Waukaringa Goldfield

Waukaringa Goldfield

This field was discovered by James Watson early in 1873, about 35 kilometres north of Yunta, on the then Teetulpa pastoral run. The Waukaringa goldfield turned out to be very different from the earlier South Australian goldfields. It caused no great deal of excitement. After all, when Goyder suggested in 1863 that Hargraves should visit the north-eastern plains, Hargraves had responded that it 'would be perfectly useless to search for gold in that direction'. At Kooringa though, where people were now told that gold could be seen in the quartz and ironstone, several residents went up, just to make sure anyway, and pegged out a number of claims.

With a healthy economy and farmers doing well, Waukaringa had no great rushes of thousands of hopeful diggers as had been the case at Echunga, Jupiter and the Barossa. There was none of the usual fanfare either, as everyone was too occupied with mining matters in the Northern Territory. Instead Waukaringa developed slowly and quietly over a number of years but in the end became one of the longest lasting fields, producing gold well into the twentieth century. It gave birth to the largest single gold mine in South Australia up to that time and to a real town, far more substantial than any of the other gold mining towns before.

As with most of the other goldfields, this latest discovery soon provided additional work and income for many people, including those living far away from it. M Terry, mail contractor of Kooringa, whose coaches transported the mail as far north as Blinman and Sliding Rock, advertised his North East mail run which would take passengers to the new field.

Started as an alluvial goldfield with a number of individual miners, Waukaringa soon became a field of deep lead mines, which operated for many years. However, both deep lead and quartz mining were labour, capital and technology intensive and were the major cause of a shift from the happy go lucky, laissez faire, independent gold digger to that of the wage labourer. It heralded the end of the free-spirited self-supporting miner.

This new miner no longer was his own master in the quest for golden riches but had become a small cog in the company wheel. This time the rewards of his labour were not his, but those who owned the mines. It was companies, both large and small, who soon produced the vast majority of the gold on this field and replaced most of the early individual and independent miners.

One of the first companies to give the field a try was the Waukaringa Gold Mining Company. James Watson, the original discoverer of the field, with the help of Peter Ferrier, William Johnston and John Darling were the promoters. Johnston at that time also held 350 shares in the South Australian Copper and Bismuth Mining and Smelting Company, which had been formed in August 1872. The Waukaringa Gold MC proposed a working capital of 20,000 pounds with 9,000 pounds for the promoters in the form of 9,000 free shares of one pound each and appointed Granville S Price as broker and secretary. He was to prepare the paper work for the purchase of Watson's claims 89-93, which covered an area of 500 by 250 yards.

To make it sound attractive to potential investors they made it known they had such confidence in this bona fide discovery that they did not need a cash bonus for their interest and that they felt satisfied that a judicious expenditure of capital would prove the richness of their claims. Not only that, they would acquire all plant, materials and stores on the claims for free. One wonders how much plant, materials and stores there would have been on these claims as Watson had only recently discovered the deposit.

The company had its inaugural meeting at White's Rooms in Adelaide on Friday 4 July 1873. There was a good attendance and the newly elected directors, including W Storrie, MLC. W Johnston, John Darling, P Ferrier and HL Gailbraith, decided to get started with the mining business as soon as possible.

Within two weeks the company advertised for a person 'competent to undertake the working management of the company' with credentials as to his ability to be sent to Granville Price. The job was awarded to Captain JB Edwards from Victoria. It was decided to have a few tons of ore crushed at once to get a better idea of the gold content of the mine. When completed, the trial crushing yielded just over ten ounces of gold from two tons of ore. When these initial good results became general knowledge, other companies wasted no time taking up claims near the Waukaringa Gold MC hoping, as always, that the reef would extend beyond that property.

The North Waukaringa Gold MC was formed a few weeks later with promoters CHT Conner and John Darling allocating themselves 10,000 shares for their trouble. It decided to buy some of the mining leases, on which work had already started by individual miners and work together with the Waukaringa Gold MC as much as possible to save costs.

Edwards, manager of the Waukaringa, would look after both mines. He left Burra with teams and wagons carrying stores and building materials. Captain Edwards had already organised miners from Victoria and they were on their way as well. Upon arrival at the mine he encountered the first of his many problems. The South Australian miners, already employed by the company, had started but refused to work after one o'clock on Saturdays. This would cause major problems with the double shifts Edwards intended to run.

When the men refused to give in, he sacked the lot, started with the Victorians and hired additional men, when available, who were willing to work on Saturdays. At its first ordinary general meeting, shareholders were informed that the company had a balance in hand of 235 pounds but there was no mention of any gold being produced as yet.

Early visitors to the field thought they had arrived at a racecourse with its hundreds of white flags. From all appearances this was where the main gold bearing country of South Australia was situated. The one drawback of the field was the lack of water. Diggers had to walk a fair distance for both drinking and washing water. Even so, some considered it a much safer field for investment than the Northern Territory.

After 130 years, no great deal of excitement

The South Waukaringa Gold MC was established on 2 September 1873 with a capital of 12,000 pounds, to buy and work claims 6a, 8a, 273 and 274 bordering those of the Waukaringa Gold MC on three sides. The promoters, who allotted themselves 4,000 shares, had great confidence in the value of the property. They had already a number of men on site who had been at work for some considerable time, thus thoroughly testing the value of their mine.

Its first directors were James Calder, WD Allot, James Nottage, AG Chapman and James Kippist. Since the first gold was found the Captain's reports had been exceedingly good as to the prospects and the shaft being sunk. In spite of all the hype, this company had a rather short life. When no large gold deposits were located, which could be sold to pay expenses, it had to ask its shareholders for additional funds in November. When these were not forthcoming it was forced to wind up in January 1874.

There were still others willing to give the field a try. EM Bagot's party had cut some fine stone and got three large bags of fine specimens. The Great Extended Waukaringa Gold MC was formed to work reef claims 337-340. Its office was at Kooringa where B Rosman looked after the paper work. It had appointed Captain A Beaglehole, who soon reported that the company had one of the best claims on the field.

Beaglehole also held the first church service on the field. It was attended by a fair number of diggers who were greatly pleased to have a temporary place of worship to go to. Most who attended expressed their wish that no permit should be granted for a hotel on the field. This had already been suggested way back in 1852 when the first rush set in for the Echunga diggings, when it had been pointed out that there should be an absolute prohibition of spirits on the diggings, even making possession an offence. All had come to nought!

The government more interested in licence fees and other forms of revenue, took little or no notice of the wishes of experienced miners who knew what would be the results. Ironically, Waukaringa would have the largest hotel of any goldfield in South Australia.

With the initial success of the field and the influx of many more miners, JB Bull, formerly of Mount Bryan, was granted a publican's licence and opened a hotel within a few weeks. In May 1874 he begged to inform his friends and the public that he had accommodation for travellers and visitors and could supply them with first class wines and spirits. A few months later he once more begged to inform his squatting friends, and the public generally, that he had bought the Waukaringa mine and all its buildings. He was now able to give visitors to the reefs a 'good spread and shakedown'.

Within a few months of working both mines Captain Edwards reported rather unfavourably on the North Waukaringa. At first the company applied for a suspension of work for three months as it still had a balance in hand of 142 pounds. Edwards was instructed to have a look at the nearby Outalpa district, where gold discoveries had recently been reported. A few months later, when no further gold was found, it was decided to stop mining on the North Waukaringa claims. The company was wound up in January 1874.

The original Waukaringa Gold MC was also in trouble and its shareholders' meeting had to be abandoned because several speakers had not paid their last calls. The Hon. Charles Mann, Attorney General and solicitor to the company, had stated that no shareholder was entitled to vote unless he paid the calls due by him. It was suggested that the company should be wound up. This was rather unexpected and took most, but not all, shareholders by complete surprise.

Back in August 1873 when Secretary Price had reported that two tons of stone after crushing had yielded 11 ounces of gold, he had sold all his shares in the company at auction for whatever he could get for it. Had he known more than the directors and other shareholders, or was it just a case of speculation, selling while the news was still good? Many people wondered about it and some thought it better not to engage and pay speculating secretaries.

The Waukaringa Gold MC had another meeting on 13 May 1874 at which John Darling presided. The four shareholders present were told that a further suspension of three months had been obtained but that the directors could not recommend a continuation of operations. Its total financial assets had decreased to just under 5 pounds. Instead of suing shareholders for the amount of 128 pounds, which was still outstanding on unpaid calls, it was decided to dispose of the claims and buildings by public auction.

No sooner had gold been discovered at Waukaringa than it was reported by Peterswald on 14 January 1873 that it had also been found by WJ Ashton and Truran, employed by the Mullunditta MC, on the Outalpa run, about 100 kilometres east of Waukaringa. The Outaalpa Gold MC, with a nominal capital of 24,000 pounds made up from the sale of as many one pound shares, was formed in August 1873. Only very little of that money was used for the development of the mine as 10,000 shares, fully paid up, were issued to the owner of the claim, Edward Pratt.

Its mine manager, WJ Ashton, had included a report stating that he had forwarded eight bags of stone from the bottom of the test shaft. The reef, as far as he could judge, was about 30 feet wide and would yield a large quantity of fine gold.

The prospectus included a report from JD Fitzgerald and Thomas M Dalveen. According to Dalveen the mine would yield two to three ounces per ton, which would, after deducting expenses, leave a very large profit. Fitzgerald stated that water could easily be collected by means of a dam to enable crushing operations to be carried out continuously on a large scale.

His report did not mention where the water was to come from to fill the dam. He recommended the property without any hesitation, being the best, he had seen in South Australia and with attention and care would prove very remunerative. The directors appointed GS Price as secretary and work commenced within a few days.

In October, George Lambert of Salisbury, who had just returned from the mine, told the directors of the Outaalpa mine that they had a very good property, which would average easily three ounces of gold to the ton. He urged them to go and visit their mine and judge for themselves. In January 1874 the mine manager reported that he had received all tools, building material and stores required for permanent operations. Even though the weather had been very hot all men were at work erecting the buildings and reloading the wagons of the South Australian Carrying Company with 100 bags of ore to be crushed at the Stirling Battery.

In an effort to pay for the materials and development of the mine, one of the secretary's first jobs was to call up threepence per share, which had to be paid before 3 February 1874. Early prospects at the Outaalpa seemed to be very encouraging and Fitzgerald offered his service free of charge for the first month. This was accepted, naturally, and he soon dispatched a large amount of quartz to Kapunda where it was crushed at the Hawke Foundry showing a good yield of two ounces to the ton.

Four men were engaged at the mine, at 55 shillings a week, to deepen the shaft and widen the drive. However, when William B Neales reported that after crushing the average yield was only four pennyweights, and not the two or three ounces expected, the mood of the investors changed rapidly. According to Ashton, it was not a true indication of the mine's richness as a considerable amount of gold would have been lost during the poor crushing operations.

When the company had its shareholders' meeting, RD Ross read Captain Terrell's report. Captain Samuel Terrell, appointed in January in place of Ashton, reported very unfavourably on the Outaalpa mine. He found the gold so fine that the crushers would not be able to save much of it. Terrell stated that he had examined the mine carefully and found strong indications of copper but no gold. It was now decided to advertise a special general meeting of shareholders on 19 February to consider the implications of Terrell's report. This in turn resulted in an extraordinary general meeting on 5 March at which it was decided that the company should be wound up and Granville Price appointed liquidator at the usual 25 pounds.

Within a few weeks of the discovery of the Outalpa field, the North Outaalpa Gold MC was floated. It too was looking for 24,000 pounds in one pound shares. It also put 10,000 shares aside as payment to the owner of the claim. In its prospectus it stated that it would work the immense reef, on the Outalpa run, adjoining the 'celebrated Outaalpa Company's property'. It also promised something that no other company had been bold enough to do, not even those formed to mine in the Northern Territory. According to its prospectus, dividends would be paid almost immediately after the erection of machinery and centuries of work would not exhaust the reef.

Some statement indeed, as up to that time no gold mine in the world had ever been producing continuously for more than 100 years. However, the Great Boulder at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, discovered in 1893 and developed by a South Australian syndicate and investors, has produced far in excess of 100,000,000 pounds and is still producing gold today, after more than 125 years.

With the increase of traffic and the number of miners residing on or near the different mines, C McDonald was appointed postmaster at Outalpa on 1 July at a salary of 25 pounds per year. During 1875 a general store and hotel opened for business. Businesses were established on some of the mining sites to save the miners having to walk all the way to the township, which was not officially proclaimed as Olary until 1 December 1887.

Jackson & Co Coaches provided transport to the field from Waukaringa, over the unmade roads. They departed from the Red Lion Hotel in Rundle Street for Waukaringa, via Kooringa. From Waukaringa it was walking or if one was lucky, hitching a ride with a bullock, donkey, horse or camel team. Terry's Line of Coaches also operated a service from Redruth to the different goldfields in the northeast. It only charged three shillings for a one-way trip between Burra and Waukaringa.

