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Mining Industries on the Monaro
The story of all mining on Manaro pales into insignificance in the light of the romance that surrounds Kiandra, in places rich beyond imagination. It would seem as though nature had chosen there a few square miles on the highest point and in the most severe climate in New South Wales as a golden storehouse.
Kiandra, fifty-two miles to the S.W. of Cooma, twenty-two miles beyond Adaminaby, had been known to the early settlers as Gibson's Plains, by reason of having been occupied by a Dr. Gibson. "The Sydney Morning Herald," of 25th February, 1860, states that "In the year 1839 Dr. Gibson visited the country (that is now Kiandra), and being struck with the beauty of the plain and the extent of pasture, sent men up to erect a stock yard, taking with them a quantity of cattle. By the time they had finished the stockyard the winter had set in and the cattle perished."
It is stated that the native name of Kiandra, the name by which it was known to the aboriginals -was Giandarra, and if the initial letter of that name were pronounced hard, the result would almost be Kiandra as it is to-day sounded.
Kiandra was in its earlier history used as a summer grazing ground. Two brothers, James and David Pollock, who annually brought sheep from the Murray, spent their spare time in prospecting. About June, 1859, it would appear that they discovered gold at Bullock Head Creek. They reported their discovery at Tumbarumba on their way home to the Murray. Through all the Colonies word sped of the golden wonders of Kiandra. Thither from all parts men sped, lured by the magic of the yellow metal. Some came from Victoria, across the Mountains, and through Tumut, others hastened from widely different parts of New South Wales, and passed through Cooma, Coolringdon, Cootralantra, Middlingbank, Buckinderra and Adaminaby. Many landed at Twofold Bay and came thence up the Big Jack Mountain, through Cathcart, or Bibbenluke, making for Dukes Springs Hotel.
As the track became more frequented hotels were speedily opened. At Dukes Springs, Horatio Rowley opened a hotel in a building now occupied by Mr. W. J. Thompson, as Avon Lake Station. Charles Wright, then owner of Bobundarah, built at that place an hotel known as "The Woolpack," his tenant and licensee being one John Smith. This building was pulled down by the Messrs. Sellar, when they acquired Bobundarah. The track was known as the old Diggers' Track, and at Bobundarah in addition to the Hotel, there was a store and a blacksmith's shop. The store was originally kept by one Caldwell.
In November of the same year a party from Adaminaby, Gilon (who was in charge of Rock Forest for Mr. Peter Curtis, and who had come to Manaro with Messrs. Cosgrove and York), Grice and Hayes discovered satisfactory gold in Pollock's Gully, and in December, 1859, and January, 1860, the great rush set in.
Towards the end of January, 1860, the Four Mile and Nine Mile Rushes took place, and about 1000 men were engaged in prospecting at each place. From February, 1860, the "Sydney Morning Herald" got regular reports from the field, and that journal and some old papers in the possession of the Mines Department are the authocity for much of the information that follows:
In the very start of the rush one party of four men got 120 ozs. in a week, another of three were getting 20 oz. daily. Still a third got 1 lb. weight of gold per day, and nuggets of from 6 lbs., 12lbs. and 14 lbs. were being unearthed.
On 28th February, Smith and mate had washed 394 oz. inside seven weeks. Everywhere the ground was touched it yielded gold, and on 2nd March 1860, it was said 500 ozs. were being obtained daily. A Commissioner was, of course, on the field, and he had by that time taken with him to Sydney a nugget weighing 26 oz., besides a large quantity of coarse gold. Some claims were even turning out 100 oz. per day, and nuggets of from 20 to 30 oz. were being frequently picked up within a few inches of the surface. T. W. Moon, of Adelong, is reported on 10th March as having found two nuggets of 9 and 43 ozs., and another man lodged a 14 lb. and 7 lb. nugget at the Police Camp.
The maximum population of the field was 15,000, this number of men being estimated to be, engaged in prospecting during the months of February and March, 1860.
Whilst particulars of these finds were being received and the public mind excited at the thoughts of an Eldorado where gold could be had for carting away, a caution was given warning men against going to a region like Kiandra, where it was stated one could see skeletons of bullocks hanging 20 feet high in the trees, up sides of high hills. The depth of snow, it was pointed - out, must be fearful when it was thus plainly shown that the cattle were feeding on the top branches of trees. By reason of the severity of the winter of 1860, many men postponed their journey over the Mountains till the cold weather - had passed.
Mr. Commissioner Cloete by the end of March mentioned nuggets, some weighing 93 oz., 23 oz., 160 OZ., 62 OZ., and six small ones weighing 180 oz. During Mr. Cloete's absence he reported to the Secretary for Lands that he had left Mr. Lockhart and Mr. Clarke in charge.
On 2nd April, 1860, gold belonging to the Bank of New South Wales, and won at Kiandra, was, exhibited at the shop of Messrs. Brush & McDonnell, in George Street, Sydney. The gold dust weighed 1172 oz., several large nuggets weighing 166 oz. One nugget from the Snowy River weighed 128 oz. and 350 pounds was refused for it. The diggers who owned this also brought with them 1000 pounds worth of gold.
Naturally with all this wealth about, thieves were not scarce at Kiandra, but those who were caught were punished by having their heads close shaved.
Early in April the escort, with eleven mounted troopers, left Kiandra with 7409 oz. of gold, whilst it was believed that independent of that another 5000 oz. were in the hands of the miners.
