Humbug Scrub an early goldfield near the Barossa Valley

Humbug Scrub

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Humbug Scrub came to notice as early as the mid-1850s when Richard Nurse discovered a little gold there. In 1856 it was reported that escaped convicts were hiding there. Three years later it was bushfires which ravaged the area. In 1864 the area was visited by Edmund Hammond Hargraves who had started the original gold rushes in the eastern states. He reported that there was gold in the area but not enough to repay the cost of working the field. However there was a rush in 1868 but conditions on the field were Spartan. Diggers lived in tents and there was not much water. Eventually a small township sprang up and slowly tents were replaced by wooden structures.

While all attention was directed at the newly discovered Barossa field, at the Humbug Scrub area, about nine kilometres from Spike Gully, gold was again found. This time it were large quantities and close to the surface. Naturally it caused a great sensation at the Yatta and Jupiter Creek fields and within a short time a substantial number of diggers left for the new discovery resulting in the near depopulation of both fields.

When a nugget of two ounces was found it was said that on all accounts it would turn out by far the most profitable diggings yet discovered. J and G Wilcox bought £90 worth of gold from some of the successful men, while James Goddard discovered a good deposit at Hamlin Gully. Within days more gold was found and after John Hamilton and Charles Laurie handed in another eleven nuggets from Humbug Scrub, E Wilcox of Gawler was able to exhibit them, including a two ounce nugget.

By early November 1868 the rush was well and truly on to Humbug Scrub including some storekeepers from the Yatta Creek area. A month later the Register reported that ‘it had been found at last. The terra incognita has been discovered!’ Gold Warden Peterswald, shown over the area, was soon convinced that it was no deception and signed a certificate that gold had been found on Hamlin’s property. Gold was now found ‘almost everywhere’ and Hamilton’s party from Kapunda found another ten ounces with other parties doing equally well. All were convinced that the Humbug Scrub would prove the true El Dorado of South Australia. A privately organized Prospecting Association had been formed which employed two parties of diggers to find gold wherever they could. Henry Lawes was lucky and soon washed a dish full of the stuff.

By late December, both the Barossa and Jupiter fields had ‘relapsed into comparative, but only temporary quietude’. When the harvest and holidays were over it was expected that a general resumption of work would again be the case as prospects were decidedly encouraging.

In January 1869 William Hamlin sold his property to a company that intended to develop it by both alluvial digging and crushing. Crushing was now the favourite method used to separate gold from its host rock, but very few crushers were available before the 1870s. Few of these mines were large enough to afford their own crushing machinery. The majority of them trucked their ore to small privately owned crushers near their mines. H.B. Hawke of the Kapunda Foundry, for instance, had visited most of the quartz crushing companies in Victoria and had erected a crushing plant, and other facilities to attract customers from the nearby Barossa field and the Adelaide Hills. He also had ‘all the appliances for testing samples at a very low price’.

By the end of the year a Reefing company was formed to work three claims. When yields slowly improved some of the diggers brought their families and in 1869 a Wesleyan Church was opened by the Rev. HT Burgess and Rev. CJ Evans. A serious accident occurred in February 1871 when William Hamlin, the original discoverer of gold at Humbug Scrub, was crushed to death by a fall of earth in his Kapunda Hill claim. He left a wife and three children to ‘miss one whose happy face and cheering words have tended so greatly to attract esteem and affection’.

Life on the goldfields could be dangerous and short for children too. Among the deaths recorded by W.H. Rosman was Edwin Robert Munyard, the small son of Edwin and Ann Rebecca Munyard of Wash Hill who died of severe burns after falling in a dish of boiling water on 28 June 1872, age 2 years and 1 month. Barely a month later, Ann gave birth to their first daughter Ann Sarah on 23 May 1872. They were to have a further five children, all born at Humbug Scrub. After the birth of their last child, Alice Eleanor on 4 February 1885, the family left for Broken Hill.

Edwin Robert’s death in 1872 was the seventh death on the diggings so far. Elizabeth Harris, youngest daughter of Job Harris died at Sandy Creek, aged five years, on 17 June 1869. Two year old Albert Thomas, son of Richard and Hannah Scown, drowned in a deserted claim in December 1870. James Goddard and his son started prospecting and found more gold in 1871. He even erected a puddling machine. In September 1870 the battery of the German Reef Gold Mining Company produced 177 oz. of gold, which to some people indicated the existence of large quantities of gold.

