had appointed Commissioners to reside on the Gold Field, to maintain order, and to enforce the tax. I had letters from the Governor to Mr. Hardy, the Chief Commissioner, who was at present on the Turon; and, fortunately for myself, at Bathurst I made the acquaintance of Mr. Green, the Assistant Commissioner, who, being on his way to Ophir, or Summerhill Creek, from a licence-issuing trip to the new, but not hitherto productive diggings of Havilah, kindly proffered me his company and assistance on the road, with food and shelter at his sheep-station half-way, as well as at his camp on the Summerhill Creek. Swallow Creek, Mr. Green's station, is about seventeen miles from Bathurst, and eighteen from Ophir.

18th July.—Amid torrents of rain, we started for Swallow Creek. Our road led us at first, for some miles,


  ― 335 ―
up the course of the Macquarie, and along the rim of the Plains until we had passed the solid-looking brick mansion of General Stewart, one of the oldest and most respected settlers in the colony. From the midst of his verdant meadows, through which the river, fringed with grand swamp-oaks, winds its fertilizing course, we turned abruptly into the hills to the westward, and trotting rapidly over an undulating granite country, lightly timbered and traversed with marble veins, we reached the station in time to dine and sleep. This pretty farm is at present under the superintendence of a young relative of the proprietor. The cottage and garden are pleasantly situated on the gentle slope of a hill, looking over a fertile valley, along which the creek meanders. Gold has, by the simple test of the “prospecting” pan, been found along its banks and at its junction with the Macquarie river, but not as yet in remunerative quantities. With some 10,000 sheep and 4 or 500 head of cattle roaming over the mountain pastures in such close proximity to the mining region, the owner of Swallow Creek will hence-forth be in no want of a profitable market for his flocks and herds.

19th July.—Still pursued by bad weather, we took horse pretty early for the mines. The country through which we rode was rather hilly than mountainous, thinly wooded, and occasionally spread out in narrow but fertile alluvial bottoms, hitherto untouched by the hands of man.




  ― 336 ―

While plunging through one of the wildest and most lonely of these forest flats, up to our horses' knees in mud and water, the rain pouring down in flakes and dashing into our faces from the boughs of the eucalyptus and acacias, my courteous companion informed me that we were at that moment traversing the main street of a large and flourishing town! and, in sufficient proof thereof, I was referred to an advertisement in the papers, the spirited production of the George Robins of Sydney, which I remembered to have perused before I left that place. I am not about to decry a spot “so romantically beautiful”—the “oasis amid the sterile country which marks the route to the Diggings!”—although I did find myself in the position of Martin Chuzzlewit when he exclaims, on viewing the plan of Eden in Mr. Scadder's office, “why, I had no idea it was a city!” and receives for answer, “hadn't you? Oh! it's a city;”—and when Mark Tapley, from the depth of his simple sagacity, remarks, “The soil being very fruitful, public buildings grows spontaneous, perhaps!” On the contrary, as I cast my eye through the storm pelting across its wild features, and reflected upon its rich black loam, upon its frontage to the Lewis Pond's Creek, and its vicinity to the mines, I found myself trotting through imaginary streets and market places, only regretting the vision did not realize itself in the shape of a substantial tavern, where something good for a wet skin might have been procured.




  ― 337 ―

After riding six or eight miles, we crossed, with some little difficulty, the Lewis Ponds Creek—a tributary of the Summerhill, and itself a gold-bearing stream, and turning abruptly down its left bank, took it as our guide to the mines. Over granite ranges, and along the flanks of clayslate ridges, we wound our devious way upon a very tolerable bridle track. Here and there a huge vein of quartz-rock shone through the dark trees, its milk-white débris scattered in drifts down the declivities, in heavy masses near the summit, and running out into atoms not larger than hailstones, and much resembling them, towards the bottom. Jagged and vertical flakes of schistose rock jutted up like great saws across our path, presenting a dangerous footing for the horseman, but promising full pockets to the gold hunter—for quartz, in combination with clay-slate set on edge, is, as we learn, one of the most important “constants,” or geological indications of an auriferous region.

At length, passing over a high flat-topped ridge—selected by a tribe of blacks for their encampment, on which I was surprised to find large waterworn pebbles, as well as some fine crystals of quartz—we came in sight of a bit of hazy distance, caused by a more than ordinary extensive fissure between the hills intersecting each other, and here we recognised the valley of the Summerhill Creek.

Just below us, on a small level space at the head of a steep ravine running down to the river, lay the Gold Commissioner's camp, consisting of that officer's tent,


  ― 338 ―
with its cook-house of slabs and bark, and the tent and kitchen of the mounted police detachment—whose horses fed in a small temporary stock-yard hard by, dignified by the name of the Government Paddock. Here the Commissioner, or his assistant, seated like a spider in the corner of his web, is ready to pounce unexpectedly upon different parts of the stream occupied by the diggers, and so to surprise such of them as attempt to evade the Government impost.

The country of the mines is eminently unfavourable to the exertions of the tax-collector. Miners of insolvent inclinations easily contrive to dodge the officer as he proceeds down the windings of the creek; the rocks and gulleys presenting endless and convenient hiding-places for the sculkers. At Ophir, the simulated croak of the raven was the signal for evasion agreed and acted on by the unlicensed. One fellow shoulders the cradle, and runs to earth, while his comrades disperse themselves among the legitimate workmen, assuming the innocent look of spectators hesitating to commence on the arduous and precarious trade of gold mining. Numbers will, doubtless, always manage to work without payment in sequestered gulleys, but when any such spot is found to be profitable, it is not long kept secret. The solitary miners must go somewhere to obtain supplies. They are watched and followed by others who have been less successful, and the “sly” diggings soon become known to the Commissioner and his myrmidons.




  ― 339 ―

The late heavy rains had inundated the creek and its confluents, which were rushing along in muddy torrents to the dismay and discomfiture of the workmen. The main stream, which had been passable dryshod in places, was now in no spot practicable on foot or on horseback. The people on the Bathurst side of the river were cut off from the township of Ophir, on the Wellington bank. A black man had established a rude and unsafe canoe on the junction of the Lewis Ponds and Summerhill Creeks, and was turning a handsome penny in the character of Charon.

Crowds had left Ophir within the last ten days for the later discovered Turon Diggings; some because the “holes” where they had hitherto successfully worked were flooded and refilled with the heavy stones and gravel they had quarried out with so much labour; others from a mere restless love of change; while not a few, unsuited to a life of privation, had abandoned the pursuit altogether.

The waters of the Summerhill river, when once out at this season, do not readily subside, for its sources are in the Conobolas Mountains, whose summits in winter are frequently covered with snow.




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Chapter XI.

OPHIR—A GOLD POACHER—A BULLY CHECK-MATED—A MOTLEY COMPANY DINNER AT THE DIGGINGS—EARNINGS—SLY GROG-SELLING—A WILD LANDSCAPE—NAUTICAL MINERS—THE MACQUARIE FLOODED—THE HUNDREDWEIGHT—DR. KERR'S RIDE—ADVENTURES OF THE HUNDREDWEIGHT—RIDE TO THE TURON—A VOICE OF THE MINES—A GENTLEMAN BUTCHER—CHEERFUL SCENE.

THE aspect of Ophir, viewed from across the creek, although eminently picturesque, was by no means cheering. Two-thirds of the wretched temporary huts and shielings of the miners were deserted and in ruin. Many of the fires, in front of the sheds still tenanted, had been extinguished by the rain, and the people still at work looked as if they had slept all night in a wet ditch. Not far from the Commissioner's camp I fell in with a party of three men more comfortable-looking than the majority, and, attracted by the solid and cozy appearance of their abode, I asked if they intended to remain at Ophir. They told me that they had purchased their domicile, which was built of stones, roofed with bark, a large burning tree forming their kitchen range and parlour fire at once, for five shillings, from a company who had taken


  ― 341 ―
ten days to construct it, and had gone off in sudden disgust. They had got their cradle for 3s., other implements as cheaply, and a store of flour at less than Sydney prices. They had not done much as yet, but intended to await with patience and hope the falling of the river. The accompanying plate will save verbal description of the scenery around the diggings. The Commissioner's Creek, or Eau de Cologue Gully as it was called, a non redolendo, enters the creek on the left of my sketch. Under the flattish hill in the distance, called Church Hill, where divine service is performed, and where the Bathurst mail stops, is seen the junction of the Lewis Ponds with the Summerhill Creek, rendered famous as the spot where Mr. Hargraves first discovered gold in Australia, and which, until the floods set in, still continued rich in ore. A company, I understand, is in process of formation, with a view to attempt the drainage of the pool by pumping. If the trial succeed, there can be little doubt that an immense deposit of the precious metal will be found in the bed of the stream. The undertaking may be expensive; but it is encouraging for those engaging in it to know that in California many of the dams constructed to lay bare the water courses for mining operations, cost 10 and 20,000 dollars before a single cradle was rocked.

The hill trending downwards from the right of the plate is occupied by the township—so called by courtesy. Scarcely a tree remains on its bald front. Every stick


  ― 342 ―
has been cut down for building or firewood. This declivity and the precipitous bank immediately facing it present one of the natural features which act as guides to gold-seekers in their choice of a likely location. A tongue of land, sloping gently to the stream opposite a rocky bluff—the two being commonly attended by a sharp bend in its course—rarely fails to be highly productive.

Round the entire margin of this bend—the best spot of which is called the Fitz Roy Bar—extends a continuous series of mining works; or rather they did extend before the partial desertion of the miners had taken place.note Not only had the whole of the gravelly bed of the stream been turned up and ransacked, but great caves had been worked horizontally into the foot of the hill. The space so treated varies in width from twenty to fifty yards. It looks, on a large scale, precisely as though it had been burrowed by the unringed snouts of a thousand swine searching for some tasty root —“the root, indeed,” observes some penniless moralist,—“the root of all evil!”

In the afternoon, accompanied by Mr. Green, I got down among the diggers on the Creek. Very few were actively employed. I suspect many were suffering every hardship short of actual starvation. Some were groping


  ― 343 ―
with their knives among the crevices of the slate rocks, or “pockets,” as they are technically termed by the miners. In this simple manner, the nuggets, pepites, or large waterworn lumps of gold, for which Ophir is famous, have been got out. We came, as it happened, plump upon a hangdog-looking fellow thus engaged, whose averted face proclaimed him as a poacher on Her Majesty's gold manor.

“Have you got a licence?” asked the Assistant Commissioner.

“No, Sir,” said he, with a look of ague and impecuniosity combined. “I have neither health to work, nor money to buy a licence.”

“Then get out of the creek. You have no business there,” was the inexorable rejoinder.

The man slowly and unwillingly obeyed the order, but did obey it.

The facile establishment of a new code of regulations among a heterogeneous mob of well-armed men congregated in these wild mountain glens, far from the seat of the law and apparently beyond its reach, struck me as a wonderful proof of the love of order inherent in Englishmen. There is at this moment not a soldier nearer than Sydney, and the force there is barely sufficient for the duties of the capital. The Commissioner and his assistant have no more than fifteen policemen to support them in the execution of their unpopular office, yet no open defiance of their authority has hitherto occurred.


  ― 344 ―
The ill-disposed and unruly are well aware that a word from the Government officer could, in case of need, recruit into the service of peace and order a formidable body of gentlemen and respectable persons, fully as resolute, and better armed, than the anarchists.

