About and History
In 1839 the first licence is recorded for the Walla Walla Station (a total of 50 square miles), by Mary Larkham of Sydney who was 80 years old at the time. Following a succession of owners including Stephen Henty and the Stitt Brothers, 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 in January 1869 travelling in 14 wagons and 2 spring carts from Ebenezer, South Australia to take up land being allocated by the NSW government (Robertson Land Act of 1861). A party of 8 families consisting of 56 people (28 were less than ten years old) left Ebenezer on 13 October 1868 and arrived at Jindera NSW on 20 November 1868. The wagons were of the original German design, thought to have been built in South Australia, traversing the Murray, Edward and Murrumbidgee Rivers until reaching the final destination at Jindera. The journey took nearly six weeks, they suffered no sickness and few difficulties. Upon reaching Jindera, the men moved onto camps near Walla Walla and selected land. Once registered, the women and children left Jindera for their new homes, yet to be built.
The original party comprised of members from the following families; Altus, Fiedler, Fischer, Hanschk, Hennersdorf, Klemke, Lieschke, Luhrs, mickan, Pannach, Schmidt, Terlich, Weiss and Wenke. Many were experienced farmers who knew good land when they saw it. The sandy soils of South Australia were a poor substitute for the brown, earthy loams they found at Walla Walla, along with the relatively close proximity of other German settlers, a few miles to the south.
First called Ebenezer after the town in South Australia, this was changed later to Walla Walla (aboriginal for “place of many rocks”). In honour of ‘The Trek’ a memorial Cairn, unveiled 29 March 1954, stands on the site of the historic tree where the men of ‘The Trek’ spent their first night, before selecting land. Unfortunately, the original historic tree no longer lives however a young descendant of the old gum tree now grows on the site.
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’. Original German wagons were painted with a blue body and red wheels. This colour combination was first used in early Lutheran churches, with blue symbolising heavenly love or the colour of truth, and red representing the colour of blood or fire and symbolising confession as well as the Holy Spirit. German 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. Although World War I fostered a sense of nationalism (albeit strongly allied to the British Empire) this proved a challenging time for the Walla Walla community due to its ethnicity and the political issues of conscription and disenfranchisement from the electoral roll. Four local residents, including two Justices of the Peace and members of the Culcairn Shire Council were interned in the Holsworthy Concentration Camp. Tellingly, the honour board at the Walla Walla Soldiers Memorial Hall describes the war as one against ‘Prussian militarism’ rather than Germany. The outbreak of World War II saw tensions resurfacing and attention was directed toward the Lutheran pastors in the region, rather than its civic leaders. This was because conscription was no longer the issue that it had been during World War I and some Lutheran pastors had shown pro-German sympathies with the resurgence of Germany. These pastors were questioned and their activities were monitored.
The first school in Walla Walla was a congregational school established in 1873. Instruction was conducted in German. This school operated from the original Zion Church building until 1883 when a mudbrick schoolhouse was opened. 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 Shire, across Australia and overseas. Students choose from a wide range of academic and practical subjects including agriculture on the school farm, and horsemastership at the school’s Equine Centre.
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, and a challenge to climb the steps to the top of the lookout, where there is a spectacular 360° view 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. The size and diversity of plants and trees at the Swamp provide many opportunities for wildlife. When the Gum Swamp fills, many birds use it for breeding and foraging. 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.
Nearby King’s Bridge Reserve is another significant high conservation area, well worth investigating, especially for bird watchers.
Walla Walla today is a busy agricultural and manufacturing centre whilst still retaining 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.