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Outrages by the Macleay blacks

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Thursday 14 June 1860, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser


(from the Armidale Express, June 9.)


We are again obliged to invite the urgent attention of the Government to the deficiency of protection for the settlers in New England and the McLeay district who reside in the vicinity of, or in, the rugged tract which separates the two districts.

In addition to the notices of depredations committed by the McLeay blacks which have lately appeared in the Express, it is now our duty to place before the public another list of even more daring robberies and outrages than those already mentioned.

Since our last impression it was rumoured in Armidale that the McLeay blacks had driven off several hundred sheep from Hillgrove – Mr. Richard Hargrave’s station, about 15 miles from Armidale – and taken them down the Falls. We subsequently learned that they had swept off 500. On Mr Vincent Graham, the superintendent, receiving information of the robbery, he took two of the Hillgrove blacks with him, and started in pursuit. We understand that he found nearly all the sheep hemmed in a corner on the edge of the Falls, and that he heard a party of blacks talking at the bottom of a precipice. The descent being impracticable, he and the blacks in company, by making a long detour, and using great caution, arrived within twenty yards of the McLeay blacks before being observed by the latter, who, it appears, were busily engaged in roasting five sheep for their supper. By what means the culprits were routed we are not informed, but it is evident that they must have fled, as Mr. Graham and his blacks brought back with them a gun, powder, shot, ball, &c, left behind by the fugitives. With the exception of 12 missing, the sheep were recovered. It is almost unnecessary to remark that Mr. Graham’s conduct is deserving of the highest praise, alike for promptitude, bravery, and intelligence.

We have to add that a cow, the property of Mr. E. Hargrave, was shot recently, by the McLeay blacks, within 1½ mile of the Hernani head station, and close to the road to Grafton. Mr. E. Furber’s gunyah, within a mile of the same head station, was robbed a short time back of everything he had, by the same rascals ; and, about a week ago, they stole his axes, a blue shirt, and other articles, from where be was at work in the bush.

In January last, Mr. J. Perrett, of Tyringham, was shot at, by blacks, when about a mile from his house. It appears that the McLeay blacks, whose predatory incursions are numerous and sudden, have been for some time past a pest and continual source of apprehension to many settlers on the Grafton line. They have frequently been been with a large number of firearms, and we are informed that some of their guns have a bore of an inch in diameter, carrying an ounce bullet.

Those best fitted, from their knowledge of the country and the habits of the McLeay blacks, to form an accurate opinion as to a remedy, which ought to be immediately adopted, recommend that a party of native police should be stationed at the back of the Bald Hills station. In that locality there are heads of the Nambuccra, Bellinger, and Clarence Rivers, and dense scrubs, in which the blacks are prone to take refuge, and in the vicinity, and in which only an assailing force of blacks can be effective. in that direction, a few years ago, a shepherd, his wife, and their infant at the breast, were murdered in a most brutal manner by the blacks. Their bodies were then chopped up into small pieces, and left in a heap where they were found. Subsequently, another shepherd was murdered by the blacks.

On leaving the vicinity of Armidale, a short time ago, the strange blacks were seen to have plenty of firearms. One respectable settler on an adjoining creek states that he particularly observed one gin who was loaded with no fewer than three guns.

FATAL ACCIDENT.-A man commonly known as “Jim,’ and who was in the employ of Mr. Jas. McLean as fireman at his mill, had been in the habit, it appears, of creeping into the engine furnace to sleep. On Friday week, being at the time in liquor, he crept in before the bent had sufficiently escaped, and he was almost roasted before he became conscious of pain, when his shouts brought to his assistance Constables Callaghan and Glien, who dragged him out by his feet. Dr. Markham was sent for to see the man, and wrote an order for his admittance into the hospital, whither he went after some delay, and after lingering in great agony for about 30 hours, died on Saturday evening. We have not learned deceased’s proper name.

THE WEATHER. – During the greater part of the week the weather has been stormy, with frequent showers. On Thursday morning, we are informed, there was a little snow, but it melted away immediately, owing to the dampness of the ground. A heavy fall is expected before fine weather sets in again. The influenza has become very prevalent, few escaping its influence.

