Bushranging began in Grenfell in the late 1850s with the discovery of gold at Lambing Flat and later in the 1860s at Forbes. During this period there were many travellers on the roads and the Weddin area was a haven for bushrangers. Probably one of the first to operate in this region was Frank Gardiner. Gardiner had been in trouble with the law on previous occasions having served several years imprisoned on Cockatoo Island.
Ben Hall was born near Maitland in 1837. In 1850 he and other members of the Hall family moved to the Lachlan district, where Ben Hall became a stockman. In 1856 he married Bridget Walsh and had a son Henry, born 1859. In 1860 he and his brother in law, John McGuire went into partnership by taking a lease of the Sandy Creek run, a property of 16,000 acres.
One of the most daring robberies that ever took place in Australia in those early days was the Escort Robbery at the Eugowra Rocks in June 1862. This raid was masterminded by Gardiner. Ben Hall, had agreed to join the group along with Johnny Gilbert, John O’Meally, Daniel Charters, John Fordyce, John Bow and Henry Manns. The gang planned the attack at the home of John McGuire (Ben Hall’s brother in law). On the way to Eugowra the gang stopped near Forbes where Johnny Gilbert ventured into town to purchase shotguns and supplies. The gang then continued on to Eugowra Rocks where they successfully attacked the gold escort coach by firing on the escorting police without warning, wounding two of the policemen. After the troopers and the driver withdrew, the bushrangers plundered the boxes with £3,700 in cash and 2,719 ounces of gold, the equivalent to over $1 million dollars. Only some of the proceeds were recovered and local legend has it that part of the booty is still hidden somewhere in the Weddin Mountains possibly near Ben Halls cave.
In early May 1865, Ben Hall (who took up bushranging in early 1863) travelled to the Billabong Creek area near Forbes with John Gilbert and John Dunn. After separating from his two cohorts, Hall visited one of his harbourers whom had supplied information to the police that Hall was coming. At dawn on May 5th 1865, Hall was surprised by a police party who had surrounded his camp during the night, and he was shot and killed whilst trying to escape.
The discovery of gold in Grenfell
John Wood and two sons pioneered the Grenfell area. Guided by friendly Aborigines, they settled at Booroodina Springs in 1833. In 1866 one of their shepherds Cornelius O’Brien stumbled upon a gold bearing quartz outcrop. O’Brien took samples of the ore to Young where he secured a miners right. His claim yielded 4.5 ounces of gold per ton. O’Brien having insufficient money to take a lease marked out an ordinary thirty feet 1 man claim where he had first found gold. This is the site on the Mid Western Highway now known as O’Brien’s Reef. A company was eventually formed to work O’Brien’s reef with Cornelius O’Brien holding a one twelfth share. It proved the best line on the fields and produced sixty thousand pound of gold in the first 3 years. At the end of the 5 year lease the claim was sold and a public company was floated to take it over. This site was eventually worked to a depth of 800 feet, the deepest of all mines in the Grenfell goldfields. Grenfell gold fields were the richest gold mining fields in NSW during 1867-1871.
Escorts of mounted police troopers were provided to ensure the safe passage of the gold to Sydney thus preventing the bushrangers from attacking the gold carriers. The first escort left via Cowra in December 1866 accompanied by 5 policemen. Large quantities of 3000 ounces were sent regularly under escort though it was known that some gold was sent privately, unescorted.
At the height of the gold rush 13 batteries operated on the field to crush the ore. No great fortunes were made from alluvial gold in the district. Within weeks of O’Brien’s find, large parties of miners from the Lambing Flats and Forbes diggings had moved to the Grenfell gold fields. Within 6 months of O’Brien’s find there were 10,000 people on the fields and tents and bark huts and a business centre grew along the banks of Emu Creek.
Between 1867 and 1869 there were over 40,000 ounces of gold produced each year on the Grenfell goldfields. However as with all goldfields in the colony the easily gained alluvial and easily worked reefs soon gave place to the steady production of gold from deeper leads and to the movement of some of the population away from the fields. By 1870 the Grenfell goldfields had become quieter and in 1873 the population was reported at 3000.
