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The Australian National University

Glimmers of gold (rumours and early minor discoveries)

Argus 5 June 1851, 2/7.

THE PLENTY RANGES.— It is said that there are now 300 persons engaged in digging the Plenty ranges for gold, and that His Honor the Superintendent has sent a party of mounted troopers to the ground to protect the interest of the crown, and keep order. There is no doubt that there are many small parties now gold seeking in the ranges, but 300 would seem to be an exaggeration of the number that can by any possibility be there at the present time

GOLD IN THE PLENTY RANGES.— We saw a very pure piece of gold, on Monday, said to have been found in the Plenty Ranges, but the exact locale , the party declined to say. As the story runs, the person who found this specimen, has repeatedly found gold in that quarter, and brought it to Melbourne for sale, and he is now cognizant of the whereabouts of a very rich "pocket," but declines to say anything, until he can make sure of pocketing a good part of it himself.

Argus 9 June 1851, 2/2-3: [EDITORIAL]:


With gold at California, gold at Bathurst, and gold at the Plenty, we might well imagine that the age of gold had returned to earth; and it will be well for us, if things progress much further, if we do not share the fate of Midas, and while surrounded with wealth, feel many of the severest privations, usually considered incidental to poverty alone.

At the same time, stirring and wonderful as are the days in which we live, we ought not to allow them to destroy our presence of mind, or to prevent us from looking with common sense upon the wonderful discoveries going on around us. Those discoveries are remarkable in a very high degree, and their ultimate effects cannot be otherwise than important to the whole world, and to these colonies especially; but still it is quite possible to magnify even wonders like these, and convert them to purposes not legitimately belonging to them.

Numbers of people seem to employ themselves in disseminating the most extravagant reports, and following them up with anticipations of consequences of the most exaggerated character. Every little occurrence is traced directly or indirectly to "the diggings," and the prevalence of the yellow fever has to answer for many an incident, with which it has nothing to do, great as may be its real effects. The cry is raised that the whole value of property is changed; that sales of land and stock are suspended; that labour will soon be accumulated at the diggings alone, to the complete sacrifice of all other interests in the community.

And these prophets of evil are really doing something to give truth to their predictions. Nothing is so contagious as panic, and the very fact of people beginning to say that such and such a thing will happen, has often before to-day brought that about which, without the circulation of such report, would never have come to pass at all. These chattering alarmists, are therefore, really producing the consequences they fear; which consequences would probably never be heard of, but for the cry thus unnecessarily raised.

One would fancy from the tone adopted, that some serious calamity had befallen us, instead of a very valuable addition having been made to our list of productions. A considerable quantity of gold is surely not such a serious evil in the abstract, that there should be a general mourning on the subject. By bad management, we may, indeed, convert into a curse, that which ought to be a blessing; but there is no reason why a material addition to our colonial wealth, should of itself be a matter of regret. Let us look at the subject a little calmly, and we shall probably find that we have no reason to despair.

The discovery of rich gold mines at Bathurst, even if the Plenty should not turn out equally productive, will undeniably, at first, do something to direct industry into new channels, and that with a suddenness and want of due deliberation, which will cause much evil. The eagerness with which men naturally run after that attractive metal cannot but, at first, produce such changes as will amount in a great degree to a sort of social disorganization; and considerable inconvenience, and some loss will accrue before the counterbalancing advantages will be fully developed. But we would fain hope, and we think a very little consideration would show good grounds for that hope, that the amount of injury is apt to be very much overrated. The alarmists seem to hold that houses and lands are to become valueless, stock and merchandise, except of favored descriptions, permanently unsaleable; that shepherds, stockkeepers, and ploughmen will not be, to be had for love or money, and that all the principal industrial pursuits of the country will be virtually suspended.

We hold this to be all nonsense. Property does not sell very readily at present, and it would be a great wonder if it should. But it is not because it has lost, or materially altered its value; but because people do not well know, but that the late discoveries will have a remarkable effect in some way, and they do not wish to enter into fresh transactions till they can form a guess what that effect will be. The dread of the entire desertion of servants is equally unfounded. Gold digging is at best very hard and very disagreeable work; and the average profits of a large number of diggers are not sufficient to tempt men already well paid, to leave the ills they have, and "fly to others that they know not of." Shepherds in particular are no great admirers of hard work; and men who have followed that employment for a few years, will rather lounge after their woolly charges at a fair wage, than paddle a whole winter day up to their middles in water, on the chance of a stray lump of the root of all evil. Some little advance in the current rate of wages may possibly take place, but no fear but that good masters will still be able to get good servants, at a rate of wages which they can afford to pay.