THE OBAN ROBBERY. – On Friday, the 1st instant, the prisoners Davis and Burns, apprehended on the charge of being concerned in the late robbery at Oban, were brought before the bench at Armidale. Mr. A’Hern deposed that at about 7 o’clock on the evening of 22nd May, on returning to his house he saw two men, one tall, the other short, going there before him. The big man carried a pistol, and as both were apparently disguised, he concluded they were robbers, and endeavoured to reach the house first, in order to get his gun. They perceived him, however, and the big man said, “I have got you, my lad.” He made a rush for the back door, but the robbers reached it almost as soon as he, and on getting inside his hands and those of the taller man seized the gun simultaneously. During the struggle, the robber’s face becoming partially uncovered, he recognised him as a man whom he had known by the name of Graham – now one of the prisoners in the dock. His wife came in during the struggle, and implored the robber not to kill her husband, and the man, though for some time threatening or attempting to stab him with a shear blade, ultimately promised not to hurt him, or her. The taller man then ordered the other to tie him with a rope; but this was not carried into effect. The shorter man, who was muffled in a scotch twill shirt, then proceeded to search for valuables, turning out the contents of a cash box, of his wife’s work box, and of another box in which he kept notes, sovereigns, jewellery, and gold, and the key of which his wife produced, to save violence. Whilst this was going on, the taller man’s attention being drawn for a moment to his companion, witness endeavoured to stoop to pick up a tomahawk lying near; but be was almost instantly knocked down by a violent blow from a short gun the robber held, one barrel of which was discharged directly afterwards – though not apparently at him, the ball lodging in the ceiling. After they had finished their spoliation, they went away, and he then ascertained that they had taken a parcel of gold which weighed about 10 or 11 ozs., and about £20 in bank notes, sovereigns, and silver ; among the notes there were two of £5, if not three ; they also took a lot of rings belonging to his wife, one large one of witness’s, a pair of boots, a single-barrelled gun, two red woollen shirts, tea, sugar, bread, and bacon ; the little man also took a pillow-slip to put the swag in ; a large steel purse, which contained the gold and money, witness also missed ; he saw the little man also take the boots, close from where be stood, while the robbery was being perpetrated. He identified as his property the purse produced, a note it contained, a locket and some rings, a piece of gold of peculiar shape, and the boots. The double-barrelled weapon produced, he believed to be the one with which he was struck. Burns had frequently been at his house while on the diggings, and could have seen him go to the box for change. On Saturday the 2nd the prisoners were again brought before the bench, and Constable Marshall deposed that, the boots identified by Mr. A’Hern were worn by Burns when he was brought to the look-up. The prisoners were remanded until the 6th.

The following, from the Tamworth Examiner, supplies additional information of interest :- One of the men has been well known to the Chief Constable (Armidale) for years as a notoriously bad character ; he then went under the name of Davis or Davison, and robbed the mail at Harper’s Hill some years ago. He afterwards escaped from Maitland gaol, and was recaptured on the Paterson ; and it seems that he latterly went under the name of Graham. On the 28th ultimo, Sergeant-Major Keegan and a trooper of the Northern Patrol arrived in town, after having made a diligent search through the country for the robbers, and bringing a description of them from A’Hern. Immediately on the Chief Countable seeing this document he had his old acquaintance Davis arrested, upon whose person was found several gold rings, a locket, &c, belonging to Mr, A’Hern, all of which have been identified by him. The next thing was to snare the mate, which the Chief Constable effected within half an hour after Davis was confined. This worthy goes under the name of Nicholas Burns, and is about 21 years old ; has rather a forbidding appearance, and no doubt in a little time would be equal to his preceptor, Davis. Upon his person were found bank notes and gold, belonging to Mr. A’Hern. They had outside the town two stolen horses, saddles, and bridles, a cut down double gun – a most formidable weapon – one barrel loaded and capped, all of which are in the hands of the police. The owners of the horses are known to the Chief Constable, who no doubt will prosecute them on that charge also. It is a fact that these ruffians surveyed the bank premises here with a view to robbery, but Davis said it was not to be done by two men as there were too many houses about it; but the bank at Newcastle he was satisfied he could manage. They also contemplated stopping the mail between Warialda and Tamworth. Is it not most fortunate for the public that these villains have been safely housed in the commencement of their career, and that there is little doubt of their conviction on both charges? It is rumoured that Burns has given the Chief Constable some useful information. The stolen horses before referred to belong to Mr. Barker, of Mount Mitchell, in this district, and Mr. Panton, of the Macleay River. The thieves are remanded for further evidence.

