Welcome to the Milparinka Walking Trail. It contains Information about the many historic locations around our unique Corner Country town. Several of the locations are marked with orange and red information posts.
This imposing sand-stone building is the Milparinka Courthouse. It was built in 1896 to a design by the Colonial architect James Barnett whose distinctive style of buildings were used in Sydney, Bathurst, Hay, Deniliquin, Broken Hill and Tibooburra, just to name a few.
Every piece of timber, every sheet of corrugated roofing iron, every nail and more would have been brought in by wagon. At that time the most likely route would have been through Wilcannia.
The sandstone used in the buildings was locally cut. The most probable source is the local quarry just to the western edge of the old township
The task of quarrying, cutting, and building would have required many men, some of them specialist builders, carpenters and masons, others labourers.
The logistics of carrying out the operation are thought provoking. How did they get the men here? Where did they stay? Where did they find all the men they needed? Who over-saw the entire project?
Different techniques of masonry are evident in the buildings. The Courthouse has very refined stone work in evidence, especially around the doorways and windows, whilst the rest of the stones are not so precisely cut.
Many of the cases heard in the Courthouse were of a petty nature; some-one’s pig got out of the yard and was roaming the town; a publican served drinks to customers after hours, there was a drunken brawl in the bar of the Albert and so on. One of the big cases heard related to the capture of rogue shearers from Salisbury Downs Station who kidnapped the “scab” shearers and forced them to a makeshift camp near the Koonenbury Range.
They were arrested of course and tried at Milparinka.
The Court closed in the 1920s. For a time the rear room of the courthouse, now the Pioneer Women’s Room, was used as the post office before transferring to the hotel.
In the 1970s ownership of the building was handed from the Crown to the Milparinka Sporting Club. Abandoned for many years, windows were broken, graffiti carved into the walls, fox skins pegged onto the floor. But, in the 1980s the publicans at the time, Raylene and Ken Ogilvy, rallied the community to seek funding for its restoration. Full restoration was completed many years later and today the building is used to welcome visitors to Milparinka. Entry is free but a small charge applies if you would also like to visit the Aboriginal history room and the pioneer women’s stories. This fee also allows access to all of the interpretive spaces on the Milparinka Historic Precinct.
The barracks building predates the courthouse by around 13 years. It was a multi-purpose building, police station, officer accommodation and court. Behind the barracks are the early police lockup cells. Both have been restored and are today in use as additional museum and interpretive spaces.
One would have thought that with all the land available in Milparinka the courthouse would have been constructed in line with the barracks…but this is Milparinka. The old road does have a bend in it as it turned toward the Evelyn Creek crossing. Nobody knows for sure, but the assumption is that the builder simply followed the bend in the road!
The buildings do “connect” in more ways than one: the buildings are connected by a clay pipe which channels rainwater into a deep underground tank.
Drawings for the tank suggest that it was 25 feet deep, which would make the capacity around 20 000 gallons.
Behind the underground tank is a small cottage that was once the kitchen and store for the barracks. Today it provides private accommodation for the volunteers who look after the Precinct during tourist season.
The Police Station is a different style from the courthouse with a more “bas relief” effect on the stone work, a little rougher one might say.
Masonry is the work performed when using stone, rock, brick or marble. This would definitely apply in Milparinka.
Working with the grain of the stone (so as to avoid shattering) masons taught their apprentices to cut the stone directly from the quarry face. This way it would only require “dressing”. Some stones were “rough faced” (ie the Police Station), with just enough projections trimmed away to allow it to be properly laid in a straight line.
The mason initially worked using a mashing hammer that weighed about six kilograms. This hammer had a mallet head on one side, and a sharp blade on the other. Using skill rather than force, chunks of stone were trimmed from the stone. A “square” was then placed over the stone, the straight edges were marked, and a “pitching tool” was used to cut away unwanted bulges.
Smooth facing was carried out using mallets and a “point”. This resembled an ice- pick, and enabled the mason to remove very fine projections, and end up with a perfectly flat, rectangular stone. This technique was particularly used on the Courthouse.
After dressing the stones the mason would “pull a line” between stakes placed at the end of each wall line. This was used to determine the length and height of the wall, as well as keeping it straight. The back stone was then laid, then the front, and then the spaces were filled in with little stones.
