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The Early Days of Stawell

Longfield Street, Stawell, 1866
Longfield Street at Stawell in 1866 looking towards Ararat and Melbourne
Today the two-storey building on the right is the home of the Stawell Historical Society

The original settlement of Stawell was at Pleasant Creek and consisted of Cooper, Longfield, Leslie, Burgh Streets running east west and Austin, Griffiths, Seaby and Foster Streets running north south, according to a map of the area dated 1858. It is interesting to note that Burgh Street has a dog leg in it and this was because the Pleasant Creek Hotel already existed and the road was formed around it.

Longfield Street being the main road from Melbourne to Adelaide was the centre of the settlement and housed the Camp and the Constitution Hotels (left of photograph above).

On the right of the photograph are the Pleasant Creek Court House and Gaol, Shire Office and the Literary Institute

The Telegraph Office and the Police Superintendent's Residence were situated in Leslie Street and behind this were the Police Stables in Griffiths Street.

On the corner of Griffiths Street and Leslie Street was the One Tree Hill Cemetery

On the right in Seaby Street is the home of John Yabsley Wakeham, Mr Wakeham was a pioneer of Stawell, Whilst a merchant originally he amassed his fortune as a share holder in a number of mines in Stawell.

Pleasant Creek was part of Concongella Station before the discovery of gold. The only residents around at the time were two shepherds and a hutkeeper who lived on the "Western slopes of One Tree Hill" in a bark hut.

William McLachlan discovered gold at Pleasant Creek in May 1853 while fossicking in Pleasant Creek in his spare time found some gold. It only was a small amount of gold - some pennyweights - and although the find was made known, not many people came here then. This was then a very isolated area, water was scarce and there were no supplies of food while the goldfields of Ballarat, Bendigo, Clunes etc. were operating with stores already established. Some people did come and there were also people passing through here from South Australia to the Victorian goldfields who stopped and washed small quantities of gold.

Apparently some gold diggers came and went during the next four years - finding some small quantities - and in August 1857 - the big rush occurred at what became known as Commercial Street, Pleasant Creek - off the Halls Gap Road.

This rush spread across to Deep Lead and the Warden reported at the height of the rush, said that there were 25,000 to 30,000 people there.

At the same time, shafts were being sunk around Big Hill and gold was found in the quartz there. That Big Hill area was called Quartz Reefs, Pleasant Creek.

Much alluvial gold was found in the Illawarra/Deep Lead area but how much and who found it is not known. The diggers took their gold and left and the field had petered out by 1859 - only lasting less then two years with a very diminishing numbers of diggers.

The Quartz Reefs became a stable gold field and companies were formed to purchase the machinery needed and employed many miners. This goldfield was known as "Stawell's Golden Mile" although it extended for a mile and a half or more from the Wonga - along the foot of Big Hill - down Newington Road out to the Three Jacks.

Huge amounts of gold were found and fortunes made. Of the 14 richest mines in Victoria. Number 8 on that list was the Cross Reef at Stawell and number 10 was the Magdala at Stawell. Mining here slowed down in the late 1880's with many mines closing from then to the 1890's and the last mine closed in 1920.

The Borough of Stawell was proclaimed in 1869, became a town in 1969 and then a city on the 12th of November of 1989.

Stawell was named after Sir William Foster Stawell.

Today - Gold is still being mined at Stawell.

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