|Towns and villages of:|
Population: 1681 (2006 census)
Shopping Centre - Oakdale
Oakdale lies some 5 kilometres west of The Oaks on the road which once was the main access to the Burragorang Valley.
Originally covered in a dense forest of Casuarina ("she-oaks"), Oakdale was part of the traditional lands of the Tharawal peoples, later inhabited by the Gundungorra from Burragorang Valley when their numbers declined after wars with the early European settlers.
In the area around about, the Gundungorra were known to hold corroborees up until the middle of the 19th century.
Decimated by diseases introduced by the Europeans, descendants of this tribe often worked harmoniously with the earliest settlers helping to clear the land and assisting on farms up until 1900.
The few remaining natives were largely removed by government decree after 1920 and resettled at the aboriginal reserve at La Perouse, their children often being taken into "protective care" - the "stolen generation", many of whom would, if they could, trace their ancestry back to these ancient peoples.
The early European history of Oakdale is largely that of "Cowpastures" (see "The Oaks" for more information).
Oakdale itself existed only as a location on the road cut from The Oaks to settlements in Burragorang Valley in the 1850s.
Whereas landholdings were taken up in these places much earlier, the first report of settlers at Oakdale were of a Henry Longhurst and Robert and Patrick Martin in about 1865.
They seemed to have engaged in felling trees in the dense forests of the area, providing timber for the "corduroy" road (logs lashed together to make trafiic easier in wet weather) and sleepers for the new railways heading inland.
The wood was cut by axe and crosscut saw, several small steam sawmills operating in the area to dress it for transporting to the railheads at Picton and Thirlmere.
As the land was cleared, small family farms were establiished which grew vegetables, and later fruit (apples were an early crop, marketed in the city).
In 1870 there were sufficient families to warrant a school, built by local parents. This was replaced by a state school built in 1885, opposite the present school - built 1929 after the original burnt down in a bush fire.
When the name Oakdale for the village was gazetted is not known, but presumably it was after the establishment of a post office at the state school, whose teacher was also the postmaster.
For the next 20 years Oakdale remained a quiet backwater on the increasingly busy road to Burragorang.
Communication with the outside world improved with the introduction of horse drawn coaches and a regular mail service in the late 1890s, allowing produce to be taken to the Sydney markets.
The quiet of the village was broken only by the herds of cattle, pigs and turkeys drovers took along the road to the markets.
The effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s all but brought ruin to the local farmers, their produce unsaleable in the city. (Farmers from the area travelling to the city to sell their produce unsuccessfully were known to give it away on the way home to needy families.)
But life on a farm is not nearly so bad as it is for others during such hard times, and local families survived.
The commencement of coal mining at Burragorang in the 1930s offered employment for those hard hit by the times, and by the time production had increased greatly due to the demand for coal during World War II, most local men were employed in one way or another by the mines - either as miners, driving trucks, or felling timber for the pit props.
The new properity of Oakdale attracted other settlers who lived in the village and worked in the mines, many more coming after 1945.
Life in the mines was harsh, and many men lost their lives (a monument at the lookout at Burragorang Nature Reserve attests to this).
Poor management and industrial relations did nothing to make the life of a miner easier but a man prepared to do rough and dangerous work, and the bounteous overtime often available, meant he could make a good income.
The prosperity of the miners thus contributed to the growth of local service and retail businesses, and today the many neat houses surrounding Oakdale attest to this.
The age of the motor car - which the miners couild afford - allowed easier travel, but to the detriment of local shops, with the consolidation of these types of businesses in nearby The Oaks, and later Camden and Picton. Hence, Oakdale today does not have a retail centre.
The workers and social clubs of Oakdale and other mining towns are perhaps the most substantial local buildings.
Over the years many mines opened, then closed as seams ran out, but Oakdale remained a prosperous mining town up until the disastrous collapse of the last mining company in the 1990s.
Today there are no mines near Oakdale. Many miners have left, others found other work.
The family farms of the surrounding area have largely given way to modern 'hobby farms", and the owners of the many attractive suburban houses now just as often commute to work in larger centres or the city.
Oakdale's past as a centre of primary industry seems to have gone. It's future may depend on its being caught up with the outer limits of the urban sprawl, or as a haven for those wishing to escape the rigours of city life.
What Oakdale does have today is the beauty and tranquility of an unspoilt rural environment.