Discovery of the Turon Diggings and Lewis Hill — Matrix Gold — Bathurst — Ophir

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Discovery of the Turon Diggings  and Lewis Hill — Matrix Gold — Bathurst — Ophir Empty Discovery of the Turon Diggings and Lewis Hill — Matrix Gold — Bathurst — Ophir

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AUSTRALIA AS IT IS, ITS SETTLEMENTS, FARMS AND GOLD FIELDS.

By P. LANCELOTT, ESQ. 1852.


Quality of the Gold — Flight to the Diggings — Rise of
Prices — Reaction — Discovery of the Turon Diggings
and Lewis Hill — Matrix Gold — Bathurst — Ophir —
Enormous piece of Gold.

The natural dam, or bar, as it is called, just
below the junction of the Lewis Ponds and
Summer Hill Creek, was, at this period, the
principal seat of the miners. These creeks take
their rise in Frederick Valley, in Bathurst
county, 153 miles from Sydney. The country
around is wild and rocky, and too poor for
cattle pastures. The gold here obtained (and
it may be taken as a specimen of Australian
gold generally) gave by the Royal Mint process
of dry assay: gold, 91.100; silver, 8.333; base
metal, 0.567. The gold is, therefore, of 22
carats, value £3 17 s, lO 1/2d., and contains 1 dwt.
16 grs. of fine silver to the ounce, value 5^d. ;
making the value of Australian gold £3 1 85. 4d.
per ounce.
By the 26 th of May, so rapidly had people
collected, that it was estimated that about
1000 were already at work on the Summer
Hill and Lewis Ponds Creek, and lumps (or, as
they are locally termed, nuggets) were found
weighing from 1 oz. to 4 lbs. each. The
continued influx of the golden treasure, produced
in Sydney a Californian excitement.
Merchants, lawyers, and tradesmen closed their
offices and shops; and clerks, mechanics, labourers,
and men of all classes and conditions,
threw up their situations, and leaving their
families behind, started for the diggings; and
whole crews deserted from the ships in the harbour.
The government found it expedient,
for a period, to raise the clerks' salaries 25 per
per cent, and added 1s. per day to the pay of
constables and other subordinates. The merchants
and tradesmen in Sydney, and many of
the squatters and agriculturists also, raised the
wages of their servants. Within a week, the
Sydney prices of flour, tea, sugar, rice, tobacco,
boots, and warm clothing, rose 25 per cent.
Throughout the towns only, provisions and
diggers' tools and clothing were saleable. All
who could, and many who could not handle a
spade or pick, were off, or preparing to be off to
the gold mines ; the roads to which were crowded
with travellers, from magistrates, lawyers, and
merchants, to labourers and runaway sailors,
mixed up in one confused assemblage, with carriages,
gigs, drays, carts, and wheelbarrows.

At this period it was much feared that the
labourers would desert their vocations for gold
hunting, and that all kinds of vice would be
rife at the diggings : even the newspapers prognosticated
the overthrow of order, and the reign
of brute force. But these gloomy forebodings
were speedily dispelled by the gleams of a
bright future.

On the 2nd of June, Mr. Commissioner
Hardy arrived at the mines, where he issued
licenses, and collected fees without opposition,
and turned away several sly grog sellers, and
seized on their stock. Henceforth numerous
police, mounted and foot, paraded the banks of
the streams, where Mr. Hardy reported as much
good order prevailed as in the capital itself.
Few cases of drunkenness, and no Californian
skirmishes occurred : only a few licensed publicans
were permitted to sell fermented liquors ;
the Sabbath was carefully observed, the laws
were respected; and the highly commendable
morality and good conduct of the miners gene^
rally, strikingly contrasted with the savage violence,
the Lynch law, and the brute force said to
be dominant at California.

The gold fever which raged in May was of
short continuance. Early in June the weather,
which had been previously favourable to mining
operations, set in cold and wet, flooding the
creeks, filling the gold holes, and rendering the
exposed life of the diggers, many of whom were
" camping" in, or under their drays, highly un-
pleasant and dangerous. Consequently, numbers
were disheartened, and abandoning gold seeking
in despair, returned to Sydney, giving so
woful an account of their toils, privations, and
want of success, that by the middle of June a
complete reaction had taken place in the public
mind. But although the first excitement seemed
to have passed away in the colony itself, an
emigration had set in from Melbourne, Adelaide,
and Hobart Town ; and more than 800 souls
arrived in the colony in the course of a month.
Most of these, however, were so discouraged by
the accounts afloat at this period, that they
either returned by the earliest opportunity, or
took to pastoral or agricultural employment.
By the middle of July the want of labour was
no longer felt, crews had ceased to desert from
their vessels, and business generally was in-
creasing. This calm, although but of short
duration, was of service to the colony, and
enabled all classes to perceive that anarchy and
ruin was not to be dreaded on the one hand.
nor the accumulation of fortunes without toil
and privation on the other. Prices of necessaries
fell to their former standard. The government,
the merchants, and the employers gene-
rally, reduced the salaries and payments of their
clerks and labourers ; and to meet the probable
exigencies of an increased population, the agriculturists
sowed a much larger breadth of wheat
than usual.

