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Maryborough

The first inhabitants of the Maryborough area were the Dja Dja Wurrung people. The first European settlers were the Simson brothers who established Charlotte Plains, a sheep station, in 1840.

A rush of gold prospectors to the area occurred in 1854 after the discovery of gold at white Hill, four kilometres north of Maryborough. Maryborough is reported to have had a population of around 50,000 people at its peak.

Originally known as Simsons, the settlement was later named Maryborough by James Daly, the gold commissioner, after his Irish birthplace.

Maryborough quickly became the commercial and administrative centre of the area, was surveyed in 1854 and became a borough in 1857.


Jubilee Day in Maryborough June 22 1897. Image source: State Library Victoria

The last gold mine in Maryborough closed in 1918, and the Maryborough Knitting Mills opened in 1924. Maryborough became a city in 1961.

Today in Maryborough you will find grand gold rush architecture, gorgeous parks and gardens, an impressive historic railway station (Maryborough was once described by Mark Twain as a 'railway station with a town attached'), a pioneer memorial lookout tower, art, antiques, shopping and markets. 

When Maryborough's Bristol Hill Pioneer Memorial Tower was constructed and opened in 1933, a souvenir booklet was released which included a fascinating account of Maryborough's early history.

The following information is printed in a souvenir book which marked the official opening of the tower on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1933:

THE PIONEERING DIGGING DAYS

How first residents lived and worked
An interesting review of life in the fifties
Maryborough - "built on the golden leads"

In 1848, several years after the brothers Simson had established themselves on the station, which they named Simson's Range, a bullock driver in their employ, according to the late J. C. Simson, discovered a nugget of gold, on that part of the run about ten miles from the homestead, now known as Daisy Hill. He showed the gold to his employers, but they took no steps to make public the discovery. The early squatters of those days kept finds secret for fear of a rush impeding their pastoral activities. What became of the nugget is unknown, but probably it was sold to one of the Melbourne jewellers, as they were the only buyers of the precious metal before the discovery of the goldflelds. 

It was not till 1851 that the first official discovery of gold in Victoria was made. Gold was found at Clunes, on July 8, 1851, at Buninyong, on August 9, Castlemaine September 10, at Ballarat on September 8, and at Bendigo in 1852. Shortly after, in June, 1854, Hector Norman Simson was making a tour of the station, when he saw three young men working at a hole at a place known as the White Hills, about three miles from the homestead. He approached them, and, on inquiry, they told him they were looking for gold, but had very little luck, at the same time showing him a matchbox containing a small quantity of the metal. But from their demeanor, and the large amount of work they had done, Simson concluded they were doing better than they admitted, and had made an important discovery. They were diggers of some experience, having worked on the Castlemaine and Bendigo fields, but with little success. 

One was reputed to be a young English medical man, and many of the early residents regarded him as being identical with the late Dr. F. M. Laidman, a well-known surgeon, for many years coroner for the district, who was known to have worked on the rush as a digger in 1854, and for 25 years afterwards practised his profession in Maryborough. At no time did he claim to be one of the discoverers, and the records of the Mines Department show that the names of the three first discoverers of the Simson's Range goldfield were unknown, and that no claim was made for a reward. None was paid by the Government for its discovery. 

Simson lost no time in making the discovery known - a contrast to his attitude on the finding of the nugget in 1848. On the rustic log bridge over the Deep Creek near the homestead, traces of which are still visible, he erected a notice as follows: - "This way to the New Goldfleld." The news spread rapidly to the city, and other goldflelds and a great influx of diggers set in from all parts of the colony. The tracks and roads leading to Simson's Range were alive with people. Many carried swags, some with wheelbarrows, whilst coaches, waggons and vehicles of all description laden with diggers and their belongings, sped along the track. They were mostly young, unmarried men, a few foreigners, and elderly men, but even married men with their families were among the throng. All classes were represented - laborers, artisans, seafaring men, tradesmen, professional men, and others who had discarded their usual avocations in this mad rush for gold. 

