In 1867 one man’s search for personal fortune made the history books when he discovered 75 ounces of gold in the place that later became known as ‘the town that saved Queensland’.
English prospector James Nash was travelling the bankrupt state of Queensland when he arrived at Gympie, 150km north of central Brisbane, and struck gold.
Nash’s gold find sparked a gold rush which in turn saved Queensland from bankruptcy.
Queensland had recently become a self-governing colony with its own Governor, nominated Legislative Council and an elected Legislative Assembly.
Gympie historian Beth Wilson says the Queensland government encouraged prospectors to search for gold as an answer to the state’s financial problems.
“When James Nash discovered the gold in Gympie the government had put out a reward for any gold that was found within 90 miles (145 km) of Brisbane so people were out looking for gold everywhere,” she said.
“When James Nash reported the find they didn’t pay him the full reward because he was outside of the mileage limits but he was awarded about one thousand pounds. This was a lot of money though, really quite a significant amount for the time. Most people were maybe earning one or two pounds a week, if that.
“The gold that James Nash found saved the state from bankruptcy, that’s the significance of Gympie, it’s the town that saved Queensland.”
James Nash published the tale of how he came to find gold in the “Gympie Times” of October 15, 1896.
“About the middle of August, 1867, I left Nanango- for Gladstone, I had been working some time in Nanango ; there was nothing there worth staying for, so I thought of going to Gladstone, trying all likely places on the way,” he wrote.
“……..I did not try it at all, nor any other place, until travelling down to what is now Caledonian Hill. Just at the end of where Mr. T. J. Ferguson’s garden now is I tried a dish of dirt, and got a speck in it.
“That half day and the next day I got an ounce and three pennyweights. On the second day I broke the hammer headed pick I had and could do no more digging, so I went on to Mary borough, where I tried two banks and several stores, but could not sell the gold. (Times were so bad that they hardly knew what gold was like.)
“…..I went up the creek, near where the gas works now is. While washing the first dirt there, I picked up gold beside me in small pieces. I stayed on there. I had camped about where Mr. Woodrow’s store is now, but shifted farther up the creek where I was working.
“I got 75oz. in six days, and then started for Maryborough again.”
James Nash received £1000 for his find in Gympie and was then given the prospector’s reward of an extra claim and a half.
Nash made £7000 from his alluvial claims and finished up his days taking care of the local powder magazine.