Written by macalba

December 8, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Armidale news

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Tuesday 3 October 1876, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser

(From the Armidale Express. Sept. 29.)

During the past week we have been visited by glorious downpower [sic] of rain, which came just in time. The warm weather preceding those showers, which was of decidedly an unseasonable character, had so parched the earth that the farmers became somewhat anxious for their crops; such fears have passed away, and the whole district is now with verdure clad.

Another of the rapidly decreasing Hillgrove tribe of aborigines has passed away. On the morning of Friday last a female aborigine named Jenny Naillor was found, in the Black Camp in the rear of Mr. C. Moore’s paddock, in an unconscious state, and was brought in to the Hospital, by the police, where, despite the remedial measures that were applied, she expired the same afternoon.

An accident terminating in fatal results occurred on Thursday, the 21st inst. A man named Fred Thorpe, well known in Armidale, and who was formerly in the service of Mr. John Moore, J P , as a carter, was driving a heavily-laden return dray from Armidale to Mr. Coventry’s station at Oban, when, in ascending the Pinch, from some unexplained cause, the dray capsized, knocking down Thorpe, and rolling twice over his body – at least such is the explanation given by an aborigine who accompanied the dray-causing very severe internal injuries and fracturing one of his legs. The unfortunate man was brought in to Armidale and taken to the the Hospital, and the fracture reduced by Dr. Wigan, but the injuries received internally were beyond the reach of medical science, and Thorpe, lingered in a semi-conscious state until Friday morning, when he expired. The remains of Thorpe, who was respectably connected in Armidale, were followed to the cemetery on Sunday last by a large body of his friends and relatives.

On Tuesday the man John Jones, alias Burns, the soi-distant [sic] master of John Whalan, convicted at the last sitting of the Court of Quarter Sessions for receiving 91 head of cattle, the property of Jurd Brothers, of Orreba, was fully committed by the Bundarra Bench to take his trial at the ensuing sitting of the Circuit Court to be held on the 11th October, on the charge of cattle stealing.

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August 29, 2010 at 8:02 pm

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Gold and mud

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Monday 11 May 1857, The Sydney Morning Herald


No. 6.


At the Oban there was neither commissioner nor constable, clergyman nor schoolmaster, and yet the little community seemed to get along quietly and steadily enough. Some few disputes had arisen relative to the working of the different claims — a thing that was to be expected, the more particularly from the nature of the work ; but these were readily settled by an appeal to the Armidale Commissioner, Mr. Moriarty, who, on one occasion, came out to the spot, the better to judge and decide on the matter. It struck me as a matter of gratulation that so many men should have been for so long a time assembled in such an out-of-the-way place and that they should have been free from those acts of violence and unlawfulness that too often disgrace larger and better protected communities. Something of this may be owing to the circumstance that the men are doing well ; and something, again, to the fact that they look upon themselves as settled on the spot, at all events for some considerable period. The very comfortable huts show that they have this feeling, begotten, no doubt, by the nature of the work in which they are engaged, necessitating a more lengthy sojourn in one spot than would the surfacing or shallow sinking of other localities. At the same time, there is some considerable jealousy amongst many of the men of any further advent of miners to the spot. They consider they have a snug spot to work in, and are anxious to keep it as much as possible to themselves. One iron-faced individual whom I met at the inn, where for four days previously he had been balancing himself between the states of semi and total intoxication, informed me with tears in his eyes, first, that he was the most miserable of men, and next that these were the most miserable diggings he had ever been on. I, of course, condoled with him on the circumstance of his having voluntarily banished himself to such a spot and inquired how long his fortitude had been taxed to bear such a load of woe. His answer was, that he had been seven months on the ground, and I then expressed my surprise at his having stopped so long in that miserable locality. He was rather taken aback at this, and confessed that for his own part he had had no reason to grumble at his success. He had made about 10s. a day clear of all expenses since he had been there, but that wasn’t the thing — those creeks wouldn’t let a man work and make a pile —and— he was a most miserable wretch. I learnt afterwards that the man was in the habit of drinking for about five days out of every fourteen, and was not, of course, astonished at everything appearing so miserable to him when seen through the medium of a five days’ drinking bout. I must, however, do the great body of the diggers here the justice to say that this feeling of exclusiveness is not general; many of them have assured me of their firm belief in the presence of gold in large quantifies “somewhere about,” and of their conviction that with a large population only would there be any chance of “dropping on it.”

