Mount Grainger Goldfield

Mount Grainger Goldfield

Part I

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Gold in the Mount Grainger area was discovered as early as 1882 when it was located near the Nackara Creek. Six years later William Doyle, farmer of Cavenagh Plains, while looking for silver, found some gold about thirteen kilometres north of Oodla Wirra Railway Station. Doyle had a yarn with JWG Alford, another farmer, and together they went to see John Heithersay, who had done as much for the mining industry in the North East as perhaps any man in South Australia. After some lengthy discussions the trio formed a syndicate of fourteen shares of £12 each. They employed Frank Seymour and Alfred Huffa to do the initial digging and had David Rosewarne visiting their property.

When gold was discovered in the Buttamuck silver mine in 1889 much more interest was taken in the area. In 1891 another discovery was made at Nackara that caused even more excitement. As indications were very encouraging, it would no doubt entice men of capital. Two years later BA Heaslip, a farmer and grazier discovered gold while mustering stock. He talked about it while at Dawson and within a flash Archie Hooper and William McDonough had pegged out the Mount Grainger claim, about a kilometre south of the 562 metre high Mount Grainger.

They were later joined by Frank and Edward Savage. William Heithersay, Mayor of Petersburg, who was working as a machinist, found some gold on 12 January 1894. He registered a claim and was issued with lease no 457 on section 298 on 1 January 1895. In 1900 lease 457 was transferred to the Heather Bell Gold Mining Company.

During 1894 several claims were worked on the Nackara goldfield, about twelve kilometres north of the railway station and bordering the Mount Grainger field on the east. A number of shafts on this field showed good prospects. A syndicate from Jamestown had sunk a shaft of almost seventeen metres and was preparing to send eighteen tons of ore to be treated. William McDonough discovered a much better deposit at the Dawson goldfield or Cook’s Blow, to the west of Mount Grainger. Here McDonough and Robert Jones pegged out several reef claims and were granted lease no 427 on 4 October 1894.


Mount Grainger Goldfield

William McDonough, from Carrieton and one of the discoverers of the Mount Lyall mine in Tasmania, named the area the Mount Grainger field after a South Australian politician. Together with Jones and TB Heaslip they worked the mine of which a reporter said, ‘If this field proves to be a goldfield it will be a boon to the farmers as both crops and feed are almost a failure through want of rain’. Lack of rain and water in general would prove a major problem for the miners later on as well.

They then formed the Mount Grainger Gold Mining Syndicate to work it. The mine, on section 183 in the Hundred of Coglin, was inspected by David Rosewarne who reported very favourably on it. However it was not until the lease passed to the New Mount Grainger Gold Mines that some real progress was made. Heaslip discovered another reef at about the same time and both James McCarlin and C. Kyd applied for gold mining leases of twenty acres each. Although there were about thirty men working the field there was no water and only the richest ore was carried to the nearest waterhole for washing.

The field was inspected by James Villiers Parkes in December 1894 and while there he had a good look at the properties of the Medora Gold Mining Syndicate, the Medora Extended and the Orroroo Treasure Gold Mining Syndicate. He also looked at some of the claims held by David Rosewarne and Heaslip. At the end of his investigations he pronounced the field ‘a good show well worth vigorous development’. William McDonough in a letter to the editor urged the government to do much more for the gold mining industry. He suggested recalling HYL Brown from the Northern Territory and having him work ‘in the north of South Australia where there are miles upon miles of auriferous country which had never had a pick in it’. In September 1895 Brown did visit the field and reported on it.

At that time the Northern Territory was still administered by South Australia and costing its taxpayers thousands of Pounds each year. Revenue produced by the few thousand Territorians was minimal and the South Australian government hoped that gold mining in the Territory eventually would repay some of its expenditure. Gold was discovered at Paddy’s Rockhole, later known as Arltunga and Brown visited that field and many other places in 1890 and 1892.

At the nearby Ulooloo goldfield there were about seventy men at work and the number was expected to double as soon as a township was surveyed. In 1894 businessmen from Dawson had set up a number of stores hoping for some much needed customers and income. This discovery, it was said, would beyond all doubts have far reaching influence on South Australia and particularly Petersburg. More than sixty claims had been staked, most of twenty acres, and gold was freely found.


Miners on the field in the 1880s. (Courtesy SLSA)

Not everyone though seemed fully occupied with mining matters. C Butcher who lived on the Mount Grainger goldfield had plenty of time on his hands which he used to write regularly to different newspapers airing his views on such topics as votes for women, coloured labour, the effects on tea drinking, private enterprise vs government enterprise, education, religion, war, slavery and resources.

