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The rewards of digging

Argus 20 September 1851, 2/4-5:

(From a Correspondent of the Geelong Advertiser.)

Seventy-three tents and huts are erected on the Buninyong Gully, besides a distinct encampment at, and beyond, the Black Hill, and many scattered parties up and down the course of the Leigh and its tributaries. The gold field is extending hourly, and daily experiments tend to prove that its extent is all but illimitable. I should compute the numbers at Ballarat at upwards of two hundred, and a hundred more scattered in neighbouring localities. The yield during the last few days has been below the last quotations, but is still remunerative and cheering. I am not prepared to give exact quantities, but many are getting an ounce a day, others three-quarters, and some few a great deal more than either quantity specified, of which I shall furnish exact particulars after next weighing day. Many of the new comers are experimenting with tin dishes, with more or less success, the difficulty being more a matter of choice than anything else, for all are agreed that gold is distributed over all the neighbouring ranges and down the course of the Leigh, wherever an essay to discover it has been made. As might be anticipated, many grumble, but it is comparative grumbling, at yields estimated as small now, after the truly wondrous discoveries of the last week; but which three weeks ago would have been considered as fortune-making .... Several fine nuggets have been found; a very fine one weighing about 2 1/2 oz, was shown to me last evening, another of very handsome shape weighing, about 1 1/4 oz, and several others from 1/4 oz to 3/4 oz have been found by divers parties, below these latter weights they ceased to be matters of much importance.

Geelong Advertiser 7 October 1851, 2/1:

Every one who has visited the Buninyong Gold Field expatiates upon its surpassing richness. Among others who have just returned from the scene of operations are the managers of the two Banks, with Mr Strachan, and Captain Godfrey. The accounts they bring are as astounding as any previously reported. The actual scene is described as far transcending any idea which could be formed from mere description. The hill at Ballarat is like an immense ant’s nest. The diggers are burrowing, carrying, and cradling with intense earnestness, and in almost breathless silence. Mr Strachan (who brings down a half pound lump) states that he stood over a hole while the digger filled and washed a dishful, from which he procured in the space of twenty minutes TWO POUNDS AND A HALF weight of gold, after having refused £100 for the dishful of earth!! Captain Godfrey who visited the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, before leaving England, declares the scene at the diggings to be quite as wonderful. The police are digging away; for without such permission they would desert in a body. We have seen a piece of the whitish blue clay from which the gold is washed. It looks with the nuggets in it, like a piece of unbaked plum cake. No wonder that our reporter exclaimed "It is of no use to tell the whole truth, for people would not believe it!"

The Lieutenant Governor was on the ground, and contemplated throwing a dam across the creek. There were about 4000 diggers at work, numbers of whom had no licenses; in fact the government officials could not attend to the business, which was pressing upon them.

There are, nevertheless, a number of unsuccessful parties, but the average yield must be very large.

Geelong Advertiser 17 October 1851, 2/1:


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16, 1851. The yields from the ground already opened continue to be satisfactory to the miners. In fact, there is scarcely an instance, so far as I am aware, of complete failure where the parties have been perseveringly at work for a reasonable time. New arrivals, however, have no right to look for similar certainty; and I have witnessed many cases where their experience was quite sufficient to disgust them with gold-digging.

The workings at the Black Hill are getting more into favor, and the finding there of a lump no less than 7 1/2 lbs. weight, will turn the attention still more strongly towards them.

Geelong Advertiser 30 October 1851, 2/3:


While by no means depreciating the importance and value of the recent gold discoveries, it is only fair and right to give the conflicting opinions on the subject that find publicity through the Press. As the reputation of Mr Westgarth is deservedly high, and his statements may have weight, we think it but right to give the following comments on them, in a letter addressed to the Herald, by Mr George Horne—

Mr Westgarth’s estimate of the daily amount of gold collected at Ballarat, would startle any one; and, looking at the influence Mr W’s opinion will have upon the destinies of thousands, it becomes fearful to contemplate the result.

