Place of Many Crows

By Eric Irvin

20 August 1953Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga)

A brief history of the foundation of Wagga Wagga

This is the [sixth] 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.

Mr. Frederick Walker, apparently, didn't ever take up his position as C.P.S. at Wagga; or, if he did, he very soon resigned it, for in the Sydney Morning Herald of July 22, 1848 there appeared a notice to the effect that Mr. Frederick Robert D'Arcy had been appointed C.P.S. at Wagga. 

D'Arcy proving in the long run, as elusive as Walker, he finally gave way a few months later to Frederick Anslow Tompson, who was appointed C.P.S. at Wagga on November 11, 1848.

This was the same Frederick Tompson who, at the age of eighteen, in the year1832, had made the pioneer trip to Wagga. 

At the time of his appointment as CP.S. he was just 34 years of age, and had been married twelve years.

He had seven children, a number which was increased to twelve within the next eleven years. 

His father before him had had fourteen children. 

If his predecessors could be said to have hidden their merits or demerits so well that nobody today is aware of them, the reverse may be said of F. A. Tompson.

He was a man who, whether he sought publicity or not, got more than his share of it in Wagga and other newspapers. 

Gundagai magistrate 

He was first mentioned In the Sydney Morning Herald on June 16, 1847, when a notice appeared stating that F. A. Tompson of Oura Murrumbidgee, had been appointed a magistrate of the territory and its dependencies - in other words, a justice of the peace. 

He pursued his duties as magistrate in the town of Gundagai, and in the Sydney Morning Herald of July 27, 1848 there is mention of him presiding at an inquest in that town.

He also wrote lengthy letters of self-justification to that and other papers, more or less "at the   drop of a hat" it would seem. 

Although F. A. Tompson was appointed C.P.S. at Wagga on November 11, 1848, it is apparent that he did not take up residence in that town until early 1849. 

In the meantime, he managed to combine the duties of magistrate at Gundagai; C.PS. at Wagga; landowner or pastoralist at Oura (North Wagga); at the same time angling for the position of Wagga postmaster as well. 

Under the heading "Gundagai" there appeared a paragraph in the Sydney Morning Herald of November 25, 1848 to the effect that: "... Mr. F. A. Tompson, who has been performing the duties of justice of the peace in this township ... resigns the commission, having been appointed C.P.S. at Wagga Wagga, and we are now without a resident magistrate." 

This sounded an optimistic note, whereas a somewhat similar paragraph in the Goulburn Herald of November 18, 1848 carried a frank note of thankfulness. It too, was under the heading "Gundagai": "A Mr. Tompson who has resided here during the past few months in an official capacity, has obtained the situation of Clerk to the Wagga Wagga Bench, which it is thought will much better suit his qualifications." Tompson's magisterial decisions in Gundagai did not meet with entire approval, and were the cause of many rancorous letters appearing in both the Sydney and Goulburn Heralds.

This applied particularly to one decision of his, in which he sentenced a shoemaker to seven days in Gundagai gaol for saying his (the shoemaker's) dog had a better countenance than that possessed by Gundagai's chief constable. (12). 

Byword of scorn 

On February 17, 1849 the Goulburn Herald's Gundagai correspondent resumed his war against F. A. Tompson

"During the past week three cases from Wagga Wagga  were entertained by our Bench, and several summonses were granted to parties in that neighborhood.

It came out there was neither Magistrate nor Clerk there, nor had there been for some time; there has not been a resident clerk there for six months, and the last that was appointed still resides at Gundagai.

Truly, this Bench of Wagga Wagga is a byword of scorn and contempt.

We have heard of a person coming 150 miles twice, but could see neither magistrate nor clerk; we trust some members of council will inquire into the utility of this Bench, and if it is, as we hear, of no accommodation or benefit to the public, it should be broken up and the country saved 400 a year." 

This was enough to send Tompson hot-footing it for Wagga, where he took up residence, possibly in March 1849. 

Tompson was obviously a headstrong, impetuous, autocratic and, on occasions, kind-hearted man.

He was very conscious of an assumed superiority to the majority of his fellow creatures, and never failed to get himself into trouble of one kind or another when he tried to impress this superiority on someone who wilfully refused to recognise it.

He was only too obviously aware of the deep gulf between himself and the laboring classes, and was capable of nursing deep and bitter enmities against those who thwarted him.

For many years there existed a feud between him and the proprietor/editor of the Wagga Express Samuel Hawkins.

Hawkins was a man who would not tolerate any form of high handedness or assumption of superiority, and it was inevitable that he and Tompson should clash.

To such a pitch did they irritate each other that on one occasion Tompson horsewhipped Hawkins, and the resultant court cases were a discredit to all conserned

On the other hand, Tompson was capable of many spontaneous acts of kindness, as instance the time when he incurred reprimand from Sydney for hiring a cart to convey prisoners from Wagga to Goulburn. Tompson said in his explanatory letter of September 23, 1853, to the Auditor General: 

"I beg respectfully to state that although five prisoners are therein named, the cart was engaged solely in consequence of the condition of one prisoner, who was under committal for trial at the Goulburn Quarter Sessions on June 23, and who was wholly unable to walk by consequence of a severe attack of influenza resulting in diarrhoea of a serious character, and which completely prostrated him "Only fourteen days intervened between the despatch of the prisoners hence and the Sessions at Goulburn, the distance being 220 miles the cart was hired under the impression that the prisoner in question was physically incapable of performing the journey. As the cart was engaged, all the prisoners had the benefit." 

Tied to saddle 

According to the law and practice of the time, prisoners were required to cover the distance of 220 miles on foot, secured to the mounted con- stable's saddle by means of a rope or chain. 

But the same Tompson constantly had his eye to the main chance, and very early in his Wagga career he was C.P.S., postmaster, owner of a general store, auctioneer, drew up agreements (for a  fee) between contracting parties, was commissioned for taking affidavits in Supreme Court cases, registrar of  births and deaths, agent for intestate estates, insurance and bank agent, and carried on other sidelines in his spare time. 

From the day of his arrival in Wagga in 1849 until the time some 20 years later he was appointed first town clerk of Wagga, there was hardly a pie into which he did not poke an exploratory and predatory finger.

Though he was brought up to follow pastoral pursuits, and early in his career gave his address as Oura, Murrumbidgee, his real interests were purely commercial, and his activities in Wagga were, wittingly, or unwittingly, largely responsible for power passing from the hands of the pastoralists into those of the commercial interests in Wagga. 

Having once established himself in the place, Tompson was from then on passionately pro-Wagga, and he played a leading part in driving the Government to provide for Wagga whatever amenity or service it lay in its power to provide.   

There is reason to believe   that he was one of the prime- movers in the application for the establishment of a township at Wagga: and It is known that he also took a leading part In the establishment of Wagga 's first School, church, hospital, and School of Arts, and the erection of the first bridge across the Murrumbidgee at Wagga. 


(12) Goulburn Herald. August 12, 1848. and Sydney Herald,August 19, 1848.