There was also enough time to organise a cricket match in February 1895 when teams from Oodla Wirra and Dawson were treated well by McDonough and Savage. In September McDonough, who still owned the reward claim at Mount Lyall, was on his way to Western Australia representing a syndicate of many leading citizens. Meanwhile about 1000 tons of gold bearing stone was stacked near the Mount Grainger mine waiting for treatment when a battery, and water, would be available.

In May 1896 a meeting was held in Adelaide to pass the Memoranda and Articles of Association and elect directors for the Mount Grainger Gold Mining Company. Within five months, Secretary John Melrose made the first call of one shilling to be paid at the office at Ulooloo Station. The Medora Gold Mining Company was incorporated on 29 September 1897 with Drew Williams as secretary. He made a first call of fifty shillings within a week. Not too many people objected as contractors, who were digging two shafts, had struck gold at a depth of just fifteen metres. Gold was showing freely and it was expected that they would dig at least another fifteen metres.

Ore was being bagged for the crushers at Petersburg and visitors to the mine were surprised at the size of the auriferous area. Three months after all this good news shareholders wondered, as so many others had done before them, what had gone wrong as the company went into liquidation. Once again the shareholders were the big losers. Still it did not perturb other prospectors to apply for gold leases near the mine. Albert E Morphett applied for three leases whereas A Bruce and GW Appleby applied for one each.

Further down from the main activity on the Mount Grainger field were the Oodlawirra Flux Quarries and Oodlawirra Flux Mines. The quarries owned 440 acres and had laid some sixty kilometres of tramway to facilitate the shipment of its ironstone to Dry Creek, Broken Hill and Port Pirie. When it was realised that the ironstone contained gold, the Oodlawirra Flux mines were started with John Heithersay, who had returned from a stay at the Coolgardie goldfield in Western Australia, as director. In May 1898 the Commissioner of Crown Lands and C Giles MP visited the mines. It was then suggested that if the tramline were continued to the Medora and Mount Grainger mines, there would be profitable employment for a large number of men.

Regardless of the starting, stopping, name changing, floating, government assistance, re-starting, closing or opening of new mines they did provide some benefits to the surrounding area. Miners, prospectors, teamsters and visitors had to be catered for. Additional hotels were built at Oodla Wirra and Petersburg. On 16 November the Mayor of Petersburg laid the foundation stone for the Federal Hotel. According to the Mayor the town had a great future and was more progressive than any other town in South Australia.

He went on to prophesise that when the flux and iron mines of Oodla Wirra and the Mount Grainger were floated into a large English company, they should be, in some manner, independent of the Barrier trade. It was even hoped that Petersburg would one day become the Federal Capital. A year later nine men were raising and bagging ore at Mount Grainger for carting to Oodla Wirra and trucking to the Petersburg Cyanide Works. Numerous new blocks had been pegged out and surveyed as well.

During 1899 there was a renewed activity on the field. William Heithersay discovered another gold deposit and wired the Commissioner of Crown Lands on 15 August to come and inspect it. Warden of Goldfields LCE Gee while on his way to Nackara was wired by J Duffield, secretary for the Minister of Mines, to peg out a claim for the Public Trustee. Gee was not at all impressed with the field and ignored the instruction. There was great excitement though at Petersburg after learning that forty ounces had been obtained from a sample sent down from Nackara. That same night a party of men left by train, followed by others in the morning, to peg out new claims.


They tried hard

They were joined by John Hill of Tarcowie and several other men who arrived a few days later to peg out even more claims. In October 1899 Thomas Watkins, farmer of Dawson, took out a Miner’s Right and applied for a twenty acre gold mining lease at Dawson. Other leases were taken out by Hurtle Glasson Heithersay, adjoining those of W Appleby and W Cummins, JJ Reynolds and George Chatfield of Wallaroo.

A month later the field was visited by a Chronicle newspaper reporter who wrote, 'Driving on to Mount Grainger, the first mine seen is the Medora, which adjoins Mount Grainger on the south, where I found a camp of miners, the usual bough sheds and tents and the only galvanized iron building on the field. Some prospectors were busy crushing stone in a mortar, and panning off with satisfactory results, from some new discovery in the vicinity. I had a look over and down the numerous workings on this mine, and was agreeably surprised to find such well-defined lodes and formations opened up, exposing large bodies of ore.

The Mount Grainger mine is held by a small syndicate, consisting of Messrs. Tennant, Shaw, Lewis, Hawker, Gordon and Heithersay, the latter being manager, under whose supervision nine men are working, principally in the main shaft, which is 150 ft in depth. The shaft is worked by a windlass and a horse-whim, from a poppet head, on the summit of Mount Grainger, which is about 250 ft. above the lowest ground at the base, and is one of the highest hills in the neighbourhood. A splendid view of the surrounding country is obtained from this point. The numerous hills covered with Mallee, pine, and other timber, the well grassed valleys, with the miners' tents and the many workings dotted over the country, the farm houses and crops to the north, making quite a picturesque scene.

