George Train

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Bendigo Goldfields Petition Cover, August 1853. State Library of Victoria (MS 12440)
His Excellency Charles Joseph La Trobe on 1st August 1853.
Humble Petition of the Undersigned Gold Diggers and other residents on the Gold Fields of the Colony
That your petitioners are the Loyal and Devoted Subjects of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria the Sovereign Ruler of this Colony one of the dependencies of the British Crown
That in the present impoverished conditions of the Gold Fields the impost of Thirty Shillings a Month is more than Your Petitioners can pay as the fruit of labor at the Mines scarcely affords to a large proportion of the Gold Miners the common necessaries of life
That in consequence of the few Officials appointed to issues Licences the Diggers Storekeepers and other residents lose much time at each Monthly issues in procuring their Licenses
That the laborious occupation of Gold digging and the privation attendant on a residence on the Gold fields entail much sickness and its consequent expenses on Your Petitioners
That in consequence of the Squatter Land Monopoly a large proportion of Successful Diggers who desire to invest their earnings in a portion of land are debarred from so doing
That newly arrived Diggers must lose much time and money before they become acquainted with the process of Gold Mining
That in consequence of Armed Men (many of whom are notoriously bad in characters) being employed to enforce the impost of Thirty Shillings a Month there is much ill feeling engendered amongst the Diggers against the Government
That in consequence of the non-possession by some of the Miners of a Gold Diggers License some of the Commissioners appointed to administer the Law of the Gold Fields have on various occasions Chained non-possessors to Trees and Condemned them to hard labor on the Public Roads of the Colony - A proceeding Your Petitioners maintain to be contrary to the spirit of the British Law which does not recognise the principle of the Subject being a Criminal because he is indebted tot he State
That the impost of Thirty Shillings a Month is unjust because the successful and unsuccessful Digger are assessed in the same ratio
For these reasons and others which could be enumerated Your Petitioners pray Your Excellency to Grant the following Petition
* First. To direct that the Licence Fee be reduced to Ten Shillings a Month
* Secondly To direct that Monthly or Quarterly Licenses be issued at the option of the Applicants
* Thirdly To direct that new arrivals or invalids be allowed on registering their names at the Commissioners Office fifteen clear days residence on the Gold Fields before the License be enforced
* Fourthly To afford greater facility to Diggers and others resident on the Gold Fields who wish to engage in Agricultural Pursuits for investing their earnings in small allotments of land
* Fifthly To direct that the Penalty of Five Pounds for non-possession of License be reduced to One Pound
* Sixthly To direct that (as the Diggers and other residents on the Gold Fields of the Colony have uniformly developed a love of law and order) the sending of an Armed Force to enforce the License Tax be discontinued.
Your Petitioners would respectfully submit to Your Excellency's consideration in favour of the reduction of the License Fee that many Diggers and other residents on the Gold-fields who are debarred from taking a License under the present System would if the Tax were reduced to Ten Shillings a Month cheerfully comply with the Law so that the License Fund instead of being diminished would be increased
Your Petitioners would also remind your Excellency that a Petition is the only mode by which they can submit their wants to your Excellency's consideration as although they contribute more to the Exchequer that half the Revenue of the Colony they are the largest class of Her Majesty's Subjects in the Colony unrepresented
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray etc.


George Francis Train was born on 24 March 1829 in Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.[1]

The letters of George Francis Train, written for American newspapers, provide an insight into life on the Victorian goldfields between 1853 and 1855 Train was a Methodist who abstained from alcohol and tobacco all his life. He started as a clerk in his father’s cousin, Enoch’s, firm of Train and Company. [2]

Train married Wilhelmina Wilkinson Davis on 5 October 1851, emigrating to Australia on the Bavaria in 1853. He had a store at 13 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne where they sold a variety of goods, represented the White Star shipping line and acted as insurance agents. Train, along with Caldwell, became active in matters of commerce and members of the Chamber of Commerce. Train visited the goldfields and Geelong.[3] He claimed that a well-known American participant in the Eureka Affair had sought firearms from him in December 1854. [4]

Wilhelmina Train returned to Boston in 1854, and George Train returned to the USA in 1855. Train separated from his wife in 1872. He was an enthusiastic, generous and enterprising man who died in New York on 18 January 1904. Throughout his life he supported causes such as the Fenians, and women’s suffrageresulting in several imprisonments.[5]

Goldfields Involvement, 1853-1854

A George Train signed the Bendigo Goldfields Petition in 1853.

In his book A Yankee Merchant in Goldrush Australia Train described the James Scobie affair:

Last week the diggers rose en masse against a judicial decision which liberated a notorious publican by the name of Bently , who was arrested for murder. That night mob law was supreme! Ten thousand men surrounded the house of Bently, which had been a rendezvous of a desperate gang of Vandiemonians, and, in spite of military, police, special constables, and the whole government power, the hotel and surrounding buildings were burned to the ground. After which , the ringleaders were taken, but the mob demanded them to be given up, which demand was complied with, As soon as the news came to town troops and cannon were immediately sent up, with orders to 'maintain the law, regardless of life or cost,' and 'tis anticipated that blood will be shed. The diggers have felt their power,, and are not likely to fall back for a handful of soldiers. [6]

George Train was involved in protecting James McGill after the Eureka Stockade. The story was told 50 years later in the pages of the Evening Echo:-