And as the inconvenience at first experienced will not be altogether ruinous, so also will it be temporary, and far more than counterbalanced eventually by the great good resulting from these wonderful discoveries. Those who buckle manfully to their present difficulties will reap a rich harvest in the future. We have already shown how certainly, the Australian gold mines will put a stop to that greatest of all curses transportation. If we gain nothing but this, we shall gain no trifle. But we shall gain much more. The difficulties in the way of steam navigation with Great Britain will melt like snow in the sun, before the radiant influence of Australian gold. Immigration from both England and the whole civilised globe besides, will set in with a rapidity unimagined heretofore; a country which has shown itself so progressive without gold, will furnish irresistible attractions with that added to its productions. The natural effect will be that these colonies will fill up within the next year or two, as fast as without these discoveries, they would have done in ten times the number of years. And in those days there will be no complaints of the low prices of sheep-stations and cattle-stations, houses and lands. In those days we shall find that the diggers are not the only rich; but that those parties are the wealthiest who have stuck steadily at their several pursuits; and that many of those have acquired the most gold, who have never seen a gold-mine.


[With respect to some of the concerns discussed in the Editorial above, the following (from the same issue of the Argus , is of interest]:

Argus 9 June 1851, 2/1:


The demand and supply in the labour market [Melbourne] have been very dull this week. Good shepherds are very scarce.

  £ £ s.
Married couples (without family) per annum and rations 35 to 38 0
Ditto, with family 28 to 38 0
Shepherds, with rations, per annum  22 to 24 0
Shepherds, during lambing, per week, 9s to 10s      
Hutkeepers, per annum  20 to 22 0
General useful [male] servants with rations per annum ?   to 26 0
Bullock drivers with rations per annum
or 10s to 12s per week
26 to 30 0
Gardeners, per annum 30 to 33 0
Cooks, 10s to 17s per week, or per annum  26 to 30 0
Bush carpenters, ditto   30 0
Carpenters, weekly, 15s to 20s, or per annum 35 to 40 0
Blacksmiths, with rations, per annum 40 to  45 0
Stockkeepers  23 to 26 0
Wheelwrights, 30s to 35s per week without rations or 20s with rations      
Milkmen, per annum 23 to  26 0
Ploughmen [with] rations   26 0
Grubbers and cleaners, so much per tree or by the acre      
Waterhole diggers, 10d to 1s per cubic yard      
Thorough servants, per annum 16 to 18 0
Housemaids, ditto 14 to 16 0
Cooks, ditto 16 to 20 0
Laundresses, ditto 18 to 20 0
Nursemaids, ditto  8   to 12 0
Nursery governesses or needlewomen 18 to 24 0

Argus 9 June 1851, 2/3-4:


Saturday, 7th June, 1851.

Gold, quartz, the Plenty, Pyrenees, and the Barrabool specimens, (—— take the whole of them), are the only things that engage the attention of every one at the present time: the mason as he is preparing his ashler [sic], sees a glittering speck in the stone, and half an hour’s argument on the possibility of its being gold is the result; the drayman as he trudges along with his cart, kicks over every little stone he meets, and inwardly exclaims, "metal, I hope;" the shoemaker wishes his hammer a pick, and his lapstone a rock of quartz; the blacksmith begins to think iron beneath his notice; the lawyer dreams of payment by the lump; and the other professionals would have no objection to take it in dust; printers wish the gold in the possession of themselves, and bets are beginning to be done prospectively in ounces.

Every individual who does not attend church regularly, means to have a walk to-morrow into the country; of course they would not intentionally desecrate the sabbath, but if in the course of their wanderings they fell in with anything metallic, they would bring it home as a curiosity. Monday morning will doubtless disclose an immense store of samples.

Geelong Advertiser 15 July 1851, 2/3:

THE GOLD IN THE PYRENEES. A week has elapsed since we notified the indubitable fact of the discovery of gold in the Pyrenees, and the production of specimens by Mr. Esmond. That gentleman has returned to Geelong, and having provided himself with the necessary apparatus, and requisite amount of provisions, will start to-morrow for the "Diggings," the "locale" of which will be known in a few days. We gathered from a conversation with Mr. Esmond, last evening, that there is not the most remote doubt but an extensive goldfield exists. In ten minutes’ "washing" he procured "five dollars’ worth of gold!" Where the discovery was made, the quartz vein crosses a creek, dipping on one side, and appearing on the other, running over a large extent of country, and apparently trending to a neighbouring mountain. It will be remembered that five [ check : ?or ‘fine’] specimens of gold were found in this quartz. The surface of the neighbouring ground is covered with a rich black soil to the depth of a foot, clearing away which there is discovered beneath a gravelly sand of a rusty hue, intermingled with emery, washing which produced the prized metal to the amount above stated. The spot is within a hundred miles of Geelong, and within seventeen miles of the mail route. In justice to Mr Esmond, we would not point out the exact spot, but from that gentleman’s statement there can be no doubt but the field is ample and rich enough to recompense those who may be adventurous enough to seek the precious metal. Mr Esmond has had experience in California, and the strong resemblance of the Pyrennean field to that country induced him to make the trial, which has resulted so satisfactorily. In the course of a short time we hope to lay before our readers an account from "our own diggings [i.e., Victorian, as opposed to diggings in New South Wales]," until then, we must beg of them to be patient and "bide their time." The secret will soon be out, when once the workings have fairly commenced, and from the sober matter of fact recital made to us, we augur, on good grounds, a prosperous issue.

