HEATHER. Old Jack McDonald, up there, he used to work in the mines, when they had a candle in their hat.
HEATHER. Probably, it was out here. Couldn't tell you for sure.
PETER. He mined all up through the hills around here. I used to pick him up with his push bike, in the bus and drop him off up near Stoney Creek and he'd go up into the hills and spend the day there and come back out.
So, that's gold. Fossiking for gold?
PETER. He knew where all the old mines were and he was an old prospector.
*** Excerpt from Heather and Peter Matthews' interview in 'The Forgotten Corner Interviews'.
Men have been searching for gold in the Towamba district from the time of early settlement. Hills, creeks, rivers and suitable soils and rock combined in several places and small and sometimes, large deposits were discovered. In 1899, gold was discovered at Yambulla, south-west of Towamba, in amounts large enough to draw men and their families to the area. Mines opened up and a township grew but the gold petered out early in the new century. From time to time other mines have opened up in other locations in the district but not enough to bring lasting prosperity. However, hope is always there.
Excerpt from 'The Towamba District, It's
Resources and Capabilities'.
'Pambula Voice' November 3, 1893.
"A little inconvenience is caused in times of flood when the river becomes very swift and dangerous but as a rule it goes down quickly. In addition to its vast and almost unlimited dairy capabilities gold has been found in payable quantities in various parts of the Towamba district and a large area of land is held by the government as a gold field reserve."
Monday 15 April 1861
'The Sydney Morning Herald'
* We hear very conflicting accounts from the Gulf Diggings. One man has returned with a small parcel of beautiful gold, weighing eight ounces, another man describes the place as anything but promising.
'Australian Town and Country Journal'
1 August 1891
New Reef near Eden.
A RICH ASSAY.
The following assay has been made of some quartz from the Mildred Key's Reef, Burragate, in the Eden district: "Ferruginous quartz showing free gold yielding 5bz 19dwt 18gr gold per ton, and 1oz 6dwt 2gr of silver per ton." Mildred Key's reef is on Mr. Key's property, at Burragate, on the road from Towamba to Wyndham, 8 or 10 miles, west of any previous discovery. A large parcel, some 20 tons, from which this assayed return was obtained, is now in Sydney for treatment. The reef was discovered and worked by Mr. Fred Sylvester, an experienced miner, who has had a large Australian experience.
'The Sydney Morning Herald'
2 June 1892
On the Jingera Silver-mining Company's eases the new contractors have started to drive the tunnel the remaining 250ft., to cut the rich lode, the first 100ft having been completed. As the country is hard granite, they have probably fully six months' work before them. A syndicate formed by the Sydney Mining Bank started work this week on a 40 acre mineral lease almost adjoining the Whipstick township. From the assays made public of ore from the two lodes discovered it would seem that the property is likely to prove a valuable one. One lode, the formation of which is between 4ft and 5ft. in width, assayed 418oz of silver and Over 3oz. of gold, with 6½ per cent. of bismuth per ton, while the other, a, lode capped with manganese and felspar, has given even higher returns of gold. Mr. Bennett is in charge, and having completed the surface works and cut down the shaft, intends to begin breaking out ore this week
Aug 23, 1895
Topic of conversation for the past few days has been the local diggings, viz. New Station and Whipstick.... Robertson and party, of Whipstick, are excavating another lot of stone.
June 26, 1896
...now the query is "when will it stop raining?" Owing to so much wet weather, work at Mr. J. H. Martin's silver mine has been temporarily suspended.
November 30, 1896
* Thomas Hite, storekeeper, of Towamba, recently purchased a big interest in Mr. A. Brown and Son's mine at Timbilica, near Nangutta. Several tons of the ore have been sent to Sydney. If the yield turns out profitably it is intended to float the mine into a company.
Dec 24, 1896
Mining around here is almost at a standstill. The Jingera Mining Proprietary is now only employing three or four men.
'Pambula Voice' January 14, 1898
There has been no sensation or developments out at the " Klondyke the second". Several of the leading claims have suspended work pending the arrival of foreign capitalists. It's a wonder that "Mr. Tomahawk" or " Chips" has not visited the field ere this as if bent upon speculation. I know of some splendid investments where £10,000 could be expended less advantageously.
