Friday, 7 February 2014

How Diggers Rest Got Its Name

Local historians have debated for years whether the town's name is Diggers Rest, Digger's Rest or Diggers' Rest.

The debate is understandable.

A Digger's Grave

The grave of American Jack A. Sanger now resides in the Houdini park, near the Railway station. The grave was relocated from the a site, about half way from the Calder Highway to the farm hill top on the east side of the Calder Freeway.

Jack. Sanger was not buried alone. Records reveal that J. A. Sanger and a mate were "swamping it" to the gold diggings ("swamping" meant that a man helped a teamster in return for his "tucker" and getting his swag carried on the dray). They camped for the night, where an old stone building was (now only part of the wall is left standing, about midway from the Oval Hotel and Diggers' Rest railway station.) In those days was used a heavy dray with a pole attached and two bullocks or more hitched on to the dray. At night the propsticks were set to keep the dray put, and the bul- locks turned out to graze. There was a good deal of sly grog-selling at this house, and in the carousals which took place someone, either for a joke or accidentally, removed the back propsticks and tipped up the heavy load of the dray, which pinned the unfortunate men, killing them. They were discovered dead in the morning, and buried at a spot near where a monument stone was situated in 1945 (we're not sure where that was) near *Bald Hill.

* Editors Note about Bald Hill: The reference to Bald Hill is a curiosity. A volcanic cone, somewhere near Diggers Rest, is known as Bald Hill is known to some as George Knight’s vine-covered slopes. Where is Bald Hill exactly and where was Sanger's original grave? Records show that Sanger was originally buried with a mate who died with him, and seven other existing graves.

Jack Sanger's family were wealthy and financed his body to be properly buried with a casket and gravestone somewhere in the Punjel Estate.

When did Jack Sanger die? The records state that there was already an old stone building and therefore was settled some time prior to Sanger's arrival. Sanger and fellow digger died on 12th May 1855.

Gold Diggers Stop

It is reasonable to guess that the town was named, "Diggers Rest" because after a day's walk from Melbourne, the gold diggers stopped at the creek to rest for the night.

Originally A Station

The name may have originated from the name of a sheep station.

The first cited publication of the town's name was by AC Yandell who crossed the area in about December
1851 with a swag weighing 78 pounds. He writes "‘We went on very well for the first 17 miles, till we reached somewhere about where the ‘Diggers’ Rest’ station is now, when I became fearfully thirsty, and there was not a drop of water to be had anywhere. At last we found an old hut, but no water; spirits we could
have had, but I was too thirsty to crave for such stuff as was sold at such shanties. The occupant of the hut then offered me a pannikin of cold tea, which I was glad to get, and paid him half-a-crown for it.’"

Pioneer, "Henry Boyle" recalled his trip up the road, also in late 1851, "‘At the Diggers’ Rest there was a slab shanty kept by a black, but as he could not accommodate us we had a shilling nobbler, gave two shillings for a quart of milk, and slept in the cow-shed."

Town Named After A Pub

It could be argued that Diggers Rest was actually the name of the drinking hotel. Henry Boyle's reference to a slab shanty could be argued to be the original Diggers Rest pub. Boyle's mention of a station is probably the Glencoe station that was sold to Thomas Gregory who obtained a licence for his inn in April 1852.

Editor's Conclusion

Diggers Rest was probably named as a rest stop where a shanty drink stop was built on a station, that shanty was later upgraded to a pub. J.A. Sanger probably died next to that hotel. The records are confusing and contradictory about the location of the station and hotel.

Help Uncover Local History

Do you know anything more about the Bald Hill hotel or where the Diggers Rest graveyard is located?


The Diggers Rest Hotel by the Shire of Melton Heritage Study, 2007
Former Railway Hotel Place No.- 108 (Olive Tree Hotel) Heritage
Grave At Diggers Rest by Mr Robert Roulston, 28/7/1947
Wikipedia - Buttlejorrk, Victoria, 11 August 2013
Sunbury Wine Region Prehistory

Related Article

Questions Of The Lost Diggers Rest Cemetery by Diggers Rest Talk, 2 December 2013

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