Geelong Advertiser 1 August 1851, 2/4:

MELBOURNE. OUR GOLD DIGGINGS.—Every day’s information from the diggings at the Pyrenees tends to confirm the certainty, that wealth of unlimited extent abounds at our own doors, and, however much the incredulous at a distance may be disposed to doubt the fact, in confirmation of our statement we consider that no better proof could be given, than to publish accounts from the spot. In addition to the constant arrivals, we had yesterday brought to our office a piece of solid gold, and a piece of platina embedded in quartz, both forwarded from the Pyrenees, accompanied with a letter, of which the following is an extract:—"We have had very bad weather for the last two or three weeks; raining almost every day. The gold mania still keeps very brisk. Our principal business here is selling rations to the diggers, and making cradles for gold washing; in fact there is no gammon at all about it, it is a real fact, we have had samples come to the store, brought by different parties, like platina. There is a young man come from the diggings this afternoon, who was cook at the inn about three months. He left and went to the diggings about a fortnight ago, and he has brought over both gold and platina, which he has left with us. He sold gold to the amount of two pounds at the diggings yesterday, to purchase rations, and I think he has nearly two pounds worth besides, some of which will be forwarded to town per mail to-morrow, to be sold on his account; and he says when once he has a cradle at work, he will be able to procure upwards of twenty shillings worth of gold per day, at the lowest calculation, but all those who have visited the diggings have been working to a disadvantage, having no proper tools to work with for the procuring of the gold. The geological formation of the ground, where the gold and platina are found, consists of a quartz or white flint rock, covered with a rich black soil to the depth of about a foot. The rock is interspersed with gold, and platina abounds most. I enclose you samples of both the gold and platina, which I got from the young man I have spoken of, and I can assure you both he and some others from this place, have high hopes with regard to the diggings." —HERALD.

Geelong Advertiser 5 August 1851, 2/2:

We have no very EXCITING news from the Pyrenees; but we have something better. We have advices which afford foundation for a well-grounded belief that gold-digging will become a permanent branch of colonial industry. We have no tales of the finding of extraordinary lumps of gold to relate; although, if we believed half of the rumours which reach us, we could match many of the apocryphal stories which have been from time to time current in other parts of the colony. It is sufficient for the gratification of our moderate enthusiasm, to be able to record the fact that the fifty diggers now on the gold field are SATISFIEDWITH THEIR SUCCESS; and that the principal articles in request at the diggings are "cradles." Isolated accounts of great individual strokes of fortune are valueless when compared with such certain proofs of aggregate success. We are indebted to a gentleman of scientific attainments now in the neighbourhood of the diggings, and who visited them on Saturday last, for the following communication; and in laying it before our readers, we will merely vouch for the absence of exaggeration in its statements.

DEAR SIR ,—I have just time to write you a few hasty lines before the post leaves for Burn Bank. I came from the diggings yesterday. There are about 50 men and 2 women, living in tents, huts, and gunyahs. Three or four cradles are at work, and upwards of a dozen ordered at Burnbank. The diggers generally are hopeful, and tolerably well satisfied with their progress. Very little gold has however yet been sold or weighed, so that no one knows yet what are his actual earnings. The diggers appear very angry at the highly exaggerated accounts that have been carried to town from Burn Bank, clearly for interested purposes, to bring grist to the mill. They are selling everything at the store there at the most extravagant prices—flour 6d. per pound. The diggers generally come well provided with stores. The most lucrative trade at the present moment would be a manufactory of cradles, and a dray well laden with the materials for making them, and labour to boot, would rapidly realize money. But probably before any such dray could reach the spot from Geelong, the diggers would be almost all supplied. The roads are in a horrid state. Drays have been seven weeks on the road from Melbourne to a neighbouring station. I will write you a further account before the next post.

P.S.—It is altogether a mistake to imagine that these diggings are at the Pyrenees. There are no diggings at the Pyrenees. The operations on the Deep Creek are 15 miles distant from the Range known by that name.

Notwithstanding the cautiousness of our correspondent, in stating that the demand for cradles may be supplied before a drayload could be forwarded from Geelong, we think it would be a reflection upon the speculative spirit of our townsmen, to suppose that no effort will be made to supply, on the spot, the means of carrying on this new branch of industry. It is quite true that the requirements of the few early diggers may be satisfied, but it is not likely that the population will be stagnant. When the fifty men at work are supplied, we may reasonably suppose that fifty more will be craving the means of joining in the labour.

