In the late 1880s gold was discovered by the McDonald brothers (John, James and Donald) at the location what became Mount McDonald. A township built up, with some 600 persons living there as well as many people in the surrounding district. A school, at least one (Catholic) Church, banks, a general store (where my namesake grandfather, Francis Conyngham Murray, worked for the Fox brothers), a resident doctor and the inevitable pubs. The township petered away by 1920, and there is little there now to show it existed. A few marked streets and the cemetery.
Frank Clune wrote in 1935:
We kept climbing and arrived at Mount McDonald. Here, there was another superb view; and also fourteen has-been taverns. An old-timer told me that reef-mining started on the Mount in 1891 and the same year they had banks, pubs, butchers, a main street, and a couple of thousand people. To-day they only have the main street; and the pot-holes exceed the population. Local industry went bung in 1912, and the place is now a one-mulberry-tree town, with more empty tins lying around that we have seen in any settlement.
Nearby are two large dams, full of water, where gold was formerly sluiced; also throats, when credit was scarce at the hostelries. We cut through the bush to the cemetery, a mile away. It is well hidden and surrounded by trees. What a miserable time the ghosts would have trying to return and haunt the fourteen pubs! White box-trees surrounding the cemetery were covered with patches of mistletoes, and there was plenty of rosemary for remembrance, yet the graves seem forsaken. A pastoral pest, called bush-mountain cane was growing wild. Beneath a tall pine-tree the rosemary was four feet high, and the Scot wistfully garnered a sprig from the most lonely burial place, I have ever seen.
Susan Elliott, who left us for a better home on 12 May 1898 aged 17.
Gone but not forgotten
We sighed for Susan; because seventeen is too sweet for death; then continuing along the mountain, came to an elevation called Abercrombie Look Out. Johnny Vane and Mick Burke, both of whom were eventually to join Ben Hall’s gang, camped here with two others on the night before their first big job of cattle duffing. Vane, who was born at Jerry’s Plains, in 1842, seems to have been (in his youth, at any rate) diligent and inoffensive, yet he lived to receive a sentence of fifteen years’ jail, after having surrendered to a priest. ”
During the decades around 1900, Mount McDonald (secondary to the more distant Cowra) was the populated area to which families (including the Markham and Jordan families) in and around Milburn Creek area were drawn.
See pp167-168 of ‘Cowra On The Lachlan’ edited by Joan Marriott for more comment.
“The Glint of Gold: a history and tourist guide of the gold fields of the Central West of New South Wales” by Kerrin Cook and Daniel Garvey will also provide information about the local history. ]
Reef mining at Mount McDonald from 1877.
Extracts from the Mining Registrar’s annual reports between 1877 and 1898.
The 1881 report notes that reefs were first discovered at Mt McD towards the end of 1880, and were highly auriferous. A population of 500-600 had been attracted to the locality during 1881.
In 1882 the population (600+) had fallen to 450-500 of which about 150 were miners “…all Europeans and very respectable and well behaved’.
(In 1884 there is a reference to ‘…Mr Easdown, the energetic and very able manager of the Association ground.’)
In 1885 there were only 100 men regularly in work. This was obviously a ref to miners.
In 1886 the goldfield still supported a population of about 200 persons.
In 1889 there were signs of a distinct revival.
Records are very sparse during the 90s
In 1898 about 230 men were employed. No ref to the population but it could have been up towards 1000 by then. This seems to have been the peak and from about then it was all downhill.
[From John Cooke 2013]
From Cowra Free Press Thursday 23 February 1899.
From a Correspondent.
On Friday the 10th Inst, the members of the Mount McDonald Tennis Club opened their new court with a scratch match, which was followed by a banquet. Amongst those present were Messrs F A Booth, J.P., Carl Georg, J Oglethorpe, G E Moore, H Ferguson, H L Simmons, F C Murray, N Flynn and R Easdown.
After justice had been done to the good things provided, the President (Mr Moore) proposed, in n able speech, “Success to the Mount McDonald Tennis Club” and, in the course of his remarks referred to the efficient manner in which the energetic secretary (Miss Russell) had worked to make the club a success. Mr F A Booth proposed “Success to the mining firms of H D Humphreys and Co. and the Great Eastern Gold-Mining Co.” Responded to by Messrs J Oglethorpe and Carl Georg (Managers.)
The toast of “The Ladies” was proposed in a humorous speech by Mr F C Murray (Vice President) and responded to in an equally humorous manner by Mr Bert Simmons, who caused much merriment to the company, at the expense of the President, by referring to the “Bennett fit” which he, the president, would derive in the future, (matrimonially) from his association with his new club. Messrs Flynn and Easdown also responded on behalf of the ladies.
An adjournment was then made to the drawing room when the remainder of the evening was spent in sngs, recitations, etc. Mr F C Murray, who was in splendid voice, sang “Queen of the Earth”; Mr Bart Simmons sang his old favourite, “I happened to be there” , and in response to a vigorous encore, sang “The Irish Jubilee”. Mr Moore rendered in an able manner “Sailing” and “They all love Jack.” Mr H Ferguson gave an amusing recitation entitled “The Convicted Chow”. Mr F A Booth narrated an amusing incident entitled “A Miner’s Paradise”.
The duet “Life’s Dream is o’er” was beautifully rendered by Miss Markham and Mr F C Murray. Miss Bennett, in a sweet voice, rendered “I was dreaming”. Miss Easdown’s “Island of dreams”; Miss Farrier’s “The Holy City” were highly appreciated. Miss L Moore (of Leichhardt), who is on a visit to her brother, delighted the company with a fine rendition of the song “Flight of Ages”. A duet “Flow on thou shining river” by Miss Bennett and Mr F C Murray, concluded the musical programme. Miss K Russell and Miss M Markham ably accompanied the singers. The company broke up after giving three hearty cheers for the president, secretary and captain.
[NOTE: The highlighted Murray and Markham names were my grandparents.]
Notes are progressively added. In the meantime some photographs..