Towards the close of June, the rich Turon
diggings were discovered. A shepherd in the
employ of Mr. Richards, a wealthy squatter, re-
siding in the vicinity of the river, picked up some
gold near Lewis Hill ; the discovery got noised
abroad, and in the course of a few days hundreds
were at work in the river's bed, which has proved
the most productive, and surely remunerative, of
the Eastern Australian gold fields. In Summer
Hill Creek the gold is always large in the grain,
often massive, seldom thin and scaly. At the
Turon, with few exceptions, scale gold only
occurs. Then the Summer Hill Creek has its
barren strait reaches, and its profitable slopes,

whereas in the whole course of the Turon the
production of gold appears to be as regular as
wheat sown in a wheat field. No sloping elbows,
no narrow long gorges. It does not matter where
in the bed of the river or the impending banks you
work, any steady working-man can with ease earn
10s. a day with the utmost regularity, and many
make an average of twice or thrice this amount.
The success of the miners at the Turon
and Summer Hill Creek induced the land and
the stock holders in other districts, to offer re-
wards for the discovery of gold in the immediate
neighbourhood of their property ; indeed, it was
generally apprehended that all labour would be
traced to this new source of wealth, and that
all property not in the vicinity of gold mines
would become much depreciated in value. This
example was followed by the neighbouring
colonies ; and rewards, varying from several hundreds
to £1000, were offered by private sub-
scribers, and by the governments at Melbourne,
Adelaide, and Hobart Town, for the discovery of
new workable gold fields.
Sydney had scarcely recovered from the excitement
which Mr. Hargraves' revelations raised
in May, when it was again thrown into a state of
ferment by a rumour that a lump of gold, whose
weight far exceeded anything which the most
sanguine had expected of the Australian diggings,
had been found in the neighbourhood of the
Turon mines. The Bathurst mail of the 15th
of July brought a confirmation of the report,
which was immediately published in the Sydney
newspapers, whence the following account is extracted: —
" Mr. Suttor, a few days previously,
threw out a few misty hints about the possibility
of a single individual digging £4000 worth of
gold in one day, but no one believed him serious.
It was thought that he was doing a little harm-
less puffing for his own district and the Turon
diggings. On Saturday it began to be whispered
about town that Dr. Kerr, Mr. Suttor's brother-
in-law, had found a cwt. of gold. Some people
believed it, but the townspeople generally treated
the story as a piece of ridiculous exaggeration.
The following day, however, set the matter at
rest. About two o'clock in the afternoon two
greys in tandem, driven by W. H. Suttor, Esq.,
M.C., made their appearance at the bottom of
William Street. In a few seconds they were
pulled up opposite the * Free Press' office, and
the first indication of the astounding fact which
met the view was two massive pieces of the
precious metal, glittering in virgin purity, as
they leaped from the rock.

" The townspeople were on the qui vive, and
about 150 were collected around the gig to catch
a glimpse of the wonder. The two pieces spoken
of were freely handled amongst the assembled
throng for some twenty minutes, and the vehicle
was pointed out as containing a square box, the repository
of the remainder of the cwt. of gold. It
was then conveyed to the Union Bank of Australia.
In the presence of the manager, David Kennedy,
W. H. Suttor, and T. J. Hawkins, Esqs., and the
fortunate proprietor, Dr. Kerr, the weighing commenced,
Dr. Machattie officiating, and Mr. Far-
rand acting as clerk. The first two pieces
already alluded to weighed severally 6 lbs. 4 oz.
1 dwt, and 6 lbs. 13 dwts., besides which were 16
drafts, of 5 lbs. 4 oz. each, making in all 102 lbs.
9 oz, 5 dwts. From Dr. Kerr we learned that he
had retained upwards of 3 1bs. as specimens, so
that the total weight found would be 106 lbs.,
all disembowelled from the earth at one time.

