Nerrigundah - Historic Village Trail

A Summary of the historic Nerrigundah Village Trail interview with Norman and Vin Dickson on 11th March 1981 - whose type written pages were uncovered at the Narooma Visitor Centre

Catholic Church

This church has been here at least since 1913. A building which had been a frock shop owned by Mrs Warren and located near the crossing near the creek was moved here near the church to be used as a residence for the priest. There is no obvious evidence of this remaining.

Tennis Court Site

Tennis and cricket were very popular pastimes. They were important social events. During the 1920's and '30's tennis clubs from other towns would come to play in big matches. Nerrigundah in those days had a very strong tennis team with several very good players. The court was also used by the school.

Cemetery

This isn't the original graveyard. The first one was near Graveyard Creek. This site was first used in approximately the early 1870's. It was known as the Presbyterian graveyard. There were two others - the Church of England and the Roman Catholic graveyards. Much of this area is overgrown and many of the graves have been levelled by erosion. The graveyard is actually quite full. One of the more recent graves is that of Mrs Ellen who lived in the district and ran the Post Office at Cadgee.

Bushranger's Grave

Norm and Vin Dickson believe that the grave now marked as William Fletcher's (the bushranger shot by Miles O'Grady) is actually the grave of an unnamed person who committed suicide. They claim that Fletcher was buried in a grave behind the Catholic Church cemetery which is approximately a half mile north from here. They were told this by their grandmother, who was alive at the time of the bushrangers' raid on Nerrigundah. As children they were taken to look at the grave which consisted of four posts with rails around the top. The site has since been bulldozed.

Miles O'Grady Obelisk

The policeman was actually shot very close to this monument. Standing facing the monument on the left, there was located the boarding house where the bushrangers' held their hostages. (See murder of Miles O'Grady sheet for details).

Sawmill

This mill was built on the site of the original Nerrigundah Police Station. Almost in a straight line between the sawmill and the Miles O'Grady monument about half-way between was an old blacksmiths shop which was owned by Bob Gilday. Here horses were shod, wooden dray and buggy wheels repaired, mining tools maintained, picks and drills sharpened. About 100 metres in front of the sawmill in a straight line between the sawmill and the bushfire brigade building was the Nerrigundah dance hall. The hall was an important social gathering place for the whole community. It was called the 'School of Arts'. It was reputed to have one of the best dancing floors on the South Coast. This floor was made from tallow wood, a greasy type of wood which made a beautiful surface for sliding steps of dances like the waltz which were popular.

The ground around the hall, however, was quite dangerous, especially at night because the whole area had been mined for gold and the old mine shafts had not been filled in.There is a story that two men were having an argument outside the hall one night at a dance. They started to fight, hit each other, and both were sent flying backwards. Each one finished up down a different hole in the bush.

Site of Boarding House

This is the site of the boarding house that was held up by the bushrangers. The building was still used as a residence up until about 1966 when it was burnt down.

Bushranger Brigade Building

As you can see, this building is relatively recent. An old hotel was located between Gulph Creek and the bushfire brigade building. It was dismantled about 1918. It was a large building of timber weather boards, iron roof and big verandas along the front, which faced north, and on the back. In this area too, there are many old mine shafts and the ones at the back of the hotel have been used to dump empty bottles. Evidence of these can still be found.

Dredging

The Gulph Creek was dredged for gold but the area near the hotel missed out because of the buildings. Dredging started about a mile further down the creek. The big hole on the southern side of the hotel site is where the dredge came to. It then had to move to the far side of the creek bank, past houses, the hotel, a china man's store and a couple of cottages until it reached level with the present cottage about 150 metres further up the creek, north of the bushfire brigade shed. Norm and Vin Dickson maintained that the richest part of the creek worked by the dredge on its various runs was in line with the bottom side of the old hotel through to a point about 150 metres up. They suggested that part of the best gold producing area of the creek would have been in this area where the building were located, but, of course, it could not be dredged.

Old House

This cottage was owned by a family called Lattey who were successful miners. They had a big mine on the Tuross River at Tinpot and owned Red Creek Mine. There used to be stables behind the house where racehorses were kept.

