James David Matthews and Jane Reeves

The eighth child of James and Betsy Matthews, although only their second son, was named James David Matthews. James David, who was always known as David, was born at the family home at White Horse Reef, Amherst, on 23 August 1861, four months before John and Mary Anne Cosstick's first son, James Edward was born. David's father was then forty three years of age. His mother, Betsy, was thirty seven. Mrs Tillet of Amherst assisted with the birth as nurse, and two months later, on 21 October, Betsy took her son to Amherst to officially register his birth .

As he grew up David Matthews became to know the children of William John Reeves and his wife, Mary Gill, who lived at Emeu a few miles north east of Amherst. He also came to know the children of the Marr family, as well as the many children of the Cosstick family. Bill Reeves, the oldest of the Reeves children, became David Matthews best friend. At least, second only to Bill's sister, Jane, who was five years younger than David, having been born at Cockatoo, east of Amherst, on 27 November 1866 .

Jane and Maria ReevesOn 27 May 1886 twenty four year old David Matthews married nineteen year old Jane Reeves at the residence of her sister, Maria . At the time of their marriage David was working as a miner at Amherst and Jane as a dressmaker at Narrigal, a short distance from Cockatoo, where the Reeves family had moved. Present at the wedding were members of each family, including Jane's brothers Bill and Jack, and a friend, Florence Rich, all of whom witnessed the signing of the marriage certificate. Jane's father had to give his special consent to the marriage as she was under twenty one. The Wesleyan Minister, Ken Hutchinson, conducted the ceremony.

After their marriage David and Jane decided to move from Amherst to Maryborough where David continued to work in the gold mines. It is possible that he was the manager of one of the mines at Chinaman's Flat just north of Maryborough.

On 11 February 1888 David and Jane's first child, a boy named Leslie William, was born at Maryborough. In that same year Jane's father William died and was buried at Majorca, and then, in 1889 David's mother, Betsy, also died. David and Jane decided to move back to live at his father’s house at White Horse Reef .

David and Jane had eight more children over the next twenty years.

During the 1890s David Matthews worked hard as a miner around Amherst. He made enough to live on, but it was not easy work. By the 1890s gold was becoming harder to find at many of the Victorian gold fields and Amherst was no exception. Any new field discovered was sure to be rushed, and during the middle of the nineties gold was discovered in Western Australia. Many miners from Amherst travelled to the west hoping to find better rewards. Among those who did were Richard Hamilton Cosstick the younger brother of James Edward, then in his mid twenties, and David Matthews. David left his family at Amherst, but soon returned having had no luck .

Matthews - Reeves mine at Jubilee Reef AmherstDavid was probably beginning to consider a major career change when, on 1 June 1897, five days before the birth of his daughter Ruth, he and Bill Reeves came across a small rocky outcrop which they subsequently named the Jubilee Reef in honour of the year being the Jubilee, or sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign. The story of their find was told in newspapers across the colony.


Rich Discovery Near Amherst- 31oz of Gold from 5lb of Stone.

William Reeves and David Matthews, while prospecting in the vicinity of Musical Reef, a mile north west from Amherst, came on an exceedingly rich find. They were following the course of the reef, when they found a cap cropping out of the surface with a little gold obtainable. They commenced to sink and at 3 feet the stone improved, and between that and the depth of 5 feet a rich patch was come on, 5lb weight of stone giving 31oz 3dwt of smelted gold including specimens of 1lb and 3lb containing 18ox of gold. The reef is from 6in to 9in wide, between well defined walls. It carries fair gold, is tending north with a westerly underlie, and the dish prospects show payable gold for about 50ft along the line of the reef. A crushing will be taken out shortly. The find is not far from the celebrated Union Churchill, which was exceedingly rich years ago. Parties surfacing in the area have obtained payable returns, including a specimen containing about 4oz of gold .

Matthews - Reeves mine at Jubilee Reef AmherstDuring the following weeks David Matthews and Bill Reeves unearthed more rich stone, estimated to contain about five ounces of gold in half a pound of stone . By 25 June a crushing of seventeen tons of stone was being put through William Cosstick's Croydon Battery. At about eight feet the rich stone disappeared, but by following a small pug vein down to eighteen feet the gold became better and the miners intended to dig a further six feet down before driving in a northerly direction .

The Argus carried the results of the crushing on Monday 28 June. The yield was about 2 ounces of gold per ton, giving just over thirty ounces for that crushing. It was expected that another crushing would be done in four or five weeks . A week later another rich patch was struck in the northward drive with up to three pounds of gold being found .

Map of Jubilee ReefTwo weeks later, on 13 and 14 July 1897, the Argus reported that the Matthews and Reeves mine was "the all absorbing topic" for discussion in the paper as the previous three days had seen over 190 ounces of gold taken out of the mine. The Talbot Leader, echoing the Argus, ran a feature article on the mine.



Jubilee Reef Amherst - More Rich Stone - Magnificent Specimens

Since our last issue the splendid stone taken out by Reeves and Matthews at Jubilee Reef, Amherst, has caused much stir and has been the all absorbing topic of conversation. Our readers are already aware of the fact that the party first made the discovery on 1st June while prospecting and that within a foot or so of the surface they unearthed over 31oz of gold, while a crushing of 15 tons gave 30oz. A shaft was put down, when the stone gave out, but following a pug vein it widened out at 18 feet to a few inches, and at a depth of 30 feet the stone widened out to 9 inches. They came back to about 15 feet from the surface and commenced driving north, and on Thursday, the 8th July, after having driven about 4 feet, they struck some exceedingly rich stone, specimens estimated to contain over 3lb weight of gold being picked out. The stone was even richer on Friday when the specimens taken out contained over 60oz of gold; while on Saturday more splendid specimens were taken out, stone sufficient to cover the bottom of a tin dish being estimated to contain over 2lb weight of gold. We had the pleasure of viewing this collection in company with several gentlemen, who were astonished at their magnificence, and it is naturally conceded that they exceed in richness anything previously seen here. Naturally the find attracted much attention, and many persons visited the claim. The stone is at present from 1 foot to 15 inches in thickness, tending north, and as previously reported is between well defined walls, and shows every sign of permanency .

