Old news from Armidale and New England

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Dividing Fences Bill

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Tuesday 8 July 1862, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser

NORTHERN GOLD FIELDS.

(Abridged from the Armidale Express, July 5.)

THE ROCKY RIVER.

On Monday, the 23rd June, a public meeting was held at the Sir Wm. Denison Hotel, for the purpose of eliciting opinion respecting the Dividing Fences Bill.

Resolutions to the effect that the bill is inimical to free selection, and that the existing law relative to dividing fences between freeholder and freeholder is sufficient for the present necessities of the colony, were passed, and embodied in a petition to the legislature.

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May 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm

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Bank in Armidale; Duffy again; Saumerez; Rocky Gold

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Monday 9 June 1856, The Sydney Morning Herald

(From the Armidale Express, May 31.)

A BANK AT ARMIDALE. – We are surprised that none of the Sydney Banking companies have thought of establishing a branch at Armidale. There is little or no fear of such an undertaking proving unprofitable to any energetic company ; and at the same time great advantages would accrue to the district at large from an establishment of this kind. It cannot be too strongly dwelt upon that the district of New England is at present in a more prosperous state than any other part of the colony. The gold fields of the northern districts are being rapidly enlarged ; and there is no prospect whatever of their being worked out for many years to come. The difficulties attending the establishment of a bank here would not be so great as those that have already been surmounted in the colonies. Branch banks are numerous on all the principal gold-fields of Victoria. Mails from Sydney arrive twice a week at Armidale-thus affording ready transit for unsigned bank-notes in any quantity, and also for any specie that might be required. If one of the Sydney banking companies would send an agent to Armidale, we believe they could soon be convinced of the profitable field open here for banking enterprise.

THE GAVAN DUFFY TESTIMONIAL. – The second public meeting of the friends and admirers of Mr. Charles Gavan Duffy was held at the Royal Hotel, Armidale, on Thursday evening last. Mr. Furnifull proposed the first resolution, as follows :- “That this meeting acknowledges the advent of Mr. Charles Gavan Duffy to the Australian colonies as an expected political benefit-therefore he should be received as a friend and benefactor”. The motion was seconded by Mr. Oxenham, and carried unanimously. The second resolution was proposed by Mr. Hamilton, seconded by the Rev. T. McCarthy, and passed with acclamation “That this meeting views with pleasure and delight the arrival of Mr. Duffy in these colonies, believing that from the fact of his possessing strong moral and social feelings, combined with a powerful intellect, and the circumstance of his having devoted these to the promotion of the great cause of civil and religious liberty, we cannot but anticipate much good from his presence amongst us”. The Treasurer reported the receipt of subscriptions amounting to £66. Mr. Furnifull was requested by the meeting to act as corresponding secretary.

SURVEY ON SAUMEREZ. – We have great pleasure in stating that the District Surveyor is now laying out farm lots on Saumarez Creek, beginning at the old Wash Pool, a mile above Saumarez head station, and thence upwards. The lots will average 50 acres each, and will all have frontage on Saumarez Creek.

ROCKY RIVER DIGGINGS. – The news from the Rocky Rives continues excellent. A new lead, which promises to become very rich, has been opened near Mount Welsh.

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May 9, 2011 at 8:39 pm

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Rocky River; Duffy fund

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Monday 2 June 1856, Empire (Sydney)

(From the Armidale Express, May 24.)

FATAL ACCIDENT. – We regret to state that a fatal accident occurred on Friday (yesterday), at the Rocky River diggings, by which a person named George Vickers, better known as “Yorky,” lost his life. We understand that Vickers was riding on a dray, which capsized, and a part of it falling upon his neck, instant death was the result. The deceased was above sixty years of age.

RICHNESS OF THE ROCKY RIVER DIGGINGS. – We have received information from the Rocky River to the effect that the quantity of two pounds weight of gold to the load has been washed out recently ; and that in one instance thirty-six ounces were obtained from one load. We have every reason to believe that the above information is authentic.

