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Walla Walla is a small township about 30 minutes’ drive north of Albury. In 1839 the first licence is recorded for the Walla Walla Station (a total of 50 square miles). Following a succession of owners, Walla Walla Station was run by the trustees of Charles Hill Douglas until the NSW government purchased the station in 1908. It was resurveyed into 113 farms, ready for ballot on 18 January 1909.
‘The Trek’ party arrived in the Walla Walla area from Ebenezer, South Australia in January 1869. A party of 8 families consisting of 56 people, they came to take up land being allocated by the NSW government. The journey took nearly 6 weeks. First called Ebenezer after their South Australian home, this was changed to Walla Walla (Wiradjuri for “place of many rocks”).
The first Lutheran Church was built in 1872, the second one was built in 1889 and is now the church hall. The German heritage survives today with Walla Walla home to the Zion Lutheran Church. Built in 1924, it is the largest Lutheran Church in New South Wales and seats almost 600 people.
Standing close by is a faithfully restored replica of one of the German wagons that made ‘The Trek’. These wagons typically had outward sloping sides and due to their weight and bulk (constructed from red or blue gum) could not be imported and thus were manufactured in Australia.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Walla Walla was characterised by its close-knit community, together with its preservation of the German language and the old ways. World War I proved a challenging time for the Walla Walla community due to its German ethnicity. Four local residents, including 2 Justices of the Peace and members of the Culcairn Shire Council were interned in the Holsworthy Internment Camp. Tellingly, the honour board at the Walla Walla Soldiers Memorial Hall describes the war as one against ‘Prussian militarism’ rather than Germany.
The first school in Walla Walla was a congregational school established in 1873. Instruction was conducted in German. In 1885, the responsibility for educating the local children was passed to the NSW Department of Public Instruction. German-speaking classes continued to be conducted but only for several afternoons a week and then only until the outbreak of World War I.
St Paul’s College was opened in the church hall during 1948 to provide secondary education to Lutheran youth. In 1950 the school moved to its present campus and was one of the first co-educational boarding schools in NSW. Today St Paul’s College caters for students from all over Greater Hume, across Australia and overseas.
Six kilometres north of Walla Walla is Morgan’s Lookout, an impressive white granite natural rock formation which was called “Wallan Wallan” by the local indigenous people. It is famous for having been a vantage point used by bushranger Mad Dan Morgan, who terrorised the district between 1860 and 1865. Today Morgan’s Lookout is a popular spot for a picnic or climb the stairs to a spectacular 360-degree viewing platform of the surrounding countryside.
Also worth a visit is the Gum Swamp Reserve, a high-conservation river red gum wetland located 2 kms north of Walla Walla. 150 species of birds have been identified; these include the Brown Treecreeper, Grey-Crowned Babbler, the Brolga and White-Bellied Sea Eagle. It is also an ideal habitat for frogs and home to threatened species, including the Fishing Bat and Squirrel glider. There are tracks in the western portion of the Gum Swamp Reserve (off Lookout Road) that allow easy access for walkers, and there is a picnic table located adjacent to the swamp at Petrie’s Creek.
Walla Walla today is a busy agricultural and manufacturing centre that still retains its quiet country image. Locally manufactured sheds are still being produced on the site of the famous old Heppner Wagon Factory. Walla Walla provides many family and sporting facilities such as football, cricket, netball, bowling, croquet, swimming and tennis, as well as the restored Walla Walla Literary institute and Memorial Hall which caters for community events including plays, concerts, dinners, weddings and meetings.