24 February, 2016

Making tracks: One Eye Gully

Gold seekers from all over the world flocked to Ballarat after the August, 1851 discoveries of John Dunlop and James Regan at Poverty Point and as the numbers of diggers increased, the township of Ballarat was established. Initially, the Ballarat diggings were a rough collection of huts and canvas tents spread out along the creeks and gullies of the Yarrowee River, but as more and more people arrived - not just single men roughing it, but whole families including women and children - the tents gave way to timber buildings and then as mining practices moved on from shallow alluvial workings to more established deep lead mining, permanent, brick buildings were erected.
The early township grew up in a haphazard fashion around the sites where the miners pitched their tents and along the routes of the original bullock tracks. As a result, the Ballarat CBD as it exists today, was not the centre of town during the early years of the gold rush. Instead, East Ballarat near Golden Point and the Eureka Lead became the focus of activity. Businesses lined the old tracks which became the first roads.
The North Grant Hotel (1859), located on the south east corner of Peel and
Main Street (now Bridge Street), built mid-1850s. Image held by the State
Library of Victoria
The diggers arriving from Melbourne followed tracks which in time became Humffray St, Victoria St and Eureka St. Those who had taken the Burnbank Track from Buninyong past Yuille's homestead, found themselves on a track beside the Yarrowee River which led to what eventually became Grant Street, but probably it was more common for those making the last leg of the journey from Buninyong to follow a shorter track described by the historian WB Withers in 1888. The track he indicated was "on the eastern side of the creek that ran down past the Main Road Gullies to the Yarrowee".
He was of course, referring to the track which eventually became the Geelong Road out of Buninyong and which upon its arrival in Ballarat becomes Main Road. The early survey maps of Buninyong Parish clearly mark the southern portion of the old track which branched off from the Geelong to Buninyong Track near the current intersection of the Midland Highway and Lal Lal Street. From that point, the track to Ballarat skirted the township of Buninyong, followed a north westerly line to the outskirts of present-day town, then turned more northerly and passed between Mt Helen and another small peak to the east which at that time was known as Green Hill. Traces of Green Hill can still be found in the names of local roads.
It is near this point, close to Gear Ave and Federation University where Canadian Creek rises as a series of springs, flowing north to its confluence with the Yarrowee River near Golden Point. The track taken by those early diggers roughly followed the course of the creek, tracing a path down the gully to Ballarat. At that time, the upper reaches of the creek were known as One Eye Gully. It was not until later that the creek took on its present name which is attributed to an early digger by the name of Canadian Swift, one of a group of lucky diggers who discovered the sizeable "Canadian Wonder" nugget in 1853.
Canadian Creek and its tributaries (Specimen, Warrenheip and Pennyweight Gullies) were all the focus of gold mining activities during the gold rush and today still suffer erosion problems as a consequence, adding no doubt to the sediment load of the Yarrowee/Leigh River which in turn deposits its sediment into the Barwon. This however was of little concern to the diggers who arrived in their thousands during the 1850s, traipsing along the track from Buninyong.
The remains of gold workings in a gully which runs into Canadian Creek to the
north of Federation University
At present, I have not managed to find a map which shows the entire path of the track from Buninyong to Ballarat, so I am not sure of its exact course past Mt Helen, other than to say it continued on through Mt Clear to Golden Point where it became what in the early 1850s, was known as Main Street. A contemporary report from the gold rush era mentions that the track was "6 kangaroo miles" from the gully at the base of Green Hill to Ballarat (Geelong Advertiser, 25th August, 1852).
It was not long before the track became a surveyed road and such was the flow of traffic that by 1856 there were calls for tenders to build a plank road along this route from Buninyong to Ballarat. The work was completed by August, 1857 on what only two months later was referred to as the "main high road" to Ballarat. Survey maps along Main Street from 1857 also refer to the Plank Road which continued in use until 1868.
Looking along Main St aka Plank Road in 1859, although there is no sign
of the planks. Image held by the National Library of Australia
It was only a matter of months after completion however, before repairs to some of the planks were needed. A contributor to the Geelong Advertiser of 1st December, 1857 stated that it would be better to travel along the old bush road than to use the Plank Road in its current condition. From this reference it would seem whilst the new road followed a similar path, it was not identical to the original track, which presumably still existed simultaneously with the new road for some time at least. As far as I can tell, the "new road" which eventually became the plank road was still only a "proposal" in 1853.
In keeping with this, Surveyor William Urquhart's 1852 map shows shows a myriad of faint tracks criss-crossing the area between Golden Point and Bakery Hill, but none closely following the present line of Main Road, suggesting it was not surveyed until after that date. Neither however does he indicate the course of the track from Buninyong, although buildings are said to have existed along Main St as early as 1852 when Urquhart was surveying the area. These would have followed the course of the original track and presumably therefore determined, in part at least, the course of Main Street when surveyed.
Interestingly, several geological survey maps show Canadian Creek following and crossing Main St several times between present day Barkly and Esmond Streets, suggesting perhaps that this several hundred metre section of Main Street may have closely followed the original track. Today of course, the re-aligned Canadian Creek flows via a channel somewhat to the west and does not cross Main Road until the latter passes Clayton Street. Main Road however, has not moved since those surveys of the late 1850s.
The lower, channelled reaches of Canadian Creek flowing towards the Yarrowee
River near Poverty Point

1 comment:

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