The Land We Live Inn: Drunken gold-digger had his locks lopped while asleep in Sofala pub

The former Land We Live Inn, Sofala. Inset: A gold digger. Picture: Melbourne Punch 1889.

ONE afternoon in the year 1858 Bill Simpson visited a little weatherboard pub known as The Land We Live Inn for a few rums.

The single-storey weatherboard pub traded in the gold-mining town of Sofala, about 40km north of Bathurst on the NSW central tablelands, from the early 1850s to 1874. The inn survives today as a private residence.

Bill was a long haired digger, typical of the period, rigged in short Wellington boots, digger-shirt and moleskins when he called-in the the pub. “His mousey coloured locks were long curling up from the nape of his neck like a surf ripple, and liberally soaked with castor oil, the popular hair lubricant in those days,” Will Cater recalled in a reminiscence published in The Albury Banner on August 19, 1938.

Bill, who was on the nose, downed quite a few rums that afternoon before he stretched himself out on a stool and fell asleep.

As a practical joke, ‘Freddy the Fossicker’ paid a three penny weight gold nugget to barmaid, Susie Slapp to take the scissors to sleeping Bill’s locks.

When Bill awoke he raved like a madman. It took five men to tie his hands behind his back and get him away to his hut, minus his oily old hat, which Susie Slapp hung on a post in the yard to bleach.

The following are a few interesting newspaper stories relating to the Land We Live Inn.

[The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW) Thursday 21 January 1858]



Sofala, 15th January 1858.

The inhabitants of the Turon were to-day thrown into a state of excitement by the sudden and incredulous announcement of a large nugget of gold having been found on Spring Creek. The report, however, shortly became verified by the owner gratifying the anxious curiosity of the residents with a view of the precious metal. It is a most beautiful nugget of pure gold, without a spec of quartz or mixture, weighing one hundred and twenty-four ounces ,being by far the largest nugget found on the Turon gold-field.

The lucky diggers are a party of men (sailors, I believe) employed prospecting by Mr.Rogers, an enterprising digger and resident innkeeper of Sofala.

The place where it was obtained is about half a mile from the township, and known as Spring Creek, but more commonly called ” Nuggety Gully,” owing to the very many nuggets that have from time to time been found there. It is notorious that gold exists in large quantities all through the Turon district, and no doubt some good patches will now be brought to light in the locality of Nuggety Gully, a very considerable rush having already taken place in that direction, so that we may again have the pleasure ere long of chronicling a similar lump of the precious metal having been removed from its primitive bed.

Several Chinamen have arrived here during the week, and rumour asserts 1000 more of these celestials in a body are en route for these diggings. Their presence will, morally speaking, be no acquisition to our well-conducted digging population; nevertheless, numerically, they will tend to develop the auriferous wealth of these diggings, embracing a most extensive tract of country, and will furnish to an increasing population remuneration and employment for years yet to come.

Mr. Rogers, the proprietor of the Landwelivein public-house, intends to show the nugget to visitors from 9 o’clock a.m. to 10 o’clock p.m., after which hour it is to be transferred to Chubb’s impenetrable  for the night.


[Wellington Times (NSW) Thursday 29 June 1939]


By Will Carter

William Rogers who, in addition to carrying on as a builder at the Sofala diggings in the early days, ran a public house, known as The Land We Live Inn, and also functioned as an undertaker; he was a busy man.

One day an old digger dropped into the bar from Erskine Flat and, over a couple of rums, he informed the publican that his wife had died that morning. “And who is going to bury her?” inquired Rogers. “Oh, you’d better do that, Bill,” replied the digger. “You knowed her, and she knowed you, and you was always a friend to us both.”

A bit later the sluicer dropped into the bar of Bill Davis, a rival of Rogers in the rum and undertaking lines. “What, your missis dead?” exclaimed the boniface in surprise at the news, “and who’s to do the undertaking?” “Oh, well,” said the widower, and then paused a moment, as if in doubt, “I suppose you’d better look after that.”

The potency of Rogers’ rum had further fuddled the old man’s feeble memory. Next day Rogers drove up to the digger’s hut with a quite presentable coffin, and whist he was unlimbering it from the spring cart, up drove Davis with a rudely made pine receptacle for the remains of the departed lady.

