Place of Many Crows (Part 8)

By Eric Irvin  

22 August 1953Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga)

A brief history of the foundation of Wagga Wagga

This is the eighth 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.

From the letter of July 31, 1849 (quoted yesterday) it is clear that Wagga had been surveyed as a township at that date, and allotments marked out. 

This assumption is proved true by a letter of F. A. Tompson's dated September 19, 1849, in which he states: "Wagga Wagga not yet having been gazetted as a township, although measured and subdivided."

According to R. J. E. Gormly (15) surveyor Thomas Scott Townsend made the first plans of the town in April, 1849. 

It was not long after the date of this letter that the Sydney and Goulburn Heralds carried news of the proposed sale, in Sydney of land at Wagga, and the proclamation of the establishment of the township of Wagga.

The Goulburn Herald announced that land would be offered for sale by public auction at the old Military Barracks, George Street, Sydney on Wednesday, November 21, 1849, the land to consist of ten South Wagga lots and eight North Wagga lots; and in its issue of December 6, 1849 carried the following notice: 

Low prices 

"Wagga Wagga. A site has   been fixed upon for a township at Wagga Wagga, on the Murrumbidgee River.

A copy of the approved plan may be seen at the office of the Surveyor General, Sydney, or at the police office, Wagga Wagga." (16). 

The Sydney Herald on the other hand, announced the date of the land sale as being November 22, and announced the establishment of the town in its issue of November 26, 1849.

The ten South Wagga allotments were sold at prices ranging from 10 to 4each.

They were located in Section 1, numbers 1 to 5, (Section 1 is the block bounded by Gurwood, Fitzmaurice, Kincald and Trail Streets) and Section 4, numbers 1 to 5 (Section 4 is the block bounded by Kincaid, Fitzsmaurice, Crampton and Trail Streets).

These allotments, in both sections had Fitzmaurice Street frontages. Numbers 1 to 5 in Section 1 were all bought by J. J. Roberts, from the corner of Gurwood Street to roughly the centre of the block. 

Buyers of Section 4 allotments, from the corner of Kincaid Street to roughly the centre of the block, were: S. D. Gordon (1), C. Tidyman (2), S. D. Gordon (3) and 4), T. S. Townsend (5). 

The prices paid for these allotments were, naturally enough, very low, for Wagga was not Gazetted as a town ship until the day after the sale.

Not only was it unknown, but there was nothing whatever in 1849 to indicate that it would grow to any size.

However, by the time the next public auction of Wagga land was held (in the following year) things were somewhat different. 

Stores and houses (of a kind) had been built, and there was every indication that the town of Wagga was destined not only to stay put, but also to grow.

Second sale 

The second sale o Wagga land was the first to be held in Wagga itself.

The sale was conducted at the Court House by F. A. Tompson on July 31, 1850, and 33 allotments were disposed of - 25 in South Wagga and eight in North Wagga.

The average price realised per allotment was 10. 13. 11, or 21. 7. 10 per acre, the highest price paid by Robert Davison for the Kincaid - Fitzmaurice Street corner of Section 1.

At this sale the remaining allotments in Section 4 (6 to 20) were sold. 

The third land sale took place in Wagga the following year, on January 23, when South Wagga lots only were made available. Eleven were sold, made up of the last of the allotments available in Section 1 (12 to 20) and two lots (5 and 6) in Section 5. (Seption 5 is the river bank block bounded by Kincaid, Fitzmaurice, and Crampton Streets.

Lots 5 and 6 are centre lots). This sale showed a drop in prices, for the average was 6. 11. 2 per allotment.

The highest price paid was 14 for allotment 6, Section 5. From all this it will be seen that, after Wagga had been surveyed and laid out, and up to the end of the year 1851, Wagga consisted of that area of land enclosed by Gurwood, Fitzmaurice, Crampton and Trail Streets, bisected by Kincald Street.

This particular area remained the business section until well into the 'sixties, after which more substantial and flood-free buildings were built up to the then boundary of Wagga, the Wollundry Lagoon. 

Early in the same year (1851) a request for Section 7 (the block bounded by Crampton, Fitzmaurice, Travers and Trail Streets) to be opened up for sale was forwarded from Wagga to Sydney.

In August of that year, also, ten lots were sold at auction in North Wagga. On September 3, nine allotments in Section 7 were sold (the whole of the Fitzmaurice Street frontage, plus a Crampton Street allotment next to the Crampton Fitzmaurice Street corner allotment). At this sale, thanks to the discovery of gold, prices were lower than they had ever been, each allotment realising only 4. 

After this there were several auction sales, but no buyers.

The gold rush, drought and floods brought everything to a standstill in Wagga until almost the end of 1853. 

Soon sold out As is usual when a new town or suburb is opened up, the majority of buyers who, either in person or by proxy, obtained the 18 Wagga allotments which were auctioned in Sydney were people who apparently bought on the chance of the land suddenly increasing in value, rather than from any real need for land in the new township. J. J. Roberts, for instance was living in Wagga at the time he bought his land, then being licensee of Wagga's first hotel, the Wagga Wagga Inn.

From the scant records available about him, it would seem that he sold out towards the end of 1850 and left Wagga. S. D. Gordon, as far as this account of Wagga is concerned is only a name - though he may have been related to the John Gordon who was aWagga magistrate in 1851. 

Christopher Tidyman was Wagga's second blacksmith (the first was John Franklin). T. S. Townsend was the man who surveyed the town. 

The eight North Wagga allotments sold on November 22, 1849, were bought by Robert Davison (of Gundagai), Duncan Menzies, William Davis, William Brown and William Hendrie. Robert Davison was a storekeeper and hotel proprietor of Gundagai.

At the first auction sale of land in Wagga itself (July 31 1850) he bought land In South Wagga, and later erected Wagga's first brick store.

His licence to sell spirits at this store dates from October 18 1851: in 1885 he sold out to George Forsyth, and Wagga saw him no more.  

Davison is always referred to erroneously, as Dr. Davison.

He was, in fact an-apothecary and amateur surgeon, and on occasion set bones quite successfully.

He had practised as a chemist in Wollongong for some years, and went to Gundagai in 1842. (17).

The term 'doctor' was given in the early days to almost every purveyor of pills and medicine. As late as 1854 a Sydney Herald correspondent writing from the Westgarth (Vic.) gold diggings said: "Everybody in the line, from the apothecary upwards, is doctor here." 

Of Duncan Menzies little more is known than that he later bought additional land at North Wagga.

The same may be said of William Davis, although according to R. J. E. Gormly he was a member of a family which was in residence at North Wagga as early as October, 1844. (18). 

William Brown opened the first hotel in North Wagga (the New Ferry Hotel) and operated Wagga's first punt, of William Hendrie nothing is known. 

These, then, were the men who bought the first Wagga land offered for sale.

Of them all, not one remained in Wagga ten years later, some having died and the others having passed on. 


(16) In point of fact, the proclamation appeared in the N.S.W. Government Gazette of November 23. 1849. "Notice is herby given that a site has been fixed upon for a township at the under mentioned place ...Wagga Wagga on the Murrumbidgee." 

(17 R.A.H.S. Vol. XXXIII Part 3 1947. Earliest Gundagai Medical Practitioners, by Richard T. Kennedy, M.B., B.S. 

(18) In the Dally Advertiser.