A Trip to the Gold Diggings #10: Warwick to Drayton

Warwick to Dayton

‘Beautiful country,’ ‘lovely scenery,’ such were the continual exclamations I found myself uttering while passing from Warwick to Drayton, a distance of fifty miles. Of my companions this day I shall be silent, partly because a residence in the colony has taught me that a man does not get all the credit for honesty of conduct that he deserves, and further, because I have no wish to trouble your readers about myself. I left a friend, who was travelling to Balbi’s, near to a sheep-yard, and pursued my way alone. I had heard of Glengallan, which is a beautifully situated homestead, standing on a small hill side, from which point the traveller may see over many miles of open country. I had no reason even there to bestow a paragraph in favor of generous offers, although to some person, evidently some one in authority, I gave a gentle hint that a pot of tea would be acceptable. Glengallan, to any one possessing a love of nature, and more so if that love had been kept from satisfaction by close office confinement, has all the charms of which future Australian poets will write. One might well imagine, while passing the place, that they were in the good old country, and that fortune had cast them where graziers resided.

Glengallan Graveyard

Rounding the fence the traveller, on his way to Drayton, passes a fenced burial ground, in which there are mementoes of the departed. A grand place to slumber the last sleep in, if the mind living has sympathy with the poet who expresses his wish for burial in a solitary spot where nature has sway and there is no want of space - where the grave-digger plunges not his pick into a skull in excavating to make room for other dead humanity, which scene is more forcibly represented than any living writers can pretend to in the grave-digger’s conversation with Hamlet, when that churchyard functionary was preparing for Ophelia’s burial. There is something solitary about a bush graveyard, which I leave to some Australian Harvey to treat upon; be mine the living, moving, present.

I cannot describe more forcibly the journey than by saying, now the way was through glades and scenery equal to parks - then would appear a plain of three or four miles in extent; again lightly timbered glades, then plains again. Clifton was seen in the distance, and towards evening Eton Vale was gained, from which place, in the shades of the evening, I finished the journey of more than fifty miles from Warwick to Drayton.

It is not my intention to say anything of Drayton, as it has a local paper and local writers to advance the claims which are not easily perceptible to the mere passers.

Meehan's Hotel in Darling Street, Drayton, ca. 1856. (Qld State Library)

With Toowoomba, four or five miles distant, I was well pleased. There seemed both spirit and enterprise, and the hotels were well kept and respectable in appearance. The mill I have previously mentioned I caught sight of, as I did also of the site for the proposed lock-up. Toowoomba is, verily, a fruitful spot, and the people generally seemed contented, happy, and prosperous. As I know there are men better able to furnish particulars of the two last mentioned places than my short stay will allow, I make my way through the toll-bar, over the Range, and find, by the teams on the road, that I am on the main line of road in the colony.

Passing Dr. Dorsey’s station I am soon at the creek near to Gatton. Just before reaching this place I passed an encampment of blacks who were preparing for a fight on the morrow. The battle was to have taken place on the day that I passed, but the blacks from the other side of the Range were waiting for some reinforcements. One of the divisions which the upper country blacks were waiting for I had passed, laden with spears for the encounter.


Gatton is a delightful spot, situated on an eminence, and commanding an extensive view on all sides. At present the buildings consist of an hotel and police station. At the first named a traveller may spend a comfortable night. I cannot answer for the second. Gatton is about forty miles from Ipswich and thirty from Drayton. A township has been laid out and the sale of allotments will shortly take place. The site is well chosen, and Gatton will, in a few years, be a respectable and thriving place.

I linger not; I want to be done with the trip, lest I weary you, so I leave Gatton, see Laidley Creek, over which a good bridge has been erected, and find that a township, to be called Laidley, has also been laid out and that the allotments will shortly be in the market.

Over Liverpool Range a good road has been made; and it will shortly be made better; enough has already been effected to remind the traveller that he is on a main road. A short distance brings the traveller to Bigge’s Camp, where he will probably find time to haul up for dinner. Four miles further on is the township of Alfred, with a public house known by the same name. If the village is as noble as was Alfred the King it will become famous in Queensland. A few miles on and the traveller comes to another public house called ‘The Rising Sun,’ where a good glass of ale may be obtained, and while drinking it the traveller may hear of another township called ‘Rosewood.’ Now on again and the line of road bears evidence that something good is intended for travellers.

And now I hear that I am nearing Ipswich. I pass the ‘North Australian’ public house, and soon hear the merry voices of the bullock-drivers camped outside Little Ipswich. Safely in I lay down my vocation of ‘your special correspondent’ and make ready for the journey to Brisbane.

If in my ramble I have been tedious, or given offence by word or deed, I pray of all to be ‘to my faults a little kind;’ and beg that, in judging, all may 'Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice', and so, farewell.

The route described by the author of the ‘A Trip to the Diggings’ reports,
Moreton Bay Courier, 1859. (C. Dawson)

The complete 'Trip to the Gold Diggings' series: 
  1. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #1: Gold Fever at Brisbane
  2. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #2: The Fields From Timbarra to Tooloom
  3. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #3: Ipswich to Fassifern
  4. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #4: Fassifern to Koorelah Range
  5. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #5: Tooloom 
  6. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #6: Scenes From Tooloom
  7. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #7: Tooloom to Flagstone Creek
  8. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the Condamine
  9. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #9: Warwick
  10. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #10: Warwick to Drayton 

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #9: Warwick

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the CondamineIn 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 20 December 1859


Warwick stands in an open plot of country, five miles having been given by some grazier as a spot for a township. In considering the present state of Warwick, it must not be forgotten that the township owes its rise to this generous act of the settler; though whether there was a motive hidden under the apparent generosity, which might savour of worldly wise prudence, deponent says not. Certain it is that the population of Warwick having increased to about eight hundred souls, and there being a trifle of the go-head Yankee notions in some of their compositions, the cry is already heard ‘enlarge our borders.’ Warwick is well off for places of worship, badly in want of a mill and a bank, and it is very probable that any speculators who may endeavour to carry into operation the benefits connected with money changing and corn grinding would not only confer benefits upon the population, but reap handsome returns in shape of profits.

In the neighbourhood of Warwick there are a great many small farms, and from all I could glean, the pursuit of agriculture was profitable - only wanting a bank, a mill, and good roads for transit to make it extremely so. The main street in Warwick is not at all to be despised; it is assuming a regular and orderly appearance. The style of houses is improving; in some places bricks are usurping the authority of slabs, and some of the storekeepers go to the trouble of ‘dressing’ their windows so that they may catch the gaze of the passers. I calculate woman is woman all the world over - they love a draper’s shop, and when they get inside the difficulty is to get them out without feeling that there is a deficiency in the exchequer, said absence of cash being compensated for by articles tasteful in pattern, indescribable in appearance, brought up in the rear by some bargain of a print ‘warranted to wash,’ ‘a duck of a bonnet,’ or ‘a pet of a shawl.’

There is every inducement in the situation and advantages possessed by Warwick to charm people from other less favoured places. Of the society of the place I cannot say much, as it was not my good fortune to mingle much in it. Like all other small places in the world, it has its rivalries and jealousies, and the little disputes are magnified into greater importance than they deserve. I must not pass by all the information I gleaned and sights I looked upon, so if you will accompany me, we will go together to the Courthouse.

