Ophir, just north of Orange, was originally inhabited by the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people before the area was settled in the 1820s by graziers and farmers. Settlement in the area was centred on nearby Molong until the discovery of gold would transform the area into Australia’s first gold rush town.
As a veteran of the Californian Goldfields, miner Edward Hargraeves had noted the similarities in the landscapes of the Californian desert with the Australian outback as gold discoveries were being made in New South Wales. Hargreaves enlisted William Tom and James Lister to join him in a search for payable gold in 1851. Using the mining techniques Hargreaves had learnt in California, Tom and Lister would find 120 grams of payable gold in Radigans Gully in April 1851. No sooner had Hargreaves publicly announced the discovery, a gold rush began in Ophir.
Ophir was originally known as Yorkey's corner after the Yorkshire man who drove his sheep there. Tom's father suggested the name Ophir after a region in the Old Testament noted for its fine gold. 2000 miners would reportedly come to Ophir within months of the announcement yet despite those early discoveries, payable gold in the Ophir goldfields proved a rare commodity. By the following year the town which had been overrun with miners would be all but deserted with only 84 mining licences renewed and the planned township would never eventuate as miners turned to the more successful goldfields in nearby Forbes and Orange.
Today the land around Ophir is primarily used for livestock and sheep farming with the Ophir Reserve covering the area where Australia's first discovery was made with the old shafts and tunnels standing as reminders of the areas prosperous heritage.