Gippsland Goldfield reports

Extracts from Police Reports on early
Gipps' Land Goldfields

This page has been compiled by Claire Wood.


From the mid 1850s, Mounted Police Constables based at the Traralgon Police Station in the Gipps' Land Police District visited and reported on the goldfields in the vicinity of Russell Creek/Tangil River and Crossover on a regular basis. These fields were significantly smaller than the nearby Walhalla.

These Police reports, mainly written by Mounted Constables John O'Connor and William Smythe, were reprinted in an unpublished typescript The Story of Traralgon.

The fields were in the mountain country of Gippsland. Access for men and supplies was difficult.

Extracts from Reports

2 June 1856. Superintendant Slade, Alberton
"...although gold is found in Gipps' Land and in one locality, viz. in the neighbourhood of the Nicholson River... there are but few persons engaged in the pursuit of mining...seldom more than 20. I do not here refer to Omeo [which was in the Police district of Ovens, not Gipps' Land]...It may be found necessary to increase the force, as it is believed by many that rich gold fields, as well as Iron and Gold, will eventually be brought to light in the Mountain ranges which extend throughout the whole length of Gipp's Land."

7 October 1859. Mounted Constable Feely, Alberton Police Station
"Mounted Constable Feely 8/M reports that ...on the 29th, [he] arrived at the Ranges near the Baw Baw about 12 miles from the 'Moi' in a  N. E. direction where he came up with a Creek (called the Tangil Creek) where he found 27 diggers who were busily employed washing gold in various forms - and all seemed successful in obtaining gold... all appeared satisfied that there was every probability of a good gold field turning out, and that the only drawback at present, existing was the very scarce supply of provisions, but they expected that would be remedied in a few days, there being drays on the road with provisions (in Route to the diggings) from Port Albert)

Constable Feely also reports that his horse bogged in the Mawwell river, that he was compelled to dismount and swim to the bank, And upon the horse extricating himself the Constable found the horse had cast the near fore shoe & was slightly steaked. The Constables regulation crupper & the saddle staple also lost - owing to the horse plunging so violently.

Constable Feely further reports that when returning from the diggings his horse knocked up & was compelled to leave him behind in a paddock at Rosedale - and come on with a horse he borrowed from Mr. Rawley of that place."

20 March 1860
"Mtd Const. Edward Reilly M16 reports having proceeded from Sale Station on 15th Inst to the Baw Baw or Good Hope diggings on the Melbourne Road about 80 miles from Sale for the purpose of serving summonses and making inquiries relative to the gold fields in that locality. Having provided himself at the Moie with oats for his horse, he remained there all night on the Diggings visiting all parties residing there, and seen Mr. Gladman who had just returned with a party of six men who [were] prospecting for about a week. Mr. Gladman states that they found gold everywhere they tried, but not in payable quantities.

It appears that Good Hope Creek is a continuation of Bull Beef Creek which runs east and west for about 30 miles. The ranges on both sides of the creek are steep, but the height cannot readily be ascertained from the quantity of timber growing there. On the bed of the creek which is about seven feet in many places is intercepted by large rocks meeting in the center…

[He saw] about 30 men washing and creakling, and about 20 more looking on, seeming not inclined to work. Those that were at work stated that they were doing very well. Englishes party, 3 men, shewed him about one ozis. of gold as there days work. Elliots party shewed him there week's collection of gold about 3 ozis. - all very handsome samples. A number of the diggers came from Melbourne, but all returned with the exception of four that is remaining. All other men that are working at Good Hope Creek are Gippslanders."

This report is endorsed by Edward Slade, Superintendent of Police, Alberton : "A number of persons left this neighbourhood about 12 days since for the Baw Baw, but they have all returned, giving a poor account of the productiveness of the field."

20 November 1860
"Md Constable O'Connor M4 reports for the information of the Superintendent that on the 14th inst. He proceeded to Pheasant Creek to post notices relative to a disputed claim. On arriving at the First Creek where the sinking commences, which is about 4 miles S.W. of Pheasant Creek, Constable O'Connor found about 75 men at work - all of whom appeared to be make a living. Sluicing is the principal work on this creek and the dirt only runs in small patches. Const O'Connor then proceeded to Pheasant Creek where he posted the notices... On arrival at these digging, there appeared to be about 100 men all of who appeared to be doing well.

This creek is 4 miles north of Hawthorne Creek and appears to be the most likely of the two for a permanent goldfield. As the country for miles round possesses all those remarkable features indicative of rich alluvial gold workings...A large portion of the banks of the Creek is worked out. The gold seems to exist more on the banks of the creek than on the ranges or flats. The men appear to be very confident of doing well if rations are supplied to them at a reasonable figure.

Drinking, gambling and fighting prevailed during the past few weeks, and several of the Diggers have left through intimidation. There was a report current that a man had been shot, but Const. O'Connor found the report to have been false.  Const. returned to the Station and arrived on the 19th inst. at 6pm.

31 December 1860
"Md Constable O'Connor M4 reports for the information of the Superintendent that fresh parties are now almost daily leaving the 'Pheasant Creek' Gold Fields. There was a report current in this locality of some new ground being opened by a party of miners from the 'Snowy River'. But by the accounts today, this report is contradicted and also the rumors of a large nugget having being found is quite unauthenticated. Bennett's Track is now the nearet route. But it has a great drawback in not having a bridge over the Latrobe at the "Moe".

There is scarcely any traffic at present opened up between this district and the diggings, all the supplies nearly come from "Melbourne" or Dandenong."

28 January 1861
"Md Constable O'Connor M4 reports for the information of the Superintendent that the Pheasant and Hawthorne Creek diggings are still working, though in reality the quantity which they yield would not encourage the diggers to go on; but they still hold out in the hopes of some new ground being opened up.

Constable O'Connor has seen many of the Diggers and they are universally of the opinion that it cannot last more than a month from the present time. There was some talk of a company about to bring machinery to work a quartz reef, but no reliance is to be placed on this rumor as there is but one reef exists in the vicinity of the diggings, and that is reported to be barren.

The digging population now on both Creeks does not amount to more than 50 to 60 persons. The Baw Baw is still working and is now being thoroughly prospected by about 25 men. McCrea's Party are now left as a parliamentry inquiry is about to be instituted relative to their former claims at 'Pheasant Creek', and the men have received notice to appear in 'Melbourne' on an early date. A good many of the diggers from Pheasant Creek have passed here to day 'en route' for 'Boggy Creek' and the 'Dargo'."

