NEW SOUTH WALES -- Alexander MUSSEN (d.1864). A collection of autograph letters and ephemera relating to the gold fields of New South Wales and the killing of Alexander Mussen by bushrangers. The archive comprises: Alexander MUSSEN, 4 autograph letters signed, Montreal, August 1855, to his brother William (describing the 'first French ship of war that has ever come to Canada'), to his father, Thomas, 24th February 1856, (on leaving Montreal for Australia, in debt)(splits at folds), and Sweepers Creek, 4 August 1862, and to William, Pyramul Creek Diggin[g]s, 7 September 1863 (with 'mining news') together 24½ pages, 8vo, (a few pages with vertical over horizontal script); William MUSSEN, 3 autograph letters signed to Alexander Mussen, Montreal, 4 December 1862, 13 May 1863 and 13 September 1864, together 25 pages, 8vo (some wear), concerning life and events in Quebec, including the opening of the Victoria Bridge, forest fires and civil war; Samuel BROMLEY, 3 autograph letters signed to Thomas Mussen, Pyramul, 16 Novemver 1864 (informing him of Alexander's death by 'murderous violence'), 7 June 1867 and 16 June 1865, together 12 pages, folio and 4to; J[oseph] A. SHARPE to Thomas Mussen, Lower Pyramul Creek, 14 November 1864 (giving details of Alexander's burial), 19 July 1865, and to William Mussen, 12 March 1867 (enclosing the drawings), together 8 pages, 8vo and 4to.
Together with: an ambrotype oval portrait on glass of Alexander Mussen (72 x 59mm) by Brady, 1854, in folding case (upper cover detached); three pencil and watercolour sketches, possibly by Sharpe: 'A View of Mr J. A. Sharpe's Store on the Pyramul Creek', showing where Alexander Mussen was shot, 'The Hut of Alexander Mussen' and a sketch of Mussen's grave, the latter laid down on paper, together with related manuscript and printed material, including newspaper clippings and Alexander Mussen's death certificate.
An important and fascinating insight into life in the gold-digging fields of New South Wales soon after the first Gold Rush of 1851. Alexander Mussen left Montreal in 1856, in debt and having 'done wrong', travelling to Australia in the hope of making a fortune in the gold fields ('I shall try for the future to be a credit to the Mussen family'). By 1862 already 'disgusted with seeking for the precious metal' he tells his father that he has 'given up Gold-digging & gone to Sheep-Farming'. However, his letter to his brother of 1863 places him back in the 'Creek Diggings' of Pyramul, near Mudgee and Bathurst, but barely making a living, staying only because 'I cannot say that any of the other diggings are any better'. He writes with 'mining news', talking of his claim at 'Nuggetty Gully', 'called so from the gold found there being of a coarse nature varying in pieces... the larger pieces are few and far between like angels visits'. Mussen's correspondence comprises a detailed historical record, of both the way of life on the 'diggings', and where finds were being made. Mussen follows in the footsteps of Hargreaves, who first discovered gold in 1851, 'this... is the first place Gold was found in payable quantities by a Mr Hargreaves. The same... is now prospecting the Ural Mountains...'.
This collection also offers an insight into the crimes committed by bushrangers in colonial Australia. Mussen himself writes in 1862, 'this Country is notorious for High-way Men, or as we call them here Bush-Rangers.' Two years later, on 2 November 1864, Alexander Mussen was shot at Pyramul by George Gibson and James M'Grath, who were attempting to rob a store belonging to J. A. Sharpe. The archive presents a first-hand account of events. In his letter of 1863, Mussen had talked of 'our Store-keeper... Mr J. A. Sharp... from Leicester, England.. if it had not been for them I would often have gone to bed hungry' - he was tutor to his children who had great affection for him. It is Sharpe who sends the three watercolours to Mussen's family; not having access to photographic means he explains his desire for the Mussen family to have an image of where Alexander lived and was killed.