Originally called Emu Creek, Grenfell was proclaimed on January 1 1867 after the former Gold Commissioner, John Granville Grenfell, who was wounded by bushrangers near Narromine on December 7 1866. John Granville Grenfell was driving a coach at the time and refused to stop when bushrangers called him to. He was shot twice in the groin and collapsed and died 24 hours. Grenfell was buried at the Dubbo Cemetery and his tombstone still carries the story. He was 40 years of age and left his widow with three children under 5 years of age.
Old shafts and assorted machinery including the horse works and a stamper can still be viewed. Although many of the mullock heaps were flattened some still remain, one of which can be viewed near Lawson Oval.
Henry Lawson was born on the Grenfell goldfields just meters from the mine shafts in 1867. His parents were Peter Hertzberg Larsen, a Norwegian carpenter and Louisa a strong supporter of women's rights. Lawson had four siblings - Charles, Peter, Getrude and Henrietta (who died from an illness, in 1879).
Henry, born Henry Archibald Larsen, as recorded only in the family bible, went on to be one of Australia’s acclaimed writers, for the richness and beauty of his verse; while others consider his short stories as being his greatest contribution to Australian literature.
The place of Henry's birth was marked in 1924 by an obelisk which now stands under a large sugar gum tree planted by his daughter Berth Jago in Grenfell NSW.
Henry went to school at Eurunderee and Mudgee and after an ear infection at age nine; he became totally deaf by fourteen. He had a very difficult childhood as the family were very poor. After leaving school early, Lawson helped his father on building projects. His first job was as an apprentice railway coach painter in 1887. His parents separated in 1883 and Lawson moved to Sydney with his mother.
In 1887, Louisa bought a newspaper called the Republican and it was here that Lawson's first writing was published. That same year, the Bulletin published Lawson's first poem and in 1888, published his first short story, "His Father's Mate". On New Year's Eve, 1888, Lawson's father died.
In early 1890, Lawson travelled to Albany, WA where he wrote for the Albany Observer but returned east in September, and then travelled to Brisbane where he accepted a position on the Brisbane newspaper, the Boomerang, in 1891. Between 1888 and 1892, Lawson published many of his most famous poems like "Andy's Gone with Cattle", "The Roaring Days" and 'The Drover's Wife". In 1892, Lawson walked from Bourke to Hungerford and back. During this time he became very conscious of the hardships of bush life. Lawson also worked as a shearer in both Australia and New Zealand until he was offered a writers position with ‘The Worker’, in Sydney.
In 1894 his first collection was published and Lawson met Bertha Bredt who became his wife in 1896. Bertha Bredt was the step daughter of Sydney bookseller and radical, W.H. McNamara as well as the sister-in-law of the politician Jack Lang. Lawson and Bertha had two children, Jim, born 10 February, 1898 and Bertha in 1899. Lawson and Bertha worked as school teachers at a Maori school at Mangamaunu near Kaikoura, in the South Island of New Zealand after their marriage. Lawson, always a heavy drinker, had struggled with alcoholism since 1888 but was not troubled by it during his stay in New Zealand despite the solitude. After his return from New Zealand in 1898 however, his alcoholism recurred. Lawson published two more prose collections but was becoming more disenchanted with Australia and in 1900, the family travelled to England, helped financially by Earl Beauchamp, the Governor of NSW, David Scott Mitchell and the publisher, George Robertson.
They rented a house at Harpeden, 40 km north of London. Lawson continued to write some of his best work in England but by 1902 decided to return to Australia because of financial problems and illness. After his return from England on 21 May, 1902, Lawson and his wife separated and Lawson became increasingly unstable. Bertha and the two children moved into her mother's place. His mother Louisa suffered mental illness after her publication "Dawn", a woman's magazine with a strong suffragette bias, finally closed in 1905. She died in the Gladesville Hospital for the Insane on 12 August, 1920.
Between 1905 and 1910, Lawson was regularly in prison for non-payment of maintenance and inebriation. He was also in mental and rehabilitation sanatoriums and gradually progressed into a pathetic, dissolute alcoholic, wandering the Sydney streets, begging for money for alcohol. He even tried to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff but survived despite serious injuries. His friends, J. Le Gay Brereton, E.J. Brady and George Robertson, came to his rescue and helped him financially. Mrs Isabel Byers, who was twenty years older than Lawson, befriended him and provided shelter and food for him from 1904 onwards.
