When Murrumbidgee Punt Was the Hub of Wagga

4 June 1949 Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga)

The first punt over the river at Wagga was built by Thomas Fox about the year 1851.

At that time he owned the hotel at the south western corner of Fitzmaurice and Kincaid Streets.

His punt was a small one, with 16 casks to keep it afloat.

It could only carry a small load, and was quite unsuitable for the heavy traffic that was steadily increasing as the town grew larger.

North Wagga Had Nine Hotels

Fox's small punt was then replaced by a much better one by William Brown, who selected the site opposite to where he was building his Ferry Hotel at the corner of Hobkirk and Gardiner Streets. North Wagga.

William Brown was usually called 'Tinker;' Brown to dis-tinguish him from other Browns in the district.

At one time he had travelled the district with an assortment of goods for sale. Including tinware.

It was the custom in those early days to distinguish persons who had a common name by giving them a pet name.

For Instance, John Smith, of Kyeamba, was always called 'Darbalara' Smith.

And on the Upper Murray River there were two graziers named Hay, so one was called 'Swampy' Hay because he owned the Swampy Plains Station.

'Sugar' O'Brien, at North Gundagal, was so called because he at one time owned a sugar plantation and thus he was not Jugiong Henry O'Brien. William Brown's punt helped to make the crossing-place over the river the hub of Wagga.

In fact, at one time North Wagga was quite as important a place as the Wagga side of the river, and there were no fewer than nine hotels on the North side. (See George Mackaway's letter In the 'Advertiser', September 6, 1935).

Three of those hotels were near the punt crossing-place. Thomas Fox Thomas Fox and his wife played an important part in the development of Wagga.

They came about 1849, and when the Crown started selling town and suburban lands, Fox was by far the largest purchaser.

His name appears on the map as having purchased about 37 town lots, several of which are now very valuable.

Later he bought many allotments from James Walsh when the latter was leaving Wagga after the 1853 flood.

Thus Fox had about 53 town lots, and most of them were good lots in the better part of the town. He was also the owner of some suburban lots which are today very important places.

One lot is the land on which the South Wagga Public School buildings stand.

He also owned all the land on which the Convent is built. And he owned the portion 78 of 40 acres on which he built the original Foxborough Hall in the year 1857.

It was destroyed by fire in about 1887 - all but the detached kitchen and laundry, which are still there.

The old residence was a large brick building with two wings, and when it was built it was perhaps the best residence in the town.

However, Mr. Fox did not live for long in it, as he died about the year 1859, shortly after he had sold his Squatters' Hotel to James Caldwell.

Fox was married twice. His first wife was my father's sister, and Foxborough Hall was so called after her native home, 'Foxbro', in Ireland.

One of their sons, James Fox, had the store in Fitzmaurice Street, which was later conducted by Thomas Dobney.

Another son, Thomas Fox, lived in Wagga for some years, and the only daughter was married to Jacob Marks, who at one time conducted the Criterion Hotel in Wagga.

The Brown Family William Brown and his wife and family did quite a lot to push Wagga ahead in the early days.

Their names are shown on the map as having purchased several portions of land from the Crown, and they immediately set to work to utilise that land.

Much of Brown's success was due to the business ability of his wife.

After the death of her husband in 1856 she managed her Hanging' Rock Station for a number of years.

She then came back to reside in Wagga and had quite a lot of property there, and was a well-known identity until she died on June in 1883 at the age of 77 years.

I often saw the old lady when she resided in one of her cottages on the Urana Road about three and a half miles from the town, she used to drive into Best Street to collect her rents from the tenants in her four brick cottages, which were all built alike, and similar to her cottage on Urana Road.

My parents lived in one of her cottages, and I often held her buggy horse while she came to chat with my mother, who was fond of the nice old lady.

One of her sons, Charles William Thurlow Brown, was well known in Wagga and later went to Condobolin and was in business there. I am not sure on the point, but I think that J. T. Brown who was the first editor of the Wagga 'Express' newspaper, was her son.

I know that the paper was first printed in her building in Fitzmaurice Street Mrs. Brown's daughter mar-aed Henry Moxham, who was a well-known businessman in Wagga tor many years.

He kept |the Black Swan Hotel at North Wagga at one time and later he kept the Criterion Hotel in Fitzmaurice Street.

Moxham owned quite a lot of land around Wagga, most of it being on the north side of the river. William 'Tinker' Brown and his wife and family left a very good name behind them. They were all good people.

Origin Of Hanging Rock Station

In the early days the locality now known as The Rock was called the Hanging Rock Station.

The first person to stock it was Dr. James Egan Wall. I do not know the year when he stocked the run, but as it was well away from the river it was probably about the year 1840.

In 1847 he asked for a lease for his Hanging Rock Station. The homestead was erected on the left bank of Burke's Creek, not far from where the town of The Rock now is, and was close to the road to Urana.

