SKETCHES OF THE PRESENT STATE OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA.
No. XXI. - KOORINGA.
February 16th.— The township of Kooringa, in which the great Burra Burra Mine is situated, is in the county of Stanley, and forms portion of a spe- cial survey of 20,000 acres taken by two Companies
of proprietors, of whom the South Australian Mining Association became the fortunate possessors by lot of the northern half; the southern half falling to the lot of the Princess Royal Company. This township, scarcely more than four years old (the Mining Company being only established in 1845), is already thickly populated with persons, almost all dependent on the neighbouring mine and Smelting Works. It is laid out in a valley through which runs the Burra Creek, and is separated by hills from the mine, which lies in another valley, a short distance beyond. Two other villages, or rather collections of dwellings, called Aberdeen and Redruth, also extend along the creek in question. This creek, with its habitations in, not on, the banks on both sides, forms one of the most singular spec- tacles ever beheld. The miners, in the true spirit of burrowing, to which their habits incline them, have excavated dwellings like rabbit-holes, in lines, as thickly under the banks of the creek as they could be placed ; a foot or two only intervening be- tween the several habitations, sometimes merely a mud bank as division wall. Some have one room, others more ; all have one or more chimneys, formed on the bank top, and in most cases of barrels cemented in mud ; some are of mud only, a few of wood formed square, and a very few of brick. All these chimneys rise up at intervals like tree stumps in a roadway, and the public path runs along the banks and over the housetops. Sometimes these chimneys protrude before you only just in time to be avoided as you step aside, while their reeking smoke rises into your very nostrils. These rabbit-burrows are also variously constructed ; some have mere holes for doors or windows ; some have substantial doors and glazed sashes ; a few have shingled verandahs, and many are whitewashed outside ; while some, in addition, are papered and carpeted within. A person named Magers, in particular, has a carpeted room in his subterraneous dwelling. The sight of the busy industry of the inhabitants of the creek, on each side of the saffron-coloured stream from the mine constantly pouring down, is very curious; washing and hanging out clothes, scouring pots, and other domestic occupations being visible at every frontage. The population of Kooringa, Aberdeen, and Redruth is about 4,300 persons, of whom, it appears, 2,600 inhabit the creek — an immense majority. The total population of the locality had been over- rated till the late census returns. The closely packed portion of the inhabitants occupying the creek, is, according to medical authority of ex- perience, unhealthy, as infantile diseases are greatly prevalent ; but this system of locating seems too rooted to be easily eradicated ; and it would be a revolution, indeed, which should enable this mass of mortality to shift its abode ; a dislodgment, how- ever, may sooner or later take place under very alarming circumstances. The rise of a heavy flood in the creek, from the winter rains, would submerge this whole subterranean city, wash out all the families, and render the dwellings a waste of mud, dirt, and copper-washings, available only, after a long period, to a renewal of the mania for burrowing in the very same spot. On the actual occasion of such a catastrophe 70 or 80 families were washed out ; and goods and money swallowed up to some amount which can never be reclaimed, One person is reported to have lost .£300 in specie ; but this may be a fable. It was, however, told to us con- fidently that some of these creek bank burrowers could produce.£2,000, realized by early workings at the mine. To sum up — there are not fewer than 600 tenements teeming with life, subject to an awful casualty. Fancy the rise of the creek and its con- sequent effects. Why, it equals the madness of living under Mount Vesuvius, in full reach of the lava, cinders, and ashes. Fire or water — each a miserable master. At all events, it cannot be con- sidered that these creeks have invested their sub stance in a Savings Bank. The town itself contains one main and several transverse streets, and abounds with good shops and stores. A great number of small rows of houses had painted numbers on the doors; we observed these higher than 100 ; we were told they belonged to the Company. The total number of houses is about 430, exclusive of those in the creek. There is a church of the episcopal establishment ; the Rev. J. Pollitt is the incumbent, whose parsonage is about a mile beyond the smelting works. There are also chapels of the Wesleyans, Independents, and Roman Catholics, and schools belonging to each ; one of the Sunday-schools was attended by more than 150 children. The episcopal church can accommodate at least 250 persons. The trade of this place is conducted with a private circulating medium of local promise notes. The Burra Company issues notes ; the Copper Company does the same ; those of £1 or higher distinguished by colour. The tradesmen, of course, follow the same system, and Boord Brothers and Hutchens, storekeepers, issue their respective