Jupiter Creek

Jupiter Creek


The main reason for Adelaide suffering another attack of yellow fever was the discovery of gold at Jupiter Creek in August 1868. It was there that Thomas Plane and Henry Sanders, both farmers of near Echunga for many years, located gold about six kilometres from Chapman’s Gully. The Adelaide papers, which at first had not been too interested in this new discovery, had to change their attitude and admit that the new diggings at Jupiter Creek were more important than originally thought. Most were now saying that whatever the fate of the new field, there was little doubt that a number of plodding men would work on it for years to come.

Like the early diggers at Echunga, some 16 years earlier, very few of the hopefuls who rushed the field had any experience with prospecting or digging for gold. Most of their appliances were utterly useless and many lost as much gold as they saved. Even those who used the simple method of washing gravel or soil in a tin dish wasted most of the gold. Within weeks more than 500 Miner’s Rights were issued, at two shillings and sixpence each, giving miners the right to dig for 12 months.

Before the end of the month it was like the old times all over again when more than a thousand diggers and the usual number of visitors were looking for gold. As a result of the large influx of miners about six kilometres of ground was taken up along the creek. Few doubted that this was ‘the most promising gold discovery yet’. Diggers, and would-be-diggers, with their tents, dishes, tools, wheelbarrows, high hopes and even higher expectations came from O’Halloran Hill and Cape Jervis and every settlement, village and town in between. They were soon joined by diggers from as far away as Moonta and Mount Gambier.

In August 1868, work was hard to come by in Adelaide and on 7 September the Commissioner of Crown Lands, the Surveyor General and the Commissioner of Police all went to Jupiter Creek in order ‘to ascertain by personal inspection what was doing there’. This time the government was extremely anxious to offer all facilities for a thorough testing of the auriferous qualities of the field and it would also station a trooper there to issue licences.

Before long the diggings began to excite considerable interest in Adelaide and Trooper Terrell was despatched to issue licences. The Register reported that several of the early miners were doing very well; many making good wages but some only getting tucker money. Unfortunately there were also others not even getting the colour of gold.

On 4 September there were about 300 men and some women on the Jupiter field. A butcher and a small store had opened up but business was slow, as most diggers had brought ample provisions. Several women from the Echunga field had moved to Jupiter Creek and some of the new diggers had brought their families too.

In addition to the storekeepers there were also wine and spirit sellers. Pedder of Echunga and William Barker of Mount Barker had put up their stores and soon anything could be obtained at reasonable charges. At the back of their stores another blacksmith had set up business with a huge pair of forge bellows, puffing and blowing from morning till night. A baker from Glenelg was in the process of building a large brick oven as he expected to sell a thousand loaves a day.

There was no permanent police on the field yet but Police Trooper Terrell was kept busy just the same issuing licences and mediating in disputes. There was no Post Office either but this would soon be organised from Pedder’s store. With as many as 1,300 people on the diggings, including nearly 40 from Ballarat, and more than 500 licences issued, most of the basic facilities were soon on hand to make life a little easier.

From the character of the huts and tents it was easy to see that most of these diggers planned on staying. Some of their abodes were very comfortable, both inside and out and were put up by diggers who knew what bush life was all about. Many of them had brought their dogs along and a few had their wives working with them. Obviously several diggers were doing well but most chose not to declare the result of their digging and washing.

It was generally believed that a lot more gold was found than was declared. Those diggers not in need of immediate cash would hoard their gold, preferring to sell it later when the price would be higher. Most of the lucky diggers kept quiet about the extent of their finds and just stashed it away. A week after the initial discovery gold was still being found at the same rate as before and although a large number of diggers had been washed out of their tents when the diggings were deluged with torrents of rain, few were inclined to leave the wet and cold conditions of the field.

Among the small number that did leave were Job Harris and his mates. With the benefit of hindsight it was the best thing they ever did, as a few weeks later they discovered the Barossa goldfield and started the biggest gold rush South Australia had seen so far.

With a more or less ‘settled’ population at the Jupiter goldfield, the Rev. J. Maughan held an open air service in front of Barker’s store. Standing on a tub for a pulpit and an umbrella for a canopy while the rain poured down in torrents he was listened to by some 350 people. When the rain kept on coming down during the next few days, all work had to be abandoned and most miners used this time to dig trenches around their tents.

Although most of the gold found at Jupiter Creek was of very small size, a large number of nuggets were also located. Most of these were well under one ounce but there were exceptions. E.J. Peake, SM bought a four ounce nugget from one of the lucky diggers for £18 and sold it at auction in Adelaide, where Joachim Matthias Wendt, well-known watchmaker, jeweller and gold and silver smith, paid £22.15 for it.

By the end of September there were several stores, a post office under the care of Mrs Peddler, a butcher, refreshment booths and a retail wine store. Not everyone appreciated this last addition and it was soon stated that ‘the evil results of it were but too palpable’. Several other substantial buildings were also erected, mostly of slabs and iron, in what was hoped would eventually become the main street of Jupiter.

In October the hastily built Jupiter Creek Hotel was serving many of the thirsty diggers, who paid for their drinks with newly found gold. Transport to the diggings was becoming easier in October when Cobb & Co ran a daily service from Adelaide and John Tunstall four times a week. When Rev. Jasper Smyth visited the field he noticed that a large number of men were small farmers, all of them exceedingly civil, respectable and communicative and making good wages.

