Originally named Sandy Creek, due to gold being first discovered in
the creek sand, Tarnagulla soon had an estimated 5000 miners along a
5km stretch. As with many other places the town was not actually established
until the Poverty Reef was discovered in 1853-54. It was reported that
by 1865, an area of 92 square metres had yielded 2.5 million dollars.
The town now had a population of 20,000 and boasted banks, breweries,
hotels, tobacconists, chemists, a theatre and churches, with the school
opening in the 1870's. Still today Tarnagulla boasts many of its original
landmarks like the majestic Victoria Theatre and Hotel (c-1861), the
Courthouse (c-1863), Churches, Poppet Head at the Poverty Mine (c-1860)
and the Football Grandstand (c-1872).
The madness of gold.
The deceitfulness of the goldrush was evident the day a local digger
named Watson found a 1.4 kilo nugget. Not only did he not inform his
mining partner- a huge Negro named Ruby, but then set about celebrating
and sleeping with Ruby's woman. Watson soon found himself hit on the
head with a lump of quartz and thrown down a mining shaft, Ruby was
hung at the Melbourne gaol for his deed.
On another occasion during the Petty
Sessions at the Sandy Creek Court, the Warden delivered judgement on
a disputed claim. As soon as he announced the land belonged to neither
quarrelling party, everyone in the court, including council and clerks,
jumped up and ran the mile to get their pegs in first, leaving the Warden
in an empty courtroom.
Early settlers soon found it was more profitable to grow wheat and sheep,
once the gold bonanza was over. The flourmill started in 1882 and by
1901 up to 60,000 bags of wheat were being handled weekly. It was a
common sight during the wheat season to see the street lined with wagons.
Flora and fauna.
Indicated on the Cycle Track map is the Waanyarra Nature Conservation
Reserve. Here you have a wonderful opportunity to see many of the wildflowers,
shrubs and trees that make the Box-Ironbark forests so unique. The views
on Laurie Track looking across the farmland, surrounded by bush, with
the ranges as a backdrop, are some of the loveliest views in the district.
The Chinese at Sandy Creek.
Throughout the goldfields there was great animosity towards the Chinese.
They were arriving in droves, generally working the areas already mined
by the Europeans and kept to themselves. The Goldfields had people from
more than half the countries of the world, including Greeks, Italians,
Dutch, Indian, Swiss, Canadian, French and Afghans to name but a few.
All the nationalities cohabitated well, except with the Chinese. The
State Government was suspicious of the Chinese claims that women could
not come as their duty was to care for elderly relatives. The Government
also did not like the fact that the Chinese took their gold back home
and refused to buy land and settle in Australia. To stem the influx,
the Government charged the Chinese a 10 pound tax to enter the country.
In Sandy Creek the welcome for the Chinese was even less friendly, with
pitched battles using picks and shovels reported throughout the 1950's.
In September, 1857, 250 miners signed a petition to have the Chinese
removed, claiming they were spoiling the towns clean water supply needed
for drinking and washing. This resulted in most of the Chinese moving
to Burnt Creek, with the few left behind sinking into alcohol abuse
and suicide. In March 1902 the State Government passed a bill outlawing
any Chinese from working in gold or silver mining.