In its heyday during the 1880s and 1890s, Copeland was a lively town with a population of around 3,000. But when the gold yield dwindled so did the population.
Alluvial gold was first discovered in the valley in about 1872. The diggings were originally known as the Back Creek or Barrington diggings.
The gold industry peaked in about 1879 with the Mountain Maid mine - discovered three years earlier - producing more gold than any other in the field. It is understood that the mine is now a tourist attraction.
From Gloucester Advocate (NSW : 1905 - 1954), Friday 1 May 1936, page 1
AFTER MANY DAYS.
I saw by the paper some little time ago that Mrs. Brockwell, sen., who many years ago was a resident of Copeland, had passed away. She was, I believe, born in Surrey, England, but came to Copeland with her husband, the genial Frank Brockwell, and resided there for many years.
She was a dear old soul, loved and respected by everyone. One can lift their hats and stand in silence for a minute in respect of those good old pioneers, of long ago. Mrs. Brockwell's death brings back many memories of old Copeland — Copeland in its golden days of prosperity, when its street, or road, was crowded with people night and day from the 'Rainbow' down to Brockwell's. At night poker, two-up and rum, with billiards thrown in, was the order of things, and during the day, billiards, quoits — and prospecting. Money was flying about in plenty. These were the days of Irwin, Gill and Bee at their top, the Biddy brothers, the Carlton brothers, the Moore's, the Mclntyre's, Phil. Langworthy and a host of other splendid fellows who made Copeland their home at that time. Copeland had the best brass band north of Newcastle. They could prove this boast, for they had that grand old bandmaster — Barkell — master of the 4th Regiment Band, of Newcastle, who won the championship of Australia, to back them up. 'Best band in the north,' he said, I recently heard an old man say that when Copeland band was at its full strength it was the best band he ever heard. Some of the men who made this band so great were Bill Ford, H. Hicks, Ken. Mclntosh, Tom Ford, Ted Williams, and others just as good. The first five were almost the pick of the Newcastle bands. I have seen the crowd so dense below where the school is now that for a few minutes the band would have to mark time to let the crowd open up. Memories come back of the time when Beresford and Tassell found the rich pocket in the Centennial ; of the rush to the Bowman ; of the opening up of the Mint mine — which proved very rich — and of several other mines which paid for a time. All, or most, of the cartage was done with bullocks and slide, many of the old cuttings being just wide enough for a slide and team to travel. Then there was a milk run where one of a family of brothers used to supply the milk and about half a dozen cobbers would supply the rum. But his shortage of cash and his behaviour, became so noticeable when he returned home that his other brothers set a watch on him. They soon found out where the leak in cash came in. Another brother was put on the milk delivery but the experiment was costly — the milk and rum was mixed by the gallon. It ended up in the milk run being sold. John and T. Driscoll had the Rainbow mine and crushing plant when Mary Connelly opened up the pub almost opposite where Tony Holstein had a hay and corn store, just below the pub in the bend of the creek. Jim Irwin and Harry Gill, who were as poor as Lazarus, struck the rich Mountain Maid and made a fortune, but after handling all their money I think they died, almost as poor as when they started, and neither of them were gamblers or drunkards. They just frittered the money away. Old man Bee, who was with them, bought a few cottages at Manly, but I think, if I remember rightly, he lost them and his money in somewhat similar circumstances to the others. In reading in the 'Advocate' of the very large cedar tree cut by Mr. George Watson, of Gloucester River, a few weeks ago, I was reminded that Copeland was found by the Saxby brothers when getting cedar out of Back Creek. The Barrington people could hardly believe it when they heard of the find. In fact some of them had to see the gold before they could believe it. Great days then, for the miners, towns people and farmers. But oh, the poor horses and bullocks — their sufferings were something terrible — beaten and lashed to make them pull their loads through the bogs — which was the road between Copeland, Barrington and Gloucester. Its strange, isn't it, how, gold patches are missed. This was the case in regard to, the Cobark, Rawdon Vale, and the country round about the Diggers paddock, where a lot of gold was afterwards obtained.