Past and Present, and Men of the Times.
A Terrible Blow—Stoppage of Adams' Bank—I lose a large sum—More Indian Troubles—I sell out at Shasta—Back in San Francisco—Off to Sydney—A Drunken Skipper—I arrive in Australia again—To Melbourne—The Early Days of the Victorian Goldfields—I meet Peter Lalor—The Story of the Eureka Stockade—Early Days at Ballarat—How the Revolt began.
I now sold out of the sale-yards to Mr. Lodge, and took another partner—a German named Vanwe—into the butchering business, which bad now become too extensive for one man to manage. I had a long journey before me, having to proceed to a ranche in Napier Valley, about 200 miles distant, to receive a lot of cattle I had bought some time before from a Spaniard. I started, and was about eight miles on the road, at a place where the coaches changed horses, when a messenger came up in hot haste with a letter from my partner, containing the unpleasant news that Adams' Bank had stopped payment that morning. As all our capital was deposited in it, I hurried back at once, and found the report was only too true. We were almost ruined.
This bank was one of the greatest swindles ever worked in California, so prolific of smart Yankee operations. The head-quarters of the institution were in San Francisco, and agencies were to be found in almost every town up-country. When the fountainhead dried up, the branches collapsed. In fact, it was a preconcerted thing, for everyone of them stopped on the same day, and thousands of trusting people were ruined.
My partner and I lost about £12,000 by this mishap; and if we had not had a lot of stock which had been previously paid for, page 110and our little property purchased, it would have been a case of "eternal smash" with us also. It was rumoured that the safe from the bank, containing the money, was put into a van, and was on the road for Sacramento. Ten of the deluded clients of Adams and Co. posted after the van and stopped it, but neither safe or money was there, and we all bade good-bye to our hard-earned cash. I was so disheartened by the blow that I offered to sell out to Vanwe for a mere trifle, intending to proceed to Sydney, where gold had just been discovered; but he persuaded me to keep on, at least for a time.
I again departed to bring the cattle from Napier Valley which we had purchased from a Spaniard named Valon. I intended to make Hyde's ranche the first night, but I lost my way through inattention and probably thinking of Adams and Co. At last I pulled up at a shanty on the roadside, which had apparently been recently erected. It was kept by two Frenchmen. Here I obtained forage for the horse and food for myself, of which we both stood in much need. Shortly afterwards two men rode up, who turned out to be stockmen from Hyde's ranche. They told me I was ten miles out of my road. We left together in the morning, and arrived at the ranche about four in the afternoon. I had had many dealings in cattle with. Mr. Hyde, who was very glad to welcome me, and insisted on sending his men to bring my cattle from Vaion's ranche, while I spent a few days with him. I remained five days.
While there a man named Kit Carson came to the ranche with a drove of sheep from Salt Lake. This was the first mob of "jumbucks" I had seen driven since I left Australia. There was a young person in this party who was ostensibly a sheep-dealer, and evidently well up to business, who interested me strangely. We rode over the ranche together, and conversed about stock and cattle-dealing, etc., and the dealer displayed a considerable knowledge of the subject. On the second day of their stay I discovered my quondam friend was a female in man's attire. She was known under the soubriquet of "Captain Jack." She could ride well, throw the lasso, and was a dead shot. Altogether, she was the most remarkable specimen of the "feminine gender" lever fell in with. That night Mr. Hyde determined on a little jollification, as it was possible I might never be under his roof again. I had informed him of my intention to sell out and return to Australia.page 111
There were a few Spanish women living on the ranche, and "Captain Jack," who among her other accomplishments was a splendid dancer, got up a Spanish dance, called a "fandango," or something of the kind, and amused us famously; indeed, I think it was the merriest night I had ever spent while in California. The "captain" accompanied Mr. Hyde and myself into Shasta next day. Hyde went home with me and stopped a few days. In the meantime I asked my wife to give a party, and to send an invitation to "Captain Jack," She did so, and "Jack" came dressed as a regular swell, in male attire, of course. Mrs. Barry had heard me speak so often of "Captain Jack," that she had a great desire to see this curiosity of her sex. When our guests had retired, she told me that she wished no further acquaintance with such a strong-minded party. I thought at the time the "green-eyed monster" had a little to do with the matter, but, if so, there was little cause, and "Captain Jack" dropped out of our society. I saw her leaving Shasta, well mounted, dressed in boots and breeches, a revolver at her belt and a pair of pistols in the holster, and thought that any young man who trifled with the affection of such an Amazon was likely to speedily come to grief.
