Thursday, August 22, 2013

Eldorado

El Dorado (Spanish for 'the gilded one') was a fabled city in South America, rich in treasure and sought by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. 'Reid's Creek' (now called Reedy Creek), in north-eastern Victoria, was named after David Reid who held a station in the area in the 1840s but when gold was discovered there in the 1850s an influx of miners arrived. By the 1870s there were 4000 people living along the creek, including several members of my family. The name Eldorado was applied to the town that developed but previously it had been the name of another station in the area - in 1842 the prescient Furey Baker subdivided his 'Barambogie' station and the western section was named 'El Dorado'. The gold mining district became known as 'the Ovens' because of the main river that flows through the valley.

I'm not sure of the chronological sequence of events but generally it looks something like this. In July 1863 Annie Chellew (nee Chaundy) was living at Beaufort near Ballarat with her husband Arthur who was a goldminer. One day Arthur and his mate went down their mine and both died as a result of suffocating in the foul air. Annie was a widow at the age of 23. James Taylor must have been also mining in the area because he married Annie at Beaufort in April 1864.

Some time in the next few years Annie and James Taylor moved to Eldorado, and so did Annie's sisters, Emily Rachel Chaundy  (who married a miner, Thomas Young at Eldorado in 1874), Leah (who married a miner, Gregory Raby, at nearby Beechworth in May 1864) and Alice Julia Chaundy (who married Peter Cameron in 1883). I don't know which of the four sisters arrived first but their children all grew up in the area between Wangaratta and Beechworth, including my great-grandfather Henry Taylor who was born at Eldorado in 1869. It was 'Kelly country', and Henry would have known of several members of the Kelly Gang who also lived near the town and hid from authorities in the surrounding hills.
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Eldorado, Victoria 1909
Source: Museum Victoria Reg. No. MM6166
Today the vegetation around the town and along the creek has regrown after the devastation that goldmining creates and when we visited last week it was looking very pretty - the wattle was flowering and the first of the spring wildflowers emerging. The population is about 300 now but with modern transport it is close to Beechworth, Chiltern and Wangaratta so isn't as isolated and distant as it must have once been.

We went out to the cemetery where James Taylor, my direct ancestor, is buried. (None of the Chaundy sisters are buried there.) I already knew there wasn't a headstone but it was good to visit, to pay respect and get a feel for the place. He's a long way from Durham in England where he was raised in a small back lane right next to the magnificent Durham Cathedral.

Durham Cathedral, Durham. Old postcard.
Postcript: On a lighter note, while at the cemetery we found this stone with a plaque attached.
"Plot 12 & 13, Reserved for M & M, one day"
Eldorado Cemetery, Victoria

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Lorraine