Road trip: A visit to central west NSW and the Cargo Inn

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The Cargo Inn Hotel, Cargo NSW. Picture: Mick Roberts
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The map showing the distance between the Railway Hotel, Spring Hill and the Cargo Inn, Cargo. Picture:: Google Maps.

CONTINUING our road trip to the former gold mining towns of central west NSW, we left the Railway Hotel at Spring Hill for the charm of another single storey brick pub, the Cargo Inn.

The drive from Spring Hill, via Four Mile Creek Road to Cargo, through the Canobolas Ranges, is by a winding gravel road, and takes about 45 minutes. Despite being unsealed, the road is quite good, through pine forest plantations, and some spectacular mountain scenery.

With a population of 235, Cargo is a sleepy stopover for lunch or a drink or two. The village is surrounded by prime agricultural land – the slopes and hills are a photographers’ delight, and just a 30 minute drive south west of Orange.

Cargo was established in 1869 and has a strong history of gold mining with major booms from 1869 – 1879 and again for 1885 – 1899.

The village was a stopover for the Cobb and Co coaches travelling between Orange to Canowindra. While the pub no longer offers accommodation, it does provide a camping area at the rear for grey nomads, or any others.

The pub also features a fantastic eating deck, and dining room and is an ideal Sunday lunch destination.

The Cargo Inn was established as the White Horse Hotel in 1869, with the name changing to the Commercial Hotel in 1876. It’s the last of three pubs that traded in the village. The current brick pub was built during 1889, after a fire destroyed the original timber inn.

The Cargo Inn reeks of history, and is a must for those who enjoy the atmosphere of country pubs. Scroll down for more pictures and a history of the pub.

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The main bar of the Cargo Inn Hotel, Cargo NSW. Picture: Mick Roberts

Commercial Hotel Cargo a 1924 ANU
The Commercial Hotel, Cargo 1924. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.


A tale of two landladies

 By Mick Roberts ©

THIS is the story of two landladies, a pair of publicans who hosted hordes of thirsty miners in the goldfields’ town of Cargo, in the central west of NSW during the latter half of the 19th century, and the early 1900s.

These two publicans, one a ‘currency lass’* and the other a Cornish immigrant, were remarkably resilient pioneers, who despite enduring the hardships of having their hotels burnt to the ground, losing their husbands and living most of their long lives as widows, raised large families and were successful in business.

They were recognised in their obituaries as being “of strong character”, and were “well-respected” amongst their hard-drinking customers.

Emily Jane Mayne captained the Royal Hotel, while Elizabeth Hamilton operated the nearby Commercial Hotel, both in Belmore Street, Cargo.

Of the three pubs that operated in the village – the Royal, Post Office and Commercial, only the latter survives.

Today, the Commercial trades as the Cargo Inn.

The Royal Hotel was Cargo’s first pub. It was licensed by Cornish miner, Samuel Mayne who arrived in Sydney at the age of 19 aboard the ship Lady Elgin in 1854, before making his way to the Ballarat goldfields. His wife to be, Emily Hicks, also Cornish, arrived in Sydney a decade later, in 1865, at the age of 17, with her family.

The two would eventually meet on the goldfields of Cargo, where they married in 1869.

While at the Royal Hotel, Sam and Emily had four children, and the couple planned a long life together; that was until tragedy struck.

At the relatively young age of 39, Sam fell from his horse while riding along the Molong road to Orange, in October 1876. He remained in a coma for two days, before his death.

His widow, Emily was left with four children, aged from six to one to rear, and a pub frequented by hard-drinking miners to run. The strength of this woman is proven in the fact that she remained licensee of the Royal for more than 40 years.

In 1910, at the age of 62, she retired from the bar of the Royal, and with her only son, Joseph, took over the management of Tattersall’s Hotel in nearby Orange.

The Tattersall’s Hotel continues to trade under the name of the Parkview Hotel at Orange, and has been tastefully restored and renovated.

Tattersalls Hotel Orange 1930
Tattersalls Hotel, Orange 1925. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

Just a few months after Emily’s departure from Cargo, her timber pub, the Royal, was reduced to ashes, after a massive fire. The pub was completely destroyed on July 22 1910, and never rebuilt.

While hosting the Tattersall’s Hotel at Orange, the well-respected landlady’s health quickly failed after the death of her son in 1916. He was just 45. The Orange Leader reported on Friday January 25 1918 that Emily Jane Mayne died at the age of 70 at her Orange pub.

The loss of her only son, whom she dearly idolised, seemed to greatly affect her health, and, as she was troubled with an internal complaint, the both evidently hurried on her deplorable state of health, and she was unable to carry on the business as she would have liked to have done. A few months ago she had the license transferred to her son-in-law, Mr. Burt Gamboni, and went to Cargo in the hope of recuperating. This was of no avail, and only a week ago she returned home in a very serious condition. Thus passes away another of our grand old identities, one who had al-ways led an exemplary life, and one who will be sadly missed.

