Chinese Miners in Tasmania - The Celestials

Famous Tasmanian Prospectors, Explorers and Track Cutters

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Chinese Miners in Tasmania - The Celestials

Post by Philski » Tue Jul 15, 2014 8:59 pm

I think its appropriate the efforts of the Chinese miners that worked on the Tasmanian fields are recorded. I had the privilege of seeing one of there early workings at Back Creek recently and started looking at that first. Much historical work has recently been presented with the Dragons trail of the North East and interpretive signage as have the actual descendants of the Chinese miners themselves.

Segerberg introduced Chinese miners to the Back creek gold field. They had arrived as a group of 19 Chinese miners into Launceston with experience in Ararat, Bendigo in Victoria and New Zealand's Otago gold field in the 1850's and 1860's.

Ah Hung Was one of the 12 original Cantonese that worked at Back Creek. (They where not from Mongolia, as claimed in the paper of the day) after spending several months at Mangana and Mathina. He later married a Tasmanian girl and had 2 sons and a daughter. Syd and Henry. They opened a shop in Launceston. Had a beautiful garden and he later worked at the Launceston general hospital as a gardener. He lived, worked and raised a family at Lefroy and Back creek areas when Chinese where the largest non European people in Tasmania. Approx 1000-1500 with the major centers being on tin.

The below is part of a fantastic thesis by Helen Vivian and other detailed information about our local Chinese history. Its worth a read. Another sizable group of Chinese came over much earlier than the miners. But they where mechanical technicians and mechanical engineers. Some dates are not exact so other sources are used.

The Chinese were welcomed as experienced, industrious and frugal workers who could be relied on to make the best profit available from the diggings. Mr. James Peters (of Peters, Barnard & Co.) a Launceston businessman, arranged for the immigration of the Chinese using the services of Messrs. Lowe Kong Meng and Co. of Melbourne. The selected 19 men were mainly experienced diggers from Ararat, Bendigo and New Zealand. They were to test the ground and if they reported favourably on the prospects, there was speculation that they would be followed by one to two thousand of their countrymen.

The Examiner newspaper reports the event: "Of the thirty-eight steerage passengers brought by the S.S. Tamar yesterday, nineteen were Chinamen, and their presence in the streets of the town during the day exited no little astonishment and curiosity." ... 11 The social aspect of the question respecting the importation of these Mongolians is an important one, and we do not propose to deal with it in this paper. But only one opinion can exist as to their adaptability to the purpose for which they are intended, and if alluvial digging is ever to become a permanent source of wealth in Tasmania, these men will very soon prove it."

Gold was certainly to be found at the Black Boy (Mathinna) and in the neighbouring Mangana fields (where, in 1852, payable gold was first discovered in Tasmania) but, like most mining communities, fortunes fluctuated as rapidly as the population. In 1871 Black Boy was little more than a post-office and in 1872 the population was about 550, declining again in the mid-1870 s to revive in the late 1880 s and become a thriving gold mining town. The population peaked at approximately 2,000 during the 1890 s. It would appear, however, that the 19 Chinese miners had limited success at Black Boy as within 3 months they had removed to newly discovered ground at Back Creek. The Examiner reports in February 1871 that the manager of the Back Creek Co. lease, Mr. Segerberg, arranged for them to work his company 1 s ground. Six Worked on the Grand Junction mine and six on the Albion claim. - The latter group obtained 5 oz. of gold in their first week and the Examiner comments on their success: "It is to be presumed that the directors will now take steps to make some permanent arrangement with the Celestials for working the claim on tribute."


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