In 1848, the discovery of gold by an American engineer of the James Wilson Marshall sparked of the first major international migration to seek out and extract gold.
This discovery took place while Marshall was working for Captain John Suttor at Suttors Mill on the Sacramento River in California in the United States of America .
Diggers from all over the world armed with picks, shovels and above all, hope swarmed in the New American El Dorado. They were christened the 49’ers and were born into a rough clad society of multi-national races, encumbering gold seekers, fortune hunters, con-men and other all willing to do anything to earn a dollar.
Australia ‘s Gold beginnings were of a different nature; in a similar fashion to an infant taking its first few uncertain steps, the option of a gold field received a few staggered starts.
The first documented referent to gold in Australia may be seen preserved in the British Museum , London . Portuguese maps dated 1530 to 1526 refer to the north-west coast of Australia as Costa d’Ouro (translated, this means Gold Coast). Coincidence or not, this stands on record for all to see the word “gold” associated with Australia . It was on August 22nd 170 that Captain James Cook claimed Australia in the name of King George the Third at the northernmost part of Australia , just off the tip of Queensland ‘s Cape York Peninsula, on an island named Possession Island .
The settling of Australia would have been a little more exciting had Cook been looking for gold instead of land.
The usual flag hoisting ceremony may have encountered a slight hitch had the flag hole been a little deeper, for in 1895 the islands first shaft went down right where the flag hole was. The purpose of the shaft was that of goldmining and Possession Island yielded 2480 ounces of gold.
The first documented find of gold in Australia came in 1823 from James McBrien (Assistant Surveyor) who noted in his fieldbook while surveying the Fish River :
“At E, I chain 50 links to the river and marked gumtree. At this place I found numerous particles of gold in the sand in the hills convenient to the river.”
Next we had Count Paul E. Strzelecki who in 1839, while employed in geological exploration, made gold discoveries that warranted, as he stated: “further examination”.
The Count published his geological findings in 1845 excluding any mention of gold deposits. The following year he published his reasons for silence. He stated that he had been requested by the Governor, Sir George Gipps “to keep the matter secret for fear of the serious consequences which, considering the condition and population of the colony, were to be apprehended.”
Following close on the heels of Strzelecki was the Reverend W.B Clarke who found gold bearing granite and quartiziferous slates on the 13th and 14th February, 1841, west of Hartley.
In the following year he revealed more discoveries on the Wollondilly.
The Reverend Clark tried to make public his findings, but to no avail. On the 9th of April, 1844 , after presenting to Governor Gipps gold samples, he was advised that it would be better to “put it away as it might lead to dangerous consequences.”
TV Interview with Malcolm Drinkwater 1982