Darling River, Historic Tree

The Sydney Morning Herald

8 June 1915

Historic Tree. Link With The Past. Search Party. 

Somewhere on the banks of the Darling River in the vicinity of its junction with the Warrogo 86 years ago Hamilton Hume the first of our long list of native born Australian explorers cut his initials on a giant river gum.

It marked the termination of Short [Sturt] and Hume's journey into the unknown country in obedience to the instructions of Governor Ralph Darling to solve the mystery of the great marsh or swamp suggested by Oxley the explorer in 1819, as existing, in the west and north-west.

The year 1829 was a drought year one of the worst on record and the party, who were poorly equipped, had a trying time. The discovery of the great waterway of the Darling resulted.

About six years later Major Mitchell attempted to complete the exploration of the river but turned back from the vicinity of where Menindie township now stands.

His initials are recorded in his jounal as having been cut on the same tree as Hume's. It will be rememberod that Mitchell built the Fort Bourke stockade on this trip and also lost his botanist Richard Cunningham, who was killed by the Bogan blacks on what is now known as Burdenda, the property of Hunt Brothers.

Mr. Milne Railway Superintendent, of Orange who is an ardent student of Australian history, has organised a party to search for this interesting and valuable link with the past.

It will include Mr. T.S. Crawford. M.L.A., Mr. M'Wiliams of Gundabooka, Mr. D. Hatton of Bourke, the well-known Darling River pioneer, and others.

The following is taken from Major Mitchell's account of his Journey:-

"March 30 (1836) I ascertained accidentally this morning that we were abreast of the spot where Mr. Oxley left the Lachlan and proceeded southward. This I learnt from a marked tree which a native pointed out to me distant about 250 yards south from our camp across the arm of the River.

On this tree were still legible the initials of Mr. Oxley and Mr. Evans, and although the inscription had been there 19 years, the tree seemed still in full vigour; nor would its girth have altered much judging from the letters which were still as sharp is when first cut only the bark having overgrown part of them had been recently cut away a little as if to render the letters more legible.

I endeavoured to preserve still longer an inscription which had withstood the fires of the bush mil the tomahawks of the natives for such a length of time by making a drawing of it as it then appeared."*

The sketch of the tree has been preserved, and this together with other data which Mitchell has left may lead to the discovery of the old historic landmark.

*Just exactly why this extract from Mitchell's journal is included in this newspaper article is not clear - because the tree is obviously not the tree the 1915 expedition was attempting to find. tumuthistory.com