The greatest achievement was dressing the stones so that they fitted perfectly together, requiring little cementing material. If needed, mortar was added to hold the rocks in place. In colonial times a just damp mixture of lime, sand and even horse-hair was often used.
A collection of masonry tools is on display in the barracks together with a story about a local mason, Frederick Bamess.
There were very good reasons for building a stone post office…mostly to help keep post masters in Milparinka. None of those appointed seemed particularly happy in Milparinka and its little wonder.
Prior to its construction, postal services were operated from local business places, such as Thomas Chambers’ property which doesn’t sound like the greatest place to be on a hot day. The building from which the post and telegraph office operated comprised two rooms and a corrugated iron verandah. “Only one room is water tight. The heat from the low roof of the verandah is unbearable”, wrote Mr Dalgleish. “On Boxing Day the water in the wash hand jug was at 6 p.m too hot to bear the hand in comfortably”.
In June 1891 the postal inspector reported, “the office premises rented at Milparinka can be described as the meanest, dirtiest and most uncomfortable place in that town”.
Finally someone must have listened because in 1896 the land on which the post office stands was purchased. It still took a good few years to complete. By then the postal service was downgraded to a contract.
The building itself was constructed of local stone with four rooms and a wide verandah, tall doorways and windows. Abandoned in the 1920s, it is suspected that the doors, windows and iron were used on other buildings, possibly Theldarpa Station which the Baker family acquired in 1923.
Ownership of the building had been transferred to a relative of the Baker family in the 1990s but was bought by the Milparinka Heritage and Tourism Association five years ago in the hope that funding one day might enable it to at least be partially restored. The
Sturt’s Steps project enabled that to happen.
One of the key points about the work undertaken is that the sky view from inside the building has been retained. This has been incorporated into the roof design. The doors are all glass and the windows are single panes enabling the views from the building to be retained. Stone-work has been re-pointed and foundations stabilised.
The building is to be used for additional interpretive information and artefacts with entry included in the Precinct admission fee.
Walking along the opposite side of Loftus Street you will come to the Harry Blore Memorial Park that incorporates a memorial to children who died in the area with a dark sky interpretation area.
This space is named after Harry Blore who was descended from Frederick Blore and George Blore, the hotel builder. He was a much-loved local who lived in the barracks. A builder himself, he very much hoped that the restorations that have been completed in recent times could be achieved. He would be very pleased with the results.
The memorial comprises a granite slab letter-carved by artist Ian Marr as well as two slate slabs etched with the names of children whose deaths were recorded at Milparinka up until 1920.
The dark sky component of the park is intended for day and night visitation but do be especially careful at night. The area is not lit to enable visitors to see the best of our brilliant night skies. It features a larger than life sculpture of Kalthi, the dark sky emu and a planisphere (to be installed in April 2023).
Next, is a stone wall onto which families have attached memorials to their ancestors as well as a silhouette of an early pioneering family.
The site of the Royal Standard Hotel is directly opposite the Albert Milparinka Hotel.
The builder and first licensee was a former miner and police officer named Fred Connors although his real name was Hugh Frederick Benedict O’Connor. He changed his name because of anti-Irish catholic sentiment in the New South Wales police force. But, on the day of the first escort of gold from the area Fred’s rifle accidently discharged and a bullet shattered his arm. It then had to be amputated
Following the accident Fred decided to build a hotel which he named the Royal Standard. In 1881 he wrote to his brother James,
“I have made arrangements for building a public house on the diggings and the building is started, it will be built of stone with nine rooms and a kitchen and store room. The stone work alone will cost £350. When completed it will cost about £600. A storekeeper here is going to furnish and stock it for me, which will cost about £400. I think there is a fortune to be made if drinks are one shilling a nobble.”
Two years on and things were not going well at the Royal Standard.
