The Correspondent of the Bathurst Free Press made an unaccompanied journey on horseback, starting and finishing in Cowra in 1861, through the settled and unsettled areas on and near the Lachlan/Milburn Creek area. He published his findings in a series of articles in the Bathurst Free Press, commencing on 26 January 1861, finishing on 6 February, 1861. The references to the early settlers and the locations make interesting reading for those looking into the region’s history.
I have added at the end of this report, a further account of the Milburn Creek/Lachlan River diggings. This report, published on 20 November 1861 adds value to the early 1861 accounts.
(From our own Correspondent Jan/Feb 1861)
” Having had occasion to traverse an extensive and rather thinly peopled portion of the district immediately around Cowra whilst engaged in a public duties of considerable importance, it has occurred to me that perhaps some little account of the country I passed over might be of some interest to your readers and be the means of directing attention to a portion of the Carcoar district, as yet that little-known but which is of the utmost value in a mining, grazing and agricultural point of view.
The portion of the Carcoar district to which I allude, is comprehended between the Abercrombie and the Belubula rivers with the Lachlan in front and bounded towards Carcoar by the Canowindra and Grubbenbong roads: the one striking Belubula at Canowindra – the other the Abercrombie near its junction with the Rocky Bridge creek. A central road traverses the district (as its name implies) towards Cowra along these roads and rivers. With your permission I will endeavour to guide your readers.
Starting from Cowra along the central road, the first four miles rises towards Binni through fine open box ridges, forming first rate grazing land just now, but fit for agriculture of the first and highest order; the soil, a rich red loam of decomposed trap and granite, growing large and lofty trees, say from 30 to 40 to the acre, interspersed with a flowering shrub, (called by the shepherds by the rather ominous name of Poison tree) and the well known green Wattle, familiar to all bush travellers, the summits of the ranges are divided into distinct peaks, crowned with immense blocks of granite piled on the top of one another in extraordinary forms, and masses of tremendous bulk; as you advance, the ranges gradually swell higher and higher, ending in what I called the Wallaroo Hills. In the valleys between the ranges the finest land is to be had, ideal for crops of any and every kind: the water however is scarce but can be easily had by digging or damning; the grass throughout being 2 and even 3 feet in height, of a description called by the shepherds and stockmen oat grass.
Passing through a gap in the highest Wallaroo Range you reach the falls towards Binni creek and after a short and rather abrupt descent reach Binni creek itself, up which I turned having the Wallaroo on my left, and the creek on my right. Binni Creek has a deep wide bed, overlooked by sloping ranges of beautiful grass, lightly timbered: the soil the same as that passed on the other side. By the marks on the trees I could see that a large number of farms had been surveyed and many taken up, and from evidence of industry which I observed will soon be under crops. This is one spot of these localities fit for a small farmer: good soil, with but few trees and plenty of back run, a Mill at hand for their produce, and a climate warm and pleasant even in winter. Veins of quartz and other indications of metallic riches everywhere meet the eye, and will I am certain prove highly valuable someday.
The farms that have already been taken up by producing fine crops, are neatly fenced, and the building is comfortable look at. Following the creek up until is joined by the Islands Creek, the country still keeps swelling out into long and sloping ranges, covered with a grass so much relished by both shepherd and sheep, on account of the first rate character of the pasturage. Three or four miles from the junction brings you to the Islands, the residence of the Messrs Lynch; here a large lagoon and several fine springs are enclosed in the paddock, and to judge from the wheat and haystacks about the place, those gentlemen have had heavy crops this season. A small plot of maize in front in front of the house looked remarkably well and some very fine potatoes were shown to me, which had been grown on the spot.
Having been hospitably entertained both self and horse, I proceeded to cross the ranges between this and the Sheet of Bark (Ellerslie), thence to Waugoola, where I remained for the night. The crops at this last place are rather light; Waugoola is too well known to require a description at my hands.
