NEWS

The Crafty Scheme That Served Up Prison On A Plate

 

Albury, New South Wales, Australia. 1913

To make money out of gold mining, you have to be pretty lucky, very smart or work mighty hard.

Or you can hatch a crafty scheme.

William Scott hatched a crafty scheme. It came to him one day in a flash of brilliance when he spotted the advertisement in a Melbourne newspaper. It was so cunning he could hardly believe his own genius.

“Electroplating At Home,” he read. “The new discovery for plating gold, silver and nickel.” For a small investment from his labourer’s wages, William Scott could become rich beyond his wildest dreams. And it was going to be so easy! All he had to do was buy an electroplating kit and a little bit of gold…

So it was that on 25 February 1913, William Scott strolled casually into the Albury branch of the Bank of Australasia, plonked a small package on the counter and demanded to see the manager. As a bank manager, George Hall had grave responsibilities. One of them was to ensure that the bank was not defrauded by any Tom, Dick or Harry wandering in and claiming he had gold to sell.

Hall was a banker, not an assayer, but he knew how to perform the blackstone test, in which gold is rubbed across a blackstone, a piece of fine-grained dark schist or jasper, sometimes known as a touchstone. The colour of the streak left on the stone would identify whether he held in his hand a nugget of valuable gold or a lump of worthless base metal.

The blackstone test showed positive for gold.

What Hall did next surely had his superiors wondering later why they had put him in charge of other people’s money. Instead of agreeing to buy the 21oz parcel only when and if a full assay proved its contents to be gold, the bank manager offered Scott a £50 advance, with the remainder to be paid out after the metal was tested. 

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The Mountain Hut Murder: killer cyclist pleads for mercy after victim found in mine shaft

Maryborough, Victoria, Australia | 1937

On the last day of his life, John Woods pitched camp at the old gold diggings known as Mountain Hut. Woods had been prospecting around the Victorian goldfields for most of his life and there wasn’t much he didn’t know about the game. Plenty of gold had been found near The Hut at the turn of the 20th century nearly forty years before and, with the eternal gambler’s optimism of the life-long prospector, he figured it was time to give the area another go.

The 56-year-old wasn’t doing too badly now, at the back end of the 1930s. Pushing a homemade wooden barrow through the bush was a labour of the past. These days his prospector’s outfit boasted a horse-drawn wagon with a canvas hood to keep out the early June weather.

Woods was getting ready to boil the billy when he spotted the young bloke cycling towards his camp. A gold man is always wary of strangers, but the boy looked hungry, it was a cold day and he didn’t mind sharing his rations. They were munching a meal in front of the campfire as evening drew in when the youngster made a startling statement: “I’m going to take your horse and wagon.”

Woods arced up. This was no way to repay his hospitality. “It’ll take a better man than you,” he bellowed, taking a swing at his guest and knocking him off his perch. The young man, whose name was later to be read out in court during his murder trial as Reginald James Kilpatrick, grabbed Woods’ axe lying near the campfire and bashed the older man in the head. Woods reeled, stunned but still alive. Kilpatrick swung the axe again and again in a violent frenzy before throwing the prospector’s lifeless body into an old mineshaft nearby.

He then calmly loaded his bike into the wagon, hitched up the horse and drove away. He’d be long gone by the time the body was found. If it was ever found. Who’d miss a lonely old prospector? It was Thursday, 3 June 1937 and Reginald James Kilpatrick, aged 21, one-time buckjumper who’d made his living in a daily dare with danger, was young, fearless and smarter than any cop. Or so he thought.

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Greed, Gore, Gangs and a Ghost Town: The legend of Chuck Stanton part III

Antelope Station, Arizona, USA. 1886

We resume the life and times of Charles P. “Chuck” Stanton just as he perfected the business model that allowed him to control every government and law enforcement service in the town now bearing his name, as well as all commercial enterprises – and just about all its inhabitants.

His final rival in the storekeeping business, Barney Martin, endured years of threats and beatings from Chuck’s private army of Mexican enforcers, the notorious Vega Gang, before bowing to the inevitable and turning over his business for a song in July 1886.

