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Mt Morgan

by J.T.S. Bird

“Gold is omnipotent; it can make even the Moor white.”

Though the world famed gold mine known as Mount Morgan was not opened in the early days, it was a well known locality in that period of the history of the district. The question has been asked scores of times, “How was it Mount Morgan was not discovered before?” No answer can be given to the query, for the more it is thought of the more odd it becomes in view of subsequent events. It was not as though no gold had been found in the neighbourhood, for there were many places where good patches of gold had been discovered only a few miles away, and in some cases almost close to the mountain.

The first instance of gold having been found in the vicinity of Mount Morgan was in 1865. In that year gold was found somewhere in the neighbourhood of Razorback, and a party went out from Rockhampton to discover the spot. There were no roads in those times, and the place sought for was not found. Mr. Robert Sharples, storekeeper, was one of the party looking for the rush. They went over Razorback and down Dairy Creek to just where the corner of the Mount Morgan Company’s freehold fence comes. There they found two men cradling wash dirt, which had been obtained near at hand. They ascertained that they were a party of four, and two of their mates, one of whom was Mr. E. H. T. Plant, of Charters Towers, had gone off to the rush at Gavial Creek, Crocodile. One of the men cradling was Mr. George Jackson, the present Chairman of Committees of the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Sharples and his party went off to Gavial Creek, where they took up claims. This was in the concluding months of 1865, so it is thirty nine years since gold was first got within a mile of the Mount Morgan mine.

For many years subsequently gold was found in the gullies for miles around, and a large number of men worked there, on and off, till the golden mountain itself was discovered in 1882.

Mr. W. Mackinlay, a man whose name has often been mentioned in connection with the early mining on the Dee watershed, was for many years the head stockman at Calliungal Station, on the Dee River, and lived at the heifer station, about fifteen miles below what is now Mount Morgan. Mackinlay evidently knew a good deal about mining, and was instrumental in opening one or two copper mines in that neighbourhood. After leaving the station service he worked for gold in some of the gullies in the neighbourhood, and is supposed to have done well. It was said of Mackinlay that he knew every stone on the station, but without going so far as that, he undoubtedly had a great knowledge of the country, and being of a curious and investigative turn of mind, knew a good deal about the mineral deposits. With such a thorough knowledge of the district, it seems strange that Mackinlay should never have tried the Mount Morgan stone, and the probability is that he must have tested some of the worthless rock which had rolled down the mountain side, and never got anything like a payable result.

What is now known as Mount Morgan was a hill particularly well known to miners at that time, by whom it was termed the “ironstone mountain” and the iron knob.” Apparently, there, it must have been generally regarded as containing an immense iron lode, pieces of what seemed to be ironstone which had rolled from above giving colour to such an opinion.

Mr. F. A. Morgan, who was indirectly the discoverer of Mount Morgan, came to Rockhampton from Warwick in 1879, and became the landlord of the Criterion Hotel, previously kept by Mrs. Laurie. Mr. Morgan was the oldest of the family, Thomas and Edwin being younger brothers. He had always been mixed up in mining, and the younger brothers had also engaged in the same industry. The Morgan family originally came from the Bathurst district, and F. A. Morgan claimed that early in 1851, before Hargraves reported the first discovery of gold at Ophir, he and others were working gold claims in the neighbourhood of Bathurst. One thing is certain, F. A. Morgan was one of the first men in Australia who ever worked a gold claim.

Soon after Mr. F. A. Morgan settled down in his hotel, he began to look round the goldfields, and started the Galawa mine at Mount Wheeler. A battery was erected there, and a considerable number of men employed. The stone was certainly rich in patches, and Mr. Morgan informed the writer that he took between £7000 and £8000 worth of gold from the mine. His Brothers Thomas and Edwin came over from Warwick, and were looking after the mine and battery for their brother.

Among the men working at the mine or battery was one Sandy Gordon, who went off on the spree at Cawarral, and was discharged in consequence. The story goes that Mrs. Gordon went to Mr. Thomas Morgan and told him that if he would take her husband back again, she should show him a place on the Dee River where her father (Mr. William Mackinlay) had obtained copper. Mr. Morgan took Gordon back again, and soon after the two Morgans set off to look for the lode spoken of.

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