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Early accounts of the Bendigo Diggings

Posted 08/05/2021 in Gold


The Bendigo Diggings began in 1851, born out of the famed Mount Alexander diggings - though at an unfortunate time of year when water was scarce and the ground dry and hard. Despite this early difficulty, many continued to work these diggings steadily and profitably throughout the summer months. Soon enough the rains saw Bendigo leap into madness, with thousands rushing to its rich, newly discovered gullies.

"The Bendigo Creek Diggings continue to be the most productive, yielding a much greater quantity of gold, and with much less labor than any of the other Diggings." - The Argus, 26th April 1852

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

Eagle Hawk Gully, Bendigo, 1852. John Allan. Source: National Library of Australia.



16th December 1851
"The last 'new diggings' are on Bendigo Creek, ... these Bendigo Creek diggings have been whispered about very mysteriously for the last few days as something better than anything yet discovered. ... There were about eighty men on the ground, yesterday, (Monday), but hundreds are on the wing thither..." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, written 16th December 1851 but published 22nd December 1851

27th December 1851
"This creek which runs through the station of Mr Gibson is situated thirty miles north of the Forest Creek Diggings and is sixteen miles from the Porcupine Inn which is the nearest post office, and is on the direct line of road. ... in the course of a few days there were some hundreds on the ground, many of whom returned to Forest Creek immediately because they did not find it in cart loads ... The digging is carried on for about six miles along the creek; at present there is a good supply of water, several holes being reserved and held sacred for the private use of the people. At present the chief diggings are starting and some have met with extraordinary success. ... The geological features of this place are similar to the Forest Creek but is more undulating." - The Melbourne Daily News, 27th December 1851


11th March 1852
"Forest Creek Diggings, (from our correspondent). ... a very unusual amount of departures, chiefly for Bendigo Creek, where they also, it seems, have a golden gully; if report speaks true, there have been some lucky hits made, and no failures; every hole yet sunk has turned out something good; they are from 5 to 12 feet deep. ... I know of cases where parties have not only left their holes, but also cart loads of good stuff picked out for washing, so precipitate has been the flight to the Bendigo Golden Gully." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 11th March 1852

15th March 1852
"Forest Creek Diggings, (from our correspondent). ... I promised further and reliable accounts of the doings at Bendigo and Bullock Creeks, to which there has been a rush for the last ten days. ... Some have come back to their old haunts on Forest Creek, disgusted with Bendigo. Others who went to look give very favourable accounts, and have merely returned here to take up their tools, tents, etc. the balance of evidence is decidedly in favour of Bendigo and Bullock Creeks proving very rich, both surfacing and sinking." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 15th March 1852

20th March 1852
"Numerous arrivals from the Mount have added largely to the digging population at these diggings. Golden Gully is opened up completely, and no room for 'new chums' now remains, at least in the line of the best claims." - The Argus, 20th March 1852

20th March 1852
"Sly grog selling is increasing. Undoubtedly, nearly every outrage committed in this vicinage can be traced to originate from its practice; ... Gunnery, dogs, and noisy men, are three great and nightly recurring nuisances. Digging would be a quiet kind of life could these be done away with." - The Argus, 20th March 1852

27th March 1852
"The Sheepwash Creek is used up, and Bullock and Emu reeks are now our only resource ... Golden Gully is wrought out, and no equal to it has been discovered. Six or nine miles will be the least distance "washing stuff" is very soon require to be carted, and one hole out of fifty sunk alone pays on these Diggings. Forest Creek is a better gold finding locality than the Bendigo. It will pay to sink a hole for the "nuggeting" alone; here it never does." - The Argus, 27th March 1852

6th April 1852
"If the roads from Melbourne to Forest Creek and the roads between all the diggings, say Ballarat to Forest Creek, Forest Creek to Bendigo and Friars Creeks, to be put in passable condition, fit for travel during winter, there will be no scarcity of food; if all these roads, or any of them, become impassable, even for a short time, [then?] consequences may be feared." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 6th April 1852



26th April 1852
"The appearance of the Bendigo Diggings differs entirely from that of the Forest Creek; for whilst the latter is remarkable for the abruptness of the ranges that bound its northern bank, and the general boldness of its scenery, the former is more characterised by a bewitching softness, the land being gently undulating, with no prominent hills or bluff jutting rocks to break the tone of harmony that pervades the scene. ... the road enters upon the Bendigo itself, just at Black's store, at the end of Golden Point - every Diggings has its Golden Point. From Black's store, for about three miles up the creek, the great body of the tents are pitched, as within that distance the larger portion of the gold that has reached Melbourne from Bendigo, has been dug out. Beyond this limit, going still up the creek, the tents become more scattered, and after a while terminate suddenly. ... Altogether it was one of the most delightful spots that I have ever come across, but it lacks that absolute necessary, water, not a drop of which could I find, though I searched the creek up and down for some considerable distance" - The Argus, 26th April 1852

