The older streets in St Helens tell a story: Medea Cove, Circassian Street, Argonaught Road, Jason Street. The story is the ancient Greek myth of the Golden Fleece. They once thought there was ‘gold in them hills’–and there was.
In 1870 Chinese came to work the gold mine at Mathinna. Then in 1873 Renison Bell discovered there was a wealth of tin to be had in the rivers and streams across the entire North East.
Mathinna, to the west of St Helens was one of the few successful gold fields discovered in Tasmania. When tin was discovered later, many former gold miners were attracted to the North-East because the process of alluvial mining for tin was essentially the same alluvial mining for gold: washing the heavier ore out of river bed gravel.
Although the work was simple, it was backbreaking, generally poorly paid and had little appeal for the average
European worker. However, the Chinese had experience of difficult conditions and hard labour in their homeland and many had experience of working in the goldfields on the mainland. The shallow alluvial mining suited a transient workforce that worked as a disciplined team. Most of the small mines required little capital, and the miners would then stay only long enough to earn enough money to return to China, relatively wealthy men.