State Library of South Australia
Manning Index of South Australian History
  • South Australia
  • Adelaide
  • Port Adelaide
  • Place Names

  • About the Index
  • Searching
  • Text-based menus
    (Use this option if your browser will not open the folders.)

    South Australia - Gold Fever of the 1850s

    Richard Clode - The Frustrated Gold Seeker

    (Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning, Hope Farm Chronicle, p.37.)

    On 20 October 1851 I left Adelaide on foot with a blanket on my back and my faithful dog, Tiger, by my side. We were heading for the diggings. As you know we had just had the wettest winter since the foundation of the colony, and consequently I was prepared to encounter many difficulties with swamps. These were known to exixst on the road - a term not really applicable for there was, in fact, no road after crossing the River Murray.

    After 100 miles I came to the first swamp which I forded in about two hours. Knee deep in mud and slime I then crawled out on to the bank to find not a track in sight. It appeared that the heavy growth after winter rains had obliterated them. Fortunately, I fell in with a few friendly natives who put me on the right scent. When the sun had set I lit a fire, and having cooked and consumed my damper, I wrapped myself up in my blanket and was soon asleep.

    Next morning I trudged on, admiring the luxuriant shrubs which grew in profusion around many salt water lakes. These were covered with black swans, geese and ducks. I finally came to a most formidable swamp about four miles across and in places chin deep. The name of the place is Tilly's {sic} Flat and it was here that I had the misfortune to lose my dog.

    Tiger could have swum the distance but would not go ahead and kept swimming back to me, for I could not keep up with him. It took me six hours to get out of that infernal swamp, but, alas, I found myself quite alone. My poor dog had drowned.

    On and on I went, swamp after swamp. I waded for miles, meeting occasionally a shepherd or stockman. The natives I encountered were very civil and of great assistance, supplying me with fish they caught in the Coorong. Our conversation was on a limited scale. On the whole I do not think I could have done without them and, with one solitary exception, I was glad to meet them.

    One tribe I fell in with was very warlike. They understood no English and I did not comprehend their dialect. From what I could gather they were on a war expedition against another tribe. They were painted in red, white, blue and yellow, each male with three of four spears, war clubs and boomerangs. I felt much more at ease where I was out of their reach.

    Travelling on I reached the Glenelg River. I was quite worn out as I had travelled the last 100 miles barefooted. My boots were hard as iron after continual wetting and drying in the sun. I availed myself of a rest at a shepherd's hut and within a few days my raw feet were much recovered.

    I then found it necessary to replenish my pockets to complete my journey and have the means to procure a licence, tools, etc, at the diggings, so I started for the head station, where I engaged to work during the shearing season for 30 shillings a week, plus keep.

    One night as I lay asleep I was bitten on my left hand by a snake. Involuntarily, I put out my right hand to find out what was wrong and I was bitten again on the second finger of that hand on the top joint. I held on to my enemy until a light was procured by which time the snake had entwined my right arm and taken a coil around my neck with its tail.

    There were 14 men in the hut with me but none of them would lay a hold of the snake which still had hold of my right finger, so I placed my hand on a table and cut its head off with a knife; it gradually uncoiled itself and was found to measure between four and five feet. It was a diamond snake concerning which no one knew anything further other than dogs had been bitten by them and died. This, you will agree, was not the most agreeable intelligence, especially as on enquiry I learned the nearest doctor was about 200 miles away.

    I sucked the poison out of the wounds as best I could, cauterised them and applied warm olive oil and poultices. Medical assistance appeared essential and so I headed off for Geelong. The station manager lent me a horse to take me as far as Black Swamp, thirty miles away, and a letter to the overseer there to lend me another.

    Unfortunately, he was not at home on my arrival, so I left my horse and set out to walk 170 miles. My left arm was swelling rapidly and the pain was excruciating, so much so that I barely slept a minute for the next eight days.

