Early Settlement in Gundagai and Tumut

(By George Clout)

The Tumut Advocate and Farmers & Settlers' Adviser

5 February 1924

Article No II - The Hume Expedition. Through fervid or frozen air till the overland journey's done.

The exploring party consisted of Hamilton Hume, W. H. Hovell (a retired shipmaster, who was chosen because of his knowledge of navigation) and six assigned servants - eight in all. They had two carts, drawn by bullocks, in which to carry their supplies, and several horses.

When the expedition was arranged, Hume was residing at Lake George; and it was there he made his preparations. From the outset, he met with difficulty, and delay from officials in Sydney, who, by their action, seemed opposed to the venture. The necessary equipment was not forth coming as might have been expected, seeing that the journey was being undertaken at the request of the Governor, and finally Hume was compelled to part with some of his farm implements to provide commodities necessary for the journey, and, even when they returned we read that the authorities refused to pay the amount promised for the hire of bullocks, etc., and Hume had great difficulty in obtaining the reward for the three servants assigned to him.  

They left Appin on October 2, 1824, and arrived at Hume's station, Lake George, on 14th. This was the most remote point at which Europeans had then established themselves.

A few days later they reached the, banks of the Murrumbidgee River, which presented a very considerable obstacle to their progress, as it was in partial flood, the water being level with the top of the banks with a current running at the rate of six miles an hour. To those who know the state of this river when it is bank high, the task of crossing it with bullocks, horses and drays would appear to be a herculean if not an, impossible one; yet, these adventurers, who had camped adjacent to it for several days in the hope that the flood waters would subside, resolved on 22nd to make the attempt to cross it.

Their first idea was to construct a raft, but the timber available was too heavy for such a purpose. They, therefore, decided on using the body of one of the carts, and, having taken off the wheels, axle and shaft, they put a tarpaulin under it and thus converted it into a kind of boat.

Their next difficulty was to get a rope across the river to tow the raft over with. This was overcome by Hume and one of his men swimming across the stream, each holding in his mouth the end of a short line, to the middle of which was attached a stouter line, which was to be used to draw across a stout rope to ply the boat, or raft, backwards and forwards. In most accounts of this river-crossing we read that Hume or Boyd swam across with a rope in his teeth.

This, we know, would be impossible; the weight of a long rope   in such a strong current of water would pull the stoutest swimmer under, even if his jaws were strong enough to hold the end of the rope. The above account is from Roderick Flanagan's "History of Australia", and he gets his facts from Hume's Journal. When the tow-rope was in place a cargo of 7cwt. was placed on their improvised boat, and safely drawn across; and in a few trips of the same nature the whole of their supplies were safely landed.

The horses and bullocks were also drawn across, but not without considerable danger, as, owing to the rapidity of the current, some of the animals were completely turned over or sub merged, but there were no fatalities, and at 5 o'clock in the evening the work of crossing was entirely completed. On resuming their Journey on 26th, they found that the mountainous nature of the country made it impossible to travel with the carts.

They, therefore, secreted a portion of their supplies and packed the remainder on the horses and bullocks. On the last day of the month they came to the extremity of a range on which they had been travelling. The descent from this range was of a very precipitous nature, and great difficulty was experienced in getting the horses and bullocks down it.

At the foot of this declivity they found themselves on the banks of a small stream with a picturesque rapid, where they camped. Here, in accordance with a practice they had pursued, they sowed some clover seed and some peach stones.

On Nov. 3, they arrived on the banks of a river about 100ft. wide, with a strong current. To this stream they gave the name of Medway. It seems more than probable that this was their first contact with the Tumut River, or, as it was called in the early days, the Doomut.

Following the course of the stream which became gradually broader and deeper they came to a place where the current was broken by three falls, each having a perpendicular descent of from 10 to 15 feet, separated from each other by a distance of about 30, feet.

On November 8, they ascended a high hill to make observations, and from there they got a glimpse of the snow-covered mountains in the distance, which they called the South Australian Alps (Query: Was this Lobbs Hole?) [No. Ed.]

At this point their progress was intercepted by a ravine fully 1000 feet deep, with sides and walls almost perpendicular, its breadth at the place where first encountered was half a mile, but at some points it narrowed down to a mere chasm not 100 yards broad.

They altered their course with the view of avoiding it, but failing in their purpose they followed a kangaroo track which they found - leading into the narrow valley and pursuing this primitive road   they were enabled to get to the opposite side.

Their journal, published in 1831, shows that through the country their route was West of South, through a highly timbered country where the luxuriant grass frequently reached, to the heads of the men, and was seldom below their breasts, thus providing an immense quantity of fodder, which was apparently very lightly, grazed by the marsupials, and no other animals were, noted, except the dingo. Birds were plentiful, and some reptiles.