Our Good Districts No. VI - Tumut
By A. B. Paterson, in the "Sydney Morning Herald."
The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser
2 January 1903
"See Tumut and die!"
In all New South Wales there is no place quite like Tumut.
The travelling sheep that have come up from the Riverina this year are going to see Tumut and die.
Poor wretches, they stagger along, with four or five men after the mob picking up the those that fall down and setting them on their feet again, until they get too weak to travel, and then they are killed, skinned, and the carcases left behind.
The Tumut Valley. Leaving Gundagai the road to Tumut runs up a broad level valley alongside a beautiful clear driver, running strongly.
Sometimes the track makes a short cut over steep spurs of' the hills that enclose the valley like a wall.
The hills are practically mountains, running up to a great height.
The timber on them has been killed by ringbarking, and the grass has died and the dead stalks have been washed off by the rain, so that just now the hills are bare of any visible vegetation of any kind; all that one can see is just the bare brown earth of the hillside; and yet there must be something there, because those curious animal, the merino sheep, are quite fat and contented in their paddocks, looking out with patronising eyes at their starving Riverina brethren as they totter past.
The sheep is a curious accommodatory sort of animal.
If he can get plenty of grass he can do without water, and if he can get plenty of water he can do without grass.
Just now, in these hill paddocks, he lives on water and earth. The crossbred sheep is a very different character from the merino.
If a crossbred sees grass, he will get at it , somehow - a seven-wire fence won't stop him.
One lot of cross-breds came along this mountain track lately, and they got into every paddock that they passed, winding up by running clear of their drovers when they got to a particularly good patch; even the dogs could not get them together again, and they spread themselves out over the grass until they had eaten the lot.
A merino, with the family pride of his Spanish ancestry, would rather die than cadge, but the crossbred has no scruples.
The Rich Land. It is a treat in Australia to see such country as this Tumut valley.
For five and twenty miles it runs up from Gundagai, through the big hills - the valley being in some places about a mile wide - and even in this season it is green.
The cattle and sheep are piled on to it until it is hard to say exactly what stock the land is carrying to the acre, and every animal appears to be fat.
Tumut is the Australian Chicago of the future.
Here there is a vast valley of rich land all suitable for irrigation, and through it runs the ever-flowing river, which is fed by the snows of Kiandra and a 60 inch rainfall on the hills at its source. It cannot be long now until this valley carries a heavy population.
At present there is not one acre irrigated, and the stock are fed on the natural grasses, though the expenditure of a little money and a little enterprise would quadruple the ...... unimproved.
The flats here are said by local authorities to be better than those at Gundagai, as the water is nearer the surface, and the roots of the lucerne can get down to the water easier. No doubt the people of Gundagai would deny this.
The Tabacco Boom. Some years ago there was a boom in tobacco at Tumut, and the flats were let to Chinamen at high rentals to grow tobacco.
After a time it was found that owing to the strength of the soil the tobacco plants produced too heavy a leaf to be valuable, and the prices fell, and the Chinamen when asked for their rents simply said, "No have got, how can give?" and walked out to resume their old trade of "vegetable John".
This was a severe shock to enterprise in Tumut and nowadays they walk warily before starting on any new undertaking.
A local resident has begun dairying, and speaks well of the results so far, al- though he has encountered a season that would be a Waterloo to dairying in any less favoured district.
The flats near the town fetch a pound and twenty-five shillings an acre rent for agriculture, but there are large areas uncultivated, and Tumut has all its future before it.
Land as good as the Tumut flats could not be bought in any part of Victoria for less than £50 an acre, but in slow-going Tumut a local resident is looked upon as a daring speculator forgiving £15 to £18 an acre and yet off some of these flats one farmer this year took a crop of hay that ran to five tons to the acre and as the price was £5 per ton he got back more than the supposed value of his land off one crop.
But the Tumut people remember that tobacco fiasco, and say "wait". They are cured of speculating about Tumut.
The Town Itself. As the coach comes up the Brungle road one sees, far away across the flats, the white walls of the town, nestled in amongst a setting of green willows and towering poplars.
Surely some of the highest poplars in the world grow Tumut?
All round the town the roads are bordered with hedges, and elm trees shade the side paths, while, the saddling paddock of the racecourse is almost dark at mid-day, so densely is it shaded by trees.
The willows, the poplars, the hedges and the running water give the town an English, look that makes it quite a place by itself in this State.
Just back of the town are the big mountains, the snow-clad heights of Kiandra, and the Yarrangobilly Caves.
Close by the town is the Gadara site, which is one day to be the federal capital.
The Federal Capital. They are in deadly, earnest about the Federal Capital at Tumut, and the... to make a big struggle to get it fixed at Gadara.
For soil, climate, fruitfulness, and health there could be no better place. Nobody ever dies at Tumut, except those who are struck by lightning.
The children have rosy cheeks, the men are hardy mountaineers, and the women have Tasmanian complexions.
But all these advantage must be weighed in the balance against having the capitol in place from which it takes ... to reach ... of trade and industry.
Still, with fast trains, it would be possible to leave Tumut at dark, and arrive in Sydney before breakfast, so no business hours need be wasted. Therefore - go it Tumut.
Closer Settlement. This place is pretty well settled already, and that land which is still unimproved is so obviously valuable that it must be put into cultivation soon.
Closer settlement and intense cultivation must come of itself in a district as rich as this is.
Some of these days the whole of the Murrumbidgee valley will be irrigated, and we shall be looking for men to take up the farms, instead of, as now, sending them out to perish west of the rainfall.