OLD STORY RETOLD.
THE GOLD ERA BEGINS.
JAMES ESMOND'S "FIND"
Into the straggling little village of Gee-
long on July 5, 1851, rode the man who, in spite of the claims of numerous rival prospectors has since been given credit for having first discovered alluvial gold in pay-
able quantities in Victoria. He was Mr. James Esmond, a coachdriver, of Bunin- yong who had not long since returned from a visit to the Sacramento district, in Cali-
fornia. The similarity of the soil in the Clunes district and that on the Californian goldfields convinced Esmond that alluvial gold existed, and the evidence which he took with him on his long ride to Geelong persuaded the most sceptical of his friends that he had indeed made the wonderful discovery for which the residents had longed ever since gold had been found in the neighbouring colony of New South Wales.
Warned by the unseemly behaviour of the goldseekers on the Ophir, Turon and Bat- hurst fields which had been discovered by Mr. Edwin Hammon Hargreaves, a farmer, of Conobolas, near Bathurst, the authorities in Melbourne, though not ob- structing those who searched for gold, did their best to prevent the population from becoming unduly excited over the reports which had been received at intervals about gold bearing quartz. In these efforts they were supported (at first) by the more soberly minded residents. Afterwards, of course, when Clunes, Ballarat, Forest Creek, and Bendigo were opened up and the golden flood came pouring down to Mel-
bourne, it seems as though all restraint was removed, and even the "superior
classes" joined in the mad rush to the
It is not difficult to reconstruct the scene as Esmond, his eyes sparkling with enthu- siasm and his features flushed with excite- ment, dismounted from his horse, and call-
ing few friends together opened his parcel and displayed its precious contents. Nor is it difficult to imagine the excitement of the residents when the news spread like wildfire through the village. "Mr. Esmond has arrived from Clunes with real gold!" So much for the Jeremiahs who said contemptuously that the metal would never be found in Victoria! The people gathered in groups in the rough thorough- fares eagerly canvassing the possibilities of Mr. Esmond's marvellous discovery, which had been made five days earlier (on July 1). Without delay an "express" was sent from Geelong to Melbourne, carrying a special despatch. "The long sought treasure has at length been found" gleefully wrote the chronicler. "Victoria is a gold coun-
try, and from Geelong goes forth the glad tidings of the discovery. Mr. Esmond arrived in Geelong with some beautiful specimens of gold in quartz, and gold dust in a debris of the same species of rock The specimens have been subjected to the most rigid tests by Mr. Patterson in the presence of other competent parties, and he pronounced them to be beyond any possi-
bility of doubt — "pure gold!" To this unequivocal statement the special corre- spondent of "The Argus" at Geelong added his own opinion. "There is not the slightest doubt of its being the real thing!"
PREVIOUS "SHAM" DISCOVERIES.
The pastoralists of New South Wales had been disgusted by the avarice of the gold seekers of that colony. Their enthusiasm was so infectious that it threatened to dis- rupt the affairs of the whole community. Authority and respectability in Melbourne and Geelong agreed to do everything pos- sible to prevent an outburst of hysteria in the event of a real gold discovery in Vic- toria. For several years pastoralists and others had searched for gold in a desultory fashion, and several "sham" discoveries had been reported. In 1844 a shepherd named Smith thought that he had dis- covered gold near the Ovens River, and reported the matter to Superintendent Latrobe, who advised him to say nothing about it. Gold said to have been found by a shepherd in the Pyrenees Ranges was ex- hibited in a jeweller's shop owned by Mr. Brentani, in Collins street. Mr. Bren- tani who had purchased the gold, was in-
ticed to accompany the shepherd back to the Pyrenees. Several diggers also went, but all failed in their search, and it is thought that the shepherd was an impos-
in March, 1850, Mr. W. Campbell of Strath Loddon, found on the station of Mr. Donald Cameron, of Clunes several minute pieces of native gold in quartz. This was concealed at the time lest it should bring undesirable strangers to the run, but on January 10, 1851, Campbell dis- closed it. Others had found indications of gold. Dr. George H. Bruhn, a German physician, whose services as an analyst were in great demand, had been shown specimens of gold from what after- wards became the Clunes diggings. In spite of these and other discoveries, how- ever, it was impracticable to market the gold, and Esmond's "find" which was made on Creswick's Creek, a tributary of the Loddon, at Clunes on July 1, was actu- ally the first instalment of the wonderful wealth which was won from the ground in the succeeding years.
