Hargraves revealed his discovery in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 May, 1851. There were extraordinary scenes. Young men tossed aside their clerks’ pens and crossed the Blue Mountains in their hundreds.
Gold was discovered by Christopher Thomas Peters, a shepherd and hut-keeper on the Barker’s Creek, in the service of Dr William Barker on his Mount Alexander run. When the gold was shown in the men’s quarters, Peters was ridiculed for finding fool’s gold, and the gold was thrown away. Barker did not want his workmen to abandon his sheep, but in August they did just that. John Worley, George Robinson and Robert Keen, also in the employ of Barker as shepherds and a bullock driver, immediately teamed with Peters in working the deposits by panning in Specimen Gully where the gold had been found, which they did in relative privacy during the next month.
When Barker sacked them and ran them off his land for trespass, Worley, on behalf of the party “to prevent them getting in trouble”, mailed a letter to The Argus (Melbourne) dated 1 September 1851 announcing this new goldfield with the precise location of their workings. This letter was published on 8 September 1851. This relatively obscure notice ushered to the world the inexhaustible treasures of Mount Alexander, also to become known as the Forest Creek diggings. Within a month there were about 8,000 diggers working the alluvial beds of the creeks near the present day town of Castlemaine, and particularly Forest Creek which runs through Chewton where the first small village was established. By the end of the year there were about 25,000 on the field.
A slate obelisk erected in 1931 commemorates the discovery of gold here. The monument is known as the Mount Alexander Goldfields Monument.
The night too quickly passes
And we are growing old,
So let us fill our glasses
And toast the Days of Gold;
When finds of wondrous treasure
Set all the South ablaze,
And you and I were faithful mates
All through the roaring days.
Henry Lawson,The Roaring Days, 1889
The silence filling this major historic site is almost eerie! There is little to indicate the impact of finding gold at this spot. This discovery shaped Australian history! Few people come this way now! Apart from a kangaroo, who bounded off upon seeing us arrive, we had the place to ourselves. We enjoyed exploring the remnants of the old stone cottage that housed the shepherd who, while working on the original sheep station, owned by Dr Barker, found the gold that heralded the Victorian Gold Rush.