In the beginning
The connection of Aboriginal people with the Mole Creek area is thought to date back more than 10,000 years, and the Pallittorre band of the North tribe was based around Mole Creek/Meander. To these early inhabitants, the Great Western Tiers were known as Kooparoona Niara, or Mountains of the Spirits, culturally significant as the meeting place of three Aboriginal nations.
Tulunpunga, or Alum Cliffs, was a place of particular social and spiritual significance to Aborigines because of the ochre to be found in that area of the Gog Range. Many tribes travelled to Tulunpunga to obtain this highly prized material and for them this was a sacred celebration place.
European squatters with their cattle first crossed the Meander River, in the spread westwards, in the mid 1820s. The area was covered with tall forest, with some large areas of marsh and plain, which had been maintained by Aborigines, around the Chudleigh/Dairy Plains area. These marsh areas were taken up first as land grants and about 20 parcels were allocated during the mid to late 1820s.
Inevitably, a period of undeclared war followed between European and Aborigines, as the latter fought to retain control over their tribal land. Many settler huts were burned, a settler was killed near Chudleigh and there was widespread killing of Aborigines, particularly by stockmen.
In 1828 there was a major step forward in opening up the north and west, with the Van Diemen’s Land Company completing construction of the Great Western Road, linking Westbury with Burnie and passing through Mole Creek.
Between 1830 and 1860, European settlers won out over the Aborigines and took up all the relatively open country. They began developing large estates, using convict labour for clearing, fencing, roadmaking, drainage and water supply. These projects included the 9 foot ditch, which is still in use today. Many of the first settlers of Mole Creek arrived as indentured farm labourers or ex-convicts who worked on these estates as labourers or tenants.
The beginnings of a town
The town of Mole Creek began to develop between 1860 and 1890. Roads and bridges, cemeteries, churches, chapels, and schools followed – Caveside School in 1877 and Mole Creek School in 1878, in a local chapel, with the schoolhouse and residence following in 1890. During these years, land was being taken up further and further afield and, by 1890, was extending up into the upper Mersey Valley.
Early tourism – and mountain men
In the early 1890s, the railway was extended to Mole Creek and a ‘tourist resort’ and the town itself began to grow around the railway station and main road. Many of the attractions which are still drawcards today – the caves, Alum Cliffs, the lakes on the plateau, including Lake Mackenzie, and Devil’s Gullet – all attracted visitors right from those early days.
Around the same time, commercial hunting started and hardy Mole Creek men would spend their winters in the mountains, living in stark conditions in mountain huts and leaving their wives and families to run their farms. A victim of hunting, encouraged by a government bounty, was the Tasmanian Tiger, which is commonly held to have been hunted to extinction – although some dispute that to this day.
Decline and rebirth
In the mid 1920s the town grew and facilities such as the hotel were built. More families arrived, small farms were selected and, at the same time, some of the larger properties such as Wesley Dale were broken up. The Depression of the 1930s forced many people from the area to find work interstate and overseas.
Happily, the appeal of this beautiful area has seen Mole Creek regain its stature as a place beloved by its inhabitants and visitors alike.
Listen to these podcasts about Mole Creek
Mole Creek is the hub of the Great Caves Cycling Trail and you can learn a little about the area by listening to these podcasts about Mole Creek, its Aboriginal heritage, neighbouring Chudleigh, nearby Needles, Tasmanian Tigers, and the local feature known as Dogs Head.
The Great Western Tiers Cycle Trails, including these podcasts, are an initiative of Meander Valley Council and the Great Western Tiers Tourism Association, supported by Tourism Tasmania.