Gympie to celebrate 148 years
JAMES Nash was 32 when he forded the Mary River at what is now Traveston Crossing.
A labourer and dogged but unsuccessful prospector, he slept that night at Traveston Station.
The next day, on Caledonian Hill he discovered the gold which saved Queensland from bankruptcy, caused a worldwide stock market sensation and founded the town of Gympie.
Nearly 30 years later, he told his story to The Gympie Times, a paper which had come into existence in 1868, only because of the gold Nash found the year before.
In an interview that was republished in a range of Queensland magazines and newspapers, Nash told the paper he had found "a few specks" at Bella Creek, near Imbil.
He showed them to a man who said he was an ex-Victorian digger and who recommended Six Mile Creek as a likely spot to find some more.
"I left there the next morning and got to the Six Mile Creek," he said.
"But, not liking the look of it, I did not try it at all, nor any other place, until travelling down what is now Caledonian Hill.
"Just at the end of where Mr TJ Ferguson's garden now is I tried a dish of dirt, and got a speck in it.
"That half day and the next day I got an ounce and three pennyweights."
He sold that find for three pounds in Maryborough and returned to the same site.
When the water got dirty from his efforts, he shifted upstream and found himself picking up small pieces of gold on the surface of the ground.
"I got 75 ounces in six days," he told The Gympie Times.
Being a cautious man, Nash took several weeks to prove his original find, before announcing it in Maryborough on October 16, which has been celebrated ever since as Gympie's birthday.
The actual celebrations take the form of a street parade and entertainment in Memorial Park and Nelson Reserve, all on the nearest Saturday to October 16.
For those not yet getting the hint, that is today.
The shanty town that started life as "Nashville", around what is now the Fiveways intersection at the Town Hall end of Mary St, ultimately was sitting on a honeycomb of shafts so extensive that it was said a person could walk underground from Monkland to the CBD.
In 1868, Nashville was renamed Gympie and within three months 25,000 people lived here.
The Gympie Times has followed the burgeoning gold industry of the region since its beginnings and through to its end. Some say the machinery which aided mining in many areas may have contributed to Gympie's gradual mining demise.
Mining in narrow veins, as the gold is generally found beneath Gympie, is often unsuitable for big mechanised mining techniques.
Nevertheless, renewed mining continued into this century, before cash flow problems forced the closure of Gympie's last working mine.
In its first 60 years to 1927, the earth beneath Gympie yielded 3.73 million ounces of gold.
We may never know how much is left.