Parkes Local History
Parkes is a town located in the Central West region of New South Wales, Australia. It was founded in 1853, and its name derives from Sir Henry Parkes, a prominent politician who played a key role in the federation of Australia.
Before European settlement, the area was inhabited by the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people. They used the fertile land for hunting and gathering, and some evidence of their presence can still be seen in the form of rock art and burial sites.
The first Europeans to explore the area were John Oxley and his party in 1817. They noted the richness of the soil and the abundance of water, but it was not until the 1850s that the first settlers arrived, attracted by the gold rush and the availability of land for farming.
One of the most important figures in the early history of Parkes was William Henry Suttor. He was a wealthy landowner and a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. In 1863, he donated land for the site of the town, which was then known as Bushman's or Currajong Flat. The first public buildings, including a courthouse and a police station, were erected on this land.
Parkes grew rapidly in the late 19th century, as the railway line was extended to the town and the farming and mining industries flourished. The opening of the Parkes branch railway line in 1893 was a significant event, making it easier to transport goods and people to and from the town.
The mining industry played a key role in the growth of Parkes, particularly during the early 20th century. The Peak Hill Gold Mine, located near the town, was one of the richest in the country. Gold was discovered in 1893, and the mine operated until 1917, producing over 350,000 ounces of gold. The mine's decline led to a period of economic hardship for the town, but it eventually recovered through the development of other industries.
During World War II, Parkes played an important role in the war effort. The town was home to an air training school, and it was also used as a base for the US Army. The famous 64-metre radio telescope, located on the outskirts of the town, was used by NASA to track the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. This event put Parkes on the map, attracting visitors from all over the world.
Today, Parkes is a thriving regional centre with a population of over 11,000. It is known for its agricultural industry, particularly for its wheat, canola, and cotton crops. The town is also home to the Parkes Observatory, which is managed by the CSIRO and is one of Australia's major research facilities.
In conclusion, Parkes has a rich and fascinating history that reflects the development of Australia as a whole. Its beginnings as a gold rush town have given way to a diverse and dynamic regional centre that continues to contribute to the country's growth and prosperity.