22 April, 2016

Making tracks: lies and deception

So, how did the diggers decide which road to take when heading from Geelong (or Melbourne via Geelong) to the goldfields of Ballarat and beyond?'
Word of mouth was certainly important. Anyone recently returned from the diggings with news of the latest rush was questioned closely. Newspapers were scanned in minute detail to glean any information about which field had the greatest returns and what was the best route to get there. Weather reports were no doubt also taken into account when considering which road to take and the means of travel could also affect choice of route. For those wealthy enough to afford it, travelling by coach determined which road was used, but for those on foot - as many were - the shortest route may have held the most appeal. For the array of horses, carts, drays and wagons it was not so easy to skirt around a bad section of track - as described by Henry Mundy in his account of his time spent on the goldfields. Misjudging a creek-crossing or becoming mired in a swamp could be a very costly and even dangerous occurrence.
One source of information which purported to help the would be diggers avoid the traps and pitfalls of their newly-chosen career was guidebooks. The Digger's Hand-book, the Gold Digger's Guide, the Gold Seeker's Guide and a plethora of other helpful publications were guaranteed to provide all the information an aspiring digger needed; a list what what clothes and equipment to take, what rations to carry and what could be found along the way. Most importantly perhaps, the digger's guides also included maps, a description of the route, details of what conditions to expect during the journey and potentially also a list of places to stay or camp and the distances involved.
An example of a gold digger's guide, image from the National Maritime Collection
Whilst I found a number of newspaper articles providing helpful information for diggers and an array of advertisements selling everything from tonics to miner's cradles, diggers guides were not so easy to come by, with the exception of the one pictured above, the text of which can be found here.
Sources of information such as these whilst useful, were not however to be entirely trusted. Newspapers then as now had their own agendas which often reflected the interests of the towns and people they represented. With the outbreak of the gold rush in 1851, many of those towns were keen to profit from the flurry of activity it generated. Of course, those who were situated closest to the goldfields stood to benefit most and it wasn't long before a slanging match developed between Geelong and Melbourne with The Argus and the Geelong Advertiser championing the causes of their respective towns.
Not surprisingly, one of the chief topics of interest was the proximity - or lack there of - of each town to the Ballarat goldfields. Within weeks of the discovery of gold in Victoria, claims, counter claims, allegations and insinuations were flying. Also up for debate was the estimated cost of buying equipment for the goldfields from either town and the state of the respective roads between each and the diggings.
Nor was the battle confined to the pages of the local newspapers. In 1854 a map was published which purported to show the "true" distances between Melbourne, Geelong and the various goldfields but which placed Geelong at twice the distance from Ballarat as it did Melbourne. Not surprisingly, there was outrage amongst the Geelong fraternity at such a fraud being perpetuated upon their town.
The "false" map of the goldfields (Turnbull, 1989)
Whilst no-one seems to know who put the map together, the lithographers who printed it were Messrs Campbell & Fergusson of Melbourne. The map was recently on display at the Geelong Regional Library, but has also been reproduced in various places including "Maps are Territories: Science is an Atlas" (David Turnbull, 1989).
Whilst this map is a blatant example of the intercity rivalry, other maps were more accurate but could still prove misleading. At the outbreak of the gold rush, there were a number of maps which were considered reliable such as government surveyor A.J. Skene's 1845 "Map of the district of Geelong", engraved by Thomas Ham of Melbourne and published by James Harrison of the Geelong Advertiser.
The relevant portion of Skene's 1845 map of  the Geelong region, showing the main tracks between
towns at that time. Image held by the National Library of Australia
Another map which could be trusted to give a reasonably accurate representation of the district was Thomas Ham's 1849 "Map of the purchased and measured lands, counties, parishes, etc. of the Melbourne and Geelong districts", published prior to the discovery of gold.
A portion of Ham's 1849 map of the Melbourne and Geelong regions.
Image held by the National Library of Australia
It is worth noting however, that a subsequent map produced in 1852 by Ham (after the discovery of gold), whilst accurate, took the approach of displaying only the area north of about the 38th parallel south, which passes not too far below Werribee. This way, Geelong is not shown, and on the copy held by the National Library of Australia the roads to Buninyong and Ballarat from Melbourne have been highlighted (after publication) whereas those to Geelong were untouched or marked only faintly. Whether this was an intentional ploy to disadvantage Geelong or merely the result of a "Melbourne-centric" view of the gold rush is not clear.
