Life Style of Goldminers in North Queensland.
The life style of the North Queensland goldfields.
One of the best examples of this is Charters Towers where gold was found in December, 1871.
The claim was registered on 26 January,
the following year and within weeks the area had miners fossicking and
seeking for alluvial gold, but the goldfield itself was not officially
proclaimed until 31 August, 1872.
By the end of the first year some 3,000 miners were fossicking in the district scattered over an area about three miles square.
At Ravenswood gold was discovered in various
stages between the end of 1868 and April, 1869, but the actual proclamation
of the goldfield took place on 3 November, 1870.
Registration of the claim.
After the discovery of gold, registration of the claim, setting
in the gold rush the shape and appearance of the town followed.
The first stage would be canvas, then timber and if the diggings continued and were profitable bricks and mortar
would follow at least in the centre part of the town. In most of the
goldmining centres, outside the main street calico was the common material
Short Lived Strikes.
Short-lived strikes never progressed beyond the canvas
Hotels seem to have been only grog shops on most goldfields,
residential accommodation being provided by the Chinese in canvas shanties and bark boarding houses.
Pictures of North Qld Goldfields
Early photo’s of of North Queensland goldfields in the 1870’s show a mixture of rude timber buildings.
The floors of the early dwellings were usually a clay pug trampled into a
suitable hard state, but some simple dwellings contained a rude timber
floor constructed from split logs lodged in a rough frame. The roof was
constructed from round saplings covered with bark sheets, tied down with
bullock hide and further secured by additional poles strapped to both
ridge and eavesboard. Later on some buildings had corrugated iron, but
for the most part bark slabs dominated the scene.
The digger’s residence was commonly a small calico tent, often on
the slopes of the gully where the claim was. The claim was roughly 12’x8*.
There were many canvas tents and a few log huts, and some had rude
The furniture consisted of one or two stumps of trees for
chairs, anything in the shape of a box or tea chest was a table.
The bed consisted of a stretcher or bunk made of forked stakes and saplings
covered with a rug or blankets. Cooking utensils were few, and intended
to wear well. Two or three tin or pewter plates, spoons, knives and forks,
two or three saucepans and one or two billies generally completed the list,
while a frying pan was regarded as luxury.
Once the original camp had
stabilised into a town, there would be a main street lined with hotels,
boarding houses, stores, banks and butchers shops, usually of wood. In
the larger, more permanent centres some would be two storied and even
carry some pretentious architectural ornaments. Behind the main street
lay the tents in which most diggers lived. Everywhere there were earth mounds. Such was the appearance of almost any goldfield in North Queensland in the early days.
After the initial canvas stage, if gold production continued, the
township would begin to expand, graceless, unplanned, devoid of most
There was no street lighting and no water supply.
What water there was, would have to come from local creeks and dry seasons
frequently brought the onset not only of scarcity of water but of many
illnesses affecting miners and their families. Even in the comparatively
stable and populous Charters Towers street lighting and running water only
arrived in 1890.
Spreading suburbs of miner cottages took the place of
canvas and slab huts. Usually of four rooms, with a front verandah and
a rear lean-to kitchen, they were made inevitably of wood with galvanized
iron roofs, so too were shops, offices and other buildings.
Mining Industry Grew.
As the town and the mining industry grew, heavy horse drawn traffic stirred up clouds
of dust from the unsealed streets. Around Charters Towers and Ravenswood
the countryside had been stripped for miles of its scanty trees for mine
props and fuel, while the large nvimbers of goats ate every piece of greenery.
If the gold did not peter out, and the industry continued to grow,
there would be a continuing influx of jxjpulation. The miners, traders,
butchers and grog merchants who constituted the initial rush would be
followed by general storekeepers, assayers, and bankers, and almost as
rapidly by legal, police and administrative officials, all with their
If growth continued, streets, houses, shops, schools, news
papers and some public utilities would develop within a few years.
Charters Towers was proclaimed a municipality in only its fifth year.
Political activity also developed early, centred on the trade unions.
THE NORTH QUEENSLAND GOLDFIELDS
With all the With all the growth there remained constant reminders of rude
beginnings, especially in matters of health. In the mines, safety
precautions were rudimentary and accidents quite frequent. Public
hygiene was casual: garbage was thrown into the streets, refuse and
drainage flowed from houses, shops and hotels straight into the gutter.
Dead horses and other animals were merely dragged to a vacant allotment,
and in the wet season earth closets were a constant health hazard.
Bounty on Dead Rats.
No wonder Charters Towers paid a bounty on dead rats. Annual epidemics of
measles, and of dengue fever and other tropical diseases, were a routine
part of life in North Queensland goldfield communities. In an era before
modern medicine, transport and communications, personal qualities of good
health, physical strength and firm courage were required of those foolhardy
or gold hungry enough to venture to the north.
Miner earned up to 260 pounds.
In the nineties a working miner could earn up to £260 a year. Wages
ranged from £3 to £5 a week, but averaged about £4-10-0. This was good
money, affording the miner’s family a diet containing daily fresh meat,
vegetables and milk, which were not readily available to labourers in the
older communities of Europe from which many miners had come. Good wages
and living standards, plenty of work, a sense of independence, the possibility
of wealth and the miners.
Who made the money.
One question that naturally arises about North Queensland goldfields
is who made money? Usually not the miners themselves, mobile and peri
patetic though they were, ready at any rumour to rush off in hopes of a
better strike. In the literature of the period it is always hotel-keepers,
shopkeepers and above all carriers, all ancilliary to mining itself, who
grew wealthy. Typical was Corfield, buying goods, equipment and food in
Townsville by the wagon load to take over the long and dusty track to the
Cape diggings to sell at a profit.
This a a story about gold. No one tells you where they find gold. Allways buy some gold if you can.
Not Jewellery. Gold.
Gold is the only thing you can buy in this world that will not lose it’s value.
Well I have enjoyed writting this blog,Ii will add to it when I do more research.
Have a great day, do leave a comment, even if it is to say hello.
Until Next Time.