William Bramwell Withers.

The history of Ballarat, from the first pastoral settlement to the present time online

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Online LibraryWilliam Bramwell WithersThe history of Ballarat, from the first pastoral settlement to the present time → online text (page 1 of 37)
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History oe Ballarat








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Printed by F. VV. Niven and Co., 40 Stdrt Street.


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This little History, in eight chapters, only touches a few of the
more prominent incidents connected with pastoral settlement and
the gold discovery in the Ballarat district. The compiler has
seen the growth of the town from a mere collection of canvas
tents among the trees and on the grassy slopes and tlats of the
wild bush to its present condition. Less than 20 years ago there
was not a house where now stands this wealthy mine and farm-
girdled city, whose population is nearly equal to the united popu-
lations of Oxford and Cambridge, and exceeding by several
thousands the united populations of the cities of Winchester,
Canterbury, Salisbury, and Lichfield at the time of the gold dis-
covery. This is one .of the truths which are magnificently
stranger than fiction.

Some of the first workers in this mighty creation are still
here. Of the pastoral pioneers there are still with us the Messrs.
Learmonth, Pettett, Waldie, Winter, Fisken, Coghill, and Bacchus ;
and the Rev. Thomas Hastie is still living at the Manse at

Down the valley of the Leigh, where the Sebastopol streets
and fences run over the eastern escarpment of the table land, may
still be seen the sandstone foundations of a station begun by the
Messrs. Yuille, whom the coming of the first hosts of gold-hunters
scared away from a place no longer fit, in their opinion, for
pastoral occupation. Those unfinished walls are in a paddock
overlooking a little carse of some four or five acres by the creek
side, owned by an Italian farmer, and close to the junction of
the Woolshed Creek with the main stream in the valley. On the
other side of the larger stream rise basaltic mounds, marked with
the pits and banks of the earlier miners. Like the trenches of an old
battle-field, these works of the digging armies of the past are now
grass-grown and spotted with wild flowers. All around, the open
lands of fifteen years ago are turned into streets and fields and
gardens. A little way lower down the valley, where the ground


has a broad slope up from the left bank of the Leigh to the foot
of the ranges, was the Magpie rush of 1855-6. For a mile nearly
every inch of frontage was fought for then, and a town of over
four thousand inhabitants sprang up. Gold was found plenti-
fully, and warehouse, hotel, and saloon crowded close with
dwelling and church along the thoroughfare. A summer flood
surprised the dwellers on the lowland and carried oft" lives as well
as property, mingling a tragic sorrow with the losses of the un-
successful. Time, less sudden than the midsummer freshet, but
more sAveeping, has cleared the ground of almost every vestige of
the busy but fragile life of fifteen years ago. But the eternal
sense of the Infinite survives " our little lives" and all their fitful
pulsations of varying passion. Yonder, where, by the bush track
side, the rounding slope swells upon the south, stands a church,
sombre, lonely, and silent as the Roman sentinel at Pompeii when
all around him had fled or fallen. This is all, save here and there
heaps of broken bottles and sardine tins half hidden by the grass,
and a few faint trench and building lines, softened by the rains,
and bright at this time with the young verdure of the turning
seasoji. Tlie most curious eye could now discover no other traces
of the rush if it were not for the broader and deeper marks left
where the first miners fought their industrial way, and where, for
years, their followers retraced the golden trail. On going up the
Yarrowee banks northward a space, as one looks up the valley
he sees, beyond the city, the bare top, the white artificial chasms
and banks and mounds, where Black Hill raised its dark dense
liead of forest trees before the digger rent the hill in twain, and
half disembowelled the swelling lieadland.

Besides the pastoral settlers already mentioned, tliere are yet
with us some of the first discoverers. Esmond is still here.
Woodward and Turner, of the Golden Point discoverers, are still
l)ere in Ballarat, and Merrick and some others of that band
remain in the district. Others who followed tliem witliin the
first week or two are also amongst our busy townsfolk of to-day.