Some time and some revenue have unquestionably been lost by the necessity of collecting the licence fees rather by humouring and even temporising with the workmen, than by the more summary process which comes natural to the collector who knows that he is backed by “the strong arm of the law;”—the strong arm of the military, I, as a soldier, of course assert to be the true meaning of that hackneyed term. The sentence of the law may be fulminated, indeed, from the bench; but trace to its source the power to inflict it,—and will it not be found in the standing army?

In New South Wales, at this moment, the civil power, physically considered, is civil impotence. The constabulary—land and water police—are throwing down their truncheons at the end of every month, and starting off by dozens to the diggings.

One has only to compare the population now assembled at the mines with the amount of licence money collected to arrive at the conclusion that the impost is not effectually enforced. Nor do I believe it ever will be, until a strong military detachment—say half a battalion—shall be stationed at Bathurst, as a fulcrum for the authorities to work upon.




  ― 345 ―

On the night of the first arrival of the Commissioner at Ophir, the diggers amused themselves—just as a tribe of New Zealanders might have done under similar influences—by squibbing off some thousands of musket-shots. Intimidation could hardly have been intended; if so, they mistook their men very egregiously, One burly fellow, indeed, confiding in his superior strength and old habits of bullying, refused either to pay his licence or quit his ground. Mr. Hardy, a man of excellent temper and highly conciliatory manners, thought this opportunity a good one to assert his authority by other means than the soothing system. He jumped, therefore, into the hole where the recusant was working, and putting a pistol to his ear arrested him in the Queen's name, and the blusterer was quietly handcuffed and removed by the tipstaff. I was glad to hear subsequently that the officers had made some successful as well as determined onslaughts upon notorious gangs of illicit diggers. In many cases the enemy escaped, but their baggage, in the shape of cradles, was captured, and these being immediately smashed their means of future gold mining were cut off.

The right to carry fire-arms and other offensive weapons so largely exercised by the miners, can hardly at present be interfered with. This un-English practice is, I think, curing itself. Public opinion has hitherto been sufficiently executive and protective at the diggings. It will continue effective so long, and so long


  ― 346 ―
only, as the public sense of right is not demented by the indiscriminate introduction of ardent spirits into a society so questionably constituted as a New South Wales mining multitude.

In strolling down the works—if the term strolling can be applied to scrambling among jagged slate rocks in the river bed and slipping over the loose shale on the hillside—I found it no easy task to get into conversation with the diggers. Some appeared sullen from disappointment, few communicative on the subject of their gains, and all apparently imbued with that spirit of independence and equality natural in a community where, whatever might be the real distinction in the station and education of individuals, all were now living and labouring on the same terms.

If ever there was a pure democracy, it now exists at the Bathurst gold mines—pure as the most penniless possessor of nothing could wish—purer by far than any spouter of socialism, having anything to lose, ever truly desired; and infinitely too transcendently pure for the views of those who believe that human society, like a regiment, should be a graduated community.

The present state of affairs will not last long. In another year or two three-fourths of the men now working on their own account will be the hired labourers of capitalists or companies, and the social equipoise will be again restored.

At present, here are merchants and cabmen, magistrates


  ― 347 ―
and convicts, amateur gentlemen rocking the cradle merely to say they have done so, fashionable hairdressers and tailors, cooks, coachmen, lawyers' clerks and their masters, colliers, cobblers, quarrymen, doctors of physic and music, aldermen, an A.D.C. on leave, scavengers, sailors, shorthand-writers, a real live lord on his travels—all levelled by community of pursuit and of costume. The serge shirt, leathern belt, Californian hat, and woollen comforter, with the general absence of ablution and abrasion, leave the stranger continually in doubt as to which of the above classes he may be addressing himself.

“What luck, my good fellow?” said I to a rough unshorn, clay-slate complexioned figure, clad in a zebra-coloured Jersey, with beef boots up to his middle. “What luck?”

“Why, aw!” replied my new friend, with a lisp and a movement as if he were pulling up a supposititious gill, “only tho-tho at prethent. Our claim was tolewably wemunewative owiginally, but it has detewiowated tewibly since the wains set in!”

Diavolo! thought I, what euphuist in a rough husk have we here?

I learnt afterwards that this gentleman is a member of the faculty, and was turning over more gold as a miner than he had ever done as a medico. I recognised many familiar faces without being able to put names to them, so much were their owners disguised. Some


  ― 348 ―
gave me a knowing smile in return for my inquiring looks; others favoured me with a wink.

My perrukier, Mr. R——, was doing well; he had served his time in California. My saddler, Mr. B——, looked half-starved. It was clear he had better have stuck to the pigskin—a thing, by the way, often easier said than done.

The Sydney counter-skippers generally made but poor quarrymen; many of them longed, no doubt, to be measuring tape again, and, perhaps, would have long since taken measures for resuming their old and proper trade, had they not felt sure that the employers, whom they had deserted at a day's notice, would probably refuse to engage them again.

I soon found that in so earnest a quest as that of gold-hunting, those pursuing it are averse to the impertinent interruption of strangers. The Jew speculators and others, who were beginning to traffic at the mines, had however introduced one initiative question, seldom failing to open a dialogue in which some information might be picked up. “Will you sell your gold?” was that query. I resolved, therefore, to become a purchaser on a small scale. Had the idea sooner occurred to me, I might have made an excellent speculation, for the gold rose in price several shillings per ounce soon after my visit to the mines. At Ophir, I could have bought any quantity at 3l. to 3l. 1s. an ounce, and, conveying it myself to Sydney, could have at once sold it for


  ― 349 ―
3l. 7s. 6d. At present, however, I had made no arrangement for the necessary outlay.note

After a long ramble over the ranges, I was not sorry to get back to the Commissioner's tent, where, seated at a little table in its entrance, our feet on a carpet spread over sheets of bark, with a huge fire of logs blazing in front, we were ministered to by an old soldier, one of the troopers, in a rough, but wholesome and welcome repast.

Whilst engaged in the discussion of tea in a tin pot, damper, and grilled mutton, seasoned with pickled onions, several men came up to camp for the purpose of getting their gold weighed by Mr. Green, for they distrusted the weights of the storekeepers in the township. In some instances, they had, indeed, been sadly imposed on; but the cheating was not entirely confined to one side, for on a certain occasion, a miner, presenting a nugget for sale at the counter of a store, was offered 2l. for it, which, after solemn consultation with a comrade, he accepted. The nugget turned out to be a piece of a brass candlestick, battered into a rough form, with bits of quartz intermixed. The imposition was soon discovered, but the seller's position was impregnable—he had never said it was gold. The “sold” party could hardly afford to complain, for had it been gold, 5l. would have been the lowest equitable offer for it.




  ― 350 ―

The Commissioner, being instructed to receive the tax in dust from parties not possessing coin, has his scales always at hand. It was amusing to watch the painful anxiety of some, and the careless indifference of others as they produced their respective earnings for valuation. It was pleasant to mark the perfect confidence all had in the Government functionary, many of them requesting him to take charge of their gold unweighed, and leaving it for weeks in his tent, although he was by no means responsible for any loss that might happen. Leathern bags, tobacco pouches, old handkerchiefs and dirty rags, were pulled out, and the glittering ore was poured upon a venerable newspaper for weighing. The common wooden lucifer box, however, seemed to be the favourite receptacle for the gold dust—the penny match-box holding about 40l. worth of its new contents.

One man, a poor shoemaker of Sydney, had left in charge of Mr. Green the finest specimen of a “pepite” I had yet seen. I counted on buying it; but he came to-day for it, and refused 39l. which I offered him, because, as he said, he wished to show it to his wife before he turned it into cash. The specimen, in form like a thick stick of sealing-wax, and wholly free from quartz, weighed 1 lb. 16 dwt. 12 gs. The little cobbler, who had by no means the appearance of a hardy digger, told me that the day after he had ledged his great nugget with the Commissioner, he had made 20l. worth of gold in a few hours' work. The freshet of the creek


  ― 351 ―
had, however, filled up his “claim,” and he resolved to return home with his present gains. He departed this evening accordingly with a comrade—evidently a sleeping partner only—who looked both willing and able to rob him on the road. This man sold me a few smaller pieces; and a party of three, who had made 57l. worth since the beginning of the month, let me have a perfect picture of a small nugget at 3l. 1s. per ounce. It weighed about 2½ ounces.

Another company, who intended to return to the mines when the weather improved, had earned 112l. in three weeks. A few days before they had found a handsome lump of 9 oz. 9 dwts. It was nearly perforated with a blow of the pick. A party of five gentlemen, two, at least, of whom were magistrates, had worked for a fortnight, and had made 6l. a day each during that time. One of them, a fine able young man, told me they had laboured really hard. He was arranging a joint-stock company for the Turon when I saw him, and had purchased tent, cradle, and other materials, from some disappointed party for one-fourth of their value.

Such was at this juncture the depreciation of stores at Ophir, that a fine tent, 20 feet by 10, constructed at a cost of 35l., for the use of the superintendent of the intended colony of North Australia, was sold for two ounces of gold.

The following is a singular instance of success, where success was most improbable: Three lads from Sydney,


  ― 352 ―
the eldest seventeen, the others many years younger, with that precocious spirit common in “currency” juveniles, had taken leave of their mothers, and, as the respectable parent of one of them told me, had commenced by purchasing for 5s. at Ophir a cradle which had cost 40s. in Sydney. In three weeks they had made and sold 5l. 15s. worth of gold each, and had brought back to Sydney 5l. worth in dust, all expenses cleared, a fact sufficient to depopulate all the schools, and to break all the indentures of 'prenticeship in the capital.

The miners, I observed, looked haggard and weatherworn about the face; but I fancy this jaded look proceeded rather from intense mental excitement than from bodily hardship. More than one almost started when I asked them if they did not dream of gold at night, and admitted, with apparent shame, that not only did gold form the main subject of many a troubled nightmare, but that, in spite of excessive fatigue, involuntary waking ruminations on the same absorbing theme robbed them of the rest absolutely necessary to recruit their strength for the morrow's labour. The general health of the mining population has been excellent throughout—none of the fever, ague, and dysentery, which decimates the diggers of California, having been heard of at Ophir or the Turon.

Morrison's agent in the mining townships is, indeed, said to be “doing a good stroke of business” at 1s. a pill; but excessive health is one of the maladies,


  ― 353 ―
perhaps, which the professor professes to cure. The diet is the real promoter of the general salubrity. A regimen of meat, bread, and water, without vegetables, fruits, or fermented liquors, braces the frame to the utmost pitch of hardy and wiry strength. At the diggings, contrary to the forebodings of the dismalites, the supply followed so quickly on the heels of the demand, that, after the first fortnight, provisions were as cheap as at Sydney. No licences for retailing liquors had been issued, for it was justly apprehended that drunkenness might in a moment convert a well-ordered, though mixed community into a perfect social chaos. Sly grog-selling was attempted on a large scale, and in the most impudent manner, by one or two of the richest storekeepers; but the Commissioners were on the alert, and contrived to seize and confiscate considerable quantities. An example being required, two policemen, disguised as miners, and furnished with a parcel of gold dust, visited the store of the chief grogseller, who traded largely in gold, and offered their gold for sale. The shopkeeper purchased the lot, and at the request of the sellers, supplied them with a dram of rum each at a good round price. The information obtained by this ruse enabled the officers to swoop upon the peccant Israelite, carrying off eighty gallons of spirits and inflicting a heavy fine.

