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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


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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.




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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


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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


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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


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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,


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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.




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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.




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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,


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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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