18th February 1861
"Md Constable O'Connor M4 reports for the information of the Superintendent that the the diggings in this locality are still progressing, though the increase of population is scarcely perceptable during the past two months. The Middle Creek is now the most important gold working in this locality. It is on the New track between the Moe and Pheasant Creek. There are now about 60 miners at work there and they appear satisfied with its yield. Only about 10 persons at present working on 'Pheasant' and Hawthorne Creeks', and men there seem to make wages.

Another creek of less importance called 'Specimen' has been prospected and some gold obtained therefrom. At the Baw Baw, no new ground has been opened up, but the population there is very small and migratory. Elliotts party are prospecting all through those ranges and are now advancing towards the head of the Tangil and some new rushes are expected toward the end of the present month."

21 March 1861
"Md Constable O'Connor M4 reports for the information of the Superintendent that on Friday the 15th inst, he proceeeded to tne new rush situated about 15 miles easterly from Pheasant Creek, and empties itself into the North Tangil River about 20 miles north of the junction. Sluicing is principally carried on, and the population at present consists of about 30 diggers.

A much greater number would go there but for the inaccessibilty of the place, as none but those well acquainted with the locality would venture into the scrubs without a track or some means of guidance. The road to the Good Hope or Baw Baw diggings (which is now quite deserted) leads to within about 16 miles of it, but for the remaining distance there is no track or other indication of the gold field to which a good road might be made on one of the dividing ranges.

Those of the miners who have commenced work seem to feel satisfied with their prospects. One party has obtained 4 ounces of gold in 5 days, and a nugget of 11 dwt. has been found at 2 feet sinking in the bed of the Creek. And many are impressed with an idea that there is an auriferous country extending for miles through the interior of these mountains; and this new arm of the Tangil if it was turned and worked, it would afford employment for 1000 diggers for some years to come.

'Pheasant' and 'Hawthorne' creeks are now quite deserted, but the Middle Creek is still being worked by about 60 men, and in general good wages is obtained.

The miners speak of a scarcity of provisions for which they would pay any price."

3 May 1861 Edward Slade, Superintendent, Alberton
"..on the 27th & 28th ultimo, I visited a portion of what are called the 'Baw Baw' goldfields; the creeks which I visited are known as the 'Middle Creek', and 'Russel's Creek'. There are several other Creeks within various distances, from 15, to 25 miles, at which a few men are at work, all with more or less success. The bulk of the miners are however at present located at 'Russel's', which has a course of some 12 or 15 miles, about six of which are taken up by some 150 men.

The system of working adopted is that of sluicing the river bed, the drift of which is composed of schistoze slate & quartz, veins of quartz running across the creek:- the soil of the surrounding hills is composed of red earth, masses of schist appearing in places on the slopes, but no quartz is visible, although the miners in general believe some rich quartz reefs must exist in the vicinity of all these Creeks.

The distance of 'Russel's' Creek from 'Port Albert', - the present port of entry, - is about 100 miles, proceeding by Melbourne road 80 miles to the 'Moe', where the La Trobe river has to be crossed, by swimming horses & bullocks, dragging the drays over by ropes, & carrying the loading across a log, which, however, is frequently under water, when there is no alternative for travellers but to wait the falling of the river.

From this crossing, 'Russel's' Creek is distant about 20 miles, by a leading spur of easy ascent; this creek empies itself into the Tangil, a tributary of the 'La Trobe', from 'Russel's' to 'Middle' Creek is about 4 miles, but this latter is nearly worked out, only some 16 persons remaining on it;  the other Creeks which have already been proved to be auriferous, are 'Pheasant', 'Hawthorne', 'Wombat' and 'Bull Beef' Creeks, on each of which some parties are at work.

And the more intelligent miners, some of who have prospected considerable portions of the surrounding district, are impressed with the idea that the whole of the rivers and creeks in these ranges, running north and south, will prove to be remunerative to energetic miners."

26 September 1863
"Md Constable O'Connor 1385 reports for the information of the Superintendent that he proceeded to Russells Creek on the 23rd inst on patrol duty.

Mining operations have been checked by the recent wet weather, but now some claims are again preparing to work. Some of the miners have been compelled to leave the Thompson, but are expected to return with the approaching fine weather.

A new gully has been discovered and is yielding payable gold. It is situated 2 miles N E from Pheasant Creek and about 14 miles N W from Russells. Those engaged in working upon it are making from one to two ounces per man per week, but the ground [is not] of sufficient extent to admit more than about 30 claims. But the ranges above are highly auriferous.

Another discovery has been made [which if successful] cannot fail to make this, one of the most likely parts of the district to be occupied by a population. A man named George Matthews who has been prospecting some time has succeeded in finding payable at (12) twelve feet from the surface on a flat part of the range between Russells Creek and the Tangil equidistant 2 miles. He washed some out of the lead and it yielded four penny weights to the dish. This is the first successful dry sinking which has been found in this locality.

There has also been some circumstances which has somewhat altered the position of affairs at Russells and its immediate branches. A prospector sallied forth from Stringers Creek in search of quartz reefs about a week ago and pursuing his way in a due westerly direction on a range that led nearly in that course. After about 7 hours travelling, he found himself at 'Russells Creek', and told the inhabitants the distance was only 20 miles from there to Stringers. And it is surmised that the greater number of Diggers passing to and from Melbourne to the above goldfield will adopt this route, as the distance between it and Melbourne would not be more than 120 miles. A subscription list has been set on foot for the raising of the necessary funds to clear a track via Mrs. Bowmans or the Bunyip which will communicate with Hughes Track to the Jordan, somewhere beyond the head of the Tarwin.

The Tangil has been so much flooded lately that working was quite impossible, but a few claims in the banks still hold out. No doubt this will attract a population from those creeks in the district where scarcity of water is felt in the summer season.

The population of Russells and the adjacent workings does not not exceed 100. And they are a very peaceable and orderly set of men."

22 October 1863
"...that a quartz reef has just been discovered in the vicinity of Pheasant Creek situated about 14 miles N W from Russells. The reef was discovered some few days ago by two men named Hasset & Doyle, and the stone is ...exceedingly rich. In fact, gold is everywhere visible to the naked eye in the stone recently taken, from one or two feet from the surface.

