Do you have a local history story to tell?

Story to Tell.indd

To acknowledge the pioneers and settlers of the Central Coast during our Pioneers Centenary year, our members are gathering snippets and stories of our men, women and children from the Wyong District.

We are looking for stories about local families – pioneers, settlers, local soldiers and those who returned from WW1 and settled locally.

We want to hear your memories of growing up on the Central Coast, as well as copies of letters, postcards, photos and any other related stories.

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Wyong District Pioneers Association
Alison Homestead, 1 Cape Road, Wyong 2259
PO Box 241, Wyong NSW 2259

Email: wyong.pioneers@gmail.com

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Gold in the Wollombi Hills?

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This news report of a new goldfield in the Wollomi Hills west of Wyong, was published just six months after gold was first discovered in New South Wales.

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Gold found in the Wollomi Hills. Source: The Empire, Sydney, 15 August 1851

On February 12, 1851, Edward Hammond Hargraves (1816–1891) discovered gold near Bathurst, at Lewis Ponds Creek. Hargraves had recently returned from the California Gold Rush where he had been unsuccessful in finding the mother load; but he realised that some areas of New South Wales had similar geological features to the goldfields of California. This inspired him to return to Australia to prove gold could be found here.

Edward Hargraves was accompanied on his prospecting expedition by John Hardman Lister and James Tom, he showed them the tricks of the trade and how to pan for gold. When they found five flecks of gold, Hargraves went to Sydney alone and left the others to continue the search. He announced his discovery and received the £10,000 reward for being the first person to find gold and claim it. He was also appointed Commissioner for Crown Land for which the Victorian Government paid him £5,000. He only claimed £2,381 before the funds were frozen after James Tom protested. An enquiry was held in 1853 which upheld that Hargraves was the first to discover a goldfield. Shortly before his death in 1891 a second enquiry found that John Lister and James Tom were responsible for discovering the first goldfield.

Edward Hammond Hargraves (1816-1891)

Edward Hammond Hargraves (1816-1891)

The following news report from the South Australian Register, Wednesday 3 March 1852, gives a progress report on Edward Hargraves’ travels as Commissioner of Crown Lands, and reports his opinion that Wollombi would never prove to be a prospector’s paradise.

We are happy to announce that Mr. Hargraves yesterday reached Maitland on his way to the various auriferous localities disclosed to the northward. As the result of Mr. Hargraves’s prospecting tour southward has been made public by the Government, we need not now advert to it. Mr. Hargraves left Sydney a few days since for his northern tour, overland, provided with two men, pack horses, &c.; and occupying a day or two around Brisbane Water, he ascertained that the Wyong Creek (flowing from the Wollombi Hills to the sea, and on which some time since it was reported gold had been found) was not an auriferous country, and that any gold found there must have been taken there first.

We believe Mr. H. leaves Maitland this morning for the Paterson, from whence he will make his way over towards the Company’s Stations, Port Stephens, and thence will take the ‘Bridle-Path’ to the New England tableland. Then, selecting Tamworth, or some other convenient place as head-quarters, he will visit the various auriferous localities disclosed to the Mate Maitland Gold Reward Committee, and if which the Government was informed by that Committee, and will also visit the Hanging Rock Diggings, or other new auriferous localities in that quarter, of which authentic information is furnished. Then, proceeding further north, he will make his way to the various auriferous localities stated to be found towards Moreton Bay.

The object of this prospecting tour is, we believe, not so much to discover new fields, as to ascertain and verify the character and extent of those disclosed by various individuals with a view to report thereon to the Government, who are desirous as early as possible of verifying and making public the existence of any profitabe gold fields that may be found in this or any other portion of the colony. Bearing this in mind, it will be seen that Mr. Hargraves’s movements must be necessarily somewhat erratic and uncertain, as at any part of this tour disclosures may be made in the northern districts that may modify the arrangements he has now in view.”

Hargraves was never a gold miner and instead made money from writing and lecturing about the Australian goldfields. He wrote a book about his discovery titled Australia and its Goldfields: a historical sketch of the Australian colonies from the earliest times to the present day with a particular account of the recent gold discoveries., published in 1855.

In 1856, Hargraves purchased 640 acres of land at Noraville and Budgewoi on the Central Coast of New South Wales. He built a large homestead and stockyards, and his property produced most of the food required for his family, his servants and his numerous guests. In 1877, Hargraves was granted a pension of £250 per year by the Government of New South Wales, which he received until his death.

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Even if, in Edward Hargraves’ opinion, the Wollomi Hills are not “auriferous country” – I think I may invest in a second-hand metal detector and do a spot of prospecting next time I am in the area. You never know!

SOURCES: Trove Digital Newspaper Archive; Australian Dictionary of Biography; C. Swancott, The Brisbane Water Story, vol 4; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson. Panning for Gold illustration, Susan Buck.

The Valley’s industries

These history notes are contributed to Valley Ventures by one of our members, Max Farley.

The Central Coast was a by-passed district in its early days with the only realistic access to the Sydney market being by water from Gosford. Yarramalong Valley residents had the additional task of first getting their goods down the Valley to Gosford. The handful of early settlers were, however, subsistence farmers who relied on the few animals they had and on the food they grew for themselves. Trees were only felled to make rudimentary shelters for the family and to clear land for growing vegetables and crops and to make space for animals and poultry.