Ham's 1852 map of the routes to the Mt. Alexander & Ballarat gold diggings.
Image held by the National Library of Australia
Despite both early maps being relatively accurate however, there were slight variations between Ham's 1849 and Skene's 1845 maps. Skene for example more accurately locates William Cross Yuille's Ballarat Run to the north of Mt Buninyong, whilst Ham shows it to the north west below Lake Burrumbeet. Despite these discrepancies, both the 1845 and 1849 maps give a reasonable representation of the main features of the landscape, but only give a general idea of the main tracks. This would be due at least in part to the fact that not all land in the area had been accurately surveyed at that time.
Other less official maps also claimed to provide accurate information, but were similarly vague. The "Notes of a Gold Digger and Gold Digger's Guide" shown above, contained a map "compiled & engraved by Samuel Clavert" dated 1852. Whilst the distances shown are reasonably accurate, once again, the track is a general line with few landmarks to use as a guide. Whilst Geelong is shown on this map, distances are marked from Melbourne to each of the goldfields listed but no distance is given for the road from Geelong to Ballarat, nor is the Geelong-Melbourne Rd marked on the map.
Map of the goldfields from "Notes of a Gold Digger and Gold
Digger's Guide" 
1852.
A fourth map from 1853 gave a little more detail as to places, showing inns and stopping points along the way - no doubt reflecting the many establishments which were popping up along the various routes to the goldfields to cater to the passing trade. Despite this, the map still showed only an approximation of the tracks involved and in this instance appears to show the distance from Geelong to Buninyong via Shelford to be the same as that via the Geelong-Buninyong Track. It was, it claimed "carefully compiled from authentic sources & lithographed by Edwd. Gilks."
The digger's road guide, to the gold mines of Victoria and the country extending
210 miles, round Melbourne. Image held by the National Library of Australia
So, all things considered,with an array of maps (some conflicting), a steady flow of newspaper reports and returning diggers, each with his or her own tales to tell, variable weather conditions, bad roads, new goldfields popping up here, there and everywhere, not to mention the ever-present risk of bushrangers as well as intense competition for business at every inn or hamlet along the way, is it any wonder that so many towns claimed to be "on the main route [from Geelong] to the goldfields"?

20 April, 2016

Making tracks: decisions! Decisions!

Over the past six months and 21 blog posts, I've followed in the tracks of the gold diggers making their way from Geelong to Ballarat, looking at how they travelled, where they travelled, who they might have met along the way and what conditions they faced. The aim was to decide which - if any - of the various tracks was the "main" route to the goldfields - a claim made of each of these tracks at one time or another.
Google Earth image showing the likely routes via Shelford (red),
the Geelong-Buninyong Track (green) and Steiglitz (blue)
Teesdale it is claimed at a local park lay on the "main gold route". The Eclipse Inn north of Steiglitz was situated on the "best line of road" to the goldfields, boasted a real estate agent in 1853. A report by the Victorian Heritage Database states that "later the Warrenheip Road to Ballarat became the main gold fields route from Geelong", whilst in 1943 a local resident of the town of Meredith recounted that "when gold was first discovered at nearby Buninyong, Ballarat, Steiglitz and Bendigo, most of the traffic to those places started from Geelong and came through Meredith by bullock teams along bush tracks."
Even Skene St in the Geelong suburb of Newtown was claimed as part of "the main route to the Ballarat goldfields" - presumably a reflection of the flow of traffic west towards Fyansford and across the Moorabool River to the Geelong-Buninyong Track near the future site of Gheringhap.
The one thing which does seem clear is that each claim had its own angle: the best road, the main route, the most traffic, a particular point in time. What is clear however, is that over the years, huge amounts of traffic flowed along all routes to the goldfields of Ballarat. But were all the routes equivalent?
Store drays camped on road to Ballarat, TS Gill, 1855, Image held by the
National Library of Australia
Well, the distance of each was not the same. The journey from Geelong to Ballarat via the Geelong-Buninyong Track and the Plank Rd was around 50 miles (80km). From Geelong via Steiglitz and Warrenheip to Ballarat was about 59 miles (95km) whilst the track via the Leigh Rd to Shelford and then to Buninyong and along the Plank Rd was also around 59 miles. If travelling via Magpie Gully instead of the Plank Rd, then an extra mile or more could be added to the journey.
A difference of 9 miles or 15km is not so much on modern roads with fast cars, but to a digger walking the distance, this could amount to almost half a day's extra walking. If however, a dray were to become mired in Scott's Swamp, not only hours, but days could be lost, not to mention the potential for broken wheels and axles, the loss of an expensive horse or bullock or even the significant physical exertion required to unload and reload an entire dray full of supplies in order to lighten the load and escape the bog. As a result, whilst the shortest route may appeal to those on foot, road conditions may have been more important than distance to those travelling by vehicle.
To complicate the issue further, there were any number of alternate routes and tracks connecting each of the three roads running north-south. From the Steiglitz road it was possible to cross the Moorabool River and reach the Geelong-Buninyong Track via the Melbourne-Buninyong Rd intersecting at Green Tent, Sharp's Crossing which intersected at the same point, the Steiglitz-Meredith Rd and at least one other unnamed crossing to name a few.
From the west, it was possible to cross the Leigh River at 'Narmbool' and possibly also at an informal crossing near Bamganie. Today, a number of small fords cross the Leigh on private property, presumably it was no different in the 1850s. In a time when a bad track or tricky creek-crossing saw travellers take to the bush, forging their own path, it is not surprising that informal tracks and crossings proliferated.
Google Earth image showing the interconnecting tracks between Geelong and Ballarat. Red
lines show tracks marked on survey maps, blue lines show approximate routes described, yellow
lines show likely connections along and between routes using modern roads, green lines
show estimated routes based on surveyor's field books. Early inns along the routes are also shown.
Click to enlarge
Another important factor was date. When the gold rush first broke out in August, 1851 everyone wanted to be at Hiscock's Gully. Two weeks later, after the discovery of Golden Point, they were also flooding to Ballarat along the Geelong to Buninyong Track. The surface alluvial deposits however, were quickly worked out and within a short time, deep lead mining became common. As the miners followed these leads, mining activities spread out across the Sebastopol Plateau following the course of an ancient river underlying the Leigh. It makes sense that anyone travelling to these mines during the 1860s would consider travelling via Shelford.
At Steiglitz, the discovery of quartz reefs in 1855,  drew traffic from Geelong and also from Ballarat, presumably making the route from Geelong to Ballarat via Steiglitz and Warrenheip more appealing at that time. This road also provided access to other nearby goldfields such as Mt Egerton, Dolly's Creek and Gordon to name a handful.
Despite all of this however, it is worth remembering that coaches - including Cobb & Co.'s famous Leviathan Coach capable of carrying 89 passengers - continued to run directly between Geelong and Ballarat along what soon became the Geelong-Buninyong Rd. After the discoveries at Steiglitz, extra services ran via Hope's Bridge over Sutherland's Creek to the town, however coaches from Steiglitz for Ballarat still travelled via Meredith, Buninyong and Magpie Gully, rather than the Eclipse Inn and Warrenheip. A comparison of distance shows the coach route to be only a mile or so shorter than travelling via Warrenheip. I cannot see any mention of a coach service via Mt Mercer throughout the gold rush period, however the Portland Bay service from Geelong did pass through Shelford, Cressy and Fiery Creek further to the west.
Cobb & Co.'s Leviathan Coach, c1862. Image held by the Victorian State Library
Regardless of which route the diggers chose, one thing was certain: at some point they would have to cross, walk alongside or take water from the the tributaries of the Barwon River. Whichever route they chose would require not just one, but numerous creek and river crossings. Whether at Batesford, Fyansford or east of Buninyong, the Moorabool River had to be crossed. Travelling via Shelford also meant crossing the Leigh/Yarrowee River at least twice, if not three times, not to mention the many creeks and gullies along the way. Below is a list of the main creeks along the three routes, grouped according to the river into which they flow.
In the early days before bridges were built, fording creeks and rivers was inevitable and bad weather could have a significant impact, not only on the road surface, but also on the ease with which a creek or river could be crossed - if it could be crossed at all. Newspaper reports of flooding often also came with reports of drownings, both of animals and humans as attempts were made to cross dangerously swollen creeks and rivers. Another reason for diggers to consider carefully which route to take.
There is one other factor which could also influence the decision and which could significantly alter the flow of traffic along a particular road: maps.
And some of those maps will be the topic of my next post.

13 April, 2016

Making tracks: the best line of road

Twenty-eight Miles from Geelong, near the Moorabool River, and on the best line of Road to Ballarat.
This was the rather bold claim made in September, 1853 by real estate agent J.B. Hutton who had been retained by Richard Coombs to sell the Eclipse Hotel, located some three and a half miles to the north of Steiglitz at the end of what is now Eclipse Rd. The Eclipse - as I have mentioned previously - was 'Durdidwarrah' (now 'Darra') the former homestead of Charles Augustus Von Steiglitz. It had been purchased by Richard Coombs who,  in April, 1853 stated that "Owing to the increasing traffic on this road, the want of accommodation has been so much complained of that a half way house has become a matter of necessity..."
Coombs further claimed that "the distance to Buninyong by this route is considerably shorter than by any other...[and that] the road having been the great thoroughfare in the winter season, notwithstanding the want of accommodation, proves the superiority,which is admitted by its now being generally taken by parties to and from the diggings."
Eclipse Rd between Steiglitz and 'Darra'
Clearly, by 1853 diggers were travelling to the goldfields at Ballarat and Buninyong via Steiglitz and the suggestion was that this road was a surer bet during the wet winter months when sections of the Geelong to Buninyong Track became all but impassable. It was also claimed that this route was "considerably shorter" than "any other", however I'm not sure this claim can be supported. The trip from Geelong to Steiglitz alone was around 40km (or around 25 miles in the old units). If the second half of the journey followed the route I suspect it did, then a further 51km (31 miles) would be required to complete the trip. A total of around 90km (56 miles).
By contrast, the total distance from Geelong to Buninyong via the track of that name was around 80km (or 50 miles) in total. Various newspaper articles over the years however, indicate that travellers were prepared to travel quite some distance out of their way to avoid bad roads, so whilst perhaps not the shortest route, it may well at times - like the track via Shelford - have been the easier, if not also the safer route to take.
Despite his grand plans, Coombs' tenure as landlord of the Eclipse was short-lived. By September, 1853 the property was once again on the market and in March the following year, was purchased by Mr William Birdsey, along with 33 acres of land and a number of outbuildings. Subsequent nearby land sales made the claim that the land stood on "the northern road to Buninyong and Ballarat", although the northern road from where, it did not state.
'Island Lodge', the home of Charles Augustus Von Stieglitz on his Durdidwarrah
Run, later the Eclipse Hotel. Image held by the Victorian State Library
Whilst perhaps not the main route to the goldfields, traffic during the 1850s would have fluctuated with the discovery of gold at places like Morrison's and Dolly's Creek. Although initial finds in these areas occurred in 1851, prospecting did not really take off until around 1857. Prior to this however, in 1853, the discovery of gold at Mt Egerton, almost 30km to the north of Steiglitz would also have resulted in an increase in traffic.
After quartz reef mining at Steiglitz took off in late 1855, traffic at least as far as Steiglitz would have increased dramatically too, and for those who could afford it, in March, 1856 the Criterion Conveyance Company indicated that they would be running a service from Geelong to Ballarat via Steiglitz, Meredith and Magpie Gully. By contrast, I can find no indication that a coach service operated between Steiglitz and Mt Egerton. It does however seem likely, that the route was popular with drays coming from Geelong. During a flood in October, 1855, it was noted that due to the water level of Wallace's Creek, dray communication between Egerton and Geelong via Steiglitz was at a virtual standstill.
I am unsure whether this route from the Eclipse to Buninyong has been documented elsewhere, but looking at the survey maps available online and considering a few relevant dates, I suspect I now have an idea of where this "northern road" ran and why it was used. Like the other tracks and roads which spread out across the countryside, this route was probably part of the network of bullock tracks which criss-crossed the countryside, leading from one squatter's run to the next.
The track to and from the Eclipse Hotel would originally have led to Charles Von Stieglitz' Durdidwarrah Run and after passing by the homestead continued north past Mr Hugh Morrison's pre-emptive selection at 'Moreep' to that of John Wallace of 'Ballark'.
Plaque at the Molesworth Bridge acknowledging John Wallace of 'Ballark'
An 1856 survey map of the Parish of Ballark shows a bush track running north-south and labelled as the "bush track from the Steiglitz". It intersected a second east-west track at the south east corner of Wallace's pre-emptive selection. This second "bush track to Geelong" closely followed the modern Meredith-Ballan Rd to its intersection with the Egerton-Ballark Rd around 800m to the east (see map below) before continuing east and then south east to intersect with the Geelong-Ballan Rd. It is also of interest to note that today's Bungeeltap South Rd was - according to the survey - originally intended to be the main Geelong-Ballan Rd.

A section of the 1856 Ballark Parish survey map overlaid on Google Earth.
The red lines show the bush track from Steiglitz and that from Geelong
Unfortunately, at this point the early maps online dry up, so I can only assume that the track roughly followed the Egerton-Ballark Rd through Wallace's pre-emptive selection, crossing the east branch of the Moorabool River and heading north west between the two branches of the river. I can find no mention of the river crossing itself, except perhaps the above reference to "Wallace's Creek" being so badly flooded that drays could not cross. It is possible - although I cannot confirm it - that this section of the Moorabool East Branch was known locally as Wallace's Creek at that time.
The Moorabool River East Branch at the Molesworth Bridge
 Regardless, a quick glance at Google Earth at this point will reinforce the Egerton-Ballark Rd as the most likely route north. The road can be seen to run along the ridge between the Moorabool West Branch and Bungal Creek. Travel on either side of these streams would be seriously restricted by some fairly hilly and inhospitable terrain in the form of the Mt Doran and Lal Lal State Forests to the west and the Bungal State Forest to the east, making the middle ground the more appealing option. A correspondent to the Bendigo Advertiser travelling south in December, 1855 described the route he took as passing the stations of Lal Lal, Egerton and Wallace which is also consistent with the above route.
Looking north west across the Moorabool East Branch near 'Ballark'
After traversing the high ground between the two waterways, I was again able to pick up the trail at the Yendon-Egerton Rd. This road - like many others in the area - follows an earlier track which is marked on an 1855 survey map as "from Lal Lal" at one end and "to Geelong" at the other. I cannot tell from the map whether the "Geelong" end continued to the west, or turned south, becoming the "missing" section of track from 'Ballark', however, to the west, the section of track shown on the map turns slightly to the north, as does the modern road, and crosses the Moorabool West Branch at the site of the Blue Bridge. Whilst the bridge may only date back to 1870, clearly the crossing was in use much earlier, probably dating back to the earliest days of European settlement, and if other sites are any indication, it may even have been used as a crossing by the local Tooloora balug clan of the Wathaurong who lived in the area.
Moorabool River West Branch, looking east towards the Blue Bridge
on the Yendon-Egerton Rd, October, 2013
Once across the river, the diggers found themselves on the Lal Lal Run, by that time in the hands of Archibald Fisken who by 1850 had taken over the property from his uncle Peter Inglis. At this point however, things become less clear. The early survey maps of Buninyong Parish show a bush track running to the north of Mt Buninyong, closely following the modern Yendon Number One Rd to Buninyong Rd and then intersecting the Midland Highway about 250m west of the present intersection.
It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that the track from Steiglitz, after crossing the Moorabool, continued through Fisken's property to become the track leading into Buninyong. Before the gold rush of course, Buninyong developed as a hub where those from the surrounding squatting runs could buy supplies without having to travel all the way to Geelong or Melbourne. No doubt the Peter Inglis and Archibald Fisken and their men made good use of this track to Buninyong over the years.
After the discovery of gold at Golden Point in 1851 however, the majority of traffic headed not for Buninyong, but further north to Ballarat where they would find themselves in the midst of those who chose to travel directly from Melbourne. For the latter diggers, there were a number of tracks which developed, the remnants of which can still be seen in some of the road names today. Most relevant to this post is the Old Melbourne Rd which runs from Ballan through Gordon, Millbrook and Dunnstown to Warrenheip. From at least the 1860s, this road was known as the "South Melbourne Rd to differentiate it from the more northerly road which followed a line to the north of
The track was typical in that after the discovery of gold, a string of public houses sprang up along this road to cater for those heading to the diggings. One such was the Spread Eagle Hotel, located on the north east corner of William Bacchus' pre-emptive selection. In The Argus of March, 1856 it was described as a "well-known roadside hotel", suggesting it had been in operation for some time.
The hotel - and this section of the track from Melbourne - lay about 5km north of the river crossing from Steiglitz on Fisken's land and a road (still known today as Spread Eagle Rd), ran north-south between the track to Buninyong and the track from Melbourne to Ballarat. It appears on survey maps as early as 1858 and may have provided a route for traffic from Geelong via Steiglitz to merge with that from Melbourne.
Google Earth image showing bush tracks on survey maps (red), the Old
Melbourne Rd (green) and likely connecting roads in between (blue)
For those looking for a more direct route, or who perhaps were not in need of sustenance at the Spread Eagle, another road surveyed by the 1850s branched off the Buninyong track immediately after it crossed the Lal Lal Creek further west. This road travelled north west, aligning with the modern Dunnstown-Yendon Rd which intersects the Old Melbourne Rd west of Dunnstown. Unsurprisingly, only a short distance further along, another public house - Pedrana's Saw Mill Hotel - also sprang up at the foot of Mt Warrenheip, near the pre-emptive selection held by Archibald Fisken as part of the Warreneep Run. The name of this establishment appears in the newspapers from the mid-1850s where it was the scene of a murder which received substantial media attention at the time.
Some idea of conditions can be gleaned from a traveller from Ballarat to Melbourne in 1859 who gives the impression that perhaps the road was not all as good as Mr J.B. Hutton, the real estate agent above would have had potential buyers of the Eclipse Hotel believe. The correspondent to The Star of 6th April, 1859 describes the section of road between Warrenheip and the Spread Eagle Hotel as being "horribly suggestive of all sorts of possibilities in the way of collisions and upsettings" and the crossing at Two Mile Creek he describes as an "awful chasm through which vehicles have to plunge".
Having survived the precipitous creek-crossing and the treacherous stretch of road leading to the Saw Mill Hotel, the diggers once again faced a decision. Depending on their intended destination, they could head a short distance further north to join with what became the Western Highway, entering Ballarat along Humffray St. As mentioned previously, this was a bullock track dating back to the earliest days of settlement at Ballarat and the main entrance to the town from Melbourne.
The other alternative was to turn south west and follow today's Warrenheip Rd along a meandering route to enter Ballarat via Eureka St - also one of the early bullock tracks. This latter route had the advantage of depositing the hopeful diggers directly to the Golden Point Diggings, rather than to the town centre which at that time was a short distance to the north at what is now Ballarat East. The popularity of this latter route is perhaps confirmed by yet another postulant for the title of "main route from Geelong to the diggings".
Looking along Eureka St, 1855 at the site of the infamous Bently's Hotel.
Image held by the National Library of Australia
This last contender comes in the form of the Victorian Heritage Database which makes the claim that "later the Warrenheip Road to Ballarat became the main goldfields route from Geelong" and further states in a report on the Buninyong Heritage Precinct that "Warrenheip Road [was] the early gold route from Geelong to the Ballarat gold fields".
Another claim and another slight difference in terminology. It would seem that this route did not become popular until "later". When that was, is not specified, however following the significant discoveries at Steiglitz, it is perhaps reasonable to assume that traffic between two of the largest goldfields in the colony, via all routes, would have increased dramatically when the discoveries at Steiglitz became known.

04 April, 2016

Making tracks: the Colonel and the one-armed shepherd

With the advent of the gold rush in 1851, diggers flocked to the goldfields of Ballarat and surrounds. In previous posts I followed their path from Geelong via the Geelong-Buninyong Rd and the track from The Leigh (Shelford) to Buninyong. In addition to these routes, there was also a third option, one which a hopeful real estate agent in the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer of 13th October, 1853 claimed was "the best line of road to Ballarat, Canadian Gully, Jeweller's Flat & c".
The road in question lay to the east of the Geelong to Buninyong Track, following a similar line to today's Steiglitz Road. After cresting Bell Post Hill, the route led towards Batesford, but instead of following the main road down into the Moorabool Valley, those wishing to take the other road to the east, took the track towards Steiglitz. Other than the above advertisement however, there is little mention of the route before October, 1855 when Steiglitz became a significant destination of its own. According to the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer of 16th October, 1855:
The shortest road from Geelong [to the new goldfield at Steiglitz] is to pass Colonel Kelsall's Station, cross Sutherland's Creek, follow the well defined dray road to the left of the creek till you come to the old shepherd's hut, when you are within two and a half miles from the diggings, which are situated on a point or tongue of land between Sutherland's Creek and a tributary creek flowing from the Anakies.
Sounds simple enough, but who were the Colonel and the shepherd?
The colonel was Roger Kelsall, engineer, sailor and then squatter who, according to fellow squatter Thomas Manifold, arrived in the district in the spring of 1836 and took up land on the upper parts of Sutherland's Creek. Prior to his arrival, Kelsall served as Clerk of Works at Port Arthur and was responsible for the design and construction of several of the buildings there. It was not however, until 1845 that he sold his commission with the Royal Navy and retired to Victoria. During this time I believe his run on Sutherland's Creek was maintained for him by a manager named Sharp.
The grave of Colonel Roger Kelsall, his wife Ann and son Roger
at the Eastern Cemetery
 By December, 1854, Kelsall had converted part of his lease into 1,490.5 acres of purchased land - including his pre-emptive right of 640 acres. The latter lay nestled between the left and right branches of Sutherland's Creek down to their confluence, with the rest of the land in several blocks on either side of both branches branch. He gave this property the name 'Chesterdale'. Additionally, the Colonel also purchased 557 acres of land lower down Sutherland's Creek on the west bank, directly opposite the Hope's land. This property, 'Strathey', eventually extended to 1,100 acres by the time both properties were subdivided and sold in 1908. Until that point, they had remained in the hands of the Kelsall family, however not long after the death of the Colonel in 1861, they were leased out to local graziers.
Contrary to the above description of the route, a look at the survey maps shows that the diggers would first have crossed first through the Hope's 'Darriwill' property before crossing the creek onto Colonel Kelsall's 'Strathey' and joining the bullock track. The creek crossing was presumably near the site of today's Hope's Bridge on the Steiglitz Rd. Clearly, the current bridge is not the original, that bridge stood slightly upstream of the modern one. The concrete and bluestone buttresses of the old bridge and various related timbers can still be seen just north of the existing bridge.
Looking upstream at the abutments and some remaining timber and concrete
at the site of the original Hope's Bridge
The earliest mention I can find of a bridge at this site is 1863, when drains were installed on the nearby road. In 1865 when the decking timbers were being replaced, it was discovered that the timbers beneath were rotten and in need of attention, indicating that the bridge had probably been in existence for some years at that time. Other timber bridges I have researched seem to have had a lifespan of around 10 years before structural timbers needed replacing, which might indicate that the bridge dated back to the 1850s. As far as I can tell, two bridges were erected on the Steiglitz Rd. One in 1857 and one in 1858. The latter was on the "Approach to Steiglitz gold-field" so perhaps this was the erection of the Five Mile Bridge, much closer to Steiglitz, whilst the bridge built in 1857 was at the crossing between Hope's and Kelsall's - but that is speculation. Whether an earlier structure such as a ford existed at the site, I don't know.
Looking east across Sutherland's Creek and the original Hope's Bridge
towards 'Darriwill'
After crossing the creek and making their way through Colonel Kelsall's property, it was - according to the above article - a simple matter of following the dray road on the left of Sutherland's Creek, towards the diggings. Other than the above reference however, I can find no mention of a road to Steiglitz before November, 1855, but presumably the dray track mentioned, led originally to the Durdidwarrah squatting run of Charles Augustus Stieglitz.
Another description of the trip to the new goldfield at Steiglitz which appeared a few months later in the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 28th January, 1856, was perhaps not quite so flattering, but provided a little more detail about the route:
"the road from Geelong to Steiglitz leads, for the first ten miles, through an open and slightly undulating country, the aspect of which is, of course, monotonius(sic) enough. Passing this space you arrive at Sutherland's Creek, now a chain of waterholes not particularly limpid. Next comes a tract of thinly timbered land, terminating in an open piece of rising ground known as the Bald Hill. Beyond this point and within eight miles of the "diggings," you pass in a close succession three refreshment tents, recently pitched, and a weatherboard establishment of a similar character not yet completed. A mile or two further on you find yourself suddenly in the gold country. The rapidity of the transition here is very remarkable. The easy undulations of the soil which prevail in the early portions of the journey give place at once to short and abrupt hillocks, pretty well timbered, and sprinkled over with great quantities of grass...
Being summer, it seems that there was little water in the creek. I can find no other mention of the "Bald Hill", however from context would expect it to be somewhere near what would (by 1856) become the township of Maude. At this point it is also worth remembering the "Buninyong Road from Melbourne" - described in my post "All Roads Lead to the Green Tent" - which intersected the Geelong to Buninyong Track at the Green Tent. This east-west track dating back to the 1840s, also crossed the track to Steiglitz, probably at Thompson Rd, Maude, as evidenced by an 1857 survey map which marks this road as "towards Melbourne". For those not wanting to make the steep climb in and out of the Moorabool Valley at this point, the Steiglitz route provided an alternative for those travelling from Melbourne.
From November, 1855 however, Steiglitz itself became a destination with the discovery of extensive gold reefs, making the track from Geelong even more popular.
Remaining brickwork footings of the United Albion Mine, Steiglitz
Not surprisingly, the sudden increase in traffic heading up the Steiglitz dray road resulted in the establishment of a "close succession of refreshment tents". They were probably similar to those which sprang up on the Geelong-Buninyong Track in the earliest days of the gold rush to Ballarat.
As far as I am aware, prior to the rush to Steiglitz there was no public house between Batesford and these new diggings.
Within a very short time however, that changed. In addition to the "coffee tents", an array of traders scrambled to set up shop in Steiglitz. According to the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, by the first week of January, 1856, tents and stores were popping up by the dozen. As well as the essential butchers, bakers and general stores, hotels were quickly established. Upcoming applications for new liquor licenses advertised in February, 1856 included five for Steiglitz and a further two for Sutherland's Creek, all no doubt capitalising on on the traffic heading up the dray track to the goldfield.
Once past the "coffee tents" as noted, the terrain changed and became more rugged, signalling the presence of auriferous ground. From the turn off to Melbourne, the track fell away, down to a second crossing of Sutherland's Creek, this time at Five Mile Bridge and it was here, several newspaper accounts indicated, that the "one-armed shepherd's hut" could be found. Various reports shared around the colony, stated that a gold reef had been struck near the one-armed shepherd's hut, after crossing Sutherland's Creek, about 20 miles from Geelong.
The bed of Sutherland's Creek. During the 1850s numerous gold mines
operated along the banks of the creek
But who was the one-armed shepherd? Well, despite my best efforts, I have not been able to discover a name. In addition to his hut being a common point of reference on the road to Steiglitz, it was reported that on 21st January, 1856 he was the victim of a robbery, when three armed men known to be from the nearby diggings invaded his hut. Neither his name, nor indeed his presence at the time of the robbery, were not mentioned.
Once past the shepherd's hut, it was only a matter of a few more miles to Steiglitz, if that was the digger's intended destination; and for many, from October, 1855 it was. By December that year, a coach was running from Geelong to Steiglitz, carrying those who could afford it. In fact, within a short space of time, Steiglitz became a staging post for the coaches running to and from Geelong and the goldfields.
The view down Regent St towards the site of Cobb & Co.'s
staging post (left), April, 2010
But Steiglitz was not the end of the journey for every digger. Indeed, prior to October, 1855 it was just another creek crossing on the way to Buninyong, and later, Ballarat. It was also roughly the half way point on this eastern path to the diggings and according to some, was crying out for a public house; a stopping point along the road, where the drays carrying supplies to the goldfields of Ballarat and Buninyong and a little later to places such as Mt Wallace, Mt Egerton, Dolly's Creek and Morrisons, could spend the night or break their journey with a meal.
That need was filled in April 1853, when Richard Coombs announced that he had purchased the mansion until recently owned by Charles Von Stieglitz and converted it for use as an hotel...