    A doctor at Geelong dosed me with laudunum. He soon reduced the inflammation, but my hand broke out into a wound of the worst description which defied for four months all attempts to heal. As you can see my left hand is almost useless, two fingers are grown together, Siamese fashion, as far as the middle joint and I will never be able to close my hand. The only wonder is that I have a hand left, for the doctors I consulted at Geelong, Melbourne and Adelaide were almost unanimous in their wish for amputation, but I stuck out against it, and am glad now that I was so obstinate.

    A great wonder is that I survived to tell the adventure of my overland trip. Nevertheless I am taking a few weeks off to try my luck at the Echunga goldfield. the accounts of which are very good. I mean to obtain at least half a hundredweight before next winter and you may be assured that I shall keep a close look out for snakes.

    General Notes

    The gold fever in New South Wales is reported upon in the Register,
    10, 13, 20 and 23 June 1851, pages 2a, 2b, 2d and 2c,
    1 and 30 July 1851, pages 2b and 3e,
    21, 25 and 26 August 1851, pages 2d, 2c and 2b,
    15 October 1851, page 2c.

    Its discovery in Victoria is reported in the Register,
    30 June 1851, page 2d-e,
    13 October 1851, page 3b; also see
    Adelaide Times,
    26 July 1851, page 1e,
    25 October 1851, page 5c.

    "The Gold Malady" is in the Register,
    23 October 1851, page 2c-e; also see
    25 and 27 October 1851, pages 2c and 3c,
    8, 22, 24 and 30 December 1851, pages 2e, 2e, 3e and 2e,
    14 January 1852, pages 2e-3d.

    An 1850s sketch titled "The Run for Gold" is in the Observer,
    14 May 1904, page 25.

    An editorial on a proposed Government reward for gold discovered in South Australia is in the Register,
    20 December 1851, page 2d; also see
    31 December 1851, page 2d,
    3, 6, 12, 17 and 31 January 1852, pages 3a, 3c, 2e, 3b and 3c,
    25 June 1852, page 3e and Place Names - Echunga.

    "Confessions of a Goldseeker" is in the Observer,
    21 February 1852, page 5c.

    "Gold and Currency" is discussed in the Register,
    13 January 1852, page 2d; also see
    14, 16, 17, 20, 27 and 29 January 1852, pages 3d, 3e, 2e, 3a, 2e and 2d,
    6 March 1852, page 2e,
    24 May 1852, page 2e,
    19 and 29 June 1852, page 3a and 2e,
    1 and 31 July 1852, pages 2d and 3a,
    10 August 1852, page 2e,
    1, 4 and 20 October 1852, pages 3d, 2c (supp.) and 3a,
    19 January 1853, page 3a,
    23 and 26 February 1853, pages 3c and 3a.
    Also see South Australia - Banking and Finance - General Finance - Miscellany

    "Adelaide's Emergency Mint" is in The Mail,
    27 June 1925, page 1f,
    "The South Australian Bubble" in the Observer,
    10 July 1852, page 5b.

    "The Adelaide Sovereign" is in the Express,
    5 September 1907, page 4g,
    "First Australia Gold Coins - Minted in Adelaide" is in the Observer,
    8 November 1924, page 16a.
    "The Australian Gold Fever" is in the SA Gazette & Mining Journal,
    10 January 1852, page 4c.

    "Suggestions for the Relief of the Currency Difficulty" is in the Observer,
    17 January 1852, pages 3c-4e.

    "The Present Difficulty" is in the Register,
    19 January 1852, page 3a-c.

    "The Overland Route to Mount Alexander" is discussed in the Register,
    15 and 31 January 1852, pages 3a and 3d,
    11 February 1852, page 3a,
    16 and 26 March 1852, pages 2e and 2e,
    2 April 1852, page 2e,
    12 and 21 August 1852, pages 2e and 3b; also see
    21 August 1852, page 4d.
    Also see under South Australia - Police and Geoffrey H. Manning (ed.), The Memoirs of Thomas Frost.

