The first European in the immediate
vicinity was James Blackman who headed north to the Mudgee
area from what is now Wallerawang in 1821, becoming the first
European to cross the Cudgegong River. It is known that he
had a slab building on the townsite by 1837.
Once Blackman proved the route
passable, William Lawson, who had failed in an earlier attempt,
travelled north to Mudgee where he found some excellent grazing
land. Lawson had been a member of the first European party
to cross the Blue Mountains in 1813 and was then commandant
of Bathurst. He later took up 6000 acres along the Cudgegong
He was immediately followed
by George and Henry Cox (sons of William Cox who built the
first road over the Blue Mountains) who became the first permanent
European settlers on the Cudgegong River when they established
the 'Menah' run, 3 km north-west of the present townsite.
It was here that the first settlement developed. A police
station and lock-up were established in 1833.
Prior to that time the district
had been occupied by the Wiradjuri people. Relations were
amicable when white numbers were negligible but, as settlement
escalated in the 1820s, conflict increased. Kangaroos and
possums, major food sources, were slaughtered wholesale by
whites. Sacred sites were desecrated and prime riverside land
was taken. In 1824, martial law was declared and armed settlers
roamed the countryside murdering Aborigines on sight, thereby
decimating the tribe which was dispossessed and completely
broken by the 1840s. William Cox, who made a significant contribution
to their extermination, claimed that the last local black
died in 1876.
The village of Mudgee was gazetted
in 1838. By 1841, there were 36 dwellings, mostly of slab
construction, including three hotels, a hospital, a post office,
two stores and the first Anglican church. The first school
(Anglican) was established in a slab hut in the 1840s and
the police station was moved from Menah to Mudgee in the mid-1840s.
The population had only reached about 200 by 1851.
However, a goldrush began when
a huge nugget was found at Hargraves in 1851. Mudgee became
a centre for the local goldfields, benefiting considerably
from the consequent through-traffic which peaked with the
finds at Gulgong and Hill End at the beginning of the 1870s.
Catholic Church, Mudgee
is a sign of Mudgee's early success that the population
increased to 1500 by 1861 and it was declared a municipality
in 1860, making it the second-oldest town west of the
Great Dividing Range. Methodist and Presbyterian churches,
the present Catholic and Anglican churches, and the first
National school were all built in the 1850s. In addition,
a police station, courthouse, post office, mechanics institute,
the present Uniting Church and a town
hall were added from 1860 to 1865. There were four coach
factories operating in the 1860s to cater for the overwhelming
Fortunately, Mudgee was not
just dependent on gold. The immediate area became noted for
its quality wool and merino studs, its vineyards (introduced
in 1858 by German immigrant, Adam Roth) and its agricultural
production. When the gold began to peter out late in the 19th
century, it was the strength of these staples which sustained
the town. When the railway arrived in 1884, it further boosted
One of Australia's most famous
poets and short-story writers, Henry Lawson (1867-1922), had
very strong ties to Mudgee. His parents were married here
in 1866. But for a brief stay at Gulgong, he was raised, from
the age of six months to 15 years, in a cottage 8 km north
at Eurunderee which was established after a gold find in 1863.
Lawson was educated at Eurunderee and Mudgee and many of his
stories are inspired by his memories of the area.
Of more infamous repute are
the Governor brothers, Jimmy and Joe; Aboriginal bushrangers
who, in 1900, in retribution for ill-treatment and discrimination,
went on a murderous three-month rampage, killing ten people.
Much has been written about them, one version of their story
told in Thomas Keneally’s book and made into a film,
‘The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith’. One victim was
Alex McKay of Sportsman’s Hollow Creek, killed near
his home just west of Ulan on the Gulgong Road on July 23,
1900. He was buried in the Presbyterian section of the Gulgong
Cemetery; his headstone inscription saying: “Brutally
murdered on July 23, 1900 at Ulan”. Another victim,
70 year old Kiernan Fitzpatrick, was shot in front of his
hut near Wollar, 48 km north-east of Mudgee. Consequently,
the Aborigines of Wollar were forcibly removed to the Brewarrina