The Heather Bell adjoins Mount Grainger on the north-east, where miners are sinking a shaft 6x4, the present depth being 84 ft. This is owned by W Heithersay and Reece, of Kapunda. Other claims are being prospected north-east of this. About three miles to the west of Mount Grainger is a new find, named The Dusthole, situated on the eastern slope of a large slaty hill. From a shaft being sunk four tons of ore left the mine on 8 November for Petersburg. Assays taken from this mine gave a return of 6 oz. per ton. Several other claims are being prospected on the country surrounding Mount Grainger over a large area, which appears to be a network of reefs and veins, all more or less auriferous. The owners make satisfactory wages, several having been working on the field for some years.

On the south of the Medora mine is Medora South, held by JCF Johnson and party, where the miners employed have opened up some large formations, all of which appear to be auriferous. Joining this on the west is a claim held by James Watkins, and to judge from surface indications this should give results equal to any on the field. There are at present between 40 and 50 men on the Mount Grainger field who seem sanguine of its future success. Many of them have been there from six to eight years, and they seem an industrious, hard-working, and intelligent lot of men. The want of water on the ground is a great drawback, but hopes are entertained that a water shaft will be put down shortly to a depth of between 100 and 200 ft where a good supply can be obtained.'

In January 1900 John Heithersay took Premier Holder on an inspection tour of the field and showed him the Mount Grainger mine which had been sunk to a depth of 170 feet and had several drives extending from it. The Premier was much impressed. A few months later the New Mount Grainger gold mine was floated. It’s prospectus stated, This Company is being formed for, the purpose of acquiring the Vendor Syndicate’s interests in, and working, developing, and otherwise dealing with those valuable leasehold lands containing 52 acres or thereabouts, comprising blocks numbered 296, 297, and 699, situated in the Hundred of Coglin, in South Australia, about seven miles due north of the Oodla Wirra Railway Station, and about 25 miles N.E. of Petersburg. The property is known as the Mount Grainger Gold Mine, and is held under Crown Gold Leases Nos. 427, 437, and 473.

It is also proposed to acquire from the said Syndicate, and use or deal with, as may be thought fit, about 2,000 acres of leasehold land in the immediate vicinity of the gold leases, as indicated in the plan accompanying this Prospectus. This land is held under Crown Right of Purchase Leases No. 3267 (1,176 acres), No. 7272 (367 acres), and Perpetual Lease No. 2767 (460 acres) and will be valuable to the Company as ensuring a good supply of timber and fuel for the mine for many years.

The Vendor Syndicate also agree to provide at their own cost a complete winding and hauling plant, with suitable attachments to meet all present requirements for the working of the mine. This plant is detailed in the agreement for the sale of the property. The Vendor Syndicate have proved the property to contain a large gold-bearing lode which, as shown by the results obtained from the parcels treated at the Petersburg Government Cyanide Works, can be made highly payable if developed and treated in a systematic manner.

The appended Reports of Captain W Matthews, the Government Mining Inspector, and Henry Jones, late Manager of the Kalgurli Gold Mines, Limited, of Kalgoorlie, WA, give details of the large amount of work accomplished by the Vendor Syndicate, and the results already obtained from parcels of ore treated at the Petersburg Government Cyanide Works, viz 398 tons for 175 ozs 10 dwts. This result Captain Matthews says can only be regarded as very satisfactory.


Some shafts went down more than 100 metres

The Company may be considered formed when 10,000 shares are applied for. The shares will be allotted by the provisional Directors, on such basis as they shall think fit. After allotment of shares a meeting will be convened to pass Memorandum and Articles of Association, elect Directors, and transact any other necessary business. Prospectuses and forms of application may be had from the secretary or the Brokers. Adelaide, May 23rd, 1900.

However by the start of 1900 no deep sinking had been attempted and no machinery had arrived on the field yet but the New Mount Grainger Company had already spent nearly £2000. When the Mount Grainger Gold Mines Ltd. was floated, 60,000 shares of £1 each were issued. Thirty thousand shares plus £5000 would be paid to the vendors of the Mount Grainger mine, with the remaining for development. Even if all shares were sold, which was highly unlikely, it would leave precious little money left for the development of the property. Directors for the mine were the Hon Andrew Tennant, MLC, the Hon John Lewis, MLC, EW Hawker, HM Hawkes and James Melrose. John A Ring became secretary.

In March 1900 the field was visited by James Shaw, ex-Mayor of Adelaide, who had just returned from a three months’ visit to New Zealand. His opinion was that the deeper the lodes the more defined they became. He would visit the field regularly every two weeks.

