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The prospecting movement at the Rocky River

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Monday 9 March 1857, The Sydney Morning Herald

(From the Armidale Express, 28th February.)

OUR readers will perceive, from the report of the late meeting held at the Rocky, that the prospecting movement is likely to go ahead satisfactorily, so far as that field is concerned. We are gratified to find that a little stronger interest is beginning to be manifested by various classes in the success of the gold miners than has hitherto been customary. However, there is yet too much apathy on the subject, and the gold diggers are not sufficiently supported by either the farmers or the squatters, who have derived more substantial benefits from the discovery of gold-fields in the district than the miners themselves.

If extensive support be desired, it is necessary, both for the interests of the miners and those dependent upon the latter, that prospecting movements should be divested as much as possible of localism. It is of little importance to a digger whether a rich gold-field is discovered in a precise locality, or a few miles off. The experienced miner generally holds himself in readiness to pack off in a very short time to any new “rush” promising superior attractions to the spot where he may then be working at. And the storekeepers, &c, must, of necessity, keep in the wake of the surge of population, however eccentric its courses may appear.

For these reasons, although we approve of the prospecting movement at the Rocky being cordially supported, yet we cannot help thinking that if it could be developed into a project embracing the whole New England district, the change would possess manifest advantages. Purely local movements must depend mainly, if not entirely, upon local support : and any proposals of a general character, which are not restricted to any comparatively small area, must inevitably command a far wider scope of encouragement, and be more liberally contributed to by the people generally, than in the former event.

The originators of the prospecting project at the Rocky are entitled to great credit ; they have taken a step in the right direction, though we trust that they will not stop there, but proceed in the path of extension. We need hardly remind any one that a large […] of […] has given […] good indications of auriferous richness as could have been expected, considering the trifling amount of toil expended in prospecting, that from the two Duvals to the end of Tilbuster Creek a rich gold-field is waiting, almost untouched, for enterprising parties to commence; and that at the head of Cameron’s Creek there are some twenty or thirty gullies that have all been proved auriferous, and where nuggets of four and five pennyweights have been found. It is a marvel to us why Tilbuster Creek and the head of Cameron’s Creek (also called the Guyra River) have not received a better share of attention. At the latter gold has frequently been picked up on the surface, and various prospecting parties have been satisfied with the prospects, while the indications have been pronounced excellent. Unfortunately, the greater number of those who have examined Tilbuster and the head tributaries of the Guyra, have not been practical miners. As a necessary consequence, their explorations were imperfectly carried out, and they also manifested a want of that forethought and that perseverance which are the invariable companions of a trained and duly qualified gold miner. Thus, while the diggings on Cameron’s Creek are only some twelve or fourteen miles from Armidale, where the necessaries (if not of the luxuries) of life can be obtained, it is almost preposterous to hear of diggers deserting a rich field-one which they assert yields the best surface prospects of any in New England—because there are no stores there. Surely some parties having sufficient capital to purchase a dray-load of flour, meat, tea, sugar, &c., ought to think seriously of giving such a place a fair trial.

In one way the prison labour of the district could certainly be employed to advantage, viz., in prospecting for new gold-fields. We have frequently seen a man perambulating the streets of Armidale with an empty barrow, and close at his heels a constable, to watch that the prisoner duly performed his sentence of “hard labour.” At other times we have been amused to see an athletic fellow trotting about with a bundle, followed by the usual vision of one of her Majesty’s “blues.” Thus the country finds rations for a man who is kept in unproductive idleness, and pays for another man to watch him. Now we see no difficulty whatever in organising small prospecting parties composed of men who have received short sentences to hard labour. We ask any man of common sense whether these prisoners would not be better employed in sinking a shaft or cutting a sluice than in wheeling empty barrows or carrying bundles in the street? If the benches will not take the responsibility of changing the system, we make no doubt that an application to head quarters would be attended with success. Any gold found in a shaft or sluice might be given to the prisoners, and as soon as a locality could be proved payable, they should be shifted to another place. We do not imagine that any increase in the constabulary force would be necessary, and we are sure that the requisite tools might be supplied by private subscription, and left in charge of the chief constable.

With regard to the theory of a second bottom, about which so much is being said, we are not at all sanguine. Of course we only give our opinion for what it is worth when we state that we do not believe any great results at all probable from piercing deeper into the granite bed-rock. But even if this view should prove to be founded in error, we are still perfectly warranted in maintaining that, until places which give first-rate indications of an abundance of gold on the surface of the granite are properly tested, theoretical views in reference to a second bottom ought to be kept a secondary question. While labour is valuable and provisions are high, it is as well for diggers who are not possessed of much capital to keep as near the surface of “terra firma” as possible. When the gold-fields become exhausted, and first bottoms are found wanting, a second bottom can then be searched after at far less expense than at present, and with an energy that would be spurred on by necessity.

Written by macalba

April 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm

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