Edward Hargraves

About that time , however, the rich mines of California attracted a Bathurst settler, named Edward Hargraves, to seek his fortune on the banks of the Sacromento ; and through, among the great crowds of struggling and jostling diggers, he met with little success, yet he learnt the methods by which gold is discovered and secured, and laid the foundation for adventures in Australia which were afterwards to bring him both wealth and fame. Whilst he toiled with increasing disappointments on one of those famous goldfields, the scenery around him, and the appearance of the rocks, recalled to his memory a certain secluded valley beyond the Blue Mountains, which he had visited 15 years before. The notion floated vaguely through his mind that, perhaps, in that silent spot, there might lie treasures, such as he saw his more fortunate companions from time to time draw forth from the rocks and soil around him. Day after day the image of that winding creek along the hills near Bathurst, recurred with increasing vividness, to stimulate his imagination and awaken his hopes; and, at length, this feeling impelled him to seek once more the shores of Australia, in order to examine the spot which had so often been present in his day dreams. He lost no time in sailing, and scarcely had he arrived in Sydney than had he set out on horseback to cross the Blue Mountains. On the 11th day of February, 1851, he spent the night at a little inn a few miles from the object of his journey and shorty after dawn he sett off on foot through the forest, carrying with him a spade, a trowel and a little tin dish. In the cool air of the morning scent of the spreading gum-trees braced up his frame as he plunged deeper and deeper among those lonely hollows and wood clad hills. His quickened step in an hour or two brought him to the well remembered spot - the dry course of the mountain torrent which, in rainy seasons, finds its way into the Summerhill Creek. He lost no time in placing a little of the grey coloured soil into his tin dish, and at once carried it to the nearest pool, where he dipped the whole beneath the water. By moving the dish rapidly, as he had learnt to do in California, he washed away the sand and earth ; but the particles of gold, which are more than seven and a half times heavier than sand, were not so easily to be carried off. They sank to the corner of the dish, where they lay secure : a few small specks, themselves of little value, yet telling of hidden treasures that lay scattered in all the soil around.

A few days were spent in a careful examination of the neighbouring valleys and when he was absolutely certain that the hopes he had so warmly indulged would not prove empty, he set out for Sydney ; taking care,however, to breathe no word of what he thought, or of what he had proven. On the 3rd of April, 1851, he wrote a letter to the Colonial Secretary, in which he stated that, if the government were willing to give him £500, he would point out the localities in New South Wales where gold was abundantly found. In reply, the Colonial Secretary announced that no preliminary reward could be given ; but that, if he chose first of all to point out the localities, he would afterwards be recompensated in proportion to the results. He accepted these conditions, and Mr Stutchbury, the Colonial Geologist, was sent to accompany him to the Summerhill Creek. On the 8th May they set to work, and soon obtained several ounces of grain gold ; on the 13th, they discovered a single piece worth £30 and the next day Mr Stutchbury reported to the Government that he had seen enough to convince him that the district was rich in the precious metal. Five days later, the little valley of the Summerhill contained 400 people, all stooping over the creek in a row about a mile long, each with a dish in hand, scarcely ever raising his head, but busily engaged in washing the sand for gold. Lumps were frequently found of value varying from £ 5-200. A week later, there were a 1,000 people at work on the creek near the formerly lonely gully.

 

History of Australia