History and Heritage
Hume and Hovell and Major Mitchell
Explorers Hume and Hovell were probably the first Europeans to see the area and travelled through parts of Greater Hume in the early 1800s on their expedition south to Port Phillip (Melbourne). Upon climbing Table Top Mountain, Hume and Hovell noted the extensive grass cover over parts of the region and the potential for future grazing and development.
Major Thomas Mitchell passed through the Riverina area in 1836 and reported on the lightly timbered, well-watered lands which he referred to as ‘Australia Felix’ (Latin for fortunate). Settlers with their stock, provisions and workmen followed the ‘Major’s Line’, to select this good land. During a severe drought between 1835 and 1844, ‘squatters’ (settlers using Crown land for grazing) began settling the fertile country of the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers.
Within 30 years the ‘Major’s Line’ led to total settlement of the area. Small holdings supported families; the presence of a group of pepper trees, gnarled fruit trees or a pile of stones in a paddock is sometimes the only reminder that a plucky family lived there. From 1836 pastoral runs were being established. Runs varied in size from 30,000 to 350,000 acres, with names such as Walla Walla, Dudal Comer (Henty), Round Hill (Culcairn), Carabobala (Morven), Yarra Yarra (Holbrook), Gerogery, Mullengandra, Brae Springs (Gerogery), Dights Forest (Jindera), Piney Water Hole (Walbundrie), Kinross (Holbrook) and Woomargama
During the 1800s many Scots were ousted from their traditional homelands by Scottish land owners and clan leaders wanting to use clan lands to graze sheep. Ships loaded with wool bound for Scottish mills were used on their return to transport agricultural labourers and their families from the overcrowded Scottish highlands to Australia. Scottish labourers were encouraged to move to the area to work the large runs, with the Robertson Land Act of 1861 also contributing to the inland migration of small settlers.
Mad Dan Morgan – Bushranger
Daniel Morgan was one of the more infamous characters in the history of this region – a feared and admired bushranger. Born in Sydney in 1833, Morgan joined the NSW gold rush at Lambing Flat in 1853. Unsuccessful, he turned to petty crime, was caught and given 6 years on the floating hulk ‘Success’ and on chain gangs in Sydney’s quarries.
On release Morgan returned to this region bushranging, becoming a hero to the working class and indigenous population. He targeted station owners who underpaid or maltreated employees, robbed wealthy travelers and shared booty with the underprivileged. Morgan was literate and an excellent bushman. He had many hiding places and vantage points throughout our region, the most prominent being Morgan’s Lookout, 6kms north of Walla Walla, which provided 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside.
In June 1864 Morgan visited ‘Round Hill Station’ where he believed someone shot at him. Attempting to shoot station manager Sam Watson, Morgan instead hit Mrs Watson in the hand as she protected her husband. Realising his mistake, Morgan ordered station hand John McLean to fetch Dr Stitta. Later suspecting that McLean would alert troopers, Morgan rode after him and fired a shot which mortally wounded McLean.
The NSW reward for his capture increased to 1000 pounds. Morgan killed a police sergeant near Coppabella and ambushed troopers at ‘Doodle Cooma Station’, mortally wounding their leader, Sergeant Smyth. Victorian police dared Morgan to cross the Murray; he accepted and outsmarted them for 4 days. Sleep deprived, he was surrounded and shot at ‘Peechelba Station’ in April 1865.
When the country was opened up for smaller settlers in 1861, many German families from South Australia arrived by wagon train and settled in Jindera and the surrounding area. Word spread back to South Australia of the fertile land available here and in January 1869, 56 people of German origin arrived in the region from Ebenezer, South Australia. The group settled in the Walla Walla area, bringing their culture and customs with them, as seen today throughout the region from the architecture of the Zion Lutheran Church in Walla Walla to the road and farm names dotted throughout Greater Hume.