Sensibly, Barney immediately packed up his wife and children and fled town. For any normal megalomaniac, the cloud of dust behind the Phoenix-bound Martin wagon would have been the end of the matter. But Chuck Stanton wasn’t your normal megalomaniac. Chuck had got where he was by forcing his competitors to leave this earth – not just this town – and he wasn’t about to let glorious tradition die. Barney Martin had dared to thwart Chuck for seven long years. Now he had it coming.

As the Martin wagon slowed to pass through a gulch, Francisco Vega and seven of his gang attacked, butchered every member of the family and burnt their bodies. A few days later a search party found their charred skeletons – including the tiny bones of an unborn child cradled within Mrs Martin’s frame.

Back in Stanton, anger towards Chuck boiled over. Everyone knew who bankrolled the Vega Gang. Perhaps he didn’t own as many of the townspeople as he thought. A few months later, probably thanks to the efforts of Barney’s friends in Phoenix, Chuck was arrested and charged over the Martin murders.

But the move failed to put the well-deserved noose around his neck. Chuck still controlled enough of Stanton’s lowlife and their testimonies got him off. How could it be otherwise? Chuck was the invincible overlord of Stanton, king of all he surveyed. He knew everything that went on in town and he owned everyone.

Well… not quite everything. And not quite everyone. He didn’t control the feisty Froilana Lucero, a dark-eyed Mexican beauty who refused to bestow her body to Chuck at the nightly orgies in his notorious hotel-cum-brothel. And he couldn’t see over his own ego to spot that Vega was a tad grouchy over the meagre payout for the Martin massacre.

One night a drunken Chuck tried to force himself on Froilana. She punched him in the mouth and told her three brothers of the affront to her honour. The Lucero brothers were members of the short-changed Vega Gang. It was the tipping point. Chuck Stanton was about to get what he’d dished out for a decade and a half to the hapless people of “his” town.

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Greed, Gore, Gangs and a Ghost Town: The legend of Chuck Stanton part II

Antelope Station, Arizona, USA. 1877-1879

When we last left Chuck Stanton, he controlled the mail system and the so-called justice system in the town of Antelope Station, briefly known as Stanton. Roughly 35 people are said to be buried around the town, their deaths never investigated by Deputy Stanton.

Well-educated, snobbish, with an Irish brogue and an incredibly rude tongue, he was nicknamed the “Irish Lord”. Potential customers avoided his business if they could help it, favouring the friendlier establishments-- Yacqui Wilson and John Timmerman’s store, and William Partridge’s hotel.

But Chuck apparently wanted to have his customers and insult them too.

Knowing Partridge was also jealous that Wilson’s and Timmerman’s business was more successful than his, Chuck saw his chance to get rid of two competitors at the same time in August 1877.

While Yacqui was away on business, the Vega gang set his pigs free and herded them onto William Partridge’s property, where they ate everything they could find.

A jealous Partridge was now also a furious one.

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Greed, Gore, Gangs and a Ghost Town: the legend of Chuck Stanton Part I

Antelope Station, Arizona, USA. 1870-1875

He was born the bastard son of an Irish nobleman, and died an American one-town tyrant.

In between those two events, he was a miner, would-be merchant monopolist, Mexican bandit crime lord, ghost town namesake, and more.

Needless to say, Chuck Stanton wasn’t afraid of over committing himself.

The details are sketchy, but he seems to have arrived in the Arizona mining region of Wickenburg in 1866. In 1870 he moved to Antelope Station, where he bought a small house and set up a store.

By 1871 Antelope Station was doing well and was home to several other businesses. George “Yaqui Wilson” owned a store along with John Timmerman. Englishman William Partridge built a hotel and stagecoach rest stop, and Barney Martin had also opened a store.

Chuck’s store was facing some healthy competition.

Chuck did not appreciate healthy competition.

