There was a lot of gold mining activity around Harden - Murrumburrah extending from the late 1850s well into the 20th century.

In this it had much in common many regional centres across central and south west NSW, most of whom have had a gold mine or two to call their own at some time.

What few other townships can share however is the spotlight that focussed on the region in the opening years of the 1860s.

It was from Murrumburrah that news of a stunning new goldfield just to the north at a paddock called Lambing Flat first surfaced in spring 1860. This was the beginnings of the Burrangong goldfield which soon expanded to include a large tract of the surrounding countryside. In the anti-Chinese riots on the Lambing Flat field across late 1860 - 61 Murrumburrah played a central role as a refuge for the Chinese fleeing from the violence.

No sooner did this violence subside than the bushranger scourge led by Johnny Gilbert and Ben Hall descended on the region. The guerilla warfare that followed was especially centred upon the countyside and rolling landscapes around Murrumburrah.

Below: The New atlas of Australia, 1886: Courtesy National Library of Australia 1886. MAP RaA 30. Pt 81.

When you look at the mostly cleared farm country that sourrounds Murrumburrah today it's hard to imagine how the bushranger's got away with what they did and escaped pursuit for so long.

As this sketch of the Demondrille property from the mid 1850s shows though, there was plenty of bushland to retreat to when necessary.

Below: Ben Halls revolver. Image reproduced courtesy National Library of Australia nla.pic.an7969455.
Demondrille: Sketches of Yass and Murrumburrah District, 185-./ Mrs J. Milbourne Reproduced courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.

Another aspect of the local countryside that helped the bushrangers was the fact that several of the properties around the Murrumburrah region bred racehorses. Hence their stables were plundered by Johnny Gilbert, Ben Hall and co, ensuring that even in open ground, the police had little chance of getting to within the very close range where pistol fire could hope to be effective.

One of the saddest losses to the district of the bushranger predations though occurred on 30 August 1863, when prominent local citizen and merchant John Barnes, was shot and killed by Johnny O'Meally. The sign below is erected in Murrumburrah opposite Barnes' former store to commemorate the event.

barnes sign

Another tragic result of the bushrangers' robbery activities also occurred in the Murrumburrah District some 15 months later when Sgt Parry was killed defending the mail coach from attack just outside of Jugiong. Today a memorial on site in the town commemorates this loss and includes displays recounting the events of 16 November 1864. Follow this link for details of the Parry memorial >>