Moreton Bay Courier, 22 December 1859

Warwick Court-House

And a veritable looking old barn it is on the outside, more like a cowshed than the ball of justice where the lords of the interior sit to hear and determine cases which perplex the minds of their neighbors and the people who live under the pleasure of their eyes, or manage to eke out a subsistence in spite of their favors.

‘Great works in Warwick’ there were truly in connection with the proceedings on that remarkable ‘koort’ day when the unfortunate shearer was committed to take his trial for the wilful murder of the Spaniard Deer, and also when disputes ran high as to the ownership of certain cattle, the brands of which had become higglety pigglety so as to confound meum and tuum, and leave questionable the ownership of a cow. May I try my hand at sketching ‘a koort day’ at Warwick.

Like fire amongst dried stubble had spread the report that on the day in question there was to be a veritable sitting, and that all plaintiffs and defendants were to have something decided for them which is highly called, I believe, Justice. There were to be no quirkings or shufflings, or longer law’s delay. And I found that when the people became assured that the magistrates would deign to attend, they assembled in large numbers, and preparatory to hearing and beholding how the Solons would conduct themselves, while canvassing the various points of the cases, and retailing the bit of scandal for which Warwick is so famous, that they did give their tongues ‘absolution’ for the words spoken, by every now and then partaking of nobblers. There was settler Johnson ‘comed to sware’ about his cow; and Mary come to swear about ‘her dog.’ There was the usual amount of fun; and here and there some disputed warmly on what the beaks could do and what they could not do; some vowing and protesting that in Warwick ‘them ere supers and squatters was jist about every body, and it warn’t not a bit of use for a poor man to say anything at all.’

Inside the Court-House

The first ornament, useful in itself, which attracted my attention was the pendant wooden chandelier; which evidently was the work of an artist of no mean qualification. I vow and declare that I should fancy, some Yankee had whittled out the affair with a knife. It hung pendant from a beam, suspended by a bit of string, and the three jets which extended themselves to hold the tallow dips, when the people of Warwick require justice by candle-light, were very primitive in their design. The artist who planned the chandelier and executed it with so much taste deserves immortalizing. If that identical candelabra should turn up in Anno Domini 2500, when Warwick shall have become a great city, been at the zenith of its glory and is running down to nadir through the luxuriance and waste of its inhabitants, posterity will speak of the crude notions of their ancestors, and we may fancy the historian of Warwick penning the following paragraph;

‘About this date, (let the reader supply it), some workmen, employed in excavation, discovered the remains of several articles, which were submitted to the antiquarians of the Royal Society of Warwick, who were so much impressed with the new light cast upon the articles in use amongst their ancestors, that Professor Buzfuz read a paper on the subject at the last meeting of the Society, and contributed a talented article to the ‘Downs Eclectic’ on the style of buildings of the nineteenth century. The Professor dwelt particularly on the style of candelabra or chandelier (the terms by which the centre supports of lights in public buildings were known in that distant period) and Professor Lightning contributed a sketch which he had taken by electricity, illustrating the interior of the supposed building, and his genius supplied a supposed likeness of those who maintained the dignity of the law in the building, and used the articles which have now become of so much interest to the world of science, demonstrating the progress we have made as a people.’

Taking it Easy

If the building and the arrangements of the interior have found me materials for the construction of the paragraph above, how much more was I delighted with the free and easy manner which pervaded the manners of all those holding authority, from the magistrates on the bench to the constables, the lowest crudes of whom made themselves remarkably noisy, when a witness was wanted, by shouting out the name six or seven times so loudly that those who were near had to mind the noise did not affect the tympanum of the ear. I liked the manner of all engaged very much. The magistrates spoke in so low a tone that what they said had to be conveyed to the people, on the same principle that water is passed to a fire by the long row of bucket lifters. The clerk took it easy-he read the depositions of the witnesses while sitting in a comfortable posture. Outside the pine fencing, which divided the sanctuary from the receptacle of the non-official, there was silence and good behaviour. Oh! it was a great day! The people listened to catch the faintest sound, and seemed to look upon the exalted with feelings of a pepper and salt mixture. Smarting, many of them, under the remembrance of how the magistracy was chosen from a class, and seeing that they (the people) were, for the most part, treated as canaille, it was not difficult for an unprejudiced observer to arrive at a conclusion that the sooner the law was administered by a paid official, whose bread depended upon his honesty, the earlier would those feelings of discontent be allayed which are expressed by nine-tenths of the residents on the Downs.

Hay stacking, Green Hills Farm near Warwick, 1894. (Qld State Archives)


If the historian dwells upon the building in which what is called justice is administered, he will surely devote a chapter to the state of the currency Anno Domini, 1859. Those who have read Macaulay will remember how masterly he deals with the currency difficulty which occurred in the reigns of William and Anne, which is said to have bothered the wisest men of their age, and made even the money changers consider to what state the nation was coming. Two hundred years after an era has passed it is simple to say what would have relieved the monetary difficulty; a man is considered wise sometimes who makes his own arguments, so that he may at pleasure blow them away like the down from a thistle. The system of calabashes, or I.O.U.’s, should be sent to Lord Macaulay, so that when he writes a chapter on the present Anglo-Saxon race, before the New Zealander stands on the ruins of London Bridge, he may not forget to state how, in a distant part of Queen Victoria’s dominions, every man issues his own bank notes, and oftentimes carries on his own trading transactions without being ‘worth a rap.’

All over the Downs the system of calabashes prevails. I talked with men able to form an opinion on what would remedy what is found to be a nuisance and a loss, and all agreed that a bank would cure the evil. I might cite cases of hardship told to me of servants paid with these calabashes, and of persons in the district who made it a practice to draw upon one another until the state of the calabash market was ‘confusion worse confounded.’ The excuse for the existing independent personal drawings is, as I have previously stated, the want of a bank. Calling attention to the want of the district of Warwick may induce some firm to commence the much needed establishment. If through this notice the want should be supplied and success attend the speculation, I hope I may be able to ‘get a bill done’ when I need it, in gratitude for the suggestion.

A Mill Wanted

When the earth, sun, and showers, have labored in a trio for the benefit of man, and the golden grain is sheaved and garnered, there is no mill in the district to turn the produce into flour. From the want of a mill the people suffer - having to send their corn away to be ground. The consequences of the absence of so needful a provision are, much of the ground that would be devoted to wheat-growing is given up to maize or potatoes, and in many instances left in a state of nature, as the cost of transit for grinding purposes is more than the farmer can afford. I did hear of a movement for a mill. The originator of the scheme was successful in calling public attention to the want, and he received large promises of support. A meeting was held, shares were in request, and it was said that the requisite capital would be forthcoming. Vain hope! Promises were taken instead of cash, and the mill which had been already erected infancy, was deserted by the public and the company tilted at the sails in the moonshine, after they had blown off the steam and cooled their boilers. The speculator who will start a mill, it should be a steam one, in Warwick, will reap a handsome fortune, as there are fifty-five miles between Warwick and Toowoomba, the place where a spirited proprietor has a mill already at work.

