Thursday 30 April 2015

Zillmanton Village Found

At last!  After several expeditions over the years, we believe we may have finally found the site of the little village that long ago served the mines of Zillmanton.  Zillmanton deserves better than a near-forgotten footnote in the local history records as it was the first township on the Chillagoe Mineral Field and for a short time was the only settlement out beyond Koorboora.  An official town site was not surveyed until near the closure of mining so it was never accurately marked on any of the older maps or plans which made finding the site rather difficult.  And as the mines closed permanently at the end of 1911 and the town was pretty much gone by 1914, all those who may have known the pioneering township would have past from this world many decades ago and sadly taking that information with them.

Looking down on the site
While recently enjoying a lazy long weekend at Chillagoe, our intrepid trio of Duncan, Robert and myself decided to give it another try and after reviewing all the areas where we had searched in the past and failed to find the site, we chose this time to explore well past the mine sites.  So one morning, before the heat of the day got too much and with a couple of young 'whipper-snapper' in tow, we headed out to Zillmanton for yet one more try.  It shouldn't have been this hard to find as the place had the services of a proper town with a couple of bush hotels and a number of boarding houses along with a couple of shops and for a few years towards the end, a small school.  But were was it all?  We knew it was suppose to be close to the railway line and perviously we had searched the areas about the mine site, then an 'old timer' told us that he thought the town site was further out along the rail line.  So we looked out on the Mungana side which made sense to us as there was a water source in that direction.  But we didn't find anything out there so we decided this time to look in the opposite direction as we later found a copy of a Mines Department plan which showed the site of the school reserve out there.

The hidden stumps
We drove off the road where it crossed the now disused railway line and followed a track for a short way before parking in the shade of a large tree.  Our party then wandered down the railway line, back in the direction of Chillagoe and pass the old mines and through the areas we had searched in the past.  On our right was a line of low hills behind which we could hear the traffic passing by so we were still reasonablely close to the main road.  Towards the end of the hills, the country opened out onto a flat area which looked promising and we walked across to investigate and to our delight we started to come across old metal barrel rims and pieces of broken glass.  To get a better view of the area, I climbed up the side of the nearby hill and onto a small rock outcrop which was shaded by a old tree and there I found dozens of old green beer bottles along with a sortment of whisky bottles.  It seem too high on the hill slope to be a dump site and the lack of old tin cans there, suggested that men from nearby might have climbed to this place to enjoy a drink during their spare time.

Soon after coming down from the hill, one of the youngsters pointed out a row of old wooden stumps half hidden in the long grass.  We had found our first building site.  The front of the site was facing the rail line and had been built up with rock and several rows of old floor stumps were still in place giving us an idea of the dimensions of the structure.  Shards of broken crockery found about the site suggested this was a residential dwelling, maybe one of the boarding houses which provided accommodation for the miners.  With the long grass making the search difficult and the midday heat starting to take its toll, we decided to call it a day and headed back towards the car happy with the knowledge that we had found the likely area where the village once stood.  Our little party resolved to return later in the year, after the annual bush fires have cleaned up the long grass, to better investigate this area.  But for now, it was off to cool down with a cold drink and a splash in Chillagoe Creek.
The mines of Zillmanton                                                                  The mine site today