CHINESE IN BLACKWOOD

chinese-headstone

Photo of one of the 9 Chinese  headstones remaining in the back of the Blackwood cemetery.  The names have been translated by one of the past members of the Blackwood & District Historical Society and recorded. Photo by Margot Hitchcock B.D.H.S. ©

Chinese section

The Chinese graveyard in the back of the Blackwood cemetery in unconsecrated ground with the Teltra tower in the background. (copyright Margot Hitchcock.)

PHOTOS ON THIS SITE ARE COPYRIGHT TO MARGOT HITCHCOCK and B.D.H.S. – PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. ©

The Wardens Report of 30th August 1856 mentions the arrival of some Chinese people to Blackwood.   (James Ferguson’s report in the Bacchus Marsh Express June 1889).

“The Chinese in Blackwood were said  to have arrived from Canton.  In 1858, fifty Chinese arrived from Castlemaine and by 1861 their numbers had increased to 200.  On their first arrival, they pegged the main creek for many miles, and (except in a few cases) the Chinamen have held possession of the creek workings for nearly thirty years.

Some sources said there were 500 or more Chinese in Blackwood at one stage and the number of Chinese did tend to fluctuate with the seasons and remained so for a number of years, but official records put the figure in 1864 as 500.  

Many Chinese made as much as a thousand pounds, a sum which would be considered a fortune in their native land, whither they invariably proceeded when they had amassed sufficient wealth.  In 1888 there were at Blackwood only about sixty Chinese, most of whom were extremely poor.

The Chinese had two known camps at Blackwood, the main one being at Golden Point which covered about an acre of ground, where they had a Joss House, shops, stores, gambling houses and a Masonic Lodge.  They also had a Mission House which was built near where the little township of Golden Point is today.   The Joss House was said to have been located on a small hill some distance behind where the big rock is at the swimming hole which was named Sebastopol.  If one walks in the bush there you can see the small hill with the whole surrounding area has been removed by the Chinese by ‘paddocking’.  Evidence of their workings can still be seen where they used the system of ‘paddocking’ where large sections of land has all been moved and washed, making the area look like piles of loose rocks and stones.   

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A recent photo in 2019 courtesy of Ben Fischer of the rocks moved by the Chinese and washed near Shaw’s Lake. From his FB site – Blackwood Region Gold Fields.

rock wall

A recent photo in 2019 courtesy of Ben Fischer of the rocks moved by the Chinese and stacked up near Shaw’s Lake. From his FB site – Blackwood Region Gold Fields.

stones piled up bwood

A recent photo in 2019 courtesy of Ben Fischer of the rocks moved by the Chinese and stacked up near Shaw’s Lake. From his FB site – Blackwood Region Gold Fields.

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Two Chinese holes on left side of road with conglomerate rocks courtesy Margot Hitchcock and the B.D.H.S. 

The Chinese painstakingly worked over areas previously prospected and found much gold. Stone walls are visible where they have piled up stones after moving them.   Evidence of this can be still be seen on the road to Shaws Lake before where the tip was on the right, and north of there.   Another area can be seen near the creek on the right of the Old Coach Road down past the Blackwood Hotel.   There also used to be seen remains of a Chinese Oven in the ground off the main road before the swimming pool.”

chinese cooking pit

 Two photos of  a Chinese oven found by Ben Fischer in Blackwood near Back Creek.. courtesy of his FB web page – Blackwood Region Gold Fields.  Also seen, one similar at the bottom of Shaws dam.chinese cooking pit 2

The Chinese who came to Australia were formerly famine-racked farmers, small traders or peasants who were harshly indentured on a credit ticket system in which they ‘sold’ themselves, like collies from the islands, for fixed terms to tyrannical speculators of their own race.   ( Parade May 1977)   

Some Chinese died at Blackwood and are buried in unconsecrated ground at the back of the Blackwood cemetery.  Over 40 names are recorded in the cemetery records with over 10 inquests into deaths recorded in the Digger records.   Other Chinese  moved on to other diggings and some stayed at goldfields like Bendigo which still has a wealth of Chinese history and a Joss House.  Beechworth has a big Chinese section in their cemetery.  Also Ballarat has Chinese history on-line.  ©

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Photo above in Blackwood cemetery courtesy of Margot Hitchcock. ©

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Photo above – a group of Chinese men at a foot race at the Blackwood Sports Ground C. 1900.  Courtesy and copyright of Margot Hitchcock and the B.D.H.S.  ©

Original photo courtesy of Seaborn family of Anderson house, Barrys Reef. The only known photo of a group of Chinese in Blackwood was of six Chinese men at the Blackwood Sports Ground ready for a foot race, taken in 1900.
Information noted on back of same photo courtesy of the late Les Armstrong – Names of Chinese left to right – Jack Sugar, Long Ah Toy, Jimmy Ah Foo, Ah Wah, Ah Toy, Happy Jack.
Ah Quay (partly seen right in hat) was King of Golden Point Camp. Race was 75 yards and every year for a bag of rice.