The above named men found it by accident while working a claim in an adjacent gully... sums varying from 50 to 100 have been offered for shares in the prospecting claim. The reef is supposed to extend for several miles through the mountains. And there is no doubt of the existence of other reefs (equally rich) in this locally."

This report is endorsed by Inspector Slade of Sale Police :"Pheasant Creek was one of the earliest of the Creeks opened on what has subsequently become known as the Baw Baw Goldfields, & no doubt the whole of that country is, equally with the Jordan, permeated with oriferous reefs"

1 Nov 1863
"...proceeded to Pheasant Creek on the 27th ult. on patrol duty. The Quartz reef referred to on report of 23rd ult has turned out to have only been a leader, which they have not succeeded in tracing to the main reef.

At Russells Creek and the Tangil, the claims near the banks are innundated and work is all but suspended until the floods go down. The dry sinking is not sufficiently developed to judge of its permanency as the sinking is considerably retarded by rain. One of the claims on the gutter has yielded one ounze to the tub of wash dirt, and its best feature seems to be, that the banks are sound and do not require slabbing.

The population is very much scattered through the ranges and gullies, and all appear to be doing well.

Another reef is being sunk for, near the junction of this creek with the Tangil. The reef was discovered some two years ago by Fulton and Party, but abandoned through want of means to get machinery.

The roads are exceedingly bad, and in many places almost impassable - from the constant flow of water through small channels, which now assume the appearance of deep trenches across the road, rendering it impracticable for drays to cross over without bridging or unloading . No report of crime has been received. Returned to the station on the 31st."

3 November 1863
Letter to Constable O'Connor from Russels Creek dated 3rd Nov 1863...we struck payable gold in the prospecting claim on the Shamrock reef, Russells creek..."

5 November 1863
"...M C O'Connor 1385 begs to forward the attached letter for the information of the superintendent. The letter refers to the reef mentioned in the reef on the 1st inst as not having being fully discovered. And this is no doubt the main reef. As persons of experience assert a rush has taken place and the ground where the reef is supposed to be situated, is occupied for a distance of 3 miles.

Constable O'Connor has since been shown two pieces of the stone, and from its appearance, judges its to be very rich. It is not pure quartz but a mixture of burnt slate and quartz intersperced with a brown coloured grit resembling sandstone. And when broken, gold is visible in many parts of it. The prospectors are out searching for another supposed to exist in the vicinity."

15 February 1864
"Md Constable O'Connor 1385 reports for the information of the Superintendent that he proceeded to the Baw Baw Gold fields on the 11th inst on patrol duty. The yield of gold from the various creeks and gullies in that locality still continues to give general satisfaction.

Russells Creek still continues to be the centre or business portion, being the farthest point to which drays can travel in that direction. From there tracks branch off to 'Tangil', 'Camp Creek', Pheasant' and Hawthorne Creeks'.

'Russells creek and 'German gully' hitherto the scene of busy industry are now almost totally deserted, with the exception of a few persons engaged in working in the banks or paddocking the faces of the hills.

Camp Creek situated about 5 miles SW from Russells, although abandoned three times and as often successfully worked again, still seems to possess attractions for a few more perservering operatives, who doubtless meet with the well earned recompense their industry and enterprise so well merit.

'Hawthorne', situated about 15 miles westerly from 'Camp Creek', like the latter, has at times been almost deserted, but now taken up along the banks for about two miles and not without success - as the men engaged there earn from one to three pounds per week per man. But there are isolated cases in which men do not succeed even with ordinary perserverence. ...

The Quartz reef recently discovered at 'Pheasant creek is still being prospected and the public are anxiously awaiting the result. A second shaft has gone down, and is now a depth of 80 feet from the surface. And have not yet bottomed the strata of earth loam and rock are of the usual description. But the bottom of the shaft seems to be composed of sandstone with veins of Quartz of about one inch in thickness running through it, and the reefers expect in a short time to come upon a well defined bed of stone.

Prospecting is carried on vigorously but on account of the density of the scrub and the almost inaccessible nature of the ground, they can at best but make make very little progress. Gold has been discovered in a creek towards that part of the range from which the Yarra Yarra and the Latrobe take their rise. But it is only in the winter months, it can be worked successfully through a scarcity of water.

Another discovery of payable gold has been made by Messrs Geraghty, Stewart, Ellis & Hopwood in the Tangil river about 10 miles south of the "Russells'. The mode of working is by putting a dam at one side of the River which forms two channels with an island in the centre, which leaves one side almost dry and throws water into the eastern channel.

Near this point there is a bend of the river which can be easily turned by cutting a race through the centre - which only involves a trifling cost, and would leave about one mile of the bed of the river open for operations. These flats which exist on each side of the Tangil are no doubt highly auriferous.

The discoverers have gone to considerable expense and the prospects obtained are very satisfactory. If a favourable summer had set in, a large population would in all probability have settled on this river as its richness has been tested during the past six months. The above prospectors also report the discovery of a Quartz reef in the vicinity of their claim, but state they are not in a position to make their discovery known.

Another important discovery has been made by a miner named Gathergood. He reports the discovery of a splendid reef, about seven miles south of Russell's creek. He has shown to the Constable a portion of the stone detached from the reef, and gold seems abundantly scattered throughout. He has also found near the reef a large piece of flat gold (about three ounces) evidently melted there from volcanic agency. There seems every expectation of a large population being induced to settle in this neighbourhood, should these discoveries be of a permanent character. There are no reports of crime, and all seem to appreciate the protection afforded to them by the Police authorities.

A short cut has been found by Mr. Gadd, Postmaster, of Russells Creek which reduces the distance to the 'Moe' to seventeen miles. It saves a good deal of time and, if cleared and cut, would prove a great convenience to those persons passing to and fro.

The track between Russells Creek and Stringers has been traversed several times, and is within an easy days ride to and from Stringers; but the present position of the bridge about to be put over the Thompson will entail a round of about six miles. The line will soon be blazed to the Thompson and Constable O'Connor will proceed to ascertain the distance more accurately and report upon the accessibility of the track.

A new track to Jericho by a western spur of Baw Baw if completed would open up communication for pack horses and foot men, and bring Melbourne within a much shorter distance."

