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The Welcome Stranger nugget

Posted 03/04/2018 in Gold

Background image source: Rodney Start (photographer) - Replica - Museums Victoria

Did you know that the two luckiest men on Earth lived right here in the Victorian Goldfields? 

Cornish miners John Deason and Richard Oates unearthed the largest alluvial gold nugget in the world in Moliagul, Victoria, 1869. 

The 'Welcome Stranger' nugget was so big that it had to be broken up on an anvil before it could be weighed at the bank in nearby Dunolly. 

This unbelievable gold nugget was found mere inches beneath the surface! 

Quick facts about the Welcome Stranger gold nugget

  • Where was the Welcome Stranger found? Bulldog Gully, Moliagul VIC
  • When was the Welcome Stranger found? 5th February 1869
  • Who found the Welcome Stranger? Cornish miners, John Deason and Richard Oates
  • How much did the Welcome Stranger weigh? Approximately 72kg
  • How much was the Welcome Stranger worth? Just under 10,000 pounds, several million dollars in todays money
  • What happened to the Welcome Stranger? The Welcome Stranger was broken up and then weighed, sold and smelted at the London Chartered Bank in Dunolly. 
  • Are there any photographs or casts of the Welcome Stranger? No, in all the excitement no photograph or cast was taken before the Welcome Stranger was broken up. Sketches were done from memory, and replicas of the Welcome Stranger are based off them.
This photograph of John Deason and Richard Oates posing in a group at the Welcome Stranger nugget discovery site was staged using a large piece of quartz representing the Welcome Stranger gold nugget.

Unearthing the Welcome Stranger Nugget [picture]. Parker, W. fl. 1867-1869, photographer.

Welcome Stranger discovery site

The spot where the Welcome Stranger was discovered is now a quiet bushland area with a monument commemorating the nugget's discovery, a picnic area, and a fascinating 'Discovery Walk'. 

The walking track travels in an easy circuit through the surrounding bushland and takes you past many interesting examples of former alluvial and reef mining efforts. 

You will walk by the house sites of John Deason and Richard Oates (the two miners who discovered the Welcome Stranger nugget), puddlers, a Chinese grave and the site of a Chinese camp.

The Welcome Stranger Monument Picnic Area, Moliagul Victoria.


Definitely check out the Dunolly Museum website as they have a fantastic page about the Welcome Stranger, filled with both historical and modern photographs, first hand accounts, and detailed information. 

The page also provides an image of a flow chart (Terry F Potter, 1999) which shows the weight of the nugget at various stages as it was broken up and sold, and the gold obtained from it along the way. 

The following text is displayed on a beautifully Presented information sign at the Welcome Stranger Monument Picnic Area


The first recorded discovery of gold in this district was made about a kilometre from here in September 1852. This discovery created a rush in the area, and a Police Camp was established to keep law and order among the 4,000 miners.

Gold gradually became more difficult to find, and many miners left for more popular goldfields, though some with more substantial claims remained. Among these were two Cornish miners, John Deason and Richard Oates.

Both Deason and Oates were born on the island of Tresco, 50km south-west of Lands End, England. The two grew up together, and after learning of the discovery of gold in Australia, arrived in Bendigo in February 1854. They spent eight years there with only moderate success, and then moved to Moliagul.

Deason and Oates pegged a puddling claim on the side of this hill; they were aware of large nuggets having been found in the gully below (known as Black Gully).

They also selected farming land near this site which they continued to farm while stripping the surface layer of the puddling claim and washing it in a puddling machine.

In 1866 the pair found a 1.1 kg (36 oz) nugget, which encouraged them to continue with their efforts. As history shows, their persistence paid off with the discovery of the "Welcome Stranger", still the largest nugget ever found in the world.

Monument commemorating the 1869 discovery of the Welcome Stranger gold nugget.


On the morning of Friday 5 February 1869, Deason was breaking up soil on the claim when he hit what seemed to be stone. 

After hitting it a second and third time and clearing away the soil with a pick, he saw gold. 

The nugget was only 2.5cm (1 inch) below the surface; after clearing away more dirt Deason broke his pick handle in an attempt to lever it from the ground. He finally resorted to a crowbar.

