The Argus at KellyGang 22/1/1876 (3)

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Beechworth - centre of Ovens gold field

The water separates the gold from the gravel and clay, and while the latter are carried down into the valley below, the gold is captured by the lurking quicksilver. The water supply is turned off at long intervals, the races are then carefully cleaned out, the quicksilver is treated in the usual manner, and then a handsome return is always found to remunerate the sluicar for his patience and his trust. I am not in possession of the statistics for 1875, but in the previous year there were not less than 1,073 miles of races at work in the district, constructed at a cost of nearly £186,000. None of the other mining districts can show anything like this amount of sluicing, the nearest being Ballarat, where over £30,000 has been expended on 340 miles of races. To the mere visitor, nothing can be more uninteresting than this system of mining, efficacious though it be. Nothing is to be seen but a line of water boxes, very much like sewers, which wind their way for miles through the old deserted diggings, and, far away, parties of miners digging into the banks of old fields, and shovelling up the boundary walls between deserted claims and carting down the stuff wholesale to tumble it into the races. Rude as it appears, however, it is a most successful system of gold-mining, and is reported to be as productive now as when it was first begun in this neighbourhood. Nature, perhaps, is doing the same washing and saving process, and the time may come when fresh deposits of gold may be found in the now abandoned banks of the creeks below the city.

The neighbourhood of Beechworth, however, begins to grow in importance as a mining country. As I have remarked, about Beechworth itself there is neither alluvial nor quartz mining to speak of-nothing but sluicing. The flats about Spring Creek are likely to become good reefing country. Stony Creek, about 10 miles from Beechworth, is a new reefing district, the quartz there having only been recently tested, and found payable. Buckland is the chief mining division, and in it, in 1874, the number of tons of quartz crushed was over 29,000, for a yield of about 16,500oz. The Jamieson sub-division came next, with 6,500 tons, which produced 4,015oz. of gold. Wood's Point, Big River, Gaffney's Creek, Indigo, and Yackandandah-divisions have all shown a material falling off in their yields. Bright, some 30 miles from Beechworth, in the direction of the Buffalo Mountains, is in the Buckland division, and about it the hopes of the mining speculators of the Ovens at present centre. The Magpie Reef, at one time abandoned, and now taken up again, gives an average of 1½oz. to the ton.

The London Reef, the Myrtle Reef, the English and Welsh, the Try Again, and Hillsborough, in Wandilligong, give an average of nearly 1oz. 4ldwt. to the ton. In the Homeward Bound claim at Hillsborough (Yackandandah division), good stone has been found at a depth of 410ft. The district is wide, however, and to report upon it with anything like minuteness would be impossible without a lengthened stay. I may say generally that while sluicing progresses satisfactorily near the city, and alluvial ground is being worked successfully in Stony Creek, the hopes of the miners centre about the Myrtle Reef and Bright, where the miners are beginning to show-as they are doing on Bendigo, Ballarat, Clunes, and Pleasant Creek - that a new mining era will soon be commenced in the working of the rich quartz reefs of the Ovens mining country.

In Beechworth I found nothing in the shape of discontent or discomfort. The miners still retain, as a rule, the properties they bought or erected in the early days of that gold-field. They earn from 42s. to 50s, per week, according to the nature of the ground in which they work, Engine-drivers obtain 60s pet week, and managers about 70s. For masons, carpenters, &c, there is plenty of work, at from 12s. to 13s for eight hours' work. Masons, in fact, are very scarce, so much work going on in the district that Beechworth itself is constantly drained of men seeking employment. On the Stanley water claims the sluicing men earn from £3 to £1 par week, and all have their own houses to live in. I am told that here, as elsewhere, though the working public, including the miners, may not earn quite so much money as they did 10 years ago, they are now very much better off than they were then.

Farming in the neighbourhood, especially in Bowman's Forest , about six miles from Beechworth - has been followed with success, and the settlors there are now regarded as being in very good circumstances. On the Oxley Plains they have been successful also. The opening of the North-eastern Railway has enabled them to get rid at a profit of the glut of grain that formerly oppressed them annually, and they are now giving proofs of their prosperity in the purchase of high-class stock for breeding purposes. Beechworth appears to be specially blessed in this-that there is no poverty there. Domestic servants can scarcely be had, for the parents of girls are usually in too good circumstances to permit their children to go out to be "hewers of wood and drawers of water" for other persons. The Lunatic Asylum, it is true, is usually full; but when Beechworth men speak of the subject they will remind you that the district is wide, and that the greater number of the inmates of that institution are waifs from the old wild days of the rich gold fields of the Ovens.


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