Impact of Gold on Growth of European Settlement

Gold has been found in many of the mountains and valleys of the Eurobodalla area and indeed all along the south coast. Throughout the area the gold miners’ need for goods and services led to the growth of towns in the second half of the nineteenth century; these included Mogo, Nerrigundah, Wagonga Inlet (late Narooma) and Tilba Tilba.

As discussed above the development of towns and roads to service gold miners provided the infrastructure to support the extension of small scale settlement in the region. The first major gold discovery on the south coast was at Eden in 1852. In the mid 1850s alluvial gold was discovered at Mogo Creek and the township of Mogo developed as a result of the miners’ arrival.

By 1871 around fifty men were working in the Mogo creek itself. The town grew rapidly as a result of the miners coming in. At its peak in the late 1800s there were more than 17 hotels in the area but by 1913 all the mines in the area had closed. Gold was also found at a number of locations along the creeks around Moruya in the 1850s and the mines established in this area continued to operate until the 1920s.

Alluvial gold was also discovered in the Mt Dromedary area in the 1850s; in 1875 at its peak there were more than 150 men working Dromedary and Punkally Creeks. Mt Dromedary is more properly known by its Aboriginal name of Gulaga, in a newspaper account from 1879 the mountain is referred to by that name though with an alternative spelling:

… the writer… [visited] the settlements that nestle under the shadow of Cooligah, the big mountain of the blackfellow, Anglicized into the unpoetic name of the Dromedary for the reason it is said that a certain peak in the mountain resembles the hump on the animal’s back, surely too lame an excuse for dropping the pretty native name of Cooligah.

Gulaga is a major site of significance to Aboriginal people of the south coast. Deborah Bird Rose in her 1990 report asserted the mountain to be primarily a women’s site although including some men’s ceremonial areas. It is stated to be, along with Mumbulla Mountain, a Bunan ceremonial site. One can only presume that the mining of the mountain, and the large population associated with it, would have caused great distress to the site’s custodians.

In 1882 reef gold was discovered at Kianga, just to the north of the Wagonga Inlet, and for a time brought many miners to the Wagonga [Narooma] area. One of the major fields of the region was that at Nerrigundah, gold was found there in the 1850s. By 1861 there were around 200-300 miners in the area, and this is said to have increased to 400 in the following years. However, as occurred in all the gold fields in the Eurobodalla region they more or less ceased to function in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Excerpt from Eurobodalla Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Study, South Coast New South Wales, 2005. Story contributed by Martin Ind from Moruya High School.