Warwick, in a few years, if wise legislation and public spirit go hand in hand, will become a lovely place. Already its future greatness, as Disraeli would say, ‘looms in the distance.’ A few go-a-head, intelligent, residents, added to the already existing intelligence of the district, would be a great accession. They appear in Warwick to want a few men of high moral principle who know the world, men with small means they may be, but withal those who would set their face against revilings of classes on the one hand, and against cliques and jealousies on the other, and men who, in the firm conviction of the right, knowing the truth, dare maintain it. A few such residents added to the stock already breathing pure air and bracing their nerves at a great elevation above the sea, would soon alter the appearance of the place, and tone the political feeling, so that fighting for principles would take the place of petty jealousy. Having said thus much about Warwick I will, for this time, vamose.

The route described by the author of the ‘A Trip to the Diggings’ reports,
Moreton Bay Courier, 1859. (C. Dawson)
The complete 'Trip to the Gold Diggings' series: 
  1. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #1: Gold Fever at Brisbane
  2. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #2: The Fields From Timbarra to Tooloom
  3. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #3: Ipswich to Fassifern
  4. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #4: Fassifern to Koorelah Range
  5. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #5: Tooloom 
  6. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #6: Scenes From Tooloom
  7. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #7: Tooloom to Flagstone Creek
  8. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the Condamine
  9. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #9: Warwick
  10. A Trip to the Gold Diggings #10: Warwick to Drayton 

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the Condamine

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #8: Flagstone Creek to the CondamineIn 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered extremely racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 20 December 1859

Flagstone Creek

I calculated this point of the journey to be about eighteen or twenty miles from Tooloom. This was the point at which Peter was to leave us and return again to his Mary. The poor fellow must have had terrible hard work to have made his camp before sun-down, as it was nearly three o’clock in the afternoon when he left us. The difficulty of the way at the points where I have mentioned may be judged by the fact that we had been nearly eight hours on the way without any rest, the pace of the blackfellow being, on an average, three and a-half miles an hour. I forgive that rascal Peter for the ability that he displayed in appropriating my knife, which he borrowed to cut a stick and did not remember to return. Let the knife and the handy guide go back to Mary. If any brother of the tribe played falsely while Peter was earning white money, the knife may help to avenge Peter‘s wrongs, and make him famous amongst the gunyahs of Queensland as a desperate avenger of violated honor. If Sterne moralized on a dead ass, and ill-used his wife, as the old literary chronicles tell, surely I have a right to moralize on Peter and his Mary. And thus in my mind, after the approved silence outwardly of the Quaker, but from the inward expression of the soul, bade I Peter farewell.

‘Return oh Peter, child of these wilds, again to thy dwelling on the hill side of Tooloom. There are yet four hours ere the orb of day sinks behind the western horizon. Go Peter - seek thy many, wander still these hills of thy fathers, and have no connection with the white man, for thy skin remits a perfume far less fragrant than roses, and thy taste for human flesh savours too much of the tiger of the jungle. Go Peter – say not the white man is unkind. Think, Peter, think on the glory of the race of thy fathers, and like Merwin of old, hang thy spear and waddie in the sunshine, for great deeds belong to thy race.’ Exalted in fancy, when the imagination had gone thus far, by the cry of ‘bosh.’ Fancy said, ‘you will be charged with imitating Macpherson in his Ossian.’ ‘Never mind,’ I replied, ‘he pretended that he found Ossian in old manuscript. I am therefore only the imitation of a deceiver, but there is no one to say that Ossian is not original; It is so original that an old newspaper hack should write books like it at so much per mile, and get rich into the bargain.

But here my readers may say, why not talk about Flagstone Creek? Presto! Peter is gone. The creek, then, is bottomed with huge rocks, and in some parts the water has worn circular in which the water remains when the other parts of the creek are dry. The passage of the creek presents a singular appearance - a rocky roadway; the name was aptly given, and he who first bestowed its natural cognoma was a better judge of proper names than many of the Yankees. In the rocky bottom of the creek the action of the water had worn deep round holes, and these in the dryest seasons contain water. The taste of the water thus retained and kept stagnant under the rays of the sun, I cannot describe as pleasant. The day that I passed the creek was not a very warm one, and yet the water in these natural rocky wells was quite warm. I should not wish a finer week’s holiday than tracing and examining Flagstone Creek, since at all the points that I looked upon it, there were indications of the great changes which have taken place by the action of the water and from other causes - sufficient to repay any inquirer who did not measure the knowledge obtained by the gold it might bring. With the settlers for miles round Flagstone Creek is well known, and is spoken of as more than a gully, which information, as Australian fashion goes, will satisfy your readers that I have not spent too much time at the creek, where I was bereft of the services of Peter the black.

Acacia Creek

A few miles from Flagstone Creek is Acacia Creek. For the first three or four miles on the way from one point to the other the country is not very inviting; but no sooner are the hills climbed and something like the level obtained than the traveller is sensible of a change of temperature and soil. Two or three miles of level travelling from where the hills terminate brings the passer to Acacia Creek, near to which is the residence of a Mr. McLean, a relative of he who is known as ‘Jack McLean, of Westbrook.’ As it was quite time that both horse and man rested - and as I did not really wish to go farther that night, I hugged myself with thought that the day’s journey was done, even though I had not up to that time, caught sight of the Condamine. Suffice it to say that I did not remain at Acacia Creek, only long enough to rest myself and horse. I partook of the hospitality that was offered, but the invitation was given in a manner which I interpreted as ‘we shall be much obliged if you don’t.’ I would, at any time, prefer a pot of tea and a camp at the foot of a gum tree, than where travellers are only tolerated because it would be inhumanity to turn them adrift. I am sorry there is a growing opinion that hospitality at the stations is dying out; and that where it is accorded it is with that coldness which makes a sensitive mind wish there was ‘a house of accommodation,’ where charge would be made at every stage. The great change which is likely shortly to take place politically, and the chances are that legislation may decide on the distribution of this magnificent territory, should teach all graziers a little lesson, which I may portray to them parabolically.

Parabolic Teaching for Squatters

Before the commencement of the Russian war, when political feeling ran high, it was believed in political circles that the power would not long be confided alone to the aristocratic circles. Up from the lower and middle classes men had soared into public life and there was a growing feeling against the ‘Upper ten thousand’ as a class. When the tide of war rolled fiercely – when the lists of death came month after month from Scutari, Varna, Alma, Inkermann, and from the trenches before that doomed city which held out so long and obstinately, the names of the sons of the aristocracy, ah, and even of the holders of titles themselves, came amongst the mournful lists. Then the people saw that England’s aristocracy (which is the finest in the world) could fight as well as do the amiable, and once more they helped on the car adorned with flowers; and once more they dozed into apathy and were satisfied that they might change for the worse. My meaning is so plain that the graziers need not quarrel if I leave them to find the moral; and each may then adapt it to himself.

The Condamine

Oh for a pen that would write itself without the trouble of guiding; and oh for a brain more worthy than mine to do justice to the country upon which I am entering. ‘The Condamine, the Condamine,’ shouts my companion with all the ardour of a German coming in sight of his beloved Rhine. And there it is - a silver streak stretching away in the distance, while the country on all sides is beautifully verdant, and the cattle that roam the plains delight themselves in fatness. Since I have resided in the colony this was the first day that I could realize the idea that I was in a country like England. The roads were finer than I had ever previously seen on this side of the old ocean. Talk of Macadamised roads! In many places these mean, rough stones sticking up in dirty ways. Here, in sight and near the Condamine, the roads were as level as a bowling green, and not even her gracious Majesty, in the Home Park, has finer roads to drive on than those which natural soil has favored on the road from Acacia Creek to Warwick: but I halt at ‘ The Elbow,’ - and having mentioned the river I set out in quest of, I should not do justice if I skipped the description of as fine a sixteen miles of country as it was ever my fortune to look upon.

