Early Settlement of Gundagai and Tumut No. 1. The Land of the Golden Fleece.
29 January 1924 The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser
By George Clout.
A land of gold and corn and wine and oil,
Of herds and golden fleece and virgin soil.
The writer, who first designated Australia as the land of the Golden Fleece, must have had in his mind's eye her enormous mineral wealth, her great agricultural resources, and her commercial potentialities, as well as her immense pastoral possibilities, and that, not merely of the past, but of her much grander future, and thus fastened upon a page of her history a name that would for all time be the pride and glory of every true patriot.
One hundred and thirty years ago Australia was 'terra incognita' an unknown land.
Up till then the foot of the white man had scarcely touched her shores.
For ages past it had been the undisturbed abode of the aboriginal, "whose right there was none to dispute."
What marvellous changes have been witnessed since, changes that must awaken pride and gratification in the heart of every interested Britisher.
The first discovery of this Great Southern Land is shrouded in mystery.
It is impossible among the myriad of claimants for its discovery to decide who should be credited with the honour of priority.
Such ancient writers as Strabo, Pliny and Plolerny wrote of a land of beauty and bounty stretching far to the south of India and beyond the equator to an un- known distance, and we may safely conclude that they did not write of what they imagined, might be, but rather that they told the story of early explorations in the vast and then unknown expanse of the Southern seas, and thus left a record which has passed down the ages from sire to son, and kept alive the treasures of the past for the benefit of their successors in the distant years to come.
Notwithstanding its many discoveries the first step towards the occupancy of the Great Australian Land by a civilized people was made in April, 1770.
It was then that Captain James Cook on his voyage from Tahiti (where a scientific party were engaged in observing the 'Transit of Venus') to Tasmania, being driven by contrary winds to the North, they sighted land, which they named Port Hicks after the name of the lieutenant, who first sighted it.
This point is situated in Gippsland, Victoria.
Nine days afterwards his vessel entered Botany Bay.
From thence be sailed Northwards, naming bays, rivers, and promontories, with names that they still bear, and at every point hoisting the British flag (sic), and taking possession in the name of King George the Third, and baptised it New South Wales.
The next, step taken in the March of progress was when Governor Phillip landed in Botany Bay with what is called the First Fleet in 1788, or eighteen years after its discovery by Captain Cook.
The fleet of Governor Phillip consisted of 13 vessels, conveying upwards of one thousand souls.
His mission was primarily to establish a convict settlement, but he soon made the discovery that Botany Bay was not suitable for the purpose in view.
He therefore further explored the coast with the object of finding a better one, with the result that the magnificent harbor of Port Jackson was discovered, to which he once removed the settlement, and notwithstanding the many adverse conditions that prevailed during the first twenty years of its history, very substantial progress was made in all directions, so much so that at the end of that period it was found that an outlet for their ever increasing flocks and herds was imperatively necessary.
At this time the return of stock is given as 60,000sheep, 21,000 cattle and 2000 horses. An increase little short of marvellous for the time.
As the colony was at this time suffering from a severe drought, the matter of finding pasture for them was a very serious problem, seeing that they were then hemmed in by what was thought to be an impassable barrier, viz. the Blue Mountains.
It was at this juncture of the colony's history that the famous expedition of Went- worth, Blaxland, and Lawson was undertaken, their object being to penetrate the mountain range.
In this, they, alter much toil and privation, were successful, and as a result of the labors the whole of the splendid lands of the Western district were opened up for settlement, and thus almost unlimited pasture was provided for the stock of the colonists on lands which up till then were absolutely unknown.
The success of this expedition gave a direct impetus to exploration in a more southerly direction, and it was at this juncture that the man chiefly identified with the first explorations in the Tumut and Murumbidgee districts came into prominence, viz. Hamilton Hume.
Hume was born at Parramatta, so he is a native of the soil.
His first exploits (and be it remembered he was little more than a boy at the time) were at Berrima, Sutton Forest, and then Goulburn Plains, all of which were brought to view through his enterprise.
He further discovered; the Shoalhaven River, Lake George and Yass Plains, and it was his energy in this direction that induced the then Governor to enlist his services as a leader of an expedition across the continent to Western Port, an inlet which had been discovered and charted by Bass in 1797.
The ostensible object of the expedition was to ascertain if there were any rivers of note emptying themselves into the ocean on the eastern coast south of Sydney, and it appears somewhat singular that although the explorers discovered and crossed a number of rivers on their famous journey, they all flowed in the opposite direction.
The Murray was the outlet for them.