Oriental Claims Goldfields

The text & images on these pages are from the book
by R. W. Christie © 1993
ISBN No: 0 646 16946 7
They are reproduced on these pages, with some changes in layout, with his kind permission.

Map Of Area Today

The Oriental Claims at Omeo instantly conjures up an image of hundreds of Chinese scurrying, about emptying baskets of dirt and working sluice boxes and cradles. In fact the term is a misnomer. It originally referred to a nineteenth century mining company that worked a particular piece of ground, but who in fact were of European extraction not Asian.
The area that today we refer to as the Oriental Claims is approximately 500 to 600 acres. In the fifty years that it was consistently worked, estimates total the gold production at 58,000 ounces, at todays prices, about 23 million dollars.

Oriental Claims Historic Area

Oriental Claims Historic Area Signage
Click on image to enlarge

The first discovery of gold in the Omeo district came about 1851. The Rev W.B. Clarke had been sent out by Governor Fitzroy to prospect southern N.S.W, on Livingstone Creek he found gold. The same year Joe Day, suprintendant of Crookes Station at Omeo produced a sample of gold. These discoveries soon found their way into the Melbourne and Sydney press. By 1852 the goldfields commissioner W.H.Smythe wrote that men were on their way to the GippsIand field from Maneroo, Sale and elsewhere, by March there were supposedly seventeen cradles at work.

The Wardens report of 1854 stated there were fifty men working on the site of Omeo by means of sluice and getting half an ounce a day. This would work out at between twenty five and thirty five shillings per day, employed miners were reportedly paid up to 7 per week. By 1856 a town was in the making with two stores and a hotel and was known by the name of Omeo.
During 1856/7 gold was found in the tributaries of Livingstone Creek, and groups of men quickly banded together to work certain areas. One such party was of French origin and known as the French Company It consisted of France, Le- Blanc, Champagne and several others and it was to play an important role in future mining ventures. They commenced work by building a water race, known locally as the Frenchman's Ditch and were in fact the original party to commence work in what we today know as the Oriental Claims.

The Oriental Claims are unique for a number of reasons. Firstly, they were alluvial workings that were mined for over fifty years. Generally it was the quartz mines that were successfully worked over the longer period of time. Alluvial gold as distinct from reef or quartz gold is distributed through the gravels and is concentrated above the bedrock or clay In most gold fields the alluviums were worked first and when they ran out operations were switched to hard rock mining, or the miners moved onto new fields.

Omeo 1878
Omeo 1878
Click on image to enlarge

Secondly a number of companies worked the area referred to as the claims This in itself is unusual, for in the mountains companies were usually only associated with hard rock mining for which capital was required. Finally, most of the work was done, not by hundreds of miners but a small group probably not numbering more than fifty.

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