Wedderburn - Culture and History

The first squatter to take up land in the district was John Catto in 1840. Wedderburn was founded on the back of a goldrush started when a shepherd named Brady found some nuggets in 1852. The town's name probably derives from a policeman who worked on the diggings.

Lack of water proved a problem in the washing of auriferous gravel and the initial rush soon faded. However, it was replaced by quartz reef mining. A public crushing plant was opened in 1859 and operations continued intermittently until the end of the century. An attempt at large-scale dredging failed in 1910 due to lack of water.

When the gold began to dwindle the settlement declined but was saved from extinction by the 1869 Land Act which opened up the large squatting runs to small landowners. It has since settled down into a small agricultural and pastoral town although eucalyptus oil distillation has also been a small part of the local economy for over a century.

However, Wedderburn's fame continues to ride on its on-going association with gold nuggets (it is claimed that 80% of the world's largest nuggets have been found within 40 km of the town). For example, three nuggets worth 10 000 pounds (the largest being 4.5 kg) were found in a backyard in the 1950s, precipitating a major but short-lived rush to the area.

In 1980 three schoolboys with metal detectors uncovered the Beggary Lump. Weighing 2.4 kg it fetched $50 000. Within a week others had turned up another 3.7 kg worth of gold.

In October 1980 Kevin Hillier located the 'Hand of Faith' which was discovered in the Kingower area to the south-east. Weighing a remarkable 27.2 kg it sold for a reputed $US 1 million. This has led to a modern-day bout of high-tech gold fever with metal detectors flourishing in the area (with some success) to the present day.

The Major Mitchell Trail passes through the town, taking in Mount Korong, and a project in progress is the Fossicker's Drive which will incorporate many of the old goldsites and relics in the district (watch this site for an update or ring 03 5494 1200).

The Wedderburn Gold Festival is held on the Labor Day weekend, the Wedderburn Wool Expo at Donaldson Park in August and the Vintage Engine Steam Rally in September.

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