Boolooroo goldfield South Australian History

The Boolooroo

Gold was reported to have been found at Boolooroo, about sixteen kilometres North-East from Copley in the early 1890s. Among some of the prospectors was William Henry Barnett. Although he stayed around for some time he was found dead in his tent on 13 March 1895. His assets included 20 bags of wash-dirt, but whatever happened to it remains a mystery. Another rush was on in 1920 when some more gold was found. Unfortunately it never turned out to be a Ballarat or Bendigo but it did give hope and a little extra business in Copley.

Goldfield area.

When William (Bill) Alexander Kittel, his wife Edith Maud, nee Gill, and their nine children arrived on the field from Iron Knob in 1930, they found about twenty-five people already living there. Most of these families lived in dugout type houses, with brush verandahs for shade to avoid the extreme summer heat. Life was very hard on this field. Once a week the women had to walk more than a kilometre with all the family's washing to a nearby spring in the hope of cleaning and drying it before the return trip was undertaken, in time to prepare the family's evening meal on an open fire.

From l-r; Vern Kittel, Don Ferguson of nearby Moolooloo, Kevin Kittel, Doreen Kittel
and Edith Maud Kittel, ready for Sunday School at Copley.

Once a week, after fossicking all day, the men too would go off in the hope of obtaining fresh meat. If they were lucky and shot a rabbit or kangaroo, it had to be prepared that same night, for fear of "going off". The Kittel family were moderately successful. Kittel and his sons Arthur and Ray found a nugget weighing half an ounce, which was enough to make everybody work harder and for newcomers to arrive by day and night, pitching tents or making little dugouts into the sides of the hill. Vern Kittel, at only twelve years of age found a two ounce nugget.

George (Stumpy) Gill and 15 year old Laurie Kittel outside the Copley Hotel
displaying some of the larger nuggets found on 7 September 1933.

In 1933 Raymond George Kittel wrote from Port Augusta to the Goldfield Warden in Adelaide that he had pegged an ordinary claim of 330x660 feet as he had found good indications of a reef. The Warden sent him a registration form, 14046, to be filled in with his Miner's Right number 5888. This he did on 5 May 1933. On 20 August Kittel wrote again to advice that he had struck 12 ounces of gold in a pocket, which he had worked for the last 5 months.

On 21 August 1933 The News reported; GOLD NEAR COPLEY 50 Miners' Rights Issued. "The recent gold find in the Far North at the fork of the Flinders Range on the old Boolyeroo diggings removes all doubt that the gold in the Flinders Ranges has been cleaned up and that only the tailings are left," writes Mr. Hurtle J. Lewis. "An old Blinman prospector, Mr. George Gill, who is a well-known northerner, secured a claim, and during the last few weeks he has been rewarded for his energetic attempts to secure gold.

The claim has yielded 32 ounces, and prospects point to further discoveries. "The Boolyeroo is about nine miles north-east of Copley, or Leigh's Creek, on the Yudanamutana road. The diggings have been worked for the last 50 years without any finds of importance, but the contention has been that gold exists somewhere in the black shale-like over-burden that spreads the country for many acres." Mr. George F. Lewis, storekeeper, of Copley, writes to Mr. Hurtle Lewis saying that an additional 20 ounces of gold have been obtained on the claim adjoining that of Mr Gill. He adds that he has issued 50 miners' rights, and that prospecting in the district has become most active. The recent finds have put fresh heart into prospectors and business people round Copley.

On 7 September 1933 everyone's wishes came through. According to the Kittel family legend the enormous amount of over 200 ounces of gold were found. Among the largest nuggets were a 17.75, 7, 6.5, and a 4.75 ounce nugget. All of it was equally divided between the 13 Gill, Kittel and Rieck members.

With such good results it is understandable that he renewed his miner's right on 11 October 1933. On 4 November he informed the Mines Department that he had unearthed about 14 ounces on claim 5888. The Warden replied two weeks later 'very glad to hear of your good fortune and trust that the promising results will continue.' Later that month he wrote once more, not about additional gold finds but to sell his specimen. The director noted that nobody was interested due to the poor economic conditions. He suggested to try selling it to the Melbourne Mint while the prices were still high. After the Boolooroo success Bill Kittel bought a large stone house in Whyalla.

Kittel had not been the only one to peg claims. George Gill and Samuel Gunter had done the same. Gill held claim 8740 and Gunter 8756. Gill found about 10 to 12 ounces in a hole only 4 feet deep. He too was congratulated by the Warden. That same month of August 1933 G.N. Jaggers and Stan Gilbert complained to the Warden that several claims had been pegged but were not worked. They were joined in February 1934 by R.G. Kittel who also complained about this problem.

By 1934 some of the Kittels had left the field. Arthur William, born 11 April 1907, was a fettler at Ooldea while Mervin Henry, born 25 November 1915 at Port Augusta and his brother Ronald Keith, born 26 July 1920 at Iron Knob, had enlisted after the outbreak of World War II. In 1936 Bill Kittel was still working his claim but by the end of 1937 only four claims were held on the field. Cowland and Lampert held two while the other two were held by Amar Khan.

The biggest nugget found on the field weighed 17.75 ounces. As most of the gold was traded for food such as flour, salt, sugar, boiled sweets, tobacco and cans of luxuries, like sardines, it is difficult to work out a total figure for the gold found on this field, as it was for others. When the alluvial gold had petered out the Kittel family left, as did all the other diggers, and settled in Port Augusta.

These diggers, some of whom were only part-timers, did exactly what their counterparts had done in the Northern Territory, Queensland and later in Western Australia, where the goldrushes were still on in earnest. They kept an ear to the ground and followed up any and every rumour of a new find - First come, first find! Unfortunately, only very few found anything at all. Most left as they had come - with their picks and shovels. Some did not even manage that!

During 1950 Bill and son Raymond Kittel were back once more at the Boolooroo goldfield but without the same luck of 1933. William Alexander Kittel died in December 1963, aged 79. The total production of the field was listed as 16 kg of gold. As recent as September 2011 an Exploration Licence was granted to the Outback Marble Company over an area of 62 square kilometres for of term of 2 years.

Boolooroo diggings in 1933.

Some members of the Kittel Family are buried at the Iron Knob Cemetery.

Main Mining page


If you would like to find out more,
please go to HOME PAGE for more information.
Thank you for visiting Flinders Ranges Research,
We hope you enjoy your stay and find the information useful.
This site has been designed and is maintained by FRR.