The Australian GOLD RUSH. By Christine Morrison 9D. Contents. Introduction First discoveries Gold Fever! New Arrivals Finding Gold Life on the Goldfields The Eureka Stockade New wealth Facts Bibliography. Introduction.
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By Christine Morrison
Since the earliest civilisations, the rare heavy metal, gold, has always been valued and prized. Its discovery in Australia played a significant role in Australian history. Many townships and cities that exist today owe their beginnings from the gold rush that eventuated. The migration of new people to Australia in the quest for gold, not only brought great diversity in customs but also increased population. Even though the great rush for gold has dispersed today, many people still search for gold in order to ‘strike it rich’, including myself!
Gold panning with my Mum at Warburton Vic.
Many other people had discovered gold previously but the first recorded discovery of gold in Australia was made by surveyor, James Mcbrien at Bathurst, N.S.W. in 1823. He was surveying a road along the Fish River and noticed particles of gold on the creek bed. Following this, there were a number of other discoveries, however, these discoveries were kept secret as the early Governors feared that it might cause a convict revolt and that free workers would leave their farms and jobs to search for gold, which would be disastrous for the colonies.
1)Where was the first recorded gold found?
The first discovery of gold was made at a creek near Bathurst,N.S.W.
Edward Hammond Hargraves(1816-1891) was born in Britain and settled in N.S.W. in 1832 where he worked as a grazier but when he heard of the discovery of gold in California, America, he decided to join the gold rush that was happening in 1849. He returned to Australia having found very little but was convinced that Australia had lots of gold. He also had gained knowledge of how to prospect for gold and this gained experience would prove helpful. By the 1840’s,the situation had changed in N.S.W. and transportation of convicts had ceased and the possibility of a convict revolt was not a problem.
A portrait of Edward Hargraves.
Governor Fitz Roy, in order to commence a gold industry, gained permission from the British Government to appoint a geologist to search for mineral deposits in his colony. A prize was also offered of 500 pounds for the first person to find gold. Edward Hargraves went to search for gold on horseback near Bathurst and met up with John Lister and together they found a few specks of gold at Lewis Ponds Creek, a tributary of Summerhill Creek, on the 5th of February 1851. Hargreaves went back to Sydney to claim the prize for finding the first gold in Australia but meanwhile Lister and two neighbours, James and William Tom, found nuggets of gold. Word quickly spread and within a week there were over 400 people digging and in May 1851 there were soon thousands. The rush had begun…
2)Who was Edward Hargraves?
This first goldfield was named Ophir after the city of gold in the Bible. Other goldfields were established on the Turon River at Sofala and Hill End causing the rush to grow. As people flocked to the goldfields, the government sent soldiers to the goldfields in order to maintain order and according to the law, the government owned all gold in N.S.W., so miners were forced to buy a licence to mine for gold. Many people left other states to go to N.S.W. and in particular the Victorian Government feared that workers would leave Melbourne and so in June 1851,an award was offered also for anyone who found gold in Victoria.
Map showing first goldfield -Ophir
Map showing early Victorian goldfield areas.
In July 1851, a timber James Esmond dug gold from the creek at Clunes, then Louis John Michel found gold at Warrandyte. Another discovery was found soon after by blacksmith, Thomas Hiscock near Ballarat and all three received awards for their findings.
People rushed to these areas for the chance to get rich quickly and people went from one goldfield to another as reports of new findings were made known. Men left their jobs, homes and families to rush to the goldfields in N.S.W. and Victoria. The fever spread to Queensland, and then finally to all the colonies of Australia.
3)When did the Australian Gold Rush Begin?
Map of main early goldfield areas of Australia
News soon spread around the world and ships full of hopeful immigrants sailed into Melbourne and Sydney in search of their fortune. By late 1851, people came from Britain, North America, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy and many other countries. In 1854,thousands of Chinese began to arrive and increased the population substantially.
Not every one got along though ,for instance, Aboriginal groups were driven off their land by the rush for gold, diggers ruined the land and scared off the native animals that the Aboriginals hunted for food and some miners disliked the Chinese because they were different. The miners also brought diseases, for example measles and influenza with them which killed thousands of indigenous people.
Chinese arrived to search for gold.
4)Name the indigenous people who were disadvantaged by the rush for gold?
5)Why did the European miners become increasingly hostile towards the Chinese?