Dear Jim, I am hard pushed to meet my first bill which falls due in the 13th September for £97/3/4. The others are all in three months form that date extending too [unclear] if I can only meet the first bill, I am confident I can manage the rest. I appeal to you for some assistance if you can possibly manage it at all. The House is one of the best in this part of the country and worth £2000. It is built of stone with double iron roof and contains nine rooms with larger stone kitchen, four stalled stable and two W.C. all stone. It would kill me to have to give it over to my creditors after all my trouble, anxiety and expense and perhaps I would never be able to get a start again. I have signed the bills and they must be met or forfeit all. So please Jim if you can assist me no doubt if I can manage the first bill I will be alright, and in the course of three years I will be able to give you a stake.
Fred’s dream had become a nightmare. The license was transferred to his brother James in 1885 and then the property was sold to Austin Clune.
After its closure in the 1920s the hotel became the home of the Maxwell family. Bill Maxwell ran the mails to Yandama and Mount Arrowsmith with a buggy and horses and used to pump the water for travelling stock by horse pump at the Government tank. It cost 1/- a night to leave a horse in the government tank paddock.
In November 1881 the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney moved its Milparinka branch to a new stone building in Loftus Street. While it only operated for a short time it was long enough for its employees to make the newspapers of the day.
The head line in the Australian Town and Country Journal on Saturday 20 January 1883 read:
BANQUET.-Tonight a complimentary banquet was given to Messrs Dawson and Bloomfield, manager and teller of the Commercial Bank here, who are leaving the district. About 20 gentlemen sat down to a sumptuous dinner at the Royal Standard Hotel. I can safely assert that nothing could have been improved on, and if the tables were not decked with choice exotics, the bloom of the wattle and other indigenous trees did duty, and indeed they looked very nice indeed they looked. I cannot speak too highly of the arrangements. After dinner the usual toasts were given, the Queen, Prince of Wales, Royal Family, guests, &c, were all duly honoured, and where necessary responded to in suitable terms. After the toastings, songs were rendered by several gentlemen. Good humour prevailed, and without exception, I can say that those present never enjoyed themselves more in Milparinka than they did this evening.
Mr King, our worthy warden, was chairman. The evening then closed with “Auld hang Syne,” and “God save the Queen.”
And then: CHANGES.-Messrs. Dawson and Bloomfield are relieved by Messrs. Hogg and Farr, who were at the Granite, now known as Tibooburra. The branch of the Commercial Bank is closed there on account of the slack times. Mr. Dawson relieves Mr. Haydon at Wilcannia, who goes for a holiday, and Mr. Bloomfield goes to Sydney. I wish them God speed, may they prosper. Their gentlemanly behaviour here has endeared them to all classes.
The building became a privately owned home. Ted Smith from Moallie Park Station on the Wanaaring Road stayed there when he came to town in his wagonette and fine horses.
Over the years it has suffered extensive damage. The roof came off in the 1980s leaving just four walls. After heavy rain in 2010 two of the walls began to collapse. The old bank is often silhouetted against a magnificent sunset.
Around the time that the bank was built a pharmacy was built alongside by Henry Charles Armstrong who already had a chemist business in Wilcannia. In 1881 Harry Given arrived on the Albert Goldfields as the pharmacist. He was much respected as a highly intelligent and sociable man who was experienced at helping to treat the community for some of their ailments, but also amongst the mining community.
So, it was a great shock to all in August 1893 to learn that Harry had died from the self- administration of strychnine. Reports in the Sturt Recorder of August 11, 1893 speak very highly of Harry. You can read all about it in a copy of the Sturt Recorder of that date that can be found on the touch screen in the Barracks.
At this point it may be wise to check your map and decide which way you want to go. By now you should be at the intersection of Loftus Street and Cemetery Road. A short distance along the Cemetery Road is a narrow track leading to the west across a small water course and over some white quartz stones. This pathway leads to the site of the Milparinka Public School.
The old school is now a pile of soft sandstone rubble, barely recognizable as a building. The building was hurriedly constructed early in the 1880s to accommodate the educational needs of the growing number of children in Milparinka. Attracting and retaining teachers was a problem, and it came about that the teacher was shared with a very little school at Mount Browne (on the southern end of the line of blue hills to the west). So, every other week the children of Milparinka and Mount Browne didn’t go to school.
The poor workmanship of the school resulted in its abandonment. Conveniently this also coincided with the closure of the post office so children were able to continue their schooling, at least for the time.