Cargo’s second pub, the White Horse Hotel, opened in 1869 before becoming the Commercial in 1876. It survives today, trading as the Cargo Inn.

The White Horse was licensed by John Hawkins a few months after the Royal Hotel, in March 1869. Within a month of the pub opening a daring robbery was committed by thieves, who gained entry by removing a sheet of bark from under the bedroom window. They stole a large box containing wearing apparel, about £2, and jewellery to the amount of £10. Black trackers traced the robbers for some distance, but they eventually lost the trail.

The single storey timber inn had a series of publicans before Annie Butler “thoroughly renovated and decorated” the building in 1876 “without regard to cost”, re-branding her business the Commercial Hotel. She also added a large general store to the side of the pub.

The following year James and Elizabeth Hamilton purchased the pub.

After striking it lucky on the Canobolas goldfields, Jim Hamilton married Parramatta born, Elizabeth Mobbs, in 1870.

Elizabeth was amongst the early rush of pioneers to cross the Blue Mountains, and, after her marriage, she and her husband followed the diggings around Stuart Town, Gulgong, and all the early mining districts.

Like Emily Mayne, who ran the nearby Royal, Elizabeth was in charge of operations at the Commercial Hotel, while her husband managed a nearby gold mine. However, like Emily, Elizabeth too would become a widow.

Jim Hamilton was killed in January 1887 while working in the Ironclad Mine. A draught of foul air caused him and his colleagues to make a rush for the top, and Jim, when half-way up the ladder, fell back, bashing his head against a boulder. He was killed almost instantly.

His death left a pregnant Elizabeth with six young children, aged from 15 to four, and a pub to manage – But that was just the beginnings of her troubles.

The following year the Commercial Hotel burned to the ground in the early hours of Sunday October 14. The guests of the pub only escaped partly dressed, while the adjoining general store, run by Elizabeth’s brother, John Mobbs, was also destroyed.

Elizabeth was a fighter though, and the following year she had the Commercial Hotel rebuilt in brick and re-licensed. Now 38, she – unlike Emily – remarried – a man 10 years her junior.

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The Commercial Hotel, Cargo 1924. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

Elizabeth had another five children with her second husband, William Thompson, before his untimely death from throat cancer at the age of 45 in 1906.

A widow for the second time, she continued hosting the Commercial Hotel for another seven years, before moving to Orange in 1913 to host the Steam Engine Hotel at the corner of Summer and Sale Streets.

Elizabeth, now 62, supervised the tables and housework, while her two sons had control of the bar. She remained licensee of the Steam Engine Hotel from 1913 to 1920, when she retired at the age of 69. Her son, Bill took the license the following year, before the family sold their interest in the business in 1921.

The Steam Engine Hotel later became the Orange Hotel, and closed for business on November 21 1965. It has since been demolished.

Orange Hotel Orange NSW former Steam Engine Hotel 1924 ANU
A 1930 picture of the Steam Engine Hotel, Orange, which later traded under the name of the Hotel, Orange. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

Meanwhile the Commercial Hotel at Cargo became the last pub standing after its only competitor, the Post Office Hotel burnt to the ground in 1920.

Although the story of this building is somewhat complicated, this is my take on its history.

The Post Office Hotel was established by David Louisson Bayliss in August 1869 and traded under that name until 1871, when its name was changed to the Miners’ Arms. The pub closed in 1879, and later it was re-opened by American immigrant James Powers under its original name of the Post Office Hotel in 1881.

After the Royal was reduced to ashes in 1910, the town had just two pubs – the Post Office and the Commercial.

The Post Office Hotel traded for almost 40 years before it too was burnt to the ground in tragic circumstances on Saturday February 21 1920.

The hosts, John Carmody and his wife Mary were found incinerated in the cellar of the pub after the fire completely destroyed the single storey timber building.

The couple had only taken over the hotel nine months previous. Their children escaped the blaze.

The Post Office Hotel never re-opened.

Ironically, Cargo’s last remaining pub, the Commercial almost met the same fate as the Post Office Hotel, 19 months later.

James Fisher, who was returning to the town in the early hours of the morning had difficulties arousing the licensee and his wife. His quick actions prevented the flames spreading. His timely arrival probably saved the publicans lives and the destruction of the pub.

The Canowindra Star reported on Friday September 30 1921:

The fire worked its way to the cellar, to which willing-hands, with buckets of water, confined it, and after an hour’s hard work, eventually subdued the flames. The chief damage was the loss of stock stored in the cellar, and the flooring of the tap room and bar were burnt through.