The Chinese gold miners were very hardworking and their camps were very organised .Many sifted through leftover mounds of soil called slag and often found gold that others had missed. Racism was common in the 1850’s and there was much anti-Chinese feeling ,so much so that a law was passed in order to tax every Chinese person who landed in a Victorian port. This did not work, however, and Chinese miners would get off ships in South Australia walk to the Victorian goldfields.
Within ten years the population in Australia more than doubled. New towns and cities grew. More farming land was required to feed the diggers and their families and new industries were developed to provide building materials, furniture, clothes and food, and equipment for mines.
A hard working Chinese digger.
Many people from different parts of the world arrived to search for gold.
There are two types of gold. Alluvial gold is the gold found as small flakes, nuggets or dust that is attainable within the grounds surface while buried gold is gold found beneath the earth’s surface.
Diggers either would find gold flakes or nuggets when they washed dirt and sand from old creek and river beds or dig shafts 30 metres deep or more.
Panning for gold.
A gold mine.
The simplest way to find the alluvial gold was to pan for it. Diggers would require a pick to break up the soil and rock, a shovel and a panning dish to wash the soil and rock. The first panning dishes were just any round dish, some using the wide tin dishes used in dairies to separate milk and cream. Tinsmiths began making special pans with a wide base and shallow trim.
With gold being a heavy metal ,after repeated washing of the soil and rock , it would hopefully be the only grains left in the pan!
Using a shallow dish such as the one in the picture was the most common way to search for gold.
Another tool used was a cradle, which looked like a baby’s cradle. It operated much the same as the panning dish with diggers washing the dirt and gravel until only the gold remained. One man would rock the cradle and the other would shovel in mud. When all the mud and stones are washed away, any gold would be caught in the bottom of the cradle.
Where water was plentiful, some built long troughs called sluices. As water was poured down the sluice, which washed away the mud, it left the gold behind. Another method was hydraulic sluicing which was a quick way to find gold.
A huge hose forced water against rock and dirt, washing and breaking it up into the sluice below.
If water was scarce a method called dry blowing was used in which bellows were attached to the cradle which blew away everything except the heavier gold.
When all the alluvial gold was found, diggers would dig a vertical hole called a shaft in which they cut tunnels off to the side looking for gold inside quartz rock. Buckets of rock were hauled to the top by horses and then taken away to be crushed and washed.
This became very expensive and miners joined together to form large companies and sold shares to raise money. Many diggers ended up working for a wage in these companies and this was the beginnings of our gold mining industry as we know today.
6)What was the simplest way to find alluvial gold?
A Typical Goldfield.
Life on the goldfields
Life on the goldfields was primitive and rough with only the basics and many lived in tents. So many people arrived in Melbourne in the 1850’s that a huge tent city was established with as many as 30000 people living along the banks of the Yarra River. It soon became polluted with no fresh water or sewerage and living conditions became unhealthy. Diggers would leave their wives and children and head off with just clothes, boots, a roll of canvas and cooking equipment. Those who could not afford a carriage or horse walked to the goldfields. As there were no roads, people followed rough tracks through the bush. Once at the site it was noisy, with the sounds of digging, carting, crushing and the washing of dirt and rock. Sunday was the only day that diggers did not frantically search for gold. Home was often a canvas tent or bark hut with simple furnishings with simple meals cooked on an open fire. It was hard work.
Shelter consisted of canvas tents or primitive huts.
There were very few children living on the goldfields in the early days, most were left behind . Once diggers settled in a particular area though, shops, schools and hospitals opened. The presence of wives and children lessened the drinking and bad behaviour of some of the men.
Food would be very basic and consist of damper, mutton and tea. A meal would be a stew of some kind. A food store would provide food such as meat, tea, flour, sugar, biscuits and potatoes and some vegetables and very rarely, fruit.
There was little or no medical help and the mixed living conditions led to the spread of diseases. There was whooping cough, scarlet fever and measles which resulted in many deaths. In addition, mining was dangerous work and many died due to accidents.
Those that were lucky and found gold either drank the value of all they had found ,bought land or a small business, or lifted their family out of debt.
7)What shelter did the miners have?
8)List 3 types of food available for people living on the goldfields?
