CURRAJONG

In the Colony of NSW, gold had been sighted as early as 1823, but the reports of gold sighting had been surpressed, due to the fears that it could seriously affect and add to the difficulties of administration.

However, with the colony almost completely broke, large sums of money had been put up as a reward for payable goldfields.

When the county of Ashburnham was surveyed in 1853, the surveyors noted a series of hills, which were near Billabong Creek. The soil around appeared to be very fertile, so they defined a village reserve called "Currajong", after the trees which grew in abundance in the area.

GOLD

Gold had been discovered in Forbes in 1861, and soon after, its population was estimated between 28,000 and 40,000. In 1862 however, the goldfields at Forbes were displaying evidence of being worked, and James Pugh and two friends decided to try their luck further north and in October found a reef, in the hills near the reserve for the town of Currajong, which they named the "Pioneer". The Sydney Morning Herald of 8th November 1862, announced "a rush has taken place to Billabong, about 20 miles distant, where a rich quartz reef has been found". James Pugh was awarded a government reward of £500, for finding a new field.

Currajong was renowned for its rich gold deposits. The gold was found in either quartz veins or in shallow and deep leads. The main deposits were Pugh's Pioneer mine, the Dayspring mine, and the Golden Bar, all found in 1863, along with the Welcome, the Black Snake, and Steels and Strickland's.

The opening of these goldfields brought many fortune seekers who came to try their luck at the new field, bringing with it the start of the town of Currajong, and the resulting commencement of a number of businesses. At its peak, Currajong had about 40 businesses serving the mining community, including a post office, a church and a school.

The Billabong Post Office

Post Office records for Billabong commenced in April 1863, when cattle graziers, settlers, storekeepers, diggers, and many others dwelling on or near the Billabong Quartz Reef at Currajong, asked that postal facilities be established for their convenience. William Jones, a storekeeper who had been in the Forbes district for nearly 20 years, and also had a branch store at the Billabong Gold Fields was appointed the postmaster. In 1868, the postmaster role was taken over by H.H. Cooke, and the post office moved across the road to his store. When Cooke resigned, John Orton replaced him. When Orton resigned in 1879, the Parkes Postmaster recommended that the Billabong Post Office be closed.

Churches

1863-1873 The Wesleyan chapel was erected at Currajong.

The Anglican Church provided a Minister from Forbes from 1858-1876 when the first wooden church was built. This was known as St. Stephens, but the name was changed to St. George about the time the Parish Hall was erected.

The Presbyterians purchased a small building in the town as the Methodists now had no church they approached the Presbyterians and a Union church was built and opened in June 1873. After a while the Presbyterians got into financial difficulties and sold their half of the union church to the Methodists.

A Roman Catholic priest came from Turon district and celebrated mass in 1869, mass was then celebrated in the old school building by a visiting priest.

Baptists, Lutherans, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists and the Assemblies of God all have provided services for their followers from the 1890ís onward.

The Currajong School

In 1864, Edward Peacock, a retired sea captain, conducted a church school in the newly erected Wesleyan chapel from 1864 to 1867. Peacock left the area for a short time after that to teach at Mitchell's Creek and his daughter took over the role of teacher. Since there was still £34 owing on the building, the residents requested that the debt be taken over by the Council of Education. The Council refused to pay, but did pay a teacher, so it became the Currajong Provisional school, which was then situated at the home of H.H. Cooke.

With the renewed mining activity, Edward Peacock returned to Currajong and built his own school on the land provided by the Gold Commissioner. The new school opened in April 1872 and by the end of 1873 had 90 students. The school become known as Trelowarren which was the name of Cooke's property. The school closed in 1914.

In 1874 the Council of Education decided to build a school for 150 children and a headmaster's house in Parkes. Edward Peacock said he could not cope with that number of children, as he was not a qualified teacher so he moved to Wombat and a teacher from Wombat, Archibald Booth, came to the new Parkes Public School at the beginning of 1876.

GOLD RUSH FADES

After the initial gold rush the population of Currajong settled down to a stable community as the gold mining and associated businesses were established. The economy of the township was based mainly on the support given by the mining community and the pastoralists.

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