February 5, 1869: Welcome Stranger is found. It is the biggest alluvial gold nugget ever found, which means it was a separate nugget and not cemented into a solid rock. It was found slightly more than an inch below the surface at Moliagul, Victoria, Australia. It measured 24 x 12 inches and had a calculated refined weight of 3,123 ounces, 6 dwt (or pennyweight which is equal to 24 grains or 1/20 of a troy ounce), and 9 grains. Cornish prospectors John Deason and Richard Oates were on a slope near Bulldog Gully. They were looking near tree when they found the massive gold nugget.
The nugget had a gross weight of 241.6 pounds, a trimmed weight of 172 pounds, and a net weight of 158.78 pounds – 2,315.5 troy ounces. At the time, there was no scale available to weigh such a massive nugget and so a Dunolly-based blacksmith, Archibald Wall, broke it into three pieces. The prospectors remained in Dunolly, about 9 miles southeast of find and took their gold to the London Chartered Bank located there. They were advanced £9,000 for the gold and finally were paid £9,381 for it. Estimations of worth in US dollars in today’s currency is about $3,766,950. The gold nugget became known as Welcome Stranger and was heavier than Welcome Nugget which had been found in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia in 1858. Nugget was also found by Cornish prospectors and it weighed “only” 152.1 pounds.
John Deason was born in 1829 on the island of Tresco, Isles of Scilly about 28 miles southwest of Cornwall, England. He worked as a tin dresser before becoming a gold miner. He worked as a miner for most of his life. After his big find, he bought a store in Moliagul and lost most of his wealth because of poor investments in gold mining. He also owned a small farm in Moliagul where he lived until the end of his life. He died in 1915 at the age of 85. Richard Oates was born around 1827 in Pendeen in Cornwall. In 1869, Oates returned to England and married there. He returned to Australia with his wife. They purchased a farm of 800 acres in Marong in 1895 and raised their family of four children there. He died in 1906 at the age of 79.
The Welcome Stranger nugget was melted down into ingots and sent back to England. It remains the largest alluvial nugget ever found. In 1980, an amateur Australian miner was sweeping with his metal detector when he discovered something about one foot below the surface. What he found is called the Hand of Faith Nugget and it weighed 61 pounds 11 ounces. He sold it, intact, to the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada for over $1,000,000. It is kept there, in a special case, on display and is worth over $1.5 million today.
Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul. – Democritus
All the gold which is under or upon the earth is not enough to give in exchange for virtue. – Plato
Gold is a treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise. – Christopher Columbus
For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. – Martin Luther
Also on this day: Articles of Confederation – In 1778, South Carolina became the first state to ratify the Articles.
Roger Williams – In 1631, Williams arrived in Boston.
Bombs Away – In 1958, a USAF plane drops a nuclear bomb in the waters off Savannah, Georgia.
Artiste – In 1919, United Artists studios were formed.
Hermitage Museum – In 1852, the museum opened to the public.