Prospectors at Homebush

Several of the great great grandfathers of my husband Greg Young were gold diggers. One, John Plowright (1831 – 1910), followed the rushes in Victoria with only small success and settled at Homebush, a few miles from Avoca. Frederick James Cross, Greg’s great grandfather, also settled at Homebush and took up mining. Frederick married Greg’s great grandmother Ann Plowright.

Some years later James Cross, son of Frederick and Ann, and John Plowright’s grandson and Greg’s great uncle, seems to have had some luck. He and his mates found what appeared to be a promising reef and dug out a small amount of gold, not enough to make them rich but enough to keep them looking for more:

On 20 July 1908 the Melbourne Argus reported:

MARYBOROUGH,Sunday - Very rich gold bearing stone has been struck at Lower Homebush The prospectors are Messrs Gus and John Nicholls, James Cross, and F. M. Nicholls. They originally commenced operations on an abandoned reef, about a hundred feet to the east of the present find, but on Thursday, while awaiting the return of one of the party, they determined to try an outcrop, which had previously been located. This outcrop had been exposed by the removal of the surface for road making purposes and it did not take long to uncover the cup of a reef, 7ft wide. Both walls were laid bare and at a depth of 10ft on breaking into the western or hanging, wall of the lode some splendid gold bearing stone was broken The party state that on Thursday afternoon specimens to the the value of £40 were obtained. Friday was devoted to properly exposing the cap, and on Saturday morning another lot of specimens were obtained probably equal in value to the first lot Although too soon to express any opinion on the find the chances are good. Up to the present the gold has all been found on the hanging-wall, associated with ironstone and a little iron pyrites. The reef runs north and south with a slight westerly underlie and has good walls. The land is on the northern slope of what is known as View Hill, Homebush, and within half a mile of the famous Homebush lead.
The claim of Messrs. Wilson and Shields [Sheill], from which rich returns have been won for some time past, is a mile further north, on the same line. The gold in the specimen is of a heavy - solid character, one piece of golden stone, barely 2in. square, weighing over 12 oz., and is estimated to contain quite 5oz. of gold,
The find has caused much excitement, and the claim had a great many visitors yesterday and today.

Greg’s great uncle James John Cross (1887 – 1963) was one of the miners. About the time of the discovery John and Gus Nicholls and Jim Cross were photographed on some gold diggings.

Image in the collection of the Avoca and District Historical Society and reproduced with permission

Less than a month later the Ballarat Star continued reporting the good news

At the Homebush Rush, Nicholls, Cross, and Nicholas crushed 15 tons at the Government battery, Avoca, for 30 oz. The reef is 7 feet wide. A rich specimen obtained on Thursday was not in the crushing. Webb’s Reward is down 53 feet. They will shortly open out for a continuation of the lode being worked by Nicholls and party.

A year later the Melbourne Age indicated prospecting was still successful but the reef was still elusive and it seems Jim Cross was possibly no longer working with the Nicholls brothers.

MARYBOROUGH.— Some excitement has been caused at Homebush by the discovery, by Messrs. Nicholls Bros, and Stratman of some rich specimens on the surface. They are loaming the surface, in the hope of finding a reef which is believed to be close at hand.

The Ballarat Star of Monday 6 September 1909 was optimistic about the gold discoveries at Homebush.

Satisfaction has been caused locally by the news that the Working Miners' claim at Homebush has again been floated into a good solid company. It is freely admitted that the Homebush lead is one of the best in the State, and it is a matter for regret that it should have been allowed to remain idle for such a long time. The returns obtained from the Working Miners’ claim some years ago were excellent, but the mine was difficult to work in those days and was abandoned. The township of Homebush then sunk into obscurity until Messrs Wilson, and Shiells located a rich reef. Gradually, but surely, the mining industry began to stir, until other reefs were opened up. Then the attention of mining men was naturally turned to Homebush, and as a result it has been decided to resume operations in the alluvial ground. The revival has been steadily approaching, and has been predicted on several occasions by “The Star.” That our anticipations were correct is borne out by the interest that is now being centred on this field, which a few years ago was practically dormant.
Daly and party, who discovered a reef at Homebush a few days ago, are putting through a crushing at the Avoca Government battery.
Yet another reef has been located at Homebush by Messrs Squires and Trounsen. They have obtained some good prospects, and are taking out a crushing.
Developmental work is being carried out by Messrs Nicholls Bros, and Stratman, at the Dreadnought claim, Homebush.
At the Lord Nolan claim, situated at Mosquito, a quantity of stone has been taken out and will shortly be tested. The claim is surrounded with reefs, which proved very profitable some years ago. A well-defined lode exists in the Lord Nolan, and it is improving with depth.
On the whole the mining industry in the district is looking much brighter than it has for some time. When the now alluvial claims are opened up, renewed prosperity is in store for Maryborough.

