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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Hargraves, Edward Hammond

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Hargraves, Edward Hammond, was born at Gosport, England, on Oct. 7th, 1816, and educated at Brighton Grammar School, and afterwards at Lewes. He emigrated to New South Wales in 1832, and in the next year explored Torres Straits in search of bêche de mer and tortoise-shell. Returning to Sydney in 1834, Mr. Hargraves was engaged in pastoral pursuits till 1849, when he went to California, where he was struck with the similarity of the geological formation of the gold areas to that of Bathurst, N.S.W. On his return to that colony, in 1851, he justified his impressions by discovering gold at Lewis Ponds Creek, near Bathurst, on Feb. 12th of that year. Though Count Strzelecki and the Rev. W. B. Clarke had preceded him in the discovery, and recent evidence tends to show that to others belonged the credit of the actual find in Feb. 1851, Mr. Hargraves was the first to make the existence of gold in quantity known to the world at large, and was thus the recipient of the main honours and rewards offered by the Colonial Governments for the discovery of the precious metal. In 1853 he visited England, and was presented to the Queen as the discoverer of gold in Australia. In the same year the Parliament of New South Wales voted him £10,000, that of Victoria £2381 in 1855, and the Parliament of New South Wales a pension of £250 in 1877. He at one time visited Western Australia, at the request of the Government, to search for the precious metal there, but the experiment did not prove a success. He died on Oct. 30th, 1891. Just about the time of his death other claimants to the honour of having found the first gold sprang up, and the New South Wales Assembly appointed a select committee to inquire into the claims of William and James Toms and J. H. A. Lister as the first discoverers of gold in Australia. The report stated that although E. H. Hargraves was entitled to the credit of having taught the claimants, the Tomses and Lister, the use of the dish and cradle and other proper methods of searching for gold, the committee were satisfied that the Tomses and Lister were undoubtedly the first discoverers of payable gold. These men, after persistent search under great difficulties, unearthed four ounces of the precious metal in April, 1851. This was handed to Hargraves, who thus obtained a reward of £10,000 from the New South Wales Government, upwards of £2,300 from the Victorian Government, and a pension of £250 a year as the first discoverer. Hargraves, it is stated, had abandoned the search for gold when the four ounces was handed to him. Considering the great impulse the discovery gave to the progress of the colony, the claims of the Tomses and Lister were, it was urged, worthy of favourable consideration. Lister died subsequently to the appointment of the committee, but left a written statement of facts.