I, Sir, have visited the diggings, and therefore feel more startled at Mr W’s conclusions than those who have not done so. Upon a subject of such vital importance, I trust it will not be considered presumptive on my part in giving my ideas and conclusions also.

To produce Mr W’s £10,000 per day, we must have, at £3 per oz, upwards of 3,338 ounces, or 277 lbs 9 oz per day. Now, multiply this by 6, and we get the small amount of 1,666 lbs 6 oz, or nearly 14 cwt 3 qr 39 lbs, being little short of three quarters of a ton of gold per week. Without any offence to Mr W, can we credit this? Can any man who has visited the diggings, and exercised sense of sight and reason, put belief in the correctness of such conclusions?

Geelong Advertiser 10 September 1852, 2/2-3:

Eureka, 6th. September, 1852


Although the Escort Returns prove that the average yield at Eureka is greater than either Mount Alexander or Bendigo, yet it is an acknowledged fact that the largest share of the gold is obtained by a few, and that success is far from being equally divided. A party would have the same chance of a fair average here as at Bendigo if the holes were of the same depth, but the deep sinking prevents a party from embracing the same opportunity as shallow sinking, for the same number of holes cannot be sunk.

The stuff when found always turns out very rich, but the gold appears to lie in a single vein which runs along the sides of the hills not more than 30 or 40 feet in breadth. Many parties, however, who have hitherto been unsuccessful are in great hopes that with better weather, better diggings will be discovered in the gullies and beds of the creeks, the gold in which will be more equally distributed in the ground. Gold has a very exciting effect upon almost every individual. When a man finds a large quantity of it, it often carries him into the highest regions of human bliss, and when unsuccessful to the lowest regions of despondency. Instances of the kind are daily occurring. No later than yesterday, I asked one man how he was getting on, to which he replied first rate. Bendigo and Forest Creek, in his opinion, were not to be compared to Eureka, for one pound weight found at the former twenty pound weight could be found at the latter place. The next acquaintance I met with did not think the diggings were any good, he had sunk sixteen holes averaging twenty-five feet deep, and had obtained nothing. Every man generally, has an opinion of his own, according to his luck. The party I am connected with being desirous of giving Eureka a fair trial, commenced their operations by building sod walls as an addition to their tent, and afterwards a complete sod house with chimney to it. They have therefore not a tent but a house of two apartments, as large and comfortable as many a house in the suburbs of Geelong. The whole fabric occupied two men, three days in building it. Although they should be no more than a month on the ground, they were determined to make themselves comfortable during that period. They have now been here a fortnight, during which time they [have] been sinking holes of the usual depth but have not yet succeeded in finding any gold. They have not yet much reason to complain, however, for before another fortnight they may hit upon a hole which will abundantly pay them. With the prospect of obtaining a moderate share of the gold to be found, I will venture to assert that the party are happier and more contented in their humble abode than the proudest and richest man in the colony.

Provisions continue at the same rates as last week, but as the population is increasing, a rise in prices may be expected. Digging materials have already risen. The weather during the past week has been fair with occasional heavy showers.

