A Trip to The Tumut District By A Practical Miner
10 June 1872The Sydney Morning Herald
The traveller bound for the Tumut from Sydney will start for Goulburn by train, thence his course will be through, Yass, Gundagai, and the famed Adelong.
Presuming he starts by coach, booking himself by Cobb's line to Adelong Crossing, his fare will amount to £5, and many little disbursements will have to be made on the road for refreshments, &c I will not trouble to give particulars of the road from Goulburn to Yass, but still it must not be passed over without a word of praise for it is really in a creditable state, hard and level as many streets are in Sydney.
Would that as fair a tale could be told of the so-called road from Yass to Gundagai.
The track or series of tracks made by the drivers on the way, forming so many zig-zags of a miniature kind, are pleasant to look at, perhaps, from I their diversify, but very disagreeable to travel.
It is, indeed, a wonder how the mail drivers can make up their time (six miles an hour) over such a country, and the few accidents recorded on the line entitle them to the highest praise.
Our legislators must be aware of the condition of this road, or I am much mistaken.
Not long since, one M.L.A travelled the line, and, with five relays of horses drawing buggies, driven by the best drivers, from Gundagai to Yass took twelve hours, no doubt with much jolting and inconvenience.
Coach travelling on such a road as I have just passed over is far from pleasant, inside the vehicle particularly – a game of battledore and shuttlecock, on a large scale, the couch being the battledore, and the poor unfortunate traveller the shuttlecock, for the time being.
Outside, on the box, a far better chance is afforded. There you can face the danger, and perhaps amuse yourself with the chat of the driver.
There is not much to interest the traveller on the road. The country is badly timbered, and the scenery anything but pleasant to the eye.
Dull as it is, still a few points on the way will give subjects for conversation. Conroy's Gap, for example, fifteen miles from Yass, on the right of the road, the scene of a fearful tragedy not long since.
A mad shepherd named Monday murdered an entire family of five through some fancied injury he had sustained at their hands.
A shear blade, fastened on a stick, was the weapon.
He has long since expiated his crime on the scaffold - the only time, observed the coachee, when Monday fell on Tuesday, a joke on a grave subject, for that was the day of the week Monday was hanged.
The remains of the hut, once the dwelling of the Conroy family, stands in the paddock, the station is desertad, and its little improvement going to ruin.
Six miles from this, the foot of the Copabella Range is reached.
Bookam Inn stands there and if there is a selection of bad roads to be made, this locality, I fancy, will prove the spot - from there to Jugiong Creek, where I am happy to find some improvement contemplated, as a new bridge is in course of erection, over the creek, six iron cylinders forming the central supports.
The bridge when completed will prove a great advantage, as the traffic has often been delayed through floods after rain of a heavy nature. From Jugiong to Gundagai the road seems to have had more attention, and cannot be complained of.
Gundagai is to all appearance, a highly prosperous town, and there is a report of some quartz reefs newly discovered in its vicinity.
Adelong Crossing is the next stage.
From that point the mail is conveyed to Tumut, a distance of twenty-six miles by a vehicle that I am sure a feeble descriptive power like mine will fail to do justice to.
A used-up broken-down tray buggy, with broken springs, and axles not to be depended on, worth I should say, as a curiosity, a considerable sum, but as a trap for passenger traffic decidedly nil.
The driver and horses are indeed a match, and it is scarcely requisite to add that the passengers by this route generally prefer any mode of conveyance other then the mail.
A few break downs do occur on this road, and it is not at all an uncommon occurrence to find the buggy in the road deserted, while the driver on one of his miserable steeds is, conveying mails to Tumut.
In such cases the passenger will have to walk and perhaps that means of travel is the more agreeable in the end.
Twelve years ago I visited this spot (the Tumut Valley) on my road to Albury from Kiandra, the place seems little changed. Not many improvements are to be reported. The town-ship is delightfully situated, surmounted on all sides by a chain of mountains, the climate is mild, quite an agreeable change from the mountain chill airs.