10 June 1864
"Md Constable O'Connor 1385 reports for the information of the Superintendent that he proceeded to Russells Creek on the 5th inst on patrol duty. The yield of gold has fallen off considerably, probably through want of water to wash up, but, as the rainy season sets in this want will be fully supplied.

A case of assault was reported to the Const. by a man named Mathews who stated that another miner named German Harry had struck him with an axe in the fleshy part of the arm, and then absconded from the creek. On enquiry, the constable has ascertained that this assault has originated in a drunken quarrel. Mathews declines to prosecute.

The population seems to be at a stand still as few arrivals or departures appears to have taken place, with the exception of a prospecting party from Woods Point who are searching for a reef in the vicinity of Pheasant Creek, and are stated to have found good prospects in the shape of rich specimens in a creek north of Pheasant Creek, which abounds in Quartz bowlers and other evidences of the existence of a quartz reef in the locality.

A rumour has been reached to day that the reef has been struck, but so many false alarms have been given on the subject, that few are inclined to believe it.

The roads are in very good order at this season of the year, but the bridges are in an almost impassable state. The Morwell bridge is now a sort of mantrap which few approach without fear of being swamped. , and few cross over without cause to remember it. A gentleman nearly got drowned on Friday (in taking the river ford which is always swimable in winter and very boggy in summer). He held onto an overhanging bough until a bullock driver came to his rescue.

The publicans on the diggings are about to give up their licences as they say they cannot pay them to keep on where so little money is in circulation."

8 September 1864
"Md Constable O'Connor 1385 reports for the information of the Superintendent that a Quartz reef is reported to have been found near the Red Hill, Melbourne Road halfway between Shady Creek and the Tarwin. The constable visited the spot, and saw some of the stone, but no gold was visible, even with the aid of a microscope. Large quartz boulders exist in abundance, and the country round the 'Red Hill' has been prounced auriferous by the Gov. Geologist. As it will take months to test the quality of this reef, no definite opinion as to its importance can be arrived at. No alluvial diggings exist there. The discoverers are Bielby and Party."

The report is endorsed by Superintendent Slade " for the information of the Chief Commissioner.- I cannot attach much importance to this discovery:- particularly as coming from Mr. Wood Beilby."

18 October 1864
"Md Constable O'Connor 1385 reports for the information of the Superintendent that he proceeded to the new rush at Crossover Creek near Red Hill on the 13th inst. It is only two miles from the Melbourne road, and the track turns off at two places, namely the 'Red Hill' and 'McRae's old track', which is well beaten and accessible to pack horses.

The discoverers and prospectors of this creek are Messrs. Traverse, Hill, Williams, and Lancaster; & several prospects taken from their claim, and other adjoining, yielded from eight grains to half a pennyweight to the dish, and a similar amount was taken from a dry gully running at right angles from the creek which proves the existence of gold, in, and at a distance from the banks of the creek.

The gold is coarse and not waterworn which would seem to indicate that it has not long being exposed to the actions of the latter element, and small portions of quartz stone has been found adhering to the gold, and persons of experience affirm that valuable reefs exist in the locality.

The population consisted of about 50 miners which has no doubt considerably increased within these past few days and from the nature of the ground and its probable richness, a large population is expected principally from old & worn out creeks adjoining. Disputes about boundaries & the amount of ground which a party could legally hold seem to be the order of the day, but an old book containing the Beechworth District Mining Laws has settled these differences.

The goods are taken from Dandenong by pack horses, which will cause the price of rations to be cheaper than if they were taken from Gippsland, and it is possible that within a very short time stores will be established and a township formed at the Red Hill.

Police protection will also be indispensible, should the rush be of a permanent character as this station is too distant to afford material assistance in maintaining good order, and in detecting and preventing crime.

The Rush is 80 miles distant from Sale and the same distance from Melbourne, but the road is in an almost impassible state. Horses have during the past week been hopelessly swamped at one or two places, but with ordinary care it could have been avoided. No reports of crime or complaints of any description have been met with, and all appear contented and as happy as they could be under existing circumstances, i.e. rain, cold weather, & short rations. The creek was flooded when the Constable left there, & all hands were idle on that account; but not withstanding stoppages from wet weather, floods &c, the prospectors averaged one pound per day per man.

There are two claims taken up at the Red Hill Creek by a Mr. Beilby and party, but without any visible result. The Quartz reefs, referred to in a former report as having being found there, have not yet been opened up but there is every reason to hope that the prophecy of the Govt. Geologist would be fulfilled, that a large and payable gold field would be discovered near this spot.

1 November 1864  Russell's Creek,
Letter from Charles Gadd (Storekeeper) to the Police Superintendant at Sale:
"I beg to inform you that we have now an increase in our population of Eight Chinaman, & they are well satisfied with the prospects in this locality. Therefore they are sending for more of their countrymen, one hundred of whom are expected here shortly"

My reason for giving you this information is this, 'viz' that in consequence of the fresh arrivals, I think it is desireable to have a policeman stationed here at Russells Creek.

Hitherto our population has been very quier & orderly, but the old prejudice still remains against the Celestials & the presence of a Trooper would be a welcome check, & go very far towards our maintaining the character of a peaceable neighbourhood..."

17 November 1864
"Md Constable O'Connor 1385 reports for the information of the Superintendent that he proceeded to Russells Creek on the 11th inst to ascertain the necessity for police protection. And from inquiries and having visited the various creeks and gullies in the locality has observed no change in population, which is scattered within a radius of 30 miles. Six chinese arrived at Russells creek about three weeks ago but they immediately left, on being told there was no police camp. Mr Gadd must have been anticipated the arrival of large numbers of Chinese, but at present there are none on the ground.

A police station would certainly be a boon to the inhabitants who are generally anxious that one should be established there. But there are no complaints of crime or any feeling of insecurity of life or property. As the people are generally scattered over a large extent of country and are generally well conducted. They live on peacable terms with each other. The population inclusive of Red Hill & Pheasant Creek amounts to 270 souls but as the gold is thinly scattered over the surrounding country, it varies at 100 upwards at different times of the year.