Palmerin Street, Warwick, ca. 1868. (Qld State Library)

The Elbow

Before I further relate the story of my travels I would wish to make mention of the sympathy which is shown on behalf of the repeal of the duty on gold. All the diggers and those in the immediate neighbourhood of the diggings, argue that the diggers are amongst the largest consumers and should not, therefore, pay duty on that article which they obtain from the earth through so much toil. They had prepared a memorial in favour of the abolition of the duty when I was at Tooloom, and the document was in course of signature. Thus much by way of a reminder where I had come from. My story legally and truthfully picks me up at ‘The Elbow,’ at which place I received the greatest hospitality from a gentleman who holds a responsible situation on the station to which that beautiful part of Queensland belongs.

From 'The Elbow’ to Warwick is sixteen miles - a splendid road, the description I gave previously I intend to answer for here. Now the traveller goes through a splendidly flat country, while on his right meanders the Condamine. After rising a very slight elevation there is little for half a dozen miles to admire save the beauty of the way and the thinness of the timber. All at once breakage is made on to a large plain, covering some square miles, and here the land is rich, and ready for the plough as soon as there shall be a liberal land scheme, and speculation shall provide what is needful for the prosperity of small farmers. Here I began to experience the truth of what I had formerly heard and feel by actual observation that Warwick and its adjacent plains should be the granary of the colony. What more can I say than that plain after plain was crossed until we began to run down the fence of Canning Downs paddock. Talk of the advantages of an early residence in a new country? In no case was it more perceptible than by looking on the splendid paddock I have mentioned. It was the prince of paddocks; and when I heard of pre-emptive rights and all such stuff I fancied those who allowed the appropriation of such princely places on such easy terms were not wise in their generation for those that may come after. I make no crossroads to call special attention to any English feelings I may have experienced. To sermonise for a month on the extent of stations, and the great advantages possessed by the lessees would not alter the facts or make the country less beautiful. It did appear, however, to my simple mind rather against the grain to see a large place like the paddock, so close to the town of Warwick locked completely up from the people, more especially as the Condamine, I was given to understand, runs through the well selected and beautifully-adapted spot for any purpose. In writing thus, I may state that I have no animosity against the squatters as men. They have only taken advantage of a fortunate chain of circumstances and done what every sane man would have done similarly situated - made the best of it.

The Day’s Journey Done

If every fifty miles travelled afforded as much food for reflection as those have which I have passed over since I left Tooloom, every traveller would be ‘a reflector’ on a large scale, and would weary if he knew not how to time his paragraphs and round his sentences. All day long had I inquired about Warwick, and the scenes presented had more than far answered the description or my expectation. In the shades of night I pass a number of homesteads and am at last in Warwick. The air feels English like; but here I may remark, that my testimony should be carefully received, as the ride across the open plains, and the healthy appearance of the cattle, the luxuriance of the grass, and the cool breeze had, perhaps, excited me to an undue appreciation of that part of Queensland in which I found myself. I take my leave of the day’s riding and day’s working with an earnest hope for the future of the district of Warwick; and though not gifted with the spirit of prophesy, it requires not the wisdom of a seer to foretell a great increase in population and wealth to this part of Queensland as soon as its capabilities, soil, and climate shall be understood.

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #7: Tooloom to Flagstone Creek

In 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered extremely racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 17 December 1859:

Report of a Quartz Reef

Along the line of road, from Ipswich to Tooloom, I had heard reports that a quartz reef had been discovered, and the general impression appeared to be that it only needed some such discovery to make ‘our diggings’ as they are commonly, though not legally, called. A little inquiry on the fields at Tooloom satisfied me that the report was a mere canard, which some systematic hoaxer had devised to draw the rush on the Warwick route, near to which place it was said the reef existed. I had heard of the reported discovery when only a few miles from Balbi’s; so you see that news, good or bad, false or true, can find wings to travel with even amongst mountains and gum trees. It was, I believe, first reported by some clever rascal who understood word weaving and who was an adept at constructiveness in sentences so that the truth should appear only from probability, and if falsity should be proved the inventor could turn upon the rendering of his sentence and so escape the character of falsehood. The story had cost some long and weary walks to find what they could not and to see what they could not, all returning with looks as sour and dark as those ominous words on a returned cheque ‘no effects.’

Leaving Tooloom

I had calculated upon leaving to return to Koorelah before I could really make a fair start for Warwick. Fortunately I was able to find a mate who also wished to go to Warwick and we debated the prudence of obtaining the service of a black as guide, and starting for Acacia Creek by the nearest route. When I and my mate had made inquiries amongst the darkies there answered a smart looking-fellow who said his name was Peter, and he undertook to convey us so near to the place I have mentioned that there would be no difficulty after his leaving in finding the way. At an early hour in the morning our party, myself, the gentleman who was leaving the diggings, and Peter, started away, bidding the bark huts, calico tents, and shanties of all descriptions, not forgetting the coat of arms suspended outside all places of abode, the frying pans, an affectionate farewell. The site of Tooloom is well chosen for an inland town; but if the diggings should go ahead and prosper, as I hope and trust they will, the site for a town, beautifully situated and well supplied with water, is that spot between the sliprail of Tooloom cattle station fence and the foot of ‘The Falls.’

Tooloom National Park (NSW National Parks Service)

The Near Cut

After clambering the hill I have sketched previously and made all ready for a start we proceeded, headed by Peter, who wore a Turkish red ferz cap on his black and shining hair, and shouldered his tomahawk as if he was on a marauding excursion after some of the young ladies of a neighbouring man. But Peter was a married man - wedded according to the bush fashion; and, therefore, my similie does not hold. And, unlike most married men, Peter was in care about his wife, one of the express stipulations of the contract being that we should allow him to return that night, as he was fearful that in his absence some brother chum would take the liberty of eloping with his Mary. We tried to calm Peter down on this subject, but he would not be comforted, and by the oft repeated ‘baal’ with which he greeted our suggestions on the goodness of his people and our own, it was evident Mr. Peter was a thorough recogniser of the universal depravity doctrine.

For about three or four miles of the way, the way was not difficult, and though there was no track or mark to travel by that we could see, still the black held headway and we followed. After the first four miles the aspect of the country changed. We began to ascend and descend hills, and found it prudent at times to dismount that the horses might with greater safety to the men cross the gullies. Every now and then rounding some corner of a heavily timbered hill, the black’s dog, a long, lean, and ill-favoured brute, but which Peter had honored with the name of ‘Beauty,’ would startle the kangaroos, give tongue, chase for a time and return like Admiral Napier from the Baltic, having made only a slight commotion. A few miles of this kind of way brought us at last to a splendid open flat, and I began congratulating myself that the difficulties were past.

Killing a Black Snake

When just entering the flat a black snake of moderate size was soon making the best of his way to escape. The gliding reptile caught Peters eye - the tomahawk was raised and thrown with a precision and swiftness attainable by long practice. An old root followed the tomahawk quickly - the snake was disabled, eventually made a head shorter, and left as a mark of vengeance against the unwelcome crawlers.