While these remained it was thouglit desirable to gather
sonio of the honey of fact from fugitive opportunity, th.it it might
bo garnered for tlie historian of the future. Nearly all the per-


sons whose names have been mentioned above have assisted in
the preparation of this narrative by furnishing valuable contri-
butions from their own recollections, and the compiler takes this
occasion to thank them and others, including legal managers of
mines, whose ready courtesy has enabled him to do what he has
done to rescue from forgetfulness the brief details here chronicled
touching the history of this gold-field. He has borrowed some
facts and figures, too, from Mr. Harrie Wood's ably compiled
notes, published in Mr. Brough Smyth's " Gold-fields and Mineral
Districts of Victoria." To the oflicers of most of the public in-
stitutions referred to he also owes the acknowledgment of much
courtesy ; and to Mr. Huyghue, a gentleman still holding office
in Ballarat, and who was in the public service here at the time of
the Eureka Stockade, thanks are due, both by the publislier and
compiler, for notes of that period, and for the extremely interest-
ing illustrations of the Stockade, the Camp, and other spots
copied from original drawings. The publisher also acknowledges
the courtesy of Mr. Ferres, the Government printer, in supplying
original documents, and of Mr, Noone in giving valuable assist-
ance in connection with their reproduction by the photo-litho-
graphic process. The contributions of newspaper correspondents
during the Eureka Stockade troubles have also assisted the com-
piler, and notably the letters of the correspondent of the Gcelong
Advertiser in 1854-5. But to Mr. John Noble Wilson, the com-
mercial manager of the Ballarat Star, is due, on the part of all
concerned, the recognition of his suggesting the narrative, of his
constant cordial co-operation, and his untiring ingenuity in
making suggestions and collecting materials both for the text and
the illustrations. The reproduced proclamations by the Govern-
ment, which the reader will find at intervals, as well as many of
the original documents, are the fruit of that gentleman's assiduity
in collecting materials of interest and pertinence.

It has been necessary to record the fact that the tragic issue
of the license agitation was mainly due to the mistakes of the
governing authorities, even as the unrighteous rigors of the
digger-hunting processes were made more poignant by the
haughty indiscretions and brutal excesses of commissioners and


troopers. But it is equally incumbent on the recorder to recog-
nise the more agreeable fact that there were officers in both
grades who did their harsh duties difterently. Some of these are
still in the service, and retain the respect they won in the more
troublous times by their judicious and humane administration of
an obnoxious law, for the existence of whicli they were in no way

In the matter of gold statistics there has been found great
difficulty, for the early records were imperfect, and the latter ones
are little, if in anywise, superior ; while searches for the first
newspaper accounts of the gold discovery have shown that, both
in Melbourne and Geelong, the public files have been rifled of in-
valuable portions by the miserable meanness of some unknown

The future we have not essayed to divine. What the past
and the present of our local history may do to enable the reader
to speculate upon the future, each one must for himself determine,
though the faith of the Ballarat of to-day in the Ballarat of the
future may, we think, be more accurately inferred from tlie stable
monuments of civic enterprise, and the many signs of mining,
manufacturing, and rural industry around, than from the oc-
casional forebodings of fear in seasons of depression. In less
than two decades we have created a large city, built up gi-eat
fortunes, laid the foundations of many commercial successes, and
sown the seeds of yet undeveloped industries ; and those who
have seen so much should not readily think that we are near the
exhaustion of our resources, either in the precious minerals, or
the still more precious spirit of enterprise and industry necessary
for the development of the wealth of nature around us. For the
good done, and for the doers of the good, we may all be thankful, if
not proud ; and, in proportion as we are thus moved, we may look
with confident hope towards the future, who.se uncertain years are
lit up with the radiance of the past, and shaped to our vision by
the promise of the present.

Among modest writers it is the fashion not only to write pre-
faces, but to excite attention to wonderful merit by apologies for
defects. The present writer burns to be in tlie fashion. He


craves the indulgence of the reader in informing that important
personage that the ordinary duties of a reporter on a daily morn-
ing paper are not luxuriously light, and that tlie compilation of
the following narrative has been a refreshing appendage to the
daily discharge of sucli ordinary duties, plus a bracing exercise of
sub-editorial function. He has, no doubt, amply vindicated
Bolingbroke's accurate apothegm, and especially in tliis preface.
Both preface and narrative may be regarded as a verbose
exaggeration of the importance of the subject. The answer to
that is, that the writer has written mainly for those who know
the place, and, knowing it, are proud of it ; for those who believe
in the future in reserve for it, for the colony to which it belongs
to-day, and for the empire of which it some day may be a not
altogetlier unimportant portion.