Humbug Scrub was, and remained for a long time, dependant on any rain that would fall. In July 1871 work was severely hampered due to the flooded state of the Para River but a month later it was due to the lack of rain, which retarded both the washing and crushing of ore. To overcome the problems caused by the lack of rain it was decided to obtain a Patent Gold and Diamond Cradle Amalgamator. George Milner Stephen, who after his South Australian career had moved to New South Wales, had invented this machine which was called the Little Wonder’ by practical miners. According to Stephen the machine would save fine gold and precious stones without the need for quicksilver.

During the next fifteen years there were several rushes after a little more gold was found and several mines were worked by companies and single miners but very few were successful. For more information about this time see Barossa Goldfield

After the issue of new gold mining regulations in 1886 and the news of the unbelievably rich Teetulpa gold finds and rushes, interest in goldmining and the Lady Alice mine in particular, once more resulted in a much greater awareness of the benefits which could be brought to South Australia by gold mining. The new regulations included the possibility of obtaining a maximum government assistance of £1000. Any money obtained for this purpose had to be repaid at the rate of fifty per cent of any future profits. The regulations also included a new set of rewards for the discovery of new gold deposits, which had been suggested many years before.

Instead of the usual large amount promised, but seldom paid, it was now decided to pay different amounts for different fields. If the discovery was located more than five kilometres from an existing goldfield and had after three months still 200 miners working on it, the discoverer would be paid a reward of £100. The further away the discovery the higher the reward would be. For discoveries of more than thirty kilometres from an existing goldfield a reward of £1000 would be paid if there were still 500 men working on it after six months.

Within a very short time, Miner’s Rights were issued from almost any and every town in South Australia, including some on Kangaroo Island and Winnininnie, where Walter Biddell had the job of issuing them. A large number of these Miner’s Rights resulted in the taking up of alluvial or quartz claims and even some gold leases. The total gold production in 1886 amounted to 8825 ounces.

After the discoveries at Teetulpa men who could not make the trip now looked in and around their own backyards for gold. Numerous Miner’s Rights were taken out during the first few months of 1887. In February, twelve were issued in Gawler, eleven at Echunga, and one in Beltana to George Bishop. Licences were issued at Hallett in December 1886 to Samuel Collins, Charles Edwards and John and Henry Rosewall to look around at the Ulooloo diggings.

William Dare and his son William of Mount Bryan East applied for a Miner’s Right and a claim at Ulooloo on 3 October 1887. At Blackfellow’s Creek near Mount Magnificent, W. and G. Stone reported a gold find in March where twenty men were working the field and making good money. In Port Lincoln it was Matthew Hall who needed a permit to go prospecting. Apart from the efforts of individual miners, some mining companies and a few syndicates also took out new leases or worked their existing mines with renewed vigour.

Some companies tried to raise extra money by calling up shareholders money. Many shareholders either would or could not pay and Arthur Hamilton Scarfe, manager of the Bird in Hand Gold Mining Company and the Ridge Gold Mining Company reminded these shareholders that all shares, on which the latest call remained unpaid, would be sold at auction on 16 January 1886.

At Humbug Scrub Frank Bowman applied for his Miner’s Right on 17 January 1887 and James Goddard, expecting an influx of miners, applied for a business licence again in February to run the hotel and renewed the licence every three months for the next few years. Elizabeth Davy, who had lost her husband in 1885, also hoped for better times to provide work for her three sons at the Lady Alice. However the syndicate that operated the Lady Alice had only just asked for a six months suspension of the working clause and consequently very few opportunities would be available there.

A new company was formed and employed several men to sink an engine shaft and put new winding gear in position. Eventually prospects did improve and J.H. Mullard of Gawler became the publican of the Commercial Hotel at Humbug Scrub in March 1885 to be replaced by Scott Gandy in 1888. To be able to run the hotel they had to pay some hefty fees. £20 per year for a publican’s licence, £4 for a business licence and naturally they also had to have a Miner’s Right as it was on a proclaimed goldfield.

Work at the Lady Alice mine continued during the year and on 24 November 1888, after cleaning up of the plates, the mine had produced 86 ounces of gold and 56 pounds of copper. Not a great amount but encouraging just the same. The company now went on to clean the battery boilers, put on larger stamper heads, altered the grating frames and started laying flat sheets and rails at the thirty metre level. While all this work was in progress several other men were employed breaking stone in four of the stopes, each of them showing gold. By the end of the year there was very little gold left and only a little copper was mined.