After the field had attracted as many as 2,000 diggers, digging, sinking, puddling, cradling or washing, a large number of them left for the recently discovered Yatta and Barossa diggings, which were rumoured to be far superior. It was now generally believed that the Jupiter field would probably not turn out to be a wealthy goldfield but would at least be a useful outlet for unemployed labour. However when William Barker and his store manager had bought £250 worth of gold in ten days, many changed their mind about the field.

With few major finds recorded though, the population slowly declined from 2,000 to about 500, digging and spending their money at the newly opened hotel and shops. Most of the early discoveries at Jupiter Creek were alluvial gold but within a matter of weeks reefing operations were started. One of the first companies to start reefing on this field was the Beatrice Quartz Reef and Gold Mining Company, formed in October 1868.

Soon it was admitted that the efforts of many diggers at Jupiter Creek ‘were not crowned with even the colour of gold and some men, after having tried for three weeks, had not obtained enough to pay for tucker’. It did not deter Goyder from visiting the field and knowing how easily and quickly the fortunes of a field could change, he set about fixing the site for a future township, ‘should the permanency of the diggings warrant it’.

By the end of October the field had lost some of its ‘magnetic power owing to the counter attraction of the Barossa goldfield’. Some miners from the Talisker silver mine near Cape Jervis thought the Jupiter a sell and were ready to return home again. A party from Aldinga though was more than happy with their returns before they made the trip back again. A group from Morphett Vale had even more luck and decided to stay. A digger from Mount Barker was paid £7.15 for one of his nuggets and John Rosewarne of Payneham was lucky by unearthing the largest nugget found in South Australia so far. It came in at just over twelve ounces.

Much more important was the fact that Jupiter Creek was blessed with some good showers at the start of November to the great delight of the diggers who were afraid of having to carry their wash dirt long distances. After the rain it was all hands on deck and several large nuggets were found once again, including one of three ounces by William Birrell, keeper of the Colonial Wine store at Golden Point. His happiness did not last very long as he was charged with ‘selling wine in an unauthorised place’. Although the charge was eventually dismissed he still had to pay the court costs. Justice South Australian style!

Regardless of the news from the Barossa goldfield, more and more people returned to Jupiter Creek as more gold was located there than ever before including plenty of nuggets. Within a few days of the rains more than 400 people were at work. Several gold buyers were busy on the field too. W. Barker bought seven pounds of gold from successful diggers and an Aldinga storekeeper sold goods and was paid with 11 ounces of gold, in a few days.

By the middle of November the number of diggers declined again as many went back to their farms or could earn more by bringing in the harvest. Although several good nuggets were found, most of the 400 or so remaining diggers were only making tucker and many of them wanted the regulations eased to give them a chance to do some puddling without having to take out yet another expensive licence.

At the beginning of 1869 there were still nearly 250 diggers on the Jupiter field and the number was increasing every day as men returned from their holidays, harvesting or family visits in Adelaide. After all, claims had to be worked every day for at least six hours and therefore could not be left unattended for any length of time for fear of being jumped. By this time a real township had developed and there were as many as eight stores, a restaurant and a public house as well as the Wesleyan Chapel.

Although there were many disappointed diggers at Jupiter Creek, there were also those who had made at least wages and a large number who were doing even better than that. Some of the early companies, which had started deep lead mining, reported mixed results. The Caledonian Company’s puddling machine had been at work for some time and proved a ‘capitally constructed affair’. The only problem was that being midsummer there was very little water for Captain Edward James Hughes to work the puddler for any length of time.

In March it was reported that the Crest of the Wave had water problems, but the Prince of Wales was now looking well. At the Lady Hamley gold could now be seen with the naked eye and the Electra Mining Company was considered very promising. Towards the end of the month one lucky digger found a seven ounce nugget. This, it was estimated, gave a total of 203,900 ounces produced since the first discovery at Jupiter.

By the middle of June reefing seemed to be all the go and as many as 400 claims had been staked, including some by the recently floated Jupiter Gold Mining Company and two by the Beatrice. The Beatrice claims were bounded on the north by the Jupiter Creek, in the west by the Caledonian and in the south by the Edith Company. All of them were finding gold and to obtain more working capital the Beatrice also planned to form a proper company. This was achieved by July when the Beatrice Quartz Reef and Gold Mining Company was floated.

Eventually a petition was presented to the South Australian parliament, signed by 92 miners and residents from the Jupiter Creek field in 1869, ‘praying that a sum of money might be voted to Plane and Sanders the original discoverers of this field’. It had also received a letter from William Chapman, of Echunga, still smarting from the fact that he had missed out on the full amount of the £1,000 reward.

He wrote that the gold found in Long Gully, erroneously called Jupiter Creek, was but a continuation of the old Echunga diggings and was within the radius of the originally proclaimed goldfield. As he had only received a reward of £500, he would now like the balance. Chapman was unsuccessful again and after some further delays, Plane and Sanders received a reward of £200 and £300 respectively.

In April 1869, when there were still some 400 men on the field By the end of 1870 only about 200 men remained on the Jupiter field, regardless of the fact that a nugget of one pound had been found.


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