'Gold on the Adelong!'

An Historical Archaeological Landscape Study of the Adelong Goldfield 1853-1916. - Link to Dr Jennifer Lambert Tracey BA (ANU), M App.ScUC, Ph.D (UC)

The first discovery of Gold at Adelong

(Ref -

The first discovery of Gold at Adelong was reportedly by the Rev. B Clarke in 1841. Albeit it was not until around 1852 that the rush to Adelong commenced. These early arrivals mostly engaged in alluvial mining along the Adelong Creek and in the gullies opposite. The accommodation for these hopeful prospectors consisted of tents which flanked the banks of the creek and the gully opposite throughout the 1850s. During this decade some 20,000 prospectors passed through Adelong, and the area yielded over 20,000 tonnes of Gold. At one stage Adelong had a tent (or canvas) city of upwards of 10,000 people.

Adelong attracted prospectors from all over the world. In fact, so many were from Cornwell in England that a section of Adelong became known as 'Cornishtown'. Some of the successful prospectors set up enterprises in the town, and remained in Adelong after the rush. Much of the township's current population can boast links to fossickers, publicans and storekeepers from the Gold Rush days. My ancestors were attracted to the region for a number of reasons - The SHINTLERS came as miners, Thomas Matthews (my Great-Great Grandfather) was a Carter who carried supplies from Sydney to Adelong in the 1850's. He liked the area and, on his third trip to the region, took his family with him and they took up farm land there.

A prominent pioneer of Adelong was William WILLIAMS. He discovered reef gold at Old Hill Reef, also known as Mount Charcoal. This site alone yielded over 4 tonnes of gold. He reinvested his finds into the town commercially. By the 1860s he owned a number of the local businesses including the Adelong brewery.

William Williams was part owner of two fossicking companies; Williams Gold Mining Company, and North Williams Gold Mining Company. He earned the nickname 'Gold Dust', and it was known that he carried gold on his person regularly. Once when he was prospecting in a gully north of Adelong, the bushranger Hawthorne planned to rob him. Mistaken identity is said to have led Hawthorne to attack and kill a man named Grant. Hawthorne murdered again before his capture near Goulburn.

Historians and Gold fossickers alike find Adelong a place of great interest. Located on the Snowy Mountain Highway in the south west slopes of the Great Dividing Range, Adelong nestles in the hills between Gundagai to the north, Batlow to the south, Tumut to the east and Wagga Wagga to the west. Adelong has a rich heritage extending back over 170 years. Hume and Hovell made the first western recording of the area as they passed by the creek on their way back to Sydney Town, completing their historic expedition of 1824-25. The word 'Adelong' contains a sense of older contact with the area, being the local Aboriginal word for 'river of plain'.

The explorers Hume and Hovell described Adelong and surrounds as "rough and difficult country", and white settlement of the area proved a slow affair. By the 1830s, 12,000-13,000 sheep were grazed along the Murrumbidgee River. David Johnson established Adelong Creek station there in 1848. Likewise, Thomas Hill Bardwell's "Adelong Station" was founded in late 1825, shortly after the Hume and Hovell expedition passed though the region, and covered an area in those early days extending from Tumblong to Batlow.

Adelong's economy no longer depends upon gold finds. Its chief industries are beef and dairy cattle, wool, fat lambs, orcharding, and the local cattle sale yards. It is mostly visited today out of historical interest. The main street from Campbell to Neil Streets has been classified for preservation by the National Trust.

The Adelong Falls reserve which was established in 1971 covers 27 hectares, and includes the picturesque 'Cascade Falls'. Offering picnicking and BBQ facilities, the walking tracks of the reserve lead to the sites of two early homesteads, 'Campsie' and 'Ferndale', as well as an area specially designated by the New South Wales government as a "Fossicking Area". - (Ref -

1900 - ADELONG, Tuesday -

Mr Carne, Government Geologist, gave particulars yesterday on the geological formation of the world. - (Ref- The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954)(about) Previous issue Wednesday 16 May 1900).

1886 - News from the Colonial Goldfields. - (The latest informatlon concerning mining shares will be found in our Telegraphic and Commercial Reports.) NEW SOUTH WALES. - ADELONG.-Messrs., Allan and party, on the Gap Beef, have struck a new lode of stone at the 100ft level, whioh looks well. It is similar in appearance to that found in Eyas's and party low ground, which has paid so well for months. Several new claims have been taken up on this line, and prospecting is going on briskly. - (REf- Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907)(about) Previous issue Saturday 10 April 1886).


OLD ADELONG. - Alluvial Mining Days. - (BY WILL CARTER.) I. - There is a ripple of romance in the cool, pellucid current of tbe Adelong Creek, on whose western bank I was born, and which I recently revisited after a lapse of 20 years, to find it a popular trout stream. When I first saw the light, Middle Adelong was a lively alluvial goldfield, resounding to the picks and shovels of hundreds of eager, venturing men of all nationalities sluicing for the free gold above, and below the junction of the two arms, the Upper and the Main Adelong Creeks, that headed some miles above the settlement.