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

New fields of operation continue to be opened daily. The New Hill, which has now been commenced a fortnight, has, as I predicted, been half-deserted. Some had not the courage to go down so deep from 60 to 70 feet, others did go down and found nothing, consequently the number of diggers on the spot, became small by degrees, and beautifully less. Those only in almost a strait line, two abreast, across the hill, have hit upon the vein; but there can be no mistake about the large quantity of gold obtained from that vein. One party of five assured me that out of what they washed after dinner, they obtained twenty-six pounds weight. Another party of four, a week washing, thirty pounds weight—it was nearly all found in pockets of about twenty ounces each. Some of the stuff is literally studded with gold, like plum pudding. I can vouch for the correctness of these instances, as I know all the parties well. The operations at Little Bendigo, where such a rush was made in consequence of a large quantity of gold being found by one party, continues unabated, and as at all other places there are many such prizes, and as many, if not more, blanks. The sinking is from twenty-five to forty-five feet deep; the deepest containing the gold, because of the dip in the rock receiving the gold from the upper parts of it. Such is the faith in the riches of this place, that the commissioners have almost daily to settle quarrels about disputed ground. A few days ago a party commenced sinking on a flat near Mr. Fletcher’s store, expecting to have to go thirty or forty feet; but to their astonishment came to the bottom at four, and obtained a considerable quantity of gold. In consequence of this pleasing news some hundreds of diggers followed the example of the first, by sinking holes over the flat; by night some had found gold from top to bottom, others from the bottom only, but a little has been got out of all the holes. It is likely that this discovery of shallow diggings will lead to others in the immediate neighbourhood. The rains forced the diggers to the hills at Bendigo, where they obtained what they sought for; thus proving the fact of gold being in the hills, creeks, and flats there. Undoubtedly it will be the same at Eureka, the present instance proves it, and no reason can be assigned why Eureka should not be equally blessed with her hitherto more popular neighbour.

Argus 7 February 1853, 5/1-2:


Forest Creek, 3rd Feb. 1853.

A very fortunate individual, an old man, together with his son, was walking over some of the holes in Golden Gully, Bendigo, on Monday last; and after passing one heap of earth at the top of a hole, he thought he caught sight of a speck of gold, which he remarked to his son, and turned back to look for it. On second view of this speck of gold, he commenced rooting it out with his knife, but from the constant treading it had undergone he was compelled to resort to his pick; and after a little trouble he drew out a splendid specimen of crystallised quartz and gold in the form of a heart elongated, in all weighing 4 lbs. He was offered £300 for his find almost immediately after, which he refused.

Argus 11 May 1853, 3/4:


Forest Creek, May 9th, 1853.

Several new places have been opened up this week, in particular, on Campbell’s and Barker’s Creeks. On the former Creek two hills have been hit upon which are yielding fairly. The late new diggings on Campbell’s Creek have turned out very remunerative; some of the holes, in fact, were rare prizes, the lucky owners of one claim having obtained, on the line of the vein, gold to the amount of £100 sterling to the square foot. The diggings are bearing off in a westerly direction, having already crossed the Adelaide road. These diggings seem only to have fairly started, the surrounding country being pronounced "a likely country" by many very old diggers. Barker’s Creek also promises fairly to become a most lucrative winter diggings. I was informed by a party of old diggers, who were acquaintances of mine, and had been out prospecting, that they have obtained gold in every pailful of earth they washed from the surrounding hills. The sinkings of both Barker’s and Campbell’s Creek average from 5 to 20 feet; and being principally hill digging, will prove dry workings for the winter months. A report of the finding of a nine pound nugget on Adelaide Hill caused a rush on Friday last on some undug ground on the east side of that hill. Having made every enquiry to find out the authenticity of this report, I cannot get to the truth. I have just this moment been informed that new diggings, extending some fifteen miles, have been discovered at Bendigo, the exact locality I could not learn.

Argus 26 May 1853, 5/7:




Oh! who would doubt the time is come,
The time predicted long
By Charles Mackay, in ev’ry line
Of his impassion’d song?
This land of gold is yielding up
Its buried treasures fast,
To fill the world with plenty’s smile—
The good time’s come at last!

From ev’ry quarter of the globe
What thousands seek our shore,
With anxious souls, and eager hands
To turn the nuggets o’er!
The poor, bow’d down e’en to the dust,
For ages that are past,
Will nobly now lift up their heads—
The good time’s come at last!

Oh! what a change, a mighty change,
Our wond’ring eyes behold;
Those who in England could not live,
Are rolling here in gold.
Their rags and tatters worn so long,
Now on one side are cast;
While ev’ry day they richer grow—
The good time’s come at last!