Splendour in Solitude

The flat we had now come to spread away for miles, there was scarcely a tree upon it, and my thoughts were all for the future when a nation shall have grown and stalwart yeomen and patriarchial graziers gladden the glades with their presence, and the merry cheer from the voices of children at play prove that these now forsaken spots have ‘a local habitation and a name in the minds of a rising community.’

Climbing the Mountains

Our toil soon began. Peter led us by a way peculiarly his own. Up the sides of mountains difficult to climb did we pass, and when we had reached the elevations, on looking round there was nothing but mountains on all sides to be seen. Far away in the distance as the eye could reach were mountains, and their brown and shaggy sides, covered with timber, proclaimed the wildness of the land, and the little that the whites had already done to mark their stay. Now we descend until we reach a perfect hollow in which water is found. The horses with difficulty reach the agua puro; having found their way into the curiously-shaped place, they have to leap to gain the opposite bank. Here, in this spot, where grass had grown as high as our breasts, and where no one but a blackfellow would think of going, had a prospecting party tried a dishful. We could see the marks of the ‘fossickers;’ and then I knew that there was something more than mere rumour in the statement that parties were trying every likely place. When we passed from this gully we had a teaser. For about fifty yards I struggled bravely and led my horse; but I could not hold out, as Paddy would say, ‘for every step I took forward I took two backward,’ until I was obliged to hold to the twigs and shout for assistance. The black having taken my horse, I did manage with great difficulty to scramble up - and when I reached, if the view had pleased me from the other points, from this one it was grand and impressive. The length up the mountain must have been fully three-quarters of a mile, and when I reached the summit I was fairly tired, and am not ashamed to own it, more especially as I think there is far too much bounce practised in the talk about colonial travelling. I have before alluded to the ‘nothing’ kind of reckoning, and need not here further explain myself. It is something to me, and why should I care, though all the people had seen something grander, and been worse beset with difficulties in travelling, if I had never before encountered the like, I should tell my story my own way, and leave the issue.

Crossing a Creek

Mile after mile, all guess-work, had been done, when we came at last to a creek that seemed for a time to bid fair to stay our journey. Not that there was any water, but the rocks rose in such queer and fantastical shapes - and there was no beaten way, that I knew not how we were going to manage. The horses slipped and rushed again - then startled, and at last, with a leap, they gained a point of rock which enabled them to have firm foot-hold and so relieved what care I had as to the finish of the dangers. When we had crossed this place it seemed as if we had come upon a new country. Soon we caught sight of a marked tree which had been done by Mr. Fleming‘s party, and we were enabled here and there to trace the white man’s chop until passing the lambing-down station – the farthest out-station from and belonging to Kooreelah. Soon we came to Flagstone Creek.

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #6: Scenes From Tooloom

In 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be considered extremely racially offensive today, but is retained here for historical context.

Moreton Bay Courier, 13 December 1859


SAFELY down from the height, having rested as previously stated at the half-way-house, the owners of which ought to insure all lodgers at so much per head from the dangers of high winds, Saturday night nobblers, and also from all riotous and disorderly conduct on the part of all inmates, for fear of a roll below, I sent myself on an old stump and look about to see what kind of faces the diggers wear; and having made up my mind as to what party I shall first accost, I make my way to the point and draw myself together to be ready to understand what I may be told. At the same time I give imagination a tug, so that I may not fall into the category of the gullibles...

Cousin Jackies

I love a Cornishman, though not one myself; he generally has such deep scheming under his smiling ‘marning;’ and though he may make you welcome to his ‘apple pastie and cream,’ he has an eye for business. And what has made me open this part in Cornish style, may be inferred from the fact that in the claim I next visited there were three Çousin Jackies busily at work. I knew the twang of the dialect in a moment, and was ‘all there’ to find out what I could; so I sat myself down, and opened the conversation according to the best method of which I was the master. For the benefit of the uninitiated, I may say that if you can get a Cornishman to talk about Tregollis, and the ‘Bear Hunt of St. Ann’s,’ and also about ‘shooting the cherrybeam,’ you will at once gain an entrance to his affections, and may succeed in acquiring his confidence. This short sketch may manage to show how soon I was on good terms with Cousin Jackies, and how I learned the story of

The Wonderful Nugget

I mean, of course, that very identical nugget found by a digger, which weighed over eighty ozs., and which was delivered over to some person in connection with the Ipswich Escort for safety, and in relation to which there was a legal injunction to restrain the digger and finder from taking possession of, until he had been able to justify his alleged ownership in the eyes of the law. My newly found friends pointed out the spot where this large nugget was found, and told me something in relation to it which, if I tell as nearly as possible as I heard it, I may escape the libel court. ‘Ah’ said one, ‘that was a d____ shame. That fellow who laid claim to a share of the nugget had no more to do with it than a stranger. He had sold out of the claim the day before, and the finder went early to give the claim a morning trial and found the great nugget.’ I listened with pleasure. ‘Lord bless ye,’ said one, ‘I never seed a feller in such a way in my life; when he did find it he didn’t know what to do with heself; he turned white and was regularly comed over.’

‘It was his’ said another; ‘and if he’d done as he should he would have kept as dark as a chimney sweep.’ If the party in this claim were jurymen to try the case it would not be difficult to venture a bet of a dozen of champagne on the finale of the trial.'

Moreton Bay Courier, 15 December 1859:

'Nature of the Ground

Up to the present time I have been very silent on the geological character of Tooloom. I don’t profess to know much on this point, and should be sorry to set myself up as a judge in the matter. If Lyell, Sedgwick, or Buckland, had been to Tooloom and published books on the geological formations of the place, I might appropriate a few quotations. Nevertheless, in all humility, I append my own geological opinions.

The country in the neighbourhood of Tooloom is evidently volcanic, traces of the convulsions of nature being more distinable at the points near to the creek than elsewhere. The various layers are easily discernible in ascending or descending the point of the steep hill near Joe’s Gully; but as far as I could judge from actual observation, there seems to be no rule for the discovery of gold from any particular layer. One party finds the precious metal in gravel - another finds it in soil as rich as garden mould - and another is fortunate in clayey looking soil. The last named appears to show the colour of the metal sought better than any other; the gold obtainable from this kind of layer being smaller than that washed from the gravel. The top layer of the land near to the favourite resort of the diggers is very strong, the edges of the projecting stones being in many places sharp - in others, rising in boulders. One fact I state for the consideration of those more versed in peculiarities connected with soil and climate than I am. The grass growing in the naturally formed paddock I have previously mentioned, is remarkably nutritious for horses, and it is rarely that grass appears to thrive so well for feeding purposes as the tufts which sprout from the rocky and stony intersectices of this wild and broken country.

The appearance of the bed of Joe’s Gully has been entirely altered by the diggers. The bed of the gully is not very wide, but stupendous banks protect it on each side near to the bed of the creek, where the busiest operations were being carried on; and if the place has not been formed by volcanic eruptions, and is only one of the rough and stupendous water-courses of this great country, there is food for supposition that ages have rolled by in accomplishing the appearance presented in 1859 to the visitors...

