Resources for Sofala research:
Cobb & Co Heritage Trail Bathurst to Bourke by Diane de St. Hilaire Simmonds available from: (click)
Gold Nuggets Galore at Sofala from 1851 by Joyce Pearce
Sofala is an historic village today. It is a favourite spot for tourists, artists, campers and gold panners. Sofala originally stretched for 16 kilometres along the Turon. It had more than 40 licensed hotels. The first gold in Sofala was found by two men, Lester and Raffael at Golden Point, 3/4 mile east of the village, three weeks after the Ophir strike in 1851. Miners poured into Sofala from the Mudgee Road over the Razorback Mountain.
By 1880, the Chinese were credited as the most successful miners in the region.
In 1881 the Tom brothers erected an engine and ten-head stamper battery at Tobins Oakey Creek, north of the Hill Top reef, but the next year, miners again had to turn to farming to survive. Some left to work on the Wallerawang-Mudgee railway line.
In 1884 many miners went to the newest discovery at Sunny Corner. In that year the Mining Registrar showed about 60 European, 116 Chinese alluvial miners and 140 European quartz miners were still seeking gold in Sofala.
In its heyday, Sofala was said to have had 30,000 diggers including many Chinese. The first Chinese, 150 of them, arrived in June 1856 and by 1861, 642 Chinese lived in the town - half the male population at the time.
Some Chinese miners found a nugget so large it took 6 of them to carry it. The nugget was found at Spring Creek Sofala. One of the discoverers was Dr Marc Howe, a Chinese doctor. The nugget was broken up and sent back to China. Remains from Chinese water races can still be seen in Sofala, one was seven and a half miles long. The Chinese used a cup filled with water balanced on a stick for a spirit level when cutting a race.
There was thought to be 10,000 Chinese people living at Sofala. They had a Joss House south of the village. The Chinese had a custom of 'feeding the dead' at full moon, which was attended by Chinese people from Bathurst, weather permitting. A pig was slaughtered and slowly roasted, then decorated. It was then trussed on two long poles and carried in a procession by four people, especially chosen for the job. A lot of bowing and lighting crackers, they then threw rice and gave onlooking children small rice cakes and a slice of pig. The pig was then taken to Ar Gee's store, cut up and sold.
Several groups of Chinese fought over ownership of claims, with additional police being called in from Bathurst at one stage to prevent a civil war.
Chinese people were first buried in the local graveyard, but after about five years, they were dug up and the remains sent home to China. Folklore says gold was hidden in the bones to be shipped home. The Chinese customarily put food on top of the grave, believing it would be eaten by the spirits and the soul would be saved from the devil, but often the local children would sneak in and eat the food, thereby helping foster the belief.
The Isle of Dreams was the last Chinese quarter at Sofala. At Spring Creek, two men found a 200 ounce nugget. One man grabbed it and ran for the hills, his mate chasing him calling 'Honesty's the best policy'. Folklore says honesty won the day. A water race at this claim still exists today.
The Chinese miners used to dig a drain about four feet wide and two feet deep, with a gradual decline from a creek to a sluice box, or 'long tom'. In dry times the Chinese rented their water to other locals who did not have the knowledge to build a race. They also sold water to local women at threepence a bucketful.
Georgie Love and George Williams were credited with two of the best water races. Love's race was 7 1/2 miles long. It is west of the town.
After the goldrush subsided, many Chinese grew vegetables in the area. Tobacco sold for six pence a pound. Many became storekeepers as well, their charity to struggling miners well documented.
According to Pearce, one of the last Chinese in Sofala was a man named Pooh Fi, a gold miner. His efforts were unrewarded however, so his dream to return home to China a rich man were lost. Pooh Fi gathered up some rabbit traps he'd borrowed, placed them by the garden gate of their owner, tied a rope over the gate and hung himself. He was found in a kneeling position at the gate.
Chinese at Windeyer - the Yavion Family
I'm seeking any further information about my great great grandmother Mary Ann Farrell who lived in the Mudgee / Windeyer area as she is a big missing piece of my background. Farrell/Yavion
The few things I do know about her. She was born around 1845 and was probably part a local clan within the Wiradjuri nation, I haven't found a birth or death certificate for her that I can confirm or a census document for further info. On her first daughter (my great grandmother) Elizabeth Ann Farrell's birth certificate she gave her place of birth as the mother as "Cloudy Bay" (Kaludabah). She had 3 children with Thomas Yavion a Chinese miner who's Chinese name was Yav Yen or similar and they lived at Windeyer.
