Rob & Carol's  HOMEPAGE

 

Wooleybah Sawmill -  Pilliga Forest

The original Aboriginal Gamilaroi people maintained most of the Pilliga region as grassland through the practice of Ďfire-stick farmingí. European settlers arrived in the Pilliga in the 1830's & by the 1870's their impact, coupled with the rabbit plague, droughts & floods, had transformed it into a dense scrub of ironbark and cypress trees. The settlers used the ironbark trees for sleepers for the construction of the railway line to Narrabri in 1882.

In 1917, the area known as the Pilliga West State Forest was dedicated. Efforts to settle returning soldiers from World War I in farming communities in the forest were largely unsuccessful. It wasnít until the construction of the railway line to Coonabarabran in 1917 & the extension of the line to Gwabegar in 1923 that a number of small, independent milling operations commenced in the forest and infrastructure followed.

In January 1935, the NSW Forestry Commission gave the Underwood family an occupation permit to set up a mill at Wooleybah. They brought an English steam engine with them to power the mill. Soon a small forest sawmilling community developed. The settlement comprised of more than ten small huts, a school which operated until 1967 & a teacherís house.

The Wooleybah Sawmill closed in the late 1990's & is the only one of its type still intact in NSW which is now listed on the State Heritage Register. All of the buildings are still standing today & vacant, except for the former foresterís house and a house near the old mill. The Underwood family continue to live at the site.

The work force for over 50 years comprised of equal numbers of Aboriginal & white workers, most of who lived around the mill in small timber houses on the fringes of the clearing. The Underwood's treated their workers like a family taking them under their wing. There were never any fights, everyone wanted to be there.
 

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