Welcome Stranger

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A wood engraving of the Welcome Stranger published in The Illustrated Australian News for Home Reader on 1 March 1869. The scale bar across the bottom represents 12 inches (30 cm).[1]

The Welcome Stranger is the biggest alluvial gold nugget found, which had a calculated refined weight of 3,123 oz (214.1 lbs) 6 dwts 9 gr[2] (97.14 kg). It measured 61 by 31 cm (24 by 12 in) and was discovered by prospectors John Deason and Richard Oates on 5 February 1869 at Moliagul, Victoria, Australia,[3] about 9 miles (14.6 kilometres) north-west of Dunolly.

Discovery[edit]

Found only 3 cm (1.2 in) below the surface, near the base of a tree on a slope leading to what was then known as Bulldog Gully, the nugget had a gross weight of 3,523.5 troy ounces (109.59 kg) (293 1/2 lbs 1 1/2 oz). Its trimmed weight was 2,520 troy ounces (78 kg) (210 lbs), and its net weight was 2,315.5 troy ounces (72.02 kg) (192 lbs 11.5 oz).[2]

At the time of the discovery, there were no scales capable of weighing a nugget this large, so it was broken into three pieces on an anvil by Dunolly-based blacksmith Archibald Walls.[4]

Deason, Oates, and a few friends took the nugget to the London Chartered Bank of Australia, in Dunolly, which advanced them £9,000. Deason and Oates were finally paid an estimated £9,381 for their nugget, which became known as the "Welcome Stranger". At February 2018 gold prices, it would have been worth $3.8 million. It was heavier than the "Welcome Nugget" of 2,217 troy ounces (69.0 kg) that had been found in Ballarat in 1858. The goldfields warden F. K. Orme reported that 2,269 ounces (189 lbs 1 oz) 10 dwt 14 grains (70.5591 kg) of smelted gold had been obtained from it,[5] irrespective of scraps that were given away by the finders, estimated as totalling another 47 ounces (3 lbs 11 oz) 7 dwt.[citation needed]

The text on the commemorative obelisk in pillared railings

The nugget was soon melted down and the gold was sent as ingots to Melbourne for forwarding to the Bank of England. It left the country on board the steamship Reigate which departed on 21 February.[6]

An obelisk commemorating the discovery of the "Welcome Stranger" was erected near the spot in 1897. A replica of the "Welcome Stranger" is in the City Museum, Treasury Place, Melbourne, Victoria; another replica is owned by descendants of John Deason.[7]

Miners and their wives posing with the finders of the nugget, Richard Oates, John Deason and his wife[8]
Statue in Redruth, England, celebrating the find

Discoverers[edit]

John Deason was born in 1829 on the island of Tresco, Isles of Scilly, 45 km (28 mi) south-west of Cornwall, England, UK. In 1851, he was a tin dresser before becoming a gold miner.[9]

Deason continued with gold mining and workings most of his life and, although he became a store keeper at Moliagul, he lost a substantial proportion of his wealth through poor investments in gold mining. He bought a small farm near Moliagul where he lived until he died in 1915, aged 85 years.[10]

Richard Oates was born about 1827 at Pendeen in Cornwall.[11] After the 1869 find, Oates returned to the UK and married. He returned to Australia with his wife and they had four children. The Oates family, in 1895, purchased 800 acres (3.2 km2) of land at Marong, Victoria, about 15 miles (24 km) west of Bendigo, Victoria, which Oates farmed until his death in Marong in 1906, aged 79 years.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The "Welcome Stranger" (picture)". State Library of Victoria search. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Potter, Terry F. (1999) The Welcome Stranger: a definitive account of the worlds largest alluvial gold nugget. ISBN 0-646-38709-X
  3. ^ "THE WELCOME STRANGER". NZ Truth. Papers Past. 28 November 1908. p. 8. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Wills and Bequests". Melbourne Punch (1 December 1887)
  5. ^ "Report to the Mines Minister by Francis Knox Orme, February 12th 1869". Scillonian.com. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  6. ^ Knight, Katherine (April 2000). "The Real Welcome Stranger Story". Gold-Net Australia Online. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "Mr John Deason". Scillonian.com. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "Unearthing the Welcome Stranger Nugget (picture)". State Library of Victoria. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  9. ^ "John (John Jenkins) DEASON". freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  10. ^ ""Welcome Stranger Nugget": Death of the Discoverer". The Western Argus. 19 October 1915. Retrieved 4 February 2018. 
  11. ^ "Richard OATES". freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  12. ^ Samueli, Michael (5 February 2015). "5 February 1869: World's biggest gold nugget is found". MoneyWeek. Retrieved 4 February 2018. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Deason, Denise (2005). Welcome, stranger: The amazing true story of one man's legendary search for gold – at all costs. Melbourne: Viking / Penguin Books. ISBN 0670028762.

Coordinates: 36°45.68′S 143°39.14′E / 36.76133°S 143.65233°E / -36.76133; 143.65233