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3-015 (Text)

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My DEAR SIR, - I sit down to redeem my promise of writing to you from this most astonishing place. I left on Thursday the 2nd, and arrived here on the 9th, having accompanied the drays. This place exhibits the most extraordinary sight that ever met my eyes. Imagine a small but rapid stream of water, with a very winding course, and for about one mile the banks or rather the margins on both sides as thickly studded with human beings, all males almost, for occasionally you will see a woman employed with her clothes held between her knees, rocking a cradle with the untiring energy of man; in other cases, two or three men mostly are employed, one rocking with one hand, while he occasionally stirs up the earth in the hopper of the cradle with the other; another for the most part, is actively employed in filling the hopper with earth, and the other is perpetually pouring water with a dipper, with a long handle like a warming-pan, over the earth, &c. filled in the hopper; one is sometimes employed picking and shovelling the earth out of the hole, and two more, in carrying the earth to the waterside; so that besides the enormous mass of persons stationary at the cradles, there is a moving population from the various holes to the cradles on the water side, equally numerous.  Some carry the earth on hand-barrows, made of two long wooden handles and a sack sewed long wise, on which they carry it. Some use wheel-barrows; others a piece of bark as a sledge, on which they place a bag full of earth, and draw it along the ground. Some carry it in sacks on their backs, while the tin dish washers, of which there are many hundreds, carry it in their tin dishes on their heads; it is for the most part one scene of busy, eager industry. If you speak to a man, he answers but stops not his work. The average earning seems to be an ounce a day; the tin dish washers get this; they are cadgers in some instances, in others they get occasional dishes from the diggers opening new holes, and in return report the richness or poverty of the soil; the business is a perfect lottery; some men have opened seven or eight holes with no good success, but it seems to me from all I can learn, that even these holes pay the current expenses. I have no doubt from what I see, that very large portions of this colony and of New South Wales contain gold. I have frequently travelled for miles in such a country in both places, and many localities in both colonies will be found abounding in precious metal. One man came to sell 3 oz 2 dwts a few nights since, the produce of his day's labour; and I last night heard, but cannot vouch for the truth of it, that a man had found a piece 20 lbs and upwards, in an ant-hill, in breaking the surface for his hole. Every thing presents a golden aspect: the water is yellow, from the clay in which most of the gold is found; the men's clothing and the cradles have the same hue from the same cause; the whole ground is covered with tents or huts, of all shapes, sizes, colours, and appearance.  The store tents fly a gaudy handkerchief as an indication of their calling. Meat is 2d per lb on the spot, but nothing less than half or a quarter of a sheep is sold. Other provisions are as reasonable as might be expected from the expense of carriage. It is a very difficult thing to find any particular person. An old man was looking for his son all day yesterday unsuccessfully; and yet the space of ground occupied lies in a half mile square, though the windings of the creek make the washers occupy a mile. The people are very well behaved when the material is considered; but it is quite evident that they do not like gentlemen amongst them. Deaths are frequent, and accidents more so. The first two days after my arrival, two men were killed, one by the fall of a tree, the other by the wall that divided his hole from the next falling in on him. The next day one man died of apoplexy in his hut and another had one or both his legs broken. We have here lawyers, doctors, and methodist parsons, all hard at work for the gold; the bearded prophets and others indulge in a little open air preaching on Sundays, on which day not a cradle is seen to be worked. At night volleys of firearms are discharged in honor of 'The Point', as it is called, while two bands of music on each side of the creek, parade with lively, but it must be confessed antiquated tunes; but yells, whoops and shrieks, with dogs barking and fighting, 'make the night hideous'.
There are many ways in which gold is to be had besides digging and washing for it, and all day and sometimes for hours at night, the sound of a pestle and mortar is heard cracking the pieces of rock, which in that poor process will give to a tent keeper a full quarter of an ounce a day; a steam-crushing machine value £300, would pay most admirably, as all this productive rock is now thrown aside for want of the means of crushing it.

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