Place Of Many Crows (Part 7)
By Eric Irvin
21 August 1953 Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga)
A brief history of the foundation of Wagga Wagga.
This is the seventh 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.
There are in existence two first-hand accounts of what the Wagga of 1 849 was like.
The first is a contemporary account, which appeared in The Sydney Herald of December 14 that year:
"The site of Wagga Wagga extremely well chosen, and was selected by some experienced residents originally as the site for a police station.
Its public house and black- smith's shop may appear to many a very weak hypothesis to found the structure of a city upon, but there is no doubt that it will one day become a mighty place, and completely eclipse Gundagai and all those villages struggling into existence with an energy too desperate to last."
Besides displaying prescience to a remarkable degree regarding the future of Wagga, the writer of this paragraph also assumed that his readers would know that in addition to the public house and black- smith's shop there would also be a court house, gaol and constable's huts which were established there two years earlier.
Another account of Wagga in 1849, in this case recollected over a distance of more than 20 years, is also in existence.
This agrees in every respect with the contemporary account.
It was given by Mr. P. S. Murray (for some years postmaster at Wagga) during the speeches at the first Mayoral Ball to be held In Wagga.
Then a scrub
"When, in 1849 he first visited the district, before reaching what was then called the township he had to travel over the sand hill, which is now covered with public and private buildings, but which was then a scrub.
The township consisted of a slab Court House, surrounded by bark huts occupied by constables; a small public house and a few unpretending cabins, upon the gable of one of which it was notified that Holloway's Pills were sold there, which was the only indication of commerce to be found in the place." (13).
A further contemporary account records the initial stages of Wagga's growth after it had been proclaimed a town:
"The sale of Wagga Wagga allotments having taken place at the Treasury, purchasers are commencing operations.
When last we wrote out humble village boasted of but one inn and one blacksmith's shop; such is the colossal stride of improvement here that we have now two inns and two blacksmith's shops, whilst the owners of allotments are busy marking out the sites of future residences and stores.
Brick makers are busy, the sound of the axe and saw is heard everywhere, and the embryo city begins slowly to emerge from dust and ashes." (14).
When F. A. Tompson took up his duties in Wagga Michael Norton was still chief constable, and he had under him three ordinary constables.
John Peter and William Macleay were Wagga's magistrate's.
John G. Church of Uranquinty, appointed a magistrate on December 2, 1848, joined them soon afterwards, or may have officiated with them earlier.
By March 1849 Tompson had duly completed the requisite bond and had been appointed first postmaster, although the place had not then been proclaimed a town.
Mail was carried from and to Tarcutta and Wagga once a week by the contractor (Robert Holt Best) or his men.
On December 22, 1848, Macleay and Peter had written to the Postmaster General in Sydney proposing, if he had no objection, to make an offer to R. H. Best in order to get him to run the mall service twice a week, at no extra cost to the Government. By March 6, 1848 this arrangement was in practice.
By May of that year the magistrates at Wagga were writing letters to the colonial Secretary in support of the Gundagai Bench's request for a road to be built around the Kymo Range.
Wagga was growing, and communication with the outside world, which was by road only, had to be made safer and quicker if the inland towns were to prosper.
In June a letter to the Colonial Secretary forwarded a "Return of Sittings of Courts of Petty Sessions in and for this District," in which it was stated that in the "interval embraced by the return a total of 178 cases" had been brought before the Bench.
The interval was it is assumed, August 1847 to the end of May 1849.
It will be remembered that the pastoralists in October 1847 petitioned the Government for the establishment if a village at Wagga.
On July 31, 1849 the Wagga magistrates forwarded a further letter on the same subject.
"We do ourselves the honor of stating that we have received a memorial from a number of persons resident in this district, praying that we would communicate with the Government upon the subject of the proposed township of "Wagga Wagga", such persons being desirous of becoming purchasers of allotments so soon as they are thrown open for sale, and praying that we would press upon the notice of His Excellency the necessity and utility of this being done as early as possible.
We do ourselves the honor, accordingly, in compliance with the aforesaid memorial, to request that allotments in North and South Wagga Wagga may be declared open for purchase as early as the circumstances of the Government will admit, and beg most respectfully to be informed, in reply hereto, within what period it is probable that the township of Wagga Wagga may be Gazetted.”' (15).
(13) The Daily Advertiser, May 27, 1871.
(14) Sydney Morning Herald, December 22, 1849.
(15) The Daily Advertiser, March 18, 1953.