Full Record

The Ashburton Gold Discovery Interesting particulars Gold export The Collie coal
Record no:
11 August 1890
Kept:Press clippings book 1, p. 42



Main Camp, June 26.
The Main Camp of the Ashburton River gold beginnings is situated on a
creek fifteen miles south of the river, about 40 miles south-east of

Bresnahan’s station, and two miles from the gully known as "The
Prospectors' Gully," which contained the first gold found in the
neighbourhood.  The gold was discovered by the Messrs. Ford, Wilson, and
Campbell, in the latter part of 1889.

The discovery was made public about the beginning of April.  The
prospectors are said to have had the gully to themselves for five months
before their rich find got wind.  The first party that arrived after them
mustered between 20 and 30, all of them were successful in finding gold,
but not in anything like large quantities.  Men have been pouring in ever
since, as fast as the means of doing so will allow.  There are now about
600 men here and in the neighbourhood, looking for gold.  Gold has been
found in this creek, but in patches, including a 59 oz and a 30 oz and
other small nuggets.  Many barren claims, or nearly barren, have been
worked in the creek, which has been well turned over for a distance of
three miles.  The whole ground in the Prospectors' Gully has been turned
over several times, and now two men with a dry-blowing machine are working
at any bit of unoccupied ground they can find, and are saving good fine
gold.  Owing to the scarcity of water and distance from water holes, most
of the "separation" is done by dry-blowing by means of two dishes, or a
riddle and a dish, or simply a dish and a sack, or even a dish and a
shovel.  Many men dry-blow about three-fourths of the contents of their
dish and put the remainder in a sack, which, when full, they will take to
the water.  There are many old diggers here who have never seen dry-
blowing before.  Besides the original gully and this creek, gold has been
found on other gullies, but not in the same richness.  "Duffer Gully,"
running on the opposite side of the same hill as the Prospectors' Gully,
has yielded small quantities of gold and a 17 oz nugget.  The last named
was discovered about the middle June.  "Kelly's Gully" has three fairly
good claims in it.  The "Lawyer's Gully" has provided tucker for a few.
Other small gulleys [sic] not dignified with names, have rewarded the
exertions of a few hardworking men, but only in a small way.  Gold has not
been found, and indeed barely looked for at any depth, bottom being
generally struck at one of two feet down.  The gold is generally found
lurking in little crevices and between slabs of slate.  A "bar" of slate,
striking into the gully or creek from the side, is considered a likely
spot.  The digger will immediately clear away a clean face, and strip the
bar, taking care to scrape with a knife and sweep with a small broom every
crevice and corner, also all the dirt lying between the slabs of slate,
with the hope of saving fine gold.  Most of the nuggets have been found
lying between the slabs.  But many a man has almost polished the slate
without finding anything.  The general opinion is that the gold has not
travelled far, but has come from the high, rocky, steep, slate covered
hills, which arise up on all sides in strange profusion.  As far as the
neighbourhood is concerned, the place is certainly worked out.  The man
who is earning his tucker is fortunate, the man who makes wages is very
lucky, and the man who does any more is simply one in a hundred.  Rushes
in various directions have been very common during the last fortnight.
Men had gone out for days together, carrying a small supply of provisions
with them and a blanket, and have gone wandering over hills, which were
only made for wallabies or Welshmen, looking for a rush, the existence of
which they only knew by rumour and the direction of which still less.  Men
will go out day after day prospecting over as much country as they can,
digging a pot hole here and a pot hole there, and returning at sundown
tired and disgusted.  This appears to be about as probable a point as gold
is likely to be found at.  It is reported to have been discovered North
and West of here, but not East.  All are agreed that the country for many
miles in those directions, especially in the Nor'-West, bears a decided
gold bearing appearance, and well warrants prospecting— but proper
prospecting.  A man without horses and plenty of money has a very poor
show.  There are few well-equipped small parties out now, and something
good may turn up.  But it is not likely that any one find will support
many men, or, indeed, that many men will hear of any find before it is
worked out, as great secrecy is maintained.  The man on foot, unless he is
of exceptional strength, has to can confine his prospecting to a small
area, owing to the scarcity of water and the difficulty of carrying much
weight, besides one's tools, amongst these hills.  The country during the
latter half of the road from Onslow has a good gold bearing appearance.
There is no warden here, or magistrate, or policeman, but I have not heard
of a single row or fight.  Perfect order reigns, as also does good health.
 The weather is beautiful.  The men retire early and are mostly up and
away before or by sunrise.  There is very little grog sold.  Mutton is 4d
a lb, having been 6d, and beef is 6d.  There are two butchers.  Flour is
10d a lb., tea 3s, sugar 1s, preserved potatoes 1s 6d, salt 1s, rice 1s,
and oatmeal 1s 3d per lb. There are two stores and two new ones opening.
Hundreds of men are reported to be on the road.

June 28.
There have been many fresh arrivals during the last few days, principally
from Roebourne and Nullagine.  Also many departures and much talking of
departing.  Arrangements are being made with teamsters to carry swags.
The horse tailer has promised to bring in the horses to-day, in which case
a large number will leave to-morrow.  Several, including myself, intend to
do a bit of prospecting on the road down.  There is much talk of a rush in
the neighbourhood of Bresnahan’s.  If there is anything in it, we will go

During the last few days two or three hundred have left the main and upper
camps, some of them ostensibly to leave the country, but presumably for
the new rush in the vicinity of Bresnahan’s.

