On This Day …

20th July, 1851

Original article in The Argus, 8th September, 1851.

John Worley, a bullock driver and Christopher Peters, a hut-keeper, both in the employ of William Barker, the owner of a pastoral run, made a discovery which would change the course of history in Victoria. It was a Sunday, so I suppose they had the day off and must have gone prospecting. Whatever reason brought them to the site, the two men found gold.

At first it was kept quiet. I guess Mr Barker didn’t want hordes of people rushing his land! Yet, John Worley sent a letter to the editor of the Argus in September, announcing the find . By October hundreds of diggers started to arrive and by December there were over 20,000 men working the fields at Mt Alexander (Castlemaine).

Other gold finds in Victoria are recorded before this date, but this was the first of great significance. Apparently in November there were three tons of gold in the Commissioner’s tent, waiting to be transported to Melbourne and thence to England. Imagine the excitement when ships carrying tons of gold arrived in England. A mass exodus! Our immigration boom began.

Gold was soon discovered in Ballarat and Bendigo as well, bringing thousands and thousands of people from around the world.

Imagine you were a simple farmer back in those days. Would you have dropped everything for a taste of gold, a chance at riches?

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Published in: on 20th July, 2012 at 10:44 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great post and interesting question…
    I think it comes down to a personal personality. If someone is impetuous and discontent than of course they’d rush off to find riches and fame at the first sniff of gold. Whereas somebody who is more conservative/staid would weigh the pros and cons, consider the value of investing in a the sometimes fickleness of a gold rush and may decide to go with something more reliable that serves the gold rush (general store owner or supply timber to the mines for eg.).

    Being in the latter camp (pun intended), I think I’d either stay on the farm and be content with my lot, or pick an industry that served the miners and collect my gold dust in a more reliable manner. 🙂

    • True. That’s how I’d probably look at it now as well. But back then, the lure might have been greater, seeing the hardships of the time. Thousands flocked from all over the world, leaving families behind, travelling huge distances through difficult terraine too. They must have been quite desperate I suppose.

  2. John Worley is my direct ancestor, being my Great Great Grandfather. The Castlemaine Historical Society have confirmed this connection. His daughter Ellen Worley travelled to
    The NZ Gold fields in Otago South Island where she married another Australian born miner, William Wells born South Australia abt 1845. They married at ‘Blue Spur’ in Gabriels Gully & their first born, George Robert Wells is my Grandfathet. One would think that I would know more about John Worley’s parents, birth place or siblings. I can’t get past the marriage of John Worley to Bridget Riley née Mulvaney at Port Philip. The Castlemaine Historical Society said they knew a lot about him, he was educated, the letter to the editor proves that, that he ‘stole another man’s wife’ could this be Bridget? That when the govt paid him lump sum of money for his contribution to gold rush, that he deserted Bridget & children. So much written & so much I don’t know!!


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