In June 1879 it was reported that a new discovery had been made at Outalpa. To prove it, a small ingot of six ounces was shown in Adelaide. A few days later a bar of gold weighing 34 ounces was produced. It came from the Clach-na-cudden mine on the Outalpa run about three kilometres from Boolcoomata Homestead. This mine had been worked on and off during the last three years but it was only after a permanent water supply had been located at a depth of 60 feet that the battery of five heads of stamps could be put into action.

As no major deposits were found at Waukaringa or Outalpa to realise the hopes and expectations of early companies and their shareholders, most of the new mining companies operating on this field found it difficult to raise money to develop their mines. Added to their problems was the fact that they had to compete with a large number of other gold mining companies in the Northern Territory and South Australia, who were trying to attract investments from South Australians.

In an effort to boost South Australia's gold mining, The Guardian, owned by Ebenezer Ward, reminded its readers that despite all the glowing reports from the Northern Territory, it should not be forgotten that South Australia would derive more immediate and lasting benefit from the development of auriferous country within her own boundaries than she would from the most successful workings of the Northern Territory.

Apart from the many companies trying to establish a foothold on the Waukaringa field, there were still individual miners and small syndicates who were either prospecting the area or had taken up claims. Among them were Thomas D Jackson's party, under the leadership of J Stanbury, Cole's party and W Shepherd and T Gibbins. The Alma and Victoria mines, which were about three kilometres to the north east of Waukaringa, had also opened in 1873.

The main shaft of the Alma mine eventually went down more than 600 yards, had 14 levels and nearly a mile of drives. Although the Alma and Victoria, and several of the other early companies found it difficult to continue, there were other companies and miners who kept trying regardless.

Later some good deposits were located and worked for many years. The best of them were also among the deepest on the field. The Waukaringa field turned out to be a very large one. For a long time, the field resembled a busy racecourse rather than a mining area, with white flags, to mark the individual claims, extended as far as the eye could see.

Many people believed that the northeast would be the goldfield of Australia yet. In August 1874, JB Bull proclaimed it 'the best reef ever found in this colony'. Captain Charles Gray from Victoria, who had only been a week on the field, was surprised to see so much gold. He had seen stones taken from the Balaklava Reef that would go over 100 ounces to the ton. They had come from a ten feet wide reef without the use of machinery.

It was just as well that some of South Australia's gold mines were doing well during these years as the news for South Australian investors in the Northern Territory was becoming more disastrous every time they opened a newspaper. In South Australia itself gold mining had been severely hampered because of all the negative news from the Northern Territory but it did not stop those who believed that South Australia could do better on its own goldfields. In May 1875, it was stated that the Waukaringa reef was clearly traceable for several miles and gold had been found along the surface for a distance of about five miles.

Another report stated that it had been a great pity that the original Waukaringa Company had been wound up as there was no doubt now that it would have proved payable under proper management. Some people who had kept their faith in the Waukaringa reef were rewarded. The Alma's first crushing of 70 tons of stone gave a return of 96 ounces of gold. This was a very satisfying result but it was also believed that this first batch had been well below the average level and that much richer stone was being mined now.

Meanwhile the Alma Company had built a ten head stamper on site, which some now believed to be the champion gold reef of South Australia. It was said to be a magnificent property, showing an immense quantity of very rich gold bearing stuff, sufficient to keep the battery going for years. Captain TD Jackson, the manager of the Alma employed 60 men at the mine. At the beginning of September 1875 as many as 300 ounces of gold had been taken into Kooringa, the result of ten days' crushing and it was now widely believed that the Waukaringa field would turn out to be permanent gold producing country after all.

The Balaklava mine, adjoining the Alma, and managed by BH Davison had reached a depth of 45 feet but results obtained in 1875 were vastly different. Both mines, and the nearby Sebastopol and Inkerman claims, where Hayman from Echunga was manager, were named after geographical features encountered in the Crimean War. The Balaklava mine, of which Austin was secretary, produced some good gold for a while leading many men to hope that they had finally struck it rich.

During March Austin informed the newspapers that 'some fine gold bearing stone was cut from a new shaft close to the Alma and practical men spoke very highly of the mine and are sanguine that with perseverance it will turn out a very profitable concern'. On 18 July 1875 Davison wrote to the directors that his men 'had broken some very encouraging stone' and that they would soon cut a rich shoot of the precious metal. Six months later there had still been no sight of the precious metal and Austin had to make a one-pound call on the shareholders. Finally, in March it was reported that rich gold bearing stone had been taken from the reef at a depth of 130 feet.


Waukaringa part 2


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