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Mount Hunter is both a district and a village, five kilometres west of Camden and six kilometres east of The Oaks in the Wollondilly Shire.
The original inhabitants were the Tharawal and Gundungurra people. Another group in the area were known as the Cubbitch-barta, the name coming from words for white pipe clay.
Mount Hunter is 70 kilometres southwest of Sydney. The western boundary is Mount Hunter Rivulet, which flows into the Nepean. The suburb adjoins Cawdor at Fosters Lane, with the northern boundary formed by Flaggy Creek. Burragorang Road is the main arterial road leading from Camden to Nattai. Burragorang is an Aboriginal word derived from 'burra' meaning kangaroo, or 'booroon' meaning small animal, and 'gang' meaning hunting.
Naming Mount Hunter
Governor Hunter visited the area in 1796 to check on the well-being of the newly discovered herd of cattle and 'ascended a hill which, from every point of view has appeared the highest in the neighbourhood'. The hill was marked on the map as Mount Hunter, and there are rocks inscribed with lettering which is now so weather-damaged it is illegible. There is a trig station there. On a clear night it is possible to see Sydney's New Year's Eve Fireworks display from the top of Mount Hunter.
The Mount Hunter Public School (also known as Westbrook Public School) was established in 1859. St Paul's Anglican Church was built in 1875 and church services continue there. The Methodist (later Uniting) church, built in 1900, was sold in 2000.
The dairy industry
The main economic activity in the area over the years was dairying. From 1880 to 1907, the Camden Dairy Company Limited operated as a local cooperative, near the Mount Hunter Rivulet on Burragorang Road. The first creamery building was burnt down in 1902 and was almost immediately replaced by the two-storey timber building that still stands. This building was owned by the Lavercombe family from 1912 until 2000, when the last member, Clara, passed away without family or a will. Clara lived in Mount Hunter her entire 91 years. Her home was the Creamery from the time she was three years old until her death. Her father worked as a blacksmith at Mount Hunter. Numerous postcards, letters and photographs that remain tell of family occasions over more than 100 years. The Oaks Historical Society has now indexed, stored and catalogued the family documents and letters. In 2008 the Creamery was for sale.
The population growth in this area from 1890 to the1920s was due to the significant expansion of the dairying industry. The towns of Berry and Kiama developed at the same time as the Camden district for the same reason – all have broad river flats which are ideal for dairy cattle.
Building a community
Local long-term residents talk fondly of the Mount Hunter Hall and the many dances held there over the years. Apparently, the tables 'groaned with the generous country suppers'. Euchre parties and Christmas parties were also held regularly.
The Mount Hunter Boxing Day Sports were held annually from the 1910s to the 1930s. The day included such events as the 'Gents' Nail Driving Competition' and a tug-of-war between Wollondilly Shire and Camden Municipality.
Locals recall that, during the war years, they had to tape brown paper or blankets over windows to 'brown out' the area. One local reported that the St John's Camden air raid siren could be heard in Mount Hunter. On the corner of Spring Creek Road and Burragorang Road is the granite memorial to those who went to World War I, a continuing reminder to later generations of how many from this small rural population gave their lives in that war. At that time, agricultural activities included growing peas and cauliflowers, and there is one report of itinerant pea pickers carrying their swags and asking for work.
Several fibro houses were relocated to Mount Hunter from the Burragorang Valley when it was flooded.
In the last 20 years, large acreages in Spring Creek (the valley behind the village of Mount Hunter) have been subdivided into house blocks, as well as smaller acre lots. There are no longer any working dairy farms but there is a hobby winery, a herb garden and a bed and breakfast in Spring Creek valley. All of these blocks are on tank water and use septic systems for sewerage. Some basic infrastructure is missing – there is no curbing, guttering or street lighting – but the lack of such modern conveniences only adds to the charm of the place.
The Mount Hunter Fire Brigade built a new station on Burragorang Road in the 1990s, and many locals are volunteer firefighters.
This area is not part of the south-west growth centre but population growth has increased house and land prices due to greater demand.
John Wrigley, A History of Camden, New South Wales, Camden Historical Society, UWS Print Shop, 2001
Jack L Roberts, A History of Methodism in the Cowpastures 1843–1977, Rex Warren and sons, Narellan, 1977