The Curtis Nugget, the largest in Queensland, was discovered in Gympie, Queensland in 1868 by Curtis and Brigg on a lease close to the initial claim of the discoverer of the Gympie Goldfield, James Nash.  The claim where the Curtis nugget was found had been pegged earlier by George Curtis and Charles Colin.  

Charles Colin

Charles Collin was the son of Jules  Andre Colin  de Souvigny, who with the  family emigrated to Brisbane, Australia in 1826, from Poitier, France. During the passage they shortened the family name to Colin likely to accommodate English sensitivities.  Gustav Colin, the lad to center right of the image below, was the Great Grandfather of this author.  Jules Colin with the aide of Government Land Grants purchased what is now the suburb of Kenmore in western Brisbane.  The Kenmore acreage was sold and the family moved to Bald Hills which was closer to the early Brisbance City. The funds from the sale of the nugget allowed for the return of several family members to France and for Charles Colin to establish a Christian Monastery and School in Sri Lanka. 

The family of Jules and Mathilde Colin de Souvigny – circa 1860. Charles Colin was likely the boy to the left.

THE CURTIS NUGGET. (1929, August 8). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 10. Retrieved October 19, 2023, from

Several correspondents of the “Morning Bulletin” have recently been sending stories of the nuggets of gold found on the Rockhampton and other goldfields. Those exciting discoveries were mostly in my day of searchings for the precious metal, and bring vividly to mind the excitement such finds caused in various parts of the State.

I was at Gympie when the Curtis nugget was found, and remember about it. Prior to that discovery the Raglan nugget of 60 oz., found by Edward Longstaff, and one on the Boyne or Calliope, much larger, but I am not sure of the weight. Then in 1866 a lot of beautiful nuggets of pure gold with-out any dirt or quartz were found at Rosewood. An East Street jeweller had a saucerful in his window, which caused many an eager spectator to wish for the possession of a few. You have already published Cadden’s discovery of nuggets at Mount Wheeler, which caused so much excitement. Seldom has gold been won so easily.

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The Curtis nugget requires some reference to James Nash, the man who found Gympie. He was a “hatter,” and spent several weeks testing the shallow ground so that he was able to get the pick of Gympie Creek. Many prospectors, from fear of discovery, make known their finds too quickly and find others come along and get the best of the ground. Not so James Nash; he got the pick of a small but rich area, and the famous nugget was found less than 50 yards outside his pegs. Gympie was first known as Nashville, after its discoverer, but the Government changed it to Gympie, the name of the creek.

Gympie Creek was a shallow watercourse, usually dry except for a few small holes, and the quantity of rich ground was not of large extent. The gold had probably been shed from a reef or reefs – possibly the Caledonian which permeated the sloping hill that formed the left-hand bank of the creek.

There was a little gully that ran into Gympie Creek from this sloping hill, and a few claims on it were also good. Others were of little value, and it was one of these poor ones that fell into the possession of George Curtis, his nephew, Valentine C. Brigg, and a friend or distant relation, who owned a farm in New South Wales, or on the Queensland border.

I know the locality well, having tried some of it and got nothing but coarse colours. It is quite certain that the Curtis party was not getting much gold, if any, and the farmer was the first to tire, and left his mates on the plea that he was needed on the selection. Here Curtis made the mistake of taking it for granted that the partnership was ended, instead of formally telling the farmer so. The latter declared after wards that he (the farmer) stated he would come back if they got on to good gold.


Curtis and Brigg, the latter then a bushy youth of about 17, plodded away the sinking being 3 or 4 ft. deep, and the stuff washed hard to puddle, and a long distance to carry it to water. Presumably they must have got a little gold, but certainly it was only a dwt or so a day, just enough to keep them stringing on.

One day in February, 1868 – I thought it was earlier, but William Lees, who is pretty accurate in his statements, had the following in his “Goldfields of Queensland,” published in 1899:-“The famous Curtis nugget, a great mass of pure gold, found by Mr. George Curtis in February, 1868, weighing 975 oz., was valued at £3675.”

In the afternoon of this lucky day Valentine Brigg was digging away when he dropped on this wonderful lump of gold. One can imagine the thrill of delight as young Brigg recognised that he was on to a big nugget. He hurriedly freed it from the surrounding dirt, and then, with a strong heave, placed it on the ground at the feet of his uncle and partner. It was a noble golden clinker. As described by the “Nashville Times,” now the “Gympie Times,” it was an irregular lump of gold about 8 in. long and 5 in. wide, and of a thickness that I do not remember — probably about an inch, and weighing 1040 oz., over 80 lb. troy. There was dirt and some quartz in the hollows, which afterwards were removed.

