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Meet the man who saved Queensland

INTREPID INDIVIDUAL: James Nash, discoverer of the Gympie Goldfield which saved Queensland from bankruptcy. Maryborough, 1868.
INTREPID INDIVIDUAL: James Nash, discoverer of the Gympie Goldfield which saved Queensland from bankruptcy. Maryborough, 1868.

THERE simply cannot be a conversation about Gympie and mining without James Nash.

Known as the man who found gold in Gympie, Nash was born in a place far removed from the region he made famous, and which in turn made his name go down in history.

Nash was born on September 5, 1834, at Beanacre, Wiltshire, England, son of Michael Nash, farm labourer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Prosser.

At nine-years-old, he left school to work as a farm hand and later migrated to Sydney at age 23.

 

FOUNDER: James Nash, the man who saved Queensland and founded Gympie.
FOUNDER: James Nash, the man who saved Queensland and founded Gympie.

The young man first worked as a labourer and tried his hand at prospecting on various gold fields in New South Wales.

Reportedly a quiet and solitary man, Nash moved to Queensland in 1863, and worked the Calliope and Nanango diggings without success.

At the time, the colony of Queensland was in a dire situation.

The Bank of Queensland had closed, a financially embarrassed government had stopped work on the Ipswich-Toowoomba railway and the unemployed were marching in the streets of Brisbane.

Then, in August of 1867, Nash found gold near the Mary River.

Such was his nature, Nash kept the claim quiet until his report on October 16 started "one of the wildest rushes in Queensland history".

Nashville, as it became known, swelled in size as people converged to dig up the precious mineral in search of fortunes.

Interestingly, the Queensland Government had issued a reward of £3000 to anyone who discovered a payable goldfield within 145km of Brisbane.

Gympie, and Nash's discovery sat 160km from Brisbane.

He was initially denied any reward but after a year long battle, the government of the day awarded Nash £1000.

 

PIONEERS: Catherine, widow of James Nash, at her home in Monkland St, 1924.
PIONEERS: Catherine, widow of James Nash, at her home in Monkland St, 1924.

Nash married Catherine Murphy on July 6, 1868, at Maryborough; they had three sons and two daughters.

Nash took his reward and the Queensland government were thrilled, with the gold field reportedly bringing £14,538,328 to the colony's economy - not a bad reward for the investment.

The goldfield then lost the name "Nashville" and became "Gympie", taken from the local Kabi Kabi name for the stinging tree.

Nash and his brother, John, won a further £7000 from their claims, but a series of unwise investments and an ill-fated drapery store soon dissipated their winnings.

In 1885 the government graciously made Nash the keeper of the powder-magazine in Gympie, a handsome job at £100 a year.

The magazine, and Nash, were moved to Traveston in 1898, he would retire because of ill health in 1912.

On October 5, 1913, Nash died aged 79. He was given a civic funeral and buried in Gympie Cemetery.

The Queensland Government gifted his wife Catherine an annual pension of £50 per year.

Greater society has somewhat forgotten James Nash as the world moved forward through a tumultuous 20th century.

Nonetheless, Nash was honoured with a seven-ton granite block memorial in front of the town hall.

The town of Gympie and those who call it home could never forget.

 

Crowds gather for the unveiling of the James Nash Memorial, 1915.
Crowds gather for the unveiling of the James Nash Memorial, 1915. Gympie Regional Council

Topics:  g150 gold mining gympie gympie goldfields history james nash queensland state library of queensland

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