I have just heard of the death of a young man, named George Marsh, of
Bunbury, a strong young fellow, aged about 26.  He was suffering from
dysentery and laid out all night in the rain, shortly before his arrival
here.  Fever set in, he became delirious, and died a few days after his
arrival.  In his delirium he would rise in the night and fancy himself
still with the dray, and would say, "Is the dray going to start?"  and
another time, "I wish this journey was at an end."  As one of his
companions said, "His journey is at an end, poor fellow."  He died just
below my camp, and was buried across the creek.

June 29.
I left the camp to-day with a small party, with the intention of paying a
visit to the new rush on our way down.  We found the new rush about eight
miles this side of Bresnahan's.  There were about 60 or 70 men there.  The
digging was seven miles from water.  The amount of gold obtained was so
small as not to enable the men to pay for the carting of water.  I left it
almost immediately, in company with the prospectors who first found gold
in that spot.  They described the gold as being small and very patchy, and
not worth stopping for.  They were on the road to the port (Onslow) with a
goodly team of pack-horses, to which they constantly added on the road
down, to get stores, to go out on a fresh and long prospecting expedition.

One great and beneficial result will ensue from the Ashburton gold find,
and that is that the Nor'-West will receive a good prospecting — certainly
much better than it has ever before received.  Several hundred men —
probably about seven hundred — had invaded the country, many of them well
provided with money to which some of them have been fortunate enough to
add a few ounces of gold.  Comparatively few of these have returned, and
quite half of those remaining are exploring the country for many miles
round.  Those districts in the neighbourhood of the Lyons, the Henry,
Mount Mortimer, and the Hardy, receiving the most attention — particularly
the two latter.  All are of opinion that something rich which will be
found somewhere, and many are hanging on in that hope; but it may, and
probably will, take some time first.

July 21.
Arrived at Onslow, having stopped a few days at the stations on the road.
There are twenty or thirty men here, some boarding at the hotel, some
camped, and some waiting for the steamer, which is not expected for seven
or ten days and some waiting for stores.  They are all making themselves
as happy as is possible under the circumstances.

August 3.
Between the sailing of the Otway on the 11th July and of the Franklin on
the 3rd of August, there were over 30 men staying at Onslow, miners who
had come down to leave the fields and North West altogether, others who
had simply come to bring horses, saddles and stores in order to make long
prospecting expeditions, and some who were fortunate enough to have
sufficient gold to make it worth their while to undertake a long journey
in order to sell it.  Among those camped at Onslow were some who were
there simply to enjoy the society of their fellow men.  However
questionable an enjoyment that might appear to others, they seemed to
enjoy themselves and to find it extremely difficult to tear themselves
away from the allurements of the whiskey bottle (a few drank sarsaparilla
or lime juice) or the excitement of the sporting game of "Heading 'em."
One or two enterprising men made an honest living by dry blowing the sand
and were often rewarded by finding one or two little nuggets of gold with
the Queen's head embossed thereon.

There were also teamsters buying up stores to cart to the field.  Some big
loads of potatoes, or "spuds" as they are called in the vernacular, and
onions were taken up.  According to the latest accounts there were still
six or seven hundred diggers in the neighbourhood of the Ashburton.
Probably two or three hundred of these are out prospecting, well equipped
with horses and stores for months.  Some are exploring the Lyons, some the
Hardy and the country round, others the Henry, while one party of well-
known prospectors are making for the head of the Gascoyne.  The remaining
four or five hundred are scattered over the two original camps on the
Prospectors' Gully and the Main Creek, the new rush situated about sixty
miles this side of Bresnahan's station.  According to the lastest accounts
there are a good number camped on or near Mount Mortimer, about 45 miles
beyond Hardy Junction, where gold is said to have been found.  This
mountain has had the attention of many prospectors for several months.
Very few miners, comparatively speaking, have left the goldfields entirely.


The following are the particulars of gold shipped per s.s. Franklin, which
left Fremantle on Saturday for the eastern colonies: — For Adelaide.
Consignee: J. Wyles, one box gold of 207 ozs.  For Melbourne.  Consignees:
Union Bank, four packages gold of 1702 ozs.; National Bank, one box gold
of 480 ozs.; Commercial Bank, one box gold of 303 ozs.  Total, 2,692 ozs.


Mr B. H. Woodward writes to us regarding the Collie coal, as follows,
under date August 8: — "Having received from Mr David Hay a bag of the
Collie coal to test in the furnaces, I beg to be allowed to publish the
results in your valuable paper, as the use of this coal is a matter of
public interest.  Igniting the coal in a cold furnace with a little wood
in the ordinary way, I obtained a sufficient temperature to melt gold
within forty minutes, and then was able, within twelve minutes after, to
fuse a second quantity of that metal.  I kept the furnace at a white heat
for four hours for some other metallurgical work, and was pleased to find
that the ash left was all in powder, and so there was no difficulty in
cleaning out, as is the case when coke (said to be derived from Newcastle
N.S.W. coal) is used, for that forms a large quantity of slag that has to
be broken out with a hammer, and operation which very speedily destroys a
furnace.  I see a great future for the Collie coal, if it can be raised
and delivered at a price low enough to encourage the starting of smelting
and other industries that consume large quantities of fuel."
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