Historical Notes

The Chinese Dragon
The dragon, a mythical creature, commands a great deal of respect in Chinese culture and has done so for many centuries.

Unlike the dragon in western culture which is a dreaded and feared creature, the Chinese dragon is associated with pleasant things such as goodness, greatness, blessing, boldness, intelligence, abundance and prosperity.

There are nine classical types of dragon typically represented in Chinese culture: the Celestial Dragon, the Spiritual, the Underground, Winged, Horned, Coiling, Yellow, the Hidden Treasures Dragon and the King Dragon. The Dragon features in Chinese art, literature, and architecture and is one of the creatures of the Chinese Zodiac.

Nundle’s Chinese Heritage
From the 1850’s to the 1880’s thousands of people came to what was then called the Peel River Diggings which incorporated Nundle, Happy Valley, Hanging Rock, and Bowling Alley Point. Among the rush of people were numerous Chinese; most looking for gold, plus a few came to set up stores and gardens to supply the diggers. Illness or accidents took the lives of many searching the hills, and the Bowling Alley Point and Nundle Cemeteries became their final resting-places while the majority left when gold petered out or new fields beckoned. Some stayed on and became a permanent part of Nundle and district history.

The Government Officials on the Gold Fields of the 1860’s to 1880’s were ‘Englishmen’ and had some difficulty with the Chinese language. The names of Chinese miners were simply written down as they sounded; the result was that what was recorded may not have born close resemblance to the actual names! The word ‘Ah’, a term of respect, was often prefixed to the Chinese names when they were recorded in the official documents of the day.

General Conditions on the Nundle Gold Fields
Listed below are some extracts from Gold Commissioners reports from NSW State Archives (Assistant Gold Commissioner, Nundle) as well as copies of letters sent to officials and private individuals (23 Jul 1852-30 Jul 1864, CGS 4317 (Kingswood 9/2696, 4/5480-81) 3 Vols). The following extracts are reproduced by permission.

Keeping the Peace

In Happy Valley a party of nearly 40 Chinese have commenced to work, and I understand, are an industrious hard working set, and very orderly and quiet. A dispute arose at the latter end of the month on the flat belonging to the P.R.L. & M. Company relative to a water claim, between a party of English and some Germans, which ending in a fight, two of the latter were fined at this Police Court for the assault.

Rivers of Gold

On its last trip, the Escort took to Sydney 1222 ozs which amount would have been much larger had not several persons, mistaking the day of departure, brought their gold too late.

The weather during the last winter and spring having been very favourable for mining operations, advantage was taken largely of it to work the bed of the Peel River and larger creeks, the result being in many instances rich finds of gold, generally in large coarse lumps, often nuggets with quartz intermingled, evidently the debris of neighbouring quartz veins. – 3 Jan 1859

Crushing Machines and Reef Gold

In consequence of the erection of a steam quartz crushing machine at the Peel River, more attention has been paid to the quartz reefs.

Finding your way to a claim

When claims were registered their location was indicated by reference to someone’s residence, store, place of business, a public building, some other structure, a garden, or a recognisable landmark. The following extracts, reproduced by permission, are from Department of Minerals and Energy Papers, University of New England Archives, Armidale.

Near the Old Killing Yard

5 February 1884: Ah Ling of Nundle was granted a claim described as ‘an ordinary alluvial claim, old ground, 140 feet by 140 feet’. It was authorised for ‘sinking and fossicking’ and was located ‘near Wetherall’s old Killing Yard, Oakenville Creek’. – Book 109

German Flat

21 February 1884: Ah Ti and Ah Lin of Bowling Alley Point were granted ‘an ordinary river claim’ approved for sluicing and fossicking. It involved ‘200 feet of River Course’, and was located ‘in the Peel River at German Flat below Bowling Alley Point’.

Bizzart’s Old Garden

17 March 1884: Ah Ling, Ah Chown, Ah Young, and Ah Yow of Nundle were granted ‘an ordinary alluvial claim, old ground’ for the purposes of ‘sinking, stripping, and sluicing’. The Location: ‘Taken up Bizzart’s Old Garden in Oakenville Creek near S.M.Walkers’.

Old Oakenville Creek Course between Jenkins and Gill Street

18 January 1887: Samuel Kermode, Samuel Lowing and T. Ryan applied for ‘an ordinary Block alluvial claim for Gold Mining’. The location was described as ‘A piece of land supposed to be the old Oakenville Creek course which appears now as a flat piece of land’ – On the south side of the present Oakenville Creek course between Jenkins Street and Gill Street in Nundle…This land applied for also takes in a portion of a piece of land adjoining the Primitive Methodist Church occupied by Mrs Lowing and one John Robson.