Within a few weeks there were several thousand men on the field, and a large canvas town of tents soon sprang up. It was at this time that the Government took control of the field, and a gold commissioner (Mr. Daly, a young Irishman), a staff of police, and other officials necessary to enforce Government enactments arrived. Their headquarters were near where the Royal Park stands, and named Commissioner's Flat. This consisted of commissioner's quarters, gold licence office, gold receiver's office, police headquarters, stables, and lockup (built of heavy, rough bush logs, about a foot thick, with the roof covered thickly with bark). The other places were made of calico, with the exception of the stables, which were of bark. The police had a variety of duties to perform, police escort duty, catching criminals (who were numerous), and suppressing the sly-grog dens constituting only a part of their duties. Enforcing the taking out of gold licences, and hunting diggers who had evaded it, was their principal work. 

The first Government proclamation, respecting the issue of gold licences, in Victoria was made on August 16, 1851. Two days later it became law, the fee being £1 10/ monthly in advance. On May. 1852, the price was risen to £3 per month, and in 1854, when the Simson's Range diggings broke out, the price was reduced to £1 monthly. In the latter part of 1854 it was again reduced to £2 for three months, payable in advance. It entitled the owner to mine or dig for gold, reside at or carry on, or follow any trade or calling except that of shopkeeper. The licence was to be carried on the person and produced on demand to the commissioner, police officer, or other duly authorised person. It was not transferable, and any person transferring same was liable to a penalty for a misdemeanor. No mining was permitted where it would be destructive to any line of road, which was necessary to maintain, and which was determined by the commissioner, nor within such distance around an y store as was necessary to reserve access to it. It was enjoined that all persons maintain a due and proper observance of the Sunday. The extent of claim allowed to each licensed miner was 12 ft. x 12 ft., to two miners 12 ft. by 24 ft., to three miners 18 ft, by 24 ft., and to a party of four miners 24 ft. x 24 ft., beyond which no greater area could be allowed in one claim. 

The licence fee was of little consequence to those on payable gold, but to those who were not it was an unjust and iniquitous tax. It would have been fairer had it been placed on the amount of gold won, the value of which was £3 an ounce. Though quiet reigned on the field during its enforcement, it was not so at Ballarat, where it culminated in the fight at Eureka Stockade on December 3, 1854, and which brought about its abolishment. Shortly after the Government appointed a Royal Commission, which proceeded to the goldfields, and its report was followed by the Miner's Right being substituted for the gold licence. Local courts were established, auriferous leases granted, and the goldfields had conferred on them the right to have municipal and, legislative representation. The rights were sold a t a nominal figure, and in 1858 mining boards were established a t the various goldfields centres. The members were elected for a term by the holders of miners' rights For many years they carried on in the interest of the miners and mining generally, but, having outlived their usefulness, were eventually abolished. 

The scarcity of water was the greatest drawback on the diggings. Water had to be carted from the Deep Creek at Carisbrook, to which the diggers also carted the wash dirt. Water was 1/6 a bucket, flour as high as £50 a ton; butter was 4/ a pound, milk 4/ a quart, potatoes 1/3 lb.; vegetables were almost unprocurable, cabbages bringing from 2/6 to 4/6 each. The freight from Melbourne on ail other necessaries was exorbitant; liquor was out of the question, except that procurable a t the shanties. The sale of drink was strictly prohibited, and persons found in possession of it were liable to prosecution. The diggers lived principally on damper and mutton, which was plentiful, and which was regularly procurable from the Simsons. 

The diggers lived mostly in tents, some in log and bark huts. Their furniture generally consisted of a bunk made of forked sticks and saplings. For chairs and tables small logs, boxes and stumps sufficed. Their cooking utensils were generally a billy or two, a pot, a frying pan and a pannikin; and the cooking was usually done in the open. The blazing wood of hundreds of fires on' a winter night, with diggers perched around chatting and singing, was an extraordinary sight. I n the shallow ground the dirt was raised by means of a tripod made of three pieces of wood fixed together, with a block and pulley on the top; but where the ground was deeper the windlass was in use. 