In discussing with infinite gusto a tumbler of the Commissioner's cognac, hot and sweet, while the rain rattled upon our tent roof, and the wind drove the


  ― 354 ―
smoke of the wood fire in our faces—I could not help thinking that the diggers, likewise, might relish, and, as free men, had a right to, their spirituous comforts in their damp bivouacs this cheerless night. I marvelled at their forbearance under so mortifying a restriction; but on reflection, I felt satisfied that, despite the Commissioner's vigilance, wherever gold was plentiful, grog would be forthcoming. This all-potent agent could, doubtless, summon spirits from the vasty deeps of the Summerhill gulleys. Licences will, of course, in due time be granted to a few respectable persons to lay in and retail wine, beer, &c.

It was rumoured that hard drinking, gambling, and fighting, were rife in the recesses of the tents and huts of the nomadic township, and that a noted thimble-rigger had been seen plying the delusive pea on the stump of a tree by the light of the moon, and had plyed it to some purpose. All this might very well be, but at any rate it was not apparent to the eye of the mere traveller.

Sunday, 20th July.—OPHIR.—I had hoped to have attended divine service at the mines, but the inclement weather prevented the arrival of the minister from Carcoar, a distance of about thirty miles. He generally has a tolerably numerous congregation under the green gum-tree.

Mr. Green guided me by a short cut across the ranges


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to a part of the creek called by the diggers Newtown and Paddington. Something like a street had sprung up; a lodging-house at two guineas a-week was in progress of erection; the butcher's shop was doing a smart business, and a crowd of blacks were disputing with the dogs the heads and offal of the slaughtered sheep.

Some of the more intelligent of the Aborigines made themselves very useful at the mines, especially in cutting bark. They got 10s. for forty or fifty sheets. I heard cradles going in some of the secluded gulleys, but in general a rest from work seemed to be observed by the diggers. The people were quiet, civil, but singularly—almost unpleasantly—silent. I saw a few instances of contused eyes, suggestive of Saturday night's recreations.

Lang's Point is at a short distance from Paddington. The river here takes a singularly serpentine course, driven as it is from the straight direction by successive bluffs on either bank. The low points opposite them have been found rich in ore, a fact attested by the knots of miners gathered upon them, and the numerous little rough-and-ready hamlets erected on their slopes. In this wild recess of the sterile mountain region, where the eye of the spectator is lost in folds beyond folds of the hitherto unpeopled hills—where a few weeks ago the aboriginal black and his quarry, the kangaroo and wallabi, alone disturbed the solitude of the desert—it was strange to see crowds of white men, many of them educated persons and nurtured amid the comforts and


  ― 356 ―
amenities of life, thronging the dreary ravines, burrowing among the dismal rocks, and enduring, not only without murmur but with all the zest of intense excitement, the rigours of winter, and every hardship short of actual starvation. What wonder! the ardent sportsman courts cold and wet, fatigue and hunger, with the chance of a broken neck, in pursuit of the grouse, the stag, or the fox. Here GOLD is the game!

Many marvellous stories of the earnings of the miners were current, and found their way into the papers. I believe most of them had no foundation. Their effect was to unsettle the minds of credulous hearers and readers, who, believing that Aladdin's lamp was only waiting for them to rub it, gave up steady employments for gold-hunting, and thereby too often abandoned solid substance for a vain shadow. It is impossible to form a correct idea of the earnings at Ophir. Ten shillings a-day was pretty generally named as the average, which I cannot but think much too low. The search for nuggets is detrimental to steady work, causing a less careful washing for the smaller atoms, which after all pay better. At the Turon, pepites are less common. It is this, perhaps, that renders the gains there more uniform, and the instances of complete failure less frequent than on the Summerhill. A few days after I left this latter place a lump of pure gold, weighing fifty-one ounces, was dug up by a party of sailors, and sold by them to Captain Erskine, of


  ― 357 ―
H.M.S. Havannah, who will have the pleasure of displaying in England, for which place he sailed shortly afterwards, the largest waterworn piece yet discovered in Australia.

The “spree” of gold-hunting became very popular among seafaring men. The papers teemed with trials of runaways from the shipping at Sydney. Most of them made a bad business, some never even reaching the mines, others losing all they had got by their own carelessness and the roguery of their neighbours. A friend of mine fell in with one of these fish out of water, who had been pillaged on the mountain road whilst lying asleep. He was trying in vain to mount a sorry nag he had bought for the journey. The poor seaman was fairly “took aback, for,” said he, “they've robbed me of a one pun' note, my' stifficate of discharge from the ship, three weeks' grub, and my port stirrup, and I'm blowed if I can get upon this beast without it!” My informant suggested the expedient of unrigging the starboard stirrup, and shipping it on the port side; and, moreover, performed this transfer for him. Jack, delighted with this somewhat obvious “dodge,” “shinned” up to his Rosinante's back, and proceeded on his journey with renewed spirits.

Late in August a nugget of fifty-seven ounces was dug up, and sold in Sydney. The general form of these lumps is flattish, with the edges, whether of metal or stone, smoothed off as though they had been battered


  ― 358 ―
by harder substances, and polished by the torrents of centuries. I brought home a nugget of about forty ounces, of a more spherical shape than common. It was not unlike the knob of a drum-major's stick. The gold was thinly veined with pinkish quartz. The dust is nothing more than the smaller particles broken from the larger and worn by trituration into miniature nuggets.

20th July.—In the afternoon, I took leave of my kind and hospitable friend Mr. Green, who furnished me with a mounted policeman as guide and escort, and rode back to Swallow Creek, overtaking on the road a continuous line of travelling miners, proceeding, like myself, to the Turon. Poor people! they had to wade the several roaring torrents through which I rode up to my saddle-girths.

21st July.—A bright hoar frost covered the face of the country when I arose this morning. The milk that was served at breakfast was frozen in the pitcher. I left Swallow Creek early, having there resumed my carriage. It was a beautiful sunny day, highly cheering after a week of rain and gloom. In Australia damp and cloudy weather is intolerable. It seems a kind of breach of promise. You feel inclined to sue the seasons for damages. In dear old England you are thankful for sunshine, and have nothing to urge in the way of complaint against so common an event as a rainy day, a cold or cough, or a wet skin!

The Summerhill and Turon rivers are alike tributaries


  ― 359 ―
of the Macquarie. The distance across the mountain region between the two gold-fields is probably not more than thirty miles; and a track available for baggage-animals will, doubtless, shortly be made to unite them.

My route took me round by Bathurst—the arc making the distance about sixty miles. In this town I had to wait three or four hours for the swollen Macquarie—(that capricious stream, which sometimes does not run at all for years)—to run down; and by 4 P.M. I found it fordable on wheels. My kind friend, Mr. W. Suttor of Brucedale, had invited me to his beautiful place, which lies in the direct route to the Turon diggings, whether from Bathurst or Sydney,—so direct, indeed, that for the last fortnight the road in front of his windows has exhibited the appearance of the line of march of a large army's baggage. The cavalcade was still passing during my stay there. A considerable sprinkling of scarlet serge-shirts and blankets, with a strong force of musketeers at the “slope” and “trail,” gave a martial feature to the movement. The spectacle was enlivening enough to the somewhat sequestered scenery of Brucedale. My worthy host might not quite relish the liberties taken with his property by the strangers; for they made their halts and their fires where they listed, and turned out their beasts where it suited them. Perhaps, however, on putting two and two together, the sagacious proprietor might compound with their trespasses in consideration of the famous market this


  ― 360 ―
roving population was bringing him for his flocks and herds on the neighbouring hills;—for he has sheep-runs absolutely astride on the Turon.

The discovery of the Gold Field on this river is due to a superintendent of Mr. Suttor, who found the precious ore on the first search, and on every spot where he tested the alluvium by the tin-dish. The discovery was promptly made public by Mr. Suttor; and in a few days the cabalistic word “Gold” had conjured into existence, among the wild fastnesses of these mountain pastures, a population at the least equal to the town of Bathurst itself.

At Brucedale I met the fortunate possessor of the monster lump, Dr. Kerr, who is connected by marriage with Mr. Suttor. It would have been wonderful indeed had not gold, and this particular morsel of gold, formed the main subject of discourse. The spot of the find, it appears, was by no means rocky, precipitous, or remarkably sterile. It was a gentle slope, in the midst of a favourite sheep-walk. The unconscious flocks must have a thousand times nibbled the herbage sprouting around the precious mass. The shepherd had, perhaps, used it as a pillow for his noontide doze, or as a prop for his back while he awakened the echoes with his oaten, or soothed his solitude with his clay pipe. But the destined day had arrived. The swarthy Corydon, sauntering with hands behind him and eyes bent on the ground, was suddenly attracted by the glitter of a yellow


  ― 361 ―
speck like the head of a pin on a lump of rock. His thoughts naturally turning to the bilious-looking dross about which the white men had been for some weeks past in such a rabid state, he drew from his belt his tomahawk and struck off a fragment from the block. What was his surprise to find it not only thickly veined with gold, but a mass of gold nearly pure. Away went this second Man Friday, over hill and dale, until he had found his master,—and the rest has been told. It is not unimportant to know that Dr. Kerr owes his good fortune to the uniform kindness of himself and his amiable lady towards the aborigines. The latter has been especially earnest in her endeavours to ameliorate the condition of this abject race.

I heard somewhere that another intelligent black had stated that he remembered having seen, as a child, large quantities of the substance about which so much stir was now made. In vain he tasked his memory as to the spot where he asserted that many years back he had seen a block similar to those just found. It might possibly be the same, but his recollections pointed rather to some distant part of the mountain region.

The hundredweight was found, it appears, in three pieces, situated triagonally a few paces apart, detached from any vein of rock, and seated, as it were, on the clayey soil. Mr. Suttor took the trouble to convey down to the creek and to wash some pans of the surrounding earth, but not the smallest indication of


  ― 362 ―
gold was perceptible therein, although particles of the metal were readily found on the banks of the stream. I believe this instance of a heavy mass of gold found in situ and removable without the labour of the miner, to be quite unparalleled in mineralogical history. What wonder that such a discovery should cause uncommon—even undue—excitement amongst a people all classes of whom may be styled industrial, for all are labouring by mind or muscle for their daily bread, and none can afford to be idle!

It is impossible to argue others, or indeed to persuade oneself, into the belief that this particular mass, picked up within the first three months of Australia's golden era, is—in the language of sentimental poetry—“the lonely one.” Science cannot assert it. There is no precedent to guide probability. Everybody may find a similar jetsom; and the Bathurst Mountains will accordingly be rummaged for kindred lumps—to the discovery of others, perhaps, but to the certain disappointment of hundreds of “tall fellows” who might well be more profitably employed for the good of themselves, their families, and the public.

The ladies at Brucedale were obliging enough to make up, as a present for my wife, a pacquet of specimens of the different ores found in this richly metalliferous district—Mrs. Kerr contributing some beautiful atoms of the monster block which had been scattered from it by the sledge-hammer. They were all more


  ― 363 ―
or less intermixed with white quartz. Some grand combustion had evidently fused the metal and the rock, the soft and the hard, the precious and the worthless, into one common mass. The gold, thus released from, or exposed in its birthplace, was crystallized into innumerable sharp spiracles, and looked as though it had just come from under the chasing tool of some cunning sculptor. Cellini himself could not have produced more exquisite forms. I believe I shall be able to show my friends at home some of the most splendid specimens of virgin gold in the matrix ever seen—one or two of them obtained at considerable cost.