In a few days Hyde's men arrived at Clear Creek, twenty-five miles off, with our cattle, and as I was in treaty to sell out to my partner, he, Mr. Hyde, and two others went out to value the stock. This completed, a valuation of the rest of the property belonging to the firm was made, and my partner took everything over, and paid me £5800 for my share and interest in the business. I had my dwelling-house, some horses, and other property, which I busied myself in disposing of, and when the Shasta people found I was determined to leave they very kindly gave me a public dinner, at which champagne flowed pretty freely.
In the midst of the revelry, four men galloped into the town with the news that the Pitt River Indians had returned. At this time numbers of families from Oregon had settled on the river. The husbands and fathers were away digging, and the Indians had swooped down on the camp, and murdered about thirty white women and children.
This startling report immediately broke up our convivial party. A meeting was forthwith held, and about 300 men at once volunteered to go and exact retribution, and, if possible, page 112wipe out this particular tribe of savages, Of course, I was one of the 300, and away we went on our mission of vengeance, the four men who had given the alarm leading the way. When we arrived at the scene of the massacre a horrible sight was presented, dead and mutilated bodies lying in all directions among the wreck of the dead people's household goods. A detachment of our party remained to bury the dead, and the rest pushed on in pursuit up the river, but returned in two days, having been unable to find the marauders. We turned back to Shasta, and on the road, fell in with a very old Indian, accompanied by his squaw and two fine little Indian boys. Some of the party shot the aged couple, and would also have sent the boys to the happy hunting-grounds, but were prevented from doing [unclear: so], and we brought them in with us.
A party of men was despatched at once by the Government to seek the savages, as the authorities were determined not to allow this outrage to pass unpunished. The military commandant being an old acquaintance of the Colonel, I asked him, as a favour, to allow me to take one of the youths away with me, and I would try and civilise him. He was good enough to do so, and I took the young savage home. My wife had lately been confined, and was now recovered. I disposed of the house and other property, and got ready for another flitting. At this time a steamer came up the river to within thirty miles of Shasta, and my late partner, Vanwe, drove us all down to the landing, where I parted from him with regret, and going on board the small steamboat we cast off, and commenced our journey to Sacramento, which was 250 miles distant by water.
The boat was very much crowded with passengers, but we managed to squeeze in for the voyage, and reached Sacramento pretty well tired out, but without any mishaps. I found the town immensely improved since I had left it, and the population better organised, and a little more civilised. A good deal of their antipathy to the "Sydney Ducks" had apparently died out. Business was remarkably brisk and flourishing, and my wife tried to persuade me to start once more in business, but I was bent on seeing Sydney again, otherwise I might have stopped.
We remained at Sacramento for three weeks, and then left for San Francisco in the steamer "New World." We arrived safely, and I took a furnished house in Broadway, and waited for the first ship for Sydney. In two months a large American page 113vessel, the "Kit Carson," was laid on, and I took tickets for cabin passages for myself, wife, and child, and the young Indian boy. I also shipped, as a venture, forty tons of flour, one hundred American stoves, and one hundred Colt's revolvers, which I bad purchased pretty cheap, the Californian market being then glutted with these goods. We had a good many fellow passengers. Among them were Madame Anna Bishop, the great singer, and a celebrated harpist named Boxer, who died shortly after his arrival at Sydney. Madame Bishop married the purser of the vessel, whose name was Schultz. Captain Crewel of the "Kit Carson," was very much addicted to drink, and was under the influence of liquor during the whole voyage. The vessel's safety was often endangered by his conduct, the provisions were scanty and inferior, and altogether the passage was miserably uncomfortable. We got very little value for our £20, the price of the cabin passage. At length we arrived at Sydney, and were greatly relieved on getting ashore in safety.
I disposed of the goods I had brought, and realised a very handsome profit out of the speculation. I was not long ashore when I fell in with my old friend and fellow-voyager, Baird, who had been out with me in the "Flying Fish." I was then staying at an hotel, but finding that Baird had a house to let at the Glebe, in Sydney, I rented it, and., having furnished it, we moved into it at once, and my friend Baird lived in the house adjoining. I found out that, by a singular coincidence, that he was now short of cash, although he had some property. I had thousands, and as he had been kind to me in my adversity, I told him he could have a thousand pounds to start in any business he liked. He wanted me badly to purchase a barque then lying in the harbour, fit her out, and go a whaling cruise; but I steadily set my face against that. I had had enough of whaling.
He informed me that my old employer and benefactor, Mr. Boyd, had started for California in his yacht, the "Wanderer." He had called in at some of the islands, and while at Owhyhee, the natives had set upon him and killed him. I was very much shocked at this intelligence. I felt as if I had lost a near and dear relation. I have been ashore at the place, and knew the treacherous character of the natives well. I should have thought Mr. Boyd knew better than to trust himself with the cannibals, but he was always a fearless, trusting fellow—peace be to his ashes.page 114
I was thinking seriously of going up to the gold fields, which were then creating a great stir, and Sydney was beginning to feel the effects. People were flocking in from all parts, and business of every kind became excessively brisk. I was going down George Street to the bank, one morning, when I met a man named William Fox, who had been a mate of mine in the early Californian days. He had just arrived from Melbourne, and had a lot of quartz specimens, containing gold, with him. I invited him home with me, and he stopped a few days, and said I had better accompany him back to Victoria, and invest in the quartz reefs his specimens represented, and as I thought it was not a bad idea, I at once made up my mind to go.
I went to Baird and asked him to accompany me, and have a look round, as he might meet with something advantageous, and he agreed. We were passing along the street, and saw a crowd, which we joined, and found they had assembled to see "Bill Nash" carried out of a gold-broker's office by five policemen, and taken to gaol. It appeared he had been gold-buying, and by using false weights he had been amassing money fast, and robbing the unsuspecting diggers. He was now found out, however, and being tried, was sentenced to one year's imprisonment. This was the notorious character I mentioned in the earlier part of my work as having driven his carriage before that of the Queen.
My wife and I went to Windsor to see our little girl. She had grown and prospered well, and when I spoke of taking her into my charge, her adopted mother would not hear of it. She was as much attached to her as if she were her own. As there was no help for it, I left £100 for her use, and we came away. Mrs. Barry was very anxious to accompany me on my trip, but as she had an excellent neighbour in Mrs. Baird, and had made a small circle of acquaintances, I persuaded her to wait until I had prospected the new country.
In the spring of 1855 Bill Fox, Baird and I went to Melbourne. When we arrived everything was in disorder, the natural consequence of the neighbourhood of the goldfields. The hurry and bustle of business reminded me of the palmy days in San Francisco. The town was full of people of all nationalities, and a man with a little capital and prudence could hardly go-wrong in making money. I remained in Melbourne, and Fox and Baird went up to the Steiglitz diggings, where the quartz page 115reefs were, to buy an interest if possible. I joined a horse-dealer, named Cotton, and went largely into the business. I made a trip to Hobart-town, and purchased and shipped a cargo from there to Melbourne, on which I lost money, and finding that that business would not pay just then, I abandoned it.
Going along Bourke Street I met a friend I knew in San Francisco. He was called Luby. There were two gentlemen with him: their names were Peter Lalor and Ivern. We had a long chat about the goldfields in California, and the effects of the gold excitement in Victoria. Lalor gave me some notes of his from his diary and note book about the Eureka Stockade affair, and I now write them up in this book.
For the first few months after the discovery of gold in Victoria, many shrewd persons believed that the Colony would be ruined by its seeming good fortune. None of the ordinary industries could be carried on whilst workmen were so scarce and wages so high. Happily, however, these gloomy expectations proved fallacious, for, in 1852, when the great stream of people from Europe began to flow into the Colony, every profession and every trade sprang into new and vigorous life. The vast crowds on the goldfields required to be fed, and the farmers found ample market for their corn, and the squatters for their beef and mutton. The miners required to be clothed, and the tailor and shoemaker must be employed, whatever might be the prices they charged. Mechanics and artisans of every class found their labours in demand, and handsomely paid for their work; the merchants also found trade both brisk and lucrative. While the imports in 1850 were worth only three-quarters of a million, those of three years later were worth about twenty times that amount. After this enormous increase in population and business, it was found that there was quite as great an opportunity of gaining riches by remaining quietly engaged in one's own occupation as by joining the restless throng upon the gold-fields. The public revenue of the Colony was, in 1852, six times, and in 1853 twelve times as great as it had been before the discovery of gold, so that, both as individuals and as a nation, the people of Victoria had reason to be satisfied with the change.
There existed, however, one drawback, for the attractions of the goldfields had drawn from the neighbouring Colonies, and more especially from Tasmania, great numbers of that class page 116of convicts who, having served a part of their time, had been liberated on condition of good behaviour. They crossed over by hundreds, and soon gave rise to a serious difficulty, for, in the confused and unsettled state of the Colony, they found only too great an opportunity for the display of their criminal propensities and perverted talents. Being by no means charmed with the toilsome life of the gold-digger, many of them became bushrangers.
