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THE DISCOVERY OF BENDIGO
FROM OUR MELBOURNE CORRESPONDENT.)
Thursday, 11th September.
The Select Committee to consider the claims of
Mr. Henry Frencham to be considered the dis- coverer of the Bendigo Goldfield, sat to-day at Parliament House, and consisted of Mr. Bailes (in the chair), and Messrs. Gordon, Cameron, Ben nett, A. Young, Fosterr and Burrowes.
Mr. Frencham, examined, said the field was known as Bendigo before any gold was discovered there. The first report of the discovery of gold was taken to Forest Creek by his partner, Ross, who was a reporter on the "Daily News" at Castlemaine, and was commu nicated to Mr. Howard, the Castlemaine correspondent of the "Argus." This was about ten days after the actual discovery. There were not many on the ground at the time that he found payable gold there, in fact no one but the station hands; though he believed there was a man and his wife living in the locality and also a cooper. The parly he took upto the goldfield con sisted of five or six members and a bullock driver. Frank Macdonald, whose brother was a settler in Melbourne, first told him it was a good place to prospect in. He recollected a man called One armed Ryan, he might have been at the station previous to his coming from Ballarat to Forest Creek. Never knew of any excitement caused by the discoveries of this One armed Ryan until he read
an account of them in the Bendigo Advertiser
in 1888, and which were referred to by Mr. Fenton in his letter. When he made the discovery that
the creek he was trying was payable, Atkinson, one of his party, went down to Forest Creek with the news. Did not recollect a man named New- man being in the district at the time, though he might have met him. People were not often known by their surnames then, everyone was Tom, Dick or Harry. The ground he first worked was not deep, about 6 feet, sinking on the bank of the creek. There were two women washing in the creek with milk dishes when he comuienced work there, but they did not interfere with him nor assert they had any right to it. They were Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs Farrel, wives of men on the station. He noticed a break in the slate reef, and con- cluded that some work had been done there, but not much. The place might have been worked for a month. The bottom of the claim he first opened was of gravel and stiff clay; no pipeclay there. If he visited Bendigo now he could show where he first started to work. It was in a rivulet not far from the third White Hill. There the bottom was pipeclay, and 30 feet of cement had to be sunk through.
At this stage the evidence became somewhat confusing, owing to the committee endeavoring to extract from the witness whether it was at the rivulet near the third White Hill or at Golden Gully he first worked. He was subsequently understood to say it was the former.
Mr. Frencham's examination continued :
He got good gold half a mile from the place at which the women were washing. A black trooper (afterwards referred to as the black boy) was the first to show his partner Ross where good gold could be got. Atkinson, Ross and himself started to work the creek near White Hills. The rest of the party did not come on the field until the 28th of November, trying other ground. They were all on Bendigo on the 2S)th November The black boy showed Ross the gold he had found on the 7th December. The report in the "Argus" that Frencham'j party was doing the best on the field referred to the gold the}' wero getting at their claim near White Hills. He was quita ready to admit that Atkinson and Ross were entitled to as much share of the credit in history of dis covering tbe field as himself, and of any reward, but ha had not claimed any reward for them, as
thpy were dead.
Mr. Foster : But they may have left representa tives. If the Government gave a reward of £1,000, should not their representatives take ono-third
The letter of Bendigo to the "Argus" was then put in, and read by the 3ergeant-at-Arms. It described the meeting of indignation at the pro- posed doubling of the licensee fee, and the part Mr. Frencham took therein.
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Mr. Fincham continued The letter he con tributed to the "Argus" also appeared in the " Geelong Advertiser" and "Daily News," Castlemaine. He didnot make his claim until 1867, three years after the proclamation. He had a list of witnesses at that time, but all of them had since died. Mr. Bailes said he had received a letter from Mr. Welch, saying he had no evidence to give. Mr. Fincham said Mr. Welch was not on Bendigo at the time. He was a compositor in the " Argus " office. He had several times urged his claims since 1S(S7 to different Ministers of Mines. Mr. Mackay, when in ollice, told him he had better proceed by petition to the House. One leason why ho had slumbered on his claim was that he had abandoned mining for years, and took up a cattle station on the Upper Yarra, and as his former partner, Atkinson, was absent in tbe South Seas, he did not like to put in a claim by himself. He was aware that the Royal Commis
sion sat and took evidence as lo who were the first discoverers of gold. Mr. Burrowes said there was a Goldtields' Reward Board ap pointed, which notified that no applica tion for rewards would be entertained unless made within a certiin time. Benjamin Hawkins Dodd, an engineer, said he was working iu 18.r)l at Specimen Hill at the head of Barker's flreek, at the Forest Cieek diggings with George Green and Robert Walker. Walker obtained in formation of the discovery of gold on Bendigo, and they decided to go there All the direction they had was to inquire for Fincham's claim near the Porcupine. They subsequently found where Fincham's party were sinking, and took up a claim close to the Black Boy, called aftfr the black trooper before referred to, from which 30 lbs weight of gold had just been takon out. Fincham's claim was then at the bottom of Golden Gully at' tho rocks Golden-square bounded by tha creek on one side. After hearing further evidence from Mr. Dodd, the committee, adjourned to next Thurs day.