26th April 1852
"At present the whole of the digging on the Bendigo itself is confined to the old claims, which have not yet been worked out, since comparatively few holes have been opened since the failure of the water. ... A friend of mine, in whose opinion I can place every reliance, assured me that in the palmy watery days of Bendigo, fully fifteen thousand souls were camped on the banks of the creek within a length of a mile and a half ... However, when the water at Bendigo failed, the Sheepwash Creek had to be resorted to for washing. Many persons engaged in carting or washing etc removed there and thus took from the numbers at the Diggings." - The Argus, 26th April 1852

26th April 1852
"'And where', methinks I hear you say, 'does all the heap of gold that reaches us from Bendigo come from?' My dear sir, you may take a circuit of two miles from Bendigo and visit every gulley and watercourse within that range and you will not find one into which the  miner's pick has not entered; and in the majority of them, you will find a band of hardy diggers, snugly ensconsed and working away as usual with varied success. However, in every gulley that has been so pierced, without a single exception, there have always been two, three or more parties, who have made a rich haul out of their holes. I visited several of these out of the way spots, and was shown holes whence thirty, forty, sixty, and even a hundred and thirty pounds weight of gold had been extracted." - The Argus, 26th April 1852

26th April 1852
"The Bendigo Creek Diggings continue to be the most productive, yielding a much greater quantity of gold, and with much less labor than any of the other Diggings." - The Argus, 26th April 1852

29th April 1852
"Nearly the whole of the ranges about Bendigo have been proved to be highly auriferous, and numerous surface diggings have been discovered within a mile or two of the creek. None of these will be available until the rains have fairly set in and started the creek running." - The Argus, 29th April 1852

29th April 1852
"Never have I been more startled with instances of success than I have been at Bendigo. It is by no means rare there, to see a man setting off to work in his hole, the only tool or implement he carries with him being a large and pointed knife, known in diggers parlance as a "fossicking knife." The mode of proceeding is by no means uninteresting. Arrived at the hole, which, by the way, may have taken him and his mates a week or more to sink, he descends, and lighting a candle and his pipe, he lays himself out at full length on the rock which forms the bottom of his hole, and whilst he blows out the fragrant wreaths from his dudeen, he quietly amuses himself, at the same time, by digging out with the point of his knife, such nuggets of the precious metal as may offer themselves to his view. Of course, in this operation, the small specks of gold are not collected, as this would be too troublesome a process; but the earth containing them is gathered up in a pocket handkerchief, and I have more than once seen two ounces washed out from a handkerchief full of stuff, whence the large pieces had been previously picked. By this "fossicking," as it is termed, men have been known to obtain three and four pounds weight of gold in a day; though such cases are not, as a matter of course, numerous. This species of dry digging is now much resorted to, not only on the Bendigo, but on the Forest and other Creeks, the scarcity of water preventing the possibility of washing all the earth that would, were this element plentiful, amply repay the labour." - The Argus, 29th April 1852

6th May 1852
"Bendigo must now be looked to as head quarters for gold diggings, I have no means of estimating the number congregated there but it must be immense. About the middle of December last only eighty men were there! Since then the increase has been constant and steady. Ballarat and Forest Creek started into being all of a sudden as prolific gold diggings, Bendigo on the contrary had no dazzling flare up at the beginning, slow and sure they began by surfacing, stuck to that for a month, and then opened up their long flat bottomed golden gully." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 6th May 1852

6th May 1852
"In no part of the Victoria Diggings is there more crime, violence, and lawlessness, than at Bendigo." - The Argus, 6th May 1852

12th May 1852
"At Bendigo the weather is described to have been very severe. In addition to the rain there was a gale blowing which carried away tents, uprooted trees, scattered the fires and no doubt made the new chums regret that they had ever whished for squalls." - Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 12th May 1852

2nd June 1852
"Should the present rush to the Bendigo Diggings continue the Forest Creek will shortly be deserted. The most extraordinary accounts are daily reaching us of great success attending the diggers' exertions at that place." - The Argus, 2nd June 1852

8th june 1852
"Mount Alexander (from a correspondent) ... The rush from this place to Bendigo still continues in all its force, and unless a stop takes place, the storekeepers many as well either shut up shop or take a part in the very interesting, although juvenile game of 'Follow my leader'. Compared with what it was a few weeks back, the Creek has now the appearance of being utterly deserted." - The Argus, 8th June 1852

25th June 1852
"Bendigo has now drawn away the diggers from Forest Creek, in the same manner that Forest Creek depopulated Ballarat six months ago. The new diggings lie northward from Bendigo; leaving the Golden Gully and travelling northward, we crossing the following gullies, in the following order: Long Gully, Iron Bark Gully, Californian Gully, American Gully, Eagle Hawk Gully, Tatiara or Rich Surface Gully, Peg Leg Gully, Growler's Gully, Nuggety Gully, Geelong Gully, New Golden Gully, Whipstick Gully."

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