The Argus at KellyGang 16/8/1860 (2)
Now, you will have the kindness to allow me to make a few comments on the manner in which the Gipps Land prospecting parties have been organized. The Government have a warden at Omeo, Mr Alfred Currie Wills, an intelligent well-educated gentleman, and one who, when I was in that part of the country, was very much respected and liked by the miners. He could have given much useful information to the Government respecting the Dargo, and country in the neighbourhood, having been on it himself, if I am not mistaken; but, at all events, he has had many conversations with me on the subject, and, I presume, with others; yet, with this means of information in their power, the Government foolishly reject it, or, if obtained, do not avail themselves of it. Had I, or many other persons now residing in that district, been assisted by the Government, I flatter myself that our local knowledge would have proved of some I service, and in a much shorter space of time.
We would both have been able to prospect more ground, and known better where to try. Acting in the most absurd manner possible, however, Ballarat and Castlemaine men were chosen to prospect a difficult and, to them, unknown country, where the modes of working are essentially different from those to which they had been accustomed; and what is the result? We find ignorance governing all the operations from the outset. An American waggon is taken to convey stores, where, it is stated, a waggon had never before been. That waggon is hauled up and lowered down "pinches" by a block and tackle, while the loading is transferred to the men's backs ; time is lost, and that part of the country which should have received the most thorough prospecting, namely, the open flats, where there is, at any rate, room for an extensive diggings, is passed over, comparatively untried, to push forward to a prospected part of the district, of which, though apparently unknown to the Government, your files of 1858 contain several accounts.
I do not wish to be understood as saying a word to undervalue Mr Howitt, or any of his party. They are doubtless practical miners of much experience in their own way, and he a gentleman qualified to lead them on an expedition into an unknown part of the country; but where he is now, both up and down, is not unknown, as could have been found by consulting Mr Warden Wills, or any old Omeo miner, and certainly neither Mr H nor any of his party appears to have the requisite local knowledge. From the summit of Mount Birregun, as Mr H. terms it, he could have gone to the Livingstone Creek in less than it day, and in a few hours could have reached the Cobungra, Bynomungee, or Bundaramungee station. At the latter, he would have found E J Gray Esq., a gentleman thoroughly acquainted with all the country around, as well as with the mining operations which have taken place, and whose kindness and hospitality are proverbial among the miners there. From him Mr H. could have obtained beef, instead of packing it up the Dargo, and he would have had a good road to any of the spurs leading to his camp, by which he could have taken it in a day, as I have often done.
I have but faint hopes that an expedition so unhappily conceived and mismanaged, will result in anything of importance. Two, or three, or half-a-dozen payable claims may be discovered above the old workings, but no general diggings. The higher Mr H. ascends the river, the colder will the weather become. I have worked 20 miles higher up than Birregun during the winter months, and can speak feelingly from experience. The hills and gullies at the sources of the Dargo, where there is a chance, and which have never been prospected, are covered with snow, the cold being as intense as that of Kiandra. On the elevated plateau at the head of this river, almost literally within a stone's throw of each other, rise the Dargo, Cobungra, Bundaramungee, Mitta Mitta, Little Ovens, and Buckland rivers, all more or less auriferous. Gold has been found there, though it has never been regularly prospected; and I have little doubt that when it is a payable gold-field of great extent will be discovered, though labouring under the same disadvantages as Kiandra. The head waters of all these streams (which, by the way, aren’t laid down correctly in any of the maps I have seen) can be reached either from Wangaratta or Beechworth in three days, by way of the Ovens or Little River; and I venture to predict that in another year a payable gold-field will be struck there. Here would have been the place to have begun; for when the party was first formed they could have worked there, for here, or in the open country on the lower waters of the Dargo, there is room for an extensive gold-field, and it is to these points that attention should be hereafter more particularly devoted.
Before concluding, allow me once again to disclaim any intention of wounding the feelings of Mr Howitt, or any of his party. I am, of course, ignorant of the instructions they may have received from the Government, and know too well the hardships they have already experienced, and will yet suffer. Their perseverance, so far as they have gone, through a country of very great difficulty, is worthy of all praise; yet I must be permitted to say that more experienced men could have done the work better, and that the Government is certainly to blame for shutting its eyes to the light which could have been thrown on the subject. I trust, however, that the failure of this party - for I fear that it is inevitable - will not end the matter, but that so soon as the weather permits the "high plains," in which so many auriferous streams rise, will be prospected, by Government aid or otherwise.
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