The day before my arrival, a large tribe of blacks, numbering some 70 or 80, had camped on the creek. They were making themselves very useful to the diggers, the men in cutting wood, stripping bark, or doing some of the lighter work of the mines, and the women in cooking, washing, &c. In fact, I saw with pleasure a slight improvement on the old aboriginal character of laziness, though even now it is only in very few cases that the men can be got to work steadily and continuously. Still there is much more disposition to labour than there was some years back, and the men will follow a particular pursuit for a longer period than they would formerly. I have seen many of them employed as bullock drivers on the road, and if once they engage to take a team down they generally keep to their agreement pretty honestly. Mr. Coventry had one man working on his farm reaping when I was there, and he gave him the character of being the best man on his place. Many are hired regularly in different parts as shepherds; the women also have been frequently thus employed, and fulfil their duties more steadily and continuously than the men. When travelling in the tribe, however, as they were when I saw them at Oban, very little beyond light work can be got out of them, as they are off the moment the tribe is on the move.

I left Oban on Easter Monday about the middle of the day, returning by way of Falconer Plains, the road to which, after leaving Coventry’s, leads over the same kind of dreary sloppy plains that I had crossed a few days previously by the other route. About midway between Falconer and Coventry’s I passed over what was palpably another point of the great coast or dividing range. A vast swampy plain, so level as scarcely to indicate a fall of water, either way, suddenly terminated towards the west by a steep descent, so suddenly indeed as to strike the traveler with surprise, and induce him to look back upon the country he has passed over. The road winds sidling down this hill of spongy red and black clay, intermingled with half decomposed debris of whinstone rock, here and there cut through by deep gullies, worn by the waters that in time of rain rush furiously down its sides. These waters run into the Falconer Creek, and thence into the Gwydir, whilst from the plain above the fall is towards the coast. The Falconer is a broken rocky creek, with low banks on either side, and winds through the plains of the same name, but more worthy, at the time of my crossing them, of the designation of a swamp. They are only limited in extent, with undulations so slight as to render their natural drainage a work of some time, especially as their soil is the black and red clay that I had throughout found so very tenacious of water, sucking it in and retaining it, with all the qualities of a sponge. The greater part of the plain is fenced in, and there are two or three farms established here, the greater portion of the land having been sold. There is also a store, and, what is of more consequence to the traveller, an inn ; these two, with a miserable half-ruined hut, in which dwells a woe-begone saddler, who complained bitterly of the nothing he had to do, constituted the township, which is not likely to rise into much importance, seeing that nearly all the town lots sold have been purchased by one individual, thus shutting out a population from locating itself, and seeing that the only recommendation it has is being on the high road to Beardy Plains, and the spot where the mail to that locality changes horses.