18 November 1864
"Md Constable O'Connor 1385 reports for the information of the Superintendent that he proceeded to the New Rush (Red Hill) on the 15th inst. and found that the majority of the population had left, and only six of the claims from which payable gold was obtained and that there is a great scarcity of water; so that in another week or two, operations will be altogether suspended, unless a quantity of rainfalls, and no further discoveries have been made by the prospecting parties who have been out.

The population now amounts to about 50 persons, and it is highly probable that many of these will have left before the end of the present month. No further progress has been made in the quartz reef, but men are still employed there. The reef is situated about two miles south of the alluvial workings. And the appearance of the gold at the latter is of coarse description called reef gold. Some rich reefs may exist in the locality, but not have as yet been discovered.

Provisions, stores &c are brought from Melbourne by dray to within 20 miles of the Red hill, and is conveyed thence by pack horse over a good mountain track.

A man who has been lost in the bush for several days, returned to the camp on the 13th inst in a very exhausted condition, not having tasted food for five days. He is now favourably progressing."

21 January 1865
"W.O. B. Smythe respectfully reports for the information of Mr. Superintendent Slade that he visited on the 17th Inst the new rush at Hardup Creek which is situated seven miles by horse track from Russells Creek and 10 miles from Melbourne road between the Moe and Shady Creek.

This Creek was prospected some four years ago but with little or no result. The present workings are confined to about three miles of the bed of the creek about midway from either end. The miners generally speaking are of the opinion that no payable ground is to be had towards the head of the Creek.

The washdirt is confined to a gutter about six feet wide varying in depth from 6 inches at sides to 2 feet in centre. The depth of strip or surface soil is trifleing being little more than 5 or 6 inches and is composed of fine loose sand. The washdirt is similiar to that from all other Creeks in the neighbourhood viz. Quartz and sandstone with slate and sand stone bed rock.

The population amounts to about 30 which are divided into some 15 parties, some four of which are washing about one ounze per week per man, The rest are not doing so well - some of them being unable to obtain the price of their daily requirements.

These is a great scarcity of water and the miners generally [complain] of the patchy nature of the ground. In the Const.'s opinion, the men at present engaged would be sufficient with an adequate supply of water to work the Creek out in about three months.

There are about 50 other creeks within a radius of 20 miles taking Russel's Creek as centre - a list of those at those at present occupied , their population extent and ultimate termination is attached.

The population is as closely estimated as the migratory disposition on Miners will allow :

  Name of creek


  Extent in miles


 Russels Creek




























 Blind Bob's
















 German Gully



Russels Creek

















 Tangil River




 Red Hill



Shady Creek




Red Hill













Average depth of sinking 6 feet varying from 2 to 10 feet, Quartz and sandstone wash with slate and sandstone red rock

30 April 1865
"...on the 25 inst. visit the Crossover goldfields in which there is no alteration from last month, with the exception of a quartz reef having being found on the east side of the Crossover Creek. It runs due north & south. There are five claims north of the Prospectors and ten south taken up. Nome of the claim holders have as yet struck the reef, although there is one claim (No. 2 North) belonging to a party named Leach sunk to a depth of 50 feet; and another (No.7 South) belonging to a man named Ellis) sunk to a depth of 20 feet.

In each of those claims, the leaders are equally as promising as in the Prospectors. All the men appear very sanguine of striking a rich reef. The sinking is through slate rock. The gold can be distintly seen in the leaders. The alluvial miners have but one complaint - the want of water. There has been four (4) pudling machines erected, but as they had only just commenced work they could not give me any indication as to yeild.

In response to a query on the location of Crossover Creek, Mounted Constable Smythe responded : "Crossover Creek is but another name for the Red Hill or Shady Creek diggings. The Crossover being the name of the Creek on which the diggings are situated. The distance from the Traralgon Police Station is about 47 miles. The population is between 50 and 60 men and 9 women."

24 May 1865
"The digger have an abundant supply of water, the want of which so much retarded their labours during the summer and all are satisfied with the yeald. The worst claims are paying expenses while on the other hand some are yealding from 5 to 10 per week per man, but these are, of course, the exception.

The Quartz claims are progressing but slowly, the Prospectors & No. 1 south being the only ones at work. The latter is the deepest on the reef being sunk to the depth of 60 feet. The reason the other claims are not being worked is that the leaders have run out in the two deepest claim viz. the Prospectors & No. 1 south, in which however although the leaders have run out the caseing yealds sufficient gold to pay current expenses.

The stone through which they are at present sinking is rotten slate which requires to be slabbed and proped according as the sinking proceeds. The miners complain very much of the injury they receive through the sludge from the puddling machines, not being carried off by races, but allowed to make a course for itself to the great injury of the claims situated below them.

The population is steadily increasing. It numbers at present about 70 adults."

2 July 1865
"In reference to the reported discovery of quicksilver, M.C. Smyth 2020 begs to state that he received the following information from Mr. Gadd (storekeeper) Russel creek viz. that a party had discovered a vein of Quicksilver in one of the Gullies in the neighbourhood of Russel Creek and had erected a temporary laboratory and was engaged in retorting the Quicksilver; but until such time as the actual value of the discovery was assertained, he objected to give any further information..."

12 August 1865
"that the supposed discovery of Quicksilver at Russel Creek was assertained upon being asayed to be gold mixed with ironpirates. A sample was forwarded to Melbourne per favour of -- Pearson Esqr. M.L.A. and the result of asaying showed a large percentage of gold. The locality where the discovery was made is situated on the Tangil river about two mile from Russel Creek."

19 September 1865
"...visited Russel Creek...The Prospectors have sunk a shaft (14 feet from where the reef crops out) to the depth of 30 feet. They expect to strike the reef at 42 feet as it dips at a gradient of one in three. They obtained after burning & crushing some specks of gold from the Cap of the reef and also from the rubble....

The Chinees have all left those diggings. The European population is about the same... They are principally working in the Gully's as the river workings have all being stopped in consequence of the melting of the snow. The reef of Iron pirites has been abandoned, it not being sufficiently rich to pay."

20 Oct 1865
"on the 18th inst visited Shady Creek and found that the miners on the Crossover Creek were at a standstill for the want of capital to work the reef already struck (viz the Guiding Star), three of the prospectors are in Melbourne trying to form a company to work the reef. The others are merely shepperding their claims.

