Friday, June 29, 2012

A Gold Fever Epidemic

James Nash in 1868.
In October 1867, some sensational news reached Brisbane.  An experienced miner and prospector named James Nash had discovered payable gold in three gullies near what is now the town of Gympie.

WE have learned on reliable authority that the reported gold-field discovery on Currie Station may be accepted as a fact. The discoverer is an old miner, named Nash. Three gullies have been tried, and all found payable. It is thought that the ground will ultimately support a large population. The distance from Maryborough is between fifty and sixty miles.[1]

A local correspondent described the moment of discovery.
At first Nash kept the news to himself so that he could claim the reward offered by the Government. After mining a substantial amount of gold, he set off for Brisbane.  When he sold his gold to a dealer, he was careful not to disclose its exact source.

The first dish opened his eyes - the second slightly affected his nervous system. After trying several more, he determined on getting rations and giving the place a good testing before giving information. Accordingly, procuring rations from Mr. Booker's station, Currie, he went to work with a will, and in a few days obtained sixty-two ounces of gold. 

With this he started to Brisbane, where he sold the gold to Messrs. Flavelle, as Cape River, or some other Northern gold- field, and where it was exhibited.

Nash at the same time communicated to the Government some particulars of the discovery, that there might be no mistake about who was the original discoverer in the event of his claiming the reward.[2]

Mary Street in Gympie in 1868

It was good news for the colony of Queensland which at the time was experiencing a severe financial crisis.

THE excitement with reference to the Gympie Creek diggings is still increasing, and may now almost be called a gold fever. The principal street of the city presents a much busier appearance during the day time than it has done for some months past, and reminds one of the "good old times before the crisis."

This is caused by the influx of people from the country who have come here to buy their outfits. The real town population, however, is fast diminishing, and tradesmen are noticing the absence of old customers. 

Much the largest proportion of the intending diggers go overland, and we have observed several mounted on decided scrubbers. As the journey, however, is short, and water plentiful along the road, we have no doubt they will all get there sooner or later.[3]

Miners Panning for Gold

Rumours were rife and The Queenslander reported some examples of the wild stories that were circulated around Brisbane.

It would seem as though the people had caught the gold fever in its most virulent form, and nothing in the way of exaggeration would disgust them. To please this false appetite for news without a word of truth in it, any number of bogus telegrams are shown about town in a mysterious way by parties who never got them through the telegraph office.

There are scores of men now on the road to the diggings with most inflated notions of the wealth before them. One Brisbane merchant, while on his return from the diggings, met a party some forty miles from town who informed him (the merchant) that he had sent down a message for the immediate transportation of all his goods to Gympie Creek. This was news indeed to him, as he had not seen sufficient attraction on the gold-field for him attempting to do any business there.

A party of Germans from the Logan called at our office on Wednesday to see if it was true "in the paper" that the Government wanted 1000 men, at 10s. a day and "rations” to go to the gold-field. Such are specimens of the yarns credulous men are told, and which have started scores on the road. Our reports are the most reliable we have been able to gather; after perusing them, if any man feels disposed to start, well and good. He ought to be the best judge of his own affairs.[4]

Miners working in a gold mine at Gympie

The reports turned out to be true. Just a few months after the announcement of James Nash’s discovery, the largest nugget ever found in Queensland, the 30-kilogram “Curtis Nugget” was unearthed.

February 8. Great excitement prevails about the large nugget. It is the largest by very much that has yet been discovered. The circumstances of the "find" were somewhat singular. A person named Curtis had just finished his day's work with his party in Sailor's Gully, which lies between the Lady Mary and the Caledonian reefs. He threw out some water, and immediately a dull red mass displayed itself under the shower. In an instant he was richer by £2800![5]

Gold mining in the Gympie area continues to this day.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Brisbane Courier Friday 18 October 1867
[2] The Brisbane Courier Saturday 26 October 1867
[3] The Queenslander 9.11.1867
[4] The Queenslander 9.11.1867
[5] The Queenslander Saturday 15 February 1868

1 comment:

  1. Hi, my name is Brian Burns and I'm the great, great grandson of james nash, it through my mothers side of the family, the hilderbrants.I have just started to find my ansestry but have problems due to lack of infomation.