In the 1850's, the focus on Australia was all about gold and the boomtime rushes it created!
When you consider how 'gold fever' totally gripped the population in the 1850's and later decades, it is perhaps suprising to be told that the existence of gold in Australia was widely known well before 1851.
The crown knew, officially and unofficially, of gold finds during four decades previously, but since the official view that gold mining in New South Wales would be the ruination of the place as a penal colony or as a pastoralists' paradise, they had always suppressed such discoveries and in fact, tried in earnest to discourage further search.
The first authentic discoveries of gold in New South Wales had been made as early as 1814 by convicts hewing the road over the Blue Mountains. As every convict who found gold was promptly flogged, the discoveries soon ceased.
The first recorded find was in 1823 by a government surveyor, James Mcbrian, who "found numerous particles of gold in the sand and in the hills" near Bathurst NSW.
By 1850 probably a hundred people had actually found gold and thousands were aware of it. STRZELECKI, who claimed to be a polish count, tramped over 10,000 kilometres of Australia in 1839, saw some gold and took rock samples back to London.
In 1844, Reverend William CLARKE showed Governor GIPPS gold he had collected near Hartley and also some that was sent to him by friends in the country.
In 1845 a Sydney jeweller had gold displayed in his window, found over a period of years by a shephard named McGregor, nicknamed 'the gold-finder'.
Early in 1849 one of the founders of the Mittagong Ironworks showed the Governor some gold but refused to say where it had been found.
This time the Governor of NSW sent to England for a geological surveyor to supply him with a full report on Australia's mineral prospects.
With all of this gold around, why there was no gold rush or gold fever before 1851?
There are several possible answers to this question.
No one was prepared to get out and search for it;
No one here knew enough of the tell-tale signs;
the gold finds had been too small to encourage anyone to undertake what would be an immense task.
An even bigger obstacle was the law, no individual or company could hope to profit by finding gold as any minerals found remained the property of the crown.
The discovery of gold in far-off California in early 1848 and the arrival of a man named Edward Hargraves was to change the whole situation.
EDWARD HARGRAVES, a huge man at 6 feet 5" tall and weighing over 20 stone.
He seemed to find hard work difficult and is characterized as a lazy dreamer and schemer but ready for any adventure.
Born in England, he had been a sailor and had worked in many parts of NSW as a station overseer, a farmer, a shipping agent and a hotel owner.
In 1846, when he was 32, Hargraves left his wife & 5 kids at Gosford, for nearly 5 years while he went along with many others, to the Californian goldrush of 1849.
Whilst he was there, he found out that digging was too hard for him so he stuck at it for only a few months.
Even so, in that time he did learn some important lessons.
He returned to Sydney in January 1851 determined to make his fortune, not from finding gold (which he knew existed) but from government rewards for finding gold.
Hargraves intended to create a gold rush; whether the gold was there or not did not matter, he believed that it was and was ready to pull off a gigantic bluff. With his assertions that soon a vast number of searchers would soon find some rich deposits and the government would be forced to alter the law that made the discovered gold, Crown property.
Hargraves borrowed money in Sydney to buy a horse and supplies and in early February headed west for Wellington, where McGregor 'the gold-finder' had worked.
He spent a night at a friend's hotel at Guyong and learned of many finds in the area.
In the next few days Hargraves and some other men searched and found a few tiny specks. Even to this day this area has yielded little, but Hargraves was not looking for gold in quantity.
He took the tiny specks and headed back to Sydney, showing his three brothers how to make and use a Californian 'cradle'.
In Sydney Hargraves showed the Colonial Secretary his specks of gold, demanded £500 compensation for his work plus an added reward and £30 to buy a new horse.