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Branxholm, TAS

Quiet timber town famous for "The Showdown on Branxholm Bridge"

Branxholm is a timber town. As you drive in you will notice the timber mills, the mountains of sawdust, the rise of smoke from the burning off of sawdust and the hop fields which spread across the valley floor. This is a working town which sprawls along the valley. In recent times it has become an important part of the "Trail of the Tin Dragon" - a trail recalling the involvement of Chinese miners in the development of the area - because of the infamous "Showdown on the Bridge" and the interesting Henry Ah Ping Heritage Walk.

Location

Branxholm is located 281 km north of Hobart and  88 km north-east of Launceston on the Tasman Highway.

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Origin of Name

The district's first European settler, James Reid Scott, named the town after the small village of Branxholm which lies south of Edinburgh in Scotland.

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Things to See and Do

Red Bridge Chinese Mining Historic site
The Trail of the Tin Dragon, which follows the Chinese tin miners from Launceston to St Helens via Branxholm (see http://www.trailofthetindragon.com.au), suggests that people interested in the mining of the local area pause and remember "the showdown on the bridge".

The Showdown on Branxholm Bridge
"The showdown on the bridge" occurred when, during the spring of 1877, a group of Chinese miners, on their way to the Ruby Flats mines, were stopped and attacked by European miners. It was an interesting display of animosity because the Chinese miners were industrious and tended to work the small scale, poorer, more isolated mine sites. They displayed considerable ingenuity in getting water to their alluvial mines.

Today the modern bridge is painted red and has a number of Asian and Chinese signs on the sides. This is not the bridge that was the scene of the 1877 attack but it does allow the visitor to imagine what must have taken place.

The Interpretation Marker
A detailed description of Branxholm's role in the history of the Chinese tin miners can be had at the excellent Interpretation Marker which stands on the hill on the eastern side of town. It is one of several distinctive Trail of the Red Dragon markers which allow visitors to understand the role of the Chinese in tin mining in the area. It has a section on the Showdown on the Bridge.

Henry Ah Ping Heritage Walk
This is basically a pleasant walk through the bush past silhouette images of a Chinese Trader, Sluicebox Workers and a Chinese miner as well as leases and diggings. Do not expect too much. It is a pleasant walk but all you see are signs and the metal silhouettes partially hidden in the bush. The project is "dedicated to the Chinese people who lived, worked and died in this region during the period c1870-c1955." Perhaps the most interesting part of the walk is the Settlers Hut at the beginning (near the car park) which has a series of information placards telling, in the first person, the autobiography of Henry Ah Ping who was born in Guangdong province in 1859. At the age of 18 he left home, arrived in Sydney in March, 1877 and then travelled to Launceston where he worked in market gardens for six months to pay his fare. After six months he sailed to Bridport and then, with a small group of other Chinese miners, walked to Branxholm where he experienced the "showdown on Branxholm Bridge" which was only resolved when members of the Territorial Police Force accompanied the Chinese miners to Ruby Flat where Ah Ping worked as a tributer receiving about five shillings worth of ore a day. When the European miners departed to "rush" to the goldfields at Mount Arthur the tin mines at Ruby Flat were largely left to the Chinese. Ah Ping prospered, was able to send money home and sublet a small market garden where he grew vegetables and raised chickens. By 1889 he had made enough money to purchase two 20 acre mining claims and over the next three years he saved £120. He became an Australian citizen in 1892, met Mary Hughes in 1893 at a Chinese Opera performance at Weldborough, and married her in a Christian ceremony in 1894. The couple had four daughters and eventually retired to Hobart where Henry died in 1938 at the age of 79. It is a fictional account (although Ah Ping was a real person who owned the local lease) based on historical events.

The walk is the brainchild of Graham Cashion and Christine Booth who, when they purchased the land, found that their property was part of an historic alluvial tin mine owned by Ah Ping which had remained undisturbed for nearly 100 years and had been revegetated by man ferns, myrtle and sassafras trees. There are three walks from the car park: a short 20 minute walk, a 6.7 km walk and a 14 km walk.

The walks and the Settlers Hut can be accessed by taking the sign to "Chinese Mining Heritage" on the eastern side of the Branxholm Bridge until you reach the car park near the Tin Dragon Trail Cottages.

Heritage Cemetery
Located on Mount Paris Dam Road, the Branxholm Cemetery is worth visiting because of the gravestones of early tin miners and particularly those of some Chinese miners who are buried in the cemetery.

Imperial Hotel
A fine example of the use of timber in the area is the Imperial Hotel. Built in 1907 it has a particularly elegant upper veranda and an attractive timber facade. It offers meals and accommodation, tel: (03) 6354 6121.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Mount Horror Forest Reserve
There are impressive panoramic views from Mount Horror Forest Reserve which lies 7 km to the north of the town and can be accessed by Mount Horror Road. It rises to an estimated 615 m above sea level, and is sufficiently high that on a clear day it is possible to see across Banks Strait to the Furneaux Islands.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the area around Branxholm was inhabited by the local Pyemmairrener Aboriginal people who had lived in the area for thousands of years.

* The first European settler in the district was James Reid Scott who arrived in the 1860s and named the tiny settlement after a small village in Scotland.

* By 1870 there were only three buildings in the valley. It could hardly be called a settlement.

* By 1873 tin had been discovered and a miner's shanty town had grown up.

* By 1877 the population in the valley had risen to about 300. That year saw the first act of racial hatred and violence in the mining communities when, during the spring, a group of Chinese miners, on their way to the Ruby Flats mines, were stopped and attacked by European miners.

* By 1883 the town of Branxholm had been officially proclaimed.

* In 1887 the Tasmanian Government brought in immigration restrictions which resulted in many Chinese miners returning to their families in Guangdong.

* In 1909 the Imperial Hotel was built.

* In 1911 the state rail connected Branxholm to Launceston via a branch line. This line was closed down in 1992.

* In 1970 the first hop fields were planted in the district.

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Visitor Information

There is no visitor information in Branxholm. The closest is at Scottsdale Visitor Information Centre, 4 Alfred Street, Scottsdale, tel: (03) 6352 6520

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Useful Websites

There is no specific website dealing with the town and its attractions. The Trail of the Tin Dragon website - http://www.trailofthetindragon.com.au/branxholm - is useful.

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