From Falconer, I followed the mail track which led over the ranges, thus avoiding the swampy flats by which I had travelled to Oban. Still, even by this route, part of the plain of the Gwydir has to be crossed, and, cut up as it is by dray tracks, it is certainly no improvement upon the road I had gone. After leaving this flat, however, the track traverses a fine open forest country composed of long sweeping ridges of granite or whinstone, the latter predominating, until it reaches the Devil’s Pinch range. A long descending road, fully three miles in length, with occasional “pinches” or descents rather steeper than usual, some of them at an angle of fully 30 degrees, leads down to a narrow gully, through which a bright stream runs brawling and battling its course down towards the larger waters. This gully gradually widens out into a fine broad flat, whilst the little stream also assumes by degrees more imposing dimensions until it becomes a creek. Winding along, now on the flat, and now along and over low ridges, the road passes between the ranges of the Devil’s Pinch on the left and those of the Jaques Duval Mountain on the right, through a country sufficiently pretty and romantic, if only unaccompanied by that disagreeable moisture and sponginess of the soil which rendered travelling so difficult and so tedious. Three miles of this kind of travelling brought me once more to Tilbuster Creek, considerably higher up, in its course, than the station by which I had passed on my upwards route. The creek was much swollen by the rains, and had been still more so, as it appeared from the vast gaps in the banks washed down by the current. I kept rather too low down the stream, and did not fancy the crossing-place that offered itself at the spot where I reached it. Going still further down, for nearly a mile, I could see no place that offered a reasonable chance of crossing, the banks being steep, or where they shelved, showing only long deltas of mud. At last I reached a spot that I thought would exactly suit. Two long points, of what apparently were fine firm shingle or pebbles, almost reached each other, leaving not more than three feet of water to pass over. I spurred my mare down the bank, very much against her inclination, and the first step on what I thought shingle sank the poor animal up to her knees in mud. However, it was getting late, and on I spurred. We crossed the water, and reached the opposite point of deceptive beach. With a heavy plunge she tried to mount it, but sunk up to her shoulder in front, and there nearly to the point of the shoulder in front, and there struck fast. I knew my weight must settle her down all the deeper, and preclude every chance of extrication, so without a moment’s hesitation I mounted on top of the saddle, à la Ducrow, and took a jump as far towards the bank as I could. My leap so far favoured me as to bring me nearer to the bank, but the additional impetus given to my weight in the descent, sent me over the knees into the mud. I tried to scramble out. It was no go. I was held fast by the legs, and bade fair to become a martyr in the public service. I still held the bridle of the mare, and looking round on her to see how she got on, the thought suddenly flashed across me that I was directly in the line between her and the bank, and that if she, in her struggles to get out, should reach me, she might possibly knock me over in the slough and provide me with anything but an eligible grave at the same time as she settled me. This thought had no sooner entered my mind than, by a kind of galvanic action of the muscular power, I found myself on the river bank clear of the difficulty ; showing thereby the wonderful effect that a little wholesome looking things fairly in the face will have upon nervous gentlemen. When, safely landed I gave a few encouraging chirrups to the mare, who again took heart of grace, and as I could now help her with the bridle, a few stout struggles landed her also safely on the bank, though so weak, as scarcely to be able to stand. I myself was in a pretty plight. Smothered in mud from nearly the waist downwards, whilst large gouts of the same odoriferous deposit spotted the rest of my person, being the more remarkable about my face, I presented anything but the imposing appearance of a Special Commissioner. Leaving my mare to recover herself a little, I walked down to where the banks were lowest, and, bailing up some water in my hat, literally washed myself down. It now wanted scarcely an hour to sundown, my mare dead beat, myself wet through, five miles to ride with a certainty of some of it having to be done through the evening frost ; and, to mend matters, a heavy thunderstorm looming between Jaques Duval and the Devil’s Pinch, as if uncertain upon which to bestow its favours. I took my mare by the bridle, led her for about a mile, until she had somewhat recovered the use of her legs, and then, mounting her, pushed her on as fast as I could persuade her to go, for Armidale. Luckily, the storm decided in favour of the Devil’s Pinch, instead of its brother Jacques, and I thus escaped some of the favours that otherwise I should have shared. I, however, got the full benefit of the frost before I reached the town, and when I descended from my horse I had some difficulty in standing or walking, from the utter uncertainty I was in as to whether I really possessed such things as feet and legs or not. However, a good fire, a glass of something stronger and warmer than the liquid in which I had previously taken a bath, and a good dinner, sent the blood once more running healthily through the benumbed limbs, whilst a night’s rest set me completely to rights.