Mr Brown of Shady Creek (publican) offered the holders of No. 4 south (in which claim he holds a share) to keep them in rations till the reef was struck. They refused, but offered to sell him their interest as they wished to go to New Zealand. To this he objected, and therefore the claim remains unworked.

Another reef called the Happy go lucky has been struck in the bed of the creek about 300 yards to the west of the Guiding Star. The finders of the former reef sunk a shaft about 12 feet but were obliged to stop for want of means.

The alluvial ground in and about the Main Creek is worked out and unless some fresh ground is opened up the miners will be fairly starved out. There are two stores on the Creek, but the storekeepers refuse to give any more credit as they do not see much prospect of being paid.

The New Bridge over Shady creek on Campbell's Track will be completed in the course of a week. It is a very good structure, but the approaches are wretchedly bad. There is a Public House in course of erection close to the bridge on this side of the creek."

12 Nov 1865
"...visited on the 8th inst Russel Creek Diggings and found that a new reef was likely to be opened at the head of Camp Creek, a blow of quartz having been found with gold visible through the stone. A reef has been opened at Pheasant Creek, the prospectors of which have forwarded in a sample of stone (taken from the leaders at a depth of 80 feet) to Melbourne; [The Constable was not able to obtain the results of the assay, but was assured by Mr. Anderson of Great Burk St Melbourne that some Melbourne firms were interested.]

Several miners have left the alluvial & river workings for N.Z.  Russel creek is almost entirely occupied by Chinese, who are makeing close to one oz per week per man."

During the Const. visit, an accident occured to a miner named Cummings, through the breaking of the rope while in the act of assending the shaft of his claim whereby he sustained a fracture of the right thigh. The Const. with three others carried him to his hut (a distance of two miles), where his leg was immediately set by Mr. Gadd under whose care he is at present, there being no doctor within 40 miles."

9 December 1865
"...visited on the 6th inst the Crossover diggings and found little or no improvement in the alluvial sinkings. The Quartz reefs however are looking much better. In the Guiding Star reef in the claims north and south, the shafts were sunk too close to the reef. The miners were therefore obliged to sink fresh shafts. No. 4 south is down to the depth of 100 feet.

In the Prospecting Claim, the reef as stated in a previous report, was struck at a depth of 82 feet. There has been two tons 7 cwt of stone sent last week to Castlemaine to be crushed. If it should turn out as well as expected, there is no doubt but that the capital so much required for the development of the reef in this locality will be forthcoming.

Three of the shair holders in this claim are in Melbourne have formed themselves into a company possessing 5000 scrip at 2 per scrip, making a capital of 10,000. The population has increased during the last month from 50 to 100. There are three stores, one of which is about to be converted into a Public House, the owner of which is about to apply for a licence at the next sitting of the bench.

The Const. also visited the New and Old Bunyip via New Track, along which there are five accommodation houses in the cource of erection. In the Const. opinion, this track will be impassable for Coaches during the winter months as it is composed of a loose rich red soil. Even now although the weather has been remarkable fine for some weeks, the Const's horse was taken to the knees in mud. The principal advantage this track has over the old one is that from Shady creek to the Bunyip is almost level.

...the track from Western Port, commonly known as McDonald's is now open to the Morwell Bridge. It is mostly very hilly and is devoid of water for about 70 miles. This will be a great impediment to Mr Hewitt in (as he is reported to extend) running his line of coaches by that track - it being about the same distance from Melbourne as by the one in present use and one upon which he expects to get an increse in his passenger traffick."

28 January 1867 : "M. C. Smythe 2020 begs to report for the information of Mr Supt. Slade that he on the 24th inst visited the Russel Creek Goldfields. The workings are now principally confined to the Tangil River, in some parts of which some good patches are being obtained. About three miles from Russel Creek out of one paddock 20 x 12, ten oz were obtained. There is however no regular lead;   the gold being found in patches in the bed of the river which is worked by means of winged dams.

At Turnbull's rush there is some good gold being obtained, but as on all other parts of the river the ground is very patchy. The Const. was shown a nugget of 5 1/2 oz which was got there. In the prospecting claim, no gold has been obtained since Christmas. The population is if anything less than on the Const. last visit."

11 March 1867
"…on the 7th inst he visited the Russel Creek diggings and submits an estimate of the population as located in the different Gully's viz

 Russel Creek & Tangil River


 Camp Creek & LaTrobe River

 Rosses Gully



 Phesant Creek

 Good Hope

 Crossover, Live Horse,  Dead Horse Gully




The principal workings are on the Tangil river at the junction of Russel Creek with that river. There are about 28 men at work who are doing pretty well. A new store has been erected at this part of the river by a party named Robinson who formerly kept a store on the Crossover.

There are several other parties at work on other parts of the river, all of which are making fair wages. The reefs are all at a standstill for want of capital."

22 April 1867
"The majority of miners are emploied on the Tangil at the junction of Russel Creek with that river. Their number amounts to about 40. They are all earning wages. The ground however is very patchy. The largest find has been that by Cummins & party viz. 9 oz. in a paddock of 10 feet square. A number of small gullies, which were through the scarcity of water deserted during the summer months, are now being worked and yeald on an average good wages.

A party of men are at present engaged in making a cutting across the point of a spur at the junction of the California and the Tangil River. Their earnings are on an average 3 per week. There is no prospect of the workings on the reef being resumed as the shareholders are all to poor to carry on the workings. There has been a new store and butchers shop opened at the Tangil. The population has slightly increased since last month owing to most of the miners leaving the Crossover for the Tangil river."

2 June 1867
"…on the 27.5.67 visited Russel Creek Gold Fields and found that a new rush had taken place to Charity Gulley which is situated about nine miles up the Tangil River from the junction of Russel Creek with that river. There are about 30 men at the rush, most of whom are makeing wages.

There are between 25 & 30 men on the Tangil rush, all of whom are makeing wages. Sometimes a good patch is found, but no defined lead. A miner named Butler last week found a patch of rich dirt from which he obtained 9 oz with the dish alone. The gold was partly course & partly scaley much water worn. The clearing of the track between Stringers Creek and the Moe is believed to have commenced at the Stringers, and a Publick House is in course of erection on the Tangil at the presumed crossing. "

19 July 1867
"… on the 16th inst visited the Russel Creek gold fields. The population has slightly increased during the last month, although the river is getting too high to admit of the river claimes being worked. There is however good gold getting in the flats on each side of the river

The rush to Charity creek is at an end, most of the miners having returned to the Tangil and other workings. The best claim the Const. has heard of is situated at Wambat between the eastern & western branches of the Tangil about 12 miles from Russel Creek. A party of four have for the last five weeks obtained 30 oz per week. To give some idea of the quantity of gold obtained at those diggings, …to the Const. knowledge, one storekeeper alone has within the last five weeks sent down to Sale 120 oz.

