In and Around Tumut

16 March 1895 Freeman's Journal (Sydney)

Although the writer had frequently heard of 'Picturesque Tumut,' I was not prepared for the view that met my gaze as, coming from Adelong, I reached the top of a rather steep hill overlooking Tumut.

The town lay nestling almost at my feet, in the distance the valley was 'made green with running rivers,' and rows of willows and poplars and hickory lined the banks of the stream, and as: the declining rays of the sun threw their gold and silver shade was over the whole space, the effect was enhanced tenfold.

And I can say with all sincerity, and without attempting at all to paint the lily, that in all my travels I have never seen a country town that so impressed me with its great rural prettiness and its beautiful landscape surroundings.

A feature of the town, too, most noticeable as I entered, was the substantial brick buildings and iron roofs that made up the streets, combined with the pretty private residences around. 

The Church of the Immaculate Conception stands out as one of the adornments of the town, occupying as it does a splendid site and built of Adelong stone; and enclosed with an elaborate iron railing on a coping of stone work all round, gives the exterior a grand appearance.

The interior of the church too, I can only say, reminded me of a city edifice, and as I attended Mass on Sunday I was agreeably surprised at the singing of the choir under Miss Madian, which would do justice to any of the metropolitan churches.

Father Slattery is the parish priest, and like Dr. Gallagher and others was educated at Maynooth, and therefore volunteered to come to Australia, which he did 25 years ago.

He preached an excellent sermon, and there was so much fire and fervour in it that he reminded me of 'the free and flashing sword.'

I must here state also that he is revered by his congregation and respected by all classes and creeds of the community.

The presbytery with its pretty garden, and also the convent built of brick, make up a nice block of buildings.

The Sisters of Mercy are located there, and are under the charge of Mother Mary Xavier, who kindly showed me all through the convent buildings. 

A Dip Into The Past

Before going any further I think it would be fitting, as Tumut is one of the oldest places in N.S.W., to give a little of the early history of the place. 

And as I was constantly coming into contact with natives of the place, or people who have been here nearly all their lives, it cannot be said that the history of the place is wrapped in the mists and shadows of the past.

As I heard a man remark, the people of Tumut never seem to die.

I am indebted to Mr. Bridle and Mr. E. Fitzgerald for assisting me in getting the required information.

It was the former brought the first bullock over Tabingo, from Monaro to Tumut.

Before gold was discovered men were getting only 7s and 8s per week. Cattle were selling at 16s a head, and there were 39 boiling-down establishments.

Shortly after the precious metal was discovered cattle went up to 5 a head.

The town of Tumut was then on the Flat, near the present show ground (the first show was held in a shed which still stands on Mr. Bridle's property, just across the river).

The first storekeepers were Messrs. Cook and Strachan and T. O'Mara.

The last named was called by the blacks 'Teddy Coborn'' (big fellow).

The first houses built in the new town were Madigan's ' Queen's Arms,' and the old Woolpack, built by Mr. O'Mara, and there was an apothecary's shop, owned by Fred Brady, in Fitzroy-street.

Madigan was the first hotel-keeper, and Hilton the first postmaster, and W. Heydon first wheelwright.

A Mr. Brady then kept a store in the new town, Mandlesohn following a little later on.

This was, of course, in the fifties.

The original name of Tumut I may mention, was 'Doomut,' which means in the aboriginal language 'a camping place.'

The blacks used to hold corrobborees here, and perform their weird dances where the town now stands. 

The first settler, I should have stated before, was George Shelley. He was the first white man born in Tumut,* and Mrs. Beatty the first white woman.

At this time Mr. Bingham was Commissioner of Crown Lands here.

He was a sort of viceroy, and grants of land were given to the people.

Mr. Bridle brought the first half-ounce of gold to Tumut in '52, Sergeant O'Neill testing it with aqua fortis; and Mr. Bridle at this time put in wheat at his place, 'Rosevale,' getting 300 bushels off it, which was sold at 1 a bushel, and maize at 16s. 

The first bridge was built across the river by Anderson and Ford.

A man named Jack Ricks had, previous to this, a sort of canoe punt.

