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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


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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


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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,


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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,


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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)—


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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


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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.




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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


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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


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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.




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“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


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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.




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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


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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


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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


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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


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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.

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