POLICE arrested an angry gold miner during a bitter argument over digging up Rosalind Park 150 years ago this week.
The prisoner was embroiled in a dispute with the city's council over the future of the public reserve.
Still, Hugh Lewis might well have avoided court if he had not insisted on hastily rigging up a wooden dwelling at the edge of the reserve, next to Pall Mall.
He definitely would have stayed out of the lockup if he had immediately torn it to the ground, a Bendigo Advertiser article related the next day.
"As Lewis declined to do so, the police pulled it down, and marched Lewis through the streets to the lockup, and charged him with committing a breach of the peace," the paper reported.
It is slightly unclear today why Lewis thought the shanty would help his cause.
Squatters could mine crown land in certain circumstances, though they needed permission from the colonial government. Lewis appears to have lacked that.
Maybe he and his wealthy group of mining patrons were trying to force the issue to a head.
They had spent days trying to peg out the ground. That would have allowed them to at least apply for a mining licence.
Every time they laid down pegs the council had removed them.
Tensions were likely fueled by the council's push to turn the area into a park, historian James Lerk said.
"By the early 1870s parts of the reserve had been planted out for use as a public park," he said.
"The council didn't want to see that work upset."
Six years earlier, miners had finally succeeded in getting their hands on parkland around the Bendigo Creek.
They wanted to "puddle" it - an intensive process where clay was dug up and washed with running water until all that was left was gold.
"People had assumed there was going to be a lot of gold there because it had been virtually untouched," he said.
Even at the height of the 1850s gold rush the land had been set aside for a government encampment.
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By 1871 a new mini-gold rush was on, with huge numbers of investors pouring money into Bendigo mining companies.
"Every little bit of ground that was unpegged was being marked out," Mr Lerk said.
These people wanted to sink shafts deep down to the quartz reefs that wended underneath the city's streets.
Some miners who successfully lobbied their way onto public land during the late 19th century piled up huge fortunes.
A group in Golden Square turned ground reserved for rail lines into what was for a time the deepest mine in the world, Mr Lerk said.
Train passengers still trundle virtually over the top of The New Chum Railway mine every day.
Some of the ruins are still visible from Breen Street, close to the train bridge over Thistle Street.
Pressure from rich mine backers to dig up parts of Rosalind Park could be intense.
Mr Lerk said the public was often likely on their side.
"The majority of the male population were in mining," he said.
These people argued that it was the height of a mining and investor boom and the money might not be around if people waited too long.
The council did not always object.
Poppet heads ended up rising on the edge of what we today call Rosalind Park at the Soldiers Memorial Institute and near the Faith Leech Aquatic Centre.
Mining speculation even prompted the Advertiser to criticise the council for moves it feared would make mining the park easier.
"The whole area ... has been set apart for [the people's] recreation, and has been improved by the expenditure of their money," its editor argued.
So Hugh Lewis knew he was at least in with a chance of winning his fight even as he was dragged to the lockup.
Even as he sat down in his cell a group of wealthy miners were calling for their lawyers and setting aside money for the court case.
Alas, Lewis's dream was dashed by a magistrate who believed the law, not "force of arms", should decide mining claims.
The court ruled the land was the council's after all, and fined Lewis for what it described as trespassing.
This story is the latest in the Bendigo Weekly's regular history series entitled WHAT HAPPENED?
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