GAVAN DUFFY QUALIFICATION FUND. – On Tuesday evening last, a preliminary meeting was held at Mr. B. Naughten’s, Royal Hotel, Armidale, for the purpose of assisting in the qualification of Mr. Charles Gavan Duffy for a seat in the Legislature of Victoria. The meeting was thinly attended – no doubt owing to the evening being rainy. Mr. B. Naughton moved, seconded by Mr. J. Patterson, that D. Byrnes, Esq., take the chair. The Chairman read the advertisement convening the meeting, and clearly and forcibly explained the object for which they had met. He hoped that Mr. Duffy’s friends and countrymen in New England would rally round and assist in placing Mr. Duffy in an independent position, so that his distinguished abilities might be made available to the colonists. After some further appropriate remarks the chairman sat down amidst great applause. Mr. Naughton and other gentlemen then addressed the meeting, Mr. N. objected strongly to the conduct of those who refused to support the present movement, because Mr. Duffy had given the preference to Victoria in choosing his future sphere. He thought they were narrow-minded in so doing (cheers). After a committee had been appointed, a vote of thanks was given by acclamation to the Chairman, who briefly returned thanks. The sum of £44 19s. was collected at the close of the meeting.

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May 7, 2011 at 8:09 pm

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The Gold Fields report

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Saturday 7 June 1856, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser

Council Papers

(Report from the Acting Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Northern Districts.)

Crown Lands Office,

Armidale, March l8, 1856.

SIR-I do myself the honor to inform you that the new diggings, near the Rocky River Gold Fields, are still progressing favorably.

2. Out of a population of about 200 working men actually upon these diggings, I could only hear of a few solitary instances of failure.

3. Enclosed I beg to forward you, for the information of his Excellency the Governor General, a Return shewing, as nearly as I could ascertain from the parties themselves, the number of shafts sunk, the number of men employed, the quantity of washing dirt obtained, the value of the same, and the value of the same per bucket, together with the aggregate and average value of the whole washing stuff.

4. This return shows an average value of the dirt to be over 2 dwts. per bucket ; and this, together with the fact of there being so very few failures, seems certainly to indicate rich and extensive Gold Fields, which only require the immediate superintendence of a Gold Commissioner, who would actively employ himself in furthering the development of the auriferous wealth of this district.

5. I may add, that it is reported another and rich diggings have been discovered, about five or six miles to the westward of the Rocky River, but I have bad so much official business to attend to, that I have not yet had time to visit this reported new diggings. – I have, &c.,

G. D. SKARDON,

Acting C.C. Lands. The Chief Commissioner of Crown Lands.

RETURN, showing the number of Shafts sunk, the quantity of washing dirt obtained, and the aggregate and average value of the same, by twelve parties, on the new diggings, known as “Jones’ Diggings,” at the Rocky River.

RockyRiverDiggings

G. D. SKARDON
Acting C. C. Lands, Crown Lands' Office,
Armidale, March 18,1856.

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April 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm

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Uralla. A New England Wool Town

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Saturday 8 December 1928, The Brisbane Courier

By Our Special Representative.

Uralla, situated at an altitude of 3337ft. above sea level, derives its wealth mostly from wool, although the granite and volcanic soils are favourable for the growing of English fruits. Uralla is about 400 miles from Brisbane on the direct route between the Queensland capital and Sydney.

THE first business premises of this New England wool town were established In the early ‘fifties, and since then the township has grown to considerable dimensions. The present population is about 400, and the community is municipally governed. Very keen interest is manifested in Brisbane and its markets, the main line from Sydney to Brisbane carrying much produce, other than wool, to the Northern market. One illustration of the gaze northwards is a big sign at the entrance to the town setting out that the “Brisbane Courier” may be purchased at the local newsagent’s.

EARLY DISCOVERIES.

Uralla and its contiguous district were discovered by Oxley in 1818, when he was journeying across the southern portion of the New England Tableland towards the coast. The great explorer wrote of the country as beautiful park lands, and to-day the same apt description holds good, for the open forest has been preserved to a great extent in its natural timbered state, wholesale timber destruction not being adopted. The early explorations and discoveries led to an influx of colonists, and notable developments took place in the early ‘thirties. Squatters came forward during these years from the Hunter, including H. C. Collins, who took up the Walcha run, Edward Gostwyck Cory, who took up Gostwyck. Terrible Vale was taken up later. It is rather difficult to follow the actual trend of settlement, or how each squatter worked out his destiny in the shuffle and reshuffle of boundaries. William Dangar took up a run in the same area, and the executors of his descendants’ estate still administer the affairs of Gostwyck. Probably Cory altered his boundaries or sold to Dangar. At all events both family names are now part and parcel of the Uralla district, landmarks and localities bearing their names. Other settlers followed-men of all ranks and professions trying their luck. There came a time of pastoral depression, both land and stock becoming almost valueless. Permanent improvements took the place of haphazardness when the 1847 leasehold system of tenure was enacted, and real settlement commenced. The sour nature of some of the country has been overcome, and the improvement in the breeding of sheep has helped considerably to minimise the severity of the winters. The advance of white settlement gradually caused the depredation by natives and the raiding by bushrangers to cease, and steady development took place up to the present. The call for closer settlement has been so insistent that the big holdings have become shrunken in comparison to their former proportions, but the move has been good, and the small men have made great strides.