Monday 29 January, 1900
'The Sydney Morning Herald'
Favourable reports concerning new finds at Timbillica goldfields continue to come to hand. Samples of very rich stone, discovered this week by S. Parker, of Towamba, were exhibited in town. The finds are in good reefing country, and the sinking is soft.
10 February 1900
BOMBALA, Wednesday. - Favourable reports concerning the Timbilica Gold Fields continue to arrive. Several new discoveries have recently been made, and quartz taken from some of them shows gold in profusion. Two or three miners have for some time past been on payable stone, and it is anticipated that the field will now receive a thorough test. In one of the mines the gold-bearing reef is reported to be 5ft wide at a depth of 30ft. A local mine manager of experience is of opinion that if the gold goes down the field will prove to be a second Wyalong. The auriferous country has been found to extend over an area of twelve miles square. The sinking is soft. The field is situated 38 miles west from Eden, via Towamba, and 38 miles south of the road connecting Southern Monaro via Bondi, with Twofold Bay. A Mr. Rockclifie is bringing down from Sydney a five-head battery and engine capable of driving 25 head of stampers for erection on the field.
Wednesday, 28 November 1900
'The Sydney Morning Herald'
Whilst drilling a hole in the Yambulla Company's mine on Saturday a portion of a charge which had remained in the hole from a previous shot exploded, blowing two men a considerable distance and inflicting serious injury.
28 May 1901
The offices of warden's clerk, mining registrar, officer authorised to issue miners' rights, and business and mineral licences, and bailiff of the warden's court, at Towamba has been abolished.
'The Sydney Morning Herald'
5 August 1901
SOUTH COAST MINING.
* The Pambula Mines Company cleaned up from a fortnight's crushing of its own ore for 102 oz. Robinson and party report the discovery of a silver lode at Jingera assaying 1500oz. per ton. Several leases are being taken up, and the Pambula syndicate has two men engaged in prospecting,
* Yambulla Gold-mining Company cleaned up on Wednesday a fortnight's run of the battery for 100 oz. of smelted gold. Roberts and party crushed seven tons at Haugh's battery for 21 oz. The Sydney syndicate are putting through a parcel of about 200 tons at Gough's battery.
Aug 29, 1902
Grant & Robertson's claim at Whipstick is yielding very rich stone, which is being treated at the Treasury Mines battery.
Mar 13, 1903
Mining ..... we are informed that the Treasury Mines battery near Wyndham has been secured by Messrs. Grant and Robertson for erection at their Jingera mine, which continues to yield good stone. So there does not appear to be much hope of work being resumed again at the Treasury mines - for the present at any rate.
Mar 27, 1903
The crushing machinery erected at the Treasury Mines (formerly known as the Devil's Hole, near Wyndham) some 12 months ago is being taken down and removed for re-erection at the old poppet heads, Whipstick. It will here be utilised for treating the ore from Messrs. Grant and Robertson's claim on the top of the Jingera Range.
Jan 8, 1904
Mr. W. Scanes has gone into partnership with our local blacksmith Mr. John Watson... the Finn has just turned out a new wagonette to the order of Mr. S. Goldberg. The Whipstick mines have started work again and quite a number of miners have visited the field on the lookout for employment. Whipstick now has two accommodation houses and a third one is talked of. Several other buildings are also in the course of erection including one intended for a grocery store.... Our local butcher, Mr. W. Collins, is doing a good business at present.
Mar 9, 1906
A farewell social is to be tendered Mr. & Mrs. John Robinson and family in the School of Arts tonight prior to their departure for N.Z. Mr. Robinson has been a resident of Whipstick for some years, being one of the foremost miners in the Jingera mines. He has sold out his interests at Whipstick. "Jack" will be very much missed both here and at Whipstick as he always took an active part in all public movements. It will be remembered that it was Mr. Robinson who so gallantly saved the life of Thomas Collins in an accident at the Jingera mines at so great a risk of losing his own life, and for which he was awarded the Clarke Medal.
Apr 12, 1907
On Friday 5th inst. Mr. Davies took a party of school children to the Jingera bismuth mine..
Feb 22, 1909
Twofold Bay Magnet
Mr. Jackson, just returned from a visit to Burragate, reports that the True Fisher Lode at that place is one of the best gold bearing reefs he has ever seen.