A Government Surveyor is at present engaged surveying the different tracks between Melbourne road (between the Moe & Shady Creek) and Stringers Creek. Great excitement prevails as to which track will be decided on as being the best, the distance by any of them will not exceed 30 miles."

Supt. Slade has endorsed this report : "This new track will be of much consequence, as opening up a communication between Russel's & Stringer's Creeks, and shortening the distance between Melbourne and Stringers, some 30 or 50 miles"

30 October 1867
"…on the 22nd inst visited the Russel creek Diggings. On the Tangil river every thing is at a standstill in consequence of the claims being all flooded. There has however been some rich quartz found about two miles from Russel Creek on the Western branch of the Tangil.

The Const. visited the place and found the discoverers were Thomas Kennion & party who have been since the 1st January last working a very rich river claim, out of which they got close on 20 oz per man per week. But being washed out by the late floods (and having an idea that the gold they had been getting out of the river did not come far) they went prospecting on the rainge immediately over their claim & picking up some specimens. They sunk a trench about 5 feet deep when they came on a rich leader 5 inches thick diping to the west. The stone as far as they have gone is full of gold. In fact they will make good wages out of the rubble alone. If a payable reef should be discovered there will not be the slightest difficulty in bringing machinery onto the reef, as there is a leading rainge all the way from Russel's Creek"

15 November 1867
"…visited the Russel Creek Diggings on the 12th inst. The population is steadily increasing. The rivers having gone down enables the workings of the river bed by means of wing-dams to be resumed.

The workings on the lately discovered reef on the western branch of the Tangil are progressing but slowly, the holders of the different claims being without sufficient funds to carry on. The Prospectors being the only party possessed of adequate means.

In the prospecting claim three leaders have been struck at a depth of 13 feet. The last leader found exceeded in richness either of the other two, from a small piece about one inch square 3 dwt. were taken.

The Prospectors are about forming a dam & race with a view of erecting machinery. The leaders are nearly of a uniform thickness viz 5 inches dipping to the westward. If the reef is ultimately found at all approaching the leaders in richness, it will yeald from 6 to 8 oz per ton.

The only drawback is the want of capital, which if not introduced, the reef will share the same fate as all the others in the Russel creek district. There are five claims south & two north, but with the exception of the Prospectors, the holders are all poor men. The population at present in the Mining District of Russel Creek is between 300 & 400."

1 May 1868, Russel Creek Diggings
"The miners on the Tangil river are still doing well. The Const. was shown at one claim about 3 oz as the result of the labour of four men for three days, the gold was pretty course but much impregnated with iron pirates. A large amount of labour is also required to keep down the water which drains in from the river.

The population has greatly increased within the last month on the river, a number of men having come from the Thompson in consequence of the works at the Copper Mine being suspended. Another public house is in the course of erection on the eastern side of the river for a party named Williams from the Thompson.

There is no improvement in the reef on the Western branch of the Tangil. The only claim at present being worked is that of the Prospectors, who are still working the old leader not careing to look for the main reef as long as they get such rich stone out of the leader ; they crushed last week in a rough manner with a dolly 80lbs of stone from which they obtained 25 oz, and have about 1 ton of the same stone to crush yet. They refused 50 for an eith (sic) share."

1 September 1868, Russel Creek Diggings
"A better yeald has been obtained on the river workings last week than for some time previous; a Pudling Machine has been erected in Rosses Gully, and nothing but rain is wanted to enable the proprietors to commence operations.

The party at work on the Empire reef are still engaged following the leader…which was so remarkably rich as to induce the proprietors to go to the expense of erecting a small battery of three stamp heads worked by water power; on Wednesday last they had their first washing up from a crushing of (4) four tons which yealded 25oz retorted gold or something better than 6 oz to the ton…

Within the past week a very good reef has been found on the Crossover Creek cropping out to the surface by a man named Lancaster. The reef is 18 inches thick, and full of gold. There are already (6) six claims taken up, and a number of miners on Russel Creek are about to start for the Crossover."

27 October 1868, Crossover Creek Diggings
"The prospectors on the Guiding Star intend to commence their first crushing this week, Their mill is a self feeding one - the stone being conveyed along a tramway from the working shaft to a stopper at the back of the stampers. There are no other claims on this reef in which the claim has been struck. In the prospecting claim on the Happy go lucky, the main reef has been struck at a depth of 43 feet, where struck it is 2 feet thick; a drive has been put in along the reef for a distance of 15 feet and , and the reef at that distance has increased to 2 feet 6 ins. No other claims on this reef has at yet struck the reef. The prospectors are getting out stone so as to be ready to get a trial crushing when the Guiding star Machine is ready."
Mounted Constable W. O'B. Smythe, Traralgon Police Station

19 January 1869, Crossover Creek Diggings
"The Guiding Star machine has been at work since before Christmas, but is now stopped for want of water. This Company has crushed about 50 tons per week, but decline to give any information whatsoever as to yeald; but in the opinion of the diggers & from the appearance of the stone, the yeald is somewhere about 2 oz to the ton.

The Happy go lucky prospecting claim has had one crushing of 17 ton, which yielded 21 dwt to the ton. A fresh company has started No. 1 North Guiding Star. They are erecting a horse whim & intend starting in about a fortnight. There are two fresh stores in the course of erection. The working population amounts to about 50."

26 April 1869, Russel Creek Diggings
"The operations at Kenyon's reef on the western branch of the Tangil have been completely suspended during the last three weeks, and are not likely to be resumed during the next five weeks owing to the the Dam belonging to the company having burst. It occupied about ten acres, and consequently has been a serious loss to the company. They however to avoid a similar recurrence in future have commenced cutting a race - this however is very difficult work as they have to blast the greater portion of the distance.

