Settlement on the Murrumbidgee at and near Gundagai

29 July 1902 The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser 

Specially written for the Gundagai "Times" by James Gormly, M.P., Leader if the N.S.W. Country Party. (No. 1.)

My first remembrance of the name Gundagai was in Ireland in 1839 (I then being a child 3 years old), when I heard my father read a letter he had received from Francis Taaffe, who then owned and had stocked the Muttama station with cattle and sheep.

In the letter referred to Taaffe described crossing the Murrumbidgee, then in flood, at Gundagai with stock when on his way to Port Phillip.

My family arrived in Sydney on the 20th January, 1840.

Taaffe was at this time selling in Sydney or shipping his wool. 

I heard frequent conversations between himself and my father about the Murrumbidgee, and the desirability of my father proceeding to the interior at that time.

Ultimately my father decided to settle in the Illawarra district, near Wollongong.

In 1843 my father and my oldest brother proceeded to the Murrumbidgee to visit friend Taaffe and to see if a small station could be procured in a suitable situation. My family were before this time acquainted with the Crowe and Carberry families at Appin, and my father and brother stayed for some days at Gobarralong, where the Crowes and Carberrys had formed stations.

I have a distinct remembrance of my father describing how active and strong the late James Crowe was when mustering and branding stock. 

Although the Murrumbidgee river was known to exist, Major Ovens and Captain Curry were the first white men who were known to have crossed the stream, on an expedition to Monaro Plains in 1823.

Hume, Hovell, Angel, Fitzpatrick, Boyd and three others crossed the river above Yass Plains in October of the succeeding year on their very successful expedition to Port Phillip.

Captain Start, in his expedition down the Murrumbidgee in December, 1829, just touched the river at Jugiong (then pronounced Tuggiong), and found that Henry O'Brien, of Yass, had formed a sheep station and had erected a shepherd's hut on the rise where the Jugiong cemetery is now situated.

The old hut was standing when I first came to that spot, in 1845 This station was probably the first established on the Murrumbidgee, and I believe it certainly was the first formed below Yass.

Sturt's party included George McLeay, son of the Colonial Secretary, who afterwards owned the Togramain station on the Lower Murrumbidgee.

The party proceeded down the river, and found Warby, from Campbelltown, had formed a station on the north bank of the river opposite the junction of the Tumut (then spelt Domot). 

Sturt has described the magnificent pasture lands he passed through as he followed down the valley to where he was blocked by a chain of hills (after-wards called Kimo).

This obstruction to the passage of the drays caused the party to cross to the south side of the river, where it was found Stuckey's station was the furthest down the stream.

Even at this early time Tom More, who owned a property between Campbelltown and Appin, had formed a station at Tumut.

The rich pasture lands on the Murrumbidgee soon began to be appreciated by those who had stock in the settled districts, which extended to Bowning Hill.

The   regulations formed by the Colonial Office in England did not admit of persons occupying Crown lands outside that limit, but pastoralists took the law into their own hands and squatted outside, although contrary to this absurd regulation.

Lupton, from Bargo, was one of the first after O'Brien and Taaffe.

Peter and Laurence Cooney settled at Cooney's Creek about the same time. 

Howe, from Glenlee, on the Menangle settled on the south bank near Jugiong, and the Crowes and Carberrys at Gobarralong.

Handly, fromYass, had a station on the river at Gobarralong in the early days.

Thompson formed stations on the river below Gundagai in 1831 and 1832, the first, being on the north side of the river at Mickey's Corner, three miles below Gundagai; the next was at Oura, which included Bilder, and then Eunonyharrenha near WaggaWagga.

The McArthurs, of Camden Park, took up Nangus in 1830 or 1831, and Jimmy Thorn, from the Fish river, stocked Wantabadgery in the early days. Robert Jenkins, who had an estate (Eagle Vale) near Campbelltown, stocked Bangus in 1830 1831.

Hillis, from Bangus near (Goulburn, formed a station at Yabtree, on the river and Hillis' creek, and Hanibal McArthur formed a station at the place now known as Ellerslie. 

In what may be called the "back country," Dallas settled at Brawlin, James Fitzpatrick (one of the explorers of 1824) at Cucumbla, and John Hurley, of Campbelltown (afterwards a member of Parliament) at Cootamundra. 

At this time there were no defined boundaries to the stations.

Occupation by stock running on the land was the only means of maintaining a right to the part of a holding in dispute. After a time Crown land commissions   were appointed, one (Mr. Bingham) being sent to Tumut to reside.

This officers jurisdiction extended over a great part of the country.

If a new comer attempted to settle between two squatters a couple of flocks of sheep were placed by one of the holders close to his door, and although the land was not previously occupied, the new comer was usually driven away, more particularly if he we're a man of limited means.

Most of the men who first took up stations on the Murrumbidgee had estates in the settled districts, many of those estates being free grants from the Crown; and even in the very early days of settlement it was most difficult for a poor man who had sock to get a holding to graze them upon. 

The commissioners, when travelling, made their places of calling at the large holdings, and if a dispute arose (and a dispute usually occurred) as to the occupation the small man generally went down.      

The Tumut district was to a considerable extent an exception to this rule, as the district was well watered and a number of small holders settled on the creeks that ran to the main stream.

A considerable number of the descendants of the early pioneers yet remain in that district, and I intend to refer to some of them further on.

The Thompson family having occupied Eunonyhareenha in 1832, soon afterwards went further down the river and stocked Narandera, which included Bundegery.

Lupton shifted from near Gobarralong, and took up Berembed and Grong Grong.

On the south side of the river Alexander McLeay, the Colonial Secretary, formed a station on the Tarcutta Creek in 1837, Guise having a large station further down at Cuningdroo before this time.

Guise must have commenced with extensive herds when he formed stations on the river. He had a cattle station near O'Brien's Creek in charge of a stock keeper named Flackney (after whom Flackney's Hills have been named) in the early days.

In fact, stock with the W.G. brand were found by the early settlers 30 and 40 miles from the head station, Cuningdroo

When Major Mitchell, the Surveyor General, was in 1836 returning from his famous exploration in that part of Australia afterwards named Victoria, but which he called 'Australia Felix,' he first met the tracks of stock on the Tarcutta Creek about where Borambala station now stands, and when he reached the river at Mundarlo he first found a hut.

The Major then left his party to follow on, and rode to Sydney.

On leaving his companions he crossed the river and stayed the first night at Nangus (Macdonald's).

I have often heard old Mac. relate the Nangus visit.

Stapleton, the Major's second in command, who was left in charge of the exedition sent to the Major, started out in 1836, and went from Guise station, Murrumbidgee river.

The Major makes no mention of having gone past the site of Gundagai; which indicates that no ferry was established at that time.

It is to be regretted that we have not more accurate records of .the settlement of this country than can now be found; so many of the old pioneers have gone, and most of the few remaining will soon pass away; so many who could tell so much will not leave a line behind to add to the history of the settlement of this country. 

I often regret I have not the necessary time to write of many of the incidents I have heard so forcibly related by many of the old hands who first settled on the rich pasture lands of the Murrumbidgee, and which in my opinion will at no distant time be one of the most populous places in this Continent.