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Samuel Thomas Gill, Creswick Creek (near Ballaarat) from Spring Hill, lithograph on paper, hand coloured
Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ronald Wrigley Estate, 1979.
Creswick Creek Near Ballarat From Spring Hill, 1855"

Goldfields Agitation at Creswick

Members of the Ballarat Reform League visited Creswick and spoke at open air meetings. Harry Williams stated in his Memoir that Peter Lalor was working on Clark's Flat, Creswick, and abandoned his claim to go to Ballarat shortly before trouble started brewing.[1]

In late October 1854, the road to the Government Camp at Creswick Creek was crowded with diggers so incensed by the oppressive license system and general injustice that they threatened to burn the Camp, and demanded the removal of all officials. The protest was quelled, but the anger returned on 25 November when delegates from Ballarat’s vigorous Reform League rode in to seek support for their democratic protest and their condemnation of officials. Four days later, about 2,000 men, from the population of 25,000, met at Long Point to promise support. Licenses were burnt and, led by a German band, a contingent of about 150 set off for Ballarat travelling via Clarke’s Flat and Black Lead, encouraging fellow miners to join them.

Legend has it that some were caught in a thunderstorm at Mopoke and returned home. Yet it is recorded that about 500 Creswick men arrived at the stockade in Ballarat on 1 December 1854.

The Creswick men joined the Ballarat men in their defensive stockade, standing up for their rights and liberties. The Stockaders were no match for the Government forces, who stormed the stockade and even massacred bystanders early on the morning of 03 December 1854.

October 1854

GEELONG. - (FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)- Monday. 23rd October. 1854.
The Spirit of the Age of this morning has the following notices of affairs at the diggings:-
Saturday. - I have just time to write you in a few words the most important news ever sent from Ballaarat :
The Creswick's Creek Camp been burnt by the diggers, and all the available force has been sent there, - the diggers declaring that they will have no more Commissioners nor troops there...
EMEUTE AT Creswick's Creek.-We have learnt by inquiries in town made subsequent to our Ballaarat correspondent's express, that his news probably requires modifying. A trooper arrived in town on Saturday night with a warrant for the apprehension of Bentley. We are informed that just before he left Ballaarat, the diggers were congregated round the Chief Commissioner's camp, insisting that the Commissioners and Police should leave at once and never dare to appear there again. The Military and police were at once ordered to start for Creswick's Creek, and we are afraid that by this time a serious conflict may have taken place. The news that the license tent was burnt down was current at the time he left, but it was considered doubtful. The immediate cause of this outbreak is not known, but one of the Resident Commissioners, Mr. Sherrard, is known as an exceedingly hasty and passionate man, and the other one, Mr, Foster, is very young. All the other officers, both commissioned and non-commissioned, were exceedingly popular a short time since. We hope that it will appear that the diggers have been excited by some harsh exercise of the Commissioner's authority, and not through the present anti-license agitation; as in the former instance the emeute will probably subside as rapidly as it rose, in the latter a disorderly state of affairs will probably remain for some time. ...
CRESWICK'S CREEK,-We have been informed that information we received in town on Saturday last that the diggers had threatened to destroy the Government Camp at this place. Almost all the troopers in Melbourne and Geelong, besides some four or five companies of the 18th regiment, have been despatched to the diggings, so that they may be in readiness to act either at Creswick's Creek or Ballaarat if required. We understand the grievance at Creswick's Creek is the license-tax.
In reference to the above I can only say that, so far as I can learn, the burning of the Camp at Creswick's Creek had not been accomplished when the latest news left, but it had been threatened by a mob.. In this instance the disturbance assumes a much more serious aspect than even the burning of Bentley's house It is, in the truest sense of the word, a rebellion, and, for the sake of the colony in general, it is to be hoped that the majority of the diggers are opposed to such a very unconstitutional and dangerous method of obtaining their rights and privileges,without first having availed themselves of every constitutional remedy in their power. The diggers appear just now to be led away too much by the excitement of recent events, and by the harangues of a few mad-brained demagogues, in whose breast the desire to promote the real welfare of these diggers has no place in the present troubled state of the diggings, a few honest, intelligent, and determined men might, if they took the lead, do in- calculable good. The diggers generally are men possessed of sound reasoning faculties, and if the folly of their extreme views on the license question, and the serious consequences attending their hasty conduct, were properly explained, they might be saved from disgrace and the consequences of their folly, at the same time other methods of accomplishing all that they require might be as satisfactorily laid before them. Are there no such men as these among the digging population-no men of sufficient courage and ability to see the digger's rights protected, at the same time that they uphold the majesty of the law, and the functions of the Government? The present disturbances were expected to occur twelve months ago, and now that matters have reached the pitch they have, some change must take place, but whatever that change may be, it must be discussed calmly and without prejudice One happy step has been taken, viz, the reissuing of a warrant for Bentley, so that another investigation may take place, and, if necessary that he may be tried before a disinterested judge and jury. This act of itself removes all excuse now for any further acts of violence by the diggers, and if they persist in them, we must suppose that they have other motives for acting so. [2]