Although gold was plentiful and more of it was said to have
been sent to Victoria than to Sydney, provisions, if not actually scarce, were
high in price, and in May, 1860, flour is reported as being I/- per lb. and 100
pounds per ton, but in December the prices quoted were Flour 6d. per lb., 45 to
50 pounds per ton; oats 18/- per bushel; maize 20/- per bushel of 60 lbs.; beans
12/- per bushel of 20 lbs. At the end of that month the total yield of gold from
all sources was estimated at 30,000 oz. In March, the Bank of New South Wales
opened a branch on the field, and in July it was followed by the now defunct
Oriental Bank. The optimism existent with regard to the field is evidenced by
the "Herald's" leading article of June 28th, 1860, wherein it is said:
"We hear the goldfields at Kiandra will be visited in the ensuing Summer by
at least 50,000 men. Suppose we should see at the Alpine Regions at one time
36,000 men. Of these more than 24,000 will be actually employed in mining, the
rest will be required to supply their wants. The value of the gold they will
raise at 6 pounds per head per week will reach 144,000 pounds, and reckoning 30
working weeks, will be 14,320,000 pounds."
In August, 1860, the population of Kiandra was 4,000. 200 diggers were at the Four Mile and 400 at the Nine Mile. The Kiandra Quartz Reef was discovered two miles North of Kiandra, and Reefs were also located at the head of the Tumut River and Lobbs Hole.
By September 1860, the value of the house property at Kiandra approximated 140,000 pounds. A quartz specimen worth 1000 pounds was picked up, and at the new rush at New Chum Hill a 57 oz. nugget, nearly all pure gold, was obtained. More definite mining, instead of casual work, appears now to have started, shafts had been put down, tunnels up to 300 feet had been driven, puddling machines were in full operation, and many races had been brought down from the hills. At the Nine Mile a Lock-up and Guard Room had been finished, and on 5th October, 1860, the Police were to be sent out there. On 11 th October, 1860, a great sensation was caused by the discovery of a nugget of nearly pure gold, weighing nearly 400 oz. by the butcher's steelyards.
About this time the population of Kiandra commenced to diminish, but New Chum Hill and Surface Hill were being vigorously worked, the former proving one of the richest spots on Kiandra, though the Commissioner was kept busy adjusting disputes concerning claims.
On 16th October, 1860, telegraphic communication was opened with Sydney.
In November 1860, 19 specimens weighing in the gross 75 oz. 4 dwt. were forwarded to Sydney and Flavelle & Roberts estimated them to contain 25 per cent of their weight in gold, equal to 500 oz. to the ton.
In November, 1860, the principal claims being worked were Surface Hill, New Chum Hill, Township Hill, the Nine Mile, Jackass Flat, Whipstick Flat and Rocky Plain. The miners were Faulkner and party, Gallagher and party, Riley and Co., Williams and party, Flanagan and party.
At Rocky Plain, southeast from Kiandra, there were stores, public houses, and tents, and though by December 1860, goods and provisions could be obtained at something approximating Sydney prices, the population was rapidly dwindling. Interest was to some extent revived by Eaton and party's discovery at Whipstick, of a nugget worth from 700 pounds to 800 pounds though the opinion was definitely growing that Kiandra had failed to realise the brilliant hopes that were formed concerning it. From time to time rich finds were made, but with the beginning of the winter in March, 1861, a great exodus started, and it was reported that there were not more than 250 diggers left on the field. Lambing Flat had been discovered, and most of the miners had hurried there.
In August, 1861, the "Herald" reports that everybody at Four Mile was completely snowed in, and that no idea could be formed, except by experience, of the horrors of the place. The winter was described as being a terrible one, resulting in great privations. Many severe accidents were reported.
Throughout its later history continuous squabbling between the Commissioners and the miners resulted detrimentally to the interests of the field.
On 29th August, 1863, the "Sydney Mail," referring
to heavy snowfalls at Kiandra, says:-
"The population is gradually getting smaller, and it is doubtful whether this once-attractive spot will ever witness a revival of the olden days, It is lamentable to observe such large and expensive buildings as are to be found in the township not only tenantless, but rapidly falling into decay."
In October, 1864, as the result of a petition for a second Magistrate, the appointment of Mr. J. . Lette, for many years afterwards an identity of Western Manaro, was gazetted as second Magistrate.
The gold escort was not established for several months after the commencement of operations on the field, and it is believed that most of the gold won was taken away during the first few weeks following the discovery, and thus no reliable record of the amount won can be arrived at. The Rev. W. B. Clarke, M.A., in his "Southern Gold Fields," states "that from January 1st, 1860, to June, 1860, 42,000 ozs. of gold were despatched by escort, and that one nugget was found weighing 27lb.
During the first year of its discovery, and in 1860, the escort returns from Kiandra were 67,687 oz., valued at 13 14s. 7d. per oz. In 1861 it declined to 16,565 oz., valued at 3 pounds 15s 4d per oz ., and in 1862 to 7,385 OZ., valued at 3 pounds 1 5s. per oz. In 1863 and 1864, the yields were 6780 and 6866 oz. respectively, and the qauntity sent by escort rapidly declined till in 1872 it was only 648 oz. It seems quite clear, however, that the official escort returns are very considerably below the quantity of gold won, which to the end of 1872 amounted to 124,529 oz., of an average value of 3 pounds 15s 2d per oz., representing values to the extent of 468,021 pounds 9s. 10d. Private buyers, remittances direct to Sydney and to Victoria, and quantities carried away by prospectors, and largely by Chinese, would very greatly add to these figures.
Transcribed by Pattrick Mould in 2003, from the book "Back to Cooma' Celebrations" page 53-56