Gold was first discovered in the district at Specimen Hill by S. Richards and party, who were working from George Town; they were granted a reward of £2000 by the Government, and the Reward Mine was opened. The Specimen Hill (the east part of the Land-o’-Cakes line) and the Shamrock (Bast Volunteer) were the first mines to be opened, and the township Nine-Mile Springs sprang up around these mines. The development of the field at this time seems to have been hampered by the leasing system then in force, which prohibited prospectors from working on leased property, and so locked up much property from the reach of the prospector. In 1873 Commissioner Bernard Shaw reported that quartz-crushing operations had almost ceased, but that the value of the gold won from the alluvial deposits in 1872 was £8000.
From Nine-Mile Springs prospectors worked west, and the very rich Golden Point and Native Youth lodes were discovered. Here a new township sprang up, named after Governor Lefroy, and having a population of about 800. After two or three years the gold in these reefs gave out and the place became almost deserted. It is worthy of notice here that the history of Lefroy shows a series of alternate periods of activity and depression. This fact is due to the distribution of the gold values in the reefs, where the gold may be rich in the upper parts, but in the levels below 400 feet the lode becomes unpayable. This means that the mines rapidly became worked out, and a period of depression followed, until prospectors discovered fresh lines of reef.
The Chums reef, followed by the Land-o’-Cakes and Golden Era, was the next to be found, the Chums line being found by Mr. A. D. White and party. In 1881 rich returns were being obtained from the New Chum line, chiefly on the Prospector (New Chum) and West New Chum Mines. Besides these two numerous leases were taken along the line. The New Native Youth Mine was then still the scene of active mining operations.
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