Stuart Town - Culture and History

Stuart Town (like Mookerawa) sprang up when a goldrush was sparked in the 1870s, although it is claimed that the gold was first found in the 1840s by a shepherd who did not know what he had.

The settlement was originally known as Ironbark, after the trees in the area. As such, it is the 'Ironbark' mentioned in 'Banjo' Paterson's well-known poem, 'The Man from Ironbark'.

It has been claimed that there were as many as 6000 persons working the local fields at the peak of activities, though this may well be an exaggeration. At any rate it is clear that they were of very mixed origins, including many Chinese. While the Europeans worked individually or in small groups the Chinese worked in units numbering in the hundreds which consisted of a large extended family and friends. They worked in shifts and built water races which ran for kilometres to supply water for washing.

Reef mining was also extensively conducted though water-logging defeated many, as the effort of clearing tunnels by bucket was so exhausting and slow. After its retrieval the ore was crushed in a stamper battery. The gold was retained on mercury-coated copper plates.

By 1880 there were four hotels in existence, with another at Mookerawa. The first gold dredging in NSW was allegedly carried out here in 1899. Most mining had ceased in 1914 although some dredging continued until 1958. Reef and alluvial activities retrieved 4 metric tonnes of gold between 1875 and 1914. In the early days an ounce (28.3 g) of gold was worth three times an average weekly wage. The riches attracted a number of bushrangers. Ben Hall and his associates robbed a wine shanty at Mookerawa at one point. The well-known NSW Premier, Robert Askin, was born at Stuart Town in 1901.

Stuart Town's annual fair is held at Easter and Mumbil's on the Australia Day weekend.

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