As one approaches, look carefully around the area because, although it is very hard to see today, there is a perimeter “fence” of stones raked or placed in a rectangle. Presumably this marked out the school yard. Off to the south east is another little track…leading to what remains of the “facility”.
Of most significance are two mosaics made from large rounded quartz stones. These have a chain barrier to protect them but one reads “Milparinka Public School”, the second shows a kangaroo and an emu facing each other. One can only assume that it was intended as a reproduction of the Australian coat of arms which came into being in 1907.
Back on Loftus Street, on the north western corner was the blacksmith business. In the days when transportation was by horse, wagon, carriage or coach the local blacksmith would have been a fairly busy person, fixing horse shoes, broken buggy springs, axles and more. There is plenty of evidence of blacksmithing on the ground here, old horse shoe nails, broken springs from carts, even charcoal from the fire used to heat the smithing tools.
Edward Herman Kuerschner was the last blacksmith in Milparinka. He was a descendant of Ludwig (Louis) Kuerschner, a German Immigrant, and his wife Louisa.
He was recognised as a great horseman and a skilled blacksmith. He had a reputation that ‘there was not a thing made of steel that Edward Herman could not make a copy of’. But times in the bush were hard and water was scarce so to support his family he contracted the building of water storage tanks/dams, using horse-drawn equipment.
He also participated in boxing matches behind the local hotel to raise money. Edward Herman was also the local funeral director, and he played a violin and piano accordion in the local dance band held in Tibooburra town. To the concern of several of his dance band members and friends, he also used his work truck to transport the ‘dearly departed’ to their final resting place at the local cemetery… and yes transported the dance band members and their instruments to the monthly dance gathering in Tibooburra.
Edward Kuerschner secured the lease of the property known as Peak Hill, right on the highway just south of Milparinka. It has now been in the Kuerschner family for over 100 years.
These were both corrugated iron structures, like many other buildings in the town, but with a few differences.
Across the road from the blacksmith’s were two stores, Cocky’s and Huezenroeders. Cocky was a Chinaman.
Out the back of Cocky’s store was a collection of sheds and lean-tos. It’s not known what was in them exactly but with a number of other Chinese in the district it is possible that they contained special herbs that were used in their cooking. It may even have been that Cocky sold opium. It was commonly used for pain relief and the Afghan’s teams brought supplies to the area were also known to use opium.
When the store closed, local children found Chinese coins with holes in the middle of the cellar and took delight in stringing them on wires for souvenirs.
Huezenroeders Store was along-side Cocky’s although it later became A C Geyer’s Store. In 1880 Selma and Carl Huezenroeder left Wilcannia for Milparinka planning to join the many miners who had travelled there before them. They walked the distance alongside their dray loaded with mining implements.
Their plans took a bit of a turn however, and they decided to open a general store. You can read more about the brothers in the Barracks.
Further along on the eastern side of the road were other buildings one of which was used as a dance hall.
Back on the western side, just north of the blacksmith’s is the ruin of a cellar. This was William Baker’s home as well as his store that he built in 1893. The newspaper at the time congratulated Mr Baker for his foresight in excavating the site and building on top of it. “This underground apartment should be a very pleasant resort in the heat of the summer”, the paper read.
Ever the entrepreneur, William Baker advertised in the local paper, “William Baker of Loftus Street, “begs to announce that he has just received a large quantity of supplies of every description and of the best quality, which he is prepared to sell at the very lowest prices on prompt cash terms.”
He had “a very large stock of groceries, summer clothing, haberdashery etc, including ladies’ dress material, ladies’, gentlemen’s, children’s and infant’s boots and shoes etc.”
Bill Baker also had a saddler’s shop and butchery, with a delivery of meat to Mount Browne and Bendigo mines.
Behind the ruin is an area fenced off with pool security fencing. In the centre of the fencing is a circular stone opening to an underground water storage tank. The tank is also circular, the walls have been plastered and the domed roof is stone, held together by the centre ring of stones. Quite a feat of engineering in a township like Milparinka. Baker’s Store closed in the 1920s
Walking northward still along Loftus Street you will pass over Sutherland Street. Note how wide it is…built to turn a horse and cart or wagon around.
