Gold Digging Letters & Diaries from Bendigo Victoria Australia Isaac Edward Dyason 1851-1915

A young Isaac Edward Dyason

This site has been created to be an online repository for a trove of diaries and letters dating from 1847 to 1915.

The recipient of these letters and author of the diaries was Isaac Edward Dyason, who was born in Ramsgate, Kent (United Kingdom) in 1832 (d.1915 in Melbourne Australia). The eldest of a family of 9 surviving children, he was sent to live with relatives Uncle John and Aunt Julia Dyason, and their son (John) and daughter (Julia) in Cape Town (South Africa) at the age of approximately 9 1/2 to 10 years.

In 1850 when he reached 18 years of age he left Cape Town and arrived at Port Adelaide (South Australia) on the Jack on 14th June 1850. Isaac found employment in a store in Norwood and then travelled to the Mt Alexander diggings in 1851 when gold was first discovered, later working in Adelaide Gully in Bendigo. He worked directly on the Diggings until 1854 and was relatively successful, leaving with £1,200 in his pocket. An uncle on his mother's side (Frederick Pearce) came out to join him on the Diggings in early 1853 and stayed in Australia for 25 years, returning to England in 1878 at the end of his adventures.

Isaac never returned to see his family in England and he never returned to see his relatives in South Africa. He finally became a successful business man and was the manager/director for some of the wealthiest mines in Bendigo.

In addition to the letters, Isaac wrote daily (an estimated 4 to 6 million words of which some 800,000 have been transcribed) in a series of diaries spanning his time in Australia. The transcribed diaries are available here - the un-transcribed ones may be viewed at the State Library of Victoria but the writing is difficult to read being angular, dense and small. Printed copies of the transcribed documents are available at the SLV and from the Bendigo Library in Victoria as I send them a copy upon completion.

The diaries contain great detail of life on the Bendigo and surrounding diggings - including much personal detail on Isaac's friend and business 'boss', the 'Quartz King' George Lansell who was one of the most successful quartz reef miners of the day.

The letters will also be of interest to Local and Social Historians interested in the daily concerns of respectable but struggling middle class families in Victorian England (especially Ramsgate in Kent) and of Cape Town in South Africa.

The letters are in 3 main 'collections' plus diaries for the years 1851/1852, 1858, 1859, 1863, 1868, 1873, 1874, 1878, 1880 and 1881:

  1. English Collection. Letters sent to Isaac Edward Dyason by his mother, father , one uncle and 8 living siblings. The vast majority of these letters were sent to Isaac while he was in the Diggings in Australia, and contain details of family life, education, social expectations, business details (Isaac's father ran The Royal Clarence Baths in Ramsgate) etc... all of the stuff of a family struggling to make do and remain respectable. They run to just over 140,000 words.

  1. South African Collection. Letters sent to Isaac by his Uncle and Aunt and two cousins from Cape Town. This is a smaller collection but contains similar interests for the modern researcher as the 'English' letters. These letters run to approximately 55,000 words. Cousin Julia married John Alfred Honeyborne of Prince Albert / Beaufort West. The full files which have both copies of the original letters AND the transcriptions are available to interested associations and libraries.

  1. Gold Diggings Collection. Letters sent to Isaac by his Uncle Frederick Pearce and associates within Australia. 194,000 words have been transcribed. They have been donated to the State Library of Victoria. In late 2018 a further trove of some 76+ letters were unearthed and added to the letters on this site. Printed copies are available at the SLV and Bendigo libraries. Includes a small collection of 'love letters' from Helen Cochrane in the 1860's.

If you would like to contribute to this site or if you have any questions please email I would like everybody who is interested to be able to make comments, and to contribute photos etc... but as far as I can gather you will not be able to do this unless given specific permission by the site administrator (see email address above).