Ah Quay Blackwood

A photo originally owned by the late Nell Matheson (nee Cann) of Ah Quay  who according to Nell was the yards man at the Blackwood Hotel owned by her family the Cann’s.    The photo was taken about 1880 by T.S. Small at the Royal Arcade in Melbourne.   A report in the Bacchus Marsh paper of 26 September 1908 reports below, that Ah Quay had left for his hometown of China, he was a storekeeper and the oldest identity of Golden Point. (for more information see my next book ‘History and Pioneers of Blackwood’ soon to be published.) 

Below my historical article written for the ‘Blackwood Times Magazine’ February 2020.

As can be seen at the back of the Blackwood cemetery there are buried in un-consecrated ground the graves of many Chinese miners, some of which have stone headstones with Chinese inscriptions on them.    From my early research many Chinese from Canton, arrived on the diggings in Blackwood in 1858.

‘About 50 Chinamen arrived from Castlemaine in that year, and before the year 1861, their number had increased to 200.  On their first arrival, they pegged the main creek for many miles, and (except in a few cases) the Chinamen have held possession of the creek workings for nearly thirty years.

It is interesting to note in Warder Schuter’s report of January 1860 that he lists the population on the Mt Blackwood goldfield as 430 adult males, 130 adult females, 220 children, 220 adult male Chinese.   No report of female Chinese at all, and total population being 1,000.’

The Bacchus Marsh Express paper of June 5 1889 had a report by James Ferguson who was a Justice of the Peace in Blackwood which was also in the Mining Departments reports for Sept 1888.

The report entitled ‘Short History of the Blackwood Goldfields’ mentions; “On their first arrival the Chinese pegged the main creek (Lerderderg River in Blackwood) for many miles and except in a few cases the Chinamen have held possession of the creek workings for nearly 30 years.  During this time thousands of tons of debris were sluiced by miners into the main water channels and when floods came it was spread throughout the river.  The result was that places in the river that were previously barren of gold became enriched with the imperfectly puddled auriferous clay. This gave the Chinamen a splendid harvest as they cut tail- races and faced the creek properly.   Many Chinese miners made as much as a £1,000, a sum which would be considered a fortune in their native land, wither they invariably proceeded when they had amassed sufficient wealth.   There are now at Blackwood only about 60 Chinese (in 1889) most of whom are extremely poor”.

An article was found on Trove in 1892 regarding their living style.

Bacchus Marsh Express.  Saturday 13 February 1892

BLACKWOOD. (From our own correspondent.) ‘The Chinese New Year and holidays have just been completed, but now-a-days are a poor display to what they used to be when 700 Chinese were plodding about the creeks and gullies; as, all told, they hardly muster 50 now. But still they are able to present Joss with his annual feast of a whole roasted pig and other dainties. For a thousand crackers that used to be fired off to frighten the Devil from the camp at holiday times a few feeble spasmodic volleys suffices. Amongst the most notable cracker fizzers for many years was a company of Chinamen who used to work about Tipperary flat and the Main creek; and they were reputed to have got almost buckets full of gold; certainly many of them made their pile and went to the Flowery Land to spend their earnings, and leave their bones in their beloved land. A remnant of three still resided above the Springs, and in the neighbourhood of former triumphs where tens of thousands of volleys of crackers were wont to be fired in holiday times, until Monday afternoon this week, when Ah Toy and his two mates’ hut was totally consumed by fire. The brothers Croker, who are re-erecting Mr. Cocciardi’s flume in the neighbourhood saw the smoke ascending from the Chinese hut, and were quickly at the scene, but, owing to inflammable nature of the hut, it was only a question of a few minutes when John’s hut was doomed to be in ashes. The only things saved were some blankets which Mr. M. Croker got hold of, and some Celestial clothing dragged out with them. The Chinamen lose £60, and one great misfortune was that one of them had £30 in a tin box- £10 in notes and £20 in gold, silver, and copper. After the fire the most of the coins were recovered.’ ©

 Researched by Margot Hitchcock from her forthcoming book ‘The History and Pioneers of Blackwood’, hopefully to be published soon.  Other books published by Margot Hitchcock – “Aspects of Early Blackwood”, Some History of Simmons Reef, Blackwood” and “The Billy Pincombe Tragedy”. See – www.blackwoodpublishing.com

For help with information on Blackwood ancestors contact Margot Hitchcock – email – margothitchcock@bigpond.com

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A Chinese hut courtesy of google.

Chinese miner

A Chinese gold miner courtesy of bonzle.com via Google. note sluicing cradle on left and mining bucket and spade on right, and his coolie hat.

 Researched by Margot Hitchcock for her next book – ‘History and Pioneers of Blackwood’ soon to be published.  So far Margot has typed 34 pages she has researched on the Chinese in Blackwood in her book, including over 50 names of Chinese who had lived in Blackwood.  For further information contact Margot Hitchcock – margothitchcock@bigpond.com 

PHOTOS ON THIS SITE ARE COPYRIGHT TO MARGOT HITCHCOCK and B.D.H.S. – PLEASE DO NOT USE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. ©