In 1916, his friends found him a position at Leeton, providing data for the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Lawson continued to produce his works during the First World War and was well received. On 14 July, 1921, Lawson had a stroke but continued to write about his travels to London. Between 1920 and 1922, the government provided a pension for him.
On September 2, 1922, at age 55, Lawson finally died peacefully in his sleep and was given a state funeral on 4 September, the first writer to be given one.
Henry Lawson remains one of Australia's most famous writers. During his life, Lawson lived and wrote in widely different environments and had known life as a bush worker, house painter, telegraph linesman, journalist and rouseabout. Much of what he saw and experienced went into his short stories but his deepest feelings are revealed in his verse. Even in his earliest life, he was haunted by the impermanence of life and his poetry was often criticised as being too melancholy. Lawson did not shrink from reminding people that they must face and endure their lives, although Lawson himself never lost hope. Lawson was able to depict in story and verse the life of the common man and woman of the time. A monument to Lawson now shaded by a sugar gum planted by his daughter, Bertha is located two minutes drive from the town centre and a bust of the man is situated in the aptly named Main Street.
Some of Lawson's works:
The Wreck of the 'Derry Castle' (Bulletin. 24 Dec, 1887)
The most prominent poem about Grenfell is Said Grenfell to My Spirit written in 1911
The Henry Lawson Festival
Because of its close proximity to Henry’s birthday, the June Long Weekend has been chosen by the local towns people of Grenfell as the time when they hold the annual Henry Lawson Festival of Arts. The aim of the Festival is to promote and attain recognition for aspiring Australians in various fields of arts such as verse, short story, song, art, photography and television. Children are especially catered for in their various artistic endeavours. The first Henry Lawson Festival of Arts was held in 1958 and it has continued ever year since, organised by a committee of volunteers with assistance from local organisations in Grenfell and the Weddin Shire Council. During the history of the Festival, Grenfell has welcomed many distinguished guests. They have come to officially open the Festival, as judges, performers or recipients of awards. Among the many identities Grenfell has welcomed Henry Lawson’s daughter, Bertha in 1967 and his grand nephew Peter Lawson in 1985. Other highlights of the festival include poetry and drama, craft, art and photography exhibitions, street parade and carnival, guinea pig races, go-kart races, fun run, wood chop and food and wine, entertainment for all ages over a great long weekend of activity. Grenfell’s Henry Lawson Festival of Arts has done much to perpetuate the memory of one of Australia’s illustrious sons.
The Grenfell connection to Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Patterson is not as well known as the Henry Lawson link. Born near Orange he is said to have always had an interest in the Weddin Mountains even though he was not a frequent visitor. He became a solicitor and wrote verse in his spare time. Banjo did spend 1912 share farming near Quandialla south west of Grenfell. 1912 was a very dry year with poor feed and nearly all of Banjo's sheep died. Paterson’s ‘The Whisper from the Bland’ and ‘The song of the Wheat’ portray the Grenfell district influence of gold and wheat. ‘On Kiley’s Run’ is said to be a reminiscence of Bumbaldry, half way between Grenfell and Cowra. ‘The Roaring Days’ is said to describe the Grenfell goldfields and ‘The lights of Cobb and Co’ depicts the main form of transport to and from Grenfell during the era.
Hall of Fame
Reggie ‘IronMan’ McNamara
Iandra Castle at Greenethorpe
The Iandra Homestead Pastoral Estate, originally established on 32,000 acres by George Henry Greene from 1878-1911, is of outstanding significance as arguably the largest and most progressive wheat property and wheat farming enterprise of its time in Australia.
It was at Iandra that its owner, George Henry Greene, pioneered share-farming in 1893, revolutionising wheat growing in Australia. Share farming allows an opportunity to maximise production. Greene was so successful that construction of a railway was necessary to cart away the grain. Greene arranged for clearing and stump removal and provided between 100 acre and 300 acres blocks of land free of rent to farmers who did the ploughing, sowing, harrowing and harvesting.