The Kerr Hundredweight had become, as I have hinted, a classical subject. Every detail connected with it was interesting to a stranger, and had, of course, become a household word at Brucedale. The little saddle-bags into which it had, in its fragmental form, been with difficulty crammed, were dignified into objects of curiosity worthy of a museum. It was amusing to hear that the worthy doctor, on his long ride homewards with the gold on his saddle, being compelled to halt at some human habitation for refreshment, had, in order to avert suspicion from his precious freight, lifted it with assumed ease from the horse's back, and flung it with forced indifference over a rail fence. “It seems heavy,” remarked a bystander. “Full of gold, of course!” replied the owner, with a smile, and with more truth than he desired to get credit for.




  ― 364 ―

July 22d.—Brucedale. Another specimen was added to my collection—as interesting to me as the others, although not so pleasing in its association. It was a jagged spear-head, about six inches long, just cut by Dr. Kerr out of the breast of one of Mr. Suttor's blacks. He was the bully of the tribe, it appears, but unluckily getting drunk, a rival took advantage of his weak moment, and, challenging him to a duel, transfixed him with his lance. The rude weapon had passed along the breastbone under the pectoral muscles, which the operator was compelled to lay open in order to release the serrated wood. No indication of pain was manifested by the manly patient under the surgical knife. He was a fine powerful-looking fellow.

This morning Mr. Suttor went into Bathurst to conclude the sale of the Kerr gold; and I, having entered into temporary partnership with one of his sons, proceeded to carry into effect the cold water care I had resolved to throw upon the nascent symptoms of the gold epidemic which I felt creeping in my veins. A day's “prospecting” was the prescription. By dint of a rough pony, a cold day, six quartz ridges jagged with slate, two or three flooded creeks, a pickaxe, a sledge-hammer, a tin dish, and—a total absence of gold, even the minutest speck, in reward of our united labours—the remedy was effectuated in five hours, and the disease eradicated for ever!

In the evening Mr. Suttor returned, having sold,


  ― 365 ―
after brisk competition, his brother-in-law's trouvaille—1,233 oz. 9 dwts.—for 4,160l. (being 3l. 7s. 6d. per oz.) to a firm in Sydney, the head of which had all along predicted, and did not the less continue to predict, that the discovery of gold would be the ruin of the colony! I mention this fact merely to add that this gentleman was not singular in his opinion. Scores of persons were speculating deeply in the ore, who looked with doubt and even with dismay to the result it might produce on the other interests of the country—especially on its paramount export, the wool. The public mind was indeed utterly upset by the novel and startling crisis. The keenest calculators could not look an inch into futurity.

The history of the Hundredweight continued to be eventful. A libation of champagne was poured out between the parties concerned in the sale. The purchasing partner of the Sydney firm had got his gold safe in the bank at Bathurst, and had resolved, in order to save the one per cent. charged by Government for escort, to take his treasure under his own personal charge to the capital. The risk was small, for he had taken his place as a passenger in the mail, which travels in charge of a strong guard for the protection of the gold belonging to the Government and to persons willing to pay the per-centage. His foot was on the step—when lo! the Commissioner demanded the gold in the Queen's name! The astounded merchant


  ― 366 ―
refused to “deliver,” unless force was used. Force was used. Eventually, on the purchaser signing a bond to pay such royalty as might hereafter be demanded on behalf of Her Majesty, the gold was restored to him. The escort fee was, however, exacted from him; the Hundredweight reached Sydney in safety—was for some hours obligingly exhibited to the public by the new proprietor, and was, I believe, shipped the same evening, per Bondicar, for England.

With the chance of ten per cent. royalty hanging over him, the owner will in all probability have nine or ten months to reflect whether or not he has paid too dear for his golden whistle! Be it as it may, one of the greatest and most costly natural curiosities in the world—a curiosity worthy a place in an universal museum, if there were such an institution, and which seemed to have been discovered expressly to adorn the Great Exhibition of 1851, will, thanks to its barbarous treatment from beginning to end, be lost to the world for ever. I cannot tell what might have been the intention of the purchaser of the mass in its mutilated state, had he obtained tranquil possession of it; but harassed and justly irritated by the delays, and difficulties, and conditions attached to his acquisition, I have it from his own lips that the Hundredweight of Gold should go to the melting-pot an hour after it reached London.

Additional gold regulations were early in August issued by Government, limiting the privilege conferred


  ― 367 ―
by the licence to operations in the alluvium or beds of creeks, and instituting a royalty of ten per cent. on crown land and five per cent. on private property, upon gold found in the matrix or original place of deposit.

July 23d.—Mr. Suttor having kindly offered to accompany me on a two days' trip to the Turon Diggings, we started on horseback this morning on that expedition, with our “swag” at the saddle-bow. The distance might be from eighteen to twenty miles, which it took us four hours to perform. The country through which we passed was by no means rugged. There was no scarcity of well-wooded and well-grassed hills of easy acclivity, on the tops and sides of which were scattered at long intervals fine flocks of sheep; and here and there the dappled hides of great herds of cattle shone through the eternal olive grey of the gum forests, in cheerful contrast. Nor were there wanting—although these were scarce—occasional open alluvial flats, apparently of the richest soil.

The road, or rather dray-track, from Bathurst to Mudgee leads directly to the scene of the present mining operations. Indeed the position of the works was probably dictated by the existence of this sole path through the mountain region; and I mention it because it leads me to the conclusion that the Turon gold field is not confined to the twelve or fourteen miles on either hand of the point where the Mudgee road crosses the stream; but that, on the contrary,


  ― 368 ―
gold will be found equally plentiful, perhaps more so, in other parts of the river and its tributaries hitherto inaccessible to wheels or even pack-horses.

About halfway we came upon Wyagden—a grazing station belonging to the Suttor family, well situated on a fertile level with fine pasturing hills on every side. We overtook several formidable companies bound for the diggings; found others encamped or baiting where water was plentiful; and met a very few coming towards Bathurst, on foot or mounted, in twos and threes, with a certain conscious expression on their countenances, which to a “prospecting” bush-ranger would have been a sure indication of gold “in pockets.”

The road to the Turon—or Sofala, as it has since my visit, not happily, I think, been called, (for the native appellations are surely the best,)—the road to the Turon will be the grave of many an overtasked bullock and horse; for, although the hills are not generally of extraordinarily steep ascent, the passage of Lewis's Mountain is a tremendous obstacle for a laden dray. It has been overcome, however; and in time may be remedied or avoided. As we approached this pass a cart was climbing it, like a fly up a wall. The wain was empty, the men shouldering the packages, “like Britons” as they were, and staggering slowly but surely onwards. With gold a-head men do not stick at trifles. Vestigia nulla retrorsum, the motto of the 5th Dragoon Guards, is


  ― 369 ―
the gold-hunter's war-cry. Just beyond this hill we crossed a ridge of fine limestone. It must be very scarce in this country, for I do not remember noticing that species of rock before. In the Sydney district there is none of this valuable stone. The lime used in building is obtained entirely from sea-shells, of which fortunately there exist enormous banks.

At length the main features of the country became more decided in character. Amid a chaos of minor swells it was easy to trace two leading sierras, dominating and marking the direction of a long and tortuous valley. This valley forms the bed of the river Turon—the Pactolus of the Antipodes. Thin wreaths of bluish smoke indicated the position of the mines, far below us and as yet invisible. As we topped a ridge, the last of a series I thought interminable, my companion suddenly said, “Stop and listen.” I pulled up my horse, and heard as I imagined the rushing of some mighty cataract. “It is the cradles,” said he; and so it was—the grating of the gravel or rubble on the metal sifters of five hundred rockers! I shall not easily forget the impression made on me by this singular acoustic effect. Looking down into that wild mountain glen, it was almost incredible that this uniform and ceaseless crash could be produced by the agency of a crowd of human beings, not one of whom was visible, nor any sign of their existence. There was no pause nor the slightest variation in the


  ― 370 ―
cadence as it floated up to us on the still air; and I have no doubt that had we listened for an hour not the slightest check in the monotonous roar would have been detected. Presently as we descended upon the creek, tents and huts and every other kind of temporary tabernacle were described dotting the slopes and levels up and down and on either bank of the stream, in indiscriminate confusion.

We came upon the Turon at a spot where there is amply sufficient space for a considerable town, with frontage to the river. Indeed, the character of the country immediately bordering this river is less rugged and confined than that of the Summerhill Creek, the bed of the stream itself much wider, and infinitely more so than the present state of its waters, albeit flooded, requires. The torrents which brought the gold down must have been much greater than any that have lately occurred; yet, that there has been a modern downflux of the metal is proved by fine dust having been found in tufts of grass on the banks.

A tolerable road runs for several miles along the course, winding among the beautiful swamp-oaks that fringe it, and crossing frequently from one bank to the other in spots where steeps impinge upon the creek. In most places this track is passable for drays—an immense advantage over Ophir—or rather it would have been passable, but that some of the more unscrupulous diggers have burrowed across it in all directions, in


  ― 371 ―
many instances finding the most lucrative spots where the dray-wheels had passed over for years before, no one suspecting that the road was paved with gold! The Commissioners will, of course, put a stop to this practice.

The Turon—in summer often quite dry or merely a meagre chain of ponds—was now pouring along in a turbid, eddying torrent, far up the stems of the casuarinas, whose bark showed a still higher water-mark. Numberless were the flooded excavations and deserted diggings occasioned by the late rains. Crossing the stream, as we had to do half-a-dozen times, it was about two to one against our avoiding a dive into one of the submerged pits. We took the odds and the brook, however, without hesitation, and luck favoured us.

Our first visit on attaining the opposite bank, a long sloping hill lightly timbered and sprinkled over with various camps, was made to a gentleman—a relative of my host—who, having tried digging for a time and left that pursuit to be carried on by the rest of his party, had struck out the, perhaps, more remunerative one of wholesale and retail butcher. A fine handsome young man, with manners and address particularly pleasing, one might be tempted to doubt his taste in the choice of a profession. At the present juncture, however, no one could doubt the wisdom of the speculation, nor the sagacity of the family combination, by which Mr. —— slaughters (by proxy, of course) and sells the mutton which, in flocks of fifty or a hundred, is driven to his


  ― 372 ―
shambles from his relative's pastures, each thus getting a handsome profit. I heard that the fat wethers which, before the gold discovery, were selling for three or four shillings, were fetching on the Turon eight or ten shillings; and yet meat was not more than threepence per pound.

The shop consisted of an open shed, with a bark roof and a rank-entire of fat sheep depending from the eaves. Twenty or thirty others were biding their time in a rude pen; and a fine flock browsed, or would have done so, had there been a blade of grass left, on the hill-side above. Behind the shed the assistant was cutting innocent throats as fast as he could.

