Historic photo from the Powerhouse Museum Collection (See below) Ophir Goldfields Site of first payable gold discovery in Australia Ophir Rd, Banjo Paterson Way, Lower Lewis Ponds Rd, Lower Lewis Ponds Ophir Rd, 27 km.
Girralang Nature Reserve (02 6332 9488) This reserve has a long history of gold-mining activity as Ophir Creek forms part of the reserve’s boundary. In 1851, Summer Hill Creek, in the nearby Ophir Reserve (02 6393 8226 or 1800 069 466), was the site of the first payable gold discovery in Australia. Today you can try your luck at the fossicking area here (gold pans are available for hire), but make sure you do not venture too close to the old mines, which are dangerous. Walking trails link sites of historic importance; the reserve has picnic and barbecue facilities. Ophir is an important site which changed the course of history in Australia in the 19th Century. Little remains of visible habitation, but this is the first place where payable gold was found and goldrushes began. Enjoy a great family activity trying your hand and luck at panning for gold. Located in a beautiful, peaceful gorge where the Summer Hill and Lewis Ponds Creeks converge there is a picnic and camping ground where you can camp for the night on the banks of Summer Hill Creek. Steel picnic tables, barbecue facilities and a toilet block are available. There are multiple walking trails and 4WD Tracks for those who would like to explore the old workings and tunnels and you can do a little trout fishing as well. Camping permits can be purchased at Orange Visitor Information Centre, Byng Street, Orange The night too quickly passes And we are growing old, So let us fill our glasses And toast the Days of Gold; When finds of wondrous treasure Set all the South ablaze, And you and I were faithful mates All through the roaring days. Henry Lawson,The Roaring Days, 1889 This image from the Kerry Collection of Glass plate negatives has the original description “Ophir Bluff, Where Gold was First Found in Australia”. Ophir is located 29 km north-east of Orange in New South Wales and was the location of the first payable gold found in Australia. Its discovery in April 1851 triggered the great Goldrushes of the 1850s. The name Ophir is a reference to a legendary land of gold or pure gold referred to in the Old Testament. This ambitious title did not hold true for this particular site as the rush started in July 1851 when the find was published and was largely over by the end of 1852 when richer fields were found in the Bathurst area. A planned town at Ophir never developed and the area is now a reserve where prospectors can still try their luck. The Museum also has in its collection a gold washing cradle which was used at the Ophir Goldfields. http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/imageservices/2012/04/ophir-the-start-of-the-australian-goldrush/ Edward Hamond Hargraves was born at Gosport, Hampshire, England, the third son of Lieutenant John Edward Hargraves and his wife Elizabeth Hargraves. He was educated at Brighton Grammar School in England and Lewes. He travelled to California during the California Gold Rush, but his prospecting there was not successful. On 12 February 1851 he, with John Lister, found five specks of gold in Lewis Ponds Creek in New South Wales in Australia. Enlisting the help of others to continue the search, he returned to Sydney in March to interview the Colonial Secretary, and, encouraged by his friends at Bathurst, wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald describing the rich fields. Hargraves was rewarded by the New South Wales Government for his find – he was paid £10,000 and was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands. The Victorian Government paid him £5,000. He only claimed £2,381 before the funds were frozen after James Lister protested. An enquiry was held in 1853 which upheld that Hargraves was the first to discover the goldfield. The goldfield was then named Ophir. In 1856, Hargraves purchased a 640-acre (2.6 km2) landing at Budgewoi on the Central Coast of New South Wales. He went on to build “Norahville” at Noraville. Wollombi Aboriginal Tribe members are known to have worked on the property. Some sources state that Hargraves had “befriended” the Aboriginal tribe members. In 1877, Hargraves was granted a pension of £250 per year by the Government of New South Wales, which he received until his death. Shortly before his death in Sydney on 29 October 1891, a second enquiry found that John Lister and James Tom had discovered the first goldfield. Lister is buried in the cemetery at Millthorpe, NSW and Tom at Byng, NSW, both within 20km of Ophir. Hargraves wrote a book about his discovery titled Australia and its Goldfields: a historical sketch of the Australian colonies from the earliest times to the present day with a particular account of the recent gold discoveries, published in 1855.
MORE ORANGE INFORMATION: