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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.

Written by macalba

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


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.

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.

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April 11, 2010 at 8:08 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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