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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Nash, James (1834–1913)

by June Stoodley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

James Nash (1834-1913), discoverer of the Gympie goldfield, was born on 5 September 1834 at Beanacre, Wiltshire, England, son of Michael Nash, farm labourer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Prosser. At 9 he left school for farm work and migrated to Sydney at 23. He alternated between labouring work and prospecting on various goldfields in New South Wales. Quiet and solitary he was an indefatigable walker: once he walked 600 miles (966 km) to the Tooloom diggings and returned unsuccessful.

Nash moved to Queensland in 1863, working at Calliope and Nanango. He found rich gold on an extended prospecting tour in 1867 near the Mary River, and his report on 16 October started 'one of the wildest rushes in Queensland history'. It has been called the salvation of the depressed colony: the Bank of Queensland had closed, a financially embarrassed government had stopped work on the Ipswich-Toowoomba railway and unemployed were marching the Brisbane streets. The government had offered £3000 reward for a payable new field, but the terms had not quite been met, and for his discovery of a field which was to produce gold worth £14,538,328, Nash was granted only £1000 after twelve months' debate. The field even lost the name 'Nashville' and became 'Gympie'. He and his brother won a further £7000 from their claims, but unwise investments in mining stock and an ill-fated drapery store soon dissipated their winnings. In 1888 the government graciously made him Gympie's powder-magazine keeper at £100 a year, and after his death on 5 October 1913 granted an annual pension of £50 to his wife Catherine, née Murphy, whom he had married on 6 July 1868 at Maryborough; they had three sons and two daughters. Despite the government's forgetfulness, posterity has honoured him with a seven-ton granite block memorial fountain in Gympie's Park.

Select Bibliography

  • Alcazar Press, Queensland, 1900 (Brisb, nd)
  • A. L. Stumm and W. C. Woolgar, Historical Sketch of Gympie, 1867-1927 (Gympie, 1927)
  • Maryborough Chronicle, 16, 30 Oct 1867
  • Gympie Times, 15 Sept 1896, 16 Oct 1917 jubilee supplement.

Citation details

June Stoodley, 'Nash, James (1834–1913)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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