In the turmoil of events at Kiandra it appears that no objective
judicial inquiry was ever made at the time to determine who should
properly be given the credit for the particular discovery which triggered
off the rush. Now, long after the event, it seems impossible to be sure
where the credit lies. Perhaps it should not go to one particular group,
but to several.
The two chief contenders appear to be the Pollock brothers who came
from the Murray side, and Gillon, Hayes and Grice from Monaro.
Pollock brothers' claim to be the discoverers appears to rest on their
own statements in published letters and on newspaper reports at the time.
Letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, 4 February, 1860:
Sir, Will you have the kindness to insert in the columns of your
valuable journal the following information, you will greatly oblige.
Having found a valuable and payable gold-field extending over an area
of five miles (known as yet payable) on the Australian Pyreenees, I
consider it a duty incumbent to inform the industrious miner that at
present it is only workable for 3 months, owing to heavy falls of snow and
the rapid drift, which remains till September. I and my brother being
unable to proceed last winter and under necessity of returning although
within a few miles of William Russell's station. Even supposing the next
winter to be unusually mild and that the diggers remain on those plains -
from the boggy nature of the ground and crab holes, setting aside the
steepness of some of the mountain trails, it were an impossibility to
carrying or packing of provisions - this would prove an insuperable
objection. My motive in at present trespassing on your columns is to
prevent the rushes which invariably take place on the opening of any new
gold field, not, however, to deter any from visiting the locality, so that
as eye-witnesses they may be perhaps better satisfied by the ensuing
spring. I refused to purchase about 500 oz. on Saturday last, until I
receive from the assay office in Sydney its intrinsic value.
We remain, Yours very truly, D. and J. Pollock. Cobra Murra,
The basis for Gillon, Hayes and Grice being given the credit for the
discovery of payable gold in Pollock's Gully is not known.
As late as 1956 the following letter appeared in the Cooma-Monaro
Sir, I wish to make a correction of a statement made by Mr. Arthur
Goodman, which appeared in the Cooma-Monaro Express on February 10 as to
who found first gold on Kiandra. I would say Mr. Goodman has been very
much misinformed as he states Kiandra was found by a stockman named
Pollock in the late 60's. I claim to be able to give the true facts as
when gold was first found and the men who found it were my grandfather,
the late William Russell, Senior, Berrigan, Black and McClean. The
party used to go prospecting at times in the summer months and on this
occasion was working on what is known as Pollock's Gully on the south side
of where Kiandra stood. The gully came by the name owing to the Pollock
brothers having their sheep camped in the head of the gully. Pollocks
used to bring sheep into the hills in the summer months and very often
call at my grandfather's place at Denison, where he settled in 1848. In
the autumn of 1859, Robert Pollock called at Denison inquiring for my
grandfather, as he said he wanted to see him very
particularly. Grandmother said "If you want to see him particularly, I
will send John out with you, as he knows where they are working." On
arrival at the claim my father John heard the conversation which took
place between Pollock and the party as that they may have found a payable
gold field, and if they would allow him to take some of the gold he would
find out. After some discussion between the party they allowed him to
take some of the gold and in less than a week's time there were 500 men on
the field. I believe Pollock put in for the reward, also a couple of
others, but I understand there was no reward paid. That was in the
autumn of 1859 - and heavy snow fell and all went away, and men started
returning towards Christmas, and the big flow of people was from 1860-62,
when it was estimated at 15,000 people. My grandfather opened the pub
at Denison while the big boom was on, and also supplied fat stock to some
of the butchers on Kiandra.
C. M. Russell, Wattle Dale, Adaminaby.
William Russell's station was on the Eucumbene River near the present
junction of the old Snowy Mountains Highway and the road to Eucumbene
Portal-Junction Shaft and was certainly the closest settlement to Kiandra
before the rush.
During the rush all routes from the Monaro side converged on Russell's
which was close to the eastern edge of the main mountains, easily reached,
and below the main winter snow line. The short lived town of Denison was
established here early in 1860.
The following seems to be the earliest gold rush letter which has been
preserved, being published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 4
Cooma, January 7th, 1860 Dear Wilson, According to promise I
write to let you know that George and I arrived here the next day after I
left your place and met with two uncles of mine in Cooma, who directed us
to the place where they found gold, fifty miles from Cooma, in the
mountains near Cob's hole. We proceeded to a Mr. Russell' the nearest
station to the place, and spent our Christmas very pleasantly there. The
proprietor then came out with us, and has stopped with us since. He is a
particular friend of my uncle's. Now, Wilson, for the real truth, in case
of any of my acquaintances may come here which I advise them, as much as I
know the place. We are four days washing in a cradle, and have got eight
ounces of gold in the first place we set in. There is another party at
work in an adjoining creek and they are doing well. The gold is coarse;
pieces1 and a half ozs. down have been got. If you know of any men wanting
a job send them to me and I will give good men 2 pounds p.w. and their
rations. There will be a great rush immediately. We sent six ounces of
gold to the Commissioner's station at Adelong diggings so as we may get a
large claim registered. The only obstacle here is that the snow will
prevent digging for about 4 months in the winter. It is a beautiful
country. I could have got a good job at my trade as a carpenter by
contract in Cooma; but I did not like to engage in it for the present, as
I could not get men to work under double wage on account of these
diggings. In fact no man would take it under present circumstances. I am
in a hurry and will say no more at present.
Your sincere friend, Robert John Smirl.
The Goulburn Chronicle quoted by the Sydney Morning
Herald of January 28th, 1860 says:
"We hear that the first party at work on the field have obtained
4lbs. weight of gold and that 2 men, one of whom is named Russell obtained
in part of 2 days no less than 4 ounces."
* * * *
A detailed account of the gold rush that followed is provided in