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The Gold Days in Kinglake


An excursion, organised by the Kinglake Friends of the Forest in 2021, to the site of the old Big Ben gold mine on Mount Robertson has sparked an interest in the gold-mining history of the district among local residents, especially those who were unaware of this important part of the Kinglake story.
It hasn't been easy to find records and details of the gold-mining days but, over the past 30 years, the Kinglake Historical Society has managed to gather much interesting information about the first goldfield, called 'Mountain Rush', which was established on the Mountain Creek at the eastern end of the Kinglake plateau following the discovery of gold there by David Moore and his party in 1861.
Moore and other prospectors had ventured up into the hills from the Caledonian goldfield, which stretched from Warrandyte to Queenstown (now known as St Andrews), looking for alluvial gold in the creeks. One of the earliest to arrive was Jack Grimshaw who stayed around the area for many years, living in a makeshift hut which must have been a useful landmark as its location appears on early maps. There were soon about 200 miners camping along the four creeks which were named somewhat unimaginatively No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4.
Jack Grimshaw

The 'Mountain Rush' goldfield had its own post office and store from 7 May 1862 and the first postmaster was paid ₤10 per annum for his postal duties. The mail was brought up on horseback once a week from Queenstown along a narrow bridle path through the bush. A brewer from Queenstown, Edmund Cookson by name, also made a weekly visit on horseback to bring some of his 'liquid refreshment' up to the miners, returning with a purse full of money. Unfortunately, his routine was noted by a ne'er-do well and he was waylaid, robbed and murdered halfway down the mountain on his return journey on 23 May 1862. The culprit was never caught.
This first goldfield boomed for a short time but was abandoned when gold was discovered at Woods Point late in 1862 and most of the miners moved to the new strike. Only Jack Grimshaw and few others stayed on and continued prospecting in the creeks.
The first settlers began to arrive in the 1870s when land was opened up for selection for farming and, in the 1880s, there was a renewed interest in gold-mining, with deep-shaft mining being set up by companies backed by city investors. Shafts and tunnels were put in at Kinglake, Kinglake Central and Pheasant Creek, 20 acres of land were resumed by the State Government from the selection of Owen Finegan and opened up for mining claims, and on maps from that time several areas are marked as 'worked out'.
It was at this time that a shaft was first sunk at Mount Robertson. Among a number of mining companies working in the area at the time were the 'Band of Hope Quartz Mining Co.' and the 'Kinglake Gold Mining Co. (No Liability)'. However, the problem of water seepage into the shafts eventually affected the mining works and, at that time, adequate pumping equipment was not available. Gold mining in the Kinglake area had virtually disappeared by the early 1900s.

In later years, the efforts of local farmer, John Easdown, who was a keen prospector, resulted in renewed interest in an old shaft on Mount Robertson and, with investment support, new equipment was set up in 1945. However, the assay returns showed that the mine was not financially viable at that time and the venture was discontinued. The site is visited on our history tours of Kinglake organised by the Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House.
There is obviously not sufficient space in this article to tell all the stories of the gold-mining days in Kinglake but our publication 'A Collected History of the Kinglake District 1861 to 2011' has a great deal more detail and is available at the Heritage Centre at Kinglake West (open Sundays)


Deidre Hawkins
Kinglake Historical Society

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