Welcome to Life on Spring Creek
I would like begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land in and around Beechworth. I extend my respect to their elders, past and present, and to their ancestors. I also extend my respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers of this website.
In November 1852, around 8000 people from around the globe rushed to the banks of Spring Creek (Beechworth) to dig for gold. Almost overnight, the Creek was transformed. Along its banks grew-up something resembling an overcrowded refugee camp, surrounded by its very own man-made disaster zone but with a festive atmosphere.
The gold rush displaced fourteen years of European pastoral invasion and expansion, which led to the dispossession of the traditional owners, North East Victoria’s Aboriginal peoples, from their lands.
This blog started out as an exploration of how life was lived exactly where I am living right now — on the banks of Spring Creek (now sometimes called Silver Creek) in Beechworth, North East Victoria — but 166 years ago. It was initially, part gold-rush-lifestyle guide (and living-history laboratory), part myth-buster. Life on Spring Creek asked what it was about life on the gold diggings that made ‘those who lived it… nostalgic for it ever after’?
The gold rushes of the late 1840s (in California) and the early 1850s (in Victoria) were one of the biggest (in modern parlance) do-it-yourself, off-grid, low-tech adventures of all time. People of all backgrounds were drawn to the gold fields by the prospect of riches and adventure, but they also learned self-sufficiency, and found freedom of expression. They built their own dwellings, and filled them with make-shift furniture. They learned to recycle and up-cycle. They even adopted some of the practices of the local indigenous peoples, who must have looked at their activities in bewilderment. The gold rushes were also a time in which social norms were up-ended: Rich people lost their servants. Men learned to cook and mend. People of different cultures and races lived side-by-side. And anyone with lady luck on their side could strike it rich.
While the gold rush remains a fascinating historical period, Life on Spring Creek has begun to delve deeper into the lives and history of local Aboriginal peoples: who they were, how they lived, and the ways in which their lives intersected (often disastrously) with European pastoralism and the gold rush.
I live in Beechworth, and have a PhD in Australian cultural history. Over the last few years I have been collecting eye-witness accounts of the early gold rush in Beechworth: mainly diaries, letters, newspaper and government reports; mostly written on the spot, or shortly afterwards. It is my intention to base everything in this blog on these primary resource materials, and firsthand experience.
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