The Tumut River flows along the eastern part of the valley, descending from the Adelong ranges, the traveller will observe to the south the lofty Boogong spur an offshoot from the Alps, looking south-east the hills at Lac-Ma-Lac will be seen distant about twelve miles, there is situated the tract which the Tumut people look forward to as their Eldo-rado, and not perhaps erroneously.
The road to the reefs is one difficult of travel, up gullies, round sidelings, and over what seems to the weary one, hills never ending.
It is a matter of difficulty to convey provisions to this locality, the pack horse is called into requisition, and the hill or country that an Australian horse cannot travel must indeed be a fearful one.
Mounted, with two inhabitants us guides, I reached the reefs. I shall endeavour to give a description of them as accurately as possible, for I look to this district to furnish mining news, and substantial golden proofs of its existence in times to come.
The "Lac-Ma-Lac" is, if the nature of the country round it is considered, a spur from the Boogong in fact - a spur from a spur - the Boogong being an offshoot from the Alps.
The name Lac-Ma-Lac is an aboriginal one, and although I questioned one of the dark-skins, I failed to elicit its meaning.
The Boogong was named by the Aboriginals, calling it after a large species of moth (some 4 inches long), considered a delicacy as an article of food and taken by them at certain seasons from the caves which abound on the mountain.
I found Lac-Ma-Lac as I entered upon the saddle or gently sloping hill on which the reefs are situated dotted for nearly half a mile with shafts, trenches and other prospecting signs.
The number of miners on the ground I will roughly estimate as 60; their huts, as a rule, standing close to their claims.
Wood and water abound, the surrounding hills being covered with suitable mining timber, for slabbing, &c., and a clear stream winding its way round the east side of the saddle and passing through the claims, in its course laying bare the various strata of rock, and materially assisting the prosperity and working of the veins.
I might add, to the creek may be placed the credit of the discovery. A boy, the son of a settler, looking after cattle accidentally fell from the bank to the bed of the creek just at the spot where the richest veins have since been found.
Naturally enough as when a person gets a sudden tumble he looks around to find a means of ascending the banks.
The rains had on the creek side laid the veins bare, and gold bearing quartz was visible.
The report quickly spread and the ground was rushed, but prospecting in such a country, to where tools, provisions, &c., have to be conveyed twelve miles is not only a work of difficulty, but an expensive one.
Party after party took up claims after a few months only to abandon them.
The veins in the surface were narrow, and the nearest good crushing plant at Adelong distant twenty five miles.
The cost of conveying the quartz that distance is thirty-five shillings per ton.
Then there is another item - bags to hold it on its journey; this, with the expense of crushing, 10s per ton will bring the cost of the crushing to a large sum, in fact reasonably one ounce of the precious metal is swallowed in expenses.
I need scarcely explain to my friends how expenses of this kind retard prospecting.
Many a poor vein is struck and left; many a leader, showing gold but in small quantities, is passed over as worthless, and not worth a trial.
So it is with Lac-Ma-Lac, although opened and proved payable for nearly two years; yet still the amount of country worked is ridiculously small, and the greater part of that merely rooted in a primitive and non effective manner.
Standing on the bank of the creek on the north side, one can easily form a good idea of the country, and the lay and dip of the veins.
Placing myself in that position I observed on the eastern side of the southern bank a granite bluff standing prominently forth, some 30 feet above the surface, its face almost perpendicular.
This granite can be traced due north and south along the line and all the veins of slate and quartz to its west seem to underlay and make for this granite bluff or bar.
Next to this is a vein called the "Madman," from the fact of its having been first successfully prospected at a distance from the creek by a miner considered mad.
He struck the vein some 200 yards up the hill, south of the creek.
His shaft was pointed out to me in a claim now held by Messrs. Grant and Co.
Next to this claim is a lease held by Messrs. Webber and Barker.
They have worked this claim for many months, contending against many difficulties.