There are many house ruins along here. Only in our imagination can we see families in their homes, children playing, horses and wagons and the occasional pig. Some of the localities have name posts that help to identify where people lived.
After a short walk you will come to the fenced in memorial plaque for George Thomas Smith. George’s family lived at this site in Milparinka. He was descended from one of the earliest families who took up a property called Millring. George went on to become an academic. Many of the quotations published in the courthouse are attributed to George and from a document entitled “A Hundred Years of Corner Life”.
The ruin of the Royal Hotel is on the left at the “bottom” of Loftus Street. It was built by Duncan McBryde of the Mount Poole Run for the “benefit of travellers” with stables at the back and down the Mount Poole Road to the west. John McIndoe was the first licensee.
Judging by the rather significant “bottle dump” at the rear, quite a few travellers and locals benefited from a visit to The Royal, as, no doubt, did the operators. Quite a few operators it seems over a relatively short period of time.
John McINDOE 1882-1883;
Arthur W. SHERARD 1884;
William BAKER 1889-1890;
George BLORE 1892-1893;
Neil McLEAN 1894-1895;
Edward BAKER 1896-1899
then back to Edward’s brother William…or was it Jeremiah? Just depends on whose report one reads as to who owned what, and when.
About the time of William Baker’s second period of ownership funds were being raised for a cottage hospital. William, so it seems, sold the premise for that purpose but continued to operate as a business, and the hospital never eventuated. Tibooburra got in first.
If you now look to the west where the sandstone plateau dips down toward the gutters and water courses, you will see that the side of the hill has been excavated. This is the site of the town quarry. It has been certified that the majority of stone buildings in the town were constructed from sandstone cut from this hill.
At this point you are more or less at the end of the town. In April 2023 a wire sculpture of Sturt and his horse was installed at this point. The pieces have been created by wire-artist Brian Campbell. Sturt is heading toward the creek which he would then have followed to the campsite at Mount Poole. The pieces have been created by wire-artist Brian Campbell.
Diagonally opposite is the flood out flat of the Evelyn Creek where the so-called Afghan cameleers camped with their animals after they carried goods to Milparinka.
Further along the creek, about 2 kilometres from the centre of Milparinka, are the alluvial flats where Chinese gardeners grew vegetables to sell.
Chinese men were present in the area from about 1890 when several were working as miners at Mount Browne. After disagreements with the European miners their homes were burned and they were run off the mine-sites.
It’s not known whether these same miners dug the wells and established gardens along the Evelyn Creek flats but it is recorded that without their fresh produce the population of Milparinka would have had a very poor diet.
Now for the hike back up the road to the township.
The Albert ( Milparinka) Hotel is arguably the oldest building still standing in Milparinka, the Albert Hotel. In the early 1880s there was great expectation that the Albert Goldfield would prove to be very profitable. While there was no gold found in Milparinka the township rapidly developed as a service town. What better way to service the thirsty miners than with an ale or two at the local.
George Blore is known to have built the Albert Hotel for Samuel Penrose using sandstone that was cut from the hillside just to the north-west of the town. George and his father and brother (both named Frederick) came into the area as stockmen and horse breakers. Frederick senior had been a builder in London and his skills were taken up by George who built and was licensee for the Cobham Lake Hotel.
Sam Penrose didn’t stay long as the Albert Hotel licensee and had several jobs moving on to the Warratta Hotel in 1890. Having had a bit too much ale one night he fell from his horse and was killed. His long suffering wife Evelyn became the district’s much-loved midwife.
The Albert Hotel had a series of owners after Samuel; the Blores, the Bakers, the O’Connors and the Bonnetts.
After her husband died Mary Ann Bonnett maintained the hotel, operated the post office and telephone exchange from the building, and hired our motor cars, much to the irritation of her competitor Austen Clune across the road at the Royal Standard Hotel.
Notable among visitors to the Albert Hotel was Mr EBL Dickens, son of the famous author Charles Dickens, who held a public meeting at the hotel in August 1893. Mr Dickens was the state member of Parliament for the seat of Wilcannia.
The hotel has undergone many changes since it was built but retains the atmosphere of a historic outback pub.
Heading south along Loftus Street, which used to be the main road to Broken Hill, is a space where Jeremiah Baker lived with his family, Les, Nell, Girlie and Jack.
