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Early accounts of the Forest Creek diggings

Posted 06/05/2021 in Gold



One of the most famous goldfields of the Victorian gold rush, the renowned Forest Creek Diggings attracted thousands upon thousands of hopeful miners from all over the world! The rush here began in the latter part of 1851, and it was not long before the entire area was busy with diggers, tents, cradles and tin dishes, and seemingly endless ounces of gold were being obtained from the rich earth. 

"In a ride of eight miles down the creek, I am satisfied I passed 10,000 souls, men, women, and children indiscriminately working for the ore..." - The Argus, 19th November 1851

The following accounts were published in newspapers during the first few months of the rush to Forest Creek, and give us an interesting insight into the early development of the Forest Creek Diggings. 

  

8th November 1851
"The diggings are not on Mount Alexander, as is generally supposed, but in a gully known as Forest Creek ... It is generally supposed that the gully contains gold the whole distance, and tents are being pitched for four miles lower down than the Commissioners. ... Since Saturday morning, the scene has greatly changed - then a tent would be seen here and there, but now they are becoming inconveniently crowded. ... On Saturday, dozens were arriving at a time; on Sunday, hundreds; Monday and Tuesday, one continuous line of new arrivals." - The Argus, 8th November 1851

12th November 1851
"...for a quarter of a mile above and below my tent, the creek is dry, and the diggers are now compelled to cart the earth to water some half a mile off, and those who are not provided with a cart are carrying it in tin dishes on their heads, or shouldering it in bags to wash out the wished for treasure. Still, with all these inconveniences many are doing very well. ... The Creek for ten miles down, as far as Mr Campbell's station, is lined with tents, diggers, and dangerous holes." - The Argus, 12th November 1851

19th November 1851
"...we have had very heavy rains, causing much damage to the holes on the creek. Last night it poured without intermission for four hours, and this morning the creek was running some six feet deep, tearing away the earthen partitions of the various holes, sweeping cradles, tin dishes etc down the creek, and causing hundreds to suspend their labour for some time to come. ... The tents along the creek are still increasing, and one would almost wonder where so many human beings came from. In a ride of eight miles down the creek, I am satisfied I passed 10,000 souls, men, women, and children indiscriminately working for the ore..." - The Argus, 19th November 1851

29th November 1851
"The reports of large quantities of gold being found, have become so frequent, that it is now looked upon as quite common; but I think the present will throw all former ones in the shade. Yesterday a lump of pure, clean gold free from quartz, was obtained from the surface near Messrs. F-ntum & Edmiston's new tent, weighing 60 ounces." - The Argus, 29th November 1851

29th November 1851
"There have two children died on the Creek since my last, from dysentery, and boards are scarce that boxes are bought to make coffins of." - The Argus, 29th November 1851

8th December 1851
"I have seen and conversed with numerous Californian miners, and they all agree in the same statement that our gold fields throw California completely into the shade." - Geelong Advertiser, 8th December 1851



10th December 1851
"...water is failing fast, through the excessive heat and dry weather, and another fortnight will finish the diggings here unless it rains. The diggings six miles off are nearly dry, and the Loddon is now reduced to a small stream in places. Many hundreds talk of returning, though thousands are still arriving. ... They are coming too late in the season, and hundreds will repent starting. I consider it little better than madness for anyone to give up employment for the diggings for four or five months to come, for it is impossible to clean gold without water, and there is every reason to believe, that within three weeks at furthest, there will not be sufficient for the cattle to drink." - The Argus, 10th December 1851

Monster Meeting
On the 15th of December, the famous Monster Meeting was held at the Forest Creek Diggings, where up to fifteen thousand diggers met in protest, angered by an unfair mining licence fee imposed by the Government. A lengthy account was published in The Argus on the 18th December, 1851. Read the article in full here

22nd December 1851
"... those who have left ordinary gold holes here, will most likely be miserably disappointed at a yield of two to six ounces, instead of the glorious yields of the Forest Creek." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 22nd December 1851

