Teetulpa goldfield

The Teetulpa Goldfield.

It was at Teetulpa where more gold was found than anywhere else at that time. Teetulpa had the largest number of diggers of any field at any time in the history of South Australian gold discoveries. By the end of 1886 there were more than five thousand men on the field. Some newspapers claimed as many as seven thousand, but admitted that many may have been interested visitors mainly from Adelaide. Before the year’s end the field had its own post office which processed 34,000 letters during the month of December alone. The telegraph was connected, a Miners' Benefit Lodge started, a bank opened, sly grog shops by the dozen were doing a roaring trade, church services were conducted for different denominations and it had the usual dust storms, thieves, claim-jumpers and typhoid.

It also had a hospital where Dr. Richardson treated his patients without equipment or furniture but with the assistance of Mrs Stevenson, an experienced nurse from the Burra hospital. Even so, before the end of December five people had died on the field. When both equipment and furniture had arrived a few months later, miners still died from typhoid, including three young men from Yorke Peninsula who had only been on the field about six weeks.

Brady’s Gully, named after one of the original discoverers, and Windlass Hill were some of the most rewarding areas at Teetulpa. Discovered on 5 October 1886 by Thomas Brady, a farmer of Lancelot, and Thomas Smith, the field had already two thousand diggers before the end of the month when it was visited by Ranger J.H. Siggings. Within a few days Hill & Co. provided coach services, leaving Mannahill every morning from the railway station, for the gold fields. Stories of great fortunes attracted men from many of the depressed rural towns but also from Wallaroo, Moonta, Victoria and even New Zealand.

The discovery created a welcome trade for shopkeepers who provided all the equipment, ranging from picks, shovels, cradles, tents, panning dishes, canned food, flour and clothes, needed by the thousands of diggers.

Although the field was not as isolated as some of the others, the diggers still faced many hardships. Lack of water and firewood added to these. The lack of water at first also slowed down the panning of the alluvial gold and diggers had to resort to dry blowing. This lasted until the government obtained the use of a nearby dam and well for this purpose. During the next month the government provided the labour of fifty unemployed men to dig a Government Dam which was completed in ten days. By December the Water Conservation Department was building two condensers which would supply 27,000 litres of fresh water daily. They were completed in February 1887. Clean, fresh water was needed badly as there were thirty cases of typhoid reported that month alone. On 27 February three men died of it.

On its first day of trading, just before Christmas, the bank bought 240 ounces of gold from the miners. It continued to do so for a long time even though many diggers preferred to sell their gold in Adelaide or Melbourne where it commanded a higher price. Many of the men traded their hard earned cash or newly found gold for drink and drunkenness was common. After several well-attended meetings, to allow the sale of alcohol on the field, publicans' licences were granted to six men in 1887 to open a hotel on the field.

During the Christmas holiday break it was reported that, ‘Some exceedingly discreditable scenes have been witnessed at various times owing to the large number of sly grog shops. Men can get drunk without the slightest difficulty by visiting one place after another. At midday a disgraceful exhibition took place in the main street where two drunken men, with nothing on but their trousers, were fighting and yelling’. On 10 February Henry C. Swan J.P. was appointed Special Magistrate at Teetulpa.

The gold at Teetulpa naturally attracted the hope, and money, from many people. Not being able to find any gold at home, it did not stop some enterprising Farina men putting several hundred dollars together to test a reef at Teetulpa and work it for six months. In October 1887 they decided to float the Mount Victoria Gold Mine to be managed by H. Mottram who had previous mining experience in the Farina area.

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Teetulpa Cemetery

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