Today, Victoria is the second most populated state in Australia. In the mid-19th century, it was more like the American Wild West. This is because the country had a major gold rush. The idea of finding riches beyond their wildest dreams is what brought people from all over the world to the area. The gold rush in Australia began in February 1851, when specks of gold were discovered in New South Wales. After that, more and more gold was discovered.
A Rich Country, An Empty Country
During the peak of the gold rush, two tons of gold per week were sent to Melbourne’s Treasury Building. This helped Britain pay off its international debt, which allowed the country to expand its growing empire. The population significantly increased during this time. Since the first gold discovery, over a half million people moved to Australia. Some towns had a growth in the population of 1,000 people. Unfortunately, this didn’t last. With much of the gold having been already found, there was no money to be made. In 1915, the export of gold from Australia was prohibited, and the gold standard was abolished. This left many towns abandoned.
John Deason and Richard Oates
In the 1850s, when the gold rush was just beginning, word of the rush spread to Britain. Former tin miner, John Deason, and Richard Oates heard about the money to be made in Australia. At the time, the two men were living on Britain’s southwest coast. They decided to give up in mining, and they sailed to Australia to try their luck as gold prospectors. They moved to the township of Moliagul in Victoria.
Due to the gold rush, Moliagul was doing great. There were 11 pubs in the town during the gold rush. In 1855, over 16,000 people were living in the town. John and Richard were two of these residents.
The Life Of Prospector
John and Richard tried to make a living being prospectors. It wasn’t an easy job. If the men were unable to find any gold, they wouldn’t make money. It wasn’t long before the two men ran out of money for food. They knew that they needed just one big score to set themselves up for life. Unfortunately, in 1869, the men were in debt. They were so poor that they couldn’t even get credit to buy flour. The two men refused to give up, and in February, the men tried their luck in another area.
February 5, 1869
In 1869 Two Miners Set Out In Search Of Gold – And They Made A Record-Breaking Discovery. Around 9 am on February 5, 1869; John was digging in a new location. He was trying to get his pick around tree roots when the pick broke. He shouted, “Damn it! I wish it were a nugget.” John took a closer look at what had broken his pick. When he looked down, he realized that he struck gold. He and Richard were looking at the huge nugget that they uncovered. John thought that the huge nugget was worth at least $6,000, and Richard thought that is was worth $2,600. Not wanting to wait, the two men hauled the massive nugget back to John’s shack.
The nugget was embedded in a layer of quartz. They had to get the gold out of the quartz, so they placed it on top of a fire. When it cooled down, they broke 70-pounds of quartz from the nugget. When they broke off the quartz that contained a lot of loose gold. The nugget was 24-inches long and 12-inches wide. They knew that they needed to weigh the giant nugget before selling it, so the two men stashed it in a calico bag.
The next morning, the two men took their nugget, which they named, Welcome Stranger, to the London Chartered Bank in Donnelly so that it could be weighed. They were planning to get the weight and sell the nugget. The nugget was too large to fit on the bank’s scale. They had to use sledgehammers and chisels to break the nugget down so that it could be weighed.
When the gold was finally weighed, it totaled 210-pounds. It was the largest nugget ever to be found to this day. When news of John and Richard’s find got out, people lined up at the bank to see the huge nugget. The men received over $12,000 and became instant celebrities. The two men were generous and gave a pound to each of their friends.
A Stone Memorial
This find was so huge that the town commissioned a stone memorial for the Welcome Stranger in 1897. If the nugget were found today, it is believed that it would be worth $8.5 million. Richard had no family to share his wealth with, but John had a wife, and he bought 80-acres of land to settle down an cultivate. Sadly, John lost all of his money in failed investments. By the time he died, he was broke. Just because he died a poor man, the town never forgot John and Richard’s fantastic find.