The Mount Alexander Gold Rush Started Here

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.

The first gold from the Mount Alexander Diggings was found in this gully by Christopher John Peters on the 20th July 1851

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.

Gold Fever Grief

I like the diggings very well I have washed myself about a pennyweight [2 grams] of gold besides a match box full of specimens [gold in quartz]. The other day I went with Mamma and Papa over to the quarry reef. There we saw a gentleman of the name of B Farrell he has one of the richest claimes in the reef He has made thousands of pounds […] You will laugh when I tell you what I have been doing today, making a kennel for a puppy I have not yet got it is a very nice one made of latice. Mr Sundy is going to give me the puppy this week We began school today.

– Lucy Birchall

In 1852, on a barren piece of land that was of no use to gold miners or fossickers, a cemetery for the deceased children of the Castlemaine goldfields was set aside. Located within the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery. A pennyweight is a very small measure of gold.

Surrounded by grey box gums in a tranquil setting, the Children’s Cemetery tells a silent story about some realities of the goldfields during the 1850s. Many families travelled to the Castlemaine diggings in the early 1850s as word spread about alluvial (surface) gold to be found. Babies and young children were particularly vulnerable to disease and harsh conditions such as a serious lack of clean drinking water, and many died.

 

The children stir from their slumber! We come here often! I am confident that those children who lie here are happy to have some dogs come to visit them!

“During 1852, as the Victorian gold rushes began, children started dying from typhoid and dysentery after drinking tainted creek water during their first goldfields summer. So a cemetery was established on a rocky hill overlooking the area. They were buried on what must have been a sad and exposed hilltop below which locust swarms of new arrivals jostled, blinded to the truth on the hill above them.

In that gold hunting clamour parents would have sat beside those tiny graves mourning a child and wondering whether their decision to come out to this dusty outpost was wise. They, being poor, had placed their children in shallow graves, then piled rocks up to mark the place. Now, one hundred and fifty years later the scene is different and very quiet. The gravestones are scattered and most of the graves are hard to discern, mere mounds, barely visible under the leaf litter. Just a few weathered headstones, fallen or falling suggest the place is a cemetery.

In the eighteenth century Thomas Grey, the English poet, wrote his famous Elegy. Written in a Country Church-yard, a meditation on the life and death of poor people whose graves are forgotten over time. It is also a reminder that death gets everyone and that although the rich may have grander tombs we’re all equal in the end. ‘The paths of glory lead but to the grave,’ he says.

The Pennyweight Flat Children’s cemetery, in a corner of Castlemaine, is plain, very Australian, hard to discern, at risk of vanishing, and valuable. Like most things that ask for quiet and patience, it rewards. (Source: Inside a Dog).”

More about Pennyweight Cemetery

Pennyweight Cemetery

Pennyweight Flat

The Lost Children of Pennyweight

 

Remembering Margaret Scott

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
Emily Dickinson

Archie and Neeky do love to add new places to their sniffing GPS! Cemeteries like this give rare, personal glimpses into other ages.

In memory of John Scott the beloved husband of Margaret Scott who died 1879 aged 57. Margaret died 25 years later in 1904

I stopped to talk to Margaret Scott who survived her husband. I explained that my husband had died at 58 and that I wanted to know how her life changed after John’s death at 57! Had she forged a completely different life for herself? Had it been as tough living in this region at this time as I imagined it might be? What did she do while she waited for Godot?

Margaret’s silence suggested that I should talk to the living about such matters.

While We Wait

I was intrigued by Draw and Travel! Maybe I will draw! Maybe I won’t! Maybe I will simply take photos with my iPhone! Whatever! While I wait for Godot, wait to be illuminated about what to do with my golden years, my faithful companions and I will go out each day and map our favourite walking, sniffing places and watering holes.

The woodland area of the Castlemaine Botanic Gardens is full of natural magic. Old sages like this have stories to tell if we just stop and listen.

Who looks outside dreams: Who looks inside awakes: C.J. Jung

Routine is everything to my sniffing companions! Come late afternoon we revisit a favourite local haunt!

As a child the long abandoned sugar beet factory was my playground. In my mind treasure lay behind the barred doors while the brick walls provided a space to practice my tennis swing.

As a young girl I loved to explore the spaces behind buildings and my dogs share my passion for such poetic space. They love the space behind the clubhouse!