The Eureka Stockade
Miners resented the fact that they had to pay a licence fee. The fee was 30 shillings a month and represented half the wages of an ordinary worker. Miners claimed the fee was too high and troopers (mounted police), were conducting licence checks unfairly. Troopers could fine diggers with no licence and keep half of the fine money for themselves, which is why they constantly checked them. A dispute occurred about a court case involving James Bentley, a friend of the troopers, being acquitted of murdering a miner outside the Eureka Hotel and this sparked a protest as many thought that the police were corrupt and tensions between the diggers and authorities rose.
A painting depicting the diggers revenge by burning the Eureka Hotel owned by James Bentley.
Three arrests were made and extra soldiers were sent for. The diggers demanded that the three be pardoned .On the 1st of December 1854, about 10,000 diggers met at Bakery Hill in Ballarat to hear the verdict but the Governor refused and the diggers, in revolt, burned their licences, elected leaders and built a fort, the Eureka Stockade on which they erected a flag. Peter Lalor, an Irish digger, became the leader and about 1000 miners gathered inside with guns and dared the troops to attack them.
In the early hours of the 3rd of December 1854, 400 soldiers and police attacked the stockade-a battle which lasted only about 15 minutes. Five soldiers and about 30 diggers were killed. Hundreds of diggers were arrested and 13 miners were charged with treason but with the exception of one man, they were found not guilty at their trial in 1855.
The government realised that the diggers were hard done by and licences were banned, the gold commissioners sacked and the miners were granted
the right to vote. The Eureka flag has been a powerful symbol of rebellion against authority since that day.
9)What was the Eureka Stockade?
10)What did you have to pay for in order to search for gold?
The famous Eureka flag-blue with a white cross and 5 stars representing the Southern Cross.
During the 1900s gold mining in Australia gradually declined and the rush had eased. The deeper the gold was underground, the more expensive it was to mine and the price of gold wasn’t enough to make it worthwhile. However, in the late 1970s the price of gold began to climb again and big mining companies started production again in many of Australia’s goldmines. Australia is the third largest producer of gold after South Africa and the United States in the world today. It is our largest manufactured export and is worth $7 billion dollars a year to the Australian economy with 15000 people employed in the industry.
The Gold Rush created much wealth and began the towns and cities we know today.
The most important result of the gold rushes was that it increased Australia becoming a nation by firstly giving two of the colonies N.S.W. and Victoria great wealth and secondly by bringing a sudden influx of people, many of whom stayed on, boosting the economy. Government taxes made it possible for the building of infrastructure and services required in new towns and cities and the immigrants brought with them great diversity in culture, language, religion and skills.
1.Australia has 10% of the world’s gold deposits.
2.One of the largest nuggets found was called the ‘Welcome Stranger’ and weighed 90kg and its value in 1869 was 9210pounds but today it would be worth $3,000,000.
3.The total population of Australia increased from 430,000in 1851 to 1.7 million in 1871 due to the gold rush.
4.Gold was carried from the diggings by armed escorts as they attracted the attention of bushrangers.If robbed ,the owners of the gold would lose it.
5.With so many people travelling to and from the goldfields, the 1850’s also saw the construction of the first railway and the operation of the first telegraphs.
Regular gold transports were targets of bushrangers.
1.Gold Fever, Kimberley, Webber, Powerhouse Museum, Macmillan Education Australia Pty Ltd,2001
2.The Gold Rushes, John and Jennifer Barwick, Heinemann Library,2001
3.The Rush to Gold –A world Turned Topsie –turvey, Geoff Hocking,The Five Mile Press, 2005
4.Australia’s Gold Rushes, Robert Coupe, New Holland Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd ,2000
5.Gold Australia, Tony Crago, Murray David Publishing Pty Ltd,2000
6.Gold Rush, John and Jennifer Barwick ,Heinemann Library,1999
7.Australia Changing Times-The Gold Rushes-Striving for Wealth, Barrie Sheppard ,Echidna Books,2004
8.Gold Rushes, Jordan Thomas, Franklin Watts Australia,1999
9.The Golden Years 1850-1890,Michael Dugan, Macmillan Education Australia Pty Ltd,1997
10.Gold in Australia, Bruce McClish, Macmillan Education Australia Pty Ltd,1996
11.The Eureka Stockade –Big Trouble on the Diggings, Geoff Hocking , Waverton Press,2005
12.Settling Australia-The Gold Seekers ,Stephen Gard, Macmillan Education Australia Pty Ltd,1998
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