" The locality where the gold was found is the
commencement of an undulating table-land, very
fertile, and is contiguous to a never-failing supply
of water in the Murroo creek. It is distant
about 53 miles from Bathurst, 18 from Mudgee,
30 from Wellington, and 1 8 to the nearest point
of the Macquarie river, and is within 8 miles of
Dr. Kerr's head station. The neighbouring
country has been explored since the discovery,
but, with the exception of dust, no further indications
have been found."

The gold was found by an educated Aboriginal,
who, provided with a tomahawk, had
amused himself by exploring the country adjacent
to his employer's land. His attention
was called to the lucky spot by some glittering
yellow substance upon the surface of a block
of quartz, forming an isolated heap, which
was lying about 100 yards from a quartz
vein, stretching up the ridge from the creek.
He applied his tomahawk, and broke off a
portion, when the splendid prize stood revealed
to his sight. He instantly started off home,
and disclosed his discovery to his master, who,
as may be supposed, was on the ground quick
as horseflesh would carry him. In a very
short period the doctor carried away three
blocks of quartz, containing 106 lbs. of pure
gold. The largest of the blocks was about a
foot in diameter, and weighed 75 lbs. gross.
Out of this piece 60 lbs. of pure gold was
taken. Before separation it was beautifully
encased in quartz. The other two were some-
thing smaller. The whole of the masses were
supposed to weigh upwards of 2 cwt.

Not being able to move it conveniently, Dr.
Kerr broke the pieces into small fragments,
and herein committed a very grand error. As
specimens, they would have been invaluable;
for, from the description given by him as
seen in their original state, the world has
seen nothing like them yet. It is but justice
to Dr. Kerr to add that he liberally rewarded
the faithful Aboriginal for the discovery, and
the frank surrender of the treasure.

It now became evident that gold existed
in the matrix, which might pass into the
hands of individuals much to the prejudice
of the Crown. In this instance the finder of
the 106 lbs. of gold was not even the holder
of a license, and Dr. Kerr had removed the
ore from Crown land, of which he was only
the renter. The government authorities there-
fore took possession of the gold; but they
returned it again on the receipt of a bond
for a royalty of 10 per cent, and the fol-
lowing additional gold regulations were issued :



" Colonial Secretaries'
Office,
Sydney,"
Augusts,
1851.

" With reference to the proclamation of his
Excellency the Governor-general, bearing date
the 22nd day of May last, and to the notice
from this office of the 23rd of the same month,
his Excellency directs it to be notified that the
licenses issued in accordance therewith, to dig,
search for, and remove gold from its natural
place of deposit, will in future be limited in
their operation to alluvial gold, whether consisting
of dust, grain, scale, or lump gold;
and will not extend to matrix gold combined
with quartz, or any other rock remaining in
its original bed or situation. Pending the
establishment of regulations for the working
of gold of this latter description, which will
speedily be prepared and published, a royalty
will be charged on the quantity obtained of
10 per cent, if found on Crown lands, and
5 per cent if on private lands. These rates
will be computed on the actual produce valued
at £3 45. per oz., if procured by separation
only, and £2 8s. per oz. if by amalgamation.

" 2. Previously however to the working
of any such matrix gold, notice must be given
to, and a written permission obtained from,
the Commissioner or Assistant-Commissioner
of the gold district, who will require such
security, and make such arrangements for the
protection of the public interests, as ^ he may
deem necessary. If the parties concerned fail
to give the required notice or security, or to
observe the arrangements prescribed by that
officer, all such matrix gold, and also all alluvial
gold of every kind, procured without due
authority, will be seized as the property of
the Crown, in whose possession soever it may
be found ; and the persons offending will
render themselves liable to be prosecuted for
the offence.

" 3. In conformity with the principle laid
down in the provisional regulations of my
last, above referred to, no person will be
allowed to work matrix gold on private lands,
except the proprietors thereof, or such persons
as they may authorise in that behalf; but in
other respects, these regulations will be held
to apply to all such private lands.

" By his Excellency's command,

"E. Deas Thomson.''

The road from Sydney to the Turon and the
Summer Hill mines is more level and in much
better condition than might be presumed from
the nature of the country through which it
passes. After journeying over level plains for
a distance of 35 miles, we cross the Nepean
river, when the road winds up the Blue Mountain
range, through a wild romantic region.

