John Deason was born in 1829 at Tresco on the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall, England.
In 1851 John was a tin dresser before moving on to gold mining. John continued searching for gold most of his life and, although becoming a store keeper, he lost a substantial proportion of his wealth through poor investments in gold mining.
Then John decided to buy a small farm in Australia near the town of Moliagul.
John, along with friend and fellow gold miner Richard Oates were searching for gold early in 1869 about 9 miles north-west of Dunolly in and around an area known as Bulldog Gully.
On February 5, 1869, they were digging near the root of a tree on a slope leading down into Bulldog Gully when they found the largest alluvial gold nugget in history.
The gold nugget was only about an inch below the surface and measured 24 inches by 12 inches.
At the time of their discovery there were no scales capable of weighing a nugget this large, so it was broken into three pieces on an anvil by Dunolly-based blacksmith Archibald Wall.
John Deason, Richard Oates and a few friends took the nugget to the London Chartered Bank, in Dunolly, which advanced them £9,000 on the spot.
Their nugget’s gross weight was 3,523.5 troy ounces and its net weight ended up being 2,315.5 troy ounces.
John and Richard were finally paid an estimated £9,381 for their nugget, which became known as the “Welcome Stranger”.
I estimated that 144 years later, at today’s Gold price of $1,670.25 an ounce, “Welcome Stranger” would be worth $3,867,463.87 dollars (U.S.) as of February 5, 2013.
The nugget was soon melted down and the gold was sent as ingots to Melbourne for forwarding to the Bank of England. It left Australia on board the steamship Reigate February 21, 1869.
An obelisk commemorating the discovery of “Welcome Stranger” was erected near the spot in 1897.
A replica of “Welcome Stranger” is in the City Museum, Treasury Place, Melbourne, Victoria; another replica is owned by the descendants of John Deason.
John Deason lived the rest of his life on his farm in Moliagul and died in 1915 at the age of 85.
After the 1869 find Richard Oates returned to Britain and married. Richard then returned with his bride to Australia and they had four children.
The Oates family purchased 800 acres of land at Marong in 1895 about 15 miles west of Bendigo, Victoria, where he farmed until his death in 1906 at the age of 79.
Now WE know em