The first recorded mining activity at Hill End comes from the diary of Henry and John Windeyer in 1851. The men had been on a prospecting trip and had made their way up Oakey Creek onto the tableland near the present day site of Hill End. Their diary recorded...
"About one hundred and fifty men who had been washing in that secluded spot for nearly a month unknown to the generality of man and the Commissioners."
There was a lot to be said for remaining unknown to the Gold Commissioners. One of the duties of these public servants was to ensure that the miners paid up to 30 shillings every month for their licence giving them the right to dig up the Queen's gold.
Over the next twenty years Hawkins Hill did not give up its riches easily. Many deep shafts had to be sunk before payable veins of gold bearing quartz were discovered. The shortage of funds was often a problem for the early miners on the Hill, and this resulted in the sporadic development of many mines.
By 1870, the years of mining on Hawkins Hill were beginning to pay off with more gold being extracted. By 1871 news reached far and wide of spectacular gold coming from the many claims along the hill side.
On the 19th of October 1872 miners in the Star of Hope Mine located on the edge of the township of Hill End unearthed the largest gold specimen ever found in the world - to this very day. The 'Holtermann Specimen' as it became known, stood over 1.5 metres tall and contained over 5000 ounces of gold.
The discovery of the Holterman Specimen fired an already incredible gold rush, the population of Hill End soared from a few hundred to an estimated 10,000 people living in and around Hill End and it's surrounding goldfields.
Not only did the gold rush attract miners in their thousands but many other keen on establishing businesses.
At one time over 2 miles of shops and businesses existed within Hill End. They included 2 banks, 3 doctors, 11 mining agents, 5 store keepers, 3 blacksmiths, 4 butchers, 5 churches and an incredible 22 hotels!
The Holtermann Photographic Collection
With some of his newfound weath Bernhardt Holtermann financed the work of a photographer by the name of Beaufoy Merlin. Beaufoy set about recording everyday life in a number of Australian gold towns. In 1872 his work included photographing virtually every home and business within Hill End. The collection of nearly 3500 images recorded every aspect of life within Hill End and around the gold field.
The entire photographic collection actually became lost to history and was only rediscovered in a shed in Chatswood in 1951!
In 2013 the collection was listed by the United Nations in it's Memory of the World Register as one of the worlds most treasured historical items.
Now protected and preserved the collection is regarded as one of the world's greatest photographic treasures.