In the City of York, where memory and fancy, busy with
the records and the remains of the past, make of the softened
lights and shadows and many-colored figures of mediaeval English
history an inexpressible charm, the glorious Minster rises over all
supreme in its solemn and saintly beauty. Whatever pilgrim
there has studiously perused that marvellous " poem in stone" may
have seen over one of the doorways the work of some loving and
pious egotist in the following inscription : — " Ut rosa flos florum,
sic tu es domus domorum." Let us be permitted, with similar
egotism, if not with equal piety, to inscribe here, as over one of
the portals of approach to one of the golden fields and cities of
Victoria : — Ut aurum metallorum pretiosissimum, sic tu es cam-
porum aureorum princeps, urbiumque opulentissima.

W. B. W.

Ballarat, 22nd June, 1870.


This second edition was called for as the first was out of
print, and this new issue and all the autlior's interest in the His-
tory are the sole property of the publisliers. In transferring my
rights to the publishers, I undertook to write what was deemed
necessary to bring the narrative "up to date." To do this and
supply some omissions from the first edition were, both, desirable,
and the attempt has been carried out as far as the publishers'
views as to space have permitted. How inadequate the realisa-
tion is, my repeated wails in the text admit as frankly as possible.
Independently of the omissions from the first edition, the de-
velopments of the city and suburbs during the 17 years since
1870 involved so much matter that it was found impossible to
deal with it all in a satisfactory mannei- within the space avail-
able ; but it is hoped that the leading events of the period liave,
at least, been in some way recognised. And e^en that could not
have been done had it not been that the author, with some few
exceptions, met everywhere the readiest will to assist him by
supplying the ofiicial information required. In the body of the
work these courtesies have been generally acknowledged^ and I
desire to repeat liere my sense of indebtedness in that respect to
very many citizens. It is not for me to judge how ill or well my
part of the work has been done, but it may be permitted to me
to say tliat the publishers and printers have finished their work
in a manner that does credit to them and to the arts tliey repre-
sent. Mr. Niven has enriched the edition with many illustra-
tions from his own pencil, and the photo-litliographs of official
and other documents which give Jac siiidliS of tliose papers,
bespeak the resources of the publishers' establishment. The appo-
site; d(!signs on the cover, and their engraving and pi'inting, are all
the product of the pul>lish('rs' own office, and compare creditably
witli the work of old-world linns. Tin; map of the; mines, at
page 2i^)2, has been prepared from survc^ys .specially made by
Mr. IlobcTt Allan, mining surveyor, and is a document of


interest and value. To Mr. Anderson, the head printer, I owe
my thanks for many intelligent suggestions in the course of the
revisal of proofs, and his vigilant eye detected some errors in
Appendix A which had lain unnoticed ever since the issue of the
edition of 1870. It is hoped that the present edition is nearly
free from literal errors, but two or three have been noticed since
the matter passed througli the press. In the bottom line, page
61, the date 18.5.5 should be 1854 ; in the lieading to Chapter VI.
" representative charges" should be " representative changes ;"
and in the bottom line, page 28.5, the date 1857 should be 185G.

A word to scholars, that they may not believe a lie. I am
no Latinist. As a poor pavior on the high road of letters, I
picked up some Roman tesserce by the way side, and, to please my
fancy and give bits of color and tone of reminiscence and mean-
ing not else handy, inserted them here and there in the ruder
work. Only that, my learned brothers of the great republic.

The writer of even so small a history as this, is but as the
voice of one crying in a wilderness of facts and dates, in hope
of reducing them in some soi't to cosmic order. Like the life it
essays to depict, history is only a drama, and the historian
merely sets the scenes, and lifts the curtain, where else had been
uncertainty or oblivion.

Our revels now are ended. Tlie actors here, too, were
all spirits. Many, as squatters Pettett, Waldie, Winter
Bacchus, one of the Learmonth's, besides a host of mining and
civic pioneers, have melted into air since the fii'st edition was
issued. The veteran Thomas Hastie still lives at the Buninyoii"'
manse, and others still grace, or disgrace, with their corporal pre-
sence, the scenes of their exj)loits. There remain Humtiray and
Lalor, and, with other of Lalor's Stockade subalterns, the fold-
finder Esmond. Humfiray and Esmond are in the shallows, but
Lalor, on whose " rebel" head a price was once set, floats proudly
as the able and well-salaried Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
His political friends are not ashamed to plead for a retirin"'
pension for him, after he has, for many years, been liberally paid
for his services in a nominally pension-hating democracy ; whilst


Esmond, but for whose discovery Lalor might never have been
here, has failed to get leave to earn State wages enough to keep
the wolf from the door.