Leaving Waugoola next morning I took the road towards Carcoar, three or 4 miles of which is uphill all way till you reach the edge of the stringy bark country which stretches almost without interruption in a North East direction to the edge of Georges Plains. On the summit of the range the Grubbengong road leads to the right, while the Carcoar traveller strikes down a green gully to the left, called Three Mile Hollow and leading towards Limestone Creek. This is a fine flat well watered spot and well-suited for small farmers: soil my favourite red loam mixed here and there was pipeclay, with deep black soil in the narrow gullies leading into the main flat. The road, however, keeps to the right of the swamp through the stringy barks, and for the next 3 miles is rather uninteresting.
Here you pass the upper portions of Limestone Creek all along which farms have been measured on both sides of the creek. Here again the soil is good and the water plentiful with abundance of back run, which is not likely soon to be taken up; this is another excellent spot for the agriculturalists with a climate cooler than the neighbourhood of Cowra, having long established post roads passing through it, and other advantages; mills on both sides, and forming the centre of the Police district of Carcoar; distant from the township of name about 12 miles, with a good road all the way. Crossing Limestone Creek and passing round a lofty trappean range to the left, a mile and a half brings you to Irunbundon (?) Creek, down which you proceed until it crosses the Canowindra Road and thence to the Belubula.
Within the last three or four years this fine creek (Belubula) has been surveyed and numbers of farms have already been purchased, and are now in full crop; others are just being cleared, and mostly fenced; numerous farms can be obtained for the upset price, and before long the whole of this part will be taken up. The soil of the best description abounding with green wattles (always a sure indication of good farming land) and covered with grass: numerous large holes of permanent water everywhere abound, with a good sheltered back country to depend upon for working cattle, and having back water all through the year. Should any of your readers wish for good farms well watered, let them come here and select for themselves; at the same time I would remind them to come quickly.
This famous Creek is within eight or 9 miles of Carcoar, to which there is an excellent road while the various lines Grubbingbong, the Abercrombie, Grabine, Bigga and Cowra passing through the entire length of the valley. Fencing timber of the very best description can be had within a few miles, so that here a Free Selectionist would have it all his own way, and what is more, get good value for his money. The greater portion of the creek can be had at once, and the intending purchaser has only to apply to Mr Beardmore at Carcoar, pay down his money, get his land and start at once so as to be in time for the incoming spring.
I have a great liking this part of the country and it strikes me that it is destined to be a thoroughly peopled agricultural region before many years are past. Starting at the lowest occupied farm — that Mr William Leabeater opposite to which is Mr Burke’s — I came to Mr Donaldson’s next, Mr James Leabeater, above which comes Mr Burke again then Lowe’s, then, Snowden then Mr John Linden’s sheep station, after which you come in the hospitable mansion of Grubbenbong itself, beautifully situated in the middle of a flourishing garden. I gave up journeying further that day and remained here for the night, leaving Grubbenbong early next morning.
I passed round the wheat paddock, through what is called the gap, towards the Hill station situated on a creek flowing into the Abercrombie; across to the head of Millport Creek, thence to the Tea Tree Springs, occupied by Mrs McGrath, again through a highly interesting country beautifully grassed and watered, and green as a wheat field in Spring, and presenting as I proceeded, the next lovely situations for farms that could be had; with high rocky ranges, enclosing long green valleys, down through which came the bright waters, murmuring and dancing in the sun, the rippling stream, shaded by flowering shrubs of bright and varied hue, now in full bloom, and scenting the early morning air with a grateful perfume. Brushing against the bushes, a shower of dew, cool and refreshing would be shaken over myself and horse; numbers of large purple parrots, green leeks, plovers, curlews and other early morning birds, flew across my path, and plunged with whizzing wing into the heath like shrubs through which I was passing. I could observe the bee busy with the numerous flowers which lined my path, “the woodpecker tapping the hollow gum tree”, the distant bell bird sounded his monotonous tinkle, the harsh screaming cockatoo hovering overhead, on his way to the ripening fields, down towards the Abercrombie; in fact a more memorable ride I have not had for many a day. The fresh breeze of the early morning, the gradual warming up of the atmosphere, as the sun rose higher and higher over the mountains on my right, was worth many miles ride to enjoy, and I assure you I did enjoy it, and that thoroughly.
