West Wyalong - Culture and History

The original occupants of the area were the Wiradjuri people. The first European in the area was John Oxley who investigated the district in 1817, on one of the first inland explorations. However, he was less than impressed with what he saw, declaring that 'these desolate areas would never again be visited by civilised man'.

Surveyor-general Thomas Mitchell visited the area in 1827 and squatters began to settle the district in 1833, naming the area 'The Blands', hence the name of the shire. However, no centralised settlement developed until Joseph Neeld discovered gold on a family property in September 1893. By January of the following year there were 500 miners on the field. When the results of the first ore-crushing became known in March the rush was on. It is estimated there were 12 000 on the field by May, although it had stabilised at 4200 by December.

Most of the gold was located within quartz reefs, necessitating vertical shafts up to 100 metre in depth with horizontal branch tunnels.

The town of Wyalong was laid out to service the new population in 1894 . However, the miners had already created a de facto settlement to the west around what was known as the 'Main Camp', which also boasted the 'White Tank', the only established water supply (located on what is now McCann Park). They showed no inclination to move and the site continued to outstrip the official town, with Wyalong businesses relocating to the more popular locality. Hence in 1895 West Wyalong was laid out. The crooked course of the main street reflects the course of the original bullock track.

Wyalong becoming a municipality in 1899 with council chambers being erected, a courthouse, police station, post office and school of arts. The two towns became earnest rivals and fought bitterly over who should receive the railway line from Temora in 1903. As a compromise, the station was erected at a point between the two towns, amidst the mallee scrub. This area became known as Wyalong Central.

By the end of the century the Wyalong fields were reported as the most productive in the state. 1264 kg of gold were turned up in 1899 alone. However yields declined particularly from 1910 and the goldmining had ceased by 1921, by which time over 12.5 tonnes of gold had been uncovered. Nonetheless the introduction of cyanide processing saw the old tailings reworked in the 1930s.

Despite the closures, the area did not become a ghost town. While the rush was on, large pastoral holdings were being broken up for smaller wheat holdings. Mixed farming developed and the Wyalong district became the largest cereal-growing centre in NSW. Eucalyptus oil production had commenced in 1907 and the Wyalong area became one of the major world exporters of the product.

Since the 1970s Wyalong has expanded in the direction of West Wyalong and Central Wyalong has become a motel area, so that the settlements have a greater degree of unity than previously. This is apparent in the bicycle-pedestrian track which was constructed in 1994 to link the two towns.

The West Wyalong Show is held in September and the biennial Festival of the Highways occurs in October of the odd-numbered years.

Novelist Dymphna Cusack was born at West Wyalong in 1902. However, when the goldfields declined her father went bankrupt and the family moved to Sydney.