Early Settlement in Gundagai and Tumut.

Article No. III. The Human Swarm (By George Clout)

The Tumut Advocate and Farmers & Settlers' Adviser

12 February 1924

“On some fertile spot which we may call our own, where the rich verdure grows we will build up a home."    

On the 10th November the explorers arrived on the banks of a fine stream which they named the Hume, after their leader who had caught the first view of it.

The stream where they first met with it was about 80 yards wide, of very considerable depth, and running at the rate of three miles an hour.

On each side of the river was a succession of lagoons, from one to two miles in length, which were crowded with ducks. Travelling through rich and beautiful country, where luxuriant grass frequently reached the heads of the men, they arrived at a place where, the river having narrowed down to about forty yards, they effected a crossing.

 Having followed the adventurers thus far, I now leave them and return to the district which their enterprise had been the direct means of opening; suffice it to say that their return journey was devoid of any particular incident.

They reached the Murrumbidgee again on January 7, 1825, and re-crossed it at the same place that they had crossed on their outward course.

Thus a journey across the continent, through unknown country, was accomplished in the space of fifteen weeks without the loss of a single man, which is indeed a great tribute to the sagacity of their leaders.

On their return to Sydney their discoveries were communicated to the Governor which, on being made public, excited the most intense interest among all classes of the community, and steps were taken by many of them to occupy it.

Some of the foremost of these early settlers were the younger members of families already settled in the Bathurst district, the sequence of the Wentworth-Blaxland expedition over the Blue Mountains in 1813.

As early as 1829 practically the whole of Monaro was occupied, and the upper reaches of the Murrumbidgee were fast being settled upon.

One of the first of these was Mr. Peter Stuckey, of whom it is said that he was the first white man that the blacks of Gundagai ever saw. He settled at Willie Ploma in 1829, and to his is credited the introduction of the beautiful willow trees which are now such a marked feature of all the rivers and streams in our great home land.

It is confidently asserted that they were brought to Australia by a Mr. Balcombe, a well-known merchant in whose house the great Napoleon was lodged while his residence was being prepared at Longwood, St. Helena.

Mr. Balcombe when settling in Australia brought with him cuttings of the willow which shaded Napoleon's grave. He planted them at Kenmore, near Goulburn, which Is now a mental asylum.

A matter which would appear to give a little strength to this story is the fact that the original owner of the Kenmore Station was a Frenchman named De Lauret, a family well known in Goulburn sixty years ago, some members of which are still there.

These are facts within the writer's own knowledge. Mr. Peter Stuckey in his earlier life had a station on the Wollondilly, near Kenmore, and when he moved to Willie Ploma he took cuttings from these willow trees and planted them there, and thence they were spread far and wide.

Another incident in the career of Mr. Stuckey is that, in 1835, in company with Mr. C, H. Barber, he travelled down the Murrumbidgee in search of pasture for stock, as the country was then suffering from a perishing drought; but we are told that they were disappointed in their search, as the whole of that district was then a sandy waste blown about by constant strong westerly and northerly winds.

It is in the highest degree instructive to note that the rapid transition that converted a wilderness into a land of smiling fields and orchards, towns and villages, with all their concomitants of comfort, progress, and prosperity.

One hundred years is not a long period in the cycle of time, but it seems little, short of a miracle when we witness the vast change that has been effected in this Great South Land since the date of the Hume expedition.

It was no easy task to lay the foundation of a nation. It needed master minds to guide, and willing hands to toil, but both were at hand. Pioneers, with brave hearts and sturdy strength, responded to the call, and, like Caesar of old, they came, they saw and they conquered.

There is some difficulty in ascertaining who were the first occupants of the land after its discovery by Hume and Hovell. Perhaps the best authenticated case of early settlement is that of Darbalnra, near Gundagai.

When Captain Sturt made his famous expedition down the Murrumbidgee, and the Murray, in 1829-30, he tells us in his journal that he started from Warby's Station on the Murrumbidgee, which was then the farthest-out settlement. We thus have conclusive proof of the occupancy of Darbalara within five years of the date of its first discovery. This station of Warby's was at the Junction of the Tumut and Murrumbidgee, Rivers, and it afterward came into the possession of De: Sails, a name familiar to all readers of Australian history.

Another link in the chain of the early settlement of Darbalara is this: The late Mr. T. McAlister, of Tumut, who afterwards purchased the Wereboldera run, was in Warby's Employment at Darbalara at that period. McAlister was a native, of Parramatta, his father being one of the very early arrivals in the colony.

His eldest daughter was born at Darbalara in 1832. Her husband of a later period, the late Mr. W. Eggleton, had a blacksmith's shop on the river bank, adjacent to what is now the Tumut Racecourse, before the present town existed. Descendants of these old pioneer's of two or three generations are still to be found amongst us in considerable numbers.

It would appear that the first land alienated in this district was Rose's grant at Tumut Plains. This grant was up wards of 700 acres. As the system of land grants, so freely made use of in the earlier days of the colony, was abolished in 1831, it seems pretty clear that Rose came into this property about 1830, and was, therefore, if not the actual first, certainly one of the first settlers in Tumut.

This land very shortly afterwards came into the possession of Mr. George Shelley. It is said that Mr. Shelley exchanged a property that he owned at Appin for Rose's grant.

The run attached to this grant embraced the whole of the western frontage of the river, from Tumut Plains downward, and included the site of the present town, and extended up the Gilmore valley above the place now known as Korn's, where Shelley had a cattle station.

Mr. George Shelley was the first magistrate for Tumut, and was certainly the most enterprising of any of the first settlers. It was he who made the first move towards the erection of a church of England edifice in this newly-found country.

He, with others, applied for land for the purpose in the vicinity or south of the place now known as Newtown, but before any finality was reached in the matter a Crown official arrived on the scene to choose a site where the present town of Tumut stands, and to the gentleman referred to was accorded the privilege of securing one of the very best sites for the future Church of England.

Dr. Andrews, in his work on the Upper Murray Settlement, says that Shelley, of Tumut, took up Welaregong in 1839 and sold it soon after to "Swampy" Hay; that Rowland Shelley formed Wermatong in 1837, and then sold to Guise Bros. He also took up Tintaldra in the same year for his brother William, but the latter did not long, enjoy it. Numbers of other transactions of the same nature might be noted, but they have not any direct interest.

The firm referred to as Guise Bros, bought and sold many runs in the Upper Murray district to station-holders in the Tumut district.

That they had big notions is evidenced by the fact that they at one time laid claim to the whole of the country between the Murray, and the Murrumbidgee above Albury.

We read that Jingellic was formed by Guise Bros in 1839, sold to J. A. Broughton in 1840, and to Robert Cook in 1850.