Geelong Advertiser 5 August 1851, 2/2-3:

THE GOLD AGAIN.—Close contiguity destroys romance, and when we state that gold has been found under a gum tree on Mercer’s Hill, we dare say it will not be thought so much of as it would have been had the site of its discovery been in the ‘You Yangs,’ or the precipitous ranges of the Anaki Forest. Be that as it may, the gold has been pronounced good, and sundry adventurers were yesterday busily employed with spade and hammer delving deep, and cracking all sorts of stones just as they came to hand, or as fancy dictated. ‘This is the exact spot,’ said one, scraping away some quartz pebbles; the tree is marked, and down went the spade spit deep, some half dozen awaiting the result with great anxiety, and making a sudden snatch at the spade’s upturnings. ‘Slate!’ said one, ‘granite,’ said another, ‘quartz,’ remarked a third, cracking a piece in twain with a tomahawk, and all crowded round to see the effect. ‘It strikes fire,’ said one[.] ‘I seed the sparks, it[’]s only flint with a hard name, hasn’t he cracked it, my word!’ ‘gold!’ [‘]where?’ ‘why there!’ ‘can’t see it!’ ‘hold it sideways, d’ye see it now,’ ‘what’s that bit; that isn’t gold!’ ‘how many of them would go to a pound, governor?’ ‘but it’s only mica, try again.’ ‘What’s that?’ [‘]a lump of slate,’ ‘well that’s a good sign, they found some tidy bits of gold in the slate up at Bathurst.’ ‘Yes, and it’s a sure sign of coal when it’s mixed up with ["]horses’ tails,["]’ remarks another. ‘Try again!—go a little deeper,’ and up turns a shovel full of earth. ‘Bravo! that’s the stuff! Esmonds found black earth at the Pyrenees!’ ‘Well, there’s some sand for you.’ ‘Good again! We knew we should find it.’ And so they delve, and talk, and crack stones and jokes, and find mica. Gold has undoubtedly been found here; but only detached pieces of quartz, so as not to repay the labour. In yonder dip are two human objects on hands and knees, quadrupedified—they are intent on gold finding. There are two ladies geologically stricken—they pick up the "pretty" stones until they get tired with stooping, and then go home to tea. But, after all, "prospecting" on a small scale is pleasurable work. There is an object in view which gives a zest to a journey; and if gold be not found, much sterling knowledge may be gained, and a thousand objects of enquiry opened up, which but for the excitement of gold-seeking would have remained uncared for and unheeded, and whilst we would not advise the neglect of other duties in the pursuit of this, we would at the same time deprecate the passing sneer, at unsuccessful explorations, in which every person in Australia ought to take a deep interest, and at the same time to cheer the unsuccessful. It may be remarked that if the search for gold were uniformly successful, the discovery would soon destroy its own value.

Geelong Advertiser 6 August 1851, 2/6:

CLUNE DIGGINGS. [ FROM THE SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT OF THE ARGUS. ] I reached the Clune Diggings on Thursday evening, and was most hospitably received by Donald Cameron, Esq. to whom I beg to tender my best thanks for the kindness of his reception as well as for much useful information respecting the mines, and the proceedings of the gold diggers since their commencement, of which I shall speak more hereafter, as I am anxious in the first place to give as far as I have the ability, a description of the diggings, and what I saw there. On Friday morning early, I ascended a hill in close propinquity to the house, and at no great distance from the mines. Although the morning was damp and cold, a very busy and to me a novel and interesting scene presented itself; the whole colony of diggers appeared to be moving with the industry of a nest of ants, some running or slipping down the hill, with dishes on their heads laden with earth, supposed to contain the golden treasure; others were at work with pickaxes loosening the earth adjoining the veins of quartz, to supply those who were engaged in working either with cradles or tin dishes. Others were boiling water and making preparations for breakfast, and one or two stragglers I observed making their first appearance at the mines with the never-failing pedestrian bushman’s equipment (blankets, tin pots, &c.) usually, in this colony, denominated ‘the swag.’ The morning, however, being, as I before observed, chilly, and the grass wet, it offered but little temptation for a more extended walk, so I returned to Mr Cameron’s and partook of a sumptuous breakfast. After which I visited the mines in company with Mr Cameron and Captain M’Lachlan, when I examined the deposit in the process of working, both in the cradle and tin dishes, as well as asking questions of the men employed.

The first party we applied to were two men who had just arrived and had commenced their labours that morning—they had placed the product of their first tin dish into a pannikin, which, for the more ready examination, I strained through my pocket-handkerchief, and the result was a small piece of gold of irregular shape, not exceeding the size of a large pin’s head. This the men considered pure gold, and to the naked eye it appeared to be the precious metal in its virgin purity; but on examination through a microscope, a very large percentage of dross was apparent, in the shape of small particles of quartz oxidised with iron. And here I would caution purchasers of this gold to be cautious before paying, or that they beg to submit the same to the action of a glass.

Messrs. Pugh and Esmonds, it was said, had finished with a tolerable cradle-yield the previous day.

At present I have not heard of a single case of extraordinary luck; in fact, nothing beyond sufficient to purchase food, which, except meal, is scarce, or not to be had at a less distance than Burn Bank, sixteen miles. There are now at the mines from thirty to thirty-five, besides one or two who appeared to have no definite object in view in coming. It is expected that not less than four cradles will be in full operation to-morrow.