General Character of Tub Diggings

It is time I gave the diggings a character. I must here endeavour to be very particular. I talked with the storekeepers, diggers, and workers who live by other means than searching for gold. I had an opportunity of talking with many returns on the way up; many more than I have mentioned, and I have endeavoured to form an independent judgment. That Tooloom is a gold country no man who has visited it will deny. The gold brought down by the escort is proof that there is gold. The objection urged by many that the gold which is brought by the Ipswich escort is obtained mostly from the Table Land will not hold good. The Grafton people will be sure, on that side of the country, to keep a sharp look-out ; and I may state that there is a trifle of jealousy relative to the gold coming down to Ipswich which ought not to exist; and the sooner it is allayed the better will it be for all concerned. The Table Land is thirty miles from Tooloom, and it is not likely that much of the gold from the Grafton side passes by way of Ipswich. I should be inclined to believe from what I saw that if the matter were stated vice versa, - that some of the Tooloom gold went by way of Grafton, the truth would be nearer told.

Estimation and Calculation

I should estimate the number of persons at Tooloom, ‘Eight-mile Rush’ and ‘Twenty-mile Rush‘ at about eight hundred. I allow three hundred as the population of women, children and those engaged in stores, public houses, trades, et cetera. This gives a bona fide digging population of five hundred.

The Ipswich Escort brought down last trip nearly six hundred ounces - which gives more than an ounce per man for about three weeks. Now when it is considered that many on the fields scarcely obtain their rations, and others not even enough gold to purchase supplies, while others have good claims, it is not difficult to find a solution that Tooloom diggings, like all others, are a lottery. I believe there are plenty of men doing well; but the general prosperity would, at the time when I visited, have been much heightened by a better supply of water. In this particular there was a general scarcity. Joe’s Gulley was rendered almost useless as a gold producing spot. The two rushes were as badly off as Joe’s Gulley. The country has every appearance of proving gold producing in large quantities. At present circumstances have not been favourable to the full development of its capabilities. I have faith that something good will turn up in that quarter yet; but I should be sorry to say anything which would induce men who have employment, to leave a certainty for, what must be, an uncertainty, until water and time shall make us wiser respecting Tooloom. The impetus which has been given to the Tooloom fields by our friends in Ipswich has certainly done good. Under present circumstances the difficulty is to find now claims; and this I found to be the cause for so many returning. Above all things, a digger who goes to Tooloom should be provided with some ‘tin,’ so that he may hold out. I consider I have given the Tooloom goldfields a good character. They are not, at present, the places for very poor men. Those who have means to work on, strong faith, and dogged determination will, in the end, succeed, unless the face of nature lies, and the experience of the past gold indices are in this instance a blank.

I might run on to an undue length by repeating the gist of the inquiries I made, and the answers thereto. I might tell of claims unworked, and claims registered waiting for water; but, I could not add to the general information contained in my short summary, which may be told in a few words. Tooloom is a goldfield only wanting time and favorable circumstances to develop its capabilities.

I had many conversations on Saturday night with the diggers, and what I gleaned then helped me to summarize as above. If the reader will picture his own feeling when, the week’s toil is done and there is a chance for an hour’s enjoyment and patient forgetfulness, he can spare my pen the trouble of a description. Tooloom deserves a good character...

A Fight with the Knives

Those black, ugly, devils are making faces near the doorway of the hotel, and they laugh with a hideousity that makes a sensitive nature wish a score of miles was between their carcases and the fancied abode of the white lords’ security. Some of the backs of these dark gentry are cut with ghastly wounds. A few nights previously they had indulged in an aboriginal fashionable duel, and the sinners who presented themselves for the orgies of Saturday night were of those who had shown their prowess for a lady love by deeds of bloody war. Some of these black scoundrels had been half civilized on stations, and the little English they had learned had not made first class specimens to be produced at a missionary meeting. I did hear, on the Saturday night, that the aboriginals, when they fight with knives, have certain rules and regulations, a departure from which subjects the defaulter to a punishment peculiarly in accordance with the savage race to which they belong. And here I must tell a story. Two of the blacks had gone to the fight - one had departed from the honorable mode of striking, in so far that he had dragged his knife too lowly on his enemy’s body. For the benefit of those who know not the law which governs them in this particular, I may say that where the abdomen joins the upper portion of the body is considered the rubicon which the knife must not cross. When they fight with knives they do not stab deeply, but having forced the blade into the flesh the process is that of dragging; and the longer the wound the more successful is considered the inflictor.

Two blacks had fought and one had drawn his knife across the other’s abdomen, the consequence being that the intestines protruded and for three or four hours the black was in a state indescribable by your humble servant... The black who was thus served in his corporate body found at last a white man who took pity upon his unfortunate condition; and he lighted, by a tallow dip at the camp, and armed with a rusty needle and a bit of thread, commenced the job of sewing the blackfellow up as if he had been a dead marine. On the blackfellow’s wrist there was a wound, which was said to have been enough to kill a white fellow; but of this no notice was taken. The breach bodily was of more consequence than gash armitistically. The blackfellow lived, and appeared to suffer as little inconvenience from the mending he had received from an inexperienced body darner... I will not so far forget myself to hold the tinkerer of the black so publicly forth that he may become known. His act was one of pure charity - he took no fees - nor did he ask who was to pay him before he started to the camp on his mission of needle and thread mercy. I vouch for the accuracy of the tale as told by the performer himself, whose good deed shall now live in memory when his bad fortune as a digger at Tooloom shall have perished from memory.

Gold and the Blacks

The aboriginals seem perfectly to understand where to find the metal which makes wise men fools and gives an antipodean value to that grand army to which a wag once said he had no ambition to belong. The aboriginals, knowing the value of the metal for the purchase of grog and ‘bacca,’ nevertheless will not take the trouble to dig. For a trifle - for a glass of grog, they will do menial offices for the whites, wander a score of miles away, into the mountains with a party of diggers - to spots where the print of whitefellow’s foot has never previously been, and there point out spots favourable for prospecting. If the aboriginals were not so lazy, or if they had a tithe of the cupidity of the whites, they could soon become rich. Wise legislation might do something for them if contamination had not already struck its death roots into the race. Why need I moralise - it appears that they must perish before the advance of white civilisation, and I should like to find the man prepared with a specific definite nostrum to show that there would be any real service rendered to the world by the incorporation of the aboriginals of North Australia with any other existing race. Tastes differ, or else white women would not mate with John Chinamen as we see they do; but, then, woman is a bundle of incongruities, and cannot be reckoned by the rule of three and vulgar fractions. I hold that the thesis for incorporation, whereby and wherefrom a better race than the jibbering savage with animal instincts might rise, is not practicable so far as the Malay, Japanese, or Chinese are concerned. Nature, elevated, abhors descending. The aspirations are upward in nationality, and onward in civilisation, until the world shall be linked by rapid means of transit and great thoughts, aided by science, demonstrating that man was made for other purposes than toil and money-getting.

There were three or four aboriginals on the ground on the Saturday night in question who were above the average in point of intelligence; but, even those seemed to be short of a shingle in making the best of their knowledge as to the likely spots where gold was to be obtained. They would drink grog, beg for sixpences, journey all day long for a trifle, but the value of the metal for which the whites searched so eagerly they knew not. They had never known the possession of yellow money; prechance if they were taught the value of gold to ‘buy ‘em bacca and grog,’ they might touch the first step of civilisation. Wherever I have seen the aboriginals, so far as property is concerned, they are communists, and despise those petty distinctions which first led to the settlement of this colony...