Giving my mare a day’s spell to recover herself, I, on the second day following, left Armidale for the Rocky River. I had entered the town on my first arrival at its eastern extremity ; and I now went out of it at almost its western end, and yet both roads have the same termination. Between Armidale and the Rocky River the road presents no very striking features, running principally through fine open forest land, with occasional swampy plains. Turning off from the main road, however, at about fourteen miles distant from Armidale, the track begins to assume something like distinctive features. First, a heavy stringy bark forest is passed, its finest timber thinned out by the sawyers, some four or five pairs of whom are camped and at work at its entrance, and the remaining trees of any size being stripped of their bark to furnish roofs for the many inns and stores whose owners could afford to transport it such a distance. Then deep gullies follow, surmounted by vast overhanging ranges, from which the granite crops out in the form of a natural pavement, or is upheaved in huge boulders that lie about in wild negligence and massive grandeur. Then the hills gradually obtain a longer sweep, and, surmounting one of these, a rude fence, a tent, a bark hut, and a rough stockyard meets the eye, and then I come fully in sight of Mount Jones, having reached the crown of the ridge directly opposite to it, whilst in front of me, to the right and to the left, I see spread before me the panorama of the Rocky River Diggings.

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April 14, 2010 at 8:02 pm

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The New England gold fields

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Saturday 22 November 1856, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser


A gentleman who has had many opportunities, during several years past, for acquiring sound information relative to the auriferous localities in New England, has favoured us with the following particulars, which we doubt not will be found interesting to the public and useful to the miners :—

Rocky River.

The first licenses issued to diggers at the Rocky took place in December, 1858. Since that time, nearly 15,000 have been issued, giving an average of a trifle under 310 per month.

McDonald River.

The McDonald, near Bendemeer, has been prospected to pay about 10s. per day each man. There is no one working there at present.

Carlisle Gully.

This gully has been prospected to pay about 10s. a day per man. No one working there at present.

Tilbuster Creek.

This creek, which is quite convenient to Armidale, has been prospected to pay from 10s. to 15s. per day each man. In 1853 about twenty individuals were working in this locality; but there is no one at present.

Cameron’s Creek.

On this creek, as many as thirty persons, at least, have at different times been working. Generally speaking, the average yield has been considered about 10s. per day each man, but patches paying over half an ounce per diem to each digger have been found. This locality will, in all probability, prove to be alike a rich and extensive gold field. The gold is coarse and scaly.


During the last few months, from 50 to 100, and lately a much greater number of diggers, have been working on this gold field. The average yield is not accurately known, but experienced miners have great faith in its eventually turning out an exceedingly profitable gold field. It is only reasonable to expect, from the number at present there, and which is rapidly augmenting, that the Government should place a force on the field for the protection of the miners, under the charge of a resident commissioner.

Mount Mitchell.

There have been a few parties working here for the last few months. It is not known to a certainty what the average yield has been, but probably from 10s. to 20s. per day.

Glen Elgin.

This is a very promising locality. A few men have prospected there, and state the yield at about 20s. per day each man. The principal difficulty on this field is a superabundance of water, combined with a substratum of sand in many places.


This locality has been very indifferently prospected. It is generally believed that 10s. per day each digger could be readily obtained, with every prospect of a more remunerative field being soon discovered.

Various other localities.

Parties have prospected and found gold at Rock Vale, Ward’s Mistake, Dundee, Salisbury, Yarrowick, and various other localities, not omitting Armidale township, but from a deficiency of particulars that can be depended on, I will not hazard an opinion respecting their auriferous capabilities.

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April 8, 2010 at 8:08 pm

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Mining around Guyra

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Tuesday 18 July 1905, The Sydney Morning Herald

GUYRA, Monday.

Mining is being pursued in different parts
of the district with fair results. Several
fossickers on the Oban are making wages. The
Guyra Syndicate's silver show at Green
Gate is being developed, and is looking well
in the face. Great things are expected from
this find. There is a deal of new country in
the vicinity of this mine that is worth pros-
pecting, as it has been proved that gold and
antimony exist. Some good tin is being ob-
tained at Back Creek.

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April 7, 2010 at 2:02 pm

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