notes. All are payable in cash in Adelaide. Little other money is current, and silver is scarce ; but as the store keepers' notes (now before us) are as small as 10s., and- 7s. 6d., the want of change is remedied. There is a total absence of every species of cultiva- tion in this singular region. Fruit and vegetables are brought to this place from long distances. Mr. Hawkins's garden at Bungaree (20 miles off) fur- nishes peaches, nectarines, and other fruit. What we saw were not large, and the peaches were cling- stones ; they were, however, ripe and good ; free- stone fruit would hardly bear the carriage. Bethany, as we have noticed in speaking of that village, sends large supplies of peaches, chiefly from Fiedler's market garden, and such other fruit as will stand a journey of more than 70 miles. There is a Local Court for this district, of which Mr. Lang is the Stipendiary Magistrate, as well as Commissioner of Police ; and one or two legal prac- titioners reside here, as well as four English medical men,- Messrs. Chambers, Bull, Hill, and Lloyd, and two German practitioners. The town contains four inns, all the property of Mr. Paxton ; there is a fifth in Aberdeen, belonging to a different proprietor. The chief of these inns is the Burra Burra Hotel, at the entrance of the town from Adelaide. Its appointments are first-rate, and all its arrangements upon the principles of an English inn of a high class. This system of admirable hotel management is a novelty in this colony, and cannot as yet be, per- haps, and certainly is not, sufficiently appreciated. We are inclined to think that of the numbers who frequent this inn, few, perhaps, have for a long time past practically known the sterling comforts of so well conducted an establishment. The liberal table and the collateral luxuries, which in England form the essentials of elegant comfort, must of course be expected to be compensated ; those who have reluc- tantly abandoned such comforts may find them here.
A very spacious room has been recently attached to the hoteL It is more particularly built for a "Free- mason's Hall," but it is in use for public meetings. Its length is 50 feet, by 30 feet wide, and 15 feet high, and it is, we believe, the largest room in the colony ; in saying this, however, we do not recollect the dimensions of the Adelaide Exchange. We were conducted through the spacious cellars, abound- ing in a large supply of wine, liquors, and other tavern stores, from the Burra Directors' Port, down to a collection of hams, loaf sugar, pewter pots, glass, and crockery. On the day of our arrival a public meeting had been held in the Hall, touching the. choice of a representative for Kooringa, but it had adjourned without a decision ; Mr. Paxton, called for on requi- sition, had declined to stand, and from the strong feeling here expressed openly against any other Burra Director, it will be difficult to predict who is likely to be elected, or, indeed, to come forward with any chance of success. Mr. Kingston, we under stand, is spoken of as likely to be in the field ; we should suppose him to be a person well qualified. On the evening of this day (February the 15th), there was a discharge of the electric fluid in flashes of almost incessant occurrence, more vivid and more intense than any which the oldest colonists here (and there were, some early ones among us who were standing to view this magnificent spectacle) can re- member to have seen. The blaze and splendour of the corruscations from the south were almost blind ing, but very little thunder followed. A smart rain fell briskly for about an hour, but left no marks of its effects in the morning. To-day (Sunday the 16th) we attended divine service in the church, which was most respectably filled both morning and evening. The Rev. Mr. Pollitt preached two excellent sermons (extempore) well adapted to the nature of his congregation, and the singing was accompanied by a seraphine. All the assembly appeared remarkably orderly and at- tentive. The mail to this place comes in every weekday except Monday. February 17th — Of the Burra Burra mine — the world's great wonder — it might seem useless for us to attempt any sufficient description, most particulars respecting it being well known to persons taking an interest in such subjects. We however decide, non obstante, to record our own impressions on viewing it; which obstinacy may excusably arise from a long sojourn in the colony, a feeling for its interests, and a want of opportunity, up to this hour, of personal observation. We had made a cursory survey of the mine and its situation on the 15th, but on the 17th we went to visit it in detail, and worked our way in and out among the numerous busy spots, where the ore was extracting from the various shafts, commencing with Captain Roach's. Our companion descended King- ston's old shaft, which was in full work, and ascended by a new shaft, after winding and wading through various passages in this labyrinth of excavations. We next saw the ore crushed, jigged, and washed, and then laid out, to be assayed, weighed, and bagged for smelting. We then ascended the engine house and its various stories to view every part of the steam-engine, which is of 53 horse-power. The water pumped up here at Roach's Shaft is not good, barely drinkable; but from some shafts a flow of very sweet and good