Flat to the eastern side, south of the bridge across Gulph Creek

This flat area is a good example of ground worked over by the dredge. If you look at the bank along the creek you will notice that the stones and rocks form mixed rubble. If you look at a section of creek that has not been disturbed, you will find that the layers of rock and washed stones are more or less even. (The dredge created its own dammed-up pond as it went and this is how it was able to operate in relatively shallow water).

Chinese Joss House Roasting Oven

At one period there were up to 2,000 Chinese on the Gulph Gold Field. This oven was used for community gatherings and festivals such as the celebration of the Chinese New Year. Fire wood was placed in the trench on the bottom side and a pig was hung vertically in the oven. Associated with the oven was the Joss House or Chinese Church. It was full of images and carvings and there was a large gong which was sounded to chase out any devils that had sneaked in with people who had entered the building. After the caretaker-priest, Bo Shin died in about 1918-1919 the Joss House fell into disrepair until it was finally demolished.

Fraser Stamper Battery

All that remains of this battery is a couple of concrete rectangular holes about 50 metres off the south side of the edge of the road. The bearing of the battery from the outside apex of the curve in the road is about 260 degrees. It is difficult to find. Run by Dan Fraser, this battery crushed all of the rich ore from the Mt Pleasant mine. The battery operated here from the early 1900's to about World War I. The battery was steam driven with a fireman feeding the boiler and attending to all the steam machinery, the belting and cog wheels etc. Around the plant. Usually one of the miners who owned the ore would feed the stone into the back of the battery.

Dan Fraser used to attend to the copper plates that were catching the gold. Keeping these plates clean was not a hard job and Dan used to sit on a chair most of the day reading the Bible. He was a very religious man. But when he cleaned the plates or the box of the battery, he used to throw pieces of amalgam (the amalgam contained the gold) in between the two boxes in a dark corner there and after the poor miners had gone, he'd break them out and smelt them up 'and he got a nice little return from them'. Fraser got more than his share from the miners.

One old miner here reckoned that by the time the miners had paid the main people in the town - Fraser was the battery mana and needed to be paid about 10 shillings per ton for crushing the ore; Pollock was the storekeeper and Powcock was the policeman or warden who collected the duty on the gold and the miners rights - there wasn't much left out of the gold because they usually didn't get as much as they thought they would.

Joe Jessop reckoned that the sound of the stamper battery when it was working used to beat out the words 'Fraser - Pollock and Powcock', 'Fraser - Pollock and Powcock'. He reckoned that they were the people who got the good out of the gold.

Community Stamper Battery Site (12)

The site of the community stamper battery can be seen from the creek. It is marked by the cutting into the side of the south bank of Gulph Creek about 50 metres west from the road. You can still see the pit where the stamper box was set up and higher on the top of the bank can be seen the old Shute down through the creek bank where the ore was tipped down into the battery. The remains of the concrete-sided cyanide tanks can also be found. During the Depression miners made wages from extracting gold left behind in the rubble from previously worked mines.

Originally owned by the Lattey brothers at Tinpot, this battery was set up here by a syndicate of Nerrigundah people after Fraser's Battery closed down in about 1918. It was steam driven at first but in later years it was powered by a Faye and Bowen two-stroke marine engine purchased second hand in Sydney for about 5 pounds. When it was first brought in it was treated with contempt by people like Bill Sutherland who was a dedicated steam man.

The Cyanide Process

After the stone had been crushed in the battery it was sieved through a very fine screen, about 40 holes to the inch, washed with water over the copper plates coated with mercury and washed down into a settling pit. Most of the gold would adhere to the mercury on the copper plates to form amalgam, but tiny particles which stuck to the sand would escape and the cyanide process was used to retrieve this. Cyanide is one of the very few chemicals that will dissolve gold and this is why it was used. Anything up to an ounce to the ton of gold could be extracted from the residue sand using this method.

The sand was placed in a tank of cyanide solution and drained through a box which had partitions containing zinc shavings. The dissolved gold in the solution set up an electrolytic reaction on the zinc shavings and in doing so, deposited the gold on the zinc. This process was repeated about 3 times. Each time the strength of the cyanide was renewed and the solution left to settle out for about 48 hours. By the end of this process all the available gold would be extracted.