Another of Greg’s great great grandfathers was George Young who was a miner at Lamplough on the other side of Avoca. The grandson of George Young, Cecil Young—Greg’s grandfather—grew up in Homebush. Greg inherited a small collection of picture postcards from Cecil, among them one of addressed to Miss Eva Hogan (1889-1913). It shows a group of miners and a dog at a puddling machine.

Addressed to Miss E Hogan Bromley near Dunolly and postmarked 6 August 1909.
Dear Eva Just a line hoping you all are doing well, & did not get washed away. Tell dad Gus wrote to Charlie to give him a show if he gets it, that is all we know at present. When are you coming to see us. Give love to all from all yours Mary.

I think the writer of the card was Eva’s sister Mary (Hogan) Nicholls (1884 – 1984) who had married Gus Nicholls (Augustus Walsh Pugh Nicholls (1885 – 1969)) in 1905. Charlie might have been Gus’s brother, Charles Edward Nicholls (1876 – 1930).

I think the card shows members of the Nicholls family but don’t know who was who. It seems likely that the dog at least is the dog in the earlier picture. Perhaps Gus Nicholls is holding the horse and Jack Nicholls is standing in the trough holding the shovel.

Puddling machines were developed on the Victorian goldfields in the early 1850s. A circular trough in the ground, lined with wood or bark, was filled with clay and water. A horse circled the trough and dragged a harrow through the clay mixture, breaking up the lumps and turning it into a runny sludge. The gold released from the clay would sink to the bottom, and the watery clay would be drained off from the top. The residue at the bottom of the trough would then be cleaned up with a pan or cradle to collect the gold.

In 1910 Jim Cross married Eva Hogan. They had two children. In 1913 Eva died of septic poisoning. Jim moved from Homebush to Wonthaggi in Gippsland where he worked at the State Coal Mine.

Jim and Eva Cross
photograph in the collection of a grandson

The Homebush mines did not yield gold in the quantities hoped for, and the miners and their families moved away. A derelict schoolhouse stands by itself in an empty paddock; nothing else remains.

Post by Anne Young


Vale Denis Strangman 29 June 1942 – 26 April 2023

This morning I received the sad news that Denis died peacefully in Canberra this morning.

Denis established the Society’s web page and was webmaster of the Society’s website for about 18 years.

His local history interest was in Lamplough, a few kilometres from Avoca and about which he had written a short history of its gold rush in 1859 for the Victorian Historical Journal. His great-grandfather and his siblings had been born in Lamplough.

In 1998 Denis Strangman published an index of names associated with the  Lamplough Rush. He also made available an article on the rush to Lamplough that he first published in 1987.

Denis wrote in 2021:

“Despite our political differences Melbourne Greens Councillor Helen Harris OAM was the person who got me involved in the Society when I was working at Old Parliament House in Canberra. The Parliamentary Library was digitising its collection and they were throwing out the old Library cards. Helen had a loyal band of people in Avoca transcribing historical names to cards (now numbering about 80,000) so I would collect the discarded cards and transfer them to Helen.”

Denis was a Life Member of the Society.

The card index and Denis’s online index of Lamplough names (and his article) are invaluable contributions to the history of the Avoca district.

Denis is helping to cut the ckake at the society’s 30th anniversary celebrations in 2014
L to R: Beryl Maidment, Tony O’Shea, Cr. Ron Eason, Dorothy Robinson, Denis Strangman, Vicki Burge, Margaret Oulton, Jill Hunter, Helen Harris OAM, Graeme Mills, Mary Dridan, Sue Slater, Edna Jarvis, Cr. Robert Vance (Mayor, Pyrenees Shire).

The Wise family of Avoca

I recently came across an excellent post about the Wise family of Avoca. The author, Virginia Rundle, used the resources of the Avoca and District Historical Society to put together the Wise Family History. She mentions the online the Lamplough Name Index and the Avoca and Districts Historical Society Library, Maps and Files (ADHS), thanking their volunteer researchers including the late Tony O’Shea.

William McOboy Wise’s huge profile in the Lamplough Name Index was a testament to his active and outstanding involvement in his local community. William McOboy Wise’s obituary recorded that over 500 people gathered to mourn him at his funeral, after he received fatal head injuries, when thrown from his horse on 22 July 1873, at Coffey’s Hotel near Avoca. 

