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Mary Jane Cain and Forky Mountain

Mary Jane Cain and her daughters

Before Burra Bee Dee became an Aboriginal reserve, it was once the home of Mary Jane Cain and her family. Mary Jane Cain's mother was Jinnie Griffin, she was a full blood aboriginal and moved to Burra Bee Dee from Mudgee. She came with her Irish Husband Eugene Griffin. Both Jinnie's parents worked on the big squatting runs in the area- Ulamambri, Bomera and Garrawilla. Mary Jane Caine was born while they were working on Toorawandi in 1844.

Mary Jane Cains first husband was James Budsworth, but he died shortly after their marriage. Mary Jane Cain then married George William Cain on the 21st of November 1865. George was a part aboriginal stockman and worked on the properties surrounding the area. When Jinnie Griffin (Mary's mother) died in 1882, Mary became the leader of her community and was known to everyone as "Queenie" Cain.

Mary Jane Cain and her family now lived on Gunnedah Hill but soon after moved to a place called Honeysuckle Point, which is situated just past the Chinese Gardens near the river. Mary owned many goats and let them run free each day so that they could get food and water. There were unfortunately no fences in those days so the goats would wonder off to Forky Mountain, which was about nine kilometres out of town along the Gunnedah road. So each day Mary Jane Cain would walk to Forky Mountain to herd them up and bring them home to Honeysuckle Point.

After a while Mary decided to ask her husband to build her a house on Forky mountain so that she would not have to walk to Forky mountain to herd up the goats each day, this was around 1880-85. George agreed to build her a house on Forky Mountain and made a log home with a bark and tin roof, and when it was finally finished all the family moved out. There was more than enough water as the river was near by, but even so they built their own well.
After the family had been living at Forky mountain about 1 year, one of their sons married and George suggested to his sons wife’s parents to move out to Forky mountain with them.

The two families lived there for about 8 years before anyone else came to Forky Mountain. Then progressively other aboriginal people began to move there looking for food and shelter, as they felt unwanted in the township and needed some where to go where they would be respected and treated fairly. Many people that had been living on the outskirts of the township, along the river near the old railway station, and near Parker’s Paddock moved out to Forky Mountain. Everyone felt at home at Forky Mountain and soon became the aboriginal community.

Mary Jane Cain made a special trip to Sydney to agitate for a reserve for her people. As a consequence, Forked Mountain was gazetted as a reserve on the 6th of February 1892. It was comprised of 400 acres. Burra Bee Dee was gazetted as BurraBee Dee Aboriginal Reserve (No. 47521) on the 21st of February 1912.

Information from: Life On Burra Bee Dee (Book1)