Fire seems to have determined the fate of Cargo’s pubs, so it’s no surprise that this flaming mishap befell the publican of the Commercial in 1935. The Mudgee Guardian reported on Monday June 3 1935:

A RUMMY GO: Hotelkeeper’s Perilous Plight

THE licensee of the Commercial Hotel at Cargo, Mr. James Flavin, was climbing out of his cellar per medium of a ladder, carrying a lighted lantern and a glass of over-proof rum, when a rung of the ladder broke. Mr. Flavin fell, and the rum poured over his coat and on to the lantern, immediately the liquor came in contact with the light it caught fire and soon the licensee’s clothes were all ablaze. He scrambled out of the cellar where his wife in helping to subdue the flames sustained burns. Mr Flavin’s burns were so serious that he had to be admitted to hospital.

The hotel’s sign was changed from the Commercial to the Cargo Inn on September 6 1973.

* Currency Lass was Australian slang for an Australian born woman.

Commercial Hotel Cargo 1970 anu
The Commercial Hotel, Cargo 1970. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

Royal Hotel, Cargo


December 1868-1877: Samuel Mayne

1877-1910: Emily Jane Mayne

1910: Hotel destroyed by fire

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Cargo Inn Hotel, Cargo NSW. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

Cargo Inn Hotel



March 1869-1871: John Hawkins

1871-1873: Henry Zeplin

1873-1876: Daniel J Robertson


1876-1877: Ann Butler

1877-1887: James Hamilton

1887- 1888: Elizabeth Hamilton

1888: Hotel destroyed by fire & rebuilt

1889-1890: Elizabeth Hamilton

1890-1907: William Thompson

1907-1913: Elizabeth Thompson

1913-1914: John Workman

1914-1915: Mathias Martin

1915-1917: Henry A. Morton

1917-1919: David McCaffery,

1919-1920: Patrick O’Brien

1920-1921: Henry J. Moore

1921: A. Mullin

1921: Frank McCaughey Frank

1921-1922:  J. W. M. MacMahon

1922: W. H. Masters

1922 – 1923: S. L. Turnbull

1923 – 1924: F.T. Bradstreet

1924 -1926: E.H. West

1926: W.A. Thompson (owner)

1926: A.E. Hawkins (owner)

1926 – 1927: T. Shools (owner)

1927: William Cliff (Freehold)

1927 – 1929: H. Bollard

1929: J. R. Ferris

1929 – 1940: J.J. Flavin (Manager for Ferris)

1940 – 1941: Charles F. Dillon

1941 – 1942: J. B. Flaherty

1942 – 1947: James J. Flavin

1947 – 1949: Leslie Arthur Job Prime

1949: Elfreda Parnell Gardner

1949 – 1950: Herbet Richard Wailes

1950 – 1951: D’Arcy Andrew Young

1951: Frederick William Young, C.H.V. Digges, C.I. Robert Green

1951 – 1952: Clarence Rees

1952 – 1953: Jean Cole

1953 – 1954: Norman Ernest Keen

1954 – 1956: Leonard Mitchell Cole, Elsie Irene Cole

1956 – 1958: William George Golding, Albert Boomer

1958: Albert Frederick Coomber

1958: 1962: Laurence Dudley Montgomery

1962 – 1963: Thomas Charles Drummond

1963 – 1965: William Urquhart Rennie

1965 – 1969: Edna Jean Halls (later Edna Jean Boardman after marriage) (owner)

1969 – 1973: Joseph Dobson, Gwendoline Dobson


1973 – 1974: Kevin Thomas Marshall (F/H)

1974 – 1975: Ivan Francis

1975: Edward Charles Melling, Pamela Fleck

1975 – 1979: Durhams Rentals Pty Ltd

1979 – 1980: John Francis Davies, Gladys Davies

1980: Percy Hubert Forrester

Post Office Hotel, Cargo


August 1869-1871: David Louisson Bayliss


1871-1873: Edward Carroll

1873-1875: Thomas Hurkett

1875-1876: Amelia Hurkett

1876-1879: Henry Miles


1881-1890: James Powers

1890-1893: Charles Stephen Lowe

1893-1896: Jeremiah Murphy

1896-1897: James Wright,

1897- 1919: William Moses Collins

1919-1920: John Joseph Carmody

1920: Hotel destroyed by fire

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2018. Updated: 2021


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Categories: NSW hotels, review, Reviews, Road Trips

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2 replies

  1. Stumbled across this page whilst searching for information about my newly-discovered fifth great uncle Thomas Hurkett (and his wife Millicent Amelia Wordsell) landlords of the Miners Arms. Fascinating stuff, thank you.

  2. In doing research for my sweetheart, I was focusing on her great-great granduncle, John Odgers. In the 1910 Registers of Coroners’ Inquests, found on, John Odgers was listed among the deceased. He died of “natural causes… and influenza” at the Post Office hotel in Cargo, NSW. Thanks to this page, I gained a wealth of helpful information, and am wondering if there exists a photo of the Post Office Hotel in Cargo.

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