Themes of Discussion

If a traveller spends a night at a station he will find that the fashionable subject of conversation, especially if a neighbour is visiting who is pecuniarily interested, is cattle, sheep, horses, wool, horns, hides, and tallow. Since Separation, local politics come in at the station boards as ‘Worcestershire Sauce;’ and the mixture is at times as strange as Paddy O’Rourke’s dream. Those matters which are nearest the breast pocket I suppose men will talk about, and ladies also. At Tooloom they talked of sinkings, washings, beds of gravel, boulders, beds of pipeclay, and the general opinion seemed that deep sinking would in a few weeks be the order of the diggings at Tooloom. When the news shall reach us that ‘the windows of heaven’ have been kept open for a few days in that locality, there will be such an improvement that we shall be disposed to wonder why we believed not sooner.

Modes for Inducing Sleep

The diggers crowd the bagatelle board, the balls roll with measured sound, and every now and then there is a gusto of exclamations, perfectly original in their construction and novel fin their sounds. I want to sleep and still the whir keeps on; at last I catch the indication of drowsiness, but there is a spell in the original manner of talk... There are many ways to woo Morpheus. Mesmerize yourself by imagining you are converted into a chimney and the smoke is coming from your mouth as from a funnel. Look straight at some object And if all fails make a planetary system by tightly closing the eyes and seeing sun, moon, and stars of all colours and sizes. If all these means fail don’t get into a passion - if you do you may bid farewell to sleep that night. Smoke a bit, read a page or two, think on those matters only which are pleasant, and you may get off even while a score of fellows are interesting themselves in making a noise that would wake all the blessed babies in creation. I say not how I managed, or if I found it expedient to put on a nightcap. I am off, good night. To-morrow,
Give me my horse and a bottle of wine,
And you shall all hear of the Condamine.'

A Trip to the Gold Diggings #5: Tooloom

In 1859 a wave of gold fever hit the newly independent colony of Queensland, and hundreds of men headed southwest to Tooloom, approximately 150 kilometres over the border into New South Wales. This journey of around four or five days on horseback was also taken by J. Robinson, a correspondent of the 'Moreton Bay Courier' in November 1859, and he wrote a detailed account of his travels both there and back (see map below). The result is a fascinating insight into life on the road during the earliest days of colonial Queensland, as well as the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the goldfields. The writings are reproduced in this 'A Trip to the Gold Diggings' series.

Warning: This article contains language that would be (rightly) considered racially offensive today.

Moreton Bay Courier, 8 December 1859


LEAVING behind me the dead bucolic fragrance of which I wrote in my last, and journeying gently up a slight elevation, I came at last in sight of the township of Tooloom, which stands on the side of a gentle slope, the termination being a part of that creek, which has many miles of windings and turnings from the point of grandeur to that near the township.

The Darkies

The vanguard of Tooloom, as it is approached from the Kooreelah Range, is a camp of darkies; and these sable children of the forest, miserable specimens of humanity, do not appear to have been much improved by their mixture with the white diggers. ‘Fire water,’ as the Indians of North America called the rum, appears to be doing the work of annihilation, and so far as the mere consideration of what is best for the nation is concerned, more particularly in softening manners and elevating the mind, the sooner the aboriginals have perished from the diggings the better. If the wild bushman forgets in a measure the civilization of the old land, and descends in his habits and tastes, the aboriginal loves to copy many acts which the whites perform; and taking rum is a favourite failing up the country with the darkies, as they say it makes them feel ‘like white fellow.’ Even as the vulture and other birds of prey hang upon the trail of blood and death, so do the darkies at the diggings hang upon the trail of civilization, that they may gather the excitement and the vices. Enough for the present of these animals. Before I finish my sketch of the diggings I shall have a little to add on their behalf.

Tooloom Described

We are then in Tooloom; a rough and ready city of bark huts, canvass tents, and calico-roofed shanties. A few banners are streaming in the wind, and the residents are lounging and gossiping-the day of my arrival not being sacred lo business or pleasure, but of that class, coming near the shank end of the week, when there was a growing hope that Saturday’s trading might be ‘all alive, oh.’ Board and lodging and accommodation were signified at various places, and here and there as I entered the classic shade of Tooloom, I caught side of John Chinamen who had risen to the dignity of lodging-house keepers, and were impressed to all appearance with the importance of their vocation. That pig-eyed vacunty, and long tails pendant from the top of the nob, are not very national like on a soil fast yielding to British sway; nevertheless, it is not a time to moralize, as nuggets may be in the distance, and the cap of Fortunatus only wants the finding.

As a man travels, he should keep his eyes open; so pardon me for a few moments if I linger to describe Tooloom. In the distance I see the aristocracy of the place. The Gold Commissioner, Mr. Master, is sunning himself in front of his office-parlour and all, and holding a morning confab with the Sergeant of the Gold Police, who as he nods approvingly to what the King of Tooloom says, shakes the veil with which he has garlanded his hat, and beats his long boots with a switch. By the side of the representatives of the law and gospel of Tooloom, stands the oldest storekeeper, Mr. Miller, and the trio are evidently discussing the probabilities of the new arrival at such a strange hour, and in such a questionable shape. I catch sight of familiar faces and forms - feel satisfied I shall be able to make myself at home, and then make up to the select knot of loungers I have mentioned.

At the risk of my neck, which is more valuable to myself than to Queensland, I clamber a steep hill on the other side of the creek, to put my Rosinante away safely, until I shall again want to tempt the fortune of the road. The beast safely hobbled, and I back again in the city of Tooloom, there is nothing left for it but an Englishman’s feed - dinner; and then a leisure survey of the wonders of the place.

Whatever the townships of other diggings may have been when in their infancy, Tooloom reminded me of a village fair. The wares of the storekeepers were exposed to view in tempting forms, and there was an attempt to imitate the shop-keeping, or more properly the stall-keeping, of a gala day in a village. The flies were busy with the remaining stock-in-trade of the butcher, whose shop-block looked as if it was ‘first chop’ for the purpose for which it was intended. The chimney of the baker’s oven, constructed of corrugated iron, roared its head in pride above the calico roofing, and all inside the establishment looked clean and neat as a penny twist. An introduction to the butcher and the baker in a small town, when a man means to settle, is of no mean importance, especially if the party so favoured has a number of mouths beside his own to feed, either from his industry or his wits. Even on the diggings I found that ‘tick’ was fashionable, and that many who are there cannot, or will not, depart from the remembrance of town life, as a gentle reminder from a small bill enables a debtor to remember that his existence on terra firma is of some consequence to those to whom he may owe money.

Quartz crushing machine, Ballarat, S.T. Gill 1855.
(National Library of Australia nla-pic.an:6055919)

Stores and Shanties

I counted a number of stores. First, I must mention the oldest, a courtesy which will occasion no jealousy, as its priority is honorable by reason of its age. I refer to the store of Mr. Miller, from which place a banner was flying on which was written words to guide those who needed information where to purchase goods.- ‘Tooloom stores’ in large letters kept the friends of the storekeeper from going astray. Outside the store of which I am making honourable mention I saw a notice relative to the North Australian, and I candidly confess that I did not feel any of those sensations which are said to emanate from ‘That green-eyed monster that doth mock our bliss.’

