"In the beginning"


The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of the blog management, (on the other hand, they are not necessarily not the views of the blog management).

No effort has been made to stay within the bounds of the truth in this blog as it has always been the view of the management that the truth should never be allowed to stand in the way of a good story.

Thursday, June 28, 2007



Large and rambling township built around a once-successful gold mine.

One of many reminders that Gympie was founded as a gold mining town, the
finding of the sizable quantities of gold was credited with saving the newly
founded state of Queensland from bankruptcy in 1867.

Mining here was principally an underground operation with the gold contained in
quartz reefs, this differs from many of the rich gold areas in Australia where
the gold was alluvial, literally nuggets picked up from the ground or panned
from creek beds.


This remarkable town proclaims proudly that it was 'The Town that saved Queensland'. This grandiose and unusual claim is more fact than wishful thinking. In 1867 Queensland, less than a decade old, was facing possible bankruptcy (there was widespread unemployment and two banks had closed in Brisbane) when James Nash discovered gold near the present site of Gympie. Overnight the wealth from the goldfield (it was to go on to produce over 99 million grams of gold) led to Queensland's first goldrush and pulled the state back from potential disaster.

The story of Nash's discovery is a typical quixotic tale of luck. Nash was so down on his luck at the time that he literally had nothing more than a dog, a pick and a panning dish. When his pick broke he walked to Maryborough where, with an ounce of gold which he had panned, he bought rations and some more equipment. He returned to the Gympie area, went up a dry creek bed and within a week had 75 ounces of gold which he sold in Brisbane for £200. He registered his find and the rush was on. Tales of the early months in Gympie are typical of a swashbuckling mining town. One observer noted, 'Every night it was brawls and fights. Often you would not know which fight to look at first: the cause in nearly every case was beer and barmaids.' Nash managed to make £7000 from the field.

Located 166 km north of Brisbane and 95 m above sea level, Gympie is one of those strange towns which stretches for kilometre after kilometre over hill and dale to a point where, if you don't take the correct turn off the Bruce Highway, the town centre can be quite hard to locate. In recent times the town centre has been by-passed by the highway which makes the town centre's ribbon development (once it stretched along the Bruce Highway) seem quite strange.

Named after a local stinging tree which the local Aborigines reputedly called 'gimpi gimpi' and briefly called Nashville after James Nash had discovered gold in the area, (it would have been quite fitting had the name "Nashville" stuck as one of the biggest country music festivals in Australia is held here every year) it officially became Gympie in 1868. At this time all that existed was a mining shanty town with endless tents and numerous small stores and liquor outlets.

The growth of Gympie was remarkable. Within months there were 25 000 people on the goldfields. Within a year a gold battery had been built. It was proclaimed a municipality in 1880, became a town a decade later and was a city by 1905. The railway arrived in 1881 and in 1888 it became one of the few towns in Australia to have its own stock exchange. The gold mining continued until 1925. The city then became the most important regional centre for the area servicing the rich variety of agricultural activities which spread from the coast into the hinterland.

Today Gympie is the centre of the Mary Valley agricultural district where beef and dairy cattle thrive along with tropical fruit and vegetables.

There is still one productive gold mine in Gympie but it is a far cry from the bustling gold rush days of the late 1800s.


Meow said...

I didn't know Gympie was an old mining town ... you learn something new every day !!
My only experience with Gympie, was back in August 2005, when we had to stop in the wayside stop on the Brisbane side of town on the highway, for my hubby to replace a front wheel bearing !!! We were there for around an hour and a half.
Hope your week is going well
Take care, Meow

Willowtree said...

I thought it was where people with a crook leg went to live.

Jack K. said...

Thanks for sharing the history. The photos are marvelous too.

Big Dave T said...

I panned for gold once in the Rocky Mountains. It's probably more lucrative to pick pennies off the street these days. Fun too. I always spot change when I'm riding my bike. Guess I'm just a modern day prospector.

Gledwood said...

That is fascinating ... I saw a thing on telly recently about gold in Ireland... aparently there used to be about 10 times as much in the rivers but the ancients got it all out... all you have to do to find it (so clever these ancient people were) was keep panning and panning further and further upstream. When the gold stopped you knew that downstream a bit from there the ore was hiding!
Hope you have a good trip (so to speak...)

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Gympie makes me think of the way I walk.

The Chick said...

I'll use this next time we study Australia in class.

Puss-in-Boots said...

Hi Peter. I passed through Gympie on the way through to Bundaberg some years back. We'd left Bris about 6.30 so stopped to have breakfast at McDonald's...how exciting. I can't remember passing through on the way home, but I guess we must have...

Suzz said...

Peter, do you work for the visitors' bureau!? I have learned more about Australia from your blog than I ever learned from books, TV or Crocodile Dundee.

Jim said...

Got to watch those barmaids. Better yet, watch out for those barmaids.
You have a nice sister. I think that is a trait of sisters, to be nice.

Pamela said...

a wonderful history lesson -- and I'm quite enthralled with the name Gympie.

I just had a lady tell me she grew up in Squirrel, Idaho.

That would give Gympie a run for the money in odd names.

Granny said...

Your Gold Rush sounds very like ours.

Gympie is a great name.

My husband used to live in gold rush country (we're not far from it either) in a small town called Paradise (Butte County).

It wasn't named that because of its beauty although it is. It was a gambling town called Pair of Dice. When the first church was built, the name was changed.

Or so I've heard.

Lee said...

Good story, Peter. I think I've said before my great-grandfather was killed in the Scottish Mines, in Gympie in the early 1900's. He always worked above ground but he was called to go underground to stand in for a fellow who had called in sick for the day...and that was the day they suffered a cave-in. Gympie has some very interesting history.

Have a great time at the "Bloggers' Convention"...I will be there in spirit, if not in person. :)

Cliff Morrow said...

Thanks Peter. That was a good history lesson. I'll take an ounce or two of that gold if you've got plenty.

Jamie Dawn said...

I don't care if my gold comes from underground or from panning a creek. I'd like it just fine either way.
Gympie saved Queensland!!!!
Gold is the great saviour!!!!!
Get some of that gold, Peter, and you can fly First Class to Nebraska (Cliff's farm) for Blogstock '08.

Walker said...

Very nice story.
Its always great to see a place through someone elses eyes and writings.

Have a nice weekend

Rachel said...

Interesting name for a town; Gympie! I too, have to think of the crooked leg! LOL

I didn't know that one of the biggest country music festivals was held there! That name "Nashville" should have stuck!!

Christina said...

Interesting history! Re: your last post - I love what Merle got you -it suits you perfectly.

Merle said...

Hi Peter ~~ Nice post about Gympie that is very interesting. After all my visitors, I just heard about the Convention - - You two boys be nice to Robyn. Remember Lee will be there in spirit, so play nice. I hope you saw my photos !! Could you at some stage put the Rockin' Blogger Girl
award on for me as I don't know how. Also the Rating G award. Thanks.
Take care, Love, Merle.