Geelong Advertiser 8 August 1851, 2/2-4:

To the Editor of the Advertiser.

Mr Macallum’s Station,
Five miles West of the Mines,
August 4th, 1851.

SIR,—The following account of a visit to the new gold "diggings," a few remarks on the geology of the district[,] may perhaps prove interesting to some of your readers.
I am,

Your obedient servant,



The "Clunes Diggings" are on the Deep Creek, (a tributary to the Lodden,) a few hundred yards from Mr Cameron’s station. They have been commonly supposed to be situated in the Pyrenees, but very erroneously, as they are fifteen miles distant from that claim.

The existence of gold at this locality has, it seems, been known for the last eighteen months to the neighbouring settlers. Mr Cameron distinctly asserts that he led Dr Bruhn to the spot, and pointed out that gold was imbedded in the quartz vein. Dr Bruhn has, however, the merit of first making the public acquainted with the fact.

The Deep Creek is one of those rivulets so common in this colony, running at the bottom of a deep land cleft, winding in sweeping curves through the trappean plain, and not distinguishable till you are close to its edge. The general form of a section of the valley is that of a blunted V, the sides occasionally opening and leaving a rich alluvial flat between them. The inclosing bands of the valley are grassed, but occasionally broken by an escarpment of rugged basaltic rocks. Several bold swelling lava hills, clad with the richest verdure[,] rise out of the trappean table land, a few miles distant. Mount Beckwith, a granitic ridge, is about five miles to the West. The gold is found disseminated in several parallel quartz veins or dykes, which pass through this mass of trap, and protrude from it on the steep banks of the valley. There is no tract of auriferous alluvium. The gold is almost entirely derived from the quartz vein itself. Hence the works here would be more properly characterized as mining than digging.

I arrived at the spot on Friday, August 1st, from Mr Coghill’s station, five miles to the south. On reaching the brow of the valley, tents, drays, covered carts, and camp fires, are suddenly revealed, grouped round a wooded spur on the opposite side of the valley—here advancing towards the creek, which wound along like a silver thread through a grassy flat, where the horses of the diggers were grazing. Of the miners, some were rocking their cradles, others standing at the water’s edge, bending intently over their dishes, as they washed and shook, and washed again the auriferous earth. Some were coming down the hill side with dishes full of earth on their heads. Others were cooking, or building huts of turf. A couple of red-coated troopers mixed with the diggers added to the picturesqueness of the scene. Mr Cameron’s house, with its huge roof, its circumambient verandahs, and its extensive homestead was snugly seated in the hollow of the valley, a little lower down. The quartz rock cropped out strongly on both sides of the valley, but the workings were on the north side only. Having crossed the creek I examined the spot more closely.

On the north side of the valley are seen four parallel quartz veins running north and south through a mass of soft decomposed rock. The main vein forms the axis of the spur formerly mentioned. Most of the miners are at work upon this and have quarried it, or laid it open, for a hundred yards up the slope of the bank and on the plain above. In this work the pick and crowbar are indispensable. As new comers arrive, they mark out a ‘claim,’ and proceed to open the back of the vein in the rear of actual operations, farther from the river banks, to which all the auriferous earth and stone must be carried to be washed. The vein sometimes crops out on the surface, and is sometimes covered by a couple of feet of earth, all of which seems to be auriferous, though to no great extent. The vein itself it [is] about a yard thick, the quartz is of a yellowish, glistening white, intersected by innumerable clefts and [indecipherable], so that when quarried, it falls to pieces in fragments of all sizes, down to that of a nut. The fissures are filled with a greasy red earth, highly impregnated with oxide of iron, and sometimes an inch in thickness. This ferruginous earth is very productive in gold. The lesser joints are coated with the iron oxide and the quartz itself is often honeycombed with cells lined with the same. The whole of the earth and quartz is carried down to the creek and washed in the cradle or dish.

This vein runs due north and south, and may be traced on the surface of the trap plain for about a mile. The extent and depth to which it is auriferous are of course unknown. At the spot where the creek traverses it, the quartzose dyke is probably intersected by a fault or ‘cross course’ which gave passage to the waters. Indeed the whole valley probably originates in a great cleft or fissure in the mass of trap rock, which here covers the country, and the dyke of quartz would have been cut off by the same subterranean movement that cleft the trap. On the south side of the valley the quartz dyke reappears protruding from the bank, as a hard rock with veins and cavities filled with soft earthy matter (a kind of flookan.) Its direction is here shifted to the S.W., or towards Mount Beckwith, but it is soon lost in the mass of trap.

On the north side of the creek there are as previously stated, three other veins of quartz parallel to the first, from 25 to 50 yards apart from each other and from the first: in one of these, I found a rich specimen of gold, imbedded in quartz. These have been as yet scarcely attacked by the miners, but the soil at the foot of the hill is impregnated with gold washed down from their gradual wasting away. This deposit is exceedingly limited in extent, and not very productive, though the gold here found is purer than that taken from the vein. Yet the works on this alluvium are the only ‘diggings’ on the spot, properly so called. The three lateral veins are not seen on the opposite bank of the valley.