Newspaper Unknown. March 19, 1913
Our gold mine is at present quiescent, as timbering and general fitting up are going on. Certainly some splendid specimens have been taken out of the solid. I should say, from what I have seen, the reef is certainly worth trying. But development work is monstrously expensive.
April 7, 1913
The mine on the ridge above Ferny Flat is making decided progress. The shaft is now timbered, a windlass erected, fall, etc., for making work convenient. The further they go down the better the gold is showing in the stone and is quite promising enough to be given a trial.
'The Southern Record and Advertiser'
12 May 1923
Eden 'Magnet' reports: A good deal of interest has been occasioned throughout the district by the discovery by Mr J. T. Dickie, and his son, Mr. G. T Dickie, of a well-defined auriferous reef on the mountain side about two miles from the Towamba-Eden road, near Towamba. The reef, about 18 inches wide, is of a honeycomb quartz, in which gold estimated to yield at the rate of 10 or 12 ounces to the ton shows freely. It is as yet too early to determine the extent and value of the find, but prospects are such as to encourage the hope that a highly remunerative mine will be the result and reward of the lucky prospectors. A disposition to 'rush' the field was excited by the report that an assay of a sample of ore taken from across the full face of the reef gave sensational results, but experienced miners who have visited the scene of operations state that the reef has not yet been sufficiently opened out and tested to warrant expectations of an extra vagant nature. Nevertheless, apart from the immediate locality of the find, there is a great scope of mountainous and metalliferous country extending from Towamba to Wyndham that it is considered should well repay investigation.
'Magnet' August 23, 1930
* Silver lead ore at New Station, near Wyndham.
'Magnet' March 28, 1931
Honeysuckle Flat - reference made by Rev. W. B. Clark in 1852 that gold existed there - is believed to be near Wyndham - gold was obtained on this flat which was on the old teamster's route between Eden and Monaro.
'Magnet' January 23, 1932
Molybdenite re discovered at Wangrabelle, 2 miles from Mr. W. Stevens's residence. Discovered first in 1912 but war stopped it because men went to war. Same happened to Yambulla.
'Magnet' July 2, 1932
* Bimbaya Goldfield - (Mr. Frank Ramsey's battery)
'Magnet' September 3, 1932
Yowaka field. Gahan.
Brass Knocker Mine. Falkner.
Sugarloaf Field. Nethercote.
'Magnet' March 1933
Mr. Dickie and Mr. McLeod discovered the Sugarloaf gold mine at Nethercote about 10 - 12 miles from Eden, 40 oz. of gold to the ton. Recently Mr. C. Wiles bought the mine with others. The company will be known as the 'Towamba Goldmining Company Ltd.' The mine has high potential. A road will be made from Nethercote Creek. A battery is to be erected on Spear's Creek. Such are prospects that £20,000 has been spent on equipment
'Magnet' December 9, 1933
* Gold already discovered at Letts Mountain.
'Magnet' January 6, 1934
NEW GOLD FIND
Considerable interest has been created by the discovery recently made near the Letts Mountain to Wog Wog road of a gold bearing reef of exceptional richness. The find was made by Messers Ken and Les Quigg with whom Messers Harry Tasker and Jas. Laing are associated as applicants for the prospectors gold mining lease. The Quigg brothers who are experienced miners say that they have never seen a more promising discovery. The gold is found in a seam about twelve inches in width, is coarse and of first class quality. The country carries a number of other reefs and there are indications that several at least are auriferous. The prospectors' claim is within a stone's throw from the road which is accessible by car and is within two hundred or three hundred yards off the Wog Wog River.
Adjoining the prospector's lease is a lease of similar area applied for by Pambula's indefatigable mines developer Mr. James Robertson. Next is an area applied for by Messers Alf Tasker Jnr., and Tom Legge who have discovered gold bearing stone of a richness equal to that first found by the fortunate prospectors. Another area applied for as a gold mining lease is held by Messers Alf Tasker Snr., and Alf Tasker Jnr., who are hopeful that they will find on it an extension of the nearby reefs that have been proved to be gold bearing.