Few houses are met with, but there are inns
at suitable distances on the road-side. The
first halting-place beyond the Nepean is " Wilson's
Inn," at the 20 miles hollow, and hence
the road winds up to King's Table-Land, when
after journeying for several miles along the
level summit of the range, which is of sand-
stone formation, we arrive at the "Weather-
board Hut," a small but commodious inn, and
near which is the cataract of the "Regent's
Glen," and a picturesque valley, surrounded by
precipitous cliffs 1 000 feet in height. The country
around exhibits a scene of wild solitude and
desolation, which is perhaps unequalled in the
world. Masses of interminable forest, towering
spurs and ridges, and high rocky steeps, over-
hanging yawning chasms, winding gorges and
ravines, deep, gloomy, and profound, meet the
eye of the onward-hound traveller, in wild succession.
About ten miles beyond the " Weather-
board Hut," is the pretty village of Hartley ;
passing which, we reach the junction of the
Mudgee Road, which is the most direct tract to
the Turon. Five miles onward the road passes
over Mount Lambert, a precipitous ridge ; be-
yond this, we cross the Honeysuckle range,
then enter Meadows Flats, where the formation
changes from sandstone to granite, and after
travelling over Green Swamp and the Macquarie
Plains, arrive at the town of Bathurst,
the central depot of the diggings.

There is a tolerable road from Bathurst to
Ophir, on the Summer Hill Creek, and also
another to Sophala, the projected township on
the Turon. Summer Hill Creek varies from
about 50 to 80 yards in width. On its banks
are sloping hills, which rise from the bed of
the creek to the height of about 500 feet ; this,
in a commercial sense, is a great disadvantage to
the district, as, until a road is cut on the hill-
sides, horses and vehicles cannot approach the
diggings.

The Turon is, in this respect, better situated,
as between its bed and the Lewis Hill range
there is a tract of level country sufficiently wide
for all commercial purposes, and which, near
the junction with the Macquarie, forms excellent
natural wharves.

The scenery of the Turon is more ample and
imposing than that of Ophir ; the hills, which
in many places are well-wooded, rise to the
height of about 1000 feet, with broad sloping
valleys between. The Turon, and indeed all
the water-courses of Australia, are subject to
very irregular supplies of water. In the rainy
season (winter) they frequently become rushing,
roaring torrents, and in summer they cease to
flow, when the secondary streams become dry as
high roads, and the Turon, the Summer Hill
Creek, and other similar rivers only contain
water supplied, as is supposed, by springs, in
deep holes or ill-shaped wells that occur in irregular
succession in their beds. The detritus at
the bottom of these ponds, or water-holes, as
the colonists call them, has proved to be very
rich in the precious metal ; it, however, lies too
deep to be procured in the ordinary way by
manual labour. To raise it, suitable dredging-
machines would be required, and with these, and
large amalgamators worked by steam, a company or
a partnership of wealthy individuals
might count on enormous returns.

As an additional facility of transit, and
security to the public, the local authorities
established mails with an armed escort, which,
every other day, Sundays excepted, leave the
diggings for Sydney. But the charge for
conveyance, one per cent, the government not
being responsible for losses from any cause,
deters many from availing themselves of the
proffered protection ; indeed, the roads are so
safe, and the feeling of security is so great, that
single individuals fearlessly travel with large
sums, and as much as £1000 or £1500 is frequently
conveyed to Sydney by the ordinary mail.

The first shipment of gold had been made
towards the end of May, on board the * Thomas
Arbuthnot the estimated value being £800.
By the 15 th of August the amount shipped
was calculated at 8329 oz. which, at the average
value of the gold entered at the Sydney
customs, would be worth £28,110 7s. 6d.
The exports of gold rapidly increased. They
had reached £70,000 on the 19th of August,
£150,000 on the 6th of September, £219,000
on the 8th of November, and about £500,000
at the end of December.

Since September, several new and productive
gold-fields have been discovered the number
of persons at the mines has greatly increased,
and the produce of gold has been proportionately
enhanced. In November a mine was discovered
on the Wentworth estate, near Summer Hill
Creek, from which a single miner in one day
raised £500 worth of gold. Immediately after
the discovery the "golden lode" was closed.
and a company formed in Sydney for effectually
working the mine. Lumps or nuggets of gold
were frequently found at Louisa Creek, at
Oakey Creek, near the head of the Turon, and
at Ophir. A large lump found near the spot
in which Dr. Kerr's 106 lbs. had turned up,
was 9 inches in diameter, 21 inches in circumference,
weighed 336 oz. and sold by auction in Sydney for £1,155.

Taken from the book

AUSTRALIA AS IT IS, ITS SETTLEMENTS, FARMS AND GOLD FIELDS.
By P. LANCELOTT, ESQ. 1852.


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