31st December 1851
"Many parts of the creek which were formerly crowded with tents, are now almost tentless; and unless rain comes soon, will be entirely deserted. ... the heat is so excessive that few can work in the sun; the ground has become so hard for want of rain, that nothing but a pickaxe can break it, and for the same reason you cannot wash without puddling; and lastly, the water has become so thick, that nothing but heavy gold can be obtained. As I stated in a former letter, it is madness for men to give up good situations to come here. There is plenty of gold, but it cannot be got for the next four months in any quantity." - The Argus, 31st December 1851

3rd January 1852
"Another unfortunate accident has occurred since my last, from earth falling in. The poor fellow was four minutes buried, but owing to a large block of earth falling partly on his neck, and partly against the side of the hole, it is supposed, sufficient air was left him until his neighbours dug him out. He is much hurt, and will not be able to work for weeks, if at all." - The Argus, 3rd January 1852

3rd January 1852
"The water is very bad; dysentery is very prevalent, and several children have died. The adults, though severely attacked, escape with life, though it makes a great change in their appearance. Thousands are still leaving, and a few arriving; but I do not think at the present time there are 10,000 persons on the Creek." - The Argus, 3rd January 1852

8th January 1852
"Thursday being the first of the month, a few and but very few licenses were taken out for this district; in fact, for the next three or four months the Commissioner is likely to have a sinecure, as far as licensing is concerned. The departures for the watering places, as we say in England, are making the Alexander and its suburbs very thin." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 8th January 1852

14th January 1852
"It is scarcely possible that the water at Forest Creek can last more than a fortnight or three weeks, and I regret to observe that at Golden Gully, where there is the finest waterhole, some eighty or ninety cradles are daily emptying their contents into it, which cannot fail in a short time to choke up the spring. There is also a fine well of water which is very prudently reserved for the purposes of drinking and other domestic purposes." - The Argus, 14th January 1852

15th January 1852
"During the week there has been a continuation of fresh arrivals but I find they do not remain long in this neighbourhood. After looking about them for a day or two, they generally strike their tents, and make for Friar's Creek or the Loddon. Report states the water in Bendigo Creek has become as scarce as it is here, and many are leaving for other localities. Unless we are visited with rain shortly, all on this Creek will have to follow their example." - The Argus, 15th January 1852

15th January 1852
"...true, there must be thousands of pounds weight of the precious metal now snugly lying in the "golden gullies" and "golden points" as yet not christened such, but the present is not the time to unearth their treasures." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 15th January 1852

9th February 1852
"The dreadful state of anxiety in which most of the diggers are placed from the hordes of scoundrels infesting Fryer's and Forest Creeks induces me to beg the assistance of your able pen to waken the Government from their lethargy, and endeavour to drive, if not induce them, to do something for our protection. ... They may be seen coming out of sly grog shops in a bleastly state of intoxication, carrying a bottle of grog in one hand and a pistol in the other, in open day. ... No police, no guard, no patrol, through a forest of twelve miles, thick enough to hide an army, and where thousands of pounds are passing daily, is another great oversight of the Government..." - The Argus, 9th February 1852

26th February 1852
"Ever since these diggings began the opinion has been repeated, ad nauseam, that they must stop very shortly for want of water, not only for gold washing but even for sustaining life ... but the indomitable perseverance and energy of the diggers triumph over every obstacle; if one hole dries up they sink it deeper; that gone, they sink another, and it is a fact that there is more available water at most parts of the creek now, than a month ago." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 26th February 1852

29th April 1852
"Arrivals from Melbourne and Geelong have been unusually numerous for the last two days, induced no doubt by the few days rain. ... During the past week we have had showers occasionally and while I write it is raining slightly - but it will take a great deal more to make the creeks run, or even to fill the waterholes." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 29th April 1852

16th June 1852
"We have had some very heavy rains here ... The creek is in full flow, and has carried away several tubs, cradles, etc, so that we have no want of water at present, in fact, we have to bale two or three feet or upwards out of our holes before we can go to work." - The Argus, 16th June 1852

8th July 1852
"The Forest Creek is running rapidly, and there is little fear of the Diggers complaining of a want of water now for some months to come. A monster nugget, weighing twenty-two pounds, is said to have been found at Donkey Gully two days ago." - The Argus, 8th July 1852

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