Matthews - Reeves mine at Jubilee Reef AmherstNo work was done at the Jubilee Reef on Monday 12 July, on which day Bill Reeves and David Matthews deposited in the London Bank at Talbot a bag of specimens weighing 175 ounces estimated to contain considerably over 100 ounces of gold. Thirty ounces of specimens were taken to Melbourne, while the party retained between 30 and 40 ounces of gold. On Tuesday 13 July more rich specimens were obtained, containing over 1 pound weight of gold. Also on that day Reeves and Matthews arranged for Mr Cleary from Maryborough to peg out a lease around the reef and plans were made to float a company more efficiently able to mine the ground.

In the view of the Talbot Leader this find but emphasised the assertion made over and over again in its columns, that the Amherst and Talbot district offered "splendid inducements for mining investors", and that the place "once properly prospected" would result in "many flourishing mines being in existence". This claim had been made about the district for about forty years, at least since Henry Cosstick's Amherst United mine at White Horse Reef had met with failure. The Talbot Leader believed that many other rich reefs could be found "if only prospected for in a systematic manner". The paper went on to claim that there was no need for miners to travel all the way to Coolgardie in Western Australia if such rich finds could be made so close to home.

On Saturday 17 July two bars of gold weighing a total of 211 ounces were exhibited in the window of the London Bank at Talbot, and a further twenty ounces of specimens, representing the total gold yield of the Jubilee Reef since its discovery on 1 June - a remarkable total of 231 ounces of gold in just six weeks. The claim holders had planned to sell the whole of the reef to Mr Cleary from Maryborough while the yields were still good and to use more efficient methods to mine the reef. Matthews and Reeves had agreed on a price, but Dunstan and Buchan to the north, and McKenzie and Bennett to the south, wanted a higher price .

The sale fell through and so David Matthews and Bill Reeves continued working on their claim themselves. By the end of September 1897 they had sent a total of forty six tons of stone to be crushed at the Croydon Battery, and had obtained over 425 ounces of gold. The value of the gold so far was 1,733 pounds. After expenses were paid the two miners were able to keep one thousand and seven pounds. This was indeed a small fortune .

As with all gold mines, the gold eventually had to run out and on 22 October 1897 the Talbot Leader reported that the Jubilee Reef appeared to have been only a "blow". The shaft had been sunk to thirty feet where the stone was unpayable. The claim was placed under protection registration and plans were made to sink the shaft to 100 feet then drive both north and south along the reef. In the meantime, Bill Reeves and David Matthews went on a "prospecting tour" of the White Horse Ranges where they were reported to have found another reef which "promised to do well" . Nothing more was heard about this find.


Returning to Amherst, Matthews and Reeves resumed work at the Jubilee Reef but by the end of 1897 only another five tons of stone had been crushed giving a yield of just 14dwt of gold, worth three pounds. This was taken from the sixteen foot level . The first three months of 1898 saw a further eleven tons of stone crushed for a yield of just over 4 ounces which paid eighteen pounds. This stone had come from a depth of eighty feet and was of a better quality than most of the stone being obtained at that time, but for the rest of 1898 little profit was made .

The fortune had been won, and David Matthews and Bill Reeves began to look elsewhere to earn their income. Amherst had been the district in which they had been born and had grown up. There was a natural temptation to become established in the area and at one time David Matthews had thought of purchasing a property, complete with running stream, near Talbot.

Elizabeth HenryBut before he did anything about it he and Bill Reeves were attracted by reports of a good gold find south of Perth. Encouraged by their luck at the Jubilee Reef, and ignoring the advice of the Talbot Leader, they both travelled to the west. Soon they returned, empty handed, having arrived too late. Similarly, they had been attracted to a rush at Mount William in the Grampians, but had returned unimpressed .

While returning from the Grampians they had passed through Ararat and the town and its surrounding Company gold mines had impressed David so much that upon arriving home he announced to his wife and family that they were going to leave Amherst and move to Ararat. Bill Reeves also left Amherst. He had married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Henry, early in 1897, and decided to move to Tyabb where he had purchased an orchard with the proceeds of the Jubilee Reef .

David Matthews, Jane, their three sons - Les, David and Jack - and three daughters - Ivy, Ruth and Jean - moved to Ararat in 1901, the year in which the Australian colonies joined together in Federation. David bought a house in Girdleston Street and made major renovations to it. For a short time, until her death, Jane's mother Mary Anne, lived with them.

William Reeves and Elizabeth HenryAt first David worked at the Caledonia Mine, but when that mine closed he found work at Cathcart, west of Ararat. For several years he had been suffering from the after effects of an injured leg and tuberculosis and he was eventually forced to give up working in the mines. He took various gardening jobs around Ararat, but later, when his son, Dave, obtained the position of curator at Footscray Park, and after most of his children had married and left home, David and Jane Matthews moved to live at 11 Geelong Road, Footscray, opposite the Park.

They remained at Footscray, except for a brief period back in Ararat with their daughter Sylverton Ivy after her marriage to Richard Martin Cosstick, until David's death at the age of sixty on 28 September 1921.

After James David Matthews' death, Jane Matthews moved back to Ararat and lived with her daughter, Sylverton Ivy Cosstick until her death on 22 July 1947. She was buried next to her husband in the Footscray Cemetery.
William Reeves