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Australian Goldrush Part II

26-03-2012 | Source | Central Point
Hargraves was not believed, but he was given a horse and sent back west to show the new government mineral surveyor where the gold was. In the meantime, the brothers with a cradle had written to say they had found a richer deposit.


Hargraves' plans were beginning to work! Hargraves did not keep details of the find secret as was the usual custom: on the contrary, he named the place after the Biblical city of gold. Ophir, and then proceeded to tell as many people as he could of its treasures.
In the important town of Bathurst he gave a public lecture on gold --how to use the tin dish and the cradle and, even more important where to find gold. Within a week gold fever had gripped the whole Bathurst district; in mid-May the first Australian gold rush had begun. In Sydney, the Government was days behind the news and took even longer to act. By then it was too late; men were already searching; all that could be done was to make them take out licences to do so. Hastily devised the licences were to produce big problems. Hargraves had succeeded: he had staked his claim, not to a gold field but to a reward. Eventually he received 10,000 plus a pension of 3,750 from the NSW Government, as well as over 2000 from the Victorian Government and numerous gold cups, gold spurs, gold nuggets and the like.
As Ophir yielded less and less gold, the diggers went further downstream and across the nearby hills. In June there was a rush from Ophir to the Turon river and its town Sofala. In July there was a rush to the Meroo Creek farther north after an aboriginal shephard found gold in an outcrop of stone: the mass of over 1,200 ounces called Kerrs Hundredweight was the biggest known in the world at that time.
The news spread rapidly throughout the world, reassuring those who had already left for NSW and convincing thousands of others that they had to go too. The Australian gold rushes begin...
The rushes soon began in Victoria which turned out to be richer than in NSW: In July 1851 to Clunes, in August to Buninyong and in September to Ballaarat. As each new field was discovered 'new chums' rushed to it from the towns and from ships arriving in Melbourne, and many diggers converged on it from old fields. By Christmas, most of the diggers had temporarily left Ballarat for Mount Alexander and Bendigo, farther north. In the first half of the golden fifties, Ballarat, Bendigo and Castlemaine were the gold mining centres in Victoria; and in the second half, three important new fields were opened up --in the Ovens in eastern Victoria and at Ararat and Maryborough.
Goldfield journalist Alfred Clarke wrote: "A gold digger must be a Jack-o-all-trades; he must be able to strip bark, fall a tree, and saw it, dig sods, make embankments, put up a hut, mend his clothes, draw firewood after chopping it, bake, boil, and roast, use a pick and spade, delve, dig, and quarry, load, and unload, draw a sledge, and drive a barrow, cut paths, make roadways, puddle in mud, and splash ankle deep in water, with occasional slushings from head to foot, bear sleet and rain without flinching during the day, and sleep in damp blankets during the night, thankful that they are not entirely saturated--if ye can do all this, and have spirit enough to attempt it, and endurance enough to carry it on for three months, why there is gold and rheumatism in store for you."

Governor Latrobe wrote: "Not only have the idlers and day labourers, shopmen, seamen, and mechanics of every description thrown up their employment, but responsible tradesmen, clerks of every grade, farmers, and not a few of the superior classes have followed... Cottages are deserted, houses to let, business at a standstill, and even schools are closed. In some of the suburbs not a man is left... The ships in the harbour are in a great measure deserted... farmers join their labourers and go shares... masters of vessels do the same."
Australian Goldrush Part III >


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