November 1854

The diggings were stirring! The Moreton Bay Courier was reporting agitation in November 1854: At the Ballarat diggings there had been a riot amongst the diggers. A large number had assembled at the Commissioner's Camp, at Creswick's Creek, and insisted that that officer, together with all the Police, should at once leave the place, and never return. There was a rumour that they had set fire to the camp. They had undoubtedly threatened to do so. The Eureka Hotel at Ballarat, had been burnt down by the diggers.[3]

December 1854

The Geelong Advertiser reported ...No man was allowed to work yesterday; he distinctly understood that if he did so he would be fired on. A body of diggers some 400 strong, and armed, came in from Creswick in the evening, and the united forces - some 1000 men met and went through sundry evolutions about 8 o'clock p.m. On all hands, to-day is looked forward to with great anxiety, Matters are not mending. ... [4]

Ballarat Reform League Creswick Memorial," 2014. Photograph: Clare Gervasoni
Ballarat Reform League Creswick Memorial," 2014. Photograph: Clare Gervasoni

Further agitation took place in early November 1954:

The Creswick Contingent

According to John Graham: The Creswick contingent set out on 30 November 1854 from a grog shanty at Long Point, Creswick led by an Hanovarian band playing the Marseillaise. It proceeded along the densely crowded Clark's Flat, where stump orations were delivered and licenses burnt. Firearms were eagerly sought, and crowbar and pick-handles came into requisition. The scratch army swelled as it passed along the Black Lead and the centre of town until it reached 400 to 500. Provisions, horses and ammunition were commandeered as they walked four deep towards Ballarat, but 'a heavy thunderstorm not only drenched their bodies but cooled their ardour', and not many reached the Eureka Stockade. The following day around 200 departed. One of these was Henry Hammon. [5]

The following diggers were among those who left Creswick for the Eureka Stockade:

Antonio Capuano; Natale D'Angri; Charles Fenwick; John Fenwick; Patrick Gittings; Henry Hammon; John Keenan; Thomas Kennedy; Thomas Marks; Edward McGowan; Antonio Nida; Henry Powell; Edward McGowan; Michael Tuohy; James Warner; James Woolcock

Creswick Residents

Richard Allan - Gilbert Amos - William Bell - William Boase - Frederick Bury - George Colwell - Patrick M. Curtain - John Kennan - Alexander Mollison - Matthew McCormick - Charles Nicholls - Robert Nicholls - Thomas Phillips - Michael Tuohy


