Summary

Four page, handwritten letter by William Graham from Russell Creek in the Gippsland goldfields to his brother John in England, dated 11 July 1865. It is not yet known when William arrived in Australia. He had two (known) brothers John and Henry, and one (known) niece Minnie. Minnie was born at Seacombe, England on 29 December 1867, well after her uncle William who was probably already in Australia by this time. Minnie migrated to Australia on 6 January 1889 and her future husband arrived from England, it is believed, in 1894. Minnie and Ralph had at least one child Mabel who was the last owner of the letter.

The letter refers to Mount Baw Baw, 'the highest mountain in Gippsland', 20 miles from where William was prospecting. He had a gold claim and was working with two other unnamed men. The tone of his letter is optimistic, describing working the Tangil river and wanting to find a reef buried below. He describes having already 'found a blow of a quartz reef last week, we could get a good show in a tin dish rough crushing with a pick...' This degree of success must explain his desire and ability to take on some waged workers. William mentions receiving a Melbourne weekly paper in which he noted 'the Road murder', 'the confederates smashed' and 'Lincoln assassinated.' He refers to a number of relatives and/or friends throughout the letter, all at this stage unidentified, including Martha, Edward, Howard, Rogers, Molly, Emma, Mr and Mrs Foley and Mr and Mrs Martin.

Physical Description

Letter consisting of one sheet of paper, folded down the centre, and hand written on two sides as four pages. The letter has two horizontal folds presumably to insert into an envelope. The letter is headed 'Russell Creek July 11th/68' and commences 'My dear John'. It concludes, 'Your affectionate brother Wiiliam'.

Significance

This letter is an important example of a letter written home by a migrant on the Victorian goldfields. It is descriptive of location - not a mining area frequently documented - and method of prospecting. The letter was selected by Australia Post for the 'Letters of a Nation' project as one of the top 200 significant letters that shaped the nation.

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