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Corner Country History
The ancient geology of the Barrier Ranges and adjacent areas has yielded rich mineralisation. Broken Hill is famous for its silver, lead and zinc deposits, but, across the ranges and north into the Grey Range, were other significant deposits. Tin, limestone, copper, and gold have all been mined at one time or another.
In the south, several small communities sprang up across the Barrier Ranges: towns such as Euriowie, Purnamoota, and Tarrawingee provided employment for hundreds of men. A railway line was built from Broken Hill to Tarrawingee and used to transport limestone to the smelter in Broken Hill, as well as for passenger service. Such services connected with coach services to and from the north.
In the north, the goldfields of the Albert District lie within two areas of rocky ranges of slate surrounded by the undulating country of the Cretaceous formation. For around forty years, from 1880 to the early 1920s, gold was mined across the Albert Fields. The alluvial fields were the most significant and were located near the Mt Browne Range and The Granites. Reef gold was mined in the quartz veins around the Warratta
Most of those who rushed to the new fields of the Albert Gold District were ill-prepared for the conditions. They started, with their picks and shovels, and Miner's Right, on a journey of more than 300 kilometres into an area only recently explored, and described by Sturt as a " stoney, waterless waste". Once there they set up their tents or built a hut, pegged their claim, and set to work. Despite the conditions, within three months of gold being discovered at Mount Browne, a mining area of around 1000 square kilometres had been opened up. The lack of water in the area limited the camping areas to sites near waterholes.
Accommodation near former mining areas is available at Mt Gipps, Mt Browne and Mt Stuart (Tibooburra).
The goldfields of the Albert District lie within two areas of rocky ranges of slate surrounded by the undulating country of the Cretaceous formation. For around forty years, from 1880 to the early 1920s, gold was mined across the Albert Fields. The alluvial fields were the most significant and were located near the Mt Browne Range and The Granites. Reef gold was mined in the quartz veins around the Warratta Creek.
Most of those who rushed to the new fields of the Albert Gold District were ill-prepared for the conditions.
They started, with their picks and shovels, and Miner's Right, on a journey of more than 300 kilometres into an area only recently explored, and described by Sturt as a " stoney, waterless waste". Once there they set up their tents or built a hut, pegged their claim, and set to work.
Despite the conditions, within three months of gold being discovered at Mount Browne, a mining area of around 1000 square kilometres had been opened up. The lack of water in the area limited the camping areas to sites near waterholes.
Apart from the lucky discovery of surface nuggets, gold had to be extracted from the wash dirt in which it was contained. On The Granites' field, the ancient river bed lay just below the ground surface. Generally working in pairs, and with little equipment other than picks and shovels, the miners began by removing the wash-dirt and piling it for washing.
At Mount Browne operations were different. In most cases, the alluvial beds were some distance below the surface and miners had to sink shafts in order to reach bedrock. They began by digging and shovelling, mounding the dirt in piles on the edge of the shaft.
As the mound rose they supported the walls of the shaft with timber, to prevent cave in. As they dug deeper a windlass was constructed above the shaft. Winding a rope and bucket into the shaft one miner would stay up top, whilst the other below filled the bucket with dirt. Once filled it was wound up to the surface, the dirt tipped out, and the procedure repeated.
Extracting the gold from the pay dirt largely relied on the presence of water. Puddling machines were used extensively at The Granites, and crushing machines and puddlers were located at Mount Browne.
Dry blowers, though inefficient, were operated on both fields, and at the very least enabled miners to continue operations even when prohibited by the lack of water.
Quartz ore needed to be crushed. Some claims built their own crushing equipment, such as the twelve-headed stamper that was installed near Warratta, but often the operations were beset with incompetent management, faulty machinery, or a lack of water. Some operations were publicly floated in order to raise capital for equipment.
Conditions on the Albert Goldfields were unquestionably worse than at any other field in New South Wales. Continued drought also created major problems for the supply of rations for the goldfields. Riverboats were unable to reach Wilcannia, and horses were unable to travel from Wilcannia.
ALBERT GOLDFIELDS Mining Heritage Miners literally ran out of food and were starving. A state of emergency was called and Thomas Elder sent a string of camels from Beltana in South Australia, loaded with food and provisions.
In 1882 Camels were also sent to the rescue of the miners when typhoid fever and other illnesses swept through the camps. Temporary hospitals were established at Milparinka and Tibooburra, and a Doctor Wilkie was engaged to help with the sick. A "camel-load" of men was also sent away to Wilcannia, where "all recovered their health." In time camels became a significant feature of the transport industry of the far west of New South Wales, operating for many years from Farina, on the Marree railway line, Wilcannia, Bourke and Broken Hill. They carried stores to the minefields and station properties, and wool from the area to be sold, mostly in Adelaide.
The Albert Goldfields also had their fair share of Chinese miners who were, curiously, recorded separately from Europeans on the annual mining reports. The shortage of water for mining and domestic use must have caused considerable friction amongst miners, so much so that there were reports of Chinese miners, having used some quantity of water for personal hygiene, were run out of town, and their hut burned to the ground.
