Place Of Many Crows (Part 1)

14 August 1953 Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga)

By Eric Irvin

A brief history of the foundation of Wagga Wagga

This is the first of a series of articles, to appear daily, tracing the history of the foundation and early growth of the town of Wagga Wagga. The complete history will be published in book form later.

For many years now the student of Wagga's early history has been at the mercy of misleading statements which have been repeated at every opportunity.Writers, in newspapers and elsewhere, have relied on these reports without, apparently, ever checking their source or their authority.

It Is no wonder, then, that Wagga should have celebrated the achievement of its first century in 1946, in the mis- taken idea that the town of Wagga was established in 1846. (1) Tbe truth is that this event was celebrated three years too soon. I Here are a few of the mis- statements regarding the foundation of Wagga which have been printed again and again over the past 40 to 80 1years, and which have stood solidly in the path of the, serious reader in search of the truth. 'In 1847, Wagga Wagga was proclaimed a township; in 1848 the first allotments were sold by auction in Sydney.' (A correspondent writing in the Wagga Wagga Express and Murrumbidgee Advertiser May 28. 1859). 'Norton informed me on more than one occasion that he came to Wagga as ChiefConstable ln 1845.' (Early Wagga, by James Gormly. M.L.C., in The AdvertiserSeptember 5, 1905.) 'John Joseph Roberts erect- ed the first hotel at Wagga,probably in 1846, but I think the licence dated from January 1, 1847' (As above). 'Wagga Wagga (station)   was originally owned by Robert Holt Best. The first home stead was built in 1832.' (The History of Wagga Wagga. compiled by William J. Gar- land 1913).           ''R. H. Best, who settled in the distinct in 1832, named his station Wagga Wagga." (J. F. Baylis in R.A.H.S. Journal No   13, 1927).         So much confusion       The first of these quota-   tions; may be cited as the per- fect reason why there has been so much confusion in regard to the true story of Wagga's foundation. Here we have the casee of a man only 10 years removed from the events in which he participated, and about which he writes, and yet his facts (as it will   be seen) are quite wrong.   Moving considerably fur-   ther afield, it will be found that even a specialist such as S. H. Roberts can be equally careless about Wagga. In his book, "The Squatting Age in Australia', he says: " ... even townships were coming, first at Gundagai, then Al- bury, and then Wagga Wagga (1847)." And there is con- fusion implicit in his earlier statement that, "Best, for example, came from Parra- matta to the new Wagga in 1832." Wagga, like so many other Australian inland towns, owes its existence solely to the pastoralists who, either them- selves or through their  proxies, trod in the footsteps of the explorers in a never- tiring search for new grazing lands. It was Inevitable that the river flats of the Murrumbidgee should attract the hardier settler, who was pre- pared to endure any personal discomfort and hardship an overland Journey of 300 miles from Sydney might entail for the chance of building and   fattening his flocks and herds on good land, and thereby producing better stock or a better wool crop. The history of Wagga, therefore, begins with the discovery of the

Murrumbidgee River. Although he didn't know it at the time, John Oxley, in his exploration of the Lachlan River -n 1817, came within 25 miles of discovering the Murrumbidgee. He was not looking for this river, but it is apparent from his journals that he was aware of another, as yet unfound body of water in the interior, and not far from the areas he had set himself to explore. (2). Heard from natives Explorers and others had heard at various times from inland natives of a river call- ed the Morumbidgee, or, as Dr. Charles Throsby trans- lated the word, "Mur, rum, bid, gie." Credit for the discovery of lake George goes to Throsby, for it was he who, having heard from the natives of the existance of a lake called"Wee, ree, waa", fitted out a small party and set them the task of finding the lake. Hear- ing in a similar manner the existence of the Murrumbidgee River, he determined   that this also, should be found end explored. It is in a letter he vroote to Governor Mac- quarie on September 4, 1820, reporting the discovery of   take George (Wee, ree, waa) that we have the first record- ed reference to the Murrumbidgee (3).       On May 10, 1821, Throsby   wrote a further letter to the Governor, in which he stated   that he set out in search of the Murrumbidgee on March   18th. From this letter it is ap- parent that he reached the spot on which Canberra now   stands, and then pushed on to the Murrumbidgee just be-low Tharwa. The next explorers known to have reached the Murrumbidgee were Hume and Hovell, who, in 1824, crossed the river on their journey to Port  Phillip. In his report on this expedition Hamilton Hume   wrote: "About three o'clock in the afternoon of the 19th (October, 1824) we made the Mur-rumbidgee River, at Marjuri- gong, near Yass." (4) They were followed five years later (1829) by Captain Charles Sturt, who travelled down the Murrumbidgee with the object of tracing its course and discovering the Murray. He is believed to have been the first white man to set foot on the site on which Wagga now stands. "Captain Charles Sturt ex- plored the Murrumbidgee in

1829. On December 3 he was at Wantabadgery (which he calls Pontebadgery). He passed what is now Wagga on De- cember 5 or 6. and Narran- dera on December 10, 1829." (5). First settlers Three years after this, the first settlers had pushed down to the site of Wagga with their stock. In 1832 the Tompson familybrought their stock to the right (North Wagga) bank of the river, and the Bests tothe left (South Wagga) bank. It is fairly certain that the Tompson and Best brothers, in charge of a number of employees or shepherds who would be either assigned or hired servants, brought the stock to what they or their fathers had decided upon as a favorable spot, and there left it in the charge of shep-herds. Certainly homesteads   were not then erected, nor were the womenfolk of these families then brought to Wagga. These shepherds lived in crude hut-shelters of slabs and bark (or, in other cases, the type of shelter or gunyah they had seen the aborigines erect) which they erected themselves, and it was com-mon practice to leave them for weeks in charge of grazing stock. Life under these conditions was certainly no life for a woman - not in the initial stages, at least. Nor would people of the social standing of the Bests and Tompsons have thought it either desir able or necessary to move their families to a new loca-tion before adequate housing was provided. "The earliest occupants of     the Riverina were shepherds, stockmen and station workers who looked after the great station properties of that   region. The lessees of these stations lived elsewhere, and it was not until the 'fifties     and 'sixties that the squatters began to reside on their hold ings." (6). REFERENCES (1) ''The Daily Advertiser," April 25 1946. This news paper, first established in 1868, was known as "The  Wagga Wagga Advertiser and Riverine Reporter." (2) "Australian Discovery by.  Land", edited by Ernest Scott. 1929. (3) Royal Australian Historical Society. Journal and Pro- ceedings, Vol. VII, Part 5, 1921 Exploration between the Wingecarribee, Shoal- heven, Macquarie and Mur- rumbldgee Rivers, by R. H.Cambage. (4) "A Brief Statement of Facts in Connection with   an Overland Expedition from Lake George to Port Phillip in 1824". by Hamil- ton Hume. Second edition 1873. (5) R.A.H.S. Journal and Pro- ceedings. Vol. XXXVII. Parte I to V, 1952: The, Western Riverine. A History; of its Development, by James Jervis. (6) Ditto.