Early pays in this District No. 4. (By Hon. James Gormly, M.L.A.)

30 July 1917 Cootamundra Herald

As far back as 1840 I have taken a keen interest in exploration and settlement in the interior of Australia.

In the year abovementioned I heard Gregory Blaxland relate to my father a brief account of his trip across the Blue Mountains, with his two companions, Wentworth, and Lawson, in 1813.

Sir Thomas Mitchell. 

I afterwards heard Major Mitchell (afterwards Sir Thomas) relate several incidents in connection with his early explorations, particularly his nine months' journey, during which he traversed the western and southern part of what is now the State of Victoria, which he named "Australia Felix."

I was likewise acquainted with Hamilton Hume, the first great bushman Australia produced.

Captain Charles Sturt and his second in command, George Macleay (who was the first member for the Murrumbidgee) were well-known to me. Start's expedition down the Murrumbidgee. 

Sturt's expedition down the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers to the ocean in 1829-30, when settlement had only extended to where Gundagai now stands, was the means of solving the problem of where the waters of the western rivers went. 

Those early associations with so many of the early explorers caused me to take a keen interest in the settlement of the southern part of Australia, which proved such magnificent pasture lands in the early days, and afterwards, as population increased, such splendid fields for agriculture.   

Travelling Over Australia. For 73 years I have spent a considerable part of my time travelling over various parts of this continent, all that time endeavoring to gain information that would make me better understand the resources of this great country. 

The First Settlers on the Western Watershed. 

The first to settle on the western watershed in the south was Hamilton Hume and W. H. Broughton, who formed a station on the head of the Fish River. 

Henry O'Brien, one of the most enterprising pioneers, soon afterwards settled in Yass Plains. 

In 1829, when Captain Sturt and George Macleay reached Yass Plains, O'Brien assisted them on their journey, and sent a black boy to guide them to his sheep station on the Murrumbidgee river at Jugiong, which was probably the first sheep station established on that stream. 

Muttama Taken up and Stocked. 

Next to O'Brien came Frank Taaffe, who settled on Muttama creek, and occupied an extensive tract of country, which he stocked with horses, cattle, and sheep. Nine of Faithfull's Party Killed by the Blacks.

Taaffe was in his way to the new settlement at Port Phillip, with a mob of cattle for sale, in 1838, when nine out of fourteen of Faithfull's party were massacred on the Broken River by hostile blacks. 

After selling his stock in the new settlement, Taaffe, on his way home to Muttama, showed wonderful bushcraft and courage, as he had to pass through several hostile tribes, who were on the warpath, und thirsting for white men's blood. 

A Good Horse Relieved from Work. 

The horse that carried Taaffe safely thorough those hostile tribes, and on which he crossed many swimmable rivers, was, when he reached home, never saddled again.

In 1851, when going to the newly discovered goldfields in the Bathurst district, I saw this horse on Muttama homestead.

At this time Taaffe had the horse, in his old age, properly fed. 

An Old Landmark.

Some 15 years past, when travelling from Cootamundra to Gundagai, I observed from the railway carriage that the old slab hut in which Taaffe resided in 1844 was still standing. 

A Successful Pioneer. 

James Fitzpatick, who first took up Cucumbla station, was one of the eight persons who formed the expedition to Port Phillip in 1824.

Although Captain Hovell attempted to claim being one of the leads in that successful journey, Fitzpatrick, Boyd, and Angel, three of the party, positively wrote and asserted that the success was wholly duo to Hume's energy and bushcraft, and that Hovell was only a hindrance when any difficulty occurred.

James Fitzpatrick was a most careful, industrious man.

I have known him to take, in 1855, a large flock of fat wethers from Cucumbla to the Ovens goldfields without any assistance except that of a dog.

He had only one horse, which carried a small pack, consisting of a blanket, some rations, and a quart and pint pot to make tea in.

He had to drive the sheep during the day, and watch them at night.

He, therefore, got only short snatches of sleep on the journey, which occupied over three weeks.

He sold the sheep at over 20/ each, and carried the money, over 1,000, home in his pocket, although bushrangers were numerous in the country he passed through. 

Industry and Thrift Make Success 

Through industry and thrift, Fitzpatrick became a rich man.

In his old ago he bought the "Glenlee" estate, which fronted the Menangle river, near Campbelltown, where he lived to over 86 years of age. 

It is singular to what advanced years most of the men of the 1824 expedition lived.

Harry Angel lived to 92. Tom Boyd to 88.

I think Captain Hovel must have been nearly 90 when I last saw him.

Hamilton Hume died at his residence on Yass Plains aged 73. 

Hume was the most capable explorer in Australia in the days of his youth. 

Dallas, an Early Settler. 

Another early settler on Muttama creek, on the Cootamundra side of Taaffe, was Dallas, of Brawlin station.

His son John, who lived to an advanced age, and was well-known in Gundagai, Wagga, Cootamundra, and in most parts of the Riverina, was one of the first children born in the district.

His sister, afterwards Mrs. Butler, was likewise born on the station.  

Dallas also owned Godgelderie, one of the best stations on the Lower Murrumbidgee, which now forms part of the North Murrumbidgee Irrigation Settlement. 

In the forties, when my family resided at Nungus, old Dallas used to make our home a stopping place for the night, when going to Godgelderie, and I have heard him relate the difficulties he experienced to protect his stock from being speared by the blacks.   

Taaffe was a Friend to the Black Tribes.

Taaffe got on well with the black tribes.

He distributed food freely to those who camped on his station. 

Some years past I, in company with members of the Aborigines Protection Board, paid a visit to the blacks settlement at Brungle, on the Tumut river.

I there met an old black fellow whom I had known as a boy at Muttama, about 50 years before. 

When I made myself known to this man he seemed delighted to again meet me, as I had been kind to him in the old days. 

I have usually found the black men grateful.

A Black Chief Buried at Cootamundra. 

In one of the 82 articles that I wrote during the last two years, and which were published in several newspapers, I gave an account of a great warrior named Billy the Ram, whom I knew at Nangus in '44.

In August, 1915, Mr. F. C. Bolton, who was district surveyor in Wagga for many years, informed me that when he was surveying land at Cootamundra in 1859 he saw Billy buried. 

Mr. Bolton said Billy became chief of his tribe.

He died on 30th November, 1859, at the blackfellows' camp, which stood near Mr. Hurley's Cootamundra station, and close to District Surveyor Adams's camp.

When Mr. Bolton was riding by the blacks were digging Billy's grave, and had the body bundled in his blanket and 'possum rug.

Billy was buried about half way between where the Cootamundra railway station now stands and Mount Coughland.  

Surveying Land at Cootamundra. 

The date given by Mr. Bolton, Nov., 1859 was when District Surveyor Adams and Mr. F. C. Bolton were surveying some of the land that now forms the town of Cootamundra.