Entry for William Macaboy Wise in the Lamplough Name Index:

WILLIAM MACOBOY WISE: W.M. WISE: WISE’S PADDOCK: Miner Avoca 1856 (ER). Manager of John O’Halloran’s timber yard on site of Old Tattersall’s, or Theatre Royal. Went to Woodstock Station as supervisor, leased Lamplough run. (Sutherland, P 226.) Tulla Co. Clare. Arrived Melbourne early 1852. Married his cousin, Ellen Murray. (Leask’s. P 638.) Land lease. (VGG 1848 p 310.) Manager of Clough & Co before the rush. Moved to Avoca. Auctioneer and general agent. (HH letter). Of Lamplough, Avoca. Appointed returning officer for electoral district of Avoca. (CSO 22/10/1855. VGG No 106, 24/10/1855, Vol III, p 2712. Repeated with correction spelling, No 112, 9/11/1855.) Two horses stolen from Lamplough Station (VPG 29/11/1855.) Advert. W.M. Wise. general Auctioneer land and Stock Commission Agent. Sale Yard: Lexton Hotel, Burn Bank and Avoca Hotel, Avoca. (MADA 22/6/1858.) Auction notice. Avoca. (MADA 27/6/1859.) Auctioneer, Lamplough. Missing horse notice. (VGG No 23 p 356, 21/2/1860). Mr Wise scrutineer for Mr Vogel. (MADA. 7/8/1861). Gold struck at Wise’s paddock yesterday morning (22/1?) (BA 26/1/1860.) About a mile and a half on the Avoca side of the business centre. Half still crown land. (Arg. Correspondent. 30/1/1860.) Centre of attraction. (BA 2/2/1860.) Partly Government and partly private land. (Arg. via BA 2/2/1860.) “A revival has taken place beyond Wise’s paddock, and in the direction of the Avoca. ” (MADA 6/2/1860. ) Diggers took possession of a fine garden in the middle of it. (MAA 7/2/1860.) Wise’s garden rushed. Frightened out of his wits. (BS 7/2/1860. MH 9/2/1860. See also his obituary AM 25/7/1873 for description of garden.) “Continual fluctuations of the pursued course …” (MADA 10/2/1860.) 13 or 20 holes are in active operation. (MADA 15/2/1860.) “Has received instructions from the proprietors, Messrs J.H. Clough and Co., Wool~brokers, Melbourne, to sell …” (MADA 17/2/1860.) One of the stewards, Avoca Annual races. (MADA 6/4/1860). Prospecting claim on Lamplough Flat near Wise’s Paddock. (MADA 24/10/1860). Auctioneers licence. Avoca. (VGG No 12, p 153, 25/1/1861.) James Bodell stayed with him for three months in 1863. House on 300 acres of land about 2 miles from Avoca. (Bodell. P 124.) Death 22/7/1873. Died at Coffey’s Hotel, Moonambel Rd. Compression of the brain. Fell from horse. Age 58 years. Born Cork 1815. Emigrated 1851. President of Avoca Turf Club. Master of Avoca Hounds. 500 at funeral. Buried at Avoca Cemetery. (AM 22, 25/7/1873.) Place of abode Lamplough. House and land 1856 (ER). Wife Ellen Francis Matilda died 1/6 age 36 years at Lamplough (Argus 7/6/1855). Racing at Avoca. Wise’s horses (BL via MAM 20/4/1857). To auction on 20/8/1864 full share in one and all crushing machine (AM?).

The Wise Family feature prominently in a 1931 History of Avoca published in the Melbourne Weekly Times. (HISTORY OF AVOCA (1931, April 4). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), p. 11. Retrieved November 20, 2022, from

The society has several photos of the Wise family in its collection:

  • adhs~162 Henry George Wise, married Emily Gregory
  • adhs~163 W.M.Wise, Avoca fireman. c. 1895
  • adhs~167 William Wise, Avoca fireman. c. 1895

Moonambel children in the lock-up

On 20 May 2021 at 2pm at the Moonambel Historical Police Precinct the Moonambel Arts & History Group is hosting an opening of ‘The Children in the Lock-Up’ installation featuring the work of Tom Ripon. 

On 29th January 1896 ten year old Octive Edith Dean, eight year old Alice Louisa Dean and one year old Constance Palmerston spent the night in the Moonambel Lock-Up.

The charge was: ‘Found wandering and not having any settled place of abode.’

They were committed for trial at the Ballarat Supreme Court and on 4th February were committed to the Department for Neglected Children.

MAHG decided a few years ago to refurbish the rather dilapidated figures in the lockup, but it took us a while to work out just what we wanted!

Finally we decided on wire figures and engaged renowned wire sculptor Tom Ripon from Clunes to do the work.

If you would like to attend the opening, RSVPs are requested by the Moonambel Arts & History Group by 14 May [Contact details at ].

Tribute to Tony O’Shea from Denis Strangman

Death of Anthony (Tony) O’Shea. An Internet message from fellow local historian and researcher Anne Young alerted me to the fact that Tony O’Shea died last weekend.

