Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
But it takes a great deal of work and time and patience before you can collect enough “dust” to be of much use.
When Hargraves found his first grains of gold dust he shouted joyfully to his boy “I will be a baronet, you will be a knight, and the old horse shall be stuffed and set up in a glass case!”
His discovery of gold brought crowds of people to the spot, all hoping to make their fortunes.
Farmers, shopkeepers, old men and boys, all crowded to the spot, any way that they could. This is what is called a “gold-rush.”
But where one man succeeds at the diggings a hundred will fail. Gold doesn’t lie about in every foot of ground. You have often to search for weeks and weeks panning mud hour after hour, day by day, without finding anything.
And all the time you have to buy food somewhere and you have to cook it for yourself and make your but or shelter, and see that your things are not stolen or that someone does not steal your hole or “claim” as it is called.
A great number of the diggers could not do all this for themselves and soon got tired of the life and went back home, poorer, sadder, and wiser men.
Goldfields soon started in other places when once it was found that there was gold in Australia.
Ballarat, in Victoria, was another good centre. I was there during my tour. A few diggers started finding gold there in 1851.
At that time a farmer who lived close by said it was such a lonely spot that he did not think he could go on living there. But to-day Ballarat is a fine town with 100,000 inhabitants, and though the gold is not so plentiful, some mines are still at work with great steam machinery, and shafts going thousands of feet underground, which is rather different from the early days when each man worked for himself or with a chum in a little hole of his own making.
There was a good deal of disorder among diggers, too, at that time, for some of them used to gamble or exchange their gold for drink; others would waylay diggers going home at night with their day’s bag and “hold them up,” threatening to shoot them if they did not hand it over.
At one time the diggers at Ballarat broke out in open rebellion against the police and refused to pay the gold licence fees. They armed themselves and made a little fort, but soldiers were sent up, and they attacked the place and put an end to the trouble after a fight which lasted twenty minutes.
Unfortunately some twenty men were killed, including Captain Wise, who commanded the soldiers. The leader of the rebellion, Mr. Lalor, got away badly wounded in the shoulder; he had to have his arm amputated. But he was a fine fellow and much liked by everybody; so although there was a reward of £400 for his capture nobody thought of giving him away. Nor was he ever arrested. Later on he became a member of Parliament in Victoria and in the end became Speaker of the House of Parliament in Melbourne.
In Ballarat there is a fine statue to his memory, and on the spot where the stockade stood a memorial has been put up in the shape of a small stone castle with four guns in it.
A stone in one of the streets of Ballarat marks the spot where gold was first found at those diggings in 1851. Western Australia also has great goldfields which came to be discovered more recently.
At Coolgardie, far out in the desert lands, gold was discovered in 1893. A “rush” followed. More goldfields were opened up, and the population of the State at once began to increase at an enormous rate, and these fields are the biggest in Australia as yet.