The fingers of change move swiftly. Whilst facts and figures
have been shaping for the printers of this edition, the funerals of
some of those who furnished the matter have passed by. Since
the last chapter has been in type, the old mess-room of the civil
and military ofiicers of the Camp has been sold, and its materials have
been removed piece-meal. Thirty years ago, the present Premier of
Victoria stood in his blue serge shirt on the verandah of the house, and
unsuccessfully tried to persuade his brother blue-shirts to return
him, at that time, to the court then sitting there. " Rebel"
bullets fell about the house during the ante-Stockade trouble, and
then the vanquished victors of the Stockade sent representatives
to sit in the mess-room as a Local Court, with Warden Sherard
as first chairman, and thereafter, as long as the coui't lived, with
the merry, brown-eyed Daly, and with the merrier and caustic
Miskelly as the clerk for awhile. Ex-Chairman Sherard is still
here, as Savings Bank actuary, but Daly and many others, who sat
there a generation agone, are dead. The old historic house itself
is now gone, too, and a free public library is to be built upon the

For myself, I now vanish for ever from this stage, to write
editions of this History no more — if this be history. But
though I now retire behind the scenes, so far as this work
is concerned, I shall not forget the play nor the leading
players. The largest portion of my life has been spent here, and
if there be any possiljility of the realisation of such a sad conceit
as that of the Tudor Mary, who said Calais would be found
written upon her heart, the name of this beautiful city of Bal-
larat may he found written upon miiie.

W. B. W.

Ballarat, 3rd August, 1887.


General View of Ballarat, 1887 ...

King Billy and Ballarat Tribe, 1850

Ballarat in 1852 from Mount Buninyong ...

Drays on the Road to the Diggings

Creswick Creek from Spring Hill, 1855 ...

Ballarat Flat, 1855, from Black Hill

The "Township" from Bath's hotel, 1855...

John AUoo's Restaurant, Main road, 1853

Deep Sinking, Bakery Hill, 1855

First Quartz Mill, Black Hill ...

Arrival of the Geelong Mail Coach

Gold -digging License ...

Business License

Arrival of Troops

Site of the Eureka Stockade

Government Notices


Soldiers' and Diggers' Graves

The Stockade Memorial

Golden Point and Yarrowee Creek

First Horse Puddler

Band and Albion Consols Mine, 1887

Madame Berry Mine, 1 887

Mining Plan of Ballarat

Mining Registrar's Old Office

View of Sturt street

Lake Wendouree


( Frontispiece),










... 80



.. 104

... 112

... 120

... 128

... 152



... 200



... 232

... 240


... 256




First Exploring Parties. — Mount Buninyong. — Mount Aitkin. — Ercildoun.
— Ballarat. — Lake Burrumbeet Dry. — .Settling Throughout the Dis-
trict. — First Wheat Grown. — First Flour Mill. — Founding of liuninyong.
— A Wide Diocese. — Appearance of Ballarat. — The Natives. — Aboriginal
Names. — The Squatters. — Premonitions of the Gold Discovery. 1 — 16



California and tJie Ural. — Predictions of Australian Gold. — Discoveries of
Old Bushmen. — Hargreaves and others in New South Wales. — Effects of
Discovery at Bathurst. — Sir C. A. Fitz Roy's Despatches. — First Assay.
— Esmond and Hargreaves. — Esmond's Discovery at Clunes. — Previous
Victorian Discoveries. — Esmond's the First Made Effectively Public. —
Hiscock. — Golden Point, Ballarat.— Claims of Discoverers as to
Priority. —Effects of the Discovery. — Mr. Latrobe's Despatches. — His
Visit to Ballarat. — The Licenses. — Change of Scene at Ballarat. — Mount
Alexander Rush. — Fresh Excitements. — Rise in Prices. ... 17 — 45



Great Aggregations of Population. — Opening up of Golden Grounds. — A
Digger's Adventures. — Character of the Population. — Dates of Local Dis-
coveries. — Ballarat Township Proclaimed. — First Sales of Land. — Bath's
Hotel.— First Public Clock.— Tatham's and Brooksbank's Recollections.—
Primitive Stores, Offices, and Conveyances. — Woman a Phenomenon. —
First Women at Ballarat. — Curious Monetary Devices. — First Religious


