Goldfields Involvement, 1854
Post 1854 Experiences
In the News
- OUTBREAK OF THE DIGGERS AT BALLARAT, AND BURNING OF THE EUREKA HOTEL.
- (Melbourne Morning Herald, October 20.)
- The readers of the Herald are already aware of the perpetration of a foul and mysterious murder some few nights ago, near the Eureka Hotel, Ballarat, of which James F. Bentley, a reputed wealthy man, is the land-lord. The moment the circumstances at tending the tragedy became known a strong suspicion was created in the minds of a large number of the diggers that Bentley, his wife and the barman (Mooney), were more or less implicated in it, and a long report of a Police Office investigation, in which the suspected parties were acquitted by the presiding Justices, appeared in our yesterday's publication. At the date of our correspondent's last letter (Monday afternoon), the mining population seemed both discontented and dissatisfied at the magisterial verdict, and there were all the premonitory symptoms of an approaching storm. We now regret to say, that the worst has come at last, that the diggers have risen by thousands, set law and order at defiance, and resolved upon sacrificing Bentley, and being disappointed in their intentions, set fire to his hotel, reducing it and all it contained to a heap of ashes The intelligence was received in town, per Government Express, at an early hour yesterday morning, and in order to guard against any renewed outrage, a number of mounted troopers from Richmond, and some twenty- five or thirty of the city police, received orders to set out instanter for the scene of action. The facts, as far as we have been able to ascertain, are thus : — After the result of the enquiry became known, the diggers decided upon holding a monster meeting on the spot where, the body of the murdered man was found ; and accordingly this gathering came off on Tuesday, when strong addresses were delivered, and the supposed authors of the bloody deed denounced. The meeting, after adopting several resolutions, broke up, but any observant spectator might easily guess that a deep feeling of vengeance still lingered in the minds of the multitude. The aspect of things, however, appeared to clear up a little, and nothing farther happened until alter nightfall; when an immense concourse of persons (estimated at between 8000, and 10,000) surrounded the Eureka Hotel, resolved, in the first instance, if they could lay hold of the execrated Bentley to hang him without judge or jury. So far they were doomed to disappointment, for Bentley very discreetly succeeded in escaping to the Commissioner's, camp, and by that means was saved from destruction. The infuriated mob, determined upon having some satisfaction, commenced an attack upon the house, which was soon enveloped in flames and finally destroyed, As a matter of course all the resources available at the Camp were brought into requisition to keep the peace, but to no purpose — for Commissioners, J.Ps., inspectors, Military, and policemen could do nothing against such overwhelming numbers, and were therefore compelled to act the part of passive spectators of the extraordinary doings before their eyes. The Commissioners remonstrated several times with the attacking parties, and were very coolly told to mind themselves, and interfere no further ; that they (the diggers) did not wish to molest or come into collision with the authorities provided they were allowed to pursue their own course. Still, in order to leave no possible means of persuasion untried, when the house was in flames, Mr. Commissioner Rede might be seen addressing the people from one of its windows, and in his blazing rostrum beseeching them (in vain) to desist in their infuriated career. Mr. Commissioner Amos also very praiseworthily exerted himself to a similar purpose, but all their warnings and admonitions were in vain. Even when the mob were found bent on the annihilation of the hotel, the police and Camp followers succeeded in removing the furniture and some other articles of property beyond the reach of the fire, but the moment they did so, the moveables were piled in a heap, ignited and very soon converted into cinders. Having at length to some extent appeased their resentment, the thousands dispersed, and nothing of further note happened up to Wednesday afternoon. Such are all the particulars of which we are as yet aware. The narrative of the lamentable occurrence is probably to a certain extent deficient in many minor particulars, but no doubt to-day or tomorrow will place us in possession of ampler details.
Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
- Freeman's Journal, 28 October 1854.