There were in 1852, several bands of these ruffians, sweeping the country and robbing in all directions. As the gold was being conveyed from the diggings, escorted by bands of armed troopers, the bushrangers lurked upon the road, treacherously shot the troopers, and rifled the chests. On one occasion their daring rose to such a height that a band of them boarded the ship "Nelson" whilst it lay at anchor in Hobson's Bay, overpowered the craw, and removed gold to the value of £24,000, remarking, as they handed the boxes over the side of the vessel, that this was the best goldfield they had ever seen.
To prevent any further introduction of these undesirable immigrants, the Legislature, in 1852, passed what was called the "Convicts Prevention Act," declaring that no person who had been convicted, and had not received an absolutely free pardon, should be allowed to enter the colony; and that all persons who came from Tasmania should be required to prove that they were free men before being allowed to land. Any ship captain who brought a convict into the colony was to be fined £100 for the offence.
Meanwhile the goldfields were growing apace. The discovery of the Eureka gravel-pits and Canadian leads, made Ballarat once more the favourite place for gold-finders, and in 1853 there were about 40,000 diggers at work on the Yarroweé. Hotels began to be built, theatres were erected, and here and there a little church rose among the long line of tents which occupied the slopes above the creek. Below, on the flats, the scene was a busy one. Thousands upon thousands of holes were sunk in all directions, from which men emerged and disappeared like ants, each bearing a bag of sand, which the other threw on a wheelbarrow or slung over his shoulder, and then carried forward, running nimbly along the thin paths among a multitude of holes till he reached a little creek, whose waters were turned to a yellow stream of mud. Such was the scene which presented itself by day; but at sunset a gun was fired from the Com-page 117missioner's tent, and all ceased work. Then, against the evening sky, ten thousand fires sent up their wreaths of thin blue smoke, and the diggers prepared their evening meals. Everything was hushed for a time, except that a dull murmur arose from the little crowds chatting over their pannikins of tea. But, as the darkness drew closer around, the noises began to assume a merrier tone, and, mingling pleasantly in the evening air, there rose the loud notes of a sailor's song, the merry jingle of a French political chant, or the rich strains of a German chorus,
In some tents the miners sat around on boxes or stools, while, by the light of flaming oil cans, they gambled for match boxes filled with gold dust. In others they gathered to drink the liquors illicitly sold by the "sly-grog shops." Many of the diggers betook themselves to the brilliantly lighted theatres, and made the fragile walls tremble with their rough and hearty roars of applause. Everywhere were heard the sounds of laughter and good humour.
Then, at midnight, all went to bed except those foolish revellers who had stayed too late at the "grog shop." At dawn, again, everybody was astir, for the day's supply of water must be drawn from the stream ere its limped current began to assume the appearance of a clay-stained gutter. Making the allowances proper to the occasion, the community was both orderly and law-abiding, and the digger in the midst of all his toil, enjoyed a very agreeable existence.
He had but one grievance to trouble his life, and that was the monthly payment of the license fee. This tax had been imposed under the erroneous impression that every one who went upon the goldfields must of necessity earn a fortune. For a long time this mistake prevailed, because only the most successful diggers were much heard of. But there was an undistinguishable throng of those who earned much less than a labourer's wage.
The average monthly earnings throughout the colony were not more than eight pounds for each man; and out of this sum he had to pay thirty shillings for a mere permission to dig. To those who were fortunate, this seemed but a trifle, but for those who earned little or nothing, there was no resource but to evade payment, and many were the tricks adopted in order to dodge the Commissioners. As there were more than one-fifth of the total number of diggers who systematically paid no fees, the page 118police were in the habit of stopping any man they met, and demanding to see his license. If he had none, he was at once marched off to the place that served for a gaol, and there chained to a tree.
The police were in the habit of devoting two days a week to what whs called "digger-hunting," and as they often experienced much trouble and vexation in doing what was unfortunately their duty, they were sometimes rough and summary in their proceedings, hence arose a feeling of hostility among the diggers not only to the police, but indeed, to all the officials on the goldfields. The first serious ebullition of the prevailing discontent took place on the Owens River, where a commissioner had been maltreated. Violence, however, was deprecated by the great body of miners, who held large meetings in order to agitate in a more constitutional manner for the abolition of the fees. At first they sent a petition to Governor Latrobe, who declined to make any change.