Mr. Edward O'Farrell, one of the earliest diggers, who later became a well-known hotelkeeper in Maryborough and chairman of the Mining Board, with his mates, was among the first on the rush. He stated that on arrival at White Hills they saw about forty men at work on a flat close to a blind creek, now known as Four Mile Creek. Water was being procured from the Bet Bet and Deep Creeks. The sinking was hard and the ground rich. One party was picking out nuggets of from one to ten ounces. Further on, towards the site of Maryborough, men were working, the sinking being from 16 to 24 ft. in hard cement, the wash being from 4 to 6 ft. thick, full of splendid nuggets on a pipeclay bottom. Further up the lead the gold was found in shallow ground, and the rush became greatly intensified all along the lead, gold being found in nearly every hole. Within three months of the first discovery there were between 20,000 and 30,000 men on the field. The depth there was: from 4 to 10 ft. As much as one shovelful of dirt yielded nearly 20 oz., and the average: of the wash was from 24 to 36 oz. to the load. Near the Government headquarters at Commissioner's Flat the lead was 15 chains wide, and the sinking from 55 to 60 ft., the wash being from 2 to 5 ft. thick, and yielding from 4 to 10 oz. to the load. The surfacing was. also good.

Two diggers who worked on Blackman's Lead quickly got 690 oz. from their claim. They afterward s worked on the Main Lead, got the wash at 14 ft., yielding as much as 10 oz. to the bucket, the average being 11 oz. to the load. After working it cut they took up another claim on Blackman's. This was the richer of the two leads. They got 3 ft. of wash and coarse gold with nuggets from 2 to 12 oz., and afterwards discovered a beautiful nugget, shaped like a pear, which turned the scale at 11 lb. 3 oz., and was valued a t £400. The average of this claim was 14 oz. to the load. The gold of the leads was generally coarse, and the total length was about eight miles. Where they junctioned it was expected the' leads would be richer, but such was not the case, and for nearly half a mile towards Commissioner's Flat it was somewhat poorer. In June, 1855, a nugget weighing 1034 oz. was found in the Blackman's Lead, at a depth of five feet, and was sold for £3250. Another was found in the Main Lead at White Hills in 1856 at. a depth of 12 ft., and weighed 236 oz. In January, 1858, another nugget was found in Blackman's Lead at a depth of 6 ft, weighing 537 oz. 

At the latter part of 1854 it was decided to change the name of the goldfleld. Various names were suggested, but it was left to Commissioner Daly to decide, and he named it Maryborough, in honor of his native town in Ireland. I n 1855 the population of the goldfleld and its environs was estimated at 53,000. Rich gold having been discovered in the adjacent gullies and outlying places, thousands of diggers were attracted to the Alma field (which was discovered by W. Fierce and T. Ritchie, to whom the Government paid rewards of £150 each) and to Chinaman's Flat (now Bowenvale), Adelaide Lead and Havelock. There was trouble at the Alma through the jumping of claims, and rioting ensued. This was soon quelled, the jumpers faring badly. It was known as the Tipperary riot. At these places rich gold was found. 

In April, 1855, Mr. Taylor, a Government surveyor, arrived and surveyed the site for a town, on the slopes of Simson Range (now Bristol Hill) of an area of about 2250 acres - nearly four square miles. The first crown lands sale was held in October, 1856. At that time the main part of the field was a long, irregular thoroughfare nearly two miles long, now known as High Street, consisting mainly of tents and log and slab tenements. Some were places of business, and, the Government having granted liquor licences, many were tap rooms. Skittle alleys and other places of amusement were in evidence, and the sly-grog shanties, where diggers were often drugged and robbed, were still in evidence, despite the efforts of the police to suppress them. 

At this time (in 1856) the population had decreased to 15,000, and at the time the municipality was created, in 1857, it had dwindled to 12,000. Whilst the rush was at its maximum crime was prevalent. Numbers of Vandemonians on ticket of leave from Tasmania, and criminals from Sydney and other places, had infested the field. One of the most notorious was Black Douglas, a big American negro. He was leader of a gang of ruffians who had been robbing diggers on the Bendigo and other fields, and had evaded capture for a considerable time. He arrived at Simson's Range s and the Alma about 1855 in search of fresh victims. He was soon identified, and a large number of diggers surrounded his camp at the Alma and captured him without a fight. The scoundrel was manacled and escorted to the Maryborough police camp by an escort of excited diggers. Their entry into the town caused great excitement. 

