Lister and the Tom brothers | State Library of New South Wales

John Lister and the Tom Brothers

Edward Hargraves travelled to Sydney to negotiate with the Colonial Secretary regarding his reward for finding gold. His assistants, John Lister and William and James Tom continued working their cradle and located four ounces of gold further downstream from Hargraves’ first find, including a two-ounce nugget that William Tom noticed in a rock crevice. Hargraves purchased these nuggets and sent some by mail to the Colonial Secretary. Announcing that it was he who had discovered payable gold in the district, Hargraves began a publicity campaign, generating much discussion in the region and naming the part of the creek which yielded gold the FitzRoy Bar after the Governor and the area Ophir, after the biblical city of gold.

Hargraves was feted as a hero and was rewarded by the government with £10,000 and an annual pension of £250 and was given the position of Commissioner of Crown Lands for the gold districts. He received many valuable gifts and was the subject of many triumphant portraits.

Silver tea and coffee service given to E.H. Hargraves

[Silver tea and coffee service] presented to Edward Hargraves by the inhabitants of Bathurst, 1853, by James Robert and Josiah Williams, Exeter, UK, 1851
Silver, four pieces R 675

It was a number of decades before John Lister and the Tom brothers received formal recognition of their part in the discovery of gold, finally being acknowledged by a select committee of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1890.

William Tom wrote an account of meeting Hargraves and the work these men undertook in prospecting for gold as part of their evidence to the NSW Legislative Assembly.

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Transcript: William Tom, Papers on the discovery of gold, 1876-1884, Manuscript ML MSS 1149

First Gold Discovery
Sunrise Guyong,
22nd July 1884.
The following evidence touching the first gold discovery in Australia was prepared by us in 1876 and will read accordingly.  It was prepared to read to a committee of the New South Wales Parliament but having tried by all legitimate means for 20 years to obtain a hearing by that August body without success we now adopt the Pres[s] (the only alternative left to us) in order that the public mind may be disabused of its error in supposing Mr. Hargraves to be the sole discoverer of the first payable gold, or in supposing that he ever did more to the discovery than introducing the tin-dish system and finding something less than a farthing's worth of gold to which he was taken  by John Lester and James Tom. 

We can assign no reason whatever for why the public mind should not receive the truth and be undeceived.  Certainly, we not being able to obtain a hearing by Parliament; can be considered no proper reason.  We wish readers of the following to consider well the letter No.1 and the circumstances under which it was written. If this letter under the circumstances it was written does not show most clearly to the reader the unfair, wily, and deep-designing character of Mr. Hargraves whom we have had to contend with we have no idea of anything that will show him.  We think it will show the full extent of Mr. Hargraves' honor to the Government, to the public, and to us in 1851.  It will show most clearly how he wished too hoodwink the Government; to deceive the public, and bamboozle us and Mr. James Tom, - in all of which he has tolerably well succeeded.

It may not be out of place to remark here that our Petition through the last twenty years has been presented to and received by various Parliaments of New South Wales and on one occasion the members of a Select 
Committee for enquiry were named; but by a breaking up of Parliament the matter could not be proceeded with.  The fact however, shows clearly enough that various Parliaments have said that we ought to be reheard.
The following history has been attested by us on oath and challenges Contradiction.
William Tom Jr.

> News of gold spread quickly. Discover how the gold rush began...

Map of the gold country, NSW 1851 


> Read more of William Tom's papers on the discovery of gold, 1867-1884, via the Library's  catalogue catalogue link

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