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Gold Stealing – A Cunning Plan

Over the years gold stealing has been going on as long as mining has been. Many and varied have been the cunning plans and schemes to outwit the gold stealing officers and the mining companies. One such plan became very popular until it was noticed that there was an unprecedented rise in the purchase of thermos flasks. The various establishments could not keep up with the demand. The following story will tell of why this was the case:-

The Thermos Flask – A Story of Stolen Gold  –  The Western Mail 24th Sept 1942

It was early morning on what promised to be a scorching day. The Golden Mile with its tall poppet heads and lofty chimneys, loomed dimly through a dense smoky haze. Along the track rumbled a worker’s tram with its funereal trailers, suggestive of an undertaker’s cortege. The clustering occupants however far from, being dead, were very much alive. They were noisy brawny sons of toil, mine workers on-route to the scene of their labour. Thick as swarming bees, they packed the cars and overflowed on the platforms.

A mixed lot in their various breeds and jargons, British, Slavs, Italians and others too numerous to particularize. The lumbering tram stopped at a cross street, and a big dark man stepped aboard, squeezing in to find standing-room.

“Morning Tony!” cried a young fellow beside him, “My word Tony,” he proceeded, “That’s a walloping big thermos flask you’ve got, must hold half a gallon. Any chance of getting a drop out of it at crib time?” “Ha! Ha” laughed the big man boisterously, “So you know what is good little Aussie. It is the vino, not like the wine of Italy, but better than your tea, only fit for old women, better than your nasty Australian beer too. You say the flask holds a lot, yes, but I am the big man, and the big man he takes a big drink.” and again he laughed in appreciation of his own wit.

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The Seizure that Shook Quicksilver Mine

1893

Jamieson River, Victoria, Australia.

Who would have thought a simple seizure could change a mine’s fortunes?

Certainly not Richard O’Brien.

In 1893, the Victorian farmer found deposits of mercury (also known as quicksilver) and cinnabar on a little site perched 100 metres above Jamieson River.

Full of excitement, he soon set up the Jamieson Quicksilver Mining Company, sunk a shaft, and started mining.

However, the site was so hard to get to, and so unsafe, that from the beginning it was slow going, and the common consensus was that the company was never going to succeed.

Eight years passed, and it looked as though common wisdom was right.

However, the company kept doggedly pursuing its dream of profit, and in 1901, a London syndicate, rumoured to be full of rich Rothschilds, took note of the Jamieson Company.

In response to the company’s pitch, the Londoners were willing to buy the mine for £100,000 (nearly 12 million pounds in today’s money).

Things were looking very, very good for Richard and his fellow owners, who at this stage also included Paddy Perkins, a Queensland politician and former brewer.

But fate had other ideas: while Paddy was on his way to a crucial meeting related to the deal, he had a seizure and died.

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The Swindler’s Snow Tunnel

1867 Summit County, Colorado

If you hire someone called “Gassy” Thompson, you probably deserve what you get.

This was a lesson an American mining firm by the name of the St Lawrence Company learnt the hard way.

During the winter of 1867, the St Lawrence Company hired Gassy Thompson to dig a 100-foot mining tunnel into the side of Decatur Mountain, Colorado.

Gassy got to work despite the dreadful winter weather, which had covered everything in a tremendously thick blanket of snow.

Satisfied with the final product, the St Lawrence Company paid Gassy $2,000 ($57,309.14 USD in today’s money).

So far, so good—until springtime.

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Big Ben

George Stockfield a well known known engineer of the time told a story about the gold find at Londonderry south of Coolgardie Western Australia. 

He was taken in to a small back room of Askin and Nicolson on Bailey Street and shown a couple of pounds of quartz, half of which was gold.   Having questioned the shop keeper, Stockfield found out it was two or three miles from the Burbanks Birthday Gift. So, the following morning he took off to find the locality. 

Stockfield found a small group of six tents and met the prospectors Dawson, Carter, Mills, Huxley and Gardener and another.  The men had very little or no knowledge of mining and having gotten lost stumbled upon a reef of gold quartz poking out of the ground.  Removing some dried moss they uncovered a big knob of gold in big smooth lumps.  This boulder was kept intact and “was as much as a strong man could lift.”

