07 October, 2013

Branching out - Woodbourne No. 2 - no rush!

In 1851, the history of Victoria changed forever when gold was discovered near Ballarat. It created a frenzy of activity which resulted in any likely quartz deposits being "prospected" in the hopes of finding gold. In 1855 the Stieglitz goldfields were discovered and the area found itself in the grip of a rush.
Like the creeks and gullies around Stieglitz, Woodbourne Creek harboured a number of gold deposits, however unlike Stieglitz which was "rushed", resulting in a huge population influx and extensive prospecting in the area, the history of gold discovery along Woodbourne Creek was more of a dawdle than a rush.
It was known that there were likely gold-bearing deposits along the creek and from the late 1850s periodic attempts were made to mine them.
In 1864, a field was opened at Woodbourne when alluvial gold was found by a German prospector in "Munroe's Gully" - a tributary of the Woodbourne. Gold was soon found along the creek itself which in various places still shows signs of mining activity.
This section of the state forest is scattered with old mounds. Often, as in this
case, trees have grown in them
A surveyor's map from 1867 at one point notes: "Gold has been found in many places along Reids [Woodbourne] creek and in some spots payable". The map also notes the presence of four gullies immediately east of Woodbourne Creek, the second being a "Quartz Reef Gully" (from position probably Wilson Creek) and the fourth is labelled "Digger's Gully" - towards the boundary of the Woodbourne and Golf Hill estates.
In 1888 a geologist's report published in the Argus described a quartz reef which runs along west bank of Woodbourne Creek near the Meredith-Mount Mercer Road. It described the reef as running south along the creek bank, in places some 80 feet (over 24m) above the creek's course at that time. To the north it also followed the creek, crossing underneath the streambed before being covered by geologically more recent basalt flows somewhere near the homestead.
Looking towards Woodbourne homestead. Woodbourne Creek lies to the right
The southern end of this reef was on the land of "Lingford and McCrae" both of whom made some attempts to mine the gold in the gullies which cut across the reef, however were not satisfied with the results achieved.
By contrast, in 1879 one article claimed that a "quartz reef of tolerable richness" had been found. It was described as being "on the crown lands adjoining Mr McAdam's property". Survey maps show that Robert McAdam held about 300 acres of land east and at the southern end of the current state forest and near the head of Wilson Creek from this same year. A newspaper report a couple of months later indicated a yield from the Bamganie Gold Mining Company (the same group of miners perhaps?) which was so promising they intended to erect a 5 head battery to process the quartz on site, rather than sending it to Ballarat for processing. Shares in the company were still being sold in 1891.
A five-head battery from Trunkey Creek, probably similar to that used on
Woodbourne Creek

Two years earlier another enterprise with the pragmatic name of Leidwill's New Find Gold-Mining Company was established to work a lead in a "small tributary running parallel to the creek" (Woodbourne Creek?).
In 1880 and 1883 further reefs were located and worked at Bamganie, then in 1891 it was reported further that "rich patches of alluvial and quartz have been found [on Woodbourne Creek], a deep alluvial lead has been discovered but has not yet been fully tested". Mining notes in the Argus of November, 1895 record the lowering of water levels in the South Day Dawn mine on Woodbourne Creek.
Attempts to find gold on what was originally the Woodbourne run continued over the years and another speculative venture was undertaken at Bamganie in 1901 when the Duke of Wellington Mine was opened.
Signs of the past close to the Woodbourne Creek bed
A 1901 map of the "goldfields" in the area shows mines with names such as the Duchess of Hamilton, Golden Fleece, Star of Bamganie, The King, Home Rule (presumably an Irish outfit), Day Dawn and Leap Year located along the reef running down from the homestead along the creek, on both crown and private property.
At one time, up to 50 leases were issued for the area. Of those along the creek,  several were held by Thomas Nichols, Arch. Campbell and Angus Grant. In 1902 Nichols was involved in a legal stoush over the incorrect staking of a claim for his Duchess of Cornwall Gold Mining Company whilst the 1932 Victoria Government Gazette lists Grant amongst others under "Applications for mining leases abandoned".
There is one other twist to the story of goldmining on Woodbourne Creek and that is Lewis Hubert (Harold Bell) Lasseter of "Lasseter's Lost Reef" fame. He was born Lewis Hubert Lasseter to parents William John Lasseter and Agnes Cruickshank at Bamganie in 1880. Lasseter only lived in the district until he was seven and I can see no sign of Lasseters on the survey maps however, in the year of his birth a John Cruickshank selected land on Woodbourne Creek just above the confluence with Wilson Creek. Presumably he and his family lived nearby.
Lewis Hubert (Harold Bell) Lasseter
Lasseter lived a colourful often controversial life and claimed to have found (but lost) a fabulous quartz reef in the interior of the country. It has never been found nor have I found any suggestion that he ever returned to his birth place. Perhaps he would have had more success had he tried his hand prospecting at Bamganie...

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