Hospitality entertained at the “Tea Tree Springs” , I proceeded through a rugged country rising and increasing in elevation as I rode along , and I could perceive that I was gaining a main range running direct for the Abercrombie ; at a distance of about four miles from the Tea Tree springs I gained the summit of what is called “The Pinnacle”, from which I obtained a magnificent view of a vast portion of the “Abercrombie”, dotted here and there with what appeared to be small clearings. I could count six or seven distinct ranges, towering one above the other, and bounding the valley as far as the eye can reach. One wild looking amphitheatre formed by some of the highest mountains in the country backed up in the dim distance by the outlines of yet more distant hills which reared themselves up against the sky, altogether made up a most striking scene. The lower ranges, nearer to the river were often nearly clear of trees, and covered with splendid grass; bare and bold granite rocks in huge masses shot up from the summit of others mixed here and there with veins of quartz living in streaks across the hills like wreaths of snow through the herbage through which they lay.
From this place it appeared as if the wild valley was cut across and blocked up by the particular range on which I stood; to the left a long dark valley came down from the far distance, and rested sometimes in shadow as the clouds floated along. Down, far to the right, I could detect the dark foliage of the trees bordering the river, with alimores(?) here and there of the water, blue and glittering in the distance. Having taken a sort of Survey as to how I was to get down from the ranges, my eyes rested on a lower and rather barren ridge, springing from the pinnacle on which I stood, and at a distance of about 5 or 6 miles, terminating in a peculiar flat-topped green hill; to this I beat myself through a barren and rugged country.
As I descended this range I could observe magnificent reaches of the river opening on my right, the tremendous water curling and flashing in the sun; the buzz of the bee passed quickly near me, and myriads of other insects filled the air with busy wings; high, very high and not unlike a mere speck in the heavens the Eagle hawks soared with strong and daring pinion to the clouds. Altogether, this was a scene I greatly enjoyed, for having been reared among the solitudes of a mountainous region, my thoughts fled back to my younger days, and to the wild peaks of “The Land of Mountain and Flood”. Keeping along this range and gradually descending, I come at last to the green flat previously spoken of, and here I observed one of those very remarkable differences that often occur in this country. The range I had traversed for the last five or six miles was, as I said, barren and rugged, with scarcely a blade of grass, but here within a few paces a splendid grassed country opens. An outburst of trap seemed to have issued from the end of the range, and, flooding a considerable district, had settled down and gradually cooled; here and there large masses of granite appeared to have been borne on with this flood of lava (so to speak) and as the molten mass hardened, settled themselves down in their present position.
The whole of the soil on this immense hill is of the finest description being the production of the decomposed trap, and covered with the most beautiful description of grass I had yet met with on this romantic trip. Round the base of the hill, the river runs dashing and foaming over gigantic masses of rocks, and has formed numerous islands, round which the glad waters sparkle and ramble on. How grateful both to myself and horse to plunge into the clear cold stream, and have a good long swim in one of the many reaches I had observed from the hill.
I struck the river at its junction with Rocky Bridge Creek and found quite a colony of diggers settled there; upon enquiry, they all appeared satisfied with their findings, and they seemed to have no wish to ramble further. They had substantial huts, and many had small gardens attached to them, wherein were abundant supplies of vegetables; mobs of hardy and healthy looking children gambolled about; and flocks of geese and ducks squatted on the river; in fact the place had a lively, jolly look about it, that I was rather loath to leave it.
Having been entertained at one of the huts, I pursued my way down the left bank of the river, through the most magnificent scenery; wild and rocky mountains, and long retiring gullies piercing the precipitous hills, and winding away and away towards their inward recesses, each sending its tribute to swell the larger waters. At these junctions, beautiful farms could be chosen – and in many instances are selected already – farms of from 30 to 200 acres could be had at these places; the soil is deep and loamy, the river is in front and wild mountains tower all around. Having a penchant as before said for mountains, it would be to such a place as this, that I should wish to select my own farm. 30 or 40 acres in such a situation would give the fortunate holder a great stretch of country accessible only to himself.