At about the same time Walter Goddard and his partner applied for a mining lease at Humbug Scrub and James Goddard with several partners took out a prospector’s claim at nearby Yatta Hill. In January 1889 the Lady Alice, now owned by the New Lady Alice Gold Mining Company, with George Brookman as director and Robert Homburg, Judge and Member of Parliament as solicitor, was working once again and Hack recommended a government subsidy of £500 to help the present company along.

Unfortunately it seemed that its gold deposit had been exhausted and money for extensive prospecting on their lease was not available. When formed, 40,000 of the company’s 60,000 shares were made available to the promoters, who naturally did not pay anything for them. This left only 20,000 possible contributing shares to be sold. Only 15,000 were in fact taken up but more than 6,000 forfeited again for non-payment of the last call, leaving precious little to finance any kind of operation. Shareholders were quite angry when told that the company was to be wound up and suggested that it was time the promoters started contributing something.

At the start of 1887 Goddard obtained business licence no.208, which he held until 1891. By the middle of 1889 James Goddard informed the licensing authorities that he no longer could pay £20 a year for his recently acquired publican’s licence ‘on account of so many people leaving this district’. He now just wished to take out a wine licence, which was much cheaper. This was granted and subsequently renewed every three months until 1894.

During the 1890s there was some renewed interest in mining at Humbug Scrub and even Goddard, who by now was seventy years old, applied for a Miner’s Right and Gold Mining Lease. This lease on section 480 at Para Wirra, which he held with J. Meyer and C.L. and M. Silverton was later also cancelled for the non-payment of rent.

David Rosewarne, South Australia’s first Inspector of Mines was appointed on 18 February 1889 and nine months later Warden of Goldfields. Rosewarne visited the Lady Alice in February 1890. This hardworking Cornishman, had started mining in 1870 in the iron mines of Pennsylvania and since that time worked at Nevada, Utah, California, Arizona, Northern Mexico, New Zealand and New South Wales. He had also been a reporter for one of the Broken Hill newspapers, had already inspected 190 mines and reported on almost a hundred since his appointment.

A few weeks after his visit a little gold was found in a new drive he had suggested. Two months later the government, acting on Rosewarne’s advice granted the company an additional £500 subsidy. After all, it said, as the pioneer mine of the district, the future of the field to a large extent depends upon its successful development. With the subsidy and a little help of some shareholders’ money, nearly four thousand shares were forfeited; major work was undertaken above ground and new machinery ordered from Newcastle.

Most people, companies and newspapers were pleased with Rosewarne’s appointment. One paper hailed it as a new era for the gold mining industry of South Australia. It hoped that his reports, which he regularly submitted to the government, would direct the attention of capitalists in other colonies and also in England to the valuable properties, which only required a moderate expenditure to return handsome dividends.

With the upcoming International Exhibition in London during the northern summer of 1890, T.A. Masey, director of the Blinman copper mine, advised the government to prepare large maps and a good readable give-away handbook. He also suggested that steps should be taken to find out anything and everything about the latest knowledge of ore reduction and gold extracting processes. South Australia would be represented in London by no other than David Rosewarne. At the Exhibition Diplomas were awarded for exhibits from the Alma and Victoria, Mount Torrens and Forest Range Gold Mining Companies. Diplomas for best private collections went to J.C.F. Johnson, Vinrace Lawrance and Mr Hall of Echunga.

When work at the Lady Alice mine was completed, after a further £800 subsidy in December 1890, recommended by Captain Parker, Acting Inspector of Mines, great interest was shown in the first crushing. They turned out rather poorly; after cleaning up only twenty-two ounces were recovered. In October 1891, A.H. Scarfe, manager of the Lady Alice, requested shareholders to pay the twentieth call of threepence. A month later he reported that the lode, which had proved so remunerative to the former owners, had been found again. It was by far the richest show ever seen by the present directors.

Four days later though he requested payment of the twenty-first call. No matter how many calls he made, most remained unpaid. Luckily, in December after the cleaning up of the crushers, 78 tons had yielded 146 ounces. A further 162 ounces were obtained during the first six months of 1892. It was enough to cover expenses but left no margin for profit. To cut down on any costs it was decided to reduce wages, directors’ fees and the legal manager’s salary. It did not make any difference, the writing was on the wall this time and in a final effort to look for a way out, management asked the miners to continue on tribute. When this was rejected it applied for a six months suspension of the working conditions. Finally, after no further gold was found, the directors decided that the company should be wound up voluntarily.

