In The Paths Of The Explorers
Gold Brings Australia Wealth
Written and Illustrated by ALLAN M. LEWIS
"Come in" said the Colonial Secretary, sitting in his Sydney office
one day in April, 1851.
HARGRAVES is my name,"
a tall black-bearded bushman in- troduced himself. He placed on the table a small package. Wrapped inside it were seven tiny grains of gold.
Those few grains
meant much to Australia, and also to Hargraves.
Presence of gold in Australia had been whispered abroad before, but Government offi- cials kept all find- ings secret for fear of disorganising the young colony. This Colonial Secretary, however, saw a great future for the country when Har- graves proved his theory that Aus- tralia was a vast storehouse of gold.
been in the California gold rush and knew gold country, when he first saw it, round Bathurst.
The news spread like wildfire, and soon the race was on from coast to gold fields. Flocks were left un- tended, drovers deserted their teams, merchants and lawyers rushed from their desks and entire ships' crews, captains included, marched off to seek their fortunes.
The precious metal was found in many ways — sometimes by simply washing sand in a tin dish (a method Hargraves introduced from Cali- fornia). It was also hammered out of gold-bearing quartz and occasionally
picked up in nuggets just under the earth's surface. The "Welcome Stranger" nugget was 24 inches long by 10 inches thick. It yielded 2,248 ounces of pure gold valued at £9,934.
Never before in history had gold been found in such huge quantities.
Fortune-hunters came from the four corners of the globe. Australia in- creased her population five times over in a period of 20 years. Wealth poured into the treasury coffers. In Victoria alone in the year 1852 miners washed gold in their dishes to the value of over £9,000,000.
Not all the diggers were successful though. After a time many disap- pointed men left the fields. On one occasion a group of miners threatened to drown Hargraves for having mis- led them! Daring robberies took place and bushrangers flourished, but among the miners themselves there was a certain code of honour.