On the New Years Reef [at] Russel Creek, there are two claims at present being worked besides the Prospecting one viz. No. 1 North & No. 1 South.  The prospecting shaft is down to a depth of 45 feet, but is at present being worked at a level of 30 feet; the reef varies in thickness from six to eighteen inches. It is however all rubble composed of quartz sandstone, and when struck with a pick falls into small fragments. This however is not the case in No. 1 North. The reef there is well defined and perfectly solid. It however dips to below the level of the creek and the miners are consequently much troubled with water. To add to this inconvenience, a pump cannot be used as the shaft after sinking about 30 feet inclines at an angle of 35 deg, following the face of the reef in a westerly direction.

The holders of this reef intend sinking a fresh shaft more to the west so as to have it perpendicular and strike the reef below water level. The Const. caused two dishes of stuff (from different parts of the heap taken from the prospecting claim) to be washed. They gave from 1 dwt to 1 dwt to the dish. The gold was extremely fine, in fact almost as fine as flour. The Const. obtained some specimens from each of these dishes of stuff and begs to forward same (attached) for the inspection of Mr. Inspt. Sadlier. When the prospectors obtain a few tons of stuff, they intend getting a small machine as they expect the yeald to average 7 oz to the ton."

17 June 1869, Crossover Diggings
"The mining operations there are confined to the three Quartz Claims viz the Prospecting claim on the Guiding Star[,] No. 1 north-same reef and the prospecting claim on the Happy Elizabeth; in the first of these the old shaft has fallen in, the owners of the claim are sinking a fresh one. In No. 1 North or Berwick Co. claim a fresh shaft is also being sunk - the old one having become unworkable from the quantity of water. The proprietors expect to strike the reef in their new shaft at 75 feet - they are at present down 70 feet.

The Happy Elizabeth is at present suspended while being placed under the Limited Liability Act. The stone in this claim is three (3) feet thick & has averaged 1 oz to the ton

28 September 1869, Tangil River Diggings
"There is as yet but one organized Company viz the Tangil Cement Gold Mining Company. There are however three other companies about being formed.

There are 64 men employed by the first named company at various works under the Superintendance of Mr Drisedale. A bridge has been made over the Tangil opposite the intended site for the machine - the exacuation for which will be complete in about a month. It is intended to have 40 instead of 20 head of stamps. Part of the machine is at present on the road & is expected to be in full working order by Christmas.

The race for conducting the water for the machine will have to be carried about (6) six miles - about 2 miles is at present cut, but not complete; the whole, however, is expected to be finished in (2) two months. A Manager of the name of Grenfell has taken charge of the works in Mr Drisedale's place and Mr. Yarra of Walhalla is to superintend the erection of the machine.
It is calculated that this Company alone, when in full work, will employ 100 men. The ground has been marked out along the river bank, close to Bates Station about 3 miles from the present workings.

Some of the shares in the Tangil Cement G.M.C. have been sold for 350 and as much as 400 was offered as a 48th share during the Constable's presence on the river. There are however some of the old miners on the river who have not much confidence in the result of workings, but it so happens that the men who express this opinion are those who have no interest in the Cement.

A petition is being got up praying that the Township may be put up and sold."

8 October 1869, Crossover Creek Diggings : On the Guiding Star reef the Albion Company have bottomed their New shaft and are driving at 130 feet level. The stone is much richer from any of that which they obtained from their first shaft. They have commenced crushing but will not washup until next week. So that until then, they will be unable to ascertain the results. The stone at present being raised is expected to run from 2 to 3 oz to the ton. . Nos. 1-2 & 3 south have amalgamated with the intention of forming a company.

A machine is being erected on the Happy Go Lucky and great hopes are entertained for this reef.

The Berwick Co. claim on the Guiding Star line is not looking at all well as up to the present no reef has been found. They are however about to sink a fresh shaft."

14 February 1870
"Md Constable Smyth 2020 reports for the information of Mr. Inspt Sadlier that he visited on the 11th inst the Crossover Creek diggings. The Happy go Lucky have about 400 tons ready for crushing. The entire plant is on the ground, but will not be ready for crushing before a fortnight or three weeks.

The plant is a powerful one, consisting of ten head of stamps weighing 7 cwt each. The Albion Co. are putting in a cross drive, but have got out no stone since last report. They are also about improving their plant as their present one is much too light. The Berwick Co. is still suspended.

There are several reports in circulation relative to the proceedings of the Tangil Cement Co. No. 1, the most reliable however is that they started crushing on Tuesday the 8th inst when after about 14 hours work, the pumping shaft caved in and consequently stopped the works. At that time there were about 14 oz of amalgum on the tables above the boxes not being examined. This was the result of about 20 tons, and supposing the half of the amalgum to be gold, this would give about 8 dwt to the ton."

20 January 1871, Inspector J. Sadleir (Sale)
"There are about 30 persons at Tangil, and say 40 at Russell's Creek & Crossover diggings each. At Shady Creek, there is one publican only..."

Mounted Constable William Sydney O'Brien Smythe

According to the Story of Traralgon, William Sydney O'Brien Smythe (often spelt Smyth) was born in Dublin, Ireland around 1834. He married Maria Sharry at Castlemaine, Victoria on 12th January 1859.

In 1870, when his daughter Helena Ada Kate was born, the couple had six other children, of whom only one was still alive - Thomas Sydney,  William O'Brien,  Sarah Catherine,  Helena Maria,  Mary Anne (all decd.) and  Emily Mary 2. (The small grave near the Traralgon Railway Station is supposed to be the grave of the Infant Mary Anne Smythe - see Lonely Graves of the Gippsland Goldfields and Greater Gippsland by J. G. Rogers and Nelly Helyar ).

Constable Smythe first joined the police force in 1853 and was stationed for at least part of that time at Kingower in central Victoria. He resigned in March 1861 to become a publican at Castlemaine, and later an engineer at Richmond.

He rejoined the force in 1864, shortly before coming to Traralgon. His oath sheet on rejoining contained the following information -:
    Height 5' 8 3/4 inches,  hazel eyes,  black hair,  30 years, sallow complexion
    Trade - Victoria Police 5 years - Discharged 7-3-1861 at own request
    Sworn 13-12-64 by Fredk C. Standish
    6/6 per diem. Married.

In May 1871, Smythe resigned apparently to visit the Fiji Island. By January 1872, he was back from Fiji, and applying to rejoin the Police Force.

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