On Saturday 9 June 1900 the Kalgoorlie Miner published the following article on the Mount Grainger mine. ‘There is a curious connection between the Mount Lyell and the Mount Grainger mines. McDonough, who, with his brother, discovered that big Tasmanian copper proposition, and who sold his share for a few pounds to Tames Crotty, had a hand in the early testing of Mount Grainger, the promising gold show which lies about seven miles north of Oodla Wirra, and 25 miles north-east of Petersburg.

This country was first worked for silver, and when gold was found there in 1893. McDonough went out and pegged the Mount Grainger property. After considerable prospecting, he induced the Messrs Savage to join him. Subsequently A Ferry took a share and when more working capital was required, Messrs J Melrose and A Murray joined the syndicate. They had a satisfactory result from a trial at the Mount Torrens works, but as more working capital was not forthcoming the lease returned to the Savages, who turned it over to EW Hawker.

John Heithersay, who had much mining experience, both in the district and Western Australia, was convinced the Mount Grainger was well worth re-opening, and Mr Hawker offering him a half share to take it up, he did so, and formed a syndicate, which included Messrs A Tennant and John Lewis, MLCs, James Shaw, J Gordon, SM and FEW Hawker. The syndicate, under Heithersay’s capable direction, immediately commenced to prove the property at a deeper level and with very promising results.

The workings show a big formation, varying from 20ft to 32ft wide, and its gold bearing quality is proved by 398 tons, treated at the Petersburg Government mill, giving 175 oz 10 dwt, the average being 8 dwt 20 gr. The average speculator may not regard 9 dwt as a very attractive proposition, but when the big body of gold carrying ore at Mount Grainger is considered, it must be acknowledged as satisfactory, and, providing the mine can maintain that, profits would result.

The ore is easily and cheaply broken, so that from 5 dwt to 6 dwt should cover all expenses. The formation is siliceous kaolin, with ironstone veins running through it and it is so pliable that it can be easily crushed in the fingers to a powder. The Mount Grainger has the main leases on the hill, all on the formation, which has been proved, in various workings, to carry its full width right through. After exposing the lode in a trench, an irregular underlie shaft was carried down 75ft and the body tested by crosscuts.

The present syndicate sunk a main shaft to 150ft and at this depth drove across the body, proving it to be 28ft thick, with gold all the way. Some few feet in the south drive, a winze was dropped 70ft and carrying down good ore, disclosed the body at a depth of 220ft to be wider than in the level above. A good crushing was got from this depth. WH Matthews, the Government Inspector of Mines, who inspected the property and thinks well of it, noted a change in the character of the material at this depth, boulders and blocks of intrusive rocks, with small quartz and iron seams running through the joints.

Some of these seams are very rich in gold, and he expresses the opinion that at a greater depth the intrusive rocks will probably disappear, leaving the ore body as it appears at 150ft. Last week A Tennant, Lewis, Heithersay and others went over the mine. Very little driving has been done on the body, the owners having confined themselves to the more important point of showing that the lode, with all its thickness, has a good living capacity, as it gets deeper. But from the strength of the outcrop, there should be no doubt as to its extending over the three blocks.

The gold seems to be well disseminated through the formation, and there was no difficulty in getting promising prospects from either the bagged ore or the stuff on the clump. The prospects as shown in the workings are very encouraging. Besides the main body there are parallel formations that deserve attention, and no doubt, when the property is properly equipped with a main shaft and up-to-date plant, the more extensive work will be undertaken. The syndicate has a fair tonnage of bagged ore on hand and is busy getting another crushing out.

The millings obtained were from stone broken in all parts of the mine and the returns, therefore, are good evidence of general distribution of the gold. Henry Jones, the ex-manager of the Kalgurli mine at Kalgoorlie, who has visited the Mount Grainger, says the formation reminds him very much of the big WA lodes, which have turned out so well when opened up. He has not the slightest hesitation in declaring that if the mine is supplied with a mill and concentrating plant, it could be made one of the best paying concerns in South Australia.

Further he says, Taking into consideration the size of the lode, which is easy to work I do not think the expenses of mining, including everything, to getting the gold into bars would amount to more than 5 to 6 dwt to the ton. Preparations are now being made to sink a new main shaft, which will give a good command of the lode at depth. So as to provide more working capital the mine is being floated into a £60,000 company, the vendors taking 30,000 paid-up shares for their interest and £5000 cash out of the money subscribed. Under the sale the vendors agree to provide a complete winding plant to work the shaft.

The Medora, to the south, has the continuation of the Mount Grainger lode and several shows to the north are developing cheerful prospects. Timber is very plentiful about Mount Grainger and every facility for cheap working’. One wonders how many South Australians got to read this article, or if they had, what they thought of it.

Part II

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