The Tumut Advocate and Farmers & Settlers' Adviser
14 December 1909
In proceeding to deal with a subject that must prove of interest to all who know Tumut, now a pretty, picturesque and flourishing district, I must confess that I have found difficulties confronting me on every hand, by reason of the contradictory character of the few records of our early history that have been handed down to us. Nearly all the pioneers of Tumut's earliest days have long since "crossed the 'Rubicon'" and the memory of the few who remain, by reason of their years, is found unreliable and defective.
The erstwhile Jewish leader and lawgiver, who led the Israelites to the confines of Canaan, and forbidden to enter was permitted from the mountain of Pisgah (we are told) to view the promised land; and 'tis only from my "Pisgah" and other eyes I start my narrative, from 1838, to outline, little by little, the early history of Tumut.
Tumut or, as the blacks termed it, "'Doomut" (camping ground), 35deg 11min S. latitude, 148deg 16min E longitude, is a municipality in the electoral and police districts of Wynyard. It is situate on the south bank of the Tumut River, Gilmore Creek (auriferous) debouching into that river at a distance of about 300 yards west from the town, which is situate 65 miles by rail south of Cootamundra, 31 miles by rail south of Gundagai, and 318 miles from Sydney; and is surrounded by gold and mineral fields.
Prior to the time I propose to start this history 1838 - Tumut was a practically uninhabited, wild, trackless bush so far as civilization was concerned. Tribes of blacks (aboriginals) roamed the then virgin forest; they were at constant feud with each other, and manifested great hatred to strangers. They had ample s??'re of weapons which, at short distances, were sufficiently effective, consisting of spears, boomerangs and nulla nullas, were usually ready to fight at the shortest notice, and were prompt to resent the intrusion of strangers or other tribes into their territory. There general condition was extremely low, mentally, physically and intellectually, though there were some stalwart men them. When paying their customary visit the mountains (on which occasions they made then young men submit to the custom of having their two front teeth removed, this signifying their arrival at manhood), wild orgies, feasting and revelries were the order of the day, and thousands of moths known as "bogongs" - to be found in rock crevices - were caught, roasted and devoured by these children of Nature; and after a month's sojourn there, they would return fat and sleek, their skins shining like polished ebony.
At the present day there may be seen towards the head of the Goobragandra River traces of such encampments at Numbernango and Foggy Mountain, about 30 miles southeast of Tumut, in the shape of circles like circus rings, in the centre of which the candidates for the confirmation of manhood were placed, and those assembled, with the rattle of spears and weird ceremonies, carried out their barbaric rites.
The aborigines led wandering lives, making temporary shelter of a few branches of trees covered with skins and mats wherever they chose to encamp, and obtained most of their food supplies by hunting, fishing and the digging of yams, the now almost extinct opossum being their favorite quarry. The steps cut and still to be seen in many a monarch of the forest are old time evidence of the search for meat. The opossum caught was knocked in the head, the fur stripped, from its body whilst warm and preserved, and the carcase then roasted whole and eaten with a relish.
Though the Europeans have taken possession of the land they roamed over but did not occupy, it cannot be said their claims have been ignored or their welfare been neglected. In addition to land reserves and means adopted for their sustenance, institutions in many places have been well maintained by public and private beneficence.
The Brungle Mission Station is an exemplification of this; it has been made largely self-supporting, education has been imparted to and readily availed of by the young. A few of them have become skilful shearers and fairly successful farmers; but the breath of civilization seams to wither the race and it is doomed in the near future to total extinction.
[The following paragraph appears to have been invented by “Wambat”. Ed.]
It will be known from historical records that Hume and Howell with Thomas Boyd, leaving Lake George, crossed the Murray River at Albury on November 17, 1824, and, on their way thither, came through what is now the site of the town of Tumut and camped on the Gilmore creek, where they had a saby with the blacks but managed to propitiate them, and, being short of animal food, secured from the natives a plentiful supply of opossum, which carried them through till they reached the American Yards at Yackandandah.
At the time there was no settlement south of Yass, but man (always an extreme creature, with no laws or ??? and ???) demanded extended boundary lines southward from Yass without molestation. [The appointment of inspectors was not then made. Ed.] The land commandeered was never chronicled, and the Government, anxious to encourage settlement, did not interfere.
In 1838 the late Mr. Thomas Wilkinson left Gundaroo, just alter his mother's death, and rode across to Tumut, accompanied by the late Mr. Thomas Boyd (who was with Hume and Howell in their explorations, who drove a bullock team. Mr. Wilkinson's sister (the late Mrs. Wm Bridle sr) came here with Mr. Boyd's wife in a cart. What was termed settled districts extended as far as Bowning in this direction. The travellers struck the Tumut River at Darbalara (late Mr. W. R. Smith's), where Trecillia had a cattle station. Wagra was thou held by a Mr. Osborne and Brungle by Kataerine, each of whom held cattle. The travellers crossed the river just above the Tumut Racecourse, that crossing place, near where the Foord and Anderson's bridge was, being known as Mundong. No township of Tumut existed, but the first store was owned a few months later by a man named Carns. Where the police station and courthouse stand was a thick cluster of saplings and the centre of a big cattle camp.
There was only one station on the Gilmore, and that was owned by the late Mr. Shelley. No station had particularly defined boundaries.
From Darbulara Tumutwards there were only 12 stations, owned as follows: Tooth owned Tarrabandra, Broughton Gocup, T. Boyd west side of Gilmore, G Shelley from Westwood to the head of Gilmore, Rose Springfield and Wererberboldera, G. Shelley Bombowlee, Broughton Mondongo, Troys Killimicat, McEachrin Brungle, Osborne and Trecillia Darbalara.