After the shallow ground had been mostly worked out , large numbers of Chinese arrived and spread themselves in camps over the diggings and adjacent gullies. They never searched for fresh finds, but invariably fossicked the old workings. They were numerous on other fields, their number in Victoria in 1857 being 25,424, which had increased in 1859 to nearly 40,000. Shortly after being established in 1854, Cobb & Co. ran a line of coaches to the district, and this was continued till the opening of the railway from Castlemaine in 1874. 

In 1854 the Maryborough Hospital was established in a large tent. The first medical officer was the late Dr. R. H. Dunn, who had served on the medical staff of the British forces in the Crimean war, and who, for about half a century afterwards, was resident and consulting surgeon to the Hospital.

When the rush had somewhat subsided, attention was given to the deep ground and reefing, and with the advent of machinery and the employment of large numbers; of miners, payable gold was soon found. The district developed into one of the leading goldfields of Victoria, and a prosperous Maryborough came into being, a town built on the golden leads of these early days. In 1857 the municipality was created, the first members being D. K. Campbell, general merchant; D. Taylcr, grocer and draper; - Fowler, ironmonger; M. Garland, wine and spirit merchant; - Levy, wine and spirit merchant; - Roberts, draper; and A. McLandress, boot merchant (chairman), and Mr. J. C. Hooper (secretary). In 1859 it was proclaimed the Borough of Maryborough, with Mr. McLandress as Mayor, and Mr. Thos. Gardiner Town Clerk. 

There are few relics of the early days visible. Many of the worked-out claims are to be seen, but the pioneer diggers of 1854 are no more. The most interesting relics are the early burying grounds (which are to be found in the district) before cemeteries were established. As a rule the dead were buried on rising ground, not far from where they died, and it was seldom that any stone or enclosure marked their last resting place. The old cemetery on Bristol Hill (Simson's Range), which was closed in 1858, stands out as the most interesting of all. 

The amount of gold produced from the field and the outlying leads from 1854 to 1859 was enormous, amounting approximately to several million ounces.

In search of wealth, mankind's, desire, 
They seed the track, and crossed the main 
These worthy sons of British sires, 
The Pioneers - the country's gain.
They've bade farewell, and gone far away, 
Where the sere autumn never falls. 
The pioneer men of the gold era days, 
Honor them, honor them all; 
And may the memory never fade 
Of those departed, good and brave- 
Their work is done, their last debt paid;
In peace they rest in. yonder grave. 

More information can be found in the digitised version of the 1933 Opening Souvenir Booklet

USEFUL RESOURCES FOR MARYBOROUGH, VICTORIA


www.yourvillage.yacs.org.au
A comprehensive resource for parents/families within the Central Goldfields. Provides information on things like doctors, dental, kindergartens, parent support, sport & recreation, childcare, attractions, activities, youth services, toy libraries, playgroups and much more. This excellent website aims to help local families make the most of local opportunities.

www.visitmaryborough.com.au
Fantastic local tourism website

www.centralgoldfields.com.au
Website of the Central Goldfields Shire Council

Local news

The Maryborough District Advertiser
"Born in the rich Victorian Goldfields, The Maryborough District Advertiser has been the place people turn to for their news and sport for more than 150 years. With our offices in Maryborough, The Advertiser covers the Central Goldfields region, bringing local news to the community each Tuesday and Friday. Providing news, sports reports and advertising, The Advertiser truly is the voice of the community." - From The Maryborough District Advertiser's website.

Maryborough & District Community News
The Maryborough & District Community News facebook page is a free community service overseen by volunteers, sharing local news, photos and events with Victoria's Central Goldfields and surrounding region.

The service remains proudly independent, non-profit, and not affiliated with the Maryborough Advertiser, the Central Goldfields Shire Council or any other business, political, government or media organisation.

PLACES OF INTEREST

Take a look through the following list of interesting places within Maryborough, Victoria.



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