A most unseemly wrangle between the undertakers was settled by the digger who said, “Rogers has made a decent coffin; yours ain’t fit to bury a dorg in, Davis, you can take it back home again.” After the interment at Sofala, Davis waited outside the gate of the cemetery and when Rogers came out, he landed him one on the nose. A brief and bloody fistic skirmish followed, and when the next court day came round, the rival undertakers were each fined for disorderly conduct.

[Wellington Times (NSW) Thursday 11 June 1936]


By Will Carter

Bill Rogers had two jobs, at Sofala in the early fifties. Firstly he ran a hotel, or inn, as the pubs were mostly called in those days, and he was an undertaker as well. Rather a queer example of dual capacity in business, wasn’t it? Well, he had even a third string to his fiddle, for he often indulged in a little mining investment, which, like the present day lottery ticket, might, or might not, bring a profitable result; in Rogers’ case it turned out trumps.

Two patrons of ‘The Land We Live In,’ as the pub was called, were Scandinavians, Bill and Charlie, and another was a chap known as ‘Dubbo.’ One day, Rogers acquired a claim down at Spring Creek, about a mile down the Turon River. He couldn’t find time, or opportunity to work the claim himself, so he put the three men previously mentioned, on at wage, which would be considerably less than the despised basic wage of to-day — thirty shillings a week, or more than likely a pound a week and tucker.

The three started one Monday morning, Rogers having told them, that he would go down with their dinners at midday, and see how they were shaping. At about 11 a.m. they knocked off for a smoke; and after resting a while, one of them, feeling frolicsome, started pelting pieces of clay at the others. The game soon became three-handed.

Charlie, leaning back, picked up a good big lump of clay, and was about to heave it at Bill, when its unusual weight caused him to examine it. He broke off a bit of the wash dirt, and was thrilled to find a large nugget encased in the clay. ‘Dubbo’ at once proposed that they should appropriate the lump, and say nothing to Rogers about it, but Charlie protested that Rogers had given them the work, and was the rightful owner of the gold. Just at that time Rogers was cutting three lunches up at the inn. After a while he looked out through a window of the dining room, and saw the three coming, and making high commotion. Charlie was on Bill’s back, waving something tied in a red cotton handkerchief. In they came, and Charlie flopped the nugget on the table, which was ready for dinner. The cups nearly jumped out of their saucers, and the plates rattled.

Rogers, seeing the glitter of the nugget picked it up,  jumped up on to the table, waved it round and hurrahed till he was hoarse, his family dancing round the room. The nugget weighed 132 ounces, and fetched £528 at Bathurst.

Mary Ann Rogers, the fearless daughter of the publican; rode in by way of the short cut, through the wild bush, with the gold inpillow case, hung on a horn of her side-saddle. The diggers received a fiver each, and there was free house at ‘The Land We Live In‘ for the rest of the day.

[Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW) Friday 19 August 1938]


By Will Carter

It was in 1858 that Bill Simpson called in, one afternoon, at Rogers’public house, The Land We Live Inat very old Sofala, for a drink. He was one of the long haired diggers, typical of the period, rigged in short Wellington boots, digger shirt and moleskins. His mousey coloured locks were long curling up from the nape of his neck like a surf ripple, and liberally soaked with castor oil, the popular hair lubricant in those days.

Bill was not a bath fiend nor was he a man to over worry with regard to laundry details, and it will be obviously inferred that the aroma that perambulated from pub to pub when not associated with the cradle or long-tom, made a direct hit in olfactory, bull’s eye.

The assembled booze artists gave back when Bill entered the bar, but soon moved up in response to his all-hands shout. Bill was a good spender where rum was available. The drinks went down in merry rounds until Simpson stretched himself out on a stool and fell asleep. It was then that ‘Freddy the Fossicker’ passed a pretty three penny weight nugget to Susie Slapp, a serving wench, in acknowledgment of which she took her scissors and shore the sleeping Bill’s hair close to the scalp. When Bill awoke and missed his locks he raved like a madman, rushing round swearing to do for the publican and the rest of the company. He shot stones, collected in the road, at the bottles, liberating much good spirit, some at least of which was sucked up hog fashion, by several diggers sprawled upon their knees on the floor. It took five men to tie his hands behind him and get him away to his hut, minus his oily old hat which Susie Slapp bore away on the end of a poker and hung on a post in the yard to bleach.

