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Welcome Stranger

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Title: Welcome Stranger  
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Subject: Welcome Nugget, Australian gold rushes, History of Australia (1851–1900), Mining in Cornwall, February 5
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Welcome Stranger

A wood engraving of the Welcome Stranger published in The Illustrated Australian News for Home Reader on 1 March 1869. The scale bar across the bottom represents 12 inches (30 cm).[1]

The Welcome Stranger is the biggest alluvial gold nugget found, which had a calculated refined weight of 3,123 oz 6 dwts 9 gr[2] (71.018 kg). It measured 61 by 31 cm (24 by 12 in) and was discovered by Cornish prospectors John Deason and Richard Oates on 5 February 1869 at Moliagul, Victoria, Australia,[3] about 9 miles (14.6 kilometres) north-west of Dunolly.

Found only 3 cm (1.2 in) below the surface, near a bark of a tree on a slope leading to what was then known as Bulldog Gully, its gross weight was 3,523.5 troy ounces (109.59 kg), the trimmed weight was 2,520 troy ounces (78 kg), and net it weighed 2,315.5 troy ounces (72.02 kg).[2]

At the time of the discovery there were no scales capable of weighing a nugget this large, so it was broken into three pieces on an anvil by Dunolly-based blacksmith Archibald Wall.[4]

Deason, Oates and a few friends took the nugget to the London Chartered Bank, in Dunolly, which advanced them £9,000. Deason and Oates were finally paid an estimated £9,381 for their nugget, which became known as the "Welcome Stranger". It is estimated that the nugget would have been worth around 3,766,950 dollars (US) in January 2013. It was heavier than the "Welcome Nugget" of 2,217 troy ounces (69.0 kg) that had been found in Ballarat in 1858. The goldfields warden F. K. Orme reported that 2,269 ounces 10 dwt 14 grains (70.5591 kg) of smelted gold had been obtained from it,[5] irrespective of scraps that were given away by the finders, estimated as totalling another 47 ounces 7 dwt.

The nugget was soon melted down and the gold was sent as ingots to Melbourne for forwarding to the Bank of England. It left the country on board the steamship Reigate which left on 21 February.[4]

The text on the commemorative obelisk

An obelisk commemorating the discovery of the "Welcome Stranger" was erected near the spot in 1897. A replica of the "Welcome Stranger" is in the City Museum, Treasury Place, Melbourne, Victoria; another replica is owned by descendants of John Deason.[6]

Miners and their wives posing with the finders of the nugget, Richard Oates, John Deason and his wife.[7]

The discoverers

John Deason was born in 1829 on the island of Tresco, Isles of Scilly, which is 45 km (28 mi) south-west of Cornwall, England, UK. In 1851 he was a tin dresser before becoming a gold miner.[8] Deason continued with gold mining and workings most of his life and, although becoming a store keeper at Moliagul, he lost a substantial proportion of his wealth through poor investments in gold mining. He bought a small farm near Moliagul where he lived at the end of his life and died in 1915, aged 85 years.

Richard Oates was born about 1827 at Pendeen in Cornwall.[9] After the 1869 find Oates returned to the UK and married. He returned with his wife to Australia and they had four children. The Oates family purchased 800 acres (3.2 km2) of land at Marong in 1895 about 15 miles (24 km) west of Bendigo, Victoria, and Oates farmed until his death at Marong, Victoria in 1906 aged 79 years.

Further reading

Deason, Denise (2005). Welcome, stranger: The amazing true story of one man's legendary search for gold – at all costs. Melbourne: Viking / Penguin Books. ISBN 0670028762.

References

  1. ^ "The "Welcome Stranger" (picture)". State Library of Victoria search. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Potter, Terry F. (1999) The Welcome Stranger: a definitive account of the worlds largest alluvial gold nugget. ISBN 0-646-38709-X
  3. ^ "THE WELCOME STRANGER". NZ Truth (Papers Past). 28 November 1908. p. 8. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Knight, Katherine (April 2000). "The Real Welcome Stranger Story". Gold-Net Australia Online. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "Report to the Mines Minister by Francis Knox Orme, February 12th 1869". Scillonian.com. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "Mr John Deason". Scillonian.com. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "Unearthing the Welcome Stranger Nugget (picture)". State Library of Victoria search. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "John (John Jenkins) DEASON". freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Richard OATES". freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 

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