There are now four cradles at work on the ground, and upwards of a dozen more have been ordered from Burn Bank, which, though 10 miles distant, is the nearest township.

It is impossible at present to estimate the gains of the miners, as very little of the gold found has yet been sold or weighed, neither has any been washed perfectly free from foreign matter. Mr Esmonds, who first opened the works, and is probably the most intelligent man on the spot, imagines that a cradle in full operation, with a party of four or five miners, might obtain two ounces a day, and that the dishmen, when in full practice, might on the average obtain eight or ten shillings. Others however maintain that this is considerably too high an estimate, both for cradle and dish. I should myself average the gains of the ‘dishmen’ as not more than five shillings a day. All, however, seem very indignant at the fallacious reports which have been sent down to town by Clapperton, the storekeeper at Burn Bank, with the view of attracting customers to his shop, regardless of the ill effects of decoying men from their legitimate callings to a very uncertain chance of gain. An ex-tailor, who has been represented as rapidly growing as rich as Crœsus, angrily disclaims certain extravagant expressions that have ben fathered upon him. In short, the men are afraid that Government may be induced to exact a license fee from them; and they maintain with truth that they are at present perfectly unable to pay for one; nor would it be politic or fit to impose it until the actual earnings shall be better ascertained. Still, the majority of the miners are satisfied, or at least hopeful. One, on being asked if he was going to give up, declared that "it was of no use to drop down until you fell down," a phrase expressive enough of tough Anglo-Saxon endurance.

On the day I reached the spot, there were about 50 men at work, besides two women, one of whom had established a laundry within an inclosure of gum boughs, doubtless with great profit to herself and advantage to the mining community. There were individuals of all classes—settlers’ servants from the bush, and artizans from the towns. A volley of rank Vandemonian slang, thickly interlarded with oaths, issuing from a group here and there, showed that "old hands" and "Pentonvillains" were not wanting,—that the elements of vice and crime, which (thanks to the paternal policy of the Colonial-office) are so largely diffused through the land, were already at work in this infant community. Men are arriving every day at the spot. Most come fully provided with stores and implements; but with these there are a few who have neither, attracted by hopes of sharing in the scramble—mere carrion-crows every ready to flock round a carcase. Some idea may be gathered of the numbers en route to the mines by the fact that, on Sunday night last, 24 strangers were lodged in Mr Macallum’s huts, 5 miles from the gold washings. On the other hand, it is clear, that no great gains have yet been realized, from the fact that none of the servants of the neighbouring settlers have started for the "diggings."

Being unable to get accommodation at the neighbouring station, Mr Esmonds, (an old Californian) offered me a corner of his tent for the night. Supper closes the labors of the day, after which the miners visit each other round their respective camp fires, and discuss their progress and prospects.

Next morning I washed a pan of earth and obtained several grains of gold, I had however selected some of the red ferruginous matter that fills the clefts in the quartz veins, which is the most productive; but this is only obtainable by laborious quarrying, and then not in any quantity.

Before concluding I may make a few general remarks on the geology of the district, and on the amount of success that may be anticipated for mining operations.

The principal features of the tract in which the gold deposit is found fully accord with, and support the received theory as to the constants of auriferous regions. 1st. The gold is here found imbedded in quartzose veins or dykes. 2nd. These veins traverse a formation of trap. 3rd. The fundamental rocks of the district consist of granite and highly tilted primary sedimentary strata—clay-slate, mica-schist, &c.

The proofs and results of igneous action are particularly marked. Not only do the quartz viens [veins] pass through a great tabular mass of quartz, but numerous swelling hills of light ferruginous lava rise out of the plains on all sides, at the distance of a few miles, generally in chains or groups, and often round the base of granite hills.

The mode in which the gold is distributed also fully bears out the theory generally received among geologists, though wholly opposed to the popular belief. Namely that auriferous alluvium is not (as the vulgar suppose) washed down by rivres [rivers] from masses of the precious metal supposed to exist in a ‘mother-lode,’ (a chimera that has no existence in fact) but that it originates in the gradual wasting away of rocks having particles of gold disseminated in their mass. In the present case, we have a small deposit of auriferous alluvium at the very base of the rock, where it exists in situ , and from whence it has obviously been derived, and on examining that rock we find that it does not form a lode or large continuous vein, but is disseminated in minute particles through the mass, or is imbedded in the ferruginous cells, joints, and fissures which abound in the quartz itself. A real golden lode is in fact, as already stated, a thing unknown in nature, though it has often been sought for by the miner.

