Historic goldmining town
Located 372 km west of Sydney, 213 km from Canberra and 384 metres above sea-level, Grenfell is an interesting and historically significant town which is known to most Australians because the poet and short story writer, Henry Lawson, was born on the nearby goldfields at Emu Creek. On the Queen's Birthday weekend in June every year, the town hosts The Henry Lawson Festival of Arts, which attracts thousands of visitors. The festival is a celebration of local and national talent, with art, poetry and writing competitions drawing entries from all over Australia. It was first held in 1958.
Prior to European settlement the Grenfell area was home to the Wiradjuri Aborigines whose lands stretched from Bathurst to the Victorian border. Small, efficient groups roamed this area hunting and gathering and occasionally coming together to celebrate particular events and to socialise.
The first European to settle in the district was John Wood whose huge 'run', which he called 'Brundah', included the present townsite. Wood arrived in 1833 but it took 33 years, and the sharp eye of Cornelius O'Brien (a shepherd working for Wood) to realise there were rich gold deposits on the property.
Miners flocked to the area in 1866 and although it was known as Emu Creek it was subsequently renamed Grenfell to honour the late John Grenfell, Gold Commissioner at Forbes. Grenfell had been on a stage coach which was held up and fired at by bushrangers. He was shot and died the following day in Narromine. The year was 1866.
The gold had attracted bushrangers to the district. They were particularly attracted to the rugged Weddin Mountains where famous bushrangers, including Ben Hall, Johnny Gilbert and Frank Gardiner, spent much of their time.
For the next decade gold dominated the town's economy. By 1870-71 it was producing more gold than any other town in NSW. However by the mid-1870s gold was in decline and agriculture was in the ascendancy.
Wheat was first grown in the district in 1871 and by 1875 the Grenfell Pastoral, Agricultural & Horticultural Association had been formed.
By the early 1880s wheat dominated the local economy. It also helped speed the construction of the railway which arrived in 1901.