Tuena lies high in the Abercrombie district of the Great Dividing Range half way between Goulburn and Bathurst. Here the countryside is rugged, as the aptly named nearby Cordillera attests (Spanish for knotted mountain chain).
Through it runs Tuena Creek, a tributary of the Abercrombie River before it runs into Lake Wyangala. Here, along these waterways from the junction of the Abercrombie, 9kms south to Tuena. and on through Mt. Costigan to Peelwood, was the scene of a gold rush which was to last over 60 years.
Traditional tribal land of the Burra Burra peoples, it was first traversed by Europeans in 1819. In that year the pioneering explorer Dr. Charles Throsby had been commissioned by the governor to find an overland route from the Goulburn district to the new settlement of Bathurst.
Many of the lands discovered by Throsby were soon opened up for settlement, squatters moving in with herds of cattle, but the first landholder (Samuel Blackman) did not settle in Tuena until 1836.
Gold! Soon after the discovery of gold at Ophir, near Bathurst, prospectors shipped the first gold out of the Abercrombie area to Goulburn (August 1851). A gold rush ensued, and by the time Edward Hargraves, Commissioner for Crown Lands arrived, some 100 people were prospecting on the Abercrombie.
By October of the same year, gold had been discovered just over a kilometre from Tuena itself, legend has it, by Rev. John Douglass. Another rush followed, mostly from Goulburn, but fuelled by miners from Bathurst and even those returning from California.
Within months between 300 and 500 people were prospecting on the Tuena Creek, and thousands passed through Tuena in subsequent years.
The alluvial gold was easily won, and although the population fluctuated month by month as miners raced from one side of the country to the other following the latest strikes, gold worth over $3 million in today's currency was extracted from Tuena in 1852.
Further south, in 1854 gold bearing quartz was discovered at Junction Point, making it the oldest reef mine in Australia.
Subsequent waves of prospectors flocked to the area over the years: the 1860s and 70s (Junction Point), 1899 (Tuena Creek), 1903 (Long Hollow), 1904 (Nuggetty Gully) and 1933-4 (during the Depression). Today people still come to fossick for the specks of gold which can be panned from Tuena Creek.
The first settlement at Tuena was a miner's shanty town, with hundreds of tents and huts. Hotels (1854) and stores soon followed and Tuena was formally declared a town in 1859.
Most of the original buildings (of timber or slab construction) are no longer standing, but Tuena still has some notable heritage buildings from this time.
The oldest is the "Bookkeeper's Cottage". Built in 1861 of wattle and daub construction (woven saplings covered in mud and plaster), it was both office and home to the official who tallied the gold before it was shipped out by coach and armed escort - usually to Goulburn.
The Goldfields Inn was built in 1866; the third and only remaining hotel in Tuena it is notable in that part of the original wattle and daub construction is incorporated in the present building.
The first post office was opened in Tuena in 1852 and moved to various properties around the village over the years, coming to rest at Parson's store in 1913. The Parson's family had owned a store in Tuena since 1860 and the current General Store (1954) is built next to the original, contains fixtures from the original store, and is still run by the fifth generation of the family.
To keep the peace on the goldfields, a police station was opened in 1852 and a courthouse in the 1860s.
Troopers had patrolled the notorious Abercrombie region for some time as it was a favourite hiding place for escaped convicts and bushrangers. In 1836 at Limerick Creek, just south of Tuena, troopers captured bushranger Cummins and shot Lowry. In 1861 they also captured Frank Gardiner and members of his gang in a vicious encounter but the bushrangers escaped.
The Abercrombie Caves, north of Tuena, were a favourite hiding place for criminals on the run - Ben Hall, Gardiner, John Vane, Johnny Gilbert, John O'Meally. Some of these were known to visit the Goldfields Inn (two of its bars are named after them), and the locals were wont to gather at the caves for an annual picnic and dance for up to 100 years later in the cavern where the bushrangers held theirs.
The courthouse (where the Fire Brigade now is) operated until 1958. and also served as a social centre but was demolished in 1978. The present police station was built in 1900.
The first school in Tuena was opened in 1860, and then had a chequered history - being closed from time to time for lack of students. Finally the current school was built in 1889, and has operated since - although numbers are so critically low there have been attempts to close it and bus children to Crookwell 60 kms away ('plus la change...').
St. Marks Anglican Church (1886)
St. Mark's Anglican Church was built in 1886 after 50 years of travelling priests and is thought to be the oldest timber 'miner's church' still standing. The Presbyterian Church was erected in 1890, and St. Mary's Catholic Church in 1896 (which interestingly uses bricks from the old Cordillera mine).
During the second half of the 19th century there were a number of other mines around Tuena - copper, silver, lead and gold at Peelwood from the 1870s to 1884, and in the mid to late 1880s at Mt. Costigan and Cordillera.
All that remains of these settlements and activities are a few brick chimneys over the former smelters, and evidence of reef mining.
From the beginning of the 20th century Tuena's main industry has been agriculture - sheep, cattle, potatoes.
Today Tuena remains a small rural village, but a village surrounded by the ghosts of the past: fossickers and miners in their thousands; the Chinese prospectors of the late 1850s and those who stayed to run businesses in Tuena until the early 1900s; former artisans and storekeepers - blacksmiths, farriers, butchers, wheelwrights, assayers, stables; a short lived bank; the bullock teams which shipped produce in and out; bushrangers and other desperadoes.
Early settler's cottage
For many years its population swelled as 2000 to 3000 visitors descended on the town at Easter for the annual Goldrush festival and to try their luck fossicking for gold.
After 37 years the festival was closed - sadly due to the decline in the population of the area. The dedicated work of the people of Tuena has resulted in raising considerable monies to contribute to community causes over the years, one of which is the camping amenities which visitors can continue to enjoy.
Today Tuena is more easily accessible by the new Tablelands Way (Goulburn to Oberon), allowing more people the opportunity to see this historic village.
The people of Tuena have always offered a warm welcome, and invite you today to enjoy your visit.