Historical Tumut

By "Wombat."

The Tumut Advocate and Farmers & Settlers' Adviser

21 December 1909

The late Mr. T. Wilkinson, in a memoir he left, says he lived 18 months on the Gilmore, at the homestead how known as "Rosebank." The Gilmore Creek was dry from the end of 1838 until the middle of 1889. Wheat was worth 2 per bushel, and hard to procure at that.

"We took up a license for a holding on the Gilmore," says the writer, " but a dispute arose with Shelley as to the boundaries. We were ordered to move by Mr. Commissioner Bingham who possessed great power at that time. We built where O'Brien's house now stands, and had one crop of wheat, which was half smut. My brother John was with me then.

We had about 70 head of cattle. Bingham moved our license over to Yallowin; that was in June, 1840, and we were the first there. We settled on the flat, and put in a crop of wheat at the top end of it. All wheat was ground by hand flourmill, the nearest mill worked by power being at Yass.

McAlister was the only man who grow wheat for sale on the Gilmore Creek, where Korn now resides. Cultivation was done with the swing plough drawn by bullocks. All crops were reaped by hand and threshed with flails. Rations in wheat were served out and each man had to grind his own flour.

We bred cattle at Yallowin, fat bullocks then being worth 20s per head in Sydney, and hard to sell at that. Two-year-olds wore worth 10s, 8-year-olds 14s and 5 and 6-year-olds 20s. We paid about L25 a year for our squatting license. We could hire good men for L12 a year.

Whitty used to pay his men L5 a year   and gave them each a 2-year-old filly; he was one of the best employers at that time. Dr. Clayton owned East and West Blowering in 1839, and about 2 years later Whitty bought the property. There were no fences existing anywhere. Our cattle grazed from Tumut to Lobbs Hole, Davis had Yarrangobilly run in 1840.

There had been stations on Long Plain, Tantangra, Coolamon and Coorangorambla, but they were all deserted on account of the snow. In 1840 we took our cattle up to Long Plain (I was in partnership with W. Bridle sr).

We thought we could dairy there, but on March 8, 1841, snow commenced to fall and this disgusted us, so we came back to Yallowin, leaving our cattle at Long Plain where 80 of them perished in the snow. In 1851 gold was discovered in Victoria, and the dawn of better days began."

During the '40's the brothers Messrs Roland and George Shelley (the latter being the father of Mr W. J. Shelley, of Tumut Plains) took up Bombowlee Station (alte Rankin Bros), and after they occupied it a while Hannibal Rose, who held Tumut Plains as a run, received a grant of 1280 acres there, as an encouragement for settlement.

When Mr. George Shelley married, he dissolved partnership with Mr. Roland Shelley, who purchased his interest in Bombowlee Station; and Mr. George Shelley purchased Mr. Hannibul Rose's interest in Tumut Plains Run. In the Gazette of 1866, this shows an area of 12,800 acres; grazing capability, 800 head of cattle.

In these pioneer times, with stock down to   starvation price, with hundreds of blacks spearing their cattle and causing them to   stampede in terror for miles, with roads as Nature left them, and the necessity of procuring food supplies and clothing from Sydney per medium of bullock teams (usually meaning three months' absence from home), our early presidents had anything but a rosy time of it.

Their residences were of the most primitive description - slab walls plastered with mortar to which chopped grass or horse hair had been added, roofs of stringy bark, earth floors as a rule, blocks and slabs, with four legs placed in them formed the principal sitting accommodation; their food was of the coarsest beef and damper, the latter made of meal of their own grinding (more wholesome and bone producing than the fine flour of to-day) - hominy made of corn meal was a welcome addition. Of course they had their own milk and butter, and the coarse living was far more productive of health than the delicate living now.

Gradually Tumut, by reason of its splendid climate, the productive character of the famed Tumut Valley from Talbingo to the confluence of the Tumut river with the Murrumbidgee, attracted settlement, but the distance to the central markets considerably retarded the progress of the agriculturist, and at this time (1841) the principal pursuits were pastoral, the squatters growing a sufficiency of wheat, maize and potatoes for their own requirements.

It is one of the troubles of the Australian squatter that he is treated alternately to a feast or a famine. Nature is profuse at intervals, but has also her seasons of niggardliness.

Tumut, luckily, being so near to the Australian Alps, seldom suffers from drought. The river takes its rise in the angles formed by the Big Bogongs or Mane's Range and the Snowy or Bald Mountains, about 36deg 10m south latitude ????? deg 25m east longitude. It flows in a northerly direction for about 80 miles, through rugged, scrubby country, from its source above Talbingo, until it falls into the Murrumbidgee about 8 miles north east of Gundagai.

It meanders through Talbingo, Blowering, Tumut and Mingay on its way, and the strange thing is that it has a greater average volume of water flowing beneath the bridge at Tumut than it has at Gundagai, although the Tumut is but a tributary of the Murrumbidgee.

The first C.P.S. at Tumut was a Mr.Walker (appointed in 1845), afterwards and for many years Commandant of Native Police in Queensland. It la said of him that he was a clever and accomplished man, and sang a song which enraptured all hearers. He taught his native troopers songs from Italian operas, &c, and to hoar him sing "The Last Man" was considered a real vocal treat. This gentleman had a strong military turn, and, when one of Commissioner Bingham's troopers is said to have lost his way one night going to a maize field, he drew his sword and cut his way through the maize, much to the wonder of the owner when he looked at the state of his agriculture.

People will wonder nowadays how it was an English gentleman would accept a position as a trooper under a commissioner. Many first class men, sometimes prosperous ones later   on, had to accept anything going; there were few avenues indeed in their sphere of life. Splendid laboring hands, in 1846, worked for their grub. Mr. Walker lived with Mr. Henry Hilton, the chief constable, in a hut just where the Church of England has since been built.

Mr. Hilton was the son of a Liverpool merchant, and in the first instance acted as commissioner's clerk. Later he carried out the duties of postmaster and schoolteacher in the same quarters. Mr. W. S. Caswell, late Police Magistrate at Goulburn, succeeded Mr. Walker as C.P.S, taking up that office on June 7, 1847.

There was no courthouse nor lockup, no town even. A store, kept by Messrs Strachan and Webb, was situated next the Show Ground. Strachan was a Scotchman, and a very shrewd man at that, and a keen business man. Webb was the capitalist. He was an Irishman and related to one of the Irish patriots of that day. He was a Trinity College (Dublin) man and possessed remarkable talent, was witty, humorous and well informed.