Photo of Ben Hall
Murga was quite notorious in that it’s a few miles east of Escort Rock where Frank Gardiner and Ben Hall and the gang bailed up the coach and stole all the gold and cash in October of 1862.
Murga started in 1862, because they discovered gold at Forbes the previous year. In the 12 months after of the discovery of gold in 1861 the population grew to 28,000 to 30,000 people. They needed servicing and the site that became Murga was halfway between Orange and Forbes. So it was a very suitable site, along the creek there, with the fertile flats and good water, most of the time, to start a village that would service Forbes, the settlers and the gold miners. It became the main horse changing station between Orange and Forbes. Within the 12 months of discovering gold in Forbes, the population of Murga had reached 100 people.
The changing stations were for coaches that were privately owned. Cobb and Co didn’t really take over till 1870. There were bullock teams and horse teams, sometimes up to a 100, at the height of the business. I think I read somewhere that 80 bullock teams camped there in one night, at one stage.
Forbes got its postal office in the early part of 1862. A petition from people in the Murga area went in to Sydney and they very quickly got approval to have a post office at Murga, which opened in December 1862.
Murga was quite notorious in that it’s a few miles east of Escort Rock where Frank Gardiner and Ben Hall and the gang bailed up the coach and stole all the gold and cash in October of 1862. A year later they held up Goimbla station, trying to get provisions. A family by the name of Campbell in Goimbla were pioneer tobacco growers. They had a very well-bred English stallion and the bush rangers there depended on good horses. They attempted to steal the stallion, but the Campbells decided to fight, and in the ensuing gunfight, one of the bush rangers, Johnny O’Meally, was shot dead. The shed where the tobacco was stored, and the horse kept, was all burnt, and the horse was lost.
During that same year, 1863, the bushranger gang decided to visit Murga and at the stage there were two hotels, one on either side of the road. They came in broad daylight. The publican at the first hotel they went to was away. Ben Hall was well known for being kind and considerate to women, so they didn’t take anything from that hotel. They had two rounds of drinks, which they paid for. They then went across the street to the other hotel, where it was a different matter. They robbed everybody there including the butcher, and they took all his money. Money and firearms: they collected everything they could.
Interview by Marg Carroll