By 1820, farmers and graziers occupied much of the land within a radius of 200 miles of Sydney. In 1826, the extent to which occupation of land was occurring caused Governor Darling to specify "limits of location" outside which land could not be occupied. These boundaries were primarily to protect settlers from Aborigines, and because the police were unable to patrol an extended area. However, the attractions of seemingly boundless areas of grassed land beyond the prescribed area proved an irresistible attraction to pastoralists and the government's edict was largely ignored. For its part, the government decided in 1833 that it would not seek to remove "squatters" who had established unauthorised stock stations in the interior of NSW. In part, this was facing up to the difficulties of removing them; it was also recognition of the increasing political influence and respectability of such people.
It is believed that wandering pastoralists came to the Central West area between 1817 and 1825. Mitchell noted in his diaries that from the casual manner in which the local aboriginals greeted the newcomers, it appears certain that the pastoralists with their flocks were already familiar with the area east of the present town of Parkes. This is further proven by Mitchellís documentation of encountering flocks of sheep before reaching the Goobang creek.
The first white settlement in the Parkes area is mentioned by Mitchell, in his diaries. In September of 1835 he recorded that on his return trip through the Central West, while camped at the Goobang Creek, a stockman rode up to him reporting that his employer, named "Pike" had established a cattle station a few miles from where his party was camped.
Thomas Kite, an enterprising squatter who followed the expedition tracks of Mitchell, had established a station on the Goobang Creek some months before, a few miles north east of Parkes. Many people believe Thomas Kite and Pike to be the same person due to the similarity of the names.
By the end of 1835, as Mitchellís discoveries became more widely known, squatters were mustering their flocks along Mitchell's tracks to take advantage of the farming land he had mapped out.
Prior to 1836, squatting in the Parkes area was illegal, but many took the risk because of the rich grazing land. With the influx of people rushing beyond the boundaries set up by Darling 10 years beforehand, the government decided to legalise squatting by passing the "Squatting Act of 1836". This allowed squatters to go beyond the limits of location, by being charged a £10 annual "Licence to Depasture" fee, plus an annual fee based on the estimated carrying capacity of the land occupied.
Many of the squatters were reluctant to pay the fees as it was three years later before the first License to Depasture was issued in the Parkes area. This was issued to Thomas Kite at Burrawang in 1839. The following year he took out a license for Goobang (also known as Coobang).
After years of agitation, the Land Act of 1847 was passed. This was a triumph for squatters, who under the licensing system had no title to any improvements they may have made to the land they occupied, so the facilities erected to carry on their enterprises were of a crude and temporary nature. The act of 1847 granted a leasehold of fourteen years with provision for compensation on eventual resumption at assessed value for any improvements made. Under this act, the rental payable was based on a per acre basis.
It was not until September 1848 that the first leases were taken out in what is now the Parkes area. There were 4 major stations that leases had been taken out on; Coobang, covered 38,400 acres and Burrawang covered 38,400 acres both owned by Thomas Kite, Coradgery covered 23,040 acres and Gunningbland covered 16,000 acres.
It is interesting to note that in 1847 the nearest existing settlement to what is now Parkes, was Thomas Boltonís Bald Hills Station, situated On Goobang Creek, 1Ĺ miles south east of the present town of Parkes.
In 1847, the Tom brothers held several stations in the Central West of NSW including Bartley's Creek Station. Thomas Tom had the properties "Tomandbil" east of Forbes and "Hunterwang" on the lower Lachlan near what is now Hillston, before settling back in the Parkes district on Bartley's Creek Station.
Thomas Tom was the sole Magistrate for the Currajong Gold fields. Later as Parkes began to develop, he guaranteed 1000 guineas for the formation of the hospital.
As the Tom family still retain a portion of the original land today, they would be one of the oldest property owning families in the district.
George Field was born at Buckinghamshire, UK in 1821 and arrived in Australia in 1861. He married 5 years later to Amelia Faraday, and moved almost immediately to the "Billabong Goldfields".
In March 1866, Field was the first to select land in the district under the Robertson Act. He selected 96 acres adjacent to the Goobang Creek, a few miles south of Parkes. Since this land was conveniently situated near the bridge over the creek, on the road which ran between Wellington and Forbes, he augmented his income by providing an Inn for the travelling public. It was known as the Royal Mail Hotel and was the coaching stable where mail coach horses were changed. Two years later, in 1868, he secured an additional 15 acres on the opposite side (western side) of the creek.
George Field died on 25th July 1872, aged 51 years. Descendants of George Field are still farming in the vicinity, and have bought back into the family the original 96 acres of land. Field was buried on the property near his Inn, but the exact location of his grave was lost.
The Tom's and the Field's have been neighbours for over 135 years with no feuds.
JOSEPH NASH JNR
Joseph Nash Snr, with his family, moved to Australia from Plymouth, England, in 1839, bringing some elementary farming equipment with them.
Joseph Nash Jnr bought a 320 acres property near Currajong. This property, which he called "Nashville", already had a rough building on it probably dating back to the 1860's gold rush. Nash moved to Currajong from Lagoon, 10 miles south of Bathurst, in 1871. The move required three trips which were undertaken in January, March and May. On their first night at Currajong the family became the centre of attention. They had brought with them enough provisions for twelve months. The miners, who were desperate for food and supplies, gave Nash an ultimatum - sell them the provisions or they would take them. Nash sold the supplies and had to return to Bathurst to replenish.
The original property has been sold and renamed, and purchased new property. Descendants of Joseph Nash own the property "Hazlebank" today.
HENRY HARRY COOKE
H.H. Cooke; storekeeper, postmaster, baker, grape grower and wine producer, orchardist, businessman, newspaper proprietor, politician, magistrate, and the first mayor of Parkes, was born at St Martins, Cornwall, England on 29th September, 1839.
He was very early at the Currajong Gold Fields and having established himself in business, stayed on despite the decline in the reef mining by 1866.
In 1865, Cooke went into partnership with Joseph Harris Senior to grow the first successful wheat in the district.
He owned Trelowarren mine which was along side and to the south of his home and business premises. Cooke became postmaster at Currajong in 1868.
He married Mary Anne Isabel Peacock on 19th August 1869, at Currajong.
In 1871 he operated a bakery at Currajong and did his delivery rounds among the miners both morning and evening. Cooke had a prospecting partnership in operation in 1871 when Sense and party, prospecting four miles north-west of Currajong, found the No Mistake lead.
In 1873 Cooke founded the Parkes and Forbes Gazette and through his interests in the newspapers and politics developed a friendship with Henry Parkes when Parkes visited the booming mining fields.
Eight of the nine children born to Henry and Mary Cooke were born at Currajong between 1870 and 1886.
Cooke died on 22nd June 1903 and his wife 29th December 1906.
H.H. Cooke, storekeeper at Currajong had obtained a few bushels of 'White Lammas' wheat and made a share agreement with Joseph Harris who owned a small block of land, to sow two acres of wheat, the former supplying the seed and half the expenses, the latter to supply the land and labour. The crop yielded well, about 70 bushels being harvested from two acres, and this was transported to the nearest flour mill, Daltons Brothers at Orange. The wheat yielded five pounds more flour per bushel than wheat grown in the colder Orange district.