    A resignation of police to enable them to go to the diggings is in the Register,
    23 January 1852, page 3a.

    "The Assay Office" is discussed in the Register,
    10 and 11 February 1852, pages 2e and 3e,
    19 and 22 March 1852, pages 2a and 3c,
    16 and 22 April 1852, pages 3b and 2e,
    15 May 1852, page 3a,
    17 February 1853, pages 2d and 3c.

    "Absentees and Their Families" is in the Register,
    3 February 1852, page 2e.

    "Confessions of a Gold Seeker" is in the Register,
    21 February 1852, page 3b:

    For further personal accounts see Register,
    2 and 23 March 1852, pages 2e and 3d,
    7, 14 and 17 April 1852, pages 3e, 3e and 3e,
    19 July 1852, page 3c,
    29 November 1852, page 3a,
    3 March 1853, page 3d,
    17 October 1853, page 3b,
    29 May 1854, page 3f,
    29 June 1854, page 3c.

    Information on the gold escorts is in the Register,
    19, 20, 22 and 26 March 1852, pages 2e, 2e, 2e and 3a,
    16, 21 and 28 April 1852, pages 2e, 3e and 3a,
    4, 5 and 7 May 1852, pages 2e, 3b and 3a,
    21 June 1852, page 2e,
    7 and 10 July 1852, pages 3a and 3a,
    11 and 20 August 1852, pages 2d and 2d,
    17 September 1852, page 2e,
    11 October 1852, page 3a.

    Also see Register,
    18 and 22 November 1852, pages 3e and 2e,
    3, 4, 5, 15 and 16 March 1853, pages 3e, 3a, 2d, 2e and 2e,
    13 April 1853, page 3a,
    13 and 27 September 1853, pages 2f and 3b,
    27 March 1854, page 3a,
    29 May 1854, pages 2f-3b,
    Adelaide Times,
    10 August 1852, page 3d.
    The reminiscences of Thomas Coward are in the Register,
    5 July 1904, page 7g,
    9 July 1904, page 38a. Also see under Place Names - Coward Springs
    of J. Whiting in the Observer,
    23 January 1915, pages 28 (photo.)-43a.

    Troubles with the "Escort Police" is in the Register,
    19, 20 and 28 August 1852, pages 2e, 2d and 2e.

    "Tolmer's Gold Patrol" is in the Advertiser,
    18 August 1936, page 18e.
    Members of the gold escorts of the 1850s found in the Destitute
    Asylum are commented upon in the Register,
    14 February 1884, page 5b; also see
    15 May 1888, page 5c.
    A photograph of the last surviving members of the escorts is in the Chronicle,
    10 December 1904, page 28.

    Articles on gold escorts are in the Chronicle,
    6, 13 and 20 February 1936, pages 51, 50 and 50.

    A proposal for a private overland escort is discussed in the Observer,
    31 December 1853, page 2f (supp.).

    "Look Before You Leap" is in the Observer,
    3 April 1852, page 6b.

    "Passengers To and From Melbourne by Sea" is in the Register,
    31 March 1852, page 3a,
    3 and 7 April 1852, pages 3b and 3a,
    "The Deficiciences of Passenger Vessels Between Adelaide and Melbourne" in the Observer,
    17 April 1852, page 4e.
    Information on the brig Tritan is in the Observer,
    10 July 1852, page 6a.

    The working of the Assay Office is explained in the Observer,
    17 April 1852, page 7d.

    "The South Australians at Mount Alexander" is in the Observer,
    17 April 1852, page 3a.

    "The Tolmer Testimonial Fund" is in the Register,
    10 May 1852, page 3a,
    "Insufficiency of Silver Coin" on
    11 May 1852, page 2e,
    "Proposed Assistance to Unsuccessful Diggers" on
    29 May 1852, page 3a,
    5, 12 and 18 June 1852, pages 3a, 2e and 3b.