MINING.

The Uralla district also has played its part in the production of gold. The Rocky River field was discovered about the ’50’s, and 538 licenses for mining were issued in 1853. When the search was at fever heat about 5000 persons were on the field. In the first 16 years 118,824oz. of gold were won, of the value of £467,293. These figures were taken from the official escort returns, and do not include parcels taken away by individuals. Up to the present the gold won from the Rocky River field amounts to nearly three quarters of a million sterling. Another field, known as the Melrose, was opened in 1889, samples of ore returning lloz. to the ton. It is claimed that payable gold exists in this area, but requires modern methods to properly work it.

FRUIT.

In a country with a climate such as is enjoyed at Uralla the possibilities of agriculture in many branches are evident, and the granite and volcanic soils favour the cultivation of English fruits. It would not be correct to say that the district is free from pests, but they are under organised control, and are a minor trouble compared with some other fruit areas. In addition to fairly extensive fruit production by private enterprise, there is a group of ex-soldier settlers at Kentucky, some 10 miles from Uralla. Passing through their settlement one notes that success has been attained. The homes are comfortable, the orchards well kept, and an air of content is general. Brisbane is a market for much of the Kentucky fruit, which is always in great demand on account of its clean and healthy state.

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March 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm

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The Hanging Rock

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Tuesday 21 October 1856, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser

These diggings, although not much spoken of, or attracting great attention, are not to be despised. The diggers are doing a quiet stroke, and pocketing their nuggets without making a fuss about it, with this advantage over the Rocky, that the work is neither so laborious nor the sinking such a depth. The gold being sent by the mail, or by private parties, no accurate amount of the weekly produce can be arrived at.

We are in receipt of the following letter from the Rocky, from our townsman, Mr. Levien, which fully confirms the information as to Sawpit Gully:

To the Editors of the Maitland Mercury.

Dear Sirs – It is with much satisfaction that I advise your numerous subscribers, through the medium of your journal, of the discovery of a very rich tract of auriferous land at a place called Sawpit Gully; it is situated to the right of Mount Jones about one mile, and appears to be a continuous “lead” of the mountains already worked. The diggings in question am at present only bottomed in the gully, but holes are going down in the mountains on either side, where it is supposed the shafts will require an average depth of 55 feet. The prospects in the gully claims are excellent, yielding 2 to 4 dwts to the dish, but it would not be advisable for diggers to come up purposely for this spot, as there must be over 2000 claims already marked out, and before they could arrive it would be impossible to to get at all near the desired locality. My own impression is, this rush will prove superior to either Mount Jones or Mount Welsh, and so very sanguine are all here of success that four stores are already going up, and application has been made to the Commissioner for permission to remove one public house and leave to erect another. If any of your readers are acquainted with the Armidale road if will be sufficient to say that the place is about two miles from “The Barley Fields,” to the left, going towards Armidale, from Mr. Samuel McCrossin’s Inn. There are beautiful specimen’s of quartz in the mountain – one of which I forwarded last post to Mr. L W. Levy – and also a sample of the gold, which appears exceedingly bright and pure.

Sydney Flat, a continuation of this lead, is also spoken of as proving equally rich. I cannot learn the truth of this rumour now, but you may calculate on the earliest intelligence if it proves – as I hope – a fact.

I should have advised you of the rush to Sawpit Gully last post, but refrained from doing so until the claims were in some measure worked to prove the many idle rumours at first afloat as to the richness of the digging. All I can now say is, I have personally conversed with at least one hundred of the diggers, and all substantiate the above.

I see some correspondent, in one of the journals, blames the Commissioner, and says he is seldom seen. This is not true. The Gold Commissioner’s quarters are certainly badly selected, and now this new rush has been made, must be altered, as he is placed at least three miles from the civilised portion of the diggers, his only companions being the Chinese and the cockatoos. We want him in the midst of us; but I can certainly bear witness to his exertions and to his most courteous and gentlemanly conduct to the diggers indiscriminately.

The Escort starts to-morrow for Sydney. I think there will be a still larger amount of gold than by last escort go down this trip. The next shall show the advantage of the new rush.