Oates, busy ploughing in his nearby paddock, was called up by Deason's son. 

Not wanting to create suspicion among people living and working nearby, the two miners covered the nugget again and continued as if nothing had happened.

Later that afternoon the nugget was placed in their dray and taken down the hill to the Deason house. 

The gold was stained black by ironstone deposits and was mixed with a large quantity of quartz. 

After placing the nugget in the fire, the gold expanded and the quartz became brittle and loose. 

When the nugget cooled 26 kg of quartz was prised off and later crushed at a local battery, belonging to a Mr Edward Endey.

An excellent information display at the Welcome Stranger Monument and Picnic Area, Moliagul Victoria


After keeping the discovery to themselves all weekend, Deason and Oates decided to hold a party for their friends on the following Monday. 

They hid the nugget under a cloth at the end of the table, and at an appropriate moment during the evening revealed their magnificent prize. 

"Don't go home boys" said Deason, "That's solid gold and I want you to stay the night and escort it to the bank at Dunolly tomorrow".

Next morning, the nugget was loaded onto Edward Endey's spring cart and the convoy left for Dunolly. 

Walter Brown, a neighbour, was selected to go into the London Chartered Bank and ask the teller "What are you paying for gold by the hundred-weight?", after which the nugget was brought in and presented to the manager.


As the nugget was too large to be weighed on the bank scales, Archie Walls, the blacksmith was called in to cut it into smaller pieces. 

The total weight of the nugget, including what was obtained from the crushed quartz and other pieces broken off and given away to friends, was estimated at 72.5 kg (2,332 oz). 

It was considered a shame that in all the excitement no-one thought to photograph the nugget, and the only sketches made were drawn from memory. 

The photograph shown here [on the sign] was taken at the site later, the finders using a large piece of quartz to represent the nugget.


Soon after the find, Richard Oates returned to Cornwall, where he married Jane Penrose. 

He wasted little time in bringing her back to Moliagul and continued working the claim with Deason. 

By 1875 it had been worked out and Oates moved with his family to Dunolly. He continued farming, shifting a second time to land in Bealiba then later to Woodstock near Bendigo. 

Richard Oates died in 1906 aged 79, and is buried in the Marong Cemetery.

John Deason continued with mining, having various puddling machines and later a quartz crushing battery. 

During the depression of the 1890's, part of his livelihood came from operating the battery in Moliagul, thus providing great stimulus and encouragement for other miners to sample reefs in the area instead of merely seeking alluvial gold. 

He invested money in further property, known as The Springs, at Moliagul, and he and his family moved there. 

His descendants still farm land in Moliagul today. John Deason died in 1915 aged 85 and is buried in the Moliagul Cemetery.

Other nearby places related to the Welcome Stranger gold nugget

  • Welcome Stranger Anvil Monument in Dunolly. When the Welcome Stranger nugget was discovered in 1869, it was too large to fit on the bank scales to be weighed so was broken in half on an anvil. This anvil is now mounted on an attractive monument outside the Dunolly Museum.
  • Moliagul Cemetery. The final resting place of John Deason, co-finder of the Welcome Stranger gold nugget.
  • Marong Cemetery. The final resting place of Richard Oates, co-finder of the Welcome Stranger gold nugget. 

Gold prospecting in the Victorian Goldfields

Looking to try your luck prospecting for gold in the Victorian Goldfields? We've got some handy guides to get you started. 


Established in 1980, the Prospectors and Miners Association of Victoria is a voluntary body created to protect the rights and opportunities of those who wish to prospect, fossick or mine in the State of Victoria, Australia.

You can support the PMAV in their fight to uphold these rights by becoming a member. You'll also gain access to exclusive publications, field days, prospecting tips, discounts and competitions.

Check out the PMAV website for more information.




Leave a comment

Jill Dixon
Thank you for the post on the Welcome Stranger. I am a descendent of John Deason and have been to the side of the discovery in the memorial on many occasions. Most recently last year I was concerned to see the fading of the wording on the memorial and have meant to contact The council to see if restoration could be done. I wonder if others agree with me. I think it is very important to upkeep the site. Jill Dixon (née Gulley)