Friday, 25 August 2017

Goldfields of California, Australia and NZ - Poems and Songs PART I

" Digger" AKA Miner Prospecting for gold

This month of August 2017  has marked 150 year Jubilee for the Thames Goldfield in New Zealand. This got me to thinking about the goldfields and goldrushes  of  the 1800's along with the poetry and song of the goldfields. The 1840's through to the 1870's saw the world engaged in gold rushes to newly found goldfields. Fortune hunters the world over flocked to newly discovered goldfields hoping to their fortune. " Diggers" - a name  given to those early goldminers  - went in their droves to the new goldfields via ship, via overland, via foot. They came from all parts of the world - Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, China, Australia, New Zealand. Many moved from one goldfield to another and back.
At the time of the gold rushes to California and Australia there was another migration taking place from Nova Scotia  - the gaelic speaking, Highland  Settlers  who came to  Waipu, New Zealand,  led by the Reverend McLeod. Arriving in Australia they found that land prices of good coastal land ,  were very high because of the Victorian Gold Rush. Some of their number stayed on the goldfields and some made the decision to move on to New Zealand after a typhoid epidemic claimed the lives of three sons of Rev. McLeod.

 
Three of the ships that bought the Highland settlers to Waipu were acquired by  Henderson and Macfarlane Circular Saw Shipping - the clipper schooner Gazelle, barque Breadalbane and brig Gertrude. The directors, captains and shipping vessels of this early shipping company were  involved in miscellaneous trade and passengers on regular runs. This included  " diggers" to the goldfields of California, Australia and New Zealand. 

A number of the Waipu settlers spent time on the Thames Goldfields working timber contracts and involved with mines. Amongst them were Donald Murray McLeod, Norman McLean, John David McKenzie.
 
Thames Goldfields early 1870s Photo taken by HT Gorrie courtesy from Gwen Buttle photo album. Please do not copy - seek permission to use.


Goldfields of California

  
 John Sutter's mill in California 24 January 1848 , became the scene of a gold rush when  James W. Marshall   discovered gold in a river there.
 

The Miner's Song


v. In 1849 I came to Sutter’s Mill and staked my claim
With my shovel, pickaxe, and pan, I was a forty-niner grand
I swirled my washbowl, swung my pick, my only goal to get rich quick
A frenzied fervour seized my soul, just had to have California gold.


Chorus:
Gold, gold, gotta have gold
Gold, gold, get me some gold
Gold, gold, gotta have gold
Gold, gold, get me some gold


v. I left my home to seek my fame, I traveled in a wagon train
With my shovel, pickaxe, and pan, I was a forty-niner grand
I swirled my washbowl, swung my pick, my only goal to get rich quick
A frenzied fervour seized my soul, just had to have California gold.
 

Chorus:
v. So many joined this gold rush craze and hundreds came here everyday
With my shovel, pickaxe, and pan, I was a forty-niner grand
I swirled my washbowl, swung my pick, my only goal to get rich quick
A frenzied fervour seized my soul, just had to have California gold.


Chorus:
Gold Washing
One such digger who became known as one of the  49er's was Charles Ring and his brother Frederick Ring from Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands,, settled in Tasmania Australia with  parents and moved to Auckland New Zealand about 1841, farming. The brig Fanny belonging then, to Henderson and Macfarlane,  left on 5 June 1849 for San Francisco and the Californian goldfields. On board was passenger Charles Ring and brother Frederick heading  for the opportunity to make their fortunes in the diggings of the Yuba River and then on  in the  Sacramento Valley, California. " Digging " was a hard life for those early diggers known as 49ers. They used large long tom sluices, rocker boxes, pans, and ground sluice operations to recover the gold from the gravel of the river - in slush and water.it was hard work. Some were successful and many not - hence poems and songs of the drudgery and work. Songs and poems of travel to get to the goldfields - sometimes a "digger" did not survive the journey.

Oh California 

 

First written by Stephen Foster as " Oh Suzanna" the words were said to have been adjusted by one John Nichols and called "Oh California", It became a very popular song of the  diggers who became known across the world as the 49ers
 
 v. I come from Salem City with my washpan on my knee,
 I'm going to California, the gold dust for to see.
It rained all day the day I left, the weather it was dry
 The sun so hot I froze to death Oh brothers, don't you cry.

Chorus:
Oh, Susanna
Don't you cry for me
I'm going to California
With my washpan on my knee.

v. I jumped aboard the Liza ship and traveled on the sea,
And every time I thought of home I wished it wasn't me;
The vessel reared like any horse, that had of oats and wealth
I found it wouldn't throw me so I thought I'd throw myself.

Chorus:

v. I thought of all the pleasant times we've had together here
I thought I ought to cry a bit but couldn't find a tear;
The pilot's bread was in my mouth, the gold dust in my eye
And though I'm going far away dear brothers don't you cry.

Chorus:

 v. I soon shall be in Frisco, and there I'll look around,
And when I see the gold lumps I'll pick them off the ground-
I'll scrape the mountains clean, my boys, I'll drain the rivers dry
A pocket full of rocks bring home so brothers, don't you cry.

Chorus:
Page 282 Taylor, Bayard. 1850. Eldorado; or, Adventures in the path of Empire: comprising a voyage to California, via Panama, life in San Francisco and Monterey, pictures of the gold region, and experiences of Mexican travel. With illustrations by the author. London: Richard Bentley. Courtesy FLICKR British Library

Charles Ring was said to be fairly successful on the Californian diggings. 
(However following a ship wreck on the way to diggings on the coast, Ring made a decision to return to Australia, boarding as passengers, the brig Ceres , which sailed out of San Francisco Bay 14 June 1851.)



Ceres too was shipwrecked on a reef near the Fiji Islands. Fortunately for Ring and the other passengers, they were rescued by the whaler Daniel Watson. From an open small boat they had set out for Queensland in, The whaler dropped them off at Auckland New Zealand. It was not long  after that Charles and his brother exchanged farming for timber milling on the Coromandel Peninsula. With talk in Auckland of possible gold  and gold fever still in Charles, the brothers set to finding gold on the Coromandel.

FOOTNOTE: Ruby Ring , grand daughter of Charles Ring, ' digger' and discover of gold married Alan Rutherford Gorrie, son of William Gorrie Junr. William Gorrie Jnr and his brother Henry Thomson Gorrie were both at Thames Goldfield in the early years of its opening. Henry Thomson or HT was a clerk at the  Bank of New Zealand, Thames, with a hobby of photography. Both these two men became familiar with the goldfields of New Zealand.

courtesy graphic.com
Reference:
  •  Taylor, Bayard. 1850. Eldorado; or, Adventures in the path of Empire: comprising a voyage to California, via Panama, life in San Francisco and Monterey, pictures of the gold region, and experiences of Mexican travel. With illustrations by the author. London: Richard Bentley. Courtesy FLICKR British Library
  • Charles Ring in Cyclopaedia New Zealand, Auckland Province 1902 p 438 also on NZETC ( NZ Electronic Text Centre, Victoria University ) accessed August 30 2017
  • Sherwin, Sterling, and Katzan , Louis. 1932. Songs of the gold miners : a golden collection of songs as sung by and about the Forty-Niners. New York: C Fisher. 
  •  New Zealand Herald  28 September 1895   Page 1 Supplement