Recently I went to Chewton in Victoria to visit the town where a branch of my family lived in the mid 1800's.
Chewton is a gorgeous little gold-mining town located close to the outskirts of Castlemaine. It doesn't take too much imagination to see how it was for my great, great, great, great grandmother Janet in raising her children there. The tiny white-washed law court. A 20 foot square hot box that is optimistically called a "gaol" which sports narrow louvres near the roof line in lieu of windows. It would have been pitch black and oven like especially during the heat of the day. A grandiose church complete with flying buttresses. And in those days, many, many pubs.
This whole area was called Forest Creek. Gold was discovered there in the mid 1800's and my family settled there very shortly afterwards, in search of work. I can't imagine how the Scottish born Janet felt coming over from Adelaide to a place completely unknown to her, but it probably seemed like less of a gamble than the one she had already taken in coming to Australia. Janet had already buried two husbands and had just married her third when gold was discovered in the Forest Creek area. Her third husband James was a labourer, not a miner, although Janet's son-in-law tried his hand at mining.
Janet's husband bought property in the first big land release in 1860 in Chewton, and the property was valued at 15 pounds, land and bark hut included. The rates were five pounds a year. Imagine if your annual land rates were calculated on the basis of a third of your property value!
Janet is buried in Chewton cemetery with her daughter and her baby grandson. They have no headstone, so sadly, we can only conclude our miner never struck it rich.