Historical Background

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FIRST GOLD FOUND: THE RICHEST FIELD EVER KNOWN James William Esmond is credited with the first discovery of gold in Victoria at Clunes, on June 29, 1851. Like Hargreaves, he had found gold two months earlier at Ophir, near Bathurst in New South Wales. Esmond had been on the Californian gold fields and knew where to look for gold. The gold was taken to Geelong and early in July his discovery was made public, and parties were soon out in all directions gold-hunting. Mr Hiscock, a prospector from Geelong, early in August obtained gold in a gully which now bears his name, near Buninyong. As the mount was a prominent landmark, a village had grown up there during the pastoral era. It was soon augmented by the gold-seekers, mostly from Geelong, and these men began to push out in little prospecting parties into the surrounding country. Two parties claim the honour of being the first discoverers of the Ballarat gold-field. One of them consisted of Connor, Woodward, Brown, Jeane, Smith and Thornton, and the other of R. Turner, Dunn, G. Wilson, C. Fitzgerald, and J.F.C. Merrick. Both parties originally started from Geelong, tried their luck at Buninyong, and, not meeting with success, pushed farther afield, and during the last week in August, 1851, about the 25th, found wonderfully rich ground at Golden Point, a low slope at the junction of the Caledonian Creek with the Yarrowee. The news spread like wildfire. On September 1 another party arrived from Buninyong, consisting of Messrs James Oddie, Thomas Bath, Francis Herring, George Howe, Reece, and Walker, and soon men were pouring in from all directions. Several of the Clunes diggers were amongst the early arrivals. These included Esmond and his mate Kavanagh, and it is said these two men obtained 600oz. of gold in two days. Soon afterwards White Flat, Canadian Gully, Brown Hill, Black Hill, and Little Bendigo Gully were proved to be auriferous and a year later the Eureka lead was discovered. Thousands of men were then on the field and its fame became world wide. Subsequent development proved it to be one of the richest mining fields ever discovered. Some idea of its wealth, and of the part which gold-mining has played in the fortune of Australia since the first discoveries in 1851 may be gained when it is remembered that the total value of gold raised in Australia from that year to the end of 1903, was, in round numbers, 443 millions sterling. Of this total Victoria produced 259 millions, Queensland, 69½ millions, New South Wales, 56 millions, West Australia, 49½ millions, Tasmania, 5½ millions, and South Australia 3, millions. Of Victoria’s great total, the Ballarat mining division has contributed considerably more than a fourth. viz 76½ millions. [1]


  1. The Argus, 3 December 1904.

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