Stockfields went on to write, “[the prospectors] were all as dumb as oysters about the find, and they gave us permission to look around.”  All up 4,656 oz of gold was recovered from the mine and tailings produced another 133 oz of gold.   “Big Ben” was taken to London for floatation purposes and insured for £10 000.  The mine became the Londonderry Mine, which became the centre of the Londonderry share scandal. 

At Global Tenements our staff are well trained and on the ball; you can sleep easy knowing your tenements will not be “stolen”.

Story sourced by Tim Moore, local historian

 

Captain Starlight – a Gentleman of the road

26 December 1899

Mr Patrick Pelly, a clerk with the Department of Mines, was remembered as ‘a reserved, courteous and obliging old fellow’, however he was without a doubt one of the Departments most intriguing employees. Born Frank Pearson in Mexico in 1837, he arrived in Australia in the early 1860’s and proceeded to commit a series of armed robberies and murders in Queensland and New South Wales, operating under the alias ‘Captain Starlight’. He was arrested and convicted and he served more than sixteen years in gaol and on his release, he assumed the identity of a fellow prisoner and also took on the title of Major.

By the time he joined the Western Australian Public Service in 1896, he had been immortalised in Rolf Boldrewood’s novel ‘Robbery Under Arms (1888) and he wore a leather band around his right wrist to disguise one of his many bullet wounds. His true identity was only revealed after his death, from accidental poisoning in Dec 1899.

 

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The cheeky court case of Edward Hargraves

Guyong, New South Wales, Australia – 1851

The man who started Australia’s first gold rush could hardly have deserved the honour less.

Edward Hargraves had tried his luck as a ship’s crewman, a hotelier, and as a prospector and store owner on the goldfields of California. He failed at all of them.

However, during his two-year stint in California, Edward had learnt the tell-tale signs of gold-bearing land… and the Blue Mountains in his home state of New South Wales looked like prime real estate.

As soon as he arrived in Sydney in 1851, Hargraves began his search. In a town west of the mountains, he met a man named John Lister, who had found small flecks of gold in the area.

For some reason, John agreed to lead Hargraves to the site of his find. It was probably the worst decision he ever made.

When Hargraves saw evidence of gold for himself, he sprang into action, teaching John and two of his friends, William and James Tom, how to use Californian gold-panning techniques.

But their first expedition turned up nothing, and Hargraves quickly abandoned the group for Sydney.

John and the Toms had a little more persistence, however, and soon found four ounces of nuggets and alluvial gold.

An excited William Tom took the gold to show Hargraves in Sydney, and returned home without it—which was probably the worst decision he ever made. Hargrave took the lot to the authorities and claimed a £500 reward for finding the first payable gold field in Australia. He kept it all to himself.

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Eastern Goldfields Alluvial Miners Attack Premier with Umbrella

In the last years of the 1890s the law regarding alluvial mining vs reef mining came to head in a number of protests.  It was the closest the Eastern Goldfields in Western Australia came to having a Eureka moment.  Large numbers of mounted police were transported to the fields and the Premier John Forrest was attacked by an umbrella (which became a symbol of the resistance).

A regulation was introduced known as the “Ten-foot regulation”.  The regulation was brought in to protect reef miners from claims of alluvial miners which subsequently put a large number of alluvial miners in the Fremantle jail.  Nobody knew where the reefs started and finished.  Under the new act alluvial miners were not allowed to dig within 50 feet of a reef and they were limited to only ten feet in depth.  It was widely known that the layer of overburden that the gold was found under was at least 100 feet or deeper. 

John Forrest went off to a Federation Convention over East leaving Edward Wittenoom to put this into action.  With effigies of Forrest and Wittenoom hanging from hotel balconies and being set on fire, this upset a number of political leaders in Perth.  Wittenoom even braved the wrath of miners who drowned out his speeches with hoots and jeers. Mounted police became a feature on the streets of Kalgoorlie to control the crowds turning out to protest the regulation.

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