HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST DISCOVERY OF BLACKWOOD – Compiled by Margot Hitchcock, Historian for the Blackwood & District Historical Society. January 2018. ©
Found on Trove – Bacchus Marsh Express – Saturday 25 March 1905.- HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST DISCOVERY OF BLACKWOOD. (By M. J. CROKER, Mining Registrar, Blackwood.) The great excitement caused in all parts of the world by the discovery of gold in South America and California had hardly subsided, when it was closely followed up, in 1851, by the wonderful discoveries of apparently inexhaustible deposits of precious metal in the Australian colonies. As this is the jubilee year of the discovery of the Blackwood goldfields, a few remarks relative to that event have been asked for by the old pioneers here. In 1855, there were fifteen goldfields in full operation, namely, Ballarat, Bendigo, Mt. William, Avoca, Mary borough, Tarrengower, Anderson’s creek, Plenty ranges, Mt. Alexander, Mclvor, Goulburn, Ovens, Simpson’s, and Daisy hill.
Enlarged photo of mining in Barrys Reef – (From and old glass negative courtesy .A.E. Seaborn), showing Mullock heap of the Sultana mine in front left, and Mounter’s poppet head behind it. Sultan Mine mullock heap in background. (Enlarged photo courtesy of Barry Thurgood) C. 1881.
Gold was first discovered in Jackson’s Creek, at Golden Point, Blackwood, in the summer of 1855. The historical discoverers are recorded as Messrs. Jackson, Densly, Haythorn, and John Swain (uncle to Mrs. Murphy, of Trentham). Jackson, the discoverer, was a mate of Matthew Sweet, father of the present family of that name on Blackwood. He was working a saw-pit at Mt. Blackwood, cutting timber for house building purposes, before he discovered the Blackwood diggings; but he left Sweet, and started droving cattle from Harper’s run at Woodend through the Blackwood ranges to Ballan and Ballarat. In crossing the creek now called Jackson’s, to fill his billy with water, he picked out a nugget of gold. This led him to look for more, which was soon found. He and his mates proceeded on to Ballan with their cattle, and returned to the new Eldorado with pack horses and provisions, and were followed up by a number of others from Ballan. The followers up struck the big flat now called Ballan flat, at Red Hill; and fairly riddled it with square paddocks, 12 x 12. Jackson sent word to Mr. M. Sweet to pack up and come on to Blackwood, saying there was plenty of gold to be found. Sweet made for the top of Mt. Blackwood, and located Jackson’s position by the smoke from his camp fire. He started on the Sunday following to blaze a track to Blackwood. Having safely found Jackson and party, and marked out a claim, he returned to Mt. Blackwood to bring on his effects. Sweet was therefore the second party to arrive on the field. When the knowledge spread that there was gold in the wilds of the Black wood ranges, a big rush set in from all the other diggings, more especially from Forest creek; and on 13th March, 1855, my father and eldest brother arrived here with Forest creekers, and camped on the side of Red Hill, six or a seven weeks before the destructive storm which swept over Blackwood, which is so well described by G. Harvard, the American author, in one of his books, “The Rolling Stone.” Sixteen lives were known to be sacrificed on that memorable night and day. One remarkable incident is told of the storm. A party of Yankees, six in number, were living on the Hard hills, Yankee range, in a large log hut. They had a two logged double bunks in the hut, three sleeping in each bunk. During the night a large tree fell across the hut, killing the outside man in each bunk. The other mates were extricated next morning, and found not to have a scratch on them. The first winter on the field proved to be a very trying one to the miners. Flood after flood swept them out of the main creek, and drove them to prospect in other gullies -Nuggety, Yankee, Tipperary Flat and hill, and Long gully. My father and party marked off a block claim, 12 x 12, on the rich gutter in Long gully, which proved to be a great success. Fifty years have worked a wonderful change in the characteristics of Blackwood.
Early pioneers of Blackwood. One on left could be Warren Williams or George Curruthers. One on right looks very much like a Cornish Miner – could be Micky Nolan. (Photo courtesy Barry Thurgood.)
Most of the old 1855 pioneers have crossed the bar, and a rising generation has sprung up. Mr. Robert Cameron, storekeeper, and Justice of the Peace, is one of the few of the 1855 men who remain here. Mr. Cameron came from the Ovens to the Blackwood rush, and arrived some time before the memorable storm, and joined in the common quest of the precious metal on the Lerderderg creek, between Break-neck and Kangaroo. After meeting with good success, he abandoned active association with the pick and cradle, and entered into business as a storekeeper at Golden Point. He is still hale and hearty, in his 84th year, and respected by all classes. The other pioneers who still remain are Mr. George Sweet, who came with his father when he was seven years of age. Mrs. Sweet was the first woman on the field, and is now in her 83rd year. Mr. John Pincombe, and Mr. B. G. Robinson (better known as “cast-iron George”) who, with Cockney Charlie, opened Sardine creek in 1855. Mr. G. B. Carruthers (our Blackwood ornithologist) worked a good claim with his brothers at the foot of Davis’s gully, when first opened. He is the oldest remaining link left of an old 1855 Blackwood family. The discontent that prevailed amongst the miners about the licence fee had quite subsided, but it is worth noting that it was not an equitable tax, as the miner who was unsuccessful paid the same fee as the lucky digger who found a prize. The tax was soon abolished, and the pound miner’s right substituted the best of all titles. An export duty of 2/6 per ounce was also enforced. Councillor John Graham, our respected member for the East Riding, was the chief carrier to Blackwood in the early days. He was often times watched for by the miners, winding his way down the steep declivity of the Bald Hill into Golden Point, with his splendid six-horse team. The cry would go up “Here comes Graham; now, boys, for plenty of tucker.” Provisions were dear. Potatoes, 2/6 a billy full; the 4lb. loaf, 5/; sugar,· 2/ per lb.; salt, 1/6; flour, 2/6 a pannikin full.©
The population on Blackwood was very large in the spring of 1855, when 30,000 or more people were camped on the field. The returns by escort were from 6,000 to 8,000 ounces a fortnight.©
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org