Cobb & Co
Cobb & Co coach ‘changing stations’ were established by 1877, running from Wagga Wagga to Albury six times a week by 2 or 4 horse coaches. Changing stations were set up as places where the horses were changed or rested and passengers could take a break. The Squatters Arms Inn, Cookardinia and Round Hill Hotel, Morven were local ‘changing stations’ and important meeting points for locals to socialise, receive goods and hear news. Cobb & Co were undoubtedly the largest firm contracted to convey mail, but there were literally hundreds of other mail contractors operating all over the colony.
The Sheep’s Back and the Golden Ear
With the big pastoral runs and development of smaller blocks the area became well known for its wool, wheat and meat production. In 1861 the Riverina region carried 1 million sheep; just 30 years later is was 13 million.
Henty, Culcairn and Gerogery were developed on the Main Southern Line ensuring a close relationship with the railway and becoming transportation and storage terminals for the expanding wheat industry. During the 1880s increasing amounts of wheat were grown; the drier climate of the region increased the gluten content and improved the baking quality, making it more competitive on the world market. German families who had settled around Walla Walla and Jindera were leaders in increasing output of wheat from the district. Wheat harvesting – initially done using the scythe and sickle, progressed to the Sunshine Stripper (invented by Hugh V McKay in 1885, and used globally for decades) before Headlie Taylor from Henty invented the header in 1913, changing the face of grain harvesting around the world.
Coming of the Railways
Proposed in 1867, the railway between Sydney and Melbourne opened in 1881 with train ‘crossing’ stations established at Henty, Culcairn and Gerogery, along with many subsidiary tracks to outlying villages, many of which can be seen but are now not in use. The railway opened the region ensuring produce and passengers alike a quicker journey to the major cities of Australia.
Indian Hawkers were numerous in the district at the turn of the 20th century, selling goods from covered wagons drawn by 2 horses. Farmers and families in isolated areas were able to buy drapery and clothing. Children were delighted when an Indian Hawker opened the back of his van to view all the goods he had for sale. Recently a dedication of the Indian graves, located in the Henty Cemetery was made with the Indian Ambassador to Australia in attendance in recognition of their contribution to our farming communities.
World Wars I and II
The outbreak of World Wars I and II had a big impact in our rural communities. Alongside fundraising activities, families and communities grieved following the loss of many service personnel overseas. Women increasingly assumed the physical and financial burden of caring for their families and farms, with many women also playing an active role in business, manufacturing and through the Women’s Land Army.
Anti-German feeling emerged with many Germans living in Australia being sent to internment camps. In townships where the majority of people were of German origin, they were allowed to retain their culture including Lutheran beliefs and German language. Germanton was renamed Holbrook in 1915 and during both wars many people viewed their German neighbours with suspicion, which was to continue until the end of World War II.
Today ANZAC Day is commemorated at the many memorials throughout the shire dedicated to those who sacrificed their lives for Australia. Stands of trees have also been planted in memory of our Diggers in several towns and villages across Greater Hume, with Walbundrie and Woomargama providing fine examples.
At the end of World Wars I and II the government sponsored a scheme for settling returned men on the land. Large stations were purchased and divided up into Soldier Settler farms. The new settlers either brought wives with them or married local girls, and displayed the camaraderie and zest learned during the hard war years. As the years passed many returned soldiers returned to large towns due to climatic variances and cash depletion; however descendants of Soldier Settlers are still farming in the region.
The great depression of the late 1920s and 1930s caused many farmers to go bankrupt. During this time many capable men walked the roads looking for work with some farmers offering a meal for labour. The Henty Man located on the Olympic Highway is dedicated as a memorial to ‘The Men of the Road during the Great Depression’.
Greater Hume has a number of cemeteries which provide an insight into the many varied cultural and religious backgrounds of our settlers. We invite you to go on the Cemetery Tour. Tour guides are available at some cemeteries to provide an insight into the history of the area.
For more information contact our Visitor Information Centre on T: 02 6036 2422.