Traditional Owners

That there was an Aboriginal presence in the Black Range area before the coming of the Europeans has never been in doubt.

It is believed there were two distinct tribes within the Sandstone district. The Wongi in the eastern half and the Yamagee in the western half. It has been suggested that neither tribe would cross into the other's territory except for tribal meetings. Furthermore, considering the scarcity of water in the area it is also thought both tribes may have only lived in the area on a non-permanent basis.

After that, very little is known of their presence in Sandstone. The only available information has been gathered from a scant number of publications throughout the years.

There are however, definite signs of an Aboriginal presence through the district. These include hand stencils on rock formations, old camping grounds, stone cairns and the evidence of flint tool making. Gnamma holes have also been discovered throughout the years, mainly by farmers when their stock fell into them. Sadly, many of these holes have been filled in since then for this exact reason.

The Gold Rush Era

The Western Australian Gold Rush occurred in 1885 in the East Kimberley region. It wasn't until 6 years later in 1891 that gold was discovered in the Murchison.

A £1000 reward was offered to the discoverer of a new and payable goldfind. In an effort to keep some record of what gold was actually being found and taken, miner's rights were introduced. These rights allowed miners to prospect for gold which they could then sell to licensed gold buyers.

There is much debate over who was the first person to find gold in the Black Range area, but the first recognised registered find goes to Ernest Shillington in January 1895.

The discovery of gold heralded the beginnings of the first township in the area, Nungurra. Due a number of factors, lack of water being a major one, a newer town site was required. Four years later, in 1906, the town of Sandstone was officially gazetted. Within a year, Nungurra's population dropped to a mere 50-60 people. Shortly after, Nungurra became a ghost town.

Building materials were too expensive to just leave behind, so many of the buildings in Nungurra were dismantled and reassembled in Sandstone.