A total of 2300 acres was farmed in this manner. The grain was divided between the owner of the land and the farmer. In poor years the first 5 bushels an acre were given to the farmer with any remainder split between the farmer and the owner. To ensure the farmers maintained enthusiasm Greene offered cash prizes for the best cultivated land.
Iandra was also at the forefront of wheat growing technology with wheat variety trials. The results led to farmers throughout Australia turning to the rust proof variety ‘Federation’ wheat. The Iandra enterprise produced the largest yield of wheat at the time from a single property soon after the turn of the century. To harvest this yield 500-600 men were required; a scale not previously witnessed in rural NSW. George Henry Greene, was a prominent and leading figure in rural affairs in Australia and NSW during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Greene served terms as the MP for Grenfell, then as a Member of the Legislative Council. He also obtained the rail link for Grenfell. Greene died in 1911 and was buried in Melbourne.
Iandra represents a rare example of a complete feudal-like estate established in Australia, modelled on the English Manor system, which has no equal in NSW or Australia. All elements of the estate date from the Federation period and were constructed for the Iandra homestead owner, centred on the Iandra homestead and wheat production, including the adjoining Greenethorpe village built by Greene for his tenants. Iandra remains one of few places that embodies the iconic image of Australia as "the lucky country". Where a European immigrant bought undeveloped land in the middle of rural NSW, created his own replica of a European empire and made himself "Lord of the Manor" out of little except his own ambition, vision, enterprise and the riches of the land. The estate has reduced in size to approximately 3,000 acres (1215 ha) and comprises the magnificent Federation homestead, park-like gardens, original workers cottages, managers residence, blacksmith, chapel and cemetery, wool and hay sheds, silo, other outbuildings, associated structures, and surrounding farmland. This home is open to the public by appointment or by tour, however glimpses of the castle can be seen from the road. A drive around the Greenethorpe and Iandra area is worth the visit. You could stop off at Greenethorpe’s Shamrock Hotel for refreshments or a bite to eat while you tour around this very picturesque countryside. (Pip Giovanelli 2004) Re-printed with kind permission NSW Heritage
Greenethorpe village grew beside Iandra railway station. It was a model township laid down in 1909. The village grew rapidly on land given by George Henry Greene. Despite George’s displeasure a hotel was built and opened in 1911. By the end of this year bakers, grocers, an egg farm and a wheelwrights shop were opened. A public school was built in 1928. The rifle club was established in 1910. Several churches were established including the Methodist church in November 1908, the Anglican church in June 1910, and the Roman Catholic Church in November 1912. In 1946 a Scout and Guide hall was erected.
Originally known as ‘Gibson Run’ Caragabal became the outlet for the Bland, where wheat was loaded on the railway for transport to Sydney. In 1907 a public school and the post office were opened. A private subdivision in 1916 created residential house blocks. In 1922 silos for wheat storage were erected near the railway station and the hotel and general store were established. The telephone exchange opened in 1923.The public hall was established in 1924. The Anglican Church was built in 1924. The Roman Catholic Church was opened in 1934. Electricity made it to Caragabal in 1948.
Quandialla named after the aboriginal word for ‘spiney ant eater’ developed in a central location roughly 40 miles from Grenfell, Wyalong, Forbes, Cootamundra and Young, and the main township between Forbes and Stockinbingal. Wheat yields were high and the area was known for its ability to fatten lambs. Fist, Second and Third Streets were one chain wide with Glasson Street at one and a half chains wide was planned as the Main Street, however shops sprung up on Second Street and this narrow road became the business centre. The post office opened in 1916. Silos at the railway and a new public school were built in 1922 to replace the original school built in 1912. The brick Hotel ‘The Bland’ was build in 1927.Electricity was installed in 1949.
Quandialla has always had progressive residents with electrically lit tennis courts opened in 1929, a bowling club opened in 1950 and the school turned into a central school with 6 teachers and several bus runs delivering children in from Bimbi, Caragabal and Pullabooka. The CWA was formed in 1928 and their main objective was a Quandialla Hospital.
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