At its September 1893 meeting, Chairman A Warlace Sandford appointed A.H. Scarfe as liquidator. Scarfe also managed many other companies, then and later, including the New Mingary Gold Mining Company, Peel River Proprietary Gold Mining Company and the Peel River Sluicing Company and was secretary of the Ridge Gold Mining Company, Boulder Queen Gold Mining Company, Boulder Consolidated Gold Mining Company, Princess Royal Gold Mining Company and the Bird in Hand Gold Mining Company.

When the original Lady Alice Gold Mining Lease (no.10) expired on 30 June 1894, it was not renewed. E. Lynch from Adelaide had some samples tested by the School of Mines and Industries and a month later Mary Ann Lynch applied for a mining lease over the old mine. This was granted on 1 October when she received lease number 26 over twenty acres for a period of forty-two years. The lease was later cancelled, as she had not complied with the required conditions of the lease.

In July 1896 an Adelaide syndicate, made up of ninety-six shares of £100 each, restarted the mine and once again James Goddard, who had never lost faith in his original discovery, appointed as manager. Naturally it gave hope to other prospectors and investors. Maybe after all the trials and errors, there was still gold in or around the mine. In November C.A. Bart, secretary of the syndicate applied for a twelve-acre gold mining lease south of, and adjoining, the Lady Alice mine as did Charles Harrison who applied for one on sections 278, 279 and 280 also adjoining the mine. No additional gold was found at the mine or on the new leases and when Goddard died in 1897 it was also the end of these attempts.

During 1896 great excitement was created when the Menzies gold mine was opened. In March 1898 David Morney Sayers took up the lease and the papers commended him in developing the property as it meant ‘a distinct advantage to the mining industry of South Australia’. He too formed a syndicate with a capital of £400, made up of 20 shares of £20 each. This was the money needed by W.D. Sayers to travel to London where he would try to sell the mine on behalf of the syndicate. The value of the property was set at £22,510, which included the manager’s house, magazine, dam, main shaft of 122 metres depth, several other shafts and drives, blacksmith shop, stables, coach house, tools, furnace, miners cottages and between 30,000 and 40,000 tons of tailings.

George Prout was invited by Sayers to have a look underground. During his visit several shots were fired and a number of buckets put through the cradle. Prout picked out several stones showing gold freely and considered it a most valuable property well worthy of money invested in its development. At the same time quotes were obtained from James Martin of Gawler for the building and installation of new machinery.

When Sayers received a quote for £4295 he suggested that James Martin should take a financial interest in the mine. This was gracefully declined. Meanwhile it was also decided to form the Gawler Consolidated Cyanide Works Syndicate to treat the tailings of the mine. For this purpose quotes were obtained from the Austral Otis Engineering Company of Melbourne and the Gawler and Port Pirie Foundry and Engineering Works.

When all the quotes and information were received W.D. Sayers left for England in July 1899. He was unsuccessful but the syndicate still had hope. In June 1900 A. Wauchope of the Australian Gold Recovery Company was invited to test the mine’s tailings. His verdict was that they were worthless for treatment by cyanide or any other process. The New Golden Record Gold Mining Company, which had also tested some of the samples, wrote that the assays were so unsatisfactory that they were unable to treat them. When assays by the Taylor Gold Recovery Company gave similar results the writing was clearly on the wall. Without further ado the Lady Alice was abandoned and remained silent until William Heithersay acquired the lease.

James Goddard remained at the Lady Alice until his death on 6 June 1897. After his death, his wife Eleanor still provided a sumptious dinner for the occasional visitors to the mine but eventually moved to nearby Salisbury where she had the old weatherboard hotel building from the Lady Alice re-erected. Eleanor died at Prospect on 5 July 1913. Both are buried at the Salisbury Cemetery. Both Goddard’s mine and Goddard’s Hill in the Barossa Valley were named after James Goddard. Mount Goddard near Angepena was named during his trip north in 1872.

By the turn of the century most mining had stopped and the area became very quiet. Land was now taken up by farmers instead of gold diggers. In 1914 there was still the post office with D McKenzie as postmaster and Francis Bowman, Abraham Grigg, William Tamblyn and James Watson listed as blockers. So far Hargraves had proved to be correct in his opinion of the field.

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