(From the Ballarat Times.)
To Signor Raffaello. Dear Sir, — I have read your 'Eureka Stockade' with the deepest interest, but not with entire satisfaction. I have not time for an elaborate review of it, but I feel it to be my duty to notice a few passages in which you have mentioned my humble and all-but-forgotten name. At some future day, should health and leisure permit, I hope to give an account of what I know of the Eureka affair, and then your book will be subjected to a thorough examination. At page 58 you open chap. 45 with the following paragraphs : — "Between four and five o'clock of same afternoon we became aware of the silly blunder which proved fatal to our cause. Some three or four hundred diggers arrived from Creswick Creek — a gold-field famous for its pennyweight fortunes — grubbed up through hard work, and squandered in dissipation among the swarm of sly grog sellers in the district. "We learned from this Creswick legion that two demagogues had been stumping at Creswick, and called the miners there to arms, to help their brothers on Ballarat, who were worried by scores by the peridious hands of the Camp. They were assured that, on Ballarat, there was plenty of arms, ammunition, forage, and provisions, and that preparations, on a grand scale, were making to redress, once for all, the whole string of grievances. They had only to march to Ballarat, and would find there plenty of work, honor, and glory. 'I wonder how honest Mr Black could sanction with his presence, such suicidal rant, such absurd bosh of that pair of demagogues, who hurried down these four hundred diggers from Creswick, helpless, grog-worn ; that is, more or less dirty and ragged, and proved the greater nuisance. One of them, Michael Tuohy, behaved valiantly, and so I shall say no more.' Signor Raffaello ! by whom have you been led to pen these paragraphs? You Say, 'We learned from this Creswick legion, &c , &c. "Did this Creswick legion" say noting about a special messenger riding, post-haste, from Ballarat to Creswick's, with a note for myself, or Thomas Kennedy, or any man 0n the creek? And did not "this Creswick legion" inform you that this note was handed to me after the dispersion of the meeting, solely for which we had gone to the Creek, and just as we were about to return to Ballarat - that they ('"this Creswick legion' and Many others) reassembled to hear the contents of tHe note — and that, then it was, that they felt called on to go to the assistance of the men of Ballarat? It "this Creswick legion" made no mention Of the abovE facts, but gave you, instead, the substance-of the paragraphs transcribed, they grossly misinformed you. The truth is, Reynolds, Kennedy Moran, myself and a friend left. Ballarat for Creswicks, on Thursday morning, November 30th , when all was perfectly quiet and no license hunt was expected, for the purpose of promoting the objects of the Ballarat Reform League. In the afternoon, most of the diggers of Creswick's gathered around us, when we informed them of the principles and objects of the League, and gave them an account of the mission of Kennedy and myself to the Governor, for the release of M'Intyre, Fletcher, and Westerby. The business of the meeting was soon over, and the diggers quietly dispersed without the least expectation of being immediately called on to arm themselves and proceed to Ballarat. They had not reached their tents when a young man, a stranger to me, arrived on horseback from Ballarat, with a note for me or Kennedy, or any man on the Creek. The note was in the handwriting of, and was signed by S. Irwin (now J.P at Ballarat), I Patrick Sheehan and another, whose name was so badly written that I could not make it out. Immediately after reading the note I tore it up, lest it should fall into the hands of Government. The substance of the note, I well remember, was as follows : That the authorities had been out license hunting, and had fired on the diggers ; that if they came out, on the morrow, the diggers had made up their minds to give them pepper,' and that they (the writers) considered that the cause for which the men of Ballarat had taken up arms, was the cause of the men of Creswick, and they hoped that all who could come would come and bring with them all the arms they could collect. The note also promised that the men of Ballarat would find room in their tents for those who might, come, and would accommodate them as well as they could. But for this note the 'demagogues' and myself would have left the men of Creswick's in hipphappy ignorance of the rising which had taken place at Ballarat, and, in all probability, not one of them would have been in the Stockade on the ever-memorable Sunday morning following. !The blame, then, if any, of bringing to the Stockade the "four hundred helpless, grog-worn, that is, more or less dirty and ragged diggers of Creswick's is chargeable neither on themselves (p or wretches, as you describe them, but really high-souled men, who, appealed to as they were, in the fiery words of Messrs. Irwin, Sheehan and another, scorned to leave the men of Ballarat to fight unassisted the battle of the diggers generally) nor on the 'pair of demagogues' and "honest Mr Black," but on Messrs Irwin, Sheehan and another, or on some committee for whom the above gentlemen acted. At page ninety-nine the following passage occurs : "What has become of George Black, was, and is still, a mystery to me. I lost sight of him since his leaving for Creswick Creek, on December 1st. 1854."You lost sight of me from one to two o'clock p.m., on Saturday, after I had vainly endeavored with the Rev. Patrick Smyth to prevail on Lalor, Vern, and M'Gill to disperse the men, as I was very confident that if they came into collision with the forces which were, and would soon be at the Ballarat Camp they would be overwhelmed, and a great, and useless sacrifice of life would be the consequence. When writing the above you forgot that on Friday night, 1st December, I accompanied the Rev. Patrick Smyth and yourself to the Camp, as a deputation, to obtain, if possible, the release of the men who had been arrested the day before taking part in the disturbances caused by the license hunt. Then, as disturbance caused by the license hunt. Then, as to the mystery of my whereabouts: ever since the acquittal of the State prisoners I have been diligently engaged in business, or some other way, at this place, but ever ready to do what I could in the cause of liberty and humanity. As yet, I have not succeeded in business according to my wishes, but I hope ere long to be able to meet the men of Ballarat, and satisfy them that I am indeed the honest man you have represented me to be, through evil report and through good report, through weal and through woe, in prosperity and in adversity. I have retained the principle which I was my pride to advocate amongst them, and which I shall ever hold, and never fear to avow as occasion may arise. Others may seek the favor of the powers that be; "as for me, I have no sympathy with any government that is not the free choice of the people. You do not think, signor, that I have deserted the cause of liberty, and that I nm quietly ingratiating, myself with the government. No, no, such is far from being the case. From what I can learn, I am yet a trouble to our rulers. Not many days ago, I was informed, on good authority, that I was closely watched, and that the warrant for my arrest for the Eureka affair had not yet been withdrawn. Well, I hope to to live trouble, more than over, men whose principles and actions are despotic, whether high or low in office, or in society. Now, to clear up another of your mysteries. In your account of the interview which Father Smyth, yourself, and I had with the Camp officers on the night of Friday, December 1st, you say that when we wore returning from the Camp, "Father Smyth continually kept on a sotto voce conversation with Mr Black only," and that this was and still is a mystery to you ! I assure you, signor, Father Smyth said not a word to me, to the best of my recollection, which he was not perfectly willing for you to hear. I am not aware that there were any secrets between the rev. gentleman and myself. Until I read the passage just quoted, I was under the impression that you heard all that passed in conversation on the occasion in question. But I must conclude. Someday I hope to return to the subject, and do full justice to it according to my humble abilities.
I remain, Signor.
Your's truly, G. BLACK.[6]

Also See


Collier's Hotel

Creswick Cemetery

Ballarat Reform League Inc. Creswick Monument

Samuel Irwin


  1. Graham, John A. Early Creswick: The First Century, Arbuckle, Waddell Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1942, p58.
  2. Geelong Advertiser, 24 October 1854.
  3. Moreton Bay Courier, 04 November 1854.
  4. Geelong Advertiser,4 December 1854.
  5. Graham, John A. Early Creswick: The First Century, Arbuckle, Waddell Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1942, p58.
  6. The Age, 31 December 1855