Quartz dykes abound in this colony. Basaltic rocks are still more abundant; but a quartz dyke passing through a mass of trap is rarely seen, and still more rarely is it, as in the present case, laid bare for minute examination. The auriferous quartz of the Clunes mines is distinguished from that which traverses the slates of the Pyrenees by its pale yellowish tinge, its waxy lustre, the absence of mica, the numerous cavities and joints coated with ferruginous matter, and the fissures filled with red greasy earth, highly auriferous.

As regards the prospects of mining enterprise, it has already been said that the auriferous alluvium or "diggings" are very limited in extent, and that most of the miners are quarrying the rock itself. Now the records of mining unequivocally prove that works of this latter description are rarely remunerative—all the rich gold mines extant, are, properly speaking diggings in alluvium. Hence we can scarcely expect that a large produce will be obtained by the rude method of washing in cradles—still less by the more primitive tin dishes. Yet the quartz veins have, where they have been attacked, proved so rich that a large profit might be reasonably anticipated from the use of stamping machines, together with buddles, quick-silver machines, and the other appliances of legitimate mining, provided always that the veins prove both extensive and continuously rich, neither of which has yet been ascertained. The best method of determining these matters would be to trace the vein, open upon the back of it at various points, and at each examine the amount of gold, if any, disseminated through its mass. In the dish of earth which I washed, I picked out several pieces of quartz with particles of gold attached, which must either have been altogether lost by the ordinary method of cradle washing, or must each be separately detached by hand—by the use of stamps &c., all such particles would be collected.

A metallic ore, silver white, and crystallized in cubes, is found disseminated in the auriferous quartz more abundantly than the gold itself. This has not yet been tested.

It is said that gold has been found in the bed of the creek. There is, however, no reason to expect that it exists in quantity there, as the stream does not traverse any tract of auriferous debritus, (the true source of golden sands,) nor indeed is any such tract known to exist in the colony.

Government has been unjustly charged with apathy in not taking precautions for insuring peace and good order among the miners, and ascertaining the actual state of operations. All was in fact immediately done that the occasion justified. The Crown Commissioner of the district was ordered to visit the scene of operations, and report upon them; while Captain Dana and his troopers were dispatched to maintain tranquillity, and intimidate the evil-disposed. His men are now scattered in pairs through the neighbourhood of the mines.


Victoria Colonist 11 August 1851, 2/2:


The diggers are going on quietly, most of them steadily persevering in their pursuit of gold, with very varied result, some declare themselves perfectly satisfied with the products of their labour while, others give it up in despair: but few repine, although there is a very general feeling of indignation against Mr. Clapperton, of Burn Bank, who has sent forth several flaming and unfounded reports, which have had the effect of inducing many persons to leave their regular employment for this "aurum fatuum." They more than hint at interested motives, and point to his store, which has gained him the soubriquet of Mr-Clap-it-on! Two pounds for a cradle which won’t act! One cradle made an ounce and a half on Monday, but that was unusual luck, and moreover a deduction must be made from it for dirt remaining with the gold even after the most careful washing. A party with a complete mercury apparatus would do much better, for I am convinced that the washers lose as much as they get; besides the quartz rock is full of gold which cannot be reached without crushing and the use of mercury The principal vein is considered by many of the miners to be exhausted, and the more business-like of them are carefully selecting and making out new claims before the influx of people puts it out of their power to take up more ground. It has now come to real pick-axe work, chipping up the rack [sic] so as to separate that portion of it which is most decomposed from which of course the gold is most easily obtainable. This is very laborious, but the few who have industry and perseverance enough to work upon hard earth for half an hour to get a disgful of earth which, after being carried a quarter of a mile, and then washed for another half hour, yields from a shilling to eighteen penny-worth of gold, are doing well. Sometimes a man will make a lucky hit, and get a five shilling dish once in a way, this occurred yesterday to one of the brothers who have been working together since the mines were opened; they first went ahead of the cradles, and now kept pretty evenly with them, although only working with dishes, but they are very careful washers, and exercise careful scrutiny in the selection of their earth, which they obtain in the manner above described. They, indeed, first opened the favourite vein, and when the shovel men left it, under the impression that it was exhausted, they set to work steadily upon the rock, and are earning good wages The story which appeared in several of the papers, that people were earning £3 to £4 per day, with dishes with holes the size of musket bullets is absurd, as if the dishes had any holes in them, rll [sic] the labor, as well as the gold, would be lost; the author must have ignorantly confounded the screens which form part of the cradles with the dishes.

Geelong Advertiser 26 August 1851, 2/3: [from Geelong Advertiser correspondent A.C. at Buninyong]:

A party from Geelong has just arrived, and are fitting up their tents. Three men from the Pyrenees have come down, and are working at the face of a vein of quartz. Another has just arrived from the same quarter, he showed me a specimen in quartz, which he found there, but I have seen dozens here far superior in size, and quantity, whatever may be the ultimate yield, I am prepared to state that the Buninyong gold, is found in much larger pieces than the Pyrenees gold, and in a much purer state.

