The Bega Pioneers' Museum has countless reports and stories on local issues. This is a history of Bermagui and district researched by Bertha Davidson in 1982.
The greatest influx of population into Bermagui came during the late 1870s, and early 1880s, at the time of the gold rushes round the Montreal alluvial fields, and with the seam finds at Mount Dromedary.
It seems hard to believe now that 3000 people or more were living in the Montreal area. Several butcher shops and bakers shops were opened up, and there was a great sprouting of hotels. One researcher lays claim to the number at 26 altogether, in and around Bermagui.
As the finds were only alluvial, and soon exhausted, the mining area became deserted, and now practically nothing remains except some of the shafts themselves and the name Montreal (named by a miner fresh from Canada).
In the Dromedary rush, crushing machinery was transported up the mountain by animal and human muscle power. It was during this era that some of the old families arrived (e.g. Meade and Haywards.)
In those earlier, romantic days when ships were Bermagui’s main means of contact with the outside world, boats would bring down ice from Sydney, for the transporting back of fish in huge boxes.
The Cobargo was the first vessel to be equipped with refrigerated chambers for transporting fish and other food.
The intriguing Bermagui Mystery took place in the gold rush days, and remains bafflingly unsolved.
This was when a young assistant geologist surveyor, Lamont Young, employed by the NSW Mining Department, came to Bermagui to check out the alluvial field. His assistant Max Schneider was with him.
On October 10, 1880, Young asked Thomas Towers, a fisherman from Batemans Bay, whether they could use his boat to go up the coast to the Montreal goldfields. Also on the boat were two other fishermen from Batemans Bay.
That was the last anyone saw of the five men. Later than afternoon somebody found their boat on rocks at an inlet now called Mystery Bay. Inside were five bags of clothing and Young's books and papers and a bullet was embedded in the starboard side. The boat was stoved out not in.