Hurrying hungry and thirsty to Mr. ——'s tent, which was just such an one as a gipsy tinker might inhabit at the corner of an English common, we were promptly supplied by the proprietor—in whom the amateur butcher does not extinguish the gentleman — with the ordinary breakfast, dinner, and supper of the miner and the bushman, viz. damper, grilled mutton, and tea boiled in a tin-pot with brown sugar and without milk. This is, undoubtedly, the best method of making tea. The boiling without a lid on the pot effectually destroys the astringency of the beverage, so nauseous when there is no milk to soften it. Attacking these viands with our pocket-knives, our appetites were soon appeased. The horses got nothing, for there was nothing for them. They had to feed upon the promise


  ― 373 ―
of hay and corn, which I made them conditionally upon our reaching the quarters of my old friends, the sergeant and troopers of the mounted police. Meanwhile we hung their despondent heads to a stump, and went down to the creek to inspect the operations of the miners. The weather was sunny and mild, and the works were going on earnestly on all sides.

Taking the state of the atmosphere into account, the scene was a much more cheering one than that presented at Ophir. I was not sorry to have viewed gold-digging under the opposite influences of tempestuous and fine weather. Nothing, surely, could have been more dispiriting and damping to mining ardour than the soaking showers, deep mud, and boisterous torrents of Summer-hill. Few things and scenes could have been more agreeable and enlivening than the beautiful and tranquil vale of the Turon, under a beaming sun and refreshing breeze, with the busy, healthy, and steadfast throng labouring along its banks.

The camps were not entirely deserted, for one of every company remains at the hut cooking, washing, and keeping guard in the absence of his mates. I saw no women, except a few “gins,” at the mines, one of the most odious peculiarities of the gold-digging population.




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Chapter XII.

THE GOLDEN HORN—A FORTNIGHT'S EARNINGS—DEVIL'S DUST—QUARTERS FOR THE NIGHT—MORN AMONG THE MINES—A RIDE DOWN THE TURON—DRY DIGGINGS—MY “TRANSACTION”—ROCKING THE CRADLE—GOLD LICENCE—THE WALLABI ROCKS—QUARTZ CRUSHING AND QUICKSILVER—CONSEQUENCES TO THE COLONY—A MODERN DANAE—BACK TO SYDNEY—A CHANCE FOR A BUSHRANGER—AN “AMPLUSH”—GOLD CIRCULAR—POSTSCRIPT—CONCLUSION.

IN my descent to the creek, as it happened, I hit upon the very richest spot of the present works—namely, the “Golden Point,” and, moreover, the first group I approached chanced to be the most fortunate party on that fortunate spot. It was known as Hall's party. Two brothers of that name, smart little fellows from the neighbourhood of Bathurst, were rocking the cradle whilst a couple of their comrades were delving in a hole, worked partly downwards in the dry bed of the creek, partly horizontally into the alluvial bank. Two more were carrying the soil in buckets from the excavation to the rocker. They were just preparing to wash out a cradle, ten or eleven buckets of earth and gravel having been sifted through it. The manipulation of the


  ― 375 ―
brothers seemed particularly quick and skilful. Instead of removing the residuum, consisting of sand, emery, gold, &c., from the floor of the cradle to a tin dish, for washing, they took off the “hopper” or perforated metal plate; gathered with the point of a knife any larger lumps that were visible on the cross-bars or stops at the bottom; then, after washing the grosser particles of the dust &c. in the dish, they scraped up the finer residue, and placing it on the inclined plane or sliding-board of the rocker, gently poured a thin stream of water over it until the materials took on the wet board the shape of a well-defined cone,—the lighter particles, sand, emery, and the like, being washed down so as to form its base, whilst the fine gold dust remained at the apex. Thus were preserved the minutest atoms, which by the tilting action of the tin dish are usually lost.

The product of these ten or eleven little zinc buckets just washed out, was 1 oz. 3 dwt. 13 grs. On my congratulating the brothers on their having realized about 3l. 10s. in half an hour, one of them replied with exultation, “Oh, that's nothing; see what we have done since dinner,”—and he pointed to a pint pannikin, standing at the root of a tree. They had dined about one o'clock, and it was now about four. There was gold to the amount of eighteen ounces in the pot, a few of the pieces being about the size of a kidney bean.

On Mr. Hardy's last visit to Bathurst he had lodged in the Bank for these men fourteen pounds' weight of


  ― 376 ―
gold.note In a fortnight this lucky company had worked out twenty-four pounds, and I afterwards read in the papers that early in August they had paid a visit to Bathurst, leaving one man in charge of their “claim,” when their entire gains, in something more than five weeks, amounted to forty-three pounds' weight of the finest gold. A party of nine, rather lower down the creek, had produced 147 ounces in four weeks, and deserted their allotment when it deteriorated to three ounces per diem. A day's wages at the rate of 22s. per man did not satisfy these cormorants. They probably went further and fared worse,—they deserved to do so.

A company of eight, headed by a person named Lee, washed forty ounces this day, at a spot a little higher up than the Golden Point. The following journal of a fortnight's work was furnished by him to the editor of the Bathurst Free Press, and was published in that paper:—

“We first commenced work at the Wallabi Rocks, and for the first three weeks averaged from one to two ounces a-day. This being very unsatisfactory we resolved upon a prospecting trip, and after beating about for a time, fixed on a promising spot, about eight miles higher up the river. Owing to the scarcity of water at that time we had to carry our earth a distance of three hundred yards in buckets. After digging to a depth of seven feet without any success, we abandoned that spot,


  ― 377 ―
and tried the land immediately adjoining, which we had previously secured by licence. And now our tide of good fortune flowed in upon us. The quantities of gold were procured by us in the order given.

 
Wednesday  4 oz.  Thursday  13 oz. 

Friday being wet we only worked till breakfast-time. 2 oz.:—

       
Saturday  16 oz.  Monday  21½ oz. 
Tuesday  22 oz.  Wednesday  40 oz. 
Thursday  30 oz.  Friday  20 oz. 
Saturday  4 oz.  Monday  3 oz. 

“As our earnings were now reduced to 1l. per day, each man, we did not think it worth while to pursue our labours any further; our previous good fortune had spoiled us. Even extraordinary wages were unsatisfactory. So we determined, after a little consultation, to dissolve partnership. Taking good and bad together, our month's earnings averaged about 100l. a man. In some parts the gold was so plentiful that the dust could be picked out with the point of a knife. On one occasion Mr. Lee got a quarter of an ounce out of a pint pannikin of earth. Forty shovelsful of earth yielded three ounces; and great quantities of dust were brushed from the sides of stones to which the particles were attached.”

Surprising as are the gains of this party, I met on the 4th of August in the shop of Mr. Hale, jeweller, Sydney, to whom they were offering their gold for sale,


  ― 378 ―
four men, inhabitants of Wollongong, whose earnings on the Turon had been yet more considerable. Three miles above the Golden Point, at a water-hole where two large rocks mark the spot, they had procured 18 lb. weight in one week, yielding them 150l. per man. It was the finest parcel of gold dust, in rather larger particles than common, that I had seen. The same party showed me, per contra, one ounce of very small dust, as the result of three weeks' previous labour, so complete a lottery is gold hunting. If I understood correctly a sort of “aside,” muttered with a gesture of exultation and defiance, all their gains had been acquired without payment of the mining tax. At the time of my visit the population of the Turon and its affluents was calculated at 3,000, and at Ophir 500. Not more than 1,400 or 1,500 licences had been issued. It must, however, be remembered that hut-keepers, and others not actually mining, pay no tax; yet, I hardly know on what principle, except on that of extreme indulgence, whole hordes of settlers and hucksters, sly grog-sellers, thimbleriggers and others preying on their kind, are permitted to trespass on the Crown Lands without any contribution to the public revenue.

There were three or four neighbours of the Halls, on or near the Golden Horn, doing pretty nearly as profitable a business as themselves. I asked one of the diggers, whose head and shoulders just protruded from the grave-like hole he was digging, whether the ore was


  ― 379 ―
visible to the eye in the soil. “Get in,” said he, laconically,—for the miners have no breath to waste in chatting. I turned in with him accordingly, and my black-bearded friend made me observe a delicate layer or stratum of yellow dust, like flour, in one corner of the hole. Without further ado he shovelled dirt, gravel and gold together into a sort of canvas hand-barrow, and two or three spadesful seemed to have exhausted the precious vein, for it ceased to be perceptible. This was the only occasion on which I succeeded in detecting with the naked eye gold in its deposit, except, indeed, on the following day, when I saw a man pick a piece the size of a pea out of an old root in a dry gulley.

In the vicinity of Golden Point, the stream was about twenty feet wide. Opposite the works the bank was formed of nearly perpendicular bluffs. The old or dry bed of the stream on the right shore varied from 20 to 100 feet in width from the water-edge to the bank whereon the camps were erected. The upper stratum of the ground they were working upon was of gravel of every size, from a pumpkin to a pea, and of various materials—volcanic, silicious, slaty, &c. Then came a rich brownish soil; and in many spots a thick layer of clay was spread above the rock that formed the true bed or trough of the creek. All the superstrata are composed of mere detritus, washed down together with the gold by the mountain storms. The very finest atoms


  ― 380 ―
of the ore frequently find lodgement among the lighter soil or gravel. The medium grains are caught and retained by the clay; whilst the heaviest particles work their way down to the rock.

The people at the Point were not anxious to sell to-day; perhaps they had parted with as much gold as they could spare to a business-like individual on horseback, with a leathern case strapped to his saddle, whom I observed in active conference with the diggers, up and down the creek. I resolved, however, to “transact” on the morrow.

It was growing late. The sun had disappeared behind the mountains an hour earlier than he would have done from Bathurst Plains, and a broad shadow, deepened by the gloom of the cypress-like casuarinas, was thrown across the creek. The dusk of evening fell upon the mines as in a moment. The diggers, one by one, as the light failed them, retired slowly from the bed of the stream and the working-holes to their huts on the slope above their respective “claims.” The hut-keepers had prepared for the return of their more active partners. The cheerful log-fire blazed in front of every camp. The mutton was hissing on every frying-pan or gridiron; the tea smoking in the tin pot. Dampers as big as the top of a band-box were keeping themselves warm on the embers. The blankets, which had been drying in the sun, were huddled into the rude and lowly “bunks.” Supper and sleep, in order to


  ― 381 ―
early rising for another day's exciting labour, were in course of preparation.

My friend and I took the hint. The Commissioner, whose guest I hoped to be for the night, had not arrived from Bathurst. We sought his quarters, and those of his constabulary, and were directed to an incipient slab-hut, without roof or other more advanced symbol of hospitality. There was not a living being near it. Where were the troopers? “Cutting shlabs and bark, up there,” replied a Jew from his gunyah, pointing to the moon, as it seemed. We pushed our horses up a nearly perpendicular ascent, and on the opposite flank of a deep gulley I recognised the red striped pantaloons of a mounted policeman. “Where is Serjeant Giles?” shouted I to the pantaloons, proud to claim the acquaintance of that old soldier in the time of my trouble. “Up at Two Mile Creek,” responded the voice from the gulley. Mr. Suttor knew “Two Mile Creek” to be the sheep station of an acquaintance, Mr. Richards. Scrambling that distance over a succession of ranges, we soon came upon a pretty cottage, picturesquely situated on a running brook, with some good level land under cultivation around it, and a background of fine swelling hills.

Mr. Richards' house is the only residence of a tolerably permanent nature in all the region round about. The proprietor was not residing there, but had permitted Mr. Hardy to make it his head-quarters, whilst


  ― 382 ―
his own cottage on the creek was in course of erection The old soldiers rushed out to welcome “the colonel” and his friend with a degree of hearty courtesy highly refreshing after the liberty and equality roughness of the “diggings,” where not much civility is cut to waste. Our starved and jaded horses (mine, old grey “Badger,” looked like a superannuated polar bear in the last agonies of famine,) were lugged off to the stable and astonished with a real feed of hay and corn; ourselves sat down to a capital boiled leg of mutton and turnips, to help in discussing which our host, Mr. Hardy, arrived just in time. The Commissioner and his assistant cannot justly be accused of pampering themselves, any more than the Government can be twitted with having unduly ministered to the comfort and convenience of these important officers. Living up to their knees in gold, they get but little of it in the shape of salary, little in proportion to the responsibility of their posts. They are forbidden to traffic in it themselves, and have but small advantage in domestic outfit and appliances over the lowest miner. The pastrycook's apprentice, it is true, contemplates jam tartlets with a stoical indifference incomprehensible to the schoolboy; but then he is permitted a surfeit of such delicacies early in his career. The gold-officers are not “entered at” gold in a like manner, and in a post of such high trust high payment is good policy, as well as mere justice.

July 24th.—The Turon. Our plan for the day was


  ― 383 ―
to take a strolling ride of seven or eight miles down the creek, visiting the works as far as the grand feature of the diggings, the Wallabi Rocks, and in the afternoon to return to Brucedale, partly by another route. The morning broke calm and cloudless over the gold-bearing hills, the early sun darting its sidelong beams through every aperture in the ranges, and glinting, doubtless, on many a gem of golden ray serene, for ever doomed to waste its sweetness on the desert air, and on many another that shall sooner or later be ravished from its native bed by the restless cupidity of man.

Mounting soon after breakfast, and accompanied by the Commissioner, we soon reached the crest of a lofty eminence overlooking at some distance the course of the Turon and the mines. Here, a singular and most beautiful spectacle awaited us. As I despaired of preserving the shadow of an impression of it by effort of pencil, so do I feel my pen equally powerless to delineate the scene. A first-rate colourist who had passed a life in the close study of nature could have produced but a faint image of the swelling sea of mountain-forest lying before and below us, hill beyond hill interlacing each other as far as sight could range; the devious course of the invisible Turon distinctly traced by a motionless wreath of smoke from the bivouacs, sleeping on the mists of the river like a huge torpid serpent, and carrying the eye of the spectator along its convolutions until it rested upon the giant


  ― 384 ―
face of the Wallabi Rocks, just illumined by the morning sun, which threw over it a veil of golden gauze. The landscape was truly lovely—an epithet, I fancy, rarely applicable to gold mining regions—which are generally found on the most barren, ill-favoured and inaccessible parts of the earth; as though Providence had purposely placed the “glistering sorrow” beyond the familiar reach of man, and doomed the soil prolific in gold to unfruitfulness in any productions necessary for the support of life.

We were soon among the diggers; most of them were already hard at work. Some few were idling and yawning round the tents and booths. A night of drinking and gambling had probably rendered them indisposed and unfit for labour. On the other hand, I was particularly struck with the neat, clean, cheerful and healthy appearance of a large majority of the men. I had heard and read in the newspapers various accounts of the desperate hard labour of mining. I do not believe that gold digging and washing, in tolerable weather, is harder or more injurious work than any other out-door labour. It is the interest of many to assert the contrary. Of course, those inapt at muscular exertion find it irksome at first. The hardest part of Australian mining, as at present conducted, is the hard fare, hard lying, and bad lodging hitherto provided; all which drawbacks are easily remedied. Of course, I am speaking merely of the superficial digging at


  ― 385 ―
present carried on. When the term “mining” means grappling with the earth's rocky ribs, 100 or 150 fathoms beneath its surface, as is the case in the Brazils, none but a class inured to it—indeed, bred to it—can pretend to exercise the craft of miner.

The salubrity of the gold mines in New South Wales has indeed been astonishing. In spite of rain and wintry weather, there has scarcely been a case of serious sickness at either of the diggings. The absence of strong drinks, the plainest of food, physical activity combined with a healthy degree of mental excitement, seem to render drugs and doctors useless. A few of the latter, well supplied with the former, early repaired to the gold-field with an eye to practice. They soon, however, found more profit in tormenting earth's bowels than those of their fellow-men; and they, who came to drug, remained to dig. A broken arm and a dislocated shoulder were all the medical cases I heard of. One poor fellow, at Ophir, is said to have fallen down in a fit, when, like little Jack Horner, “he put in his thumb and pulled out a” nugget of 46 ounces from a clay-slate “pocket;” but I believe he had always been an epileptic subject. I can well imagine, however, that the sudden acquisition of such a treasure by an indigent person, who had besides long worked without success, might act hurtfully on the nerves. There is, moreover, a fascination about gold in its birth-place, the raw material, pure, native virgin gold—(I felt it myself)—


  ― 386 ―
which it is far from possessing when sophisticated into the shape of a sovereign.

So near the end of the current month, the Commissioner had little to do this day in the way of collecting licence fees, which are paid in advance. Two or three individuals, however, came up and tendered payment, having been only a day or two at work. Others honestly cashed up balances which he had considerately allowed them time to earn, instead of driving them from their diggings. His slightest word in the adjustment of “claims” was law. Some attempts had been originally got up to procure a diminution of the 30s. monthly impost. A few threatened non-payment, a few pleaded poverty. I consider the charge most moderate. A labourer can well afford to pay one shilling a day for the privilege of earning from twelve to twenty shillings which, by comparison of accounts, would appear to be the average wages on the Turon. For various reasons I consider this a very low estimate of the real profits. Four or five individuals did indeed assure me that they were “not making their rations;” and one man, a cooper, announced his intention of returning immediately to Sydney, where he could realize his present gains, ten shillings a-day, in his proper trade, and live at half the cost. The fear of the Government augmenting the tax, the apprehension of robbery, the desire to deter others from coming to the mines, are some of the reasons for


  ― 387 ―
the concealment of the amount of their gains by the miners. A computation of the yield of gold at the ratio above stated will hardly give the amount of gold openly shipped for England, not counting a vast quantity whose destination no one knows.

Driven by the height of the waters to ascend the side of a ravine, in order to cross it at its head, we stumbled upon two or three parties working in its bed, three or four hundred yards from the river. This was an important and novel feature in the mining operations of New South Wales. It was the first attempt Mr. Hardy had seen of working in the “blind gulleys,” as they are called here—“gulches,” as they are styled in California.

Two stout African blacks, who spoke English perfectly, and had been in that country, were doing very well in the hole they had quarried among rocks and roots of trees, in the dry channel of the steep water-course. They were making from one ounce to an ounce and a half a day. Just above them, a party of respectable-looking men, with a two-horse cart, had opened a vein tolerably prolific, and were carting the soil down to the river, for washing. None of the gulley miners had hit upon the simple expedient of drawing a dam across the ravine to catch the water of the next thunderstorm. A small puddle at hand, however muddy, is better for gold-washing than two torrents in “the Bush,” half-a-mile off.




  ― 388 ―

On coming down once more upon the creek, I opened a brisk trade with the most accessible of the diggers. It has been mentioned that I had purchased a dog-skin bag at Bathurst. I also drew some money there. If I had neither time nor vocation for digging, at any rate I might buy on a small scale. One fellow asked me five pounds and half profits to let me wash out a cradle. I declined, and he only obtained an ounce and a half, which, however, was more than he had got in the previous two days. Displaying my leather pouch, and taking care to proclaim that it was not a Bathurst gold-monger who was dealing with them, but an army officer travelling from curiosity, no sooner did the miners comprehend my mixed military and marsupial character, than they relaxed their reserved air and became both colloquial and commercial. Some sold gold because they wanted “a little cash for subsistence,” others merely “to oblige me:” one or two because they had become satiated with the sight of “dust,” and were dazzled by a handful of bran-new notes, the mere old-rag representatives of the precious specie. Suffice it to say, that I soon got rid of 60l. at 3l. 3s. per ounce, and was disgusted to see how lean and hungry my dingo-skin bag still looked. Subsequently, however, I found means to fill a more capacious one, though on somewhat less favourable terms. In addition to two or three nuggets, 155 ounces of well-washed dust made


  ― 389 ―
me a pouch plethoric enough to have pleased a much more ardent chrysophilite than myself.note

The ride down the river—now along its bed under the shadow of the swamp oaks—now across the frequent ridges which, steep or gentle in their declivity, trend down to the stream—was most beautiful and enjoyable. We witnessed gold digging and washing in all its stages and phases—the pick-and-spade-men toiling in the deepening hole; in the hard relentless slate which they were splitting into endless laminæ and piling aside; in the soft damp alluvium; in the rattling gravel;—the cradlemen in every gradation of the process of washing, from the rough rocking to throw from the “hopper” the coarse rubble; the anxious but, at the Turon, almost hopeless search for pepites too large to pass the sifter; to the final and exciting investigation of the last lees of the cradle on the plane or in the pan. The finishing operation put me in mind of a hand at whist—sometimes “four by honours,” at others not a trump!note

Here was a party deserting an excavation because they


  ― 390 ―
had reached the rock, where the heaviest gold usually lodges, and had found truth at the bottom in the shape of “nil!”—There another group were huddled together like crows upon carrion, having just hit upon a rich “bunch” in the stiff clay two or three feet below the surface, and a pocket of small nuggets in a cleft of the schist six inches deeper. Nothing struck me more than the extreme diversity of neighbouring claims—some highly lucrative, others utterly unprofitable, with no apparent cause for the difference. Here two newly arrived strangers, with shining patent leather belts, and picks and shovels fresh from the store, were only opening up their claim. They had been digging for forty-eight hours, and had made but little impression on the hard earth. Their tools appeared foreign to their hands. The tailor's shears perhaps would have been more familiar. They looked flushed, fatigued, and angry; and had evidently fallen out because they had not already fallen in with gold.

“You must get deeper, my friends!” said the Commissioner, cheerily—“down to the rock, down to the rock!”

“What's this, please, Sir?” demanded one, holding up with anxious face some glittering object.

“Only mica—worth nothing, my lad!”

“And this?” asked another.

“Iron pyrites,” replied the officer, handing back the curious little cubes which this substance, often coloured like gold, assumes to itself.




  ― 391 ―

“Have you a licence—you in the straw gaiters?”

“No, your honour! I found no goold yet, and the divil a copper I've got in the world.”

“Well this is the 24th. I won't disturb you now; but recollect I shall be with you on the 1st., Friday next, remember!”

“Aye, aye, your honour, never fear, and many thanks to your honour!” responded the half seaman, half bogtrotter—relieved from all fears past, present, and future, after the manner of his kind.

“Well, what have you been doing, my friend, since I saw you last?”

“Doing nothing,” replied the man sullenly. “You took half my month's earnings for the licence. Thirty shillings is too much—a d—d deal.”

“Ha, yes, yes, you think so, do you? then you won't take it as a personal offence if I don't pay my respects to you again before the 1st of August. Expect me punctually, my friend.”