The crops at the various farms I called at were of a first rate description, and the cattle were in good condition; there was such a look of enough plenty around me , and contentment on the faces of the people I met with, that I became enamoured of the place, and will probably go back there some of these days, and choose such a nook as my own, and build my hut, and settle down.
Having received tighteners innumerable, I pushed on, still keeping the river when I could, and climbing the ranges when I could not. At one place, my road lay, for say a mile or two, on the edge of a precipice some 150 or 200 feet deep, at the bottom of which the still waters lay black and gloomy; jutting rocks like huge old castles poised themselves on the very edge of the abyss, and hung frowning over the deep and sullen waters below. Immense old trees threw their hard and knotty limbs across the gorge, so close that one could have walked from side to side on the pendant branches, had one only the nerve for such an aerial trip.
Keeping along this path through splendid flowery shrubs, and tall saplings tapering aloft, with beautiful creepers clinging to them, of every hue and colour, I pursued my solitary way. All at once the road seemed to leave me perched among the crags, but finding that it took a sudden bend around a large block of granite, I stumbled on, and after a rapid descent, again found myself on the river’s brink, crossing at a place named the Sandy fall, amongst numerous small sandy islets, and following the direction previously given to me, I left the stream and struck across a lofty range pointed out as laying in my way. Making for a remarkable conical hill, I again came on the river at Cassidy’s just as the shadows of evening closed over me. As I had already been 15 hours on horseback since I had started in the morning from Grubbingbong, I was of the opinion that both man and horse had done enough, and I remained here for the night.
Making an early start next morning, I pushed on in the direction of Grabine (Mr. John Ford’s station). Climbing a very steep hill in sight of Cassidy’s, I stretched across the mountains for 5 or 6 miles, getting occasional glimpses of the river from some of the more open peaks, until Grabine came in view, at the bottom of the hill there is a reach of the river, probably a mile and a half, or two miles long, one of the best and deepest on the river; it completely fills up the whole extent of the valley, forming almost a perfect lake, lined throughout by the never failing river bank. Here I turned out and had another swim, my horse quietly feeding alongside, the animal then took the water and rolled and tumbled about, seemingly in the very height of enjoyment. .
As I could see I had a high and lofty range to get over, I remained here for nearly three hours; then saddling up, I began my ascent which continued for nearly three hours; having gained the summit, I sat down and was delighted(?) with one of the most extensive views I have yet met with, the distant country on all sides seemed crowded with hills of even shape and form; flat hills, round hills, square hills, hills east, hills west, hills north, hills south, hills above, hills below, hills everywhere, paths everywhere, roads nowhere.
Like Barney Reardon, I followed my “nearest course” or more properly speaking, “my nose”, and by dint of poking that somewhat prominent member into all sorts of “onco(?) places”, stumbled across a somewhat passable gully which led down from my perch. This I followed for three or four miles, when I came to “Spring Vale” the residence of Mr. E. Markham – here I was at home – so went in and had a tough yarn with the Patriarch of the Vale, ate some of his Sunday dinner – a fine goose stuffed with no end of good things. The yarn at end, and my dinner safely stowed away in my own particular paunch, I bid my old friend good bye and started to follow out the object of my journey.
About 3 miles from Mr. Markham’s I came on the Abercrombie (sic[Lachlan. FCM]) again round a bend of which I passed and came upon Clifton Park, the snugly situated residence of Mr. N. Jordon; another yarn, and another feed, a fresh start and a journey of 3 miles more brought me safely to “Daleys’ Springs”[site, from the mid 1880s, of present day Darbys Falls.FCM] occupied by Mr. Lowe and others. These farms are beautifully situated on the edge of a small black flat of the richest soil, with high grass hills all around. After a little delay I retraced my steps to the river along which I directed my course, arriving in succession at Rossman’s, Doyle’s, Halpin’s, Whitty’s, and O’Brien’s farms. I passed the junction of the Burrowa (River), and the old Police Barracks, and thence to Paddy’s Plains and Cudgelong.
