The blog that explores what life was really like on the Beechworth goldfields in 1852. Answering the questions most historians never wanted to ask, and some we really should.
In November 1852, around 8000 people from around the globe rushed to the banks of Spring Creek (Beechworth) to dig for gold. Almost overnight, the Creek was transformed. Along its banks grew-up something resembling an overcrowded refugee camp, surrounded by its very own man-made disaster zone but with a festive atmosphere.
This blog is an exploration of how life was lived exactly where I am living right now — on the banks of Spring Creek (now sometimes called Silver Creek) in Beechworth, North East Victoria — but 166 years ago. Part gold-rush-lifestyle guide (and living-history laboratory), part myth-buster, Life on Spring Creek asks what it was about life on the gold diggings that made ‘those who lived it… nostalgic for it ever after’?
The gold rushes of the late 1840s (in California) and the early 1850s (in Victoria) were one of the biggest (in modern parlance) do-it-yourself, off-grid, low-tech adventures of all time. People of all backgrounds were drawn to the gold fields by the prospect of riches and adventure, but they also learned self-sufficiency, and found freedom of expression. They built their own dwellings, and filled them with make-shift furniture. They learned to recycle and up-cycle. They even adopted some of the practices of the local indigenous peoples, who must have looked upon their activities in bewilderment. The gold rushes were also a time in which social norms were up-ended: Rich people lost their servants. Men learned to cook and mend. People of different cultures and races lived side-by-side. And anyone with lady luck on their side could strike it rich.
To date, Life on Spring Creek has covered a range of curious questions aimed at trying to understand how people experienced the gold rush, including:
‘What did the gold fields sound like?’
‘Why did gold diggers have such big beards?’ and
‘Where did gold diggers go to the toilet?’
Occasionally Life on Spring Creek also covers far more serious topics, such as:
‘What happened to Aboriginal people during the gold rush?’
Read it at www.lifeonspringcreek.com
About the research
I live in Beechworth. Over the last decade more I have been collecting eye-witness accounts of the early gold rush in Beechworth: mainly diaries, letters, newspaper and government reports; mostly written on the spot, or shortly afterwards. Everything in this blog is based on these primary resource materials; and in cases where friends and I try to ‘recreate the past’, firsthand experience.