The greater number of the miners were both civil and good-tempered, not to say courteous towards the Commissioner, although a few scowled at him as he passed. I believe him to possess the qualities likely to make him both feared and liked by the motley population under his rule. I am of opinion that this officer ought not to be compelled to hunt up the miners in person in order to exact the tax. He should have his regular office hours at his quarters, for the transaction


  ― 392 ―
of business, the adjustment of claims, and the distribution of justice. The collection of the impost should be performed by subordinate officers. His afternoons might be profitably spent in riding along the works, visiting the distant points, assisting the inexperienced by his advice, measuring off “claims,” and maintaining a general sharp look-out after the interests of the revenue. Ophir and the Turon have lately been made places at which petty sessions may be held. The Commissioner will have no difficulty in forming a quorum. He has only to send a message down to the creek, and request one or more J. P.s to wash their faces and attend the court!

About one o'clock we reached the Wallabi Rocks, where the scenery assumes a wilder and grander character than any I saw at Ophir or the Turon elsewhere The crag called the Lower Wallabi appears to be about 500 feet high, and dominates the river with a sheer precipice, on whose rugged face the agile animal after which it is called can scarcely find foothold. We saw two or three of them hopping about near the summit. The atoms of shale they displaced fell plumb into the stream beneath.

Not long ago the miners were witnesses, as I was told, of a fearful occurrence on this spot. A black, hunting the wallabi on a ledge of the precipice, missed his hold, and bounding from crag to crag dropt a mangled corpse into the river.




  ― 393 ―

The Turon makes many singular meanderings in the vicinity of the Wallabi Rocks; and some of the tongues of low land within the tortuous loops of the river are rich not only in beautiful bits of scenery, but in gold deposits. All the banks and “bars,” for miles round these points, had been already upturned, ransacked, and in a great degree deserted. The creek, nearer its sources, had been found or suspected to be more fruitful. About eight miles down the river we were not sorry to reach a hut, belonging to Mr. Suttor—whose occupant soon prepared a plentiful feed for ourselves and horses. While the chops were broiling I went in search of a mining party, who were reported to have found a pepite of several ounces—the only one I heard of on the Turon. The leader of the company, however, who always carried it about his person, was absent prospecting—so I had to content myself with a couple of ounces of dust from his partners. These four men were Sydney stonemasons, who, recognising me, were very civil. They had done well, they said; that is, realized about thirty shillings a-day each for three weeks; and were about to return to Sydney to fulfil a contract for building two churches.

One of them showed me some specimens—the first I had seen except those of the monster block—of crystallized gold in the quartz, which he said he had found while prospecting in the vicinity, as he believed, of Wallawaugh—the spot of the Kerr Eureka. This man obligingly gave me a very curious piece of the


  ― 394 ―
stone, beautifully white like spar with two or three bright beads of the precious metal standing prominently out of it. He hinted that when, on his next visit to the diggings, he should be driven by want of water or excess of it from the works in the bed of the river, he should repair with proper implements to the “dry diggings” where these bits came from, and he expected to do well there. He will meet disappointment, I think. An individual or two may indeed possibly succeed in this branch of gold hunting, but I believe that with the yield of gold in the alluvium will cease the profitable labour of single workmen, and indeed of all mere manual mining.

The Australian gold-seeker is now on the threshold of his trade only. He is doing what the Peruvians and the Spaniards in Brazil did hundreds of years ago—gathering the crumbs that fall from the auriferous sierras. Ere long, science and machinery will have pierced their crust, and will have torn from the deep-seated matrix the masses of ore, whose dust—mere wastings, as it were—have been washed down their faces by the thunder-storms of ages.

I believe that in no gold-bearing country has the production of gold by washing in the beds of creeks extended over more than a few years. The good spots soon get worked out. In New South Wales, however, the introduction of the system of amalgamation by mercury, already commencing, will so far augment and


  ― 395 ―
protract the yield from the alluvial lands, that most of the diggings will afford a second profitable washing—so much of the finer dust being lost by the clumsy operation of the common rocker.

Mr. Bush, an American, was practising the Virginian rocker, assisted by quicksilver, on the Turon during my visit; but I did not fall in with him. Mercury at this moment is very scarce in the colony. Such has been the demand for it that all the antiquated mirrors have been bought up at good prices and their backs scarified for the sake of their quicksilver. This valuable, indeed indispensable aid to gold getting, has been found in California in the near neighbourhood of the mines. A strict search will doubtless bring it to light ere long, in a country so richly metalliferous as New Holland. The quartz veins of the Australian gold fields have been found, when particles have been crushed and treated with mercury, to contain a high percentage of gold, even though no traces of the ore were observable through the most powerful microscope.note

It is safe to conclude that all the mountain tributaries


  ― 396 ―
of the Macquarie will prove more or less auriferous. These will afford amusement to the gold hunting population of all classes for a time. Meanwhile a campaign against the gold in situ will be concocted and matured. An association of capitalists, already in embryo, will offer themselves as tenants of the Government on the Crown Lands, on terms favourable to individual enterprise as well as to the public revenue. Blocks of waste land, selected by responsible persons, will be secured to the company; buildings will be erected, machines for “stamping” the rock and amalgamating the metal will be conveyed to the spot; and the golden mountains will be compelled to yield up their riches by wholesale, instead of doling them out in driblets of “dust,” for the requirements of mankind.

Companies organized for the scientific working of the Australian gold mines, will, it is to be feared, suffer disadvantage if not serious obstruction on the score of labour. In the Brazils, I believe, the mines—even those belonging to English companies—are worked by slaves; in Mexico by natives whose wages are almost nominal. No white man will probably be found to put a pick in the ground under five shillings a-day, and few at that pay; and gold-mining, as is well known, is more precarious than mining for other metals, because the more noble ore is seldom found in regular veins.

How would a “free and enlightened” cornstalk, hired as a miner, relish being stripped, searched, and


  ― 397 ―
washed, every time he emerges from the bowels of the earth, lest he should secrete the “dust?” Half an ounce has been washed out of a negro's woolly pate! Coolies or Chinese will probably be imported and employed for this purpose.

A scientific gentleman long resident in the colony, has boldly declared that the Gold Field of Australia extends over an area of 14,000 square miles! There is no want of elbow-room, therefore, for ploughing it up.

If there be but few persons versed in the arcana of gold-facture at present in the colony, more will come. If the lack of labour has for years past been ruinous to New South Wales as a pastoral and agricultural country, rely on it there will be no want of labourers in the Gold Field! She will get back from California all her aliens—many more of them than will be welcome;note besides crowds of the natives of other lands, who having mined in that country under the slight drawbacks of fever, and ague, and dysentery, and Lynch law, will flock to a colony where they may follow the pursuit which has unfitted them for any other, under a stable government and salubrious skies. But Australia will acquire still better things from her new God-send—however she may suffer under “temporary derangement” from its first effects. She pines and


  ― 398 ―
frets for proofs of maternal care and affection from the Mother Country. She will have them now—for she is England's heiress daughter! She clamours for a population, and has long been willing to pay for an influx; she will get it gratis now! She has begged on bended knees for steam communication with Europe, and offered her utmost contribution towards effecting that object for her excommunicated people. Scores of steamers will come puffing in hot haste to the new Dorado! Australia demands, finally, and might have long in vain demanded, freedom from convictism. No convicts will be sent to England's gold colony!

The gold discovery occurred most opportunely for New South Wales. The severance of Port Phillip was as the amputation of her right hand. The loss of her left impended in the menaced separation of Moreton Bay and of the great pastoral province whereof it is the outlet. Port Phillip, rejoicing in its new title of Victoria, had squibbed off all her spare powder in pyrotechnical merry-makings at her freedom from the apron-strings of her old convict mother. The wealthy northern squatters talked big of their readiness for independence. South Australia chuckled over her pockets full of “coppers!” The poor “Middle District,” shorn of her members and with a limited and unproductive interior, would have lain helpless, gaping with her huge port towards the Pacific, waiting for the commerce to which she could no longer help


  ― 399 ―
herself—for the food which she could no longer raise within her own frontiers. Even the most sanguine of the Sydney press and politicians seemed to argue against their own convictions, when they suggested possible sources of future prosperity for New South Wales. She was evidently on the road to the work-house!—when plump into her lap—as into that of the God-favoured nymph of mythology—fell a shower of gold!—gold of her own spontaneous production.

The laugh is on her side now. Victorians, Adelaidians, New Englanders, have heard the tocsin—the ring of the precious metal—and are rushing towards the auriferous centre.note Even the Californian deserters, as before mentioned, will return in squadrons to the gold country, whose climate permits of mining all the year round.

July 25th. — Left Brucedale for Sydney. On my journey downwards I overtook, at the outside, a score of men. Nearly all these were merely going to the capital to sell their gold, see their friends, and fulfil contracts, with the intention of returning to the mines in the spring. On the other hand, I computed the


  ― 400 ―
number of men equipped for the diggings and travelling westward at not less than 500. All expected, of course, to find a hundredweight!

Two helpless looking fellows who had “done well” at the Turon, and who were going to Sydney in a wreck of a gig and horse, which they had purchased at Bathurst, asked to be permitted to travel under my convoy, as they feared robbery on the road. It was ludicrous to see their pitifully anxious faces, as they sat in company with three or four very questionable looking customers round the kitchen fire of the gloomy little forest tavern, where we passed the first night; and I could not but feel compassion for them, when on the following day they gradually dropped out of sight of my faster vehicle. A looker-on might have had a laugh at myself not long afterwards. Having more gold with me than I cared to lose, I was quite alive to the chance of being stopped on the mountain road. My coachman and I had some talk on the subject of bush-ranging—he adding some appropriate if not consolatory anecdotes which had come within his experience.

“I don't intend to give up without a fight,” said I, in order to feel his pulse as to pugnacity.

“Hope not, Sir,—think we could manage a couple on 'em, Sir—they're soon cowed, them coves are, for they fight with a rope round their necks. But you must not expect fair play from them. They will take you at an amplush if they can.”




  ― 401 ―

Whether this signified an ambush or a nonplus I could not tell! Our plan of action was arranged. I had a double-barrelled pistol; he had a stout sword-stick. “Recollect to fight at the face, John,” was my last, and very good bit of counsel.

“All right, Sir,” replied he cheerfully—and I really believe he would have enjoyed a brush with a couple of bandits—for he had won his pardon from his late Majesty by the capture of a notorious bush-ranger.

We were ploughing our way through the mud and the dusk of twilight, within half a mile of our destination for the night, when, at a narrow part of the road where the tall trees on either hand added to the gloom of evening, my ear caught the sound of a horse's foot behind. Turning my head I espied a mounted man, with his face blackened and some weapon in his hand, within twenty paces of the carriage. He turned quickly out of the road, and in a minute or two reappeared from the bush ahead of us. “Now, John,” said I, my heart beating a trifle quicker. “Now, Sir,” said he, coolly. I drew and cocked my pistol: he loosened the sword in its sheath. The horseman rode toward us. “Stand and deliver!” was the salutation I expected—for doubtless he had comrades at hand. “Masser, make a lightnote of a black bull down dis way?” was however the actual address of the stranger, who turned out to be an aboriginal stockman in search of a truant beast:


  ― 402 ―
nature, not crape, had blackened his face—our unjust suspicions his character, poor fellow!

Among the cavalcade of miners travelling towards Bathurst I was pleased to see several parties with excellent outfits, and their wives and children sitting comfortably under the canvas tilts of the carts and drays—the latter a novel and ameliorating feature in Australian gold-hunting. My last journey in New South Wales was otherwise uneventful; and I reached Sydney after a fortnight's “trip to the gold field,” on the 28th of July.