I sincerely hope my suggestion, that a practical geologist may be sent here, will be taken into consideration. It is spoken of that emeralds, ruby, sapphire, garnet, and other stones – antimony, and other minerals – are here. Much labour might be saved by the knowledge of the science, and further discoveries in valuable products made known; thus developing the resources of the colony, and by degrees assisting in emancipating us from the name of colonists to that of a mighty nation. Individuals would give a trifle to hear of a rich claim, why not our Government !

I am, dear sirs, yours faithfully,

ALFRED LEVIEN.

Rocky River Diggings, Oct. 14, 1856.

P.S. – Immense rain has fallen this last few days. I think the heaviest hour’s rain I ever saw was on Tuesday last, and yesterday it rained all day very violently at times. I have now been here three months, and it has rained almost every second day since I arrived. The roads are described as fearful about Kentucky, and I have no doubt they are so.

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November 10, 2010 at 8:06 pm

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Hunter River District News

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Tuesday 27 May 1856, The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser

(From the Armidale Express, May 17.)

CIRCUIT COURTS,-The great inconvenience experienced by the inhabitants of the Northern districts of the colony, from the want of Circuit Courts nearer than Maitland, has a very injurious tendency, inasmuch as serious crimes have repeatedly been overlooked, solely on account of the difficulties and expense of prosecuting them, at Maitland. Maitland is 250 miles from Armidale, and persons accused of criminal offences are often sent there from a much greater distance than Armidale. It is surprising that, although the inhabitants of the Northern districts have complained of this (great grievance.for years past, the Government have remained inert, and little has been done towards removing it. New England is rapidly acquiring an extensive population. At the Rocky River diggings, alone we believe that there are from twelve to fifteen hundred people, and this number is being augmented every day. There is every prospect of such an extensive development of new gold fields in this district, that the population must largely increase. Geologists are of opinion that the greater part of New England will yet be proved a gold- producing country. With such facts before us, it requires no prophet to foretell a large accession to our population – in fact, our present numbers may be trebled within the next year. In whatever different lights, the occupation of gold digging may be viewed, there is one subject on which people generally will agree – that much greater facilities for the commission of prime are presented at diggings than in the midst of well-ordered, settled communities. A vigorous movement has been going on for some time past respecting Circuit Courts at Tamworth. We consider they are necessary there also. Tamworth is 175 miles from Maitland, and is the capital of the Liverpool Plains district. It is consequently, as the centre of a large tract of country, possessing already considerable population. Although only 75 miles from here, there is very little connection between Tamworth and Armidale. Liverpool Plains and New England are separate and distinct from each other; and we think that, instead of any jealousy existing about which should gain the establishment of Circuit Courts – thereby throwing the other out of consideration – the inhabitants of both out to combine their best efforts to obtain assizes for each.

CENSUS FOR ARMIDALE AND THE POLICE DISTRICT.-The following is a comparative statement, based upon the official census returns for the town and police district of Armidale, for which we are indebted to the courtesy of Mr. Bligh, C.P.S. :-

              1856.                   1851
Armidale. -     Males..... 499}  858     Males}  556
                Females... 359}        Females}
Remainder of
police dis-         Males 1971} 3020     Males} 2759
trict of Ar-      Females 1049}        Females}
midale ...                      ----            ----
Total population of police dis. 3878            3315 

From the above statement it will be seen that the increase in the population of this township during the past five years has been – Males, 170; females, 132; in the aggregate 302, or about 52½ per cent. In the remainder of the police district the increase has been – Males, 111; females, 150; in the aggregate 261, or nearly 9½ per cent. We think the above results are nothing more than might be expected to accrue from the influences to which the district has been subjected during the period referred to. The main deduction from these premises are that the number of persons in the township has increased in the ratio of five to one, as compared with those occupied in pastoral pursuits ; and taking into consideration the fact that the occupation of gold digging employs a considerable number of those set down for the district population, it may fairly be assumed that the pastoral interest in this district in the year 1856, employs a smaller number of people than it did in 1851.

GOODS BY THE CLARENCE LINE. – During the past week, four heavily loaded drays have passed the Express Office, from the Clarence. We have also been informed that a dray lately arrived at Hillgrove, from Grafton, bringing up supplies and a family. These are proofs, amongst many others, that the Clarence line might be made a most desirable road for the transit of goods and produce to and from New England.

THE ROADS. – We have been informed by a gentleman who had occasion to travel over the Moonbies lately that the condition of the roads about that locality was scandalous. There were nine drays waiting at the foot of the first pinch until the road should dry – two of the drays having families with them. The road at the time was so extremely bad that our informant believed fifty bullocks could not have taken up a loaded dray. He also stated that he had passed on the road about 150 men, women, and children, bound for the Rocky River diggings.