It was then hinted that, possibly, they might be driven to use force, and the Governor replied that he was determined to do his duty. In August, 1853, when the agitation was increasing, Latrobe hurriedly reduced the fee to twenty shilling per month. This appeased the miners for a time, but the precipitancy with which the Governor had changed his intention, showed too plainly the weakness of the Government, for, indeed, there was scarcely a soldier in Victoria to repress an insurrection if one should break out.
Among the confused crowds on the goldfields, there were a great number of troublesome spirits, many of them foreigners, who were only too happy to foment dissension. Thousands of miners had been disappointed in their hopes of wealth, and being in a discontented frame of mind, they blamed their misfortunes entirely on the Governor.
In spite of the concession that had been made to them, through all the goldfields a spirit of dissatisfaction prevailed; mutterings were heard as of a coming storm, and Latrobe, in his alarm, sent to all the neighbouring Colonies to ask for troops. As the Ninety-ninth Regiment was lying idle in Hobart-town it was at once despatched to Melbourne. While matters were in this state, Governor Latrobe retired from office, and in June, 1854, Sir Charles Hotham arrived to fill the position.page 119
On his first arrival he showed that his sympathies were, to a great extent, with the diggers, but he could scarcely be expected to make any important change until he had been a few months in the colony and had learnt exactly the state of affairs. Meanwhile the discontent on the goldfields was daily increasing. The months of September and October in 1854 were exceedingly dry; the creeks were greatly shrunk in volume, and in many places the diggers could find no water either for drinking or for gold-washing, and their irritation was not at all soothed by the arbitrary manner of the commissioners and the police. Besides this, the government had thought it necessary to form a camp on the goldfields; so that a large body of soldiers dwelt constantly in the midst of the miners. The soldiers and officers, of course, supported the commissioners, and, like them, soon came to be regarded with the greatest disfavour.
The goldfield population was in this irritable state when a trifling incident kindled an extensive revolt. A digger named Scobie, late one evening, knocked at the door of Bentley's Hotel at Ballarat. Finding the place closed for the night, he tried to force an entrance, and continued his clamour so long that Bentley became angry, and sallied forth to chastise him. A crowd gathered to see the fight, and, in the darkness, Scobie's head was split open with a spade. Whose hand it was that aimed the blow no one could tell, but the diggers universally believed that Bentley was himself the murderer. He was, therefore, arrested and tried, but acquitted by Mr. Dowes, the magistrate, who was said by the diggers to be secretly Bentley's partner in business.
A great crowd assembled round the hotel, and a digger named Kennedy addressed the multitude in vigorous Scottish accents, pointing out the spot where their companion's blood had been shed, and asserting that his spirit hovered above and called for revenge. The authorities sent a few police to protect the place, but they were only a handful of men in the midst of a great and seething crowd of over eight thousand powerful diggers. For an hour or two the mob, though indulging in occasional banter, remained harmless.
But a mischievous boy having thrown a stone and broken the lamp in front of the hotel, the police made a movement as if they were about to seize the offender. This roused the diggers to anger, and in less than a minute every pane of glass was page 120broken, the police were roughly jostled and cut by showers of stones, the doors of the hotel were broken open. The crowd burst tumultuously into the hotel, and the rooms were swarming with men drinking the liquors and searching for Bentley, who had already, however, escaped on a swift horse to the camp. As the noise and disorder increased, a man placed a handful of paper and rags against the wooden walls of the bowling alley, deliberately struck a match, and set fire to the place. The diggers now deserted the hotel, and retired to a safe distance in order to watch the conflagration.
Meanwhile a company of soldiers had set out from the camp for the scene of the riot, and on their approach the crowd quietly dispersed, but by this time the hotel was reduced to a heap of smouldering ruins. For this outrage three men were apprehended and taken to Melbourne, where they were tried and sentenced to imprisonment. But Bentley was also re-arrested and tried, and as his friend Dowes could, on this occasion, be of no assistance to him, he was sentenced to three years hard labour on the roads. Dowes was dismissed from the magistracy, and Sir C. Hotham did everything in his power to conciliate the diggers. They were not to be thus satisfied, however, and had a stormy meeting at Ballarat, in which they appointed a deputation, consisting of Kennedy, Black and Humphrey, to demand from the Governor the release of the three men condemned for burning Bentley's Hotel. Hotham received the deputation very kindly, but declined to accede to the demand, because, he said, the word "demand," was not a suitable term to use in addressing the representative of Her Majesty.
As the diggers were haughty, and refused to alter the phrase, the Governor intimated that, under these circumstances, no reply could be given.