Not only were the lucky finders ex-cited, but also those on the surrounding claims, and there was a little procession as they marched off to the bank, where it was placed for safe keeping. The news spread like wildfire, and the golden wonder was exhibited at 1s. per head for some charity. I did not go to see it. Perhaps I was envious.

The nugget was later taken to Maryborough. Mr. Curtis’ home, where there was a procession to honour their townsman on returning with his golden trophy. Mr. Curtis at the time was Inspector of Stock for the Maryborough district, and presumably was on leave at the new rush at Gympie.


But the good luck of Curtis and Brigg was soon to get a setback, for their former partner who had some time be-fore gone back to his farm, hearing of the finding of the wonderful nugget, put in a claim for his third share, maintaining that he was still a partner, though he had left the goldfield for his selection.

A lawsuit followed, and the partnership not having been properly dis-solved, a big slice of the famous nugget went to the man who had done nothing towards winning it. I must regret having forgotten the man’s name. If I am not mistaken, he look £1000 or £800 to settle his share. Apparently he was, within his legal rights, but one wonders what would have happened had Curtis and Brigg, instead of finding such a nugget, sustained some heavy financial loss. Would he have still been a partner in that loss? All the same, he may have honestly believed that he was entitled to his share, and the law said he was.


In all probability the Gympie nugget may have drawn people to the field, but the primary attraction was brought about by the large quantity of gold obtained easily and quickly from various gullies and creeks, and sent away by escort in parcels of thousands of ounces each time.

The largest population was about the time of the nugget discovery, or soon after, estimated at from 15,000 to 20,000. On New Year’s Eve of 1867 a Scotsman in full dress, suddenly sent out the penetrating drone of the bagpipes in the midst of the crowd in Mary-street. In one minute he was marching at the head of thousands up and down the street, everyone apparently thinking the bagpipes the sweetest and most enlivening of instruments.  There was tremendous enthusiasm. It was estimated that the crowd numbered between 7000 and 8000 men.

I never think about, early Gympie but I recall an old friend, big William Harvey. He had the third claim in the creek below the prospectors, and we (self and mates), who knew him well,

went across to greet, him. That was on November 6th, 1867. He was seated on a flat stone with his long legs stretched out in front, and with a sheath knife was scraping the shallow sand back from the clayey substance it lay on. Then with the point of his knife he was picking out, the specks of gold weighing from dwt. upward. When he had a handful of specks he placed them in a pouch on his belt and got another handful. Talk about gold-mining made easy, this was the limit. lt was done to prevent the specks of gold showing in the dirt when it was stacked. Such rich stuff was limited in quantity. I heard subsequently that William cleared £1000 out of his 20 ft. by 20 ft. claim, and quite possibly he did.

But the real Gympie only fully started about the middle of the year, 1868. I had returned from a miserably cold and wet trip to Yabba Yabba diggings, where I was nearly eaten by leeches in the palm-tree scrub that was on both sides of Jimna Creek, where the gold was found. When I got back I said to my mate. “I’ll go back north, where I can at least keep warm,” and I went.

I had hardly turned my back on Gympie, where I had been for nearly eight months, with indifferent mining success, than there was a great forward movement in quartz or reef mining. Reefs were taken up and worked in all directions, and Gympie went forward by leaps and bounds.

The Caledonian reef, which I suggested might have shed the Curtis nug-get, and several other reef claims, had some wonderful crushings, some of them being so astonishing that it sounds like a fairy tale and would hardly be credited to-day.

Gympie from this point never looked back for 50 years, and vied with Charters Towers in being the greatest gold-field in Queensland. This statement does not interfere with the fact that Mount Morgan was, and perhaps is, the greatest mine in Australia.

Now Gympie is prosperous in its rich farms and dairies, and also with its splendid timber areas.

The Nugget from Nashville

For an excellent discussion of the Curtis Nugget the reader is directed to:

Ferguson, John and Dugdale, Jim., The Nugget from Nashville (Gympie) 1868: Of Perseverance and a Prince, Journal of Australian Mining History, Vol18, October 2020

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