William Otway

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Samuel Thomas Gill, First Quartz crushing Battery, Base of Black Hill, Ballaarat. 1855, colour lithograph.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, gift of Dr. Philip Moulton, 2004.


William Beauclerc Otway was born around 1820. He was a doctor and miner who was active on the Ballarat goldfields. He joined the United States Army in 1840 and was stationed at Fort Jesup, Louisiana, where his troops' use of a steam-powered sawmill for "an extensive building program". [1]

He married Ketura Bickerdyke in Ohio in 1845 but she remained there when he went to the Californian gold rush. 'Otway travelled from Ohio to California with the Western Mining Company of Cincinnati who were praised by the St Louis Republican correspondent for their preparedness, including equipping themselves with the "complete running gear for a saw mill".'... Otway's company split several times to make the travelling easier and, on one occasion, because of arguments. By August they were travelling in small groups with one wagon each. It appears Otway may have been his group's leader. On 20 September they inadvertently took Lassen's Cut-off, a branch of the trail which would become known as the "death route". Fortunately, they, and the other late arrivals, were rescued by the US military in the Sierra Nevada mountains.In December 1850 Otway was living in Portland, Oregon Territory, and working as a merchant. By July 1851 he was running his own business. He is then reported to "decamp from Portland in bad repute", but the reasons why are unknown.'[2]

Otway married Rebecca Abrahams in San Francisco on 28 July 1852.The Otways travelled to New York via Panama, then purchased land in Florida and commenced building a house, but then sold the land and were soon back in New York "for the purpose of going to Australia". They arrived at Melbourne as the only two passengers on board the freight vessel ''Kleber'' on 27 December 1853 and arrived at Ballarat three weeks later.[3]

Their son, Willie Dow Otway, was born in 1855 at Steiglitz. Rebecca Otway died at Queenscliff in 1911.[4]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Dr Otway was chairman at the dinner given for American Consul James Tarleton at Ballarat in November 1854, and was a witness for the Goldfields Commission.[5]

Post 1854 Experiences


Our community is about to lose a gentleman who can scarcely be suffered to depart without notice. The career of William Beauclerc Otway, M.D., before his arrival here in 1853, was somewhat remarkable. He had been many years in the service of the United States Government, geologically surveying different portions of that continent. He was subsequently sent to Siberia, the gold mines in which country he scientifically inspected, afterwards pursuing similar investigations in California and Oregon. After four years' labour in the latter places, he concluded that work in 1852, and sailed for Victoria. He may be said to have been the first to introduce quartz-crushing to this country, and the well remembered old wind mill erected by him in 1853 on the Black- hill of Ballarat, and by means of which he managed to work a battery of four stampers, attests the fact. He afterwards helped to introduce the Chilian mill, and ever since his name has been connected with discoveries and improvements in mining, his processes for the extraction of gold from tailings by means of chlorine and hypochlorous acid having been given freely to the world. The value of his evidence, given before the gold-fields commission, appointed shortly after the Eureka affair, will not soon be forgotten by those who had any experience, or who remember anything, of that eventful period. During a large portion of the period of his stay in Australia, be has at his own expense geologically surveyed the most interesting parts of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. With all the knowledge contained in the notes and statistic thus derived, and after a close examination of the contents of our Intercolonial Exhibition, Dr. Otway is on the point of proceeding to England and Europe, there to give lectures embodying the results of his experiences, as he says, for the exaltation of the Australian colonies. Having lately resided at Black wood, he was on his departure presented, a large public dinner there, with a handsome testimonial.[6]

See also

Further Reading

Extensive Research undertaken by --Neil Huybregts 17:36, 3 July 2014 (EST)See: [7]

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. https://bih.federation.edu.au/index.php/William_Beauclerc_Otway
  2. https://bih.federation.edu.au/index.php/William_Beauclerc_Otway
  3. https://bih.federation.edu.au/index.php/William_Beauclerc_Otway
  4. Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
  5. Corfield, J. Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
  6. Mount Alexander Mail, 25 December 1866.
  7. https://bih.federation.edu.au/index.php/William_Beauclerc_Otway

External links

Dr Otway - https://bih.federation.edu.au/index.php/William_Beauclerc_Otway