[Camperdown Chronicle (Victoria) Thursday 19 May 1938]


Among the old time publicans were many long headed business men, who ran two, and in some cases, on the early diggings, at places like Hill End and Sofala, three different businesses at the same time.

The late Bill Rogers who ran a pub (The Land We Live In) and an undertakery, while engaging in alluvial mining, was one of such men. Many ran a pub in conjunction with a store and bakery.

There was one very cute outback publican who knew humanity fairly well. When shearers, and other bush workers, came to spend their cheques on a spree, he always stopped them while they had a tenner left. He then weaned them off on soup and small nips and, having got them straight, he sent them off with a good stock of rations and clothes, with money to carry them back to their job.

That man died a rich man. His weak booze victims knew they could trust him right through.

[Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga) Monday 13 September 1937]


Mine host Rogers, of the Land We Live In, had a fine peach tree in full bearing at the back of his pub. Some Chinamen, drinking at the bar requested a few. “Go around and get some,” said the publican. They went. Next night they came again about nine o’clock, and got more.

It became a regular thing, but the crop was diminishing rapidly, for, while the two were in the bar, three of their confederates were out stripping the tree.

Big ‘Bendigo Harry’ arrayed himself in a sheet one night, set a tray of brandy alight and carried it on his head, and with trace-chains clanking from his legs, and emitting awe inspiring groans, he suddenly appeared near the peach tree.

The Chinkies dropped to the ground uttering fearful yells, rushed into the bar, and exclaimed. “Oh, Mishita Logers, Mishita Logers, ghost come longa peach-tlee; big ugly fellow ghost! me no want empeach; me go home long housie; you go owshi lookem longa ghost; me too muchee flighten allagetta!” Rogers was never bothered by the thieves afterwards.

[Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW Thursday 28 July 1927]



A Bathurst pioneer, Mrs. Mary Anne Lowe, died at the age of 90 years, after a life crowded with adventure (says the “Evening News”).

Mrs. Lowe spent many years of her early life at Sofala and Hill End, two famous gold diggings close to Bathurst. At Sofala, her father, among  the earliest colonists, kept the “Land We Live In” Hotel, and employed many prospectors to mine for him. He won the biggest nugget ever unearthed on the Turon fields. It was worth £4000. 

For fear it would be stolen, Mrs.Lowe’s father planted the find several feet below the surface under his bedroom. One morning, before daybreak,  he quietly dispatched his 17-year-old daughter, the late Mrs. Lowe, to Bathurst with it. She returned safely with the bullion received from the bank in return for the nugget, though molested by several suspicious  characters along the track.

Deceased’s father also had another lucky find. After a violent thunderstorm, he discovered a £500 nugget on Spring Creek.

The old veteran often spoke of Sofala as “Calico Town,” because the  whole settlement, excepting the public inns, consisted of calico tents. It was her proud boast that she nursed Judge Coyle soon after he saw the light of day at Sofala. The miners, she used to say, had plenty of money, and often she saw them light their pipes with five pound notes. She was acquainted with all the celebrities of the day,  including Joe Goddard, afterwards a world-famous heavyweight boxer, and Larry Foley, another noted pugilist.

In her younger days Mrs. Lowe was an accomplished horsewoman. To the miners, she was known as “The Princess of Horsewomen,” and whenever she rode in races they invariably backed her mount. Her husband, the late James Lowe, was a crack whip with Cobb and Co., and had encounters with bushrangers.

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1 reply

  1. Fantastic to find mention of “the land we live in”hotel at Sofala.A Michael Merrin , mounted con stable ,from Ireland was buried in Dubbo ,witness John Welfare , publican .Place of death “the land we live in” but Fitzroy St Dubbo. This pub only one I can find , no one in history groups at Dubbo know of such a pub. …..Curious . Eh?greg Tracey.…”
    Michael was only 22at death .my ggfathers brother. John Merrin also mounted trooper NSW Central west…..

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