Jeremiah and his brothers came into the area around the 1890s.
Jeremiah then worked as a labourer and is reputed to have erected the first corner post at Cameron Corner with surveyor John Cameron. He and his brothers held the licenses for the Albert Hotel and another further back along the road to the north. He acquired the contract for postal services to Milparinka just prior to World War One.
His sons Ross and Les both enlisted; Ross was killed and Les was badly hurt.
In the early 1920s leases of the Kidman station properties expired and Jeremiah, Les and Jack were granted Theldarpa Station.
In this space was also the house of T.W. Chambers, the livewire of Milparinka. He was the editor of the newspaper The Sturt Recorder which ceased publication in 1899. Chambers was a champion of the Milparinka – Tibooburra district, especially with regard to public watering places, town commons, the dangers of the Labor Party, the enormous wealth of gold he believed still to be in the district. His newspaper heaped abuse on all politicians for their neglect and indifference towards the needs of country people. Copies of these papers are on a touch screen in the old barracks building.
To the rear of this space are several new buildings that accommodate the pastoral history of the area, a mining heritage centre and a gem centre and a large mural. Entry to these spaces is by a fee to be paid at the courthouse visitor centre.
It’s a bit of a hike out to the cemetery along the airstrip just on the other side of the water tanks, so if you don’t feel like it right now it may be best to return to Cemetery Road and head back towards Loftus Street. The cemetery is worth a visit and information about it will be included in this guide.
As you go back toward Loftus Street take note of the many artefacts lying on the ground; broken pieces of pottery, nails, screws, bits of timber from homes. About halfway along on the northern side of the road is a rectangular excavation that has been lined with sandstone. One can only assume that this was used as a dairy cellar. It is certainly recorded that people kept milking goats in their yard. There are also the ruins of several other stone buildings. They are worth a look but take care walking across the ground, it is quite uneven and there are also sorts of hazards.
The Milparinka Cemetery can be accessed by following the airstrip for the full length and then continuing along a two wheeled track. Please do not drive on the airstrip itself but keep well left in order to prevent wheel ruts forming on the strip.
The Milparinka Cemetery was laid out on a windswept hillside at the time that the township was surveyed.
From available records of Milparinka from around 1880 to 1920 we know that there were at least 300 people who died during that period. Almost fifty were infants or small children who succumbed to epidemics of typhoid or diphtheria. Some families lost multiple children.
The first European children whose deaths are recorded in Milparinka are the Morphett babies, George David and David Milparinka Morphett. They are not buried in the cemetery but in a small gravesite on a rise overlooking the town. It has been fenced by members of the Morphett family and a plaque installed. It can be seen from the courthouse verandah looking to the south west.
Not everyone whose deaths were recorded at Milparinka are buried there although it is likely that the majority would have been .Today ground disturbance may suggest a burial site but there are only a few distinctive headstones or grave fences. Some are ornate, some little more than rotted timber today.
Amongst the historic graves in Milparinka are those of Jeremiah Baker and his wife Ellen (Nell). You have heard quite a bit about old Jerry during the course of the tour.
Frederick and George Blore are also buried in Milparinka; their family has shown their respect for these pioneers by constructing a significant memorial wall.
Henry Bonnett is there also, the former Albert Hotel publican and wife of Mary Ann. One of their sons was killed in action during World War One.
Fred Conners from the Royal Standard Hotel is buried in Milparinka along with his brother James’ little girl Kathleen O’Connor who died from typhoid at Yandeberry Hotel on the road to Wilcannia. Her father built her little wooden coffin in order to transport her to Milparinka on the Cobb and Co coach service.
There is no headstone for little Sarah O’Connor, not related to Kathleen, who died after swallowing strychnine in a room behind their house. Her brother Barney served during World War One and was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Order.
Stella Wood was the daughter of William Wood, the town’s long serving senior constable.
Mildred Chambers is also buried here, a young woman engaged to be married to Tibooburra store keeper Fred Cornthwaite who died in a house fire in Milparinka.
And so it goes. Tread carefully as you will no doubt.
Thank you for taking the Milparinaka Walking Trail. We hope you enjoyed the walk to our unique corner country town.