The ridge as above as indicated is easily accessible by car is in quite new country so far as reefing is concerned and appears to be well worth the attention of bonifide gold seekers. A former resident of the district states that 40 years or so ago numerous Chinese made a living by washing gold from the bed of the Wog Wog river and that many Australian miners prospected the neighbourhood in their search for the parent reef but without success. Apparently it has been the good fortune of the present prospectors to make a discovery of potential far reaching importance and they are the recipients of innumerable good wishes for their unbounded success.
'Magnet' November 17, 1934
New Hopes of Revival
Mr. Bedford, one of the best known geologists in Australia, is busy making a report on the whole Pambula Goldfield and as far as is known at present, his report is most favourable, says "The Voice". Mr James Robertson, whose connection with mining has hitherto not been as profitable as his enterprise deserves, is responsible for securing Mr. Bedford's services and both the general public and the many mining enthusiasts throughout the district would join him in wishing for a successful outcome.
Mr. Robertson has also induced the Reverend Father O'Reilly and party to visit the district with the result that they have taken up several leases at Yambulla, have applied for several new leases at Pambula, and have also taken an option over the Wolumla Goldfield. Amongst those interested with Fr. O'Reilly are Sir Walter Kingsmill an Engineer Commander Hogan. As the result of these visits there is every likelihood of a big company being formed to work the fields on a large scale.
We are informed (as our contemporary) that the owners of the Brass Knocker mine are now working night shift.
'Magnet' November 24, 1934
Messers Squire, Robertson and H. A. Kraanstuyver are opening up the old Jingera Gold Mine and have two or three men at work there.
'Magnet' March 9, 1935
* Certain Melbourne visitors are displaying unusual interest in the idle silver mines at Letts Creek (near Pericoe). The mines were in activity about forty years ago. Investigations and tests are still being made at Yambulla Goldfields also.
'Magnet' June 29, 1935
* Mr. Fred Clements, a Bombala district mining man of wide experience and Mr. John McLeod of Mila have applied for a mining prospecting area in the Parish of Nungatta.
'Magnet' September 21, 1935
*Much interest is being taken in the Whipstick mines. A meeting of the board of directors was held last week.
'Magnet' November 23, 1935
*Messers Percy Maxwell and Jack Slattery (not 'Towamba Jack') are engaged in prospecting for gold in country at the head of Maxwell's Swamp where some gold bearing stone was found several years ago.
Dan Crawley discovered gold at Whipstick
in 1891 and the Great Jingera Pty. Silver
Mining Co. took out lease on the area until
1893, when mining ceased. In 1892 Whipstick
was a mass of tents, surrounding two bush
houses, two stores, a bi-weekly butcher shop
and a barber shop.
The early mining did not come up to expectations, but mining resumed in 1895 when a Sydney drug company, Elliot Bros., mined molybdenum and bismuth until 1904, when the mines were at their peak of production. Elliot Bros. merged with the International Mines Ltd. with a capital of 1_10,000. Bismuth and molybdenum were sent to Sydney where the molybdenum was exported to Germany until WW I began. Lack of ore had caused the mining of bismuth in 1909. From 1904-1920 two of the prominent investors and organisers were Tom Schafer and Herbert Robertson. Tom acted as manager, Jack Monck was in charge of carpentry and repairs, Power was boiler operator and Beech installed new machinery. Fifteen stamper batteries crushed the ore, which was brought in railway trucks running on tracks from Jingera Mine, picking up ore also brought to the tracks by dray from those mines on the other side of the ridge. After 1913, sixty men worked at Whipstick when Whipstick Mines Ltd. issued 24,000 shares at 10/- each.
'Jingera Mines' Photo courtesy Mal Dibden
Whipstick Mines - Official photograph c.1906
On the eastern side of the ridge, the mines
known as Mt. Metallic, the Pheasant's Nest
and Turbets', produced gold and molybdenum.
A road was blasted out of rock and this zig-zagged
down the steep hillsides past the entrances
to each mine shaft. Ore in the horizontal
shafts was brought out by railway trucks
to the road where the drays took over the
ore being loaded by ramp. Logs tied to the
drays prevented them from rolling down the
incline to the railway tracks from Jingera
Mine where they unloaded into the skiffs
for the stampers. After the stampers, the
three products, gold, molybdenum and bismuth,
were separated on concentrating tables and
the tailings formed large heaps about the
site and for many years were used for concrete-making
around Wyndham. The labour involved in setting
charges, drilling shot holes, blasting shafts
and tunnels, can only be realised by a visit
to the site.
