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Auriferous Gympie

    In the late nineteenth century the fledgling colony of Queensland, Australia, was formed, thus named after Queen Victoria at her own request when the Moreton Bay district separated from New South Wales in 1859. However, for many subsequent years, the financial condition of the colony was as low as could be; even facing bankruptcy. The discovery of gold in the wilderness of Gympie was to change all that, forever.

As the news of one man’s discovery, leaked out to the general public, the untamable, bushland community, that came to be known as Nashville, was the focal point of gold hysteria in Queensland.

Above: A view of the early goldfields at the start of  the twentieth century Source: Gympie Library

   The discovery of gold by James Nash in 1867 was the break Queensland was looking for to establish itself as a prosperous Australian colony. The treasury’s bank balance rose as a result, so Gympie became known as "the Town that saved Queensland."

    The immediate effect of Nash’s discovery was that hundreds of people from all industries abandoned their dependable lifestyles to join the growing rush. Abundant alluvial gold, gold found in silt or sand left by flowing water, was obtained using the most basic of panning instruments. However, living conditions were primitive. A favourable day’s toil in gold was worth more than a week’s salary. This simple fact’s immediate effect was to motivate thousands more hopeful prospectors to journey to the goldfields, despite the impossible odds of procuring payable gold, and leave the major cities of Maryborough and Brisbane as virtual ghost towns.

Before: The early hustle and bustle of Upper Mary Street. Source: Gympie Library

Upper Mary Street.JPG (232793 bytes)

While alluvial mining began its steady decline in the late 1860s, mining machinery ploughed deep into Gympie’s fertile soil, eager for the rich profits that easy exceeded the simple toils of alluvial gold.

    There were three main phases in Gympie’s golden history: the period of alluvial mining, then two periods of reef mining seperated by the failure to break through a layer greenstone.

    In those prosperous years of Gympie, the axe and the spade came to symbolise agriculture and production as woodlands were cleared to allow for prosperity and growth, as the real mining era was to begin only a few years after the initial rush. It was then that Gympie’s estimated population was in the thousands with immigrants from all corners of the world, answering to the call of gold in Gympie.

The unquenchable thirst for gold drove miners deep into the rich soil, were weekly fatality rates and working conditions were horrendous.Underground mining.JPG (96022 bytes)

Above: Miners ploughing deep into Gympie soil, amongst veins of quartz Source: Gympie Library

    Whole mines collapsed, forgotten mislaid charges exploded, ricochet from charges injured many, and rockfalls were a common occurrence, which added to mining mayhem. To aggravate the already appalling conditions of the goldfields, the flood of 1893 poured its waters into Gympie, shaking the goldfield’s very foundations. (See INUNDATED GYMPIE) Water flooded connected mine shafts, flooding whole mining areas

As the floodwaters continued to rise to 83.5ft, the floodgates weren’t able to release the pressure swiftly enough-mines exploded, one after the other, as gusts of water roses from 80 to 90ft high.

1904-5 the marginal decline began, as the mines were plagued with irreversible water problems, and gold became harder to obtain.

    As the gold became less and less available, Gympie was forced into a rare reversal period, were the picks of the miners were replaced with the seeds of the farmers. Gradually, mining machinery was abandoned as "Nashville" returned to the timber and agricultural industry for prosperity.

    Timber-getters were present in the area prior to Nash's discovery of gold, so as mining declined in Gympie in the 1920s, many miners turned to the timber industry for employment. Today, Gympie messmate is credited as "tomorrow's Gympie Gold" as this hardwood tree has excellent pontential in plantations for the future prosperity of "Nashville".