There’s a ghost town amongst the old remote goldfields of northern New South Wales that in the mid-1800s was reportedly home to 5,000 people and over a dozen pubs. Today there’s nothing but haunting building remains. It’s the destination of weekend detectorists searching for gold and a memento of history, and appears to be pretty much cleaned out. However, recently I ventured the 800 kilometre round trip, armed with historical research, advanced technology, fortitude against sub-zero temperatures, and found there’s still mesmerizing stories waiting to be told.
Old Dalmorton is in the beautiful Clarence Valley on the old Glen Innes Road. Its charm is that 150 years ago it was a gregarious gold town, but now there’s only silence. That is, until you scratch under the surface.
Buried in the hill behind the old police station, my detectorist buddy George unearthed three fired bullet projectiles (pictured above). Unfortunately, they were distorted and missing a lot of their metallic integrity. That meant that we’d need a scientific ballistic laboratory to determine what calibre they were, let alone what firearms they were discharged from.
Even so, the small projectile appears to have been fired from perhaps a 9mm handgun, while the larger one maybe an 1880s Martini-Henry rifle, the type used by the police troopers at the Ned Kelly Siege.
One man who may have practiced his marksmanship by shooting into the hillside was Constable James Morgan (pictured right). In 1877, Constable Morgan discovered the decomposed body of a man called “Charley” and gave his deposition at the now disappeared Golden Fleece Hotel at Dalmorton.
In the paddock behind the police station and at the ‘new’ cemetery dating from 1894, I found a horse tack buckle and horseshoe. At a nearby church I detected a beautiful and expensive brass stirrup (pictured below), now aged with wear on one side from years of high class boots. The wearing told me that it hung from the left side of the saddle.
Right in front of the police station and across from the long-gone stores, where thousands of detectorists had been before me, I swung my Minelab CTX 3030 and found a 101-year old King George V Australian penny. It had been waiting for me, preserved with a deep green patina. The coin may have made its way underground at around the time of the photo below, taken after the miners had gone and just post the First World War.
Three Dalmorton men went away to the war, one was Robert Dudley Adams. He was a thirty-year-old teamster who was living with his mother Christiana just outside of town when he enlisted in 1915. Adams embarked on the same ship as Andrew Barton Paterson – the poet who by then had already given us The Man from Snowy River and Waltzing Matilda, and was otherwise known as “Banjo” after his favourite racehorse. Adams served with Banjo in the same squadron of the Australian Remounts in Egypt, responsible for getting the horses ready to go back to the front. His only war injury was a dislocated shoulder, suffered while playing cricket. It may well have been Adams who dropped the 1917 penny when he came home and reported into the police station at the start of August 1919.
Some years after the war, Adams hosted a member of the New South Wales parliament who came to inspect the hoop pine forests on his property. Some of the old growth trees measured an enormous twelve feet girth at the butt and 170 feet high.
Those monster hoop pines were the living descendants of conifers from the Jurassic Age 180 million years before. The tall trees may have fallen victim to the timber getters who cleared the farmland around here. Or, just like the secrets that I detected under my feet, they may still be here watching, hidden in the mountains and gullies around the ghostly remains of historic old Dalmorton.
Now watch the video of exploring the abandoned Ghost Town and finding buried treasure!
Clarence Valley – my own
Projectiles – my own
Constable James Morgan – A Cunningham & Son Photographic Artists Armidale / State Library of NSW
Stirrup & coin – my own
Dalmorton 1921 – National Library of Australia PIC8847316
Dalmorton 2018 – my own