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Australian Goldrush Part III

26-03-2012 | Source | Central Point
In 1851, by law, all minerals and treasure-trove found in Australia, whether on private property or on public property, belonged to the crown.

In August, government proclaimed that anyone disturbing the soil in searching for gold without permission would be civilly and criminally prosecuted. From 1st September, all miners needed to purchase a mining license which cost them 30s. a month if they intended to dig the ground and look for gold.
In the meantime, having heard of the gold activity in Victoria, diggers from all over the world came flooding into Melbourne, only then would they find out which field they would head to. Fields were changing all the time. As they'd arrive, the diggers would head to the hottest fields. Gold was being found all over Victoria.
Times were still very tough in the fairly new colony and the promise of an easy life just laying on the ground was just too good for most. Many people from all walks of life simply packed up and headed for the fields.
Ballaarat was big, the atmosphere was great and everybody had gold on the brain. Everybody was looking for it. Since late July, near Mount Alexander, C.T. Peters, a local hut keeper and a small group of men were working in a recently settled area (later called Castlemaine) looking for gold. By early September they had gathered 50lb. of gold and headed off to cash it in. This act made their find public and so the rush to Mt Alexander (Castlemaine) began.
By 1st September mining licenses were being issued to all those that applied. People were still leaving their jobs from all kinds of professions. Even the police force fell apart during this period as officers left to join in the rush for the gold. Half of Melbourne's buildings remained empty as proprietors (not finding staff) had also packed and headed to the goldfields.
With everyone off at the fields, the economy was declining at a rapid rate. In an effort to help curb the downward slide, in future, government decreed, licenses would only be issued to people carrying a certificate of discharge from previous employment. Many of the miners disagreed with the government's mining license policy and simply would not purchase them on principle.
It is estimated that only half of the actual miners on the goldfields ever purchased licenses. By the end of October, thousands more had arrived from Van Dieman's Land and South Australia.
In late September 1851, records for Mt Alexander recorded 250 adult males in the area. Barely 3 months later, in December of 1851, there were 20,000 adult males in search of easy gold sparking rush after rush with each find, from Campbell's Creek, Barker's Creek, all along the banks of the Loddon and finally, reaching Bendigo.
At Campbell's creek, a digger writes, 'going along the bank of the creek, I noticed a crowd of people, apparently scrambling together, and when I got near them I found several hundreds tumbling about and over each other, tearing up the soil with their hands, picking up the nuggets, and placing them in their pockets for safety."
The Eaglehawk field was opened up in 1852 and Victoria produced 4,194,062oz of gold that same year. In August, a rush of migrants from Britain arrived and almost all of them headed off to the goldfields. By June 1853 even though there was still a lot of gold to be found here, pits had to be sunk to find it and this made many of the diggers move on to easier fields.
Another rush occurred in 1854 which saw Bendigo's highest population of 23,500 adult males in Bendigo looking for gold.

By 1858, the Reefs at Eaglehawk, Sailors Gully, Clarence Reef, Star Reef, Catherine Reef, Snobs Gully, Windmill Hill, Beezlebub Gully and Moonlight Reef were swarming with alluvial miners.
With the main rush now over, by December 1861 over 11,000 miners were still on the fields including at least 1,319 Chinese miners. 1,967,453oz of gold was produced in 1861.


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