Some extracts from Newspapers

A cure for snake bite

Take one tablespoon of gunpowder and salt, and the yoke of an egg and mix them so as to form a paste. Place upon a cloth and apply to the part, letting it extend an inch on all sides of the wound. As the poison is drawn the plaster will lose its adhesive qualities, and when full, will fall off. Apply fresh plasters till all the poison has been absorbed. This will cure a snake bite upon either man or beast.
 Tamworth Observer 25 November 1876

Timber carting from Hanging Rock to Quirindi

TO CARRIERS: Wanted carriage for FORTY THOUSAND (40,000) feet of TIMBER, from Hanging Rock to Quirindi. Apply at once to GRACE & PITFIELD, Hanging Rock and Tamworth. – Tamworth Observer 2 Sept 1876

Divorce 1870’s style

NOTICE: If my husband Henry Young, late pound-keeper of Tamworth, does not return to me and family, after one month from this date, he now having been fifteen years absent, and left me without support, it is my intention to get married again; signed Catherine Young. – Tamworth Observer 9 Sept 1876

Gold Escort

The fortnightly escort arrived on Thursday last from the Hanging Rock and Peel River and brought down 1833 ounces 12dwts. This is the largest amount ever brought down by the escort from the above places. Of the above amount, Mr McIlveen of Happy Valley, sent upwards of 1500 ounces. There were 127 ozs 18dwts sent from Tamworth, making in all 1961 ozs 10dwts. 
– The Tamworth Examiner 13 April 1859

Dr Jenkins and the Stolen Gold dust

John Shepherd, alias George Riley, was indicted for stealing sixty ounces of gold dust, and one valise [travelling bag], the property of Richard Lewis Jenkins of Nundle, on the 14th June 1852…

On that evening Dr Jenkins was returning from the Hanging Rock Diggings, and on his way called at his station, Nundle, and entered into a hut there, leaving his horse outside, in charge of a boy, Thomas Davis. Strapped to the saddle was his valise, containing a number of small articles, and sixty ounces of gold dust; after a few minutes Dr Jenkins was called out to receive some letters brought by the usual messenger, James Eames. He had been engaged five minutes reading the letters when on looking up he missed his valise. He instantly spoke of the loss, and charged three men standing by that one of them had taken the valise. The three men were ‘Prisoner’, Spencer and Grady. Prisoner persisted that none of them had left the spot, although afterwards, on being personally charged admitted that he had been away a short distance for a particular purpose. The boy Davis, on being questioned by Dr Jenkins hesitated, and said he had not seen any person take it off; Prisoner also asserted that there was no valise on the horse when Dr Jenkins came, and although Dr Jenkins was positive he brought it he rode away some distance to make sure he had not lost it or left it anywhere. The valise could not be found on the strictest search, and was not found in fact till about a month afterwards…

Although the boy Davis at first said he knew nothing of the matter, he did some two or three weeks after, make a statement in the Tamworth police office to the effect that he had seen his own father and mother with the valise and the gold. Davis and his wife were subsequently apprehended on the charge, but were discharged on the grounds that there was no evidence on which to commit them. In answer to the Court, Dr Jenkins said that Davis was in his employment as a watchman, but was not near the hut when the valise was lost, although his wife was in it…

The boy Thomas Davis, eight years old, being sworn-in, said he did not notice when Dr Jenkins gave the horse to him, whether there was a valise or anything else besides the saddle; he did not see any person go near the horse while he held it, which was all the time Dr Jenkins was inside the hut. ‘Witness’ did not tell the truth at the Peel, because the chief constable threatened to put handcuffs on him, if he would not say he saw Shepherd take the valise off…after many more questions were asked, Witness said he saw Prisoner coming back to the house, from the direction of the creek, while Dr Jenkins was inside. His Honour examined Witness himself at great length, testing him by his previous depositions…

Thomas Brooks, a shepherd in Dr Jenkins employment, found the valise on 7th January 1853, on the side of a hill about 400 yards from the Nundle station. It was only hidden from the view of persons passing by two tussocks of grass and contained papers, but no gold…

Prisoner, who had cross-examined Dr Jenkins at great length, and with considerable ability, did not put a single question to any other witness, nor say a word in defence. The jury retired for 10 minutes and returned with a verdict of guilty. Prisoner was sentenced to five years on the roads and [the boy] Thomas Davis was committed by his Honour to take his trial for perjury at the Circuit Court.

In a second Court [George Pearce] was indicted for feloniously receiving the gold. His Honour told the jury that if the prisoner found the property in the bush, it was still Dr Jenkins property, and if he took it and used it without making efforts to find the owner it would undoubtedly be larceny…and in reference to that point, they would remember he was actually engaged in searching for the valise and contents at Dr Jenkins request.

The jury retired for a few minutes, and returned with a verdict of guilty. The prisoner was sentenced to five years on the roads and His Honour remarked that he should recommend that the whole sentence be endured, as there was a breach of trust as well as larceny. – The Maitland Mercury 9 March 1853