Our family has earned their living from the mining industry at Burra, Callington, Kadina and Wallaroo in South Australia, Bendigo in Victoria, Broken Hill in New South Wales and Brown Hill, Boulder, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.
They also lost a mountain of gold in controversial circumstances in Queensland. Lands Department records in State Archives show that our Gordon family was the original selector of land later developed as Mt Morgan Gold Mine. By 1889 Mount Morgan was producing about a tonne of gold a month. It became the richest single gold mine in the world and was mined for gold and later copper from 1882 to 1990. In forty-one years the company treated 9,307,938 tons of ore for a return of 5,345,000 ounces of gold and 140,000 tons of copper.
In the late 1840s, the rich copper deposits at Kapunda and Burra in South Australia saved the Colonys economy and it became a world copper producer. Callington had been laid out as a town in 1849 when John Kieman noticed copper under the wheels of his dray. Copper lodes developed at Moonta-Wallaroo (dubbed the "Copper Triangle") during the 1860s brought further prosperity when mining activities at Kapunda and Burra were in decline.
The Bendigo Goldfield is the second largest goldfield in Australia and by far the largest goldfield in Victoria. Mining activity in Bendigo dates from late 1851 when alluvial gold was discovered along the Bendigo creek. By Christmas 1851 there were 800 people on the field and by the following June, 20,000 diggers were trying their luck on the alluvial field.
Mining started in Broken Hill, New South Wales in 1885 and within six months, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was floated on the Stock Exchange in Melbourne and so was born BHP, Australias biggest and most successful public company.
Over one hundred years ago, the mad gold rush in Coolgardie swept to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia when Irish prospectors found gold near Mount Charlotte. The Golden Mile, the richest square mile of gold bearing earth in the world, once had the busiest stretch of railway in Australia. Coolgardie is one of the worlds best preserved gold mining towns. In 1900, eight years after gold was discovered, Coolgardie had a population of 15,000, two stock exchanges, 23 hotels and 6 newspapers. Now there are only 1,500 people, yet the past stands in grand stone and brick buildings, mixed with corrugated iron and timber homes.
"Where is Brown Hill" by Amy Moore notes that the mining town, Brown Hill was on the famous "Golden Mile", about five kilometres southeast of Kalgoorlie. "In his own account, Cammilleri (the original claimholder) states that 'the famous shoot which I opened up on the north end of the Brown Hill lease was 3,300 feet long, about 150 feet wide and some 70 feet in depth. It produced 1,325,000 tons of ore, yielding gold to the value of seven million pounds'. He claimed that his pipe of ore was the richest found in Western Australia, and the telluride of gold the highest on the field. Boulder and the Brown Hill were the first two mines to be floated in Kalgoorlie. Brown Hill became known as the 'Brown Hill-Oroya' and Herbert Hoover, later president of the United States of America, was one of its directors for a period."
Like so many families in mining towns, our ancestors were familiar with personal tragedy infant mortalities due to sub-standard living conditions, the accidental death of children playing near mining machinery, or falling down abandoned shafts the cave-ins trapping miners underground, and perhaps the worst, lung disease, the silent killer. This is just a cursory glance at how the occupation of mining impacted on our family.
Mount Morgan Gold Mine, near Rockhampton, Queensland c1890 by Ethel M Turner (image reproduced in the National Australia Bank calendar). By 1889 the mine was paying dividends of £100,00 a month, a rate which was to make millionaires of its principal shareholders. The story of how our Gordons missed out on their mountain of gold, is recorded in Our Ancestors, Gordon No. 42.
A cap is the top timber
of a sett.
The photographs to follow include some taken from slides once belonging to George Dodd. The location would have been Wallaroo, circa 1920. It is unknown whether the men include any of the Dodd brothers.
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