The goldfield at Angepena was discovered in 1892. During the winter months with good water available for panning, about seventy men were at work on the field. Some of them were lucky at times. For instance Harry Hicks found "an ounce and a quarter" in one day, "Davidson got half an ounce", and others were also making good finds. Hicks had also found a nugget weighing 19 dwt. These good results led to the area being officially proclaimed a goldfield on 14 June 1893.
Some weeks later however, it was reported that miners were leaving the field on account of "their funds being exhausted" and taking up shearing at the surrounding station sheds. Most of these men intended to return to the
Angepena goldfield when the shearing was finished as gold was still being sold at an average of fifty ounces a week to the Goldfield Warden.
Business was brisk on the field. A post office was opened and by September the field had two shops, one owned by Charles Glenie and the other by William Moir Doig, son of Peter and Anna Doig of Beltana. William Doig had his shop established and advertised as a general storekeeper, baker and butcher and having all diggers' requisites in stock, including the Harrold Brothers' "Save All" cradles. More than two hundred diggers were to be catered for as well as some of their wives and children.
Old Angepena homestead.
During July 1893 F. Denford, who had taken out claim No. 20,066 on the
Angepena run, had it approved but W. Johnson had his claim, No. 18,711 at
Nichol's Nob, cancelled for non-payment. Other claims taken out at that time were by Cook and Ogilvie near Angepena Homestead, J. McLeish on the Moolooloo run, F.J. Congreve near Mount Lyndhurst Homestead and J.H. Reid at Angepena.
With the increasing heat and dust from the summer weather and naturally the small number of lucky diggers, business at the Angepena goldfield became rather dull. On 26 November 1893 Mounted Constable Browne reported on the field to the Inspector of Police at Port Augusta that 'Things are almost at a standstill here, very little gold has been found during the past
week. Native Well is almost deserted, there are only about six men now on the field and they are only getting colour. A number of diggers are leaving here this week for Algebuckina. The gold return for this week was only four ounces. Much dissatisfaction expressed here by a number of the diggers at the site chosen here for the intended Government well. I beg to suggest that it would be very unwise of the Government to sink the well just now in the face of the present state of affairs. For by the time the well would be sunk there would be only the well sinkers left on the field'.
The Commissioner of Police decided to recall Mounted Constable Browne from the field by Christmas, and instructed him to take all the Government books and papers with him and hand them to Mounted Constable Catchlove at Beltana. A year later the Post office was closed but Charles Augustus Perry opened a store, still hoping that the field would prove to be a success. During 1894 several miners left because of the discovery of a new field at nearby Booloorooo where gold was found for the next two years.
By the middle of 1895 reports from the Angepena goldfield had indeed
improved and were much more optimistic. Maybe Perry had made the right
decision after all. In June J.V. Parks, Government Inspector of Mines said "I can say definitely that it is one of the best surface shows I have met with in South Australia". Needless to say that after comments like that more than fifty claims and leases were again applied for. Two months later the fields were visited by J.W. White and A. Poynton, both members of parliament. They made it clear that 'Owing to the proximity to an abundant supply of good water, red gum timber and thousands of acres of pine forest, and being only 30 miles from a railway, we are of the opinion that if the reef holds down to 100 ft., and gives 1 oz. per ton, it will be a very valuable property and promises to surpass anything in the shape of a gold mine that we yet have in South Australia'.
After having returned to Angepena for a second time Parker was convinced that it was "a true lode, which will go to unlimited depth". On lease No. 490, known as The Treasure, some good finds had been made. Enough people had taken up more or less permanent residence at the goldfield for the Government to make a good road from Beltana via Sliding Rock to Angepena. About twenty people had also asked the Returning Officer at Beltana to have their names placed on the electoral roll to enable them to vote in the forthcoming election.
In September the field was visited by J.M. McBride, a mining director from Broken Hill. He was very pleased and impressed with the prospects. As a company was in the process of being formed he advised that "Anyone desirous of having an interest in the mine should apply early". Prospectuses and application forms could be obtained from Poynton's office at the Town Hall in Port Augusta.
The Angipena Treasure Gold Mining Company N.L. was eventually incorporated on 15 October 1895 with a capital of $80,000 by issuing forty thousand
shares of $2 each. However twenty thousand shares plus $4,000 in cash had to be paid to the owners of lease No. 490, F. Denford of Mount Serle and W.
Rogers. The five directors, all members of the South Australian parliament, were A.R. Addison, Andrew D. Handyside, James H. Howe, Alexander Poynton and V.L. Solomon. Even the secretary, J.R. Kelly was a parliamentarian.
In their prospectus it was claimed that a bulk sample of about four tons taken from the main shaft had yielded about four ounces per ton, at the Mount Torrens Government Cyanide Works. When the member for Light, Mr White, stated that 'it was his opinion that having had the opportunity of seeing several of the best mines in Western Australia, I would point to the fact that the composition of the Reef more closely resembles that of the Great Boulder at Kalgoorlie, than anything I have seen'.
Shares in the company went from $20 to $120 after the honourable member's
statement. Many claims were now worked far more seriously. The Proprietary in the centre of the field carried "gold the whole width of the lode". At the Royal Standard the lode was even more massive and good assays had been made from the Golden Gate and the Lily of the Valley, owned by Mr McAllen. At the Royal Exchange where Mr Mottram was in charge, they were working two leases which held "bold outcrops".
A shaft was being dug by Mr Muldoon at the Lady of the Lake, and P.
Doig employed several men to open up the lode on his leases No. 543 and 563. They were averaging one or two ounces of gold per ton. Doig soon had his claim christened the Great Boulder and was convinced that his lode was "a
continuation of the Treasure lode". Finally, the Mount Lyndhurst Syndicate
employed F. Mortraine as manager to open up its claims. With all this activity the Post office was reopened, and John Woods of Beltana carried the mail.
A townsite was surveyed and town lots pegged out by October 1895. F. Booth
from Leigh's Creek had already marked the site where he intended to build his
hotel. By the end of the year Henry McConville had opened an additional store on the goldfield, where he was also the part owner of lease no.38, over fourteen acres. This lease was sold in February 1896 to the newly formed Angipena Proprietary Gold Mining Syndicate of Hammond.
As payment they received three hundred of its one thousand $2 shares. On 31 July 1896, at a general meeting of shareholders, held at the Adelaide Townhall, it was decided that the Angipena Treasure Gold Mining Company N.L. would be wound up voluntarily. During the same meeting they
appointed A.H. Scarfe to be the liquidator.
It did not really make much difference as far as the general public was
concerned. They kept on buying shares of newly formed gold mining companies year after year. Once they had become the owners of shares, instead of receiving the expected profits, they kept on having to pay for calls made upon their script.
The last company to try its luck was The Pheonix Gold Prospecting Syndicate, formed in March 1903. This syndicate, with a capital of $200 wanted to buy a forty acre claim held by R.A. Romer, on the Angepena field, where gold had been found seven years earlier. Five shafts had already been sunk giving an average yield of three ounces per ton. It was proposed to offer the twenty $10 shares to the public at $4 each on application. Calls could then be made but would not exceed $2 per month per share.
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