Near the homestead was a dam across a small watercourse which ran into Burke's Creek.

The old survey plan shows the buildings as being at the north western corner of Portion 1 of 320 acres.

Parish of Hang ing Rock. When the 1852 flood came along, Dr. Wall and his family were residing In Trail Street, Wagga, but I cannot fix a date as to when he sold the station to Mrs. Susan Brown, the widow of William Brown, of Wagga.

It was probably soon after her husband's death in 1855.

Dr Wall seems to have done very little In the way of de-veloping the station.

Considering the large area that he held under lease from the Crown, it seems strange that he did not secure a freehold title to a single acre of the station.

The reason was perhaps that the price of land was then 1 per acre, and land with river frontage was being sold by the Crown at the same price.

It was not until the year 1860 that the first land on the station was purchased. Mrs. Brown applied to purchase 320 acres in right of her licence run called 'Hanging Rock.'

Thus Mrs. Brown was the first or to own any land on the station.

The balance of the run was held as a lease from the Crown.

She held the lease until about the year 1873, but by that time the area of the Hanging Rock had been cut down to about 25,000 acres.

John King

Then John King purchased the run from Mrs. Brown and immediately started to build up a valuable property.

He had just sold his Bethong Station, near Cootamundra and had previously sold his Buddigower and Egan Creek Stations, and thus he was an experienced grazier.

John King had a family of sons and daughters, and the whole family availed themselves of the provisions of the Robertson Land Act and selected all the best land on the station.

They were able to get all the frontages to Burke's Creek and all the land 'Where the town.

The Rock, now stands. Over a period of about 20 years the King family had built up a very nice property, and in the year 1891 John King's stock returns showed that he was running over 8000 head of sheep.

However, soon afterwards the price of sheep was so low that many of the graziers all over the country were very severely handicapped; and to make things worse, many of the banks closed their doors.

The price of sheep was so low that boiling-down works were established in many parts of the country, and it was quite easy to buy fat sheep for less than a shilling per head. One enterprising man near Wagga bought and boiled down many thousands of fat sheep, and one butcher used to hawk around nice big fat legs of mutton for sixpence each.

However, John King and his family were able to retain the best parts of their station and the land where the town now stands.

When Mr. King first came to the Hanging Rock the old homestead, previously occupied by Mrs. Brown, was an unpretentious building.

About two years later he erected a new brick homestead on the road to Mangoplah, and I believe Mr. C. Condon now owns that part of the old station.

Three Still Living Three members of Mr. and Mrs John King's family are living.

One daughter, Mrs. C??ans (Emily), resides near Newcastle.

One son, Walter, is residing at Albury, and the youngest daughter, Mrs. H. B. Norman is residing in Wagga.

Mr. John King died in August, 1906, at his home 'Kingslelgh', at The Bock, and he left behind a name that was respected throughout the district.

He was for many years a well-known racing man and a Judge at Wagga race meetings.

His wife died about ten years before him. She was a daughter of Mr. Joseph Cox, of Living-stone Gully.

Her mother died on the voyage to Australia in 1837.

In the ill-fated ship, Lady Macnaughton, when 73 persons on the small ship died.

The ship was of 558 tons and carried 444 persons, including the crew.

I will not attempt to give the history of the town of The Rock, as many people know it better than I do, but I did have some good fun in the early days chasing kangaroos where the town now stands. There were no houses there then.

Depasturing Stock

Mr. B. T. Dowd, who is the research officer in the lands Department, informs me that the first "licence to depasture stock beyond the limits of location" were granted in 1837.

As Mr. Dowd is the recognised authority on our old land laws, we can now say that those graziers who came to the Wagga district after the commencement of January, 1837, may not have been 'squatters', but law-abiding graziers.

This date will throw some light as to how the Honorable Alexander Macleay, who relinquished the post of Colonial Secretary on January 2, 1837, was able to elbow his way on to the Murrumbidgee River at Borambola and push aside the adjoining squatters who had been there for some years.

Macleay seems to have obtained good value for his 10 licence fee, because Borambola and Pullitop contained 406,000 acres, and Toganmain 182.000 acres.

He did not live on these stations, because he had been given a free grant of about 58 acres of land at Potts Point, in Sydney, in 1828, and had been receiving a modest salary of 2000 a year and a pension of 750 a year at the same time, (See Historical Records Vol ?? page 775.)

He had also been given many grants of land in the Colony and each of his four daughters had also been given grants of land, on their marriage.

Dr. Davidson, of Gundagai also got good value for his 10 licence fee.

He applied for 640 square miles of land fronting this Murrumbidgee. No one could say he was a greedy man.

Printed and published by A. and P. Sullivan at 48 Trail Street Wagga Wagga.

This is the fourth of a series of fortnightly articles on the early history of Wagga and district, written by Mr. R. J. E. Gormly, an old resident now living in Sydney.