Services. — Churches. — Newspapers. — Theatres. — Lawyers. — First
Courts. — Capture of Roberts, the Nelson Robber. — Nuggets. — Golden
Gutters. — Thirty or Forty Thousand Persons Located. ... 46 — 71



The Gold License. — Taxation Without Representation. — Unequal Inci
dence of the Tax. — Episodes of Digger Hunting. — Irritating Method of
Enforcing the Tax. — Suspicions of Corruption among the Magistrates
and Police. — Visit of Sir Charles and Lady Hotham. — Big Larry.—
Roff s Recollections. — Reform League. — Murder of Scobie. — Acquittal of
Bentley. — Dewes Suspected. — Mass Meetings. — Burning of Bentley's
Hotel. — Irwin's Narrative. — Arrest of Fletcher, M'Intyre, and Westerby.
— Re-arrest of Bentley. — Conviction of Bentley. — Rich's Experiences. —
Conviction of Fletcher, M'Intyre, and Westerby. — Demand for their
Liberation. — Increased Excitement. — Fete to the American Consul. —
Foster. — Sir Charles Hotham. — Arrival of Troops. — Troops As-
saulted. — Bakery Hill Meeting. — Southern Cross Flag. — Burning the
Licenses. ... ... ... ... ... ... 72 — 96



The Last Digger Hunt. — Collision between the Diggers and Military and
Police. — Southern Cross Flag again.- — Lalor and his Companioais Armed,
kneel, and swear Mutual Defence. — Irwin's Account. — Carboni Raffaello.
— His Pictures of the Times and the Men. — More Troops Arrive. — The
Diggers Extend their Organisation Under Arms. — Lalor "Commander-
in-Chief." — Forage and Impressment Parties. — Original Documents. —
Shots Fii-ed from the Camp. — The Stockade Formed. — Narrative of a
Government Officer in the Camp.— Attack by tlie Military and Taking of
the Stockade. — Various Accounts of the Time. — Raffaello's Description, —
Other Tragic Pictures. — First Stone House. — Bank of Victoria Fortitied.
— A Soldier's Story. — List of the Killed. — Burials. — Rewards Otlcredfor
the Insurgent Leaders. — Their Hiding and Escape. — Charge Against A.
P. Akehurst. — Proclamation of Martial Law. — Feeling in Melbourne. —
Foster's Resignation. — Deputation of Diggers. — Humffray Arrested. —
Vote of Thanks to the 'i'roops. — Legislative Council's Address to the
Governor. — Hia Reply. — Prisoners at the IJallarat Police Court. — Royal
Commission of En<iuiry. — 'J'rial and Acquittal of tlic State Prisoners. —
Humlliay. — Lalor s and his Captain's Hiding Place and Peculiarities. —


Cost of the Struggle. — Compensation Meeting at the Stockade. — RafTaello
there Selling his Book. — Subsequent Celebrations. — Soldiers' and Diggers'
Monuments. — The Burial Places. — The Insurgent Flag. — Death of Sir
Charles Hotham. — Hotham and Foster Vindicated. ... 97 — 163



Ballarat Politically Active and Influential. — New Constitution.^ — Humffray
and Lalor Elected. — Their Addresses. — Humffi'ay in Trouble. — Lalor on
Democracy. — Lalor on the IStar.- — The Grand Trunk Affair. — Petition for
a Private Property Mining Law. — Neglect by the Parliaments of Mining
Interests. — Probable Causes. — New Political Demands. — Votes of Lalor
and Humffray. — Burial Expenses of Oovernor Hotham. — O'Shanassy
Chief Secretary. — Haines Succeeds, with M'CuUoch as Commissioner of
Customs.— O'Shanassy in Power Again. — Nicholson Cabinet. — Succeeded
by Heales, with Humffray as First Minister of Mines. — O'Shanassy in
Power Again. — Succeeded by M'Cvdloch. — The Tariff. — Re-call of Go-
vernor Darling. — Darling Grant Crisis. — Death of Governor Darling. —
Grant to his Widow and Family. — Sladen Ministry. — M'CuUoch in
Power Again. —Representative Changes. — Jones Declared CoiTupt, —
Defeats Vale.— The jNlacpherson Ministry. — Its Resignation. — Mac-

Online LibraryWilliam Bramwell WithersThe history of Ballarat, from the first pastoral settlement to the present time → online text (page 1 of 37)