Early in August gold was discovered on the lands of a private individual, Mr. Wentworth, not far from Summerhill. The specimen I saw was imbedded in an indurated red clay, which could scarcely have been its original bed although the site was an elevated plateau. I was informed that this gentleman had seen a cubic yard of earth from this spot yield after eight hours' washing five ounces of gold. The present regulations admit of Mr. Wentworth's issuing gold-digging licences on his own account, on his payment of five per cent. royalty to Government. New diggings had also been discovered on the Moroo Creek, north of the Turon, and in other localities.

The latest copy of the Sydney Morning Herald issued before my departure, namely that of the 23d August, contains the first number of a “Gold Circular,”


  ― 403 ―
—an interesting and useful document, whereby it appears that, up to that date, the following quantities of gold had been exported by the undernamed ships, bound to England.

                           
1851.  oz. dwts. 
June 3d.  Thomas Arbuthnot  253 10 
June 6th.  Fanny Fisher  14 0 
June 12th.  Lady Clarke  655 10 
June 15th.  Lady Margaret  53 9 
June 22d.  Catherine  162 0 
June 22d.  Achilles  371 12 
July 24th.  Mary Bannatine  3,540 1 
Aug. 9th.  Bondicar  8,263 12 
Aug. 18th.  H. M. S. Havannah  1,298 0 
Total  14,611 14 
Which at 65s. per oz. amounts to  £47,488 3 9 
Add gold by Elphinstone  25,000 0 0 
£72,488 3 9 

The fact of such an amount of gold-dust being imported into Great Britain is a political and financial bagatelle. But the fact that 72,000l. worth of indigenous gold has been shipped within two and a half months from a colony whose population is under 200,000 souls, whose exports, exclusive of this new source but including the grand one of wool, are estimated at but 2,400,000l., (enormous as that is in comparison with the population!) and whose total revenue, general and territorial, amounts to no more than 570,000l.—is indeed a very wonderful and important fact.




  ― 404 ―

Postscript.

   London, 27th Feb. 1852.

THE London journals of the 16th January contain the intelligence, by the Overland Mail, that gold had been discovered in great profusion at Beninyong, or Ballarat, near Melbourne, in the colony of Victoria. The deposits appear to be at the least as rich as those in the Bathurst gold district. Large numbers of miners had assembled, and serious disturbances had occurred. Two murders were reported. One digger at Bathurst had made twenty pounds of gold in one day, and another had turned up thirteen pounds before breakfast!

The clipper Phœnician, one of the most beautiful ships I ever saw, reached Plymouth on the 3d instant, having made the unprecedentedly quick passage of eighty-three days from Sydney. She brought news up to the 11th November last, and 81,000l. worth of gold,—making the total amount shipped from Sydney up to that date (according to the Australian and New Zealand Gazette, 7th February) 219,000l., and (according to the Money-market and City Intelligence of the Times, 6th February) 340,000l.—either of which sums is enormous, considering the small number of miners engaged, and the fact that the gold discovery was at that date only five months old. Fresh mines had been discovered and opened at Braidwood and Lake Bathurst, in New South


  ― 405 ―
Wales, 150 miles south-west of Sydney,—quite a new direction; and 400 licences had been taken out there.

10th April.—The Morning Herald of yesterday brings the news of the Victoria mines up to the 22d December. The Melbourne merchant-ship, just arrived, had on board 200,000l. worth of gold, which, added to 178,000l. worth brought by the Alert, Blackfriar, and Bolivar, from Sydney, makes a total of 370,000l. received within a few days; while the Hero, which sailed previously, is hourly expected with a further sum of 100,000l. The following is the account of gold brought into Melbourne by the Government escort during four weeks:—

“On Wednesday, November the 9th, the weekly escort brought down from Mount Alexander 6,486 ounces; from Ballarat, 2,117; 619 ounces for Geelong; and 916 ounces for Government;—making a total of 10,138 ounces. On the following Wednesday, 10,428 ounces arrived from Mount Alexander; 1,500 ounces from Ballarat; and 178 ounces were left at Geelong; making a total of 12,106 ounces,—1,008 pounds, or rather more than half a ton. The next Wednesday brought 13,783 ounces from Mount Alexander; 2,550 ounces from Ballarat; and 336 ounces for Geelong;—a total of 16,669 ounces, or 1,389 pounds weight.

“But still this astonishing yield went on increasing, and on the following Wednesday the cart conveying the enormous treasure fairly broke down with its load, and


  ― 406 ―
the escort did not arrive until the day after its time. That week's yield was, from Mount Alexander, 23,750 ounces; from Ballarat, 2,224 ounces; for Geelong 682 ounces;—making the astounding sum of 26,656 ounces, or 1 ton 221 lbs. 4 ounces!”

A correspondent from Melbourne, moreover, states that “it is estimated by competent judges that the sum brought in by escort forms about one-third of the whole, weekly received in that city.”

Between 20 and 30,000 diggers were supposed to be congregated at Mount Alexander and Ballarat. The towns and the rural districts were almost depopulated of the labouring classes, and wages, especially of seamen, had reached an unheard-of rate.

“The shopkeepers,” it is added, however, “are making a rich harvest at present, particularly the haber-dashers, as there are no dresses or other articles of female costume too costly or too good for the “diggers' wives.”

The Victorian herald of the above golden details, thus delivers himself to the penniless, pinchbeck, stay-at-homes of the Old Country. “To the good people of Great Britain we commit the consideration of these statements. We beg to remind them that even before this discovery burst upon us, this was one of the finest and most prosperous of British colonies. Let the gold fields cease their yield to-morrow, and we still retain all the elements of national wealth and national greatness.


  ― 407 ―
Those who venture to share our wealth, may venture boldly, for boundless plenty smiles side by side with countless wealth. Our splendid harvests are now whitening for the sickle, with no men to reap them. The same land which is thus pouring forth its mineral treasures is still feeding the finest sheep and cattle that ever were fattened upon natural grasses. Their fate has hitherto been that shameful waste—the melting-pot.”

I am happy to add that, by one of the last ships, I have heard a very cheering account from an influential squatter of New South Wales, wherein he states that he had got through all the important operations of washing, shearing, &c. of his flocks, and had shipped a fine clip of wool for England—without having suffered materially by the desertion or extortion of his labouring men. The truth is, that gold-mining, although a fascinating and sometimes lucrative pursuit, is no child's-play; and plenty of old, indolent, weakly, or quietly inclined persons will be found willing and able to perform, on ordinary wages, the simple and regular services of the grazier and wool-grower.

Conclusion.

August 9th.—The vessel in which I had taken a passage for my family and myself being advertised to sail on the 15th instant, I repaired on board this morning with some of the luggage. What was my dismay, to


  ― 408 ―
find that there was not a single able-bodied seaman on board! All had deserted, or were believed to have deserted for the diggings. I had broken up my establishment, sold off furniture, horses, &c., closed my accounts, and was ill-disposed to await for an indefinite period the subsidence of the gold-fever, in order to obtain a passage to England.

Our great, round-ribbed vessel was loaded up to her hatches with a few bales of wool, and an “intolerable quantity” of tallow, hides, horns, and hoofs, and such-like abominations, the usual exports at this time of the year. The passengers' baggage was on board, and some of the passengers themselves. The Captain was at his wit's end. Three mates and as many cabin-boys to work a ship of eight or nine hundred tons! In vain he moved land police and water police to recover his runaways. A few of them indeed came draggling in, from sheer satiety of Sydney back-slums—yet there was not even a nucleus to form a crew upon. By a happy accident one resource was left to us. “If I can't get my men by dint of stimulating the local authorities”—exclaimed the worthy Captain in a transport of inspiration—“Acheronte movebo, I will try the Acheron!”

H. M. Steamer of that name was in the act of being paid off at Sydney, or rather she was to remain in this port for orders, and the officers and crew were to be disposed of in such manner as the senior naval officer might appoint. H. M. S. Havannah, which sailed for


  ― 409 ―
England on the 18th August, gave passages, I believe, to most of the officers and seamen; and Sir Everard Home, in compassion to our distress, allotted fifteen or sixteen good hands to the Mount Stuart Elphinstone. These men, as well as the merchant seamen whom the master was enabled to pick up, stipulated for the high rate of wages of 4l. 10s. a-month, or three shillings a-day, with a double allowance of grog. Thus did the gold-find affect certain interests.

On Sunday, the 24th August, the vessel got under weigh. On the following day we lost sight of the coasts of New Holland; and on the 11th January, 1852, we reached England, viâ Cape Horn, after a protracted and tedious passage;—the author, a somewhat slower fellow than Ariel—having “put a girdle round about the earth in” rather less than six years.

I have had enough of new, raw colonies! Glad am I to exchange a country—replete indeed with grand natural qualities, wonderful, it is true, in its crude, awkward, infantine strength; but a country without a yesterday; without a single link, moral or material, connecting the Present and the Past with anything like pleasing retrospection; a country still hammering at its “little go” in the arts and sciences as well as the conveniences and embellishments of life;—for a “land of old renown,” whose every corner has its story, its hero, or its victim, its memories of glory or of guilt;—where the dim traditions


  ― 410 ―
of successive generations, through endless centuries, arrest the sympathies of the passer-by, chaining them to the time-honoured spots;—a land of “cloud-capp'd towers, and gorgeous palaces, and solemn temples,” where the hoary ruin, standing grandly aloft and aloof amid modern innovations, reminds the votary of Progress, that there were days of wealth and power and splendour and enjoyment before Steam and Reform and the Crystal Palace had ever been dreamt of; before the extravagance of one order and the skill and energy of another had housed the cotton-spinner and the clothier in the ancestral halls of the baron and the squire, and when the yeoman and the retainer were to the full as happy and twice as contented as the farmer and cottier of to-day;—the land of the oak and the holly, and the “clustering filberds”—a land of statues and pictures—of French cooks and Italian singers!—of parks and pleasure-grounds and gardens, of lakes and rivers and railways; the land of the fleet fox-hound, the feathery gorse covert, the flying fence and the echoing woodland—of the gun and the grouse, the moor and the marsh, the deep dark salmon-hole and the rippling trout-stream, the emerald meadow and the fresh springy down, where elf and fairy (or legends lie!) still “dance their ringlets to the whistling wind;”—and, to contract the scene of my aspirations—to draw nearer home and to grow warmer as I draw nearer—the land, where, with a rapture tempered by pious sorrow, I shall stand once again on the


  ― 411 ―
family hearth, whose circle, alas! has been narrowed by more than one grievous loss since I last sat within it, but in which there yet remain loving hearts and open arms to welcome back the wayworn pilgrim to his native home.

This journal may find its way to the country of my late sojourn. I feel pleasure in devoting its latest paragraph to the acknowledgment of how many happy hours I passed and how many kind friends I possessed within the boundaries of New South Wales.

If I could think that in ever so slight a degree these my humble and desultory volumes may tend to modify any impressions imbibed to her prejudice, and may heighten the favourable aspect in which she is viewed at Home—the reflection would afford me the highest gratification.

Whether or not it may be my destiny to revisit the Colony, it is impossible for me to foresee;—but, so long as I live, I shall watch her progress with interest and solicitude; and, while predicting for her a prosperous future, I shall be disappointed if she achieve not a brilliant one.

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