Most of the mines ceased operating in 1920 due to the low world prices, so from 1922-1927 the Australian Tanning Extract and Bismuth Co. produced a bark tanning extract for leather - the soakage tanks are still visible. In 1928 the settlement was wiped out by fire, apart from one house which was later taken and erected by Tom Schafer at a site behind Bar Beach at Merimbula. The Mercedes car owned by the family and burnt in the fire rusted under the trees until some time during the eighties.
After the fire, Walter Turbet and Herbert Robertson prospected for many years with the hope of finding additional deposits of ore, until World War II when the mines were re-opened in 1941 by B.H.P. due to a world shortage of molybdenum. The B.H.P. operation was managed by Ern Willoughby and he and his family lived in the hotel. Dr. Jack, an assayist, frequently visited to determine the value of the ore samples, and due to low yields, the mines again closed in 1943 and the operation moved to the Cawarra Gold Mines near Bredbo. At Whipstick, the ore bodies ran in pipes which, being more or less vertical, were difficult to mine.
In 1988, much evidence remains of a busy mining scene. Concrete works, the soaking pits, the powder magazine, railway tracks, the Pheasant Nest road and numerous shafts can be seen. A few garden flowers struggling in the undergrowth reveal the sites where the homesteads stood. Across the road the chimney remains of the School built in 1897 determine its site. The School was open full-time until 1912 when it became half-time with Stoney Batter until 1918, when it re-opened in its own right until 1922 - reopening in 1924, it was destroyed in the fire.
The mines peaked around 1906 when 3000 tons of ore were treated. However, for a long period employment opportunities were provided for many of Wyndham's people. Two of the children who were born and grew up on the site around the turn of the century are still living - Jack Monck's daughter Rita and Tom Schafer's daughter Venn. Jack had seventeen children, most of them excellent tennis players who learnt their skills on the Whipstick court, while the tame kangaroos picked the green shoots around the court boundaries. Venn tells of the practice of having annual Christmas holidays at Bar Beach when many of the workers from Whipstick took the opportunity to exchange their tents for other tents at the beach. In those days, fish of large size were plentiful and the holidaymakers ate well.
After the fire, the Schafers moved to Merimbula, the school pupils went into Wyndham, Hickeys closed their store at Honeysuckle and George Grant, whose home was destroyed, moved into town. The site has mostly been overgrown with scrub and is the home of lyre birds and the occasional tiger snake.
Compiled by B. Cornell
"Woolingubrah" is an Aboriginal
word for "Windy Place". This is
aptly named as the homestead block is situated
on a rather exposed flat peak of the Big
Jack range of mountains. About 200 yards
from the homestead you can gaze down on the
Rocky Hall area and see the Pacific Ocean
through a break in the mountain range. The
house was built as an Inn at the time of
the Kiandra Gold Rush of the 1860's. Mr.
Nicholson built what was called the Mountain
Hut Hotel and sometimes called the Half Way
Hotel at "Woolingubrah" in 1860.
It consisted of a bar, dining room, kitchen
and 6 bedrooms. The original section which
is still well preserved was imported in pre-fabricated
sections from America, transported from Eden
and erected on the site.
(It arrived at Eden by coastal steamer in October 1860 and transported by bullock wagon to the existing site and by November that same year, it was operating as an Inn. K.Clery)
"Woolingubrah" was on the only track from the coast (Tathra, Merimbula and Eden ports) to Monaro and beyond for emigrants exploring and scrutinising the land, or on their way to the Kiandra gold rush, foreign to anything that they had experienced before in their mother country. The Big Jack Mountain Bridle Track, came up through "Hillview" with the road branching near "Woolingubrah", one going via Archer's Flat to Bombala, the other going to Taylor's Flat, Bibbenluke, etc. It was more than 30 years later that the Tantawanglo Mountain Road was constructed.
The timber in the building has been identified as American in origin and from markings on the wall studs it is clear that it was prefabricated. It is probably only one of three such buildings still in existence in Australia.
Source: State Forests "Woolingubrah Inn" pamphlet.