THE ROCKY RIVER. – The diggings here are going ahead greatly, and the number of fresh arrivals is astonishing. On Tuesday last I saw a specimen of gold in quartz-not one speck only, but completely encompassing the stone. It is a handsome specimen, and I suppose worth about £2. The finder declared he procured it on these diggings. Our population is increasing with extraordinary rapidity : we want population to open up the hitherto undeveloped resources of New England. It is the opinion of most persons that New England is a gold field more or less, throughout. I have heard of several parties who have struck upon fresh discoveries of the precious metal outside the limits of the diggings. All parties appear doing well, a proof of which is the extraordinary demand for buckets, ropes, shovels, calico, and all sorts of digging tools. Two or three accommodation houses have been opened-one, in particular, which deserves that liberal support its enterprising proprietor is sure to receive.

Rocky River, May 14.

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August 23, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Armidale area population and gold

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Monday 19 May 1856, The Sydney Morning Herald

(From the Armidale Express, May 10.)

POPULATION OF ARMIDALE. – The census returns for the New England district are not yet fully revised, but we have been favoured by Mr. Bligh, C.P.S., with an approximate return of the population of the town of Armidale, as follows :-Males 499, females 359,-total 858.

LICENSES ISSUED AT THE ROCKY RIVER.-We are indebted to the courtesy of Mr. Skardon for the following interesting information in reference to the number of licenses lately issued at the Rocky River, and also the population located there : -“Number of licenses issued during April, 390 ; licenses issued up to two o’clock p.m. of Wednesday, 7th instant, 461. Number of men, women, and children, on the Rocky River gold field on 31st March last, 676. The above official information is correctly given, by permission of the Commissioner of Crown Lands for New England (B. C. Merewether, Esq.). – G. D. SKARDON”.

ROCKY RIVER. GOLD FIELD.-The news from the Rocky River diggings is good. A new place has been opened at Mount Harris, near the police barracks, where, we are informed, four ounces of gold have been procured from one bucketful of earth. The diggers generally are doing well. The population is fast increasing.

GOLD NEAR ARMIDALE -A Mr. Winstanley called at the Express Office a few days ago with about six grains of gold, which he stated he had washed out of a half-panful of earth procured about one mile and a half from Armidale. It is rather rougher than that usually found at the Rocky River. Any one can see it by calling at our office. Since then, a resident of Armidale, who had been prospecting about one mile from the Express Office, called with the gold he had procured from a handful of earth. It is uniformly fine, and would weigh about three grains. It is also in our possession. The Saumarez run, between Armidale and the Rocky River, also presents excellent indications of a good gold field.

GOLD FIELD NEAR MOUNT MITCHELL.-Our readers may recollect that the first number of the Express contained an account of gold having been found in paying quantities near Mount Mitchell. Mr. Henry Green, a brother of Mr. W. Green, the discoverer, called at our office yesterday, and favoured us with the following information ; -He was sent for by his brother after the discovery, he having more experience in gold digging. The two brothers have been working occasionally of late. In about eight days’ labour of one man they procured five ounces of gold, which Mr. Henry Green sold in Armidale yesterday. It is rough, of a granular form, a little water-worn. Our informant has had much experience in gold digging, having been at the Victoria, Bingera, Rocky River diggings, &c, &c. He is of opinion that the Mount Mitchell diggings will prove the richest in New England. He says there is both fine and rough gold, and that the former can be procured almost anywhere on the hills. He is further of opinion that from 10s. to £1 a day can be secured without any difficulty. Yesterday week he got three-quarters of an ounce, working by himself with a cradle, and carrying the stuff in a tin dish from some distance, where he had stripped off a foot of the surface. Fine gold was plentiful in the grass roots. Mount Mitchell lies to the eastward of Ben Lomond, near the head of the River Mitchell, a tributary of the Clarence. It appears that this gold field is about sixty-five miles from Armidale. Mount Mitchell is about seventy miles in a straight line from Grafton, which is the shortest route for parties from Sydney, &c, who have little to carry.

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June 16, 2010 at 8:25 pm

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Gold and mud

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Monday 11 May 1857, The Sydney Morning Herald

THE GOLDFIELDS OF NEW SOUTH WALES.
[FROM OUR SPECIAL COMMISSIONER.]

No. 6.

FROM OBAN TO THE ROCKY RIVER.

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.

Written by macalba

April 14, 2010 at 8:02 pm

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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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