The people of Victoria had been rather annoyed because gold had been found first in New South Wales, and they formed a committee of which the mayor of Mel-
bourne was chairman to stimulate the search. There is a remarkable discrep- ancy between the rewards given to Har- greaves and Esmond. Among the rewards given by the Gold Discovery Committee was £1,000 to Hiscock as the substantial discoverer of the Ballarat deposits, £1,000 to Campbell as the original discoverer of Clunes; £1,000 to Esmond as the first actual producer of alluvial gold for the market, and £500 to Dr. Dr. Bruhn in acknowledgment of his services in exploring the country and diffusing the information of the dis- covery of gold. Hargreaves received £10,000 from the Government of New South Wales for discovering the Bathurst fields, and £2,381 from Victoria. It is a remarkable coincidence that Hargeaves and Esmond, who had gone to California, partly to ex- amine the diggings and partly for a holiday,
were shipmates on the return voyage. One authority states that what induced Esmond to prospect the Clunes district so thor- oughly was the similarity of the soil there to that of the Sacramento Valley, in Cali-
fornia; another points out that Hargreaves saw the same resemblance between the Canobolas and Sacramento country.
RUSH TO THE DIGGINGS.
Almost within a few hours of the spread- ing of the news in Melbourne men begun to leave for the new "diggings." Esmond had remained in Geelong apparently only long enough to hear the result of the assay; then he was off post haste for Clunes. By August 1 between 300 and 400 diggers were encamped upon the field, notwith- standing that it was an exceptionally wet and stormy month. Esmond and Kavanagh (or Cavenagh), his companion were well established but there were few great individual successes. Enthusiasm be- gan to wane, particularly as there were no stores and the difficulty of carting provisions over the miry bush tracks began to tell upon them. The gains did not seem to warrant the hardships, with the added risk of starvation, and the number was speedily reduced by one-half. The temporary desertion of the field was ac- celerated by the announcement, on August 8 that Thomas Hiscock had lighted upon another treasure trove near Buninyong.
Latrobe now began to find difficulty restoring order. First one field and then another was discovered and opened, and the life of the little colony was disrupted. The effects were really alarming and dis- tressing, and poor Latrobe was at his wits' end. Men of every station flocked to the fields deserting whatever employment or prospects they had elsewhere. Melbourne and Geelong were almost without able- bodied men, and the women were forced to group together to keep house. Increased rates of pay were promptly voted for the public service but even these inducements were in many cases disregarded.
The bands of adventurers who swarmed into Victoria in the succeeding weeks suggest a bloodthirsty, polyglot, pirate crew swarming over the sides of a gal- lant merchantman to plunder her holds. Huge numbers of diggers streamed from one field to another. As soon as police protec- tion was provided at Clunes the diggers deserted it in favour of Buninyong. When a staff was organised for that field the diggers flocked to Ballarat. From the remote districts of the Upper Murray and the mountain fastnesses of Omeo, from near and far swarmed the goldseekers to heighten the drama of the fields.
But what of Esmond and Kavanagh? We read of them working in partnership at Clunes and obtaining 50lb. (troy) of gold, worth nearly£2,500 in two days. By the middle of September Esmond had reached the Ballarat diggings with Ka- vanagh and a party from Clunes. A few days had peopled the district with 120 diggers. Tents and huts stretched along the margin of the Buninyong Gully. The change was astounding, resembling more a dream than an actuality. The most re- markable era in the history of Australia had begun. The whole population seemed to have caught the fever and wonderful
"finds" were constantly made. Let us close this brief chronicle with the con- tents of an "express" from Geelong on September 29, 1851:—
The whole town is in hysterics. Gentle- men foaming at the mouth, ladies fainting children throwing somersets, and all this on account of the extraordinary news from Buninyong. On Saturday afternoon two gentlemen arrived from the goldfield, bringing the bewildering intelligence that a party of six had procured in one day £900 worth of gold."