The Upside Down Under
The Welcome Stranger Gold Nugget


The world's largest gold nugget - named the "Welcome Stranger" was found just a couple of inches below the ground near Dunolly, Victoria, Australia on 5 February 1869.

On a hot day in 1869, in the bush at Moliagul, Victoria, John Deason made the discovery of his lifetime and of the goldrush era – the Welcome Stranger nugget.

John Deason was an impoverished prospector struggling to support a wife and young family before his luck changed in such an overwhelming way.

While searching around the roots of a tree Deason discovered the gold nugget just 3 cm below the surface. He concealed his find until dark, then with his partner, Richard Oates, dug it out. They then held a party during which they revealed their find to the guests.

The "Welcome Stranger" Gold Nugget
It was worth 10,000 pounds - around $3-4 million in today's money.

Weighing in at 2,315.5 troy ounces (72.02 kg) it surpassed the "Welcome Nugget" by nearly a hundred ounces.  It was the largest nugget found in the world and remains so to this day.

In this 1869 illustration (below) published shortly after the discovery, the size of the nugget (61 by 31 cm or 24 by 12 in.) is compared to a 12 inch (30 cm) scale bar. The nugget was soon melted down into ingots and shipped to the Bank of England. Before 1990, just about all large nuggets were melted down for their monetary value. Today there are less than a dozen known nuggets over 500 ounces.

Welcome Stranger Nugget 1

The 'Welcome Stranger' was taken to Dunolly where it had to be broken on an anvil before it could fit on the bank's scales. It was worth 10,000 pounds - around $3-4 million in today's money.

How the Welcome Stranger nugget was found

The following is an account from John Deason, the man who found the Welcome Stranger nugget, as detailed when he was 75 yrs old on November 23rd 1905.....

It was between 9 and 10am on the fifth of February 1869. I was at work picking the surface for puddling and put the pick in the ground and felt what I thought was a stone, the second blow struck in the same way and the third also.

I scraped the ground with the pick and saw gold; then I cleared away further and right around the nugget. There was a stringy bark root going right across it and a small bit of gold stood up and the root of the stringy bark ran through this. I tried to prise the nugget up with the pick but the handle broke. I then got a crowbar and raised the nugget to the surface. It weighed nearly three hundred weight, at first there was much quartz with the gold. As the nugget lay in the ground, the solid piece of gold was underneath and it was deep in the ground but the top of the nugget was not more than 1" below the surface. The nugget was about 18" long by 16" wide and about 16" deep. My mate, Richard Oates, was working a short distance below the puddling machine in his paddock and I send my son down to call him. When my mate came, I said, "What do you think of it Dick? It is worth about 5,000 pounds?" "Oh" he said "more like 2,000 pounds".

We then got the dray and lifted the nugget into it and carted it down to my hut, which stood about 1 1/2 chain to the north of the old puddling machine. We took it out of the dray and put it in the fireplace, built a good fire on it and kept it burning for about 10 hours, leaving it cool for 2 hours, we sat up all night breaking it free from quartz. My wife, my mate and myself were the only persons who saw the nugget as it was first found.

John Deason, Catherine Deason and Richard Oates
John Deason, left, Catherine Deason, and Richard
Oates, 1869. Photographer William Parker. Courtesy
Dunolly Museum.

When it was cool we broke 70lbs. quartz away from it . Besides detached pieces of gold there was one solid piece of it that weighted 128 lbs. troy (1,536 oz.). This was on the bottom of the nugget as it lay on the ground. There was a great deal of loose gold when the quartz was broken off. The 70 lbs. of quartz broken away had course and fine gold through it. It was taken to Mr. Edward Udey's battery close by and a load of other quartz with no gold in it was crushed with it and 60 oz. of smelted gold was obtained.

Several small pieces of gold and quartz were broken off and given to friends after the burning. About 5 oz. of gold was given away and this has never been reckoned in with the weight of the nugget as sold to the bank. I still have a small piece of the gold, the only bit that is left (2-3dwts now in the Melbourne National Museum). The total weight of the gold was over 200 lbs. troy (2,400 oz.)

It was put in a calico bag and taken in Mr. Edey's spring cart to the London Bank, Dunolly. My mate, Mr. Udey and I went with it. The gold was smelted and yielded 2,380 oz. of gold 23 carots fine. The bank paid us 9,583 pounds for it.


The death of John Deason

The following is a newspaper article from the Ballarat Courier on Wednesday 15 Sep 1915..
Mr John Deason, native of Teesco,
Scilly Island. who came to Victoria in
the early fifties and had resided is this
district for nearly 50 years, died at Molia-
gul. Deason ando the late Richard Oats
found tlhe "Welcome Stranger" nugget at
Moliagul. The decneased died in reduced
circumstances. He was 86 years of age
and leaves a widow and family.
(On 5th February, 1819, the largest nugg-
et found in Australia (the "Welcome
Stranger') was discovered in Black Reef
Gully, near Moliagul, a few inches from
the sarfuce. Its weight was 2115 oz 17
cwt 14 gr, and its value about £9500. A
granite monument erected by the Govern-
ment marks the site.
Welcome Stranger Nugget Monument
Detail of the inscription on the Welcome Stranger monument, at Moliagul, Victoria, marking the site of the biggest gold nugget ever found.


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