There Abraham Watson, one of the most conspicuous of the pioneers, ran a store and hotel on highly lucrative lines, when goods were packed out on mules from Tumut, 13 miles north-east, or brought with much difficulty over practically roadless ridges, and down precipitous gaps, with horses and dray.

There was a camp of 800 Chinamen in the vicinity who occasionally got out of hand when one of their number ran amok, and, in that wild, old time of early mining activity in the State, the dig, drink, and be merry era, when gold was easily won and easily spent, there was need for much vigilance and tact on the part of the Police, under Sergeant McGinnity. The sergeant subsequently fell a victim to the cowardly bullet of Dan Morgan, the bushranger, who waited at the roadside till his pursuer had ridden past, and then shot him in the back. Morgan had heard through his fence, informotion bureau that the Sergeant had sworn to get him, and so he took no risk on that day of reckoning.

OLD TIMERS. - Abe Watson's establishment was near the junction of the creeks, while a couple of miles further down stood Robert Reily's popular hotel, acquired later by Robert Downing of the Black Springs property. There were a number of Americans, Forty-niners, like Doctor Austen, Albert Hogan, Charles Bliss, W. Dickenson, and scores more, on the field, but the most conspicuous man of all was Abe Watson.

In addition to his dual business activity, Watson acquired a good extent of land, partly in conjunction with John Real, and bought gold in extense, being occasionally "nipped" by the rogue Chinamen who introduced an admixture of copper filings to improve the weight of the gold whenever possible. Watson was a man of courage, and, undoubtedly a man of luck, for, despite the fact that the settlement was within the patrol of Morgan, "Jack-ln-the-Boots," and other lawless men, he regularly took his gold accumulation into Tumut, mounted on his trusty cob, in the night hours without once meeting with molestation. He had branch stores at Upper Adelong and at Grahamstown, three miles below Adelong proper.

Among other jolly wights of that old time were -

Peter Harcus,

Harry Mellon,

Louis McCoy,

J. A. Carter,

Frank Hyslop,

William Ranes ("Butcher Bill"),

James Summers ("Beardy Jim"),

Henry Preston ("Little Harry"),

Harry Ehlers ("Harry the Butcher"),

Harry Amelong ("Daddy"), John, Peter, and

Paul Probeck ("Prussian Jack"),

Joseph Balley,

William Bingle,

Murdock McLennnn, and, lower down,

Robert Reily, R. M. Reily, John Devlin,

William Marshall ("Scotch Willy"),

J. Ferguson, and

Captain Purcell, all more or less interested in ground sluicing in the banks of the creek, fed by gold shed in past ages from reefs in the flanking spurs of the Tumberumba Range.

The gold was a good, clean, shotty sample in most cases, though large nuggets of the kind found in the Macquarie Valley, and in parts of Victoria, were never seen. The coarsest gold was got near the Junction.

I well remember seeing, when a boy, two miners lever a huge rock over in order to get out a nice bit of blue washdirt from a gutter beneath. Taking a topping dishful to the red waters of the creek, one of the men panned it off, and, returning to his mate, swished the residue of heavy black sand round, exposing half a pennyweight of gold. "By George, that's good!" exclaimed his mate, and, when, a moment later, he dropped a half ounce nugget into the dish from his mouth, where he had concealed it from sight, his partner's hat went into the air, and he executed a brief hornpipe among the pebbles in acknowledgement of the event.


The ground was never very deep, running to ten or twelve feet, with about a two-thirds overburden of clay with fairly coarse red or blue wash, resting on a rock-bottom that varied from hard to soft, and jointed with occasionally a slate or "sugar-bar" intrusion always carrying good gold. The banks were undermined and then barred down and washed off with the rest of the stuff by a good body of water brought down for miles in head races that took time and cost much to construct, owing to blasting difficulties and fluming.

After running off for some weeks, the rock was cleaned up and all the resultant gold lay captured in the paving stones of the tailrace and was easily obtained. Many a miner was robbed at night by pilfering Chinese, who stealthily approached with shovel and buckets in the darkness, prised out the paving-stones at the head of the race, filled their buckets, and decamped with the cream of the wash up.

Many a good old muzzle loader belched its volley, and many a charge of course salt caught John in the rear, from the watchful mineowner, making John hop sky high and bolt for home and opium, leaving his buckets behind.

On one occasion a miner, smarting under a recent loss, used very line shot instead of salt. Bang! went the gun, and after John had sky rocketted and relanded he clutched the rear of his pants, leaped round in the direction of the shot, and yelled, "Mucka-hilo! Whaffor no gammon shootem?" showing his decided preference for the more usual saline system of punishment.