It would not be exactly proper to descend to minute particulars, so I shall hurriedly take in the batch of speculators, thus forming an index for Tooloomers, and saving the expense of a directory. Mr. Betts figures as a general storekeeper, and a little way above is Mr. Gordon’s, also a general store, whilst opposite is a large calico building, (about to be supplanted by a slab one), which is said to belong to Mr. Fleming; and Messrs. Black & Co. keep a store near to the creek. The ring of the blacksmith‘s anvil sounds close at hand, and from between the sheets of bark come sparks of fire, not sufficiently powerful to indulge the fancy that Vulcan is forging thunderbolts, but sharp and swift enough to jog your memory that there are diggers who take the edge from their picks in the battle for gold. The abode of the Vulcan of Tooloom belonged to an Ipswich man a few days before my arrival, but he had sold out to Mynheer Something, who was laboring away when I passed with all the ardour of a new tradesman.

A Rose in the Wilderness

And hereabouts, midst shades of bush and mobs of cattle, came forth from a shanty, dignified by the title of a lodging-house, a good-looking woman, who, with her husband, seemed disposed for a yarn; and we all chatted on the life that diggers lead. The lady, thinking I was a new chum, expressed her sorrow that I should have come to share the profits and the losses - the hardships and the queer lodgings, that were fashionable thereabouts. In her gentle expostulations she neglected not to remind me that she had known other comforts than the diggings, and in token thereof she drew off her bonnet and displayed a head of hair that would do honor to Lady Bowen’s first fancy ball. I trust, if this small tribute to female vanity and beauty should be seen by those who will recognize the sketch as applicable, I shall not be considered acting improperly in paying a graceful compliment to beauty at Tooloom.

A Claim Jumped!

Just at this particular time, came by a digger who had made himself a name by discovering that our old friend O’Donnell and his party, consisting of the brothers Aitken, (one of whom was a short time resident in Brisbane), had more ground than they were entitled to by the laws which regulate claims on the gold-fields. The party to whom I have alluded had sent away the greater number of mates to fetch their better halves to share the glory of Tooloom. What the digger laid claim to he obtained - fair measurement had settled the job, and I found that the man’s tact and boldness was generally commended. The claim of O’Donnell and his party had a good name in the township, but the people generally considered that he had blown rather too hard in that letter which appeared in the Brisbane papers. I was told that O’Donnell had denied the authorship; that the letter may not have been intended for publication by the writer, is another matter - Mr. Rosetta, of the Freemason’s Hotel, Brisbane, would be a capital witness to decide if the letter was written by the person whose signature it bore.

Public Houses

Mr. Brooks has rigged a place called ‘The Prospector’s Arms,’ and painting has been called to aid the caligraphic art, for there shines the pick and shovel on the signboard, emblems of the digging trade, under the shade of which the workers may take their grog and discourse on the precious metal, and the chances of finding it. Mr. Black has preserved the aboriginal dialect, his house rejoicing under the appellation of ‘The Tubra Inn.’ This last place formed the head quarters of your correspondent, who, a kind of cosmopolitan in his little way, wished all parties well, - bundles of fun and piles of gold. I must not say how many private grog shops were on the digging’s, but I have no doubt that every accommodation house, with a sheet of bark for a bedstead, and blankets for sheets, counterpanes, and all, could muster their little kegs and drops of various kinds of creature comforts which help to keep up the spirits, and are oftentimes productive of little scenes not fit for modest eyes, or to be heard by ears polite. I may not indulge in rhapsody, or allow my imagination to have free scope. The better part of valour, they say, is discretion, and I close the brief sketch of the hotels by hoping, that all at Tooloom may find it to be other than a land of promise.


The little stars looked peacefully down, as if taking pity on poor wretches having to find their way across gullies, and peeking to escape broken bones by avoiding holes, stumps, and dogs. The lights shine through the roofs - the calico shanties look as if showmen were giving a night performance. There is a sound of merriment, and the Tooloomers appear to have glad hearts. Oppressed with forebodings, I confess to disappointment, for there is the appearance of rough plenty, and sadder souls are in the genteel rooms of showy poverty than are allowed elbow room at the diggings. I heard Mr. Fleming praised for the prompt and liberal supply of flour which he sent. ‘We are nearly starved,’ said a digger to me, ‘I had nearly a month on beef and peas, and if I had been required to have held out much longer it would have cooked my goose.’

So ho! My companion at the hotel is a grazier. He had brought about 1000 sheep, so that the diggers might be supplied with mutton. Evidently he looked on me with distrust, which a political yarn did not lesson. The squatter could not convince me, and I could not convert him, so off we go to bed in the same room, though on different shake downs, he believing in my rascality, and I in his cool impudence - two dear delightful companions to be closeted together for a night. I admired many notions that he entertained, and liked what squatterdom had done for him; it had made him dare to assert his belief. Flocks and herds are powerful incentives to make a man independent in his feelings. A good night to you all, and may my friend understand me better in the morning.

The Diggings

I almost feel like a criminal for having kept you so long waiting for my report of the veritable diggings. It has not been done purposely - pray pardon me. The way was long, and the stories new, but now I am off for JOE’S GULLY. It will be better, however, for me to sketch the journey. A short distance from the ‘Tubra Inn’ brings the traveller to the banks of the creek where John Chinamen amuse themselves. There are a number of Celestials engaged in the interesting process of digging and washing. Patiently they appear to labour and the water they have for their work is scanty in quantity. Still they labour on, proof against the rough witticisms of the diggers from Europe, who, one and all, despise the comers from the land of where the claims land of Confucius, where the emperor claims to be lord of the sun and the moon. Probably the reason why these queer specimens of men take matters in such hum-drum style is, because they do not understand much of the languages in which they are constantly addressed. John Chinaman resorts to a sensible method for carrying the dirt. He who is appointed dirtman for the gang swings two buckets from a yoke, such as the London milkmen use, and all day long, before returning to Hong Kong (the name by which their quarters are known at Tooloom), do they continue to labour and toil, so that they may be a trifle richer before partaking of their curry and rice.

Passing over the creek by a primitive bridge, a fallen tree, the traveller has to clamber for it to the summit of the portion of Tooloom known as the Horse Paddock, in consequence of its being the place where the diggers turn their horse; and, protected as it is by the creek on all sides save one, it is rarely that the horses stray. A hard beaten footpath, looking as if trodden by a regiment of infantry in single file, is the way to another bend of the creek, which has also to be crossed. On the opposite side the traveller has to ascend, and after a fatiguing march of a mile, the way being adorned by tents and shanties, the bed of the creek is seen, and also the entrance to Joe’s Gully. If the traveller is unused to the rough ways of life he will not be able to descend readily; and a party of Melbournites, perceiving the difficulty of the way, were in the act of erecting an accommodation house about half way down the hill, for the convenience of diggers and the public in general, - heaven bless the speculators! If one of their lodgers should partake too freely of grog at Tooloom, and begin to descend and lose his balance, the house of accommodation would not form a house of refuge, for there is nothing but a sheet of unbleached calico between the traveller and the chasm below.

As it was hard to get to Joe’s Gully, and as I have brought the reader in sight, he must have mercy and wait until I got to the bottom. I will, however, for the benefit of inquirers after gold, say that my opinions of the gold-fields at Tooloom have taken a more favorable turn, and in the next part I may talk of all the acts pertaining to searching for the precious metal. For the present I rest in sight of the spot which has hitherto been the talismanic dream and promise. In my next I shall have stories to tell of wonderful nuggets, and dust, not of Ophir and Havillah, but of the diggings where the sympathies of the workers go with Queensland.'