Trove Tuesday: “There’s Gold in Them Hills …”

map showing Dead Horse Gully (red marker), in relation to Gumeracha(click for a larger image)

map showing Dead Horse Gully (red marker), in relation to Gumeracha
(click for a larger image)

The tiny town of Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills is well known these days for being the home of the world’s biggest rocking horse, the annual medieval fair, and of course wines. But believe it not, at one stage, Gumeracha was well known for its goldfields.

Many who have connections to the area would have heard of Watts Gully Road at Forreston (previously North Gumeracha), this was one area where gold was, and was first found by James Watts back in 1884. Dead Horse Gully is near Watts Gully Road, and this was another of Gumeracha’s gold diggings areas.

For my Trove Tuesday post, I’ve found the following article which discusses the Dead Horse Gully goldfields … and for someone who didn’t know about them (yes me), I found it fasinating, so thought I’d share it with you. Note: old references to this place list is as Deadhorse Gully (two words), or even Dead-Horse Gully (with a hyphen), current day spelling is Dead Horse Gully (three words). For consistency, I’m using the three word version.

From the South Australian Register, dated Saturday 14 March 1885 …

During the last few days large number of men have arrived at Dead-Horse Gully on the gold rush. Now nearly 100 men are working in the gully around Mount Crawford. The rush was so great that on Thurs-day Hill & Co. put on a special coach from Adelaide. The rush is at Mount Crawford, about seven miles north-east of Gumeracha. To get at the field it is necessary to turn off the main road at North Gumeracha-road and to go right through that township. For the first three miles there is a good district road, but after that there is merely a vehicle track through the scrub and rough hilly ground. Deadhorse Gully is about a mile and a half long, and is thickly wooded with colonial honeysuckle. On entering the gully several holes where trials have been made are noticeable. These are in some cases three or four feet deep; in other cases even more. Right along the gully a large number of claims, about fifty, are being worked. These are of various depths. One or two men have gone to a depth of 18 feet before bottoming. The soil is gravelly and patched with black sand in nearly all the claims. In this soil gold is found in a great many cases.

The gully runs due east and west, and the whole length has been pegged out. In some cases the men say that they have got payable gold, while others have got simply the colour. One man, who has been working in the gully for three years with his mate, kept the matter quiet, but every fortnight he used to take £8 or £9 worth of gold into Gumeracha. He has been very successful, and has a nugget in his possession weighing 3 oz. Other men have done very well. One showed several nice nuggets weighing under an ounce. He had got all the gold from coarse rough surface. The average depth of the claims before striking the drift is about ten feet. Of course, gold is got at a less depth than that in some places. One man only went four feet before he came on stuff which, when panned, yielded several specks. Some men who have been up several days have been unsuccessful and have cleared out, but their places were quickly filled. Several men are on the road tramping it to the gully. It is considered that there is gold in the drift from the reef on the hill on the north side of the gully. Experienced miners on the ground agree that all the gullies in the vicinity contain gold, and that several abound with gold to quite as great an extent as this. Two or three men have marked out claims in other gullies.

Cabs, carts, drays, wagons, and vehicles of all descriptions are on the ground. There are a number of tents for the men to sleep in, but others are content to lie under trees or to sleep in carts. There are men of all occupations amongst those present — old miners, clerks, cabmen, labourers, several boys, and sailors.

At the East-End Gully there is an indication of a good reef. Some quartz picked, up on the surface showed copper, gold, and pyrites. The great difficulty to contend with in working claims is water. When the men get down ten feet or so water from the hills soaks through this, and has caused the abandonment of one or two claims. Provisions for the camp are brought round by the storekeepers of Gumeracha, but a store in a galvanized-iron structure of about twelve feet by nine is to be opened on Saturday.

On Thursday the Warden of the Goldfields visited the ground, and considers that there is good gold in the gully, but not enough of the mineral for the hundred men who are now on the spot. The whole bottom of the valley has been pegged out. Mr. Hack says that the gullies on either side of this one have gold, and advises the men to spread out. If they do this there is very little doubt but that the industry will get a good start, as the surface is good – so good that he believes that the reefs, of which there are several in the hills around and about, must be very rich.

The samples of ore found are of what is known as burnt ore. It would be very foolish for any more men to go on at present to the gully, as all the likely ground is holed, but the other gullies, to which provisions could be taken daily, offer a good field for prospecting.

Owing to the crude character of the utensils some gold has probably been lost. If the reef is fallen in with at these claims the men will be unable to crush the stone, but none appear anxious to do other than sink surface claims. During the day a large number of visitors go over the ground. The best find so far was a nugget weighing 3 oz.

Fascinating isn’t it, though I still find it hard to envisage just what it was like back then. You can find the whole original article on Trove here.

So there’s just one more little piece of a small town’s amazing history for you.

For those who are not familiar with the term Trove Tuesday, it is a popular theme within the Australian genealogy blogging community, as we browse the Trove website (Australia’s old newspapers that are online AND FREE), find an article that interests us, and write about it … usually on a Tuesday. You can find all of my past Trove Tuesday posts here.

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