At Upper Adelong the ground was rather deeper and recourse was had to hydraulic sluicing in addition to the ordinary. Among the old hands there might be mentioned :-

E. Corbett,

C. Bliss,

A. Hicks,

J. Currie,

R. Currie.

H. Wicht,

P. Welsh,

H. Fallon,

G. Westphal,

J. Rube,

I. Callaway,

and others,

while on the Main Adelong were the


Walter Dixon,

W. Ranes,




Tom Cramp,

D. Cahill,

Q. Edwards. and others.

After the cream of the gold had been exhausted by sluicing, the old creek bed was combed for many years by boxing parties, who worked up the beaches for flood-gold and stray patches of rich gold in bits of solid ground overlooked by the lucky diggers before. The creek was turned by means of a wing dam of saplings and sand, a run of about three boxes were then set, and paddocking commenced. Wooden false-bottoms were laid in the boxes over blanket in order to catch the gold; these were preferable to pavlng stones In the work of forking. The chief obstacle was the constant inflow of water from the creek, necessitating the use of a spear pump or buckets for bailing into the tail race, which often lacked in fall, and had to be constantly relieved of tailings. Many a time in winter the miner had to break the ice in order to ball out the hole or paddock before starting the day's boxing. In a party of four two men would be at the face feeding the box, one standing on a box plying his long handled sluice fork and making the stones rattle as he slung them back to the heap on the worked ground.

After a few days' boxing the paddock was cleaned up and the wash up took place. The boxes were run down to their limit, then three-fifths, or perhaps more, of the water was turned off, and the false-bottoms were taken up and washed in the boxes. Then the sand and gold were worked constantly with the hands and rush-brushes, always pushing the stuff back until it was thinned down to black sand and a miscellaneous collection of iron mongery in the nature of old boot nails, tacks, grains of shot, and sundries, with the lovely grains of gold streaming down in thin line or scattered in their procession downward to the wooden ripple at the end, or bottom, of the last box. The ripple was at last removed and the stuff caught in a prospecting dish, to be tediously washed off later, and the gold finally freed from the sand, etc. by the breath applied to the mass in a heated tin blower.

The flood or beach gold was very light, ranging upwards from dust to pieces of seldom more than a few pennyweights. The miners' terms which applied in a graduated scale were: Mustard, ghost, colour, floater, speck, grain, piece, nugget. - (Ref-


Mr William Williams, centenarian, of Adelong Crossing, and a pioneer miner, died at Gundagai on the 28th September aged 102 years 5 months. He was in full possession of his faculties up till the day of his death, and up to a few months ago he could see to read without glasses. His hair was only partly grey. He enjoyed the distinction of having lived in three centuries. He always delighted to talk on mining subjects.

Deceased came to the colony of New South Wales in 1822, and after landing at Sydney he proceeded to Bathurst.

There he discovered gold, it is stated, as early as 1830. On the breaking out of the Ophir gold rush, he abandoned his calling at wheelwright and blacksmith and visited that field, where he was exceptionally lucky.

He next visited the Turon obtaining large quantities of gold. He left that field with 65,000 to his credit in the Oriental Bank.

Travellers at this period had bushrangang dangers to undergo, but Mr Williams made cavities in the bed of an old dray for secreting his gold. Altogether he carried in this way 1 ton 6 cwt. After visiting the Ovens he went to Adelong, arrving there in 1852.

There for a time he followed alluvial mining, until he found the Old Hill Reef, the first quartz reef discovered at Adelong, New South Wales. He subsequently developed the Victoria Reef. After acquiring 10,000, he sold out for 46,000, and subsequently developed the Kurrajong reef.

In connection with mining Mr Williams acquired over 200,000 worth of gold, of which 180,000 worth was got in the vicinity of Adelong. Mr Williams had been the foremost man in the colony in mining matters. His reputation for developing mines successfully became a by word.

He started the first crushing machine on the Adelong fields in 1858. Prior to this gold was obtained by sluicing rubble and dollying, appliances for extracting gold being of a primitive nature. In those days only 10ft was allowed each miner and on the old reef line there were 32 claims, which totalled 54,238oz. The Victoria reef, out of the returns of gold won from which Mr Williams made a great amount of money has an interesting history. At the time it was the deepest mine in the colony. The owners, received two successive Government awards, one of 1,000 for finding gold at 1,000ft, the deepest payable reef in the colony, and a further award of 1,000 for showing a payable reef at 1,500ft. These figures were remarkable at the time. This shaft was the deepest in this part of N.S.W.

In those days Mr Williams used to carry large sums of money about with him. In the early seventies he was prospecting near Adelong Station, and it is supposed a highwayman lay waiting for him in a gully about half a mile from the road. Mr. Williams did not pass the expected spot, but a man named Grant resembling Williams, went along the gully. He was pinioned to a tree and murdered. The assassin was supposed to be a bushranger. - (Ref- The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954)(about) Previous issue Saturday 4 October 1902 Page 7).

This report is submitted in good faith. All endeavours have been made to make all entries authentic and correct. For any corrections and additional valuable information, maps and photos you may have please contact John

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