Hargraves, Edward Hammond (DNB01)

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HARGRAVES, EDWARD HAMMOND (1816–1891), pioneer of gold-mining in Australia, the third son of John Edward Hargraves, a lieutenant of the Sussex militia, was born at Stoke Cottage, Gosport, on 7 Oct. 1816. After schooling at Brighton and Lewes, young Hargraves sailed for Australia on a merchant vessel in 1832. Next year he sailed for Torres Straits in the Clementine in search of bêche-de-mer and tortoise-shell. The crew were stricken with yellow fever, and twenty out of twenty-seven died at Batavia, whence the survivors were conveyed to Europe. In 1834 Hargraves sailed again for Sydney, and was engaged in sheep-farming for nearly fifteen years. In July 1849 he sailed for the California gold-diggings, and was struck by the resemblance of the geological formations there to the quartz rocks on the west side of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. Sir Paul Edmund de Strzelecki [q. v.] had discovered some gold-bearing quartz in this district as early as 1839, and five years later, in a presidential address to the Royal Geographical Society, Sir Roderick Murchison had deduced from data supplied by Strzelecki and others the fact that large auriferous deposits might be looked for in a formation such as that of the Blue Mountains. The suspicion that New South Wales would prove a rich goldfield had therefore been 'in the air' for some time, but nothing whatever had yet been achieved in the way of practical experiment, still less of realisation. Hargraves sailed from California with this object in view at the close of 1850. On 12 Feb. 1851 two men, Lister and Toms, whom he had instructed in the process of cradle-washing, discovered gold at Lewis Ponds Creek, near Bathurst, where Hargraves had predicted it. He was the first at the beginning of April 1851 to make known to the colonial secretary at Sydney, (Sir) Edward Deas Thomson [q. v.], the existence of the precious metal in large quantity. After receiving his evidence, Thomson is said to have remarked : 'If what you say is correct, Mr. Hargraves, we have got a goldfield. It will stop the emigration to California and settle the convict question.' Hargraves was temporarily appointed a commissioner of crown lands at a pound a day, and on 5 Oct. 1853, as a reward for his communication, he was granted a sum of 10,000l. by the legislative council of Sydney. In 1854 he visited England, and was presented to Queen Victoria. In 1855 appeared his mediocre and unpretending work, 'Australia and its Goldfields: a Historical Sketch of the Progress of the Australian Colonies . . . with a particular account of the recent Gold Discoveries . . . to which are added Notices on the Use and Working of Gold in Ancient and Modern Times' (with a map and a portrait of Hargraves), London, 1855, 8vo. Hargraves returned to live in Sydney, and was in 1877 voted a pension of 250l. by the New South Wales parliament. He died at Forest Lodge, Sydney, on 29 Oct. 1891, leaving issue two sons and three daughters.

[Australasian Bibliography, Sydney, 1893; Sydney Herald, 31 Oct. 1891; Mennell's Australasian Biography, p. 216; Heaton's Australian Dictionary of Dates; Strzelecki's Discovery of Gold and Silver in Australia, 1856; North British Review, August 1854; Times, 25 Oct. 1853, 9 and 12 Jan. 1854; Rusden's Hist. of Australia, 1883, ii. 601 seq.]

T. S.