Timber

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Yarramalong Valley timber cutters

These few words cannot tell the Valley’s timber story in any detail. As more settlers arrived in the latter part of the 1800s the potential to sell cut timber grew. When the Great North Road was developed in the 1850s it became possible to send timber from the top of the Yarramalong Valley to Maitland in one direction and to Wisemans Ferry in the other. By the 1880s the easiest timber to access had been removed and it was not economic to spend effort cutting and transporting timber from higher up the Valley’s hillsides. The industry declined.

The situation changed dramatically with the opening of the railway line from Newcastle to Sydney in 1889. Transporting timber in quantity to those markets became possible. Yards for the loading of timber were established where the road from the Valley met the railway line. This was where the racecourse now is. A town, Wyong, was created. This new phase of the industry peaked about 1910 and began to fade when available trees were again becoming less available in the 1920s. With timber from the surrounding State Forests together with some regrowth, the industry continued for many years but on a vastly reduced scale. There are now no mills in the Valley.

Subsequent Industries

In 1906 it was said “that when the timber is gone, Wyong is done”. Happily this proved wrong.

The 1889 railway was not only a boon for timber. The access to the markets of Sydney and Newcastle in particular could be utilised by other industries which had been developing in the shadow of the timber industry. There were a number of these. Yarramalong Valley residents were well experienced in tending to cows, orcharding and poultry farming. It is not at all surprising those three activities expanded commercially to fill the timber void.

Dairying

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Other dates could be chosen to mark the beginning of commercial dairying in the Valley but the opening of a dairy in about 1890 by Anders Christenson at his home “The Cedars”, known as the “Stone House”, was important. It and its adjacent cheese house still remain at 595 Brush Creek Road. He also had a piggery and produced ham and bacon. From that date on, dairying expanded rapidly. In 1907 a co-operative, the Wyong Butter Factory, was set up near Alison Homestead. Farmers supplied cream to the Butter Factory to make butter which was sold in Sydney. By 1921, 200 dairy farmers were sending both milk and cream to the factory. It became known as the Milk Factory. The best dairying days were the 1950s, 60s and 70s before the industry declined. Land prices in the Valley increased to such an extent that for many it became preferable to sell out and put their capital to better use with less physical effort and a better life style.

Orcharding

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Orange trees had been growing in limited numbers in the Shire for many years before the coming of the railway made citrus a commercial industry. The Salmon brothers of Wyong Creek introduced citrus into the Valley in the early 1900s and it became a major industry. Crops were not restricted to citrus but extended to persimmon and stone fruit. Both dairying and orcharding suffered a decline in the depression and after WW2 the necessary land areas were being reduced by urban growth. Large scale orcharding had virtually disappeared as a significant industry by the late 1960s.

Poultry Farming

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Early Yarramalong Valley free-range poultry farm

Poultry farming required relatively little land space and became a main industry when the citrus and dairying industries were declining. In 1961 the Central Coast was producing eight million eggs annually as well as large quantities of meat. However this industry lost its commercial significance in the Valley with the advent of egg production and poultry meat in “battery” cages. These practices do not exist in the Valley.

Change

Much changed in the latter quarter of the 1900s. Timber, dairying, orcharding and poultry farming largely disappeared. At the same time transport to other parts of the Central Coast to Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter improved even more, particularly with the opening of the M1 (F3) freeway.

These changes had significant social effects. It became possible, particularly for Sydney people, to travel easily to the area and purchase full or part-time rural retreats and hobby farms. Land values increased (a mixed blessing perhaps); education and employment opportunities away from the Valley became available to all particularly women and young people. Cultural attractions not available in the Valley drew people to them.

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The Valley now boasts a variety of farm-stays, horse studs and even a few alpaca farms

Notwithstanding these many changes, the Yarramalong Valley has been able to retain much of its valued rural atmosphere. This is partly because a number of turf farms replaced dairies; properties devoted to horse care – breeding, spelling and riding – multiplied and specialist farms (alpaca, cattle breeding and grazing, deer, donkey, goat) appeared. Even bee breeding and, for a time, wine production. Hospitality activities (farm stays, function venues, dining locations) have emerged. There is no limit to the commercial possibilities available within the Valley to those with imagination and enthusiasm.

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SOURCES: Max Farley; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson.

Pioneers’ Trivia Night

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Our Pioneers’ Trivia Night on Thursday 6 March was well attended by locals keen to showcase their general knowledge. The four rounds of quiz questions were prepared and delivered by Susan Buck who was ably assisted by Ian and Greg checking the answers and tallying the scores.

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All the questions were on Australian history and general knowledge and the forth round was themed on Central Coast identities, history and local knowledge. Our seven teams studied the quiz sheet and put their heads together to find the answers to questions such as:

What year did Matthew Flinders circumnavigate the Australian continent? 

What was the name of Matthew Flinders’ cat? 

Where is the National Holden Motor Museum? 

List the names of the Central Coast railway stations on the line from south to north.

Some of the questions were quite a challenge, but everyone went home with their minds full of fun facts and local knowledge.

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Thank you to our generous local businesses for their support and donating Lucky Door Prizes: Gary Gavenlock, Leone Frame, Luka Chocolates, Gennaro’s Italian Restaurant at the Grand Hotel, Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, the Royal Hotel, Legends Bakery, Gold Racquet Restaurant and Club Wyong.

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Thank you also to Tanya, John and Alan of the Wyong RSL Bowling Club for the use of their club house. We appreciate all your help and cheers to Tanya for working the bar between quiz rounds.

And finally, thank you to all those who attended our Trivia Night, we raised over $475 toward our Pioneer Centenary Celebrations planned for the October Long Weekend in 2015. We hope you enjoyed the evening and look forward to seeing you at future events.