A report has just reached me that a new field has been discovered. Various rumours are afloat, but I will write nothing but that which I am enabled to vouch for, for I deeply feel the importance which is attached by the public to all communications on the subject of gold discoveries, and I would rather understate, than overstate, fearing to excite expectations that might not be realised.

Geelong Advertiser 29 August 1851, 2/3: [from A.C., the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer correspondent at Buninyong]:

Heavy falls of rain all day. Many of the diggers are off prospecting, disturbed from the present field by the recent acts of government, whilst others have fairly abandoned the site for Geelong, but their places will soon be filled by other parties. It is freely admitted by the most desponding, that gold is to {be} found all round about; but it requires patience and and research to ascertain where the richest yield lies. The existence of gold widely diffused is a fact patent to any one, who will observe; but to make it highly remunerative is the office of skilled hands, a cunning to be acquired by practice, and circumspection. The largest piece of gold I have seen was found to-day, by Messrs. Hodson’s party from Melbourne. It is rather thin, but firm in texture, and of a size something less than a threepenny piece; it was found in a surface working, near to where I mentioned that Spice and Co. had located on the northern side of the hill, which seems to give the richest yield. An exploring party started this morning across the ranges to the Black Hill on Yuille’s Creek, which report spoke well of as a likely place, being composed of quartz and slate, covered with a black soil. An experiment tried here yesterday, resulted in the production of two pieces of gold from half a dishful of earth; and as the hill is on the verge of the creek, it is looked on with a favourable eye, water being the great desideratum, and the creek flows until December, and even after that a series of water holes in its course may easily be made available. This creek is bounded on both sides from the flat, intersected by the main road to Mr Yuille’s station by ranges of freestone and quartz, but chiefly the former, and about three miles further up than the station, taking a straight course, is the Black Hill alluded to, from which the explorers had not returned until a late hour this evening. Judging from the external aspect of the hills in the vicinity of Buninyong, I think it may be fairly predicted, that ere long, gold may be discovered in closer vicinity to Geelong.

Geelong Advertiser 9 September 1851, 2/1: [ EDITORIAL ]:

We have heard, from excellent authority, that gold has at last been found at the Anaki Hills, a locality which has always been considered a likely one.

Geelong Advertiser 2 October 1851, 2/1:

We saw a party of diggers yesterday, returning from Ballarat. They had exhausted the claim for which they had paid licenses, having procured sixty ounces each. They did not intend to return to Ballarat, having seen another locality where they expect to obtain gold in even greater abundance.

We yesterday visited Bates’ Ford [now Batesford, an outlying suburb of Geelong], to ascertain the truth of the rumours of successful digging in that neighbourhood. We there found the statements so conflicting respecting parties higher up the river, that for the present we treat the reports as unworthy of credit. That numerous discoveries of small quantities of gold in localities near the town, have actually been made, we are certain; but nothing like a workable field has been exposed; and for the future we shall disregard all reports of the kind, unless we see the digging in actual progress.

Between Bates’ Ford and Geelong, a distance of only seven miles, we counted fourteen drays bound for the diggings, or two for every mile of road. This is a smaller number than might be seen a few days ago. The fact is, that the stream is nearly exhausted. We were glad to see, however, that there were a number of drays coming into town, and among the rest one laden with what we must still call "the staple produce"—wool. Several other wool-drays made their appearance, which shows the correctness of our statement made yesterday, that the shearing was in many places well advanced.

Geelong Advertiser 4 October 1851, 2/3:

GOLDEN RUMOURS.—Reports were rife in town yesterday, that Mr. B. Baxter had brought with him from Mount Eliza 60 lbs. weight of gold, and that a very rich diggings equalling if not rivalling the Ballarat, had been found at St. Kilda, by Mr. Chitty. Many persons misled by the latter rumour, went to St. Kilda to see and judge for themselves. Both reports were entirely without foundation.— HERALD.

Geelong Advertiser 8 October 1852, Supplement, 1/2: [from the EUREKA correspondent]:

Rich diggings have been found near the Black Hill; only two parties are at present working it. The information was given by them to the Commissioner while lodging twenty pounds weight last night, but they would not tell the exact spot. New diggings have also been discovere{e} near the Canadian Gully, on the Buninyong side of that celebrated spot. A successful gold digger says he is certain of gold being eventually found from here to Mount Alexander; he was lately one month prospecting some miles from this in that direction, and found gold wherever he tried. I do not know how far this may be correct, but from the fact of intermediate diggings having been found, and the general appearance of the country, indicating gold, many experienced diggers have supposed that such will be the case.

Geelong Advertiser 27 April 1853 2/1:

MOUNT ALEXANDER.— A portion of the Old Sailor’s Gully was turned up last week with great success. Report says one man alone got 95 lbs weight, another 50 lbs, and another 24 lbs. A heavy rush took place immediately it was known, and crowds are still at work upon the spot. Much talk is heard of new diggings found a little way from Campbell’s Creek, and situated between two ranges of hills. Many are said to be doing well, and many are leaving this part to try their hand on new ground.

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