It is told of Jack that he was asked once if he ever prayed. 'Only once,' said Jack. The log canoe broke away from him one day and carried him down the river, when he thought it was all over with him, and he ejaculated, 'Oh, God, it's a cooker with me now!'

In those days no cash was used.

Everything was done with I.O.U.'s.

You got your tea and sugar with I.O.U.'s.

It seems that history repeats itself in this respect, for there is very little cash about now in Tumut. 

I was also informed that a man called "Ryan the tailor" first planted the willows along the Tumut river, little dreaming, I suppose, that they were going to give such added beauty to the town.

The first newspaper, the Wynward Times, was started in 1861 by Mr. J. B. Elworthy.   

Messrs. J. C. Whitty and F. W. Vyner were the first magistrates in Tumut in the fifties, and Mr. Caswell first C.P.S. The Fitzgeralds arrived in 1830, and Mr. E. Fitzgerald, who now owns a splendid property near Wagga Wagga, was born in '40 at Nimbo (meaning 'beginning of oak'), and is perhaps the oldest native of Tumut living. 

Shelley and Green on Bamborabee were the first farmers; J. A. Broughton was the lessee of Gocup, so called I believe by the blacks from the sound of the bull frogs in the swamp.

Other celebrities were the Downings, the Brennans, T. Percival, Atkinsons, and Tom Boyd, the first white man to swim across the Murrumbidgee and who crossed the Murray with Hume and Hovell.

I would of course have neither time nor space to trace up the history to the present day, so that I will be content with the foregoing. 

A Stroll Round The Town 

Having already given my general expressions of the place, I would like to say a few words of the institutions.

First of all Tumut has a Council. Mr. E. G. Brown was the first Mayor, holding that position for five years; and he must indeed have been admirably fitted for the office, for a more genial and open-hearted gentleman you could not meet with.

Mr. R. M. Shelley now holds the high office, and as an after-dinner speaker he cannot be excelled. The other members of the Council are -Messrs. J. Weedon, T. Lindbeck, R. Donaldson, W. Burke, R Dean, A. Emery, J. Blakeney, and H. Hood; Mr. W. H. Hillton being Council clerk. 

There are three banks, New South Wales, Commercial, and Joint Stock, the managers being respectively Messrs. C. S. Morrissett, D. H. Scott, and E. J. Turner.

The Lands Office is looked after by Mr. H. Newman, the C.P.S. At present there is no P.M. at Tumut, justice being administered by the following - Messrs. R. M. Shelley, M. Tuohy, R. M. Newman, H. S. Sanderson, P. Kiley, W. Bridle, A. G. Brown, and others.

The post-office, which does about 2000 a year, is in charge of Mr. Madigan.

There is an excellent reading-room here, in which there are, besides all the papers and periodicals, about a thousand volumes.

Mr. F. M. Vernon is the secretary, Mr. Vernon, junior, librarian, Mr. J. Weeden, president.

The building cost 900, and a debt remains of only 38. There is a debating society, and during the winter Mr. G. H. Turner gives lessons gratuitously in short-hand, and Mr. D. H. Scott in book-keeping; Mr. J. Ferguson and Mr. Vernon also give magic lantern entertainments.

There are five hotels in Tumut, all substantial brick buildings. 

Although this is only my first article, I cannot wait for the concluding one to give vent to my feelings with regard to the Tumut people and the hospitality extended to me by one and all.

And I must also speak of the liberal-minded disposition of the residents, who at the show luncheon in propos-ing the toast of the Press coupled the name of the representative of the Freeman's Journal with it. 

Although now on my way to the caves, I found it very difficult to tear myself away from my Tumut friends, having spent over a week in their pretty little town.

And I must specially thank Mr. and Mrs. Vester, of the Woolpack Hotel, at whose commodious hotel I stayed, for many little extra attentions received.   

My next article will deal with the surroundings and the capabilities of the district, and, my visit to the show and races.

Kil Leevy.

*George Shelly cannot have been both the first settler and the first white man born in Tumut. In fact he was neither.

Ed. tumuthistory.com