... By advice of the notorious G.F. Train, then Melbourne agent for the White Star Company's line of ships, Magill, [sic] disguised afresh in man's attire, went on board the Arabian as an officer of the ship. In the meantime Train and another American citizen interposed on behalf of their compatriot, whose youth - he was then about 21 years old - they pleased in bar of grave punishment.
Train sent to Magill [sic] one day, got him ashore, took him to Sir Charles Hotham's at Toorak, and after a brief interview the Governor, who expressed surprise at Magill's [sic]youth, bowed them on hopefully. Train next informed his client that the government would not interfere to prevent his escape if he left the colony forthwith. Magill, [sic] however, still be the watchful Train's agency, was passed on the health officer's quarters at Port Phillip Heads, where he remained until the acquittal of the State prisoners proclaimed liberty to all the compromised.[7]
Unknown maker (Australia), The flag of the Southern Cross (Eureka Flag), 1854, wool, cotton.
Art Gallery of Ballarat Collection. Gift of the King family, 2001

In his own word, George Train expresses the importance of the Eureka Stockade event to the fledgling colony:

Politics have grown twenty years in a single month - already a young giant in the arena. The men of Victoria have at last begun to think. The legislative council get sleepy. the chamber of commerce wake up, the miners of Ballaarat raise an independent flag, the country thrills with the purport of expected change. The love of liberty that is convulsing the shaking thrones of the old world has touched the giant chieftain of the Australias, and the 'southern cross,' three-fourths of the people say, must be the flag of the southern El Dorado. And the digger at the gold fields, the merchant in his counting house, the official at the government desks with his foolscap and wax tape, the mechanic, the boatman, the editor and the lawyer, all say Victoria must have a government of her own"[8]

Post 1854 Experiences

In 1872 Train ran for President of the United States as an independent candidate. That year, he was jailed for having defended Victoria Woodhull against obscenity charges for an issue her newspaper had published on an alleged adulterous affair. Despite his many business successes in early life, he was known as an increasingly eccentric figure in American and Australian history.[9]


The death of Mr. George Francis Train New York removes from this world the man to whom England owes the introduction of tramways, and the world at large that useful invention the "eraser pencil." From neither of these things did Mr. Train reap profit, for after the cars had been running a few months the rails of his experimental tramway from Kennington Park Westminster-bridge, which was opened 1862, had to be pulled up owing to the opposition of the owners of vehicles in the district, and another man obtained the benefit of Mr. Train's notion for the attachment of a piece of rubber to a pencil. How the shrewd Yankee gave away the idea of a combined eraser and pencil told by his biographers in a variety of way but the fact seems to be that whilst talking to a business friend he saw the latter searching his pockets for a piece of rubber wherewith to erase an error, and remarked sarcastically, "If I were you I should glue the rubber on to the butt-end of the pencil and then you'd always have it handy. The other man grasped the hint at once and shortly afterwards took out a patent for a rubber attachment. The combination pencil filled a "long-felt want," an the lucky patentee made something like £40,000 out of Train's sarcastic suggestion.
Mr. Train was entirely a self-made man for he was left an orphan four years after his birth at Boston in 1829, his father, mother, and three sisters dying of yellow fever in New Orleans. He was brought up by his grandmother at Waltham, Massachusetts, and was successively a farmer boy, grocer boy, and shipping clerk. At the age of 20 he became a partner in a shipping firm, and established a branch of it in Liverpool; later he founded the firm of Train & Co., shipping agents, Melbourne. In 1849 he started the first line of "clippers" to California, and in 1858 promoted the building of the Atlantic and Great Western railroad. It was when residing in Australia that he decided to take his wife back to America, in order that the expected child might be eligible for Presidential honors, which may not come to any but those American born. The journey in its last stages became a race between the ship and nature, and the ship won, but only by the narrowest margin, for the day after Mrs. Train got ashore the expected happened. Yet the husband's forethought had been all in vain, for the new arrival turned out to be a girl! In 1872 he himself made an unsuccessful effort to become President.
Mr. Train was a great traveller. He had made four trips round the world, the last three in 80, 67½, and 60 days, holding the "record" with the last-named. He was well known in America as a political speaker, lecturer, and author, his principal works being "An American Merchant in Europe, Asia, and Australia," "Young America Abroad," "Irish Independence," "Downfall of England," "Spread-Eagle ism," and "My Life in Many States and in Foreign Lands." He died in a cheap lodging-house in Bleecker-street, New York, named by him "Mill's Palace." He had become practically a recluse, and in his walks abroad shunned grown-up per- sons, and sought the companionship of children. [10]

In the News

SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE.- January 9. - Red Jacket, ship, 1649 tons, Martin Massey Millward, for Liverpool. Passengers - cabin: Mr. and Mrs. John Wilkinson, Messrs. Henry Baker, J. B. Burrell, C. J. Nunn, James Buick, Lewis Hellbrom, Lewis Levy, G. G. B. Cooper, J. M. Turpin, J. W. Creeth, Richard Boyer, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Woods and child, Messrs. John R. Ricards, Charles Wurcherer, Alexander McDonnell, Bradley, Heigh, Jeremiah Peel, Mrs. J. T. Saunders, Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Hooper, and twenty-six second class, and one hundred and ninety eight steerage and intermediate passengers. George F. Train and Co., agents. [11]

See also

James McGill

James Tarleton

George Young

Further Reading

Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.

Train, George F., A Yankee Merchant in Goldrush Australia, William Heinemann Australia Pty Ltd, 1970.


  1. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  2. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  3. VPRS 1199 Unit 468 Bundle 6 Young, Bundle 3 George F Train, Bundle 6 Robert Moorhead Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  4. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  5. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  6. Train, George F., A Yankee Merchant in Goldrush Australia, William Heinemann Australia Pty Ltd, 1970.
  7. Evening Echo, 1904.
  8. Train, George F., A Yankee Merchant in Goldrush Australia, William Heinemann Australia Pty Ltd, 1970, p.160.
  10. Adelaide Advertiser, 23 February 1904.
  11. The Argus, 10 January 1856.

External links

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