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Ludwig Becker,Government Camp Bendigo, June 1853. (From the memorial in Rosalind Park, Bendigo)

Gold was discovered by Margaret Kennedy and Mrs Farrell in the Bendigo Creek at Golden Point, near today's Maple Street. Their discovery marked the beginning of a very successful goldfield.

In 1853, at the height of the gold rush, protests were made to Victoria's Colonial Government, with agitation on every goldfield in Victoria. In Bendigo the Red Ribbon Rebellion resulted in over 23,000 signatures on a petition known as the Bendigo Miners' Petition.

Discovery of Gold

Mr. William Barker, at one time the owner of Mount Alexander station, says that in September or October one-armed Byass, who was a guest of Messrs. Fenton and Gibson’s at Ravenswood, came to Forest Creek and told the diggers that gold had been found at Bendigo. The place was then known as Bendigo, and was so known for years before the discovery of gold.

The late Mr. James Mouat of Eaglehawk, who was squatting in the Bendigo district in 1837, says that Bendigo was originally named by the owner of Mount Alexander North station, a Mr. Sherit, Bendigo, after one of his bullock-drivers, about the beginning of 1840. Mr. Mouat, who was the owner of Yarraberb station, recollected when the station hut was put on the Bendigo creek, and it was put there by Mr. Myers of Grice and Heap’s station. Mr. Mouat camped at the hut (which I may say was on the site where the Shamrock hotel, Pall Mall, now stands) in October, 1851, with two flocks of sheep, and there was no gold seeking going on on the Bendigo creek then, but on his return on the 1st of January, 1852, there was any amount of digging going on. Captain Harrison, who was an old acquaintance of Mr. Mouat’s, in the course of conversation as to the discovery of the gold, said that it was one of Fenton’s shepherds who had made the discovery.

Mr. Frencham’s narrative is as follows:— “I arrived in Bendigo about the 17th of November, 1851, and immediately set to work searching for gold down near the White Hills, and, having found it, prospected along the bank of the creek and the gullies. I saw two women washing in the creek a few days after I went up and presume they were washing for gold. These two women were Mrs. Margaret Kennedy, wife of the overseer of Fenton and Gibson’s station at Ravenswood, and Mrs. Farrell, the wife of the cooper on the station. They were engaged at a large water hole near Golden Gully. On the 27th of November I found payable gold, and reported it to the Commissioner at Forest Creek, at the same time taking 36lbs. weight of gold with me. On the 9th November Captain Harrison and myself were appointed as delegates from Bendigo by a large meeting of diggers to the monster meeting to be held at Forest Creek to oppose the £3 license. About the middle of November a black mounted trooper showed one of my mates named Ross where he had got gold in the grass at Golden Gully.”[1]

Bendigo Petition


Off To Bendigo, Courtesy Ballarat Heritage Services

Bendigo December 1853

SCRAPS FROM THE VICTORIA GOLD FIELDS. (From our own Correspondent.) Bendigo, December 8, 1853.

THE grand initiation of the second agitation against the license tax, and for enfranchising the gold diggers, took place on Saturday. The locale was in the rear of the Digger's Advocate Office, Golden Square, on some rising ground, Dr. Owens (John Owens), late of the Ovens, was in the chair. The speakers were, Drs. M'Donald and Wall, Mr. William Edmonds, storekeeper, Mr. Donovan, storekeeper, and one or two new chums. The mantle of the late agitators does not seem to have settled on the new aspirants. There was wanting that vigour of speech, and happy off-hand manner which characterised the defunct agitators' speeches, and which told with so much effect on the believing digger. There might too be an absence, to a great ex- tent, of the cause of complaint which existed some few months back. Certainly the new Gold Fields Bill falls very far short of what was ex- pected from the Report of the Select Com- mittee. The £50 annual license for store- keepers has given great offence to thousands of the small dealers on the various diggings; some of the more influential of this class, of course, feel pleased at this clause, because they think it will be the means of shutting up a large pro- portion of the retailers of merchandise, and thus afford the former a monopoly. This part of the enactment is certainly highly objectionable, and will press very unequally on those who are thus taxed; but then the digger has to pay, and it is this that the new agitators are harping on. The premium for taking out yearly licenses, and giving the franchise to those who do so, is another bungling piece of business. The Go- vernment first say to the digger, "you have great privileges in being permitted to live in this fine country, and you must pay for them; if you stay only one month you shall pay 20s., but if you will be good enough to stay twelve months, you shall only pay £8 per annum." Here is an affirmative and a negative in the same breath. The Act is full of pains and penalties, which, coupled with the manner in which it was smuggled through the Council, affords ample room for the portion of antagonism taken by the diggings' orators. At the meeting on Saturday there were about 3000 persons. The resolutions were con- demnatory of the Bill (or rather "Act now.,) It was also determined that there should be an election of representatives for the Bendigo, with liberty for the other gold fields to join, who are to sit in congress on the wants of the digging community. There are to be seven returned for Bendigo, and the election is by ballot on Saturday week next. The parties re- turned are to be the bona fide representatives for twelve months from the date of their election. DIVISION IN THE CAMP.—There are rumours of great dissatisfaction existing in the minds of several of the Government officers at Bendigo, on the subject of the new Act. Mr. Panton, the resident commissioner, with two or three others, it is said, have resigned. It is supposed that the clause in the Act providing that a commis- sioner should go round with the police to search for unlicensed diggers and occupiers of crown lands, is the chief cause of the commotion.[2]

Residents of Bendigo

Dorothy Wickham, Bendigo Goldfields Petition, book cover

David Brough; Ann Duke; George Duke; John Edhouse; George Harrison; William Heise; John Knipe; Anastasia Withers; Samuel Withers

Also See

Red Ribbon Rebellion

Bendigo Goldfields Petition

Ballarat Reform League Inc. Monuments Project

Ballarat Reform League Inc. Bendigo Monuments
  1. The Bendigo Advertiser, 28 October 1893. Transcribed by Dorothy Wickham
  2. Scraps from the Goldfields, The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 December 1853