Their wives and helpless little ones,
That were so wretch’d before,
Are neatly clad and duly fed,
From wealth’s abundant store!
The bleeding heart hath found a balm,
Its bitt’rest trial’s past:
Lank Poverty hath lost its prey—
The good time’s come at last!

The cry for bread where there is none
For famish’d babes to eat
In Europe’s over-crowded towns,
Our ears doth never meet:
But in its stead the sounds of mirth,
Are sweetly floating past,
On ev’ry breeze that’s borne along—
The good time’s come at last!

Oh! may we then in gratitude,
Thank Heav’n for all this good;
For in this change we may behold
The deep designs of God!
’Tis He, in His wise providence,
Within our reach hath cast,
These golden treasures, long concealed—
The good time’s come at last!

J. H.
Upper Hawthorne, 25th May, 1853.

Argus 13 June 1853, 5/4:


June 4, 1853.

In your summary, which was despatched to England by the Harbinger, you were led to comment somewhat strongly upon the opinion formed by your Special Commissioner, as to the average quantity of gold (one ounce) found per man, per day, at these diggings, which will I fear give rise to expectations in England, which would never be realised. I am ignorant of the sources whence your Commissioner’s information was received, but from my long residence at these diggings, I and every one with whom I have conversed upon the subject, am led to form a much lower estimate of the average earnings per diem. The escort does not, it is true, give any correct idea of the quantity of gold found; still, less is sent down by private hand than during the summer, and latterly I have noticed the names of several buyers in the escort returns, who had been in the habit of conveying their own gold to town. Some men there are, whose average earnings would equal an ounce per day, but this would not apply to more than one twentieth of those on the ground; a quarter of an ounce per day for each man employed, would be much nearer the mark, if it is not an over-estimate. A lucky digger has become the exception, rather than the rule; and there are hundreds upon the ground who have not earned their license fees since they came up, and many more who, during a residence of several months, have not cleared their expenses. A few days since I purchased 3 dwts 12 grs. of gold from a digger, who assured me it was all he had found during three months he had been upon the ground; and several other instances are known to me, where, during four or five months the individuals in question have not averaged half a pennyweight per day. The proprietors of the steam engine at Golden Point find no difficulty in procuring as many able men as they require at 10s per diem, and others have latterly been employed by the authorities at the same rate of pay to cut wood for the new buildings at the [Government] camp, which now that the winter has fairly set in, the Government have at length commenced. An incident connected with this same tree-felling will illustrate far better than any more lengthened report the manner in which the public money is expended, or rather wasted. The party in question were employed to fell trees, and afterwards cut them up into lengths to be transported to the camp by others. Upon one or two occasions, they found that several logs had been stolen during the night. This was duly reported to the authorities, but no notice was taken, neither did they offer to remove the logs, and consequently the logs continued, and probably still continue, to be removed as fast as they are prepared.

Geelong Advertiser 3 April 1854, 4/3:


A day or two since, another claim was bottomed on the gravel pits line[:] the party washed this morning some stuff taken out last night, the yield in one tub, picked stuff of course, was nearly 50 lbs. Large nuggets like beans are clearly visible in the heap of washing stuff which they have now taken out.

A hole some distance above them[,] "the Scotchmen’s hole[,]" gave each of eight partners 50 lbs. Another hole in the same neighbourhood gave each of eight partners £2000. With these facts staring us in the face on one line, we can hardly consider the diggings up in this quarter as failing.

Canadian, and its neighbourhood, though not as rich as it once was, is still paying well. There are several minor lines of less deep sinking, which are doing very fairly.

Eureka still keeps up its high character. I know several parties there, who, when they see some rich stuff, put it past and wash it separately; by this plan alone they are averaging 60 oz. per day, and the remaining washing stuff is still rich.

To-day there has been a great rush on old Pennyweight Hill[:] many imagine that the Eureka line comes in there, and that the gold that came from Pennyweight in the old sinking, was taken from the upper bottom, which in eryy [every] instance is the poorest.

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