water is obtained. The circling whims, with their horses in brisk motion, the buckets alternately racing up and down, the barrows rattling on tramways to deliver the con- tracted ore, the crushing and jigging, the engine in motion, and the drays at work or arranging in rows and relieving their horses, of which a hundred were often turned loose together in a large yard, and all looking well fed ; the busy employment of the indi- viduals in front of the various houses and scattered dwellings, among others that of Captain Roach at the end of a row with its neat green palings ; the Company's offices, where all seemed in a bustle, and the continual passing of men and boys among the piles of ore; altogether formed a scene new and striking to us on this our first visit to the "Great Burra Burra." We obtained some lovely specimens, particularly a few splendid ones of malachite which abounds in this mine ; and we returned, wondering as well at all these things as at the employment given to 900 persons in these works. From the mine we proceeded in the afternoon to the Smelting Works ; but Mr. Williams, the Su perintendent, was absent, not to return till evening ; and as these works are not shown without an order, we left our credentials in the office, and appointed to call on the morrow. Feb. 18. — We set out to-day to inspect the Smelting Works of the Patent Copper Company, and a clerk handed us over to a Mr. Jones, a good looking, as well as good-humoured Welshman, from Glamorgan ; in whom the copper-fires do not appear to have made any reduction of a goodly presence. Jones showed us everything worth notice in this remarkable place. We had scarcely, however, ap- proached the refining department, to which Jones conducted us first, before we were politely accosted by an extremely hot-looking individual, who re- quested in limine, to acquaint us of a certain custom of visitors here, which consisted in giving the workmen as much as we pleased — the more the better. After satisfying this tribute, the hot indi- vidual withdrew, to imbibe internally that moisture, the outward expenditure of which his trade obliged him to. We now entered the pandemonium of refinement : there are three large refining furnaces ; from whence we saw the pure copper extracted in red hot ladles; we then saw the moulds receive each ladleful, forming one cake, which, before hardening, was stamped P.C.Co., by a boy with a brand ; with this brand Jones himself operated upon the copper cakes, in exemplification. From this place we were conducted to a large shed, where the several cakes, forming the contents of a mould, were separated with a hammer by another boy. This separation produced a number of flakes, or laminæ, which strewed the ground, and which, we were told, were collected and smelted again. We were now shown into the smelting department, of 16 furnaces, in three ranges, in two of which ranges the flues run underground, and have one common vent in a beautiful brick chimney of ex- cellent workmanship. Here we were again informed of a custom extremely similar to that prevalent in the refining branch, namely, to pay equal tribute : we referred, delicately, to what we had before done; but were further informed that there was no com- munity of sentiment between the two parties, which we (silently) regretted- Having adjusted this affair, we traversed all the ranges of this second pandemonium ; saw furnaces roaring, ores roasting, copper and slag cooling, and men stoking and poking on every side, while out of doors wood was being delivered to the mouths of the devouring monsters, ready at hand to feed the fires ; while drays, loaded with wood, were arriving every instant, and were seen from every distance, to replenish the forest of cut logs and long wood piled up, circling the whole area of the works, and filling every available space. We understood the consumption to average 150 tons daily, a load
being two tons ; but there were instances in which drays (very large and strong, we conclude) brought five tons for a load, and we pity the bullocks. All this wood comes from the Murray Scrub, seven miles east of Kooringa. To the Murray River the dis- tance is 55 miles, as a friend informed us who had travelled it on horseback. The road is not bad, and at Baldina, about 20 miles from Kooringa, is water. Beyond Baldina, for the remaining distance, the country is wholly without it. The number of per- sons employed in these works is several hundreds, but we could not learn how many. Mr. Williams's residence had a very light and villa-like appearance as contrasted with the dark works ; and viewed in front, from a distance, bore no bad resemblance, in its arched upper story, to a pigeon-house on a large scale. We visited Mr. Pollitt's parsonage this morning. Mrs. Pollitt we had the pleasure of seeing, but the reverend gentleman was absent on a mission to marry his reverend friend Mr. Bagshaw, at Pen- wortham. This parsonage-house will be a good one when finished, but complaint was made of the delay. Fourteen, miles from this place, on the Broughton River, are the farm and residence of Mr. Bristow Hughes, called Bundalere. Captain Hughes also is located about 20 miles from Kooringa ; but, though so near the Burra Mine, he said that he had never yet found time to visit it. We purpose to proceed to Clare to-morrow on our return south-westward.