The Chinese were also shop keepers, servants but most importantly, gardeners. With hundreds of people on the goldfields, and little or no access to fresh food, the ingenuity and capacity for hard work saw the Chinese develop vegetable gardens.
In Milparinka the gardens were located on the floodplains of the Evelyn Creek, and it is probable that they also accessed water from a well established by the Government, about 2 kilometres north-east of Milparinka. At Tibooburra they were reported to have used water from the town bore, and in 1882 were recorded to have "been very successful in their operations, and have kept the residents supplied with vegetables at a reasonable rate, and to this may in a great measure be attributed the healthy state of the field. They have successfully proved that potatoes can be grown here, and next year they will have peaches, pears and grapes in bearing.
In 1889 prospectors discovered a hill of pure limestone near Tarrawingee. Required as a flux for the Broken Hill smelters, the quarry operated from 1891 until 1898 when smelting ceased at Broken Hill and smelters built at Port Pirie came into operation.
Producing 1800 tons per week, the quarry employed around 150 men. A township was established to service the quarry, with the population growing to around 400 people. There was a school which closed at the end of the 1900s, a post office and two hotels, the Tarrowangee Hotel and the Great Northern.
Some homes were constructed of stone, others were little more than tents. The Tarrawingee Hotel was constructed of wood and iron with an underground tank beneath the floor. Late in the nineteenth century, a police station and courthouse were established.
In addition to the quarries, several wood carters lived in Tarrawingee, cutting and carting wood for use in the Broken Hill. For a while, a teacher provided part‐time lessons for the wood‐cutters children.
There are no standing buildings in Tarrawingee today, just the stone foundations of a few, including the
Tarrawingee station building.
In September 1890 approval was given for the construction of the Tarrawingee Tramway to carry the limestone back to Broken Hill. It ran for 61.5 km from Broken Hill, crossing several major creeks, including Yancowinna. Built by JS Reid of the Tarrawingee Flux and Tramway Company Ltd the narrow gauge line and was completed in just six months, by June 1891.
The line operated until 1930. it provided transportation for people travelling not only to Tarrawingee but was also a stepping off point for coaches travelling to the north, to Tibooburra via Euriowie, Cobham and Milparinka. For a short time, it reopened to cart stone for the Broken Hill Power Station but closed permanently in 1932. The line was removed in 1936.
Of the Tarrawingee Tramway, concrete pylons remain at several creek crossings as well as the embankments constructed to support the rails.
In 1884 tin ore was discovered in the Barrier Ranges, amongst the rugged rocks of the Byjerkerno gorge (believed to be Aboriginal for "plenty of moaning lizards"). Abandoned mine shafts indicate the places where mining took place.
The township of Euriowie developed not far from Byjerkerno, adjacent to the current Silver City Highway. Its population grew to around 700, with more than 80 men employed in the tin mines.
The buildings of the township were mostly of galvanized iron and included two banks, three stores, perhaps as many as six hotels and other businesses.
By the end of 1887, there was a police station, even a race course, but no church. The local school closed in 1918, but after protests from the local community, it reopened on a part-time basis. The teacher was stationed at Tarrawingee and alternated between the communities. A coach service operated to connect the two communities and link with the Tarrwingee Tramway.
Of the hotels, only the Euriowie continued to function until the 1930s when it was abandoned. The post office closed about the same time.
Ruins remain today Early shareholders in the Euriowie tin-field were rewarded with new found wealth, but these were not rich mines, raising just three or four tons of ore in 1899.
By 1901 there were just twelve men employed in the mine known as Wheal Byjerkerno.
Significant ruins of the town remain today, especially stone underground tanks and other walls. The cemetery is located on the north-eastern side of Euriowie Creek.
A windlass is a simple lifting machine generally made from wood. Supported by an axle, the windlass was attached to wooden uprights and centred over the mine shaft. Crank handles at both ends enabled the windlass to be turned. A rope was wound over the windlass shaft, to which a bucket was attached. As the windlass was turned the bucket was lowered into the shaft and filled with the wash dirt. The process was reversed and the wash dirt lifted to the surface.
A whip was also used extensively on the Albert Goldfields. It was made by fixing a long timber pole at an angle of about 45 degrees to the ground. Its end projected over the shaft.
Attached to the end of the pole was a grooved wheel through which one end of a rope passed into the shaft. A bucket was suspended from the rope. The other end of the rope was harnessed to a horse. As the horse walked away from the shaft the rope and bucket were lifted out of the shaft. The bucket was emptied, the horse turned around and walked toward the shaft. The bucket then descended back into the mine.
A whim was somewhat more complicated, and essentially used for the same purpose. Above the mineshaft, a substantial frame was constructed which held a revolving drum in position.
Ropes were attached to the drum and raised and lowered into the mine.
The drum was turned by a horse harnessed to a long pole and attached to beams extending from beneath the drum. Instead of back and forward motion, the horse walked in a circular pattern around the mine shaft.