1935 – Rush for Town Blocks

Cairns Post, Qld – Friday 31 May 1935
The firing of two revolver shots and the hoisting of a flag from the Overland Telegraph Post  immediately outside the Warden’s office at 9 o’clock tomorrow, Saturday 1 June 1935, will be the signal for a wild scramble of over 100 persons for possession of 15 business sites in the main street of the Tennant Creek Goldfield township.
The antiquated mining laws of the Territory do not give the Warden power to put the blocks to ballot or to auction them. He is required to announce publicly the date and hour on which the blocks will be thrown open for business or residential purposes and to accept the applications of those who first succeed in driving their pegs into the four corners of each block and then win the sprint to his office to fill in the necessary forms. For a 2/6 registration fee, 15 persons who win the scramble and sprint, will become owners of property worth £100 or more. Some of the town blocks have already changed hands at £120.
To expose the futility of the law as it stands at present Mr. H. Nelson, who formerly represented the Territory in the House of Representatives, is considering giving the possibility of laying information after the affair is over against the police for unlawfully discharging firearms.

Townsville Daily Bulletin, Qld –  Monday 3 June 1935
Women, aged men and children sprinting along the main highway for the Warden’s Office, utility trucks and service cars roaring along with throttles wide open, hundreds of men wielding picks, crowbars and axes; these were some or the incidents that marked the rush to peg out about 15 business blocks facing the Overland Telegraph Line at the Tennant Creek Goldfield on Saturday, 1 June.
Hours before dawn, figures moving silently against the skyline, heralded a memorable rush to gain possession, for an outlay of 2/6 of blocks that can safely be quoted at £10 or more. Several parties camped for the night on the site they selected and others, like sentries, were maintaining guard over corners in which they planned to drive pegs. Daylight brought more and more aspirants for blocks.
By 8.30 o’clock, all had taken up their positions and were kept tense for half an hour waiting for the start off. This took the form of two shots fired by Constables Lynch and Birt from the verandah of the Warden’s Office, and the hoisting of a white flag from the Overland Telegraph post immediately in front of the office.
The sight of gold never threw burly miners into such a feverish scramble as that which followed, but none of those aiming to obtain a block for themselves had the ghost of a chance of winning the most coveted prizes unless they had assistance to win. Each aspirant had to have three other stalwarts to help to peg, and one fleet of foot to engage in the race to the Warden with application forms.
In accordance with the requirements or the archaic mining laws of the Northern Territory, the peg was to be no less than 4 inches in diameter and to stand three feet out of the ground, after having been driven in 1 foot. Warnings by the Director of Northern Territory mining, Mr  N Bell, who is temporarily carrying out the duties of Warden, that any physical violence used by competitors or representatives would lead to disqualification kept the rush free from any unseemly incidents, although in the first hectic minutes after the shots were fired, there were in some cases, eight or nine men working in the space of a square yard.
The men of the field showed gallantry in stepping aside from a block of which Mrs Darcy Goddard, sister of Major E G Clerk who is making the Tennant’s Creek goldfield the base of an air service had set her eyes. She was given every assistance as she placed her pegs and rousing cheers went up as she ran off desperately with her application form.
Mr. Bell is snowed under with applications, and in the next week or two, will face the task of sifting facts and inspecting pegs and trenches to deter mine who shall be the ultimate holders of the blocks.
Where a dispute arises, he will allot points to those who have the neatest pegs and trenches, and have done the best job throughout.

Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld.) Wednesday 5 June 1935
Several business blocks thrown open on Saturday 1 June, were to badly pegged in the scramble and confusion that reigned in the few minutes following the revolver signal, that the Chief Warden Mr N Bell, has decided to give all unsuccessful applicants a fresh chance.
The blocks concerned will be thrown open to them for pegging at 9 o’clock on Monday morning, but the start of the contest will not this time be signaled by the firing of revolver shots, but the hoisting of a white flag.


Newspaper articles –

  • Cairns Post, Qld – Friday 31 May 1935
  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, Qld –  Monday 3 June 1935
  • Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld.) Wednesday 5 June 1935