The 3 children were Elizabeth Ann Farrell who married Thomas Meroo Chick Willams , Mary Ann Farrell jnr who married Walter J Noonan and Thomas Yavion jnr who married Clara Grace Williams (Thomas Meroo Chick Williams' sister). Both her daughter's were married under the maiden names of Yavion though on their birth certificates they are registered as "Farrell". Thomas Yavion jnr's (Frank Yavion's father) birth certificate has his surname as "Yavven" with a double "v". I hope someone can help especially any info about where she died and where she is buried as I can't find her. Greig Williams.
Editor's Note: Greig has been given a lot of information, some of which is printed below.
Thomas Yavion’s original grave (Thomas married Maryanne Farrell. He died 1913) is in the C section of Mudgee cemetery. The Yavion family recently erected a monument there for him. There is a family story that Mary Anne Farrell was the daughter of an Aboriginal mother who worked for the Rouse family at Guntawang. The story goes that Rouse fathered Maryanne Farrell.
Thanks for a bit more info on Mary Ann Farrell ...it all helps but I always had a feeling that I wasn't going to be able to go back further in my family history on my Pop's side than Mary Ann and Thomas once I confirmed the Aboriginal /Chinese ancestry ,I'll give Dick a call. I've got a copy of the Eaglehawk mine pic in which Frank Yavion identified his and my Pop's grandfather Thomas Yavion and I emailed some pics and documents to the Mudgee Museum earlier this year so you could put them in the Williams folder in case someone else was looking. It's interesting you mentioned the name Forrester as the last time I was in Mudgee the museum gave me some copies of some death certs and there was one for an Agnes Forester known as Williams certified by Clara Grace Yavion (Frank's mum-Dick's Grandmother-my Pop's Aunty) and it said Agnes was unmarried so I couldn't work out (and still can't) how Clara was her sister in law. I'd only just got back from Mudgee/ Windeyer earlier this year when my Uncle called to tell me Frank had passed away, he's buried in the same area at Windeyer cemetery as my family and just near his father Thomas jnr and I paid my respects a few months ago...I'm working my way through the Windeyer General cemetery list and there's about 30 family connections there. ...I would like to thank everyone for their help with my family search over the past 6 months,the info I got from the museum has been fantastic...Cheers and thanks again. Greig Williams
Hi Diane, Just an update on my search for my indigenous great great grandmother Mary Ann Farrell.
My name is Ella Gaffney (nee Cruz) and I was wondering if you could help me find any information on my Aboriginal ancestors as I can’t find anything; Aboriginal Great-Great- Grandmother: Mary Ann Farrell born 1847?? Father Farrell? Mother Meroo? Mary Ann Married Thomas Yavion (Yavven?) he was born in China. They had a daughter called Mary Ann born: 1871? Died 8 November 1936 she married Walter J Noonan in 1902? They had a daughter called Ella Mary Noonan born 1903 died 11 June 1945 she married Juan Cruz (snr) 1925, they had a son Juan born 17 October 1931 Died 29 June 1963 he married Grace Cole March 1951- then came me Ella Mary Cruz now married to Len Gaffney. Of cause mum & dad had other children. Not sure of any other children to the above mention; Any help would be greatly appreciated. Regards Ella Gaffney
Editor's note: Ella has been sent some information and also advised to look up the Mudgee local white pages phone book because both the Gaffney and Yavion families still live in the area.
Mary Anne Yavion Walter Joseph Noonan
Hi Ella, My name is Catherine White and I'm also trying to trace the Yavion and Noonan line, my Great Grandmother was Mary Ann Yavion before marrying Walter Joseph Noonan then their daughter Ella Mary married Juan Cruz and they had six children ; (1) Marie (now deceased), (2) Alberta (my mother now deceased), (3) Phyllis (living in Mudgee), (4) Juan (now deceased), (5) Carmen and (6) Juanita (living in Macquarie Park) My mother Albert June Cruz married Raymond Eisenhuth (German descent) and went on to have six children, I'm number four. I came across two marriage certificates for Elizabeth Annie Yavion (occupation: domestic servant) who married Thomas Meroo Chick Williams (occupation: Alluvial gold miner) on 24th June 1900. Thomas Williams father George was also a miner and his mothers name was Fanny Johnston, at the time of Elizabeth's marriage Thomas Yavion was a Hawker of Fruit and currently I'm still looking for information on Mary Anne Farrell. Also if anyone can help me locate Walter Noonan's grave as his death reads ABT 1879, what I'm looking for is his full date of death. He was born in Cork Ireland in 1820 married Mary Anne McCarthy before coming to Australia on the ship 'William Metcalfe" the information I have is that had a residence in Nov 1852 Luson? (could be Lawson) before he settled in Gilgandra NSW. Any information would be much appreciated, also I have attached 2 copies of Elizabeth Yavions marriage certificates, a copy of a charcoal portrait of Mary Anne Yavion (Thomas Yavion (snr's) daughter and her husband Walter Joseph Noonan for your research. Regards, Catherine White