Their vein from the surface can be traced almost perpendicularly down their shift for a depth of 40 foot, narrow at times, and widening out occasionally as they sunk.
Two tons from this vein crushed lately yielding 15oz. to the ton.
Gold can be seen in the stone from the surface.
The vein in very rubbly as yet, but carries with it a good casing and dig, making it easy to work.
Taking observations from the creek again, I find the next vein about sixty feet to ,the west of the Madman; it has been named the "Leader," it has been tunnelled into from the creek bank to the south by Messrs. Collins and Co., their claim standing on the creek.
Thirty feet from the Leader is the Blue Vein, this Collins's party have also worked, and, from both obtained valuable crushings, as the returns I give hereafter will show.
The Leader and Blue Vein vary in thickness; the averages of each may be taken as 8 inches, both veins underlay strongly to the east, one in three, I estimated from measurements in their underground workings.
Next claim to the south is Green's, a bit of spare ground 37 feet only, but one that proved highly remunerative, as most bits of spare ground, prove.
Green has taken crushings from both veins.
Haydon and Fitzgerald hold a large claim next, and have worked the two veins to a depth of 40 feet, tracing in their stopes the veins from boundary to boundary, the stone proving better at a depth and very rich.
To the south still is Messrs. Dent and Co., a lease amalgamated with Hayden and Fitzgerald.
Next is a small claim, 61 yards, held by Mr. Omara's party, a well-known resident of Tumut; in this claim and the next, a hundred yards, held by Messrs. Morris, Kenny, and Co,, the leader and vein is traced and good specimens have been obtained a few feet from the surface; both claims are under offer of purchase by a Sydney Company - the purchasers of Messrs. Webber and Co.'s claim, on the Madman - the object of the company being, I suppose, to embrace all the veins; also, to erect good machinery for crushing, winding, &c. The want of machinery and capital is apparent along the entire line.
The next south is a 12-acre lease, "Toohy and Co.," not yet worked.
Beyond a doubt the hill I have attempted to describe gives every indication of a rich and permanent body of stone being struck either by prospecting or following down the veins mentioned.
I will now turn my attention to the North.
On that side of the creek I find Messrs. Haloran and Co. tunnelled into the bank on the same veins.
This claim has but a few feet of surface on the bed rock, and the vein shows what may be expected at a depth, south, as the surface there increases, most of the workings being in it.
Holoran's party have forty yards, their vein or the one they have directed their attention most particularly to is, in reality, the " Blue vein." and has turned out splendid-looking stone to a depth of fitly feet, still working, and at present crushing what is thought to be 18 oz, stone.
The next claim is Masters and Co.'s, forty yards, worked in a similar manner to about eighty feet, as Holoran's, the stone being just as rich, showing but little variation. It underlays east in both claims.
The two parties last mentioned have disposed of their holding for a large sum, conditionally, to Messrs Mandleson and Co., of Tumut, the object being the formation of a company.
Messrs. Kenny and Co. hold n large claim, 300 feet, next Masters, their shaft is at present going down, slabbing being necessary, as the surface to the north increases in the same manner as I have described south.
The reef has been traced within 60 foot of their shaft, so that they are sinking with hopes strong, and, I think, reasonably.
Northward, for a considerable distance, leaseholds have been applied for, and in a few months the "Lac-Ma-Lac" line will be a formidable one. Machinery and crushing plant ought to be the first step.
Capital invested in that way cannot fail to reward its furnishers; and the line I have described will beyond a doubt amply repay capital.
I obtained the following crushings from Messrs. David Wilson's machine, Adelong, where the greater portion of Lac-Ma-Lac quartz is put through:-
Halloran's party crushed 26 ½ tons, yield 114 oz.
Hayden and Fitzgerald, 9½ tons, 87 oz.
Green, 5 tons, 10½ oz.
Masters, 22 tons, 228 oz.
Hayden and Co., 7 tons, 60 oz.
Webber and Barker, 2 tons, 30 oz.
Also several crushings from various parties, averaging 3 oz. to the ton.