Tony had been President of the Avoca and District Historical Society for 16 years, a Director of the local Co-Operative for 22 years and a Director of Co-operatives Victoria for 18 years.

His funeral at St Kevin’s Catholic Church, Avoca, had been scheduled for last Thursday.

I had got to know Tony while being webmaster of the Society’s website for about 18 years and later while sorting my political collection for transfer to the National Library I transferred my local history collection to Tony and the Society.

In 2019 Tony married Dorothy from the Society and the couple devoted much time to answering queries and maintaining a presence for the Society in the former Court House building.

Despite our political differences Melbourne Greens Councillor Helen Harris OAM was the person who got me involved in the Society when I was working at Old Parliament House in Canberra. The Parliamentary Library was digitising its collection and they were throwing out the old Library cards. Helen had a loyal band of people in Avoca transcribing historical names to cards (now numbering about 80,000) so I would collect the discarded cards and transfer them to Helen.

My local history interest was in Lamplough, a few kilometres from Avoca and about which I had written a short history of its gold rush in 1859 for the Victorian Historical Journal. My great-grandfather and his siblings had been born in Lamplough.

Tony and I met up a couple of times, particularly during one of the anniversaries of the Society and he was President when I was named as a Life Member of the Society.

Tony had a deep involvement with the Co-operatives movement and he will be sorely missed from the Historical Society and the Co-operatives movement.


30th anniversary celebrations in 2014 L to R: Beryl Maidment, Tony O’Shea, Cr. Ron Eason, Dorothy Robinson, Denis Strangman, Vicki Burge, Margaret Oulton, Jill Hunter, Helen Harris OAM, Graeme Mills, Mary Dridan, Sue Slater, Edna Jarvis, Cr. Robert Vance (Mayor, Pyrenees Shire).

Tony O’Shea

I am very sad to advise that the President of the Society, Tony O’Shea died recently. His funeral will be held Friday 26 March 2021.


Date of Funeral: 26/03/2021

O’SHEA, Anthony Francis

A Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of the late Mr Anthony “Tony” O’SHEA will be held at St Kevin’s Catholic Church Barnett Street Avoca on FRIDAY 26th March 2021 at 11 AM

The cortege will then proceed to the Avoca General Cemetery Sunraysia Highway, Avoca

2019 AGM notice

Society members will have received a notice of meeting for the 2019 AGM. Please add 4 November 2019, 3 pm to your diaries. The meeting is at the old Avoca courthouse, 85 High Street.

Can you help – perhaps you would be interested in nominating for the committee?

President’s Report to 2018 AGM of Avoca & District Historical Society Inc.

President’s Report to 2018 AGM of Avoca & District Historical Society Inc.

Edition 289 of “Pyrenees Pioneers”, the ADHS Inc Newsletter, contained a summary of most of our activities during the year, and I see no necessity to repeat that information. I can report that the “Digitisation Fund” now stands at $2,100 of which approximately $1,000 is committed to the 1869 Avoca Mail being uploaded to Trove. Hopefully this will happen before the end of 2018? This leaves approximately $1,100 which we can use as part payment for the “Scanpro” equipment previously mentioned, to replace the almost useless microfilm reader/printer and enable us to utilise the $6,000 we have tied up in microfilm of early newspapers, rate books, etc. To succeed in obtaining grants from various sources to defray most of the cost of the Scanpro, we need to demonstrate that we can fund a significant proportion from our own resources. It would be great if a few of our members could see their way clear to donate $500 each in the next few months.

A dozen or so members of Avoca U3A have been participating in a local history course conducted by myself since early October, and to date 3 of them have become members of ADHS Inc. The first three two-hour sessions were conducted at the Avoca Courthouse; last week’s session was an excursion to Percydale, including Daly’s Cottage; next week will be a tour of Avoca Cemetery, and the following week an excursion to Amphitheatre guided by Mary Dridan.

We welcome to the ranks of the ADHS Inc Committee Dr. Ron Southern, whose qualifications are in History and Archaeology. Several years ago Ron purchased the late Bob Robinson’s property in Vinoca Road, and has been busily renovating it and tidying up the extensive garden. I am delighted to say that Ron has developed a keen interest in the history of Percydale, and volunteered for the job of Curator at Daly’s Cottage. Readers of our Financial Statement in the penultimate edition of the newsletter will have noticed that during the past year we spent almost $2,000 on repairs to that historic edifice.
Thanks to all of the volunteers who have kept the ship afloat during the year; they know who they are!

The Courthouse will be closed from mid-December to the end of January, as has been the case in recent years. The last open day for 2018 will be 12th December, and the first for 2019 will be 6th February.

Tony O’Shea
2nd November, 2018.