    "Proposed Assistance to Unsuccessful Diggers" is in the Observer,
    29 May 1852, page 4e,
    5 and 12 June 1852, pages 4e and 4e.

    Southam's Gold Washing Machine is described in the Adelaide Times,
    19 June 1852, page 3c,
    22 July 1852, page 4e.

    "The New Gold Currency" is discussed in the Register,
    30 July 1852, page 3a,
    "A Mint for South Australia" on
    16 August 1852, page 2e.

    Sections for sale in the "Hundred Mile Scrub", and conditions appertaining thereto, is reported in the Register, 4 August 1852, page 3a.

    "Social Effect of the Gold Discoveries" is in the Observer,
    18 September 1852, page 7a.

    "Great Meeting at Moonlight Flat" is in the Observer,
    13 November 1852, page 8a.

    The dearth of chimney sweeps due to their departure for the goldfields is lamented in a letter to the Register on 8 February 1853, page 3e:

    A "Gold Diggers' Dinner" is in the Register,
    14 January 1854, page 3d.

    "The Chinese on the Overland Route" is in the Register,
    14 June 1856, page 2c; also see
    21 June 1856, page 2g,
    9 August 1856, page 3g.
    "The Chinese on the Overland Route" is in the Observer,
    9 August 1856, page 2d.

    "Incidents in the Life of a Victorian Digger - By a South Australian" is in the Register,
    5 October 1857, page 3g,
    3 and 9 November 1857, pages 3g and 3h.

    A proposed gold escort to the Snowy River diggings is discussed in the Register,
    26, 27 and 28 March 1860, pages 2f, 3f and 2f.

    Reminiscences of an excursion to the Victorian goldfields are in the Register,
    16 November 1886, page 6c; also see
    31 December 1902, page 6g,
    3, 10 and 17 January 1903, pages 31c,16a and 35d,
    9 January 1903, page 1g.
    Sketches are in the Pictorial Australian in
    May 1886, pages 72, 73 and 92.
    Also see Geoffrey H. Manning (ed.), The Memoirs of Thomas Frost.

    "Romance of Digging Days - Rush From Adelaide" is in the Register,
    22 May 1899, page 7a,
    27 May 1899, page 34a.

    "In the Days Long Ago - A Lady's Recollections" is in the Advertiser,
    6 January 1905, page 8g.

    The reminiscences of F.W.A. Klauer at the Victorian gold fields are in the Register,
    18 August 1906, page 7e,
    25 August 1906, page 38c.

    "Echunga to Bendigo", William Gratwick's diary, is reproduced in the Advertiser,
    23 and 30 November 1907, pages 13c and 10a.
    The reminiscences of E. Bright appear on
    29 January 1910, page 10f,
    James Creasy on
    25 February 1916, page 7f,
    George McLeish on
    5 May 1916, page 7b,
    John Maddern on
    18 April 1917, page 6i.

    The reminiscences of John Halliday are in the Register,
    13 July 1908, page 5g,
    of Thomas H. Parker on
    29 July 1908, page 6e.

    "The Artist of the Goldfields [S.T. Gill]" is in the Register,
    26 November 1920, page 8g.

    The reminiscences of J.H. Wiles are in the Register,
    22 March 1923, page 7f.

    "An Historic Spot - Memories of the Gold Rush" is in the Register,
    26 May 1926, page 10h.

    The reminiscences of James Lamb are in The Mail,
    17 May 1930, page 21a.

    A Gold Digger's Story

    Many men decided to sail to Melbourne during the closing months of 1851 and, at that time, entrepreneurs in Adelaide were chartering schooners, and any other sailing craft they could lay their hands on, for the voyage around to Port Phillip. Few of them carried skilled navigators and as a consequence many went down at sea, while others crashed on to the Otway cliffs at night and so the dream of wealth for many ended with the green sea in their lungs and a stark body tossed up by the breakers.

    Upon his return in May 1852 one young man told of his experiences following the arrival of the party in Melbourne: