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

13 February, 2016

Making tracks: to Golden Point

On about 21st August, 1851 gold diggers John Dunlop and James Regan, unhappy with the meagre finds and large numbers of people flocking to Hiscock's Gully, decided to try their luck further afield. It was about 6 or 7 miles distant, at what is now known as Poverty Point that the pair struck gold. Thanks to Geelong Advertiser reporter Alfred Clarke, news of their find was soon public knowledge.
At the time of the discovery, Clarke was making regular reports from Hiscock's diggings. On 25th August, he stated that parties were out searching and that gold had been found on Yuille's run towards Warrenheip as well as several finds in the gullies nearby Hiscock's.
Monument marking the approximate location of Dunlop and Regan's gold
discovery at Poverty Point, on the bank of Canadian Creek near Clayton St,
Golden Pont
Gold it seemed, was everywhere. Within a day or two of Dunlop and Regan's find, two other groups of prospectors struck gold less than a mile to the north west, on the opposite side of the point to which Dunlop and Regan were working. This site was given the name Golden Point and in those early days of alluvial gold finds, was considered to be the site of the "main diggings".
Naturally, all parties involved were keen to keep their discoveries quiet, making it difficult to determine who was where first and when, as discovered by a commission set up to establish who - if anyone - was entitled to claim the government reward offered for the first to find gold in the region. The credit for the first discovery and the reward went eventually to Thomas Hiscock for his find near Buninyong, which it was claimed, was part of the same goldfield as the later finds at Ballarat.
If the prospective diggers rushed to Hiscock's Gully, they positively stampeded to Golden Point. By early September, the Geelong Advertiser claimed, there were over 100 prospectors at Ballarat. Within a year of the Poverty Point discovery, there were 20,000 diggers on the field.
An engraving of the Golden Point diggings as depicted by D Tulloch in 1851-
1852. Image held by the National Library of Australia
As news spread, diggers came from all over the country. They followed the bullock tracks from Melbourne, from Geelong and from South Australia via Portland Bay, travelling any way they could. Many of these paths which converged on the diggings can still be seen in the irregular lines followed by a number of the roads in East Ballarat and surrounds today.
Roads such as Humffray St, Main Rd and Eureka St were originally bullock tracks. Humffray St was the main track from Melbourne, running along the southern bank of the Yarrowee River, Main Rd (more of which in a future post) brought diggers from Buninyong up the east side of the Buninyong Ranges and of course, the track which crossed Winter's Flat, past the Yuille's homestead and skirted around the edge of Yuille's Swamp.
Interestingly, a map produced in 1852 from a survey conducted by government surveyor William Urquhart shows two tracks along the Yarrowee from Yuille's station; one along the east bank of the river and the other along the high ground to the west, roughly following the alignment of Armstrong St. The tracks converged on the east side of the river at a point near the present intersection of Cameron and Grant Streets before following a curving path to the north of the modern alignment of Grant Street.
A section of Urquhart's 1852 survey map overlaid on Google Earth. Blue lines
show the tracks from Yuille's and Burnbank, red lines show the present course of
Main Rd and Eureka St. Yellow shows the main diggings at Golden Point as
indicated on Urquhart's map. Green includes Poverty Point. Image held
by the State Library of Victoria  
The original line of the bullock track can be seen in the sketch below from 1856, with the steep banks of the Yarrowee also visible at the bottom of the picture. Even with five years of occupation by the diggers, there appears to be little in the way of permanent buildings in the vicinity. Writing in July, 1888 for the Ballarat Star, historian WB Withers noted that the first brick building in Ballarat East was not erected until 1857-8 at the corner of Main Rd and Humffray St. He also described the diggings as enclosed by the green line on the map above.
A depiction of Grant Street, Ballarat in 1856, looking east from Lydiard St.
Image held by the State Library of Victoria (click to enlarge)
Today, Grant Street is unrecognisable as the bullock track it once was. During the 1860s and subsequent decades, the Yarrowee River through Ballarat along with surrounding creeks were progressively formed and lined with bluestone and brick to control flooding and erosion, changing the landscape further. The end result was a series of channels more akin to storm water drains than a recognisable river system.
Looking east along Grant Street July, 2012 at the Yarrowee River bridge
The section of the Yarrowee in the image below forms the western boundary of the diggings as described by Withers and shown in green on the map above. In 1852 when Urquhart conducted his survey, he described the area as a rich, grassy plain.
Yarrowee River looking north east from Grant Street, April 2012. Canadian Creek
can just be seen in the distance entering the channel from the right. Image
courtesy of C Stevenson
 By the time the diggers had effectively torn the area to pieces in their frantic search for gold, the scene looked vastly different. The once grassy flats were dotted with tents and temporary timber buildings, the ground was riddled with shafts dug by the miners and everywhere were pools of sludge, created by the miners as they washed the dirt to extract every last ounce of gold they could find.
Golden Point in 1857-8. Image held by the State Library of Victoria

10 February, 2016

Making tracks: beside Yuille's Swamp

When gold was first discovered at Hiscock's Gully in August, 1851, the track from Geelong led to Buninyong. There was no town at Ballarat. At the time, the only European settlement in the area that would become Ballarat, was a squatting run. It was occupied in 1838 by 19 year old Scottish settler, William Cross Yuille and his cousin Archibald Buchanan Yuille who had left their earlier run on the Barwon River at Murgheboluc after coming into conflict with the local Wathaurong tribe.
In March, 1838 therefore, they selected 10,000 acres north west of Mt Buninyong on the shores of a swamp. This run which in today's terms included the inner suburbs of Ballarat and extended south as far as Sebastopol was known as "Ballaarat". When William Cross Yuille first arrived (shortly before his cousin), he camped on the edge of what was then known as Black Swamp. Soon it became known as Yuille's Swamp and today is recognised as Lake Wendouree.
A memorial erected in 1938 on the banks of Lake Wendouree
(near the end of Pleasant St) commemorating the arrival of
William C Yuille, the first European to live in the district
Whilst William remained only a short time in the district before heading to New Zealand in 1840, his cousin retained the license for the run until 1857. One of his nearest neighbours was Henry Anderson who settled at what became known as Winter's Flat at about the same time. He named his 26,000 acre run "Waverley Park" and built a homestead near the junction of Woolshed Creek and the Yarrowee River. He did not remain long in the district however and in 1842, sold out to John 'Jock' Winter who renamed the run "Bonshaw".
Photo of William Cross Yuille, taken in 1894. Image
held by the State Library of Victoria
The homestead built by Anderson however, was taken over by Archibald Yuille who also began constructing a more permanent house on the property. With the coming of the gold rush however, Yuille abandoned his plans for the run and by 1852, had left the district.
The site of the homestead was described some years later in The History of Ballarat from the First Pastoral Settlement to the Present Time (WB Withers, 1887, 2nd Edition)
Down the valley of the Leigh where the Sebastopol streets and fences run over the eastern escarpment of the table land, may still be seen the sandstone foundations of a station begun by the Messrs. Yuille, whom the coming of the first hosts of gold-hunters scared away from a place no longer fit, in their opinion, for pastoral occupation. Those unfinished walls are in a paddock overlooking a little carse of some four or five acres by the creek side, owned by an Italian farmer, and close to the junction of the Woolshed Creek with the main stream in the valley.
In today's terms, the homestead site would have been situated at the end of Bala Street in Sebastopol and the "little carse" later owned by Mr J Grenno forms part of the wetlands next to the river, through which the Yarrowee Trail now passes.
Sketch of the homestead on Woolshed Creek, built by Henry Anderson and later'
occupied by Archibald Yuille. Image held by the National Library of Australia
When the Yuilles first arrived however, there was no Sebastopol and no Ballarat township.The tracks made by their bullocks and those of the other squatters spreading out across the region became the road from Buninyong. The branch of the track which led to the Pyrenees region near Avoca, passed only a stone's throw from the Yuille's homestead. In time, this section of the track became Albert Street; now one of the oldest roads in inland Victoria.
After passing the Yuille's homestead on Woolshed Creek, the track followed the ridge line above the Yarrowee River before curving away to the north - somewhere near the intersection of Grant and Moyle Streets - taking a path to the east of Lake Wendouree towards the Pyrenees.
At that time, Yuille's Swamp really was a swamp, teeming with wildlife and a summer camping place for the local Wathaurong people. After the town of Ballarat was established however, earthworks were built and modifications were made in order to provide a water supply for the town, resulting in the lake we see today.
The view across Yuille's Swamp (now Lake Wendouree) from the site of W.C.
Yuille's first camp
Whilst the very first gold diggers to spread out from Hiscock's Gully to search the creeks and waterways of the area may have forged their own paths through the bush, those who came after them, followed the bullock tracks and stock routes used by the Yuilles and other squatters in the area.
The track to the Pyrenees district also led to the town of Clunes, where gold had been discovered a few weeks before Hiscock's discovery at Buninyong, so some of those disappointed at Hiscock's Gully, decided to try their luck at Clunes instead.
Others, upon hearing the news, rushed to investigate the new find by Dunlop and Regan only a few miles away on the Yuille's Ballarat run.  Taking to the track once again, they made the much shorter journey to Poverty Point, taking with them their pans, cradles, tents and what supplies they had, hoping this time to strike it rich.

03 February, 2016

Making tracks - Hiscock's Gully at last!

For those very first gold seekers who had arrived wet, tired and hungry at "Mother Jamieson's" Buninyong Hotel in the tiny township of Buninyong, there was only one place they really wanted to be: Hiscock's Gully. It was there in August, 1851 that Buninyong blacksmith Thomas Hiscock first found gold.
Plaque erected by the Buninyong and District Historical Society, marking the
site where Thomas Hiscock first discovered gold
Within days of the news of his find reaching Geelong, a stream of diggers began flowing into Buninyong. Whether they stopped or merely passed through, their course took them past the front door of Mother Jamieson's Buninyong Hotel and onto the bullock track which headed west towards Portland Bay.
As discussed in a previous post, the Portland Bay Road was an important route which was already well-established and regularly travelled by 1851. Originally established by squatters as they moved stock between their runs and the markets in Geelong and Melbourne during the early 1840s, this was also the route which had been used by the mail coach from Portland to Melbourne since 1844. A little later, a route via The Leigh (Shelford) and Linton to Buninyong was established as part of a postal route from Portland to Geelong, followed by a private mail service between Geelong and Buninyong using the Geelong-Buninyong Track in 1846. Both tracks joined the one from Melbourne to Portland Bay at Buninyong, so it was there that traffic from Portland, Melbourne, Geelong and the outlying stations would converge on its way between various parts of the colony.
The view looking east from the western outskirts of Buninyong today. At the
time the first diggers walked the road, it was an irregular dirt track and
Mother Jamieson's Hotel would have obstructed this view, standing in the
middle of what is now Learmonth Street (the Midland Highway)
In August, 1851 however, with the outbreak of the gold rush, Buninyong itself became a destination and the gold diggers of course used any available road to get there.
According to the 1850 survey map, having arrived in Buninyong, they followed the track in a westerly direction. Once out of town however, the track veered south of today's Midland Highway, passing through what is now Buninyong Golf Course. Then, before the diggers reached their objective, after more than 50 exhausting miles from Geelong, they faced one last hurdle - Buninyong Creek, a tributary of the Yarrowee River and like all the other creeks and rivers they had crossed, a part of the wider Barwon catchment.
If the maps are to be believed, this final creek crossing stood a little to the east of Macs Road, being also, a few hundred metres from the current creek crossing on the highway. Once over the creek, the track again followed a similar course to the modern road, a route also confirmed by Skene's 1845 map which also follows much the same path to this point. Then, about a kilometre further along the track, the diggers finally reached their goal. A few hundred metres up what is now Hiscock Gully Road, was the site of the region's first diggings.
Hiscock's Gully today is littered with mullock heaps from later deep lead mining
and non-native plantings of pine trees. Traffic can also be clearly heard from the
nearby highway - a far cry from the stands of stringybark  and sounds of nature
which greeted the first diggers to arrive in 1851
 Now the hard work really began. In those first days after the announcement, Hiscock's Gully was a flurry of activity.   By 15th August, the Geelong Advertiser was reporting that there were between 40 to 50 people - men, women and children - pitching tents at Hiscock's Gully. There were already 8 cradles washing the extracted dirt and the remainder were using pans, pots and whatever else they could find. Not even weather conditions described at the time as "severe" (by 25th August there was flooding reported on the Barwon) could dampen their enthusiasm.
On 26th August however, came an announcement from the government which opponents claimed, would do just that. It was declared that a mining tax of 30 shillings per month (£18 per year) would be introduced from the 1st September for those wishing to dig for gold. The fixed cost of the license would apply regardless of how much - if any - gold was found. This was at a time when even highly sought after shepherds only earned around 70 shillings per month. By comparison, a squatter's license, entitling the holder to thousands of acres of land cost only £10 per annum. Furthermore the miners argued, this was taxation without representation! Not only were they being heavily taxed, but in an era when voting was tied to land ownership, they had no land and no control over the process by which taxes such as the miner's license were set. They wanted land and they wanted the vote!
So, at Hiscock's Gully on the evening of the 26th August, only ten days after the governor's announcement, a protest was held. It was the first act in a growing movement of dissent which culminated on 3rd December, 1854 with the rebellion at Eureka. There were believed to have been about 40 - 50 miners present as well as representatives from the Geelong Advertiser. An unnamed reporter described the scene as men emerged from their tents in darkness lit only by firelight, to express their views and resolve upon a course of action. The quote on the plaque below which was originally penned by a reporter from the Advertiser and published on 29th August more fully reads:
Here, a month ago, was but bush and forest; and tonight, for the first time since Australia rose from the bosom of the ocean, were men strong in their sense of right, lifting up a protest against an impending wrong, and protesting against the government. Human progress in Port Phillip - like her vegetation is rapid - let the government beware, lest like her timber, it prove rotten at the core, whilst it carries a healthy exterior.
Plaque erected by the Ballarat Reform League Inc marking the location of the
first protest against the miner's license imposed by the government
The article immediately following however, indicates that the proclamation, combined with bad weather had the effect of sending some diggers home, whilst others thought to look further afield, in the hope of finding claims which would still turn a profit even after the license fee had been paid, for it quickly became apparent that the alluvial gold finds at Hiscock's Gully were not going to be great.
A monument commemorating Thomas Hiscock's discovery,
placed in 1897, coinciding with Queen Victoria's diamond
jubilee year, located on the corner of Hiscock's Gully Road
and the Midland Highway
With this in mind, some chose to head for the town of Clunes, over 40km further north, where gold had been discovered a few weeks before the find at Hiscock's Gully. Other prospectors however, decided to investigate the creeks and gullies closer to Buninyong. On the 27th August a party set off through the bush for Black Hill on the Ballaarat Station of William Cross Yuille, but even before the protest encouraged diggers to look elsewhere, John Dunlop and James Regan, having found the Hiscock Gully diggings too crowded for their liking and decided to look elsewhere. So it was that on 21st August they discovered one of the richest goldfields ever found at the ironically-named Poverty Point in what is now Ballarat.
This of course resulted in a new rush and even more hopeful diggers arriving on the field. Now however, instead of following the bullock track to Buninyong and Hiscock's Gully, the diggers were passing through in their thousands, as they headed for the new El Dorado - Ballarat.