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Davies, Joseph (1839–1922)

by John Reynolds

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Joseph Davies (1839-1922), mine manager, was born in Hobart Town, the second son of James Davies, shipsmith. At 12 he went to Ballarat and the goldfields at Bendigo and Castlemaine. In 1854 he returned to Tasmania where he received his first instruction in geology from John Nicholas Clemons. In 1858 he went to Victoria and gained experience of quartz mining in South Gippsland, where by 1872 he became manager of the Ophir mine and was recognized as an expert in mineralogy and chemistry.

Davies returned to Tasmania in 1877 and worked on the Lefroy goldfield until June when the Dally brothers discovered a reef at Brandy Creek on the western side of the River Tamar near the townsite of Beaconsfield. On 12 August Davies was appointed manager of the Dally brothers' mine. In October William Hart and William Grubb of Launceston bought the mine and formed the Tasmania Gold Mining and Quartz Crushing Co., with Davies as manager. By November 1878 the mine was paying dividends and a uniform average yield was maintained for the next twenty-five years, 'an indication of the richness of the mine and his capable management'. Although the 'Tasmania' was continually flooded Davies later acquired other small mines on the same lode. Operations extended and the mining force was greatly increased until the mine was the largest employer of mine labour in Tasmania, and among the largest steadily producing reef gold mines in Australia. Davies made a fine collection of rocks and mineral types from the field and prepared detailed geological maps of the area which attracted the attention of professional geologists. As an acknowledged expert in reef mining under excessively wet conditions, he was often called to advise mainland mining companies with similar problems. In 1886 he published History of the Tasmanian Gold Mining and Quartz Crushing Company. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Tasmania and became a corresponding member of the Geological Society of London.

Davies did not confine his activities to management and professional studies, but became an active leader in the new community. He was a justice of the peace, a master in the Masonic fraternity, chairman of the Local Schools' Board of Advice, a Methodist local preacher and a vigorous advocate of temperance. According to a visiting clergyman, 'The excellent character of the Company's miners is well-known and much of their sobriety and steadiness was no doubt due to the example of Davies'. His six hundred employees were carefully selected, and a court conviction or habitual drunkenness usually debarred a man from employment. Bad language was also discouraged. In one crisis he had to stand down a hundred men, but he believed in equal sacrifice and voluntarily cut his own pay from £8 to £6 10s. a week. He retired in 1902 and received a bonus of £1000. In his long service the Tasmania had yielded some eighteen tons of gold and dividends of over £750,000.

Davies became general manager of the Queen Margaret gold mine opened in 1896 at Bulong, east of Coolgardie, Western Australia, and returned in 1909 to his home, the Grove, at George Town. He died there on 16 September 1922, survived by his wife Elizabeth, née Trevaskis, whom he had married at Ballarat in 1872, and by their three sons and four daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 2 (Hobart, 1900)
  • J. Kerrison. Beaconsfield Gold (Beaconsfield, 1963)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 18 Sept 1922.

Citation details

John Reynolds, 'Davies, Joseph (1839–1922)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 25 March 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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