The last ten or twelve miles of my journey the country assumed a more lowland aspect; the farms I have named have all been purchased within the last two or three years, and I was much pleased with the cleanly and comfortable appearance, and the evident good taste that had been displayed in their selection, and the arrangement of the various farm buildings. The huts were neatly built, several of them whitewashed, and all detached from the other erections, gardens were being laid out round them, and altogether they had a most creditable look, and they speak well for the taste and industry of their various owners. Numbers of other farms of a like description are to be obtained along the river, (here called for the first time the Lachlan) and I hope that when I next pay that part of the country a visit, I shall find that other farmers have taken advantage of this fine locality, and settled down.
This is certainly another spot for “free homes for free men”, possessing all the advantage of good soil, a flowing river, and a fast rising neighbourhood. Leaving Cudgelong and passing through a country smothered with thistles, and eaten up with sheep, I come to what is called the mount; here a small cluster of settlers have made themselves homes in rather primitive style and affording great room for improvement.
Still following the Lachlan down, I reached Cowra; and here my journey ends for the present.”
ENDS ‘From Our Own Correspondent.
Nov. 14th 1861. Bathurst Free Press:
Some account of the situation of the new diggings up the River might prove acceptable to some of your readers. They are situated opposite to the Junction of Milburn Greek with the Lachlan (not Hovell’s Creek as stated in one of your notices of them) as Hovell’s Creek joins the Lachlan some mile or two below where the diggings are situated; Millburn Creek joins the River on the right bank; while Hovell’s Creek joins it on the left bank. There is no particular name that I know of for the spot where the diggings are situated, but Long Island has been suggested from the circumstances of an Island nearly a mile long being situated at this point, in fact there are a number of islands just here, on one of which a small quantity of gold was obtained, from a natural hole in the rook.
It strikes me that were the River dammed up, and the whole current of water directed through one of the channels forming the Long Island, the dry bed could be worked to much advantage; and should anything like a numerous population settled at this point of the Lachlan, this will no doubt be done; at the lower end where the two channels join again, the River can be crossed with a dray at what is called Darby’s Fall. The banks are very straight and steep, probably some 25 or 30 feet. This must be removed or else tunnelled from the level of the water ; those parties who have pursued this plan hitherto have been very successful, netting 2 and 3 ounces of gold per day, and this without the aid of pumps to clear the water.
Six years ago parties were at work on Milburn Creek, and I have frequently purchased gold obtained there ; and last February a party of Chinese were at work about a mile above the present diggings- to my fancy it is a most interesting part of the Lachlan, and some beautiful farms have been purchased on the River, commencing’ at Mr Jordan’s (Clifton Park) nearly opposite the diggings, and keeping the banks all the way to Cowra some fifteen miles. The country round is wild and romantic, sharp and lofty peaks of granite crowned with immense boulders, assuming every shape one can imagine with vast mosses of quartz are found scattered up and down all over the face of the country, and a huge quartz hill is observed some 4 or 5 miles back from the river. It is difficult to say where the lead of gold (if any) comes from; it appears all so fine that it must have been carried a long way; at one time there must have been some 200 or 300 people there, but the superior attractions of the already famed Lachlan diggings proved too strong, and but few are now left; those who have remained are without exception doing well.
The party that first struck the gold are still here, ‘ and have no wish to leave even for the Lachlan diggings; most of the farmers in this neigbourhood have secured claims, which they intend working when their hay and wheat crops are secured. Many of them have commenced hay making already (with heavy crops to cheer them on.) The best route to these diggings from the Bathurst side, would to to Carcoar, and thence to James’s Park or Milburn Creek, and then down the creek to the river. The Milburn Creek road goes up Grubbinbong Creek till within two miles of Mr. John Loudon’s, and then up an old road known in this part as Markham’s line ; this old road leaves Grubbinbong Creek to the left, crossing tbe old Lachlan road from Cheshires at the head of Milburn Creek, thence by Davis’s Downfall into Makin’s Swamp, through James’ Park paddock, and so on, down tho creek tho whole way. Water and grass are abundant all along this route ; the country is ridgy but easily passed with any kind of wheeled conveyance ; to the horse or foot passenger there is no difficulty.