Saturday, February 10, 2024

A Tour in the Southern Districts BINALONG TO GUNDAGAI in 1878

from Australian Town and Country Journal
Sat 16 Feb 1878

THE day after I arrived at Binalong, some races were held on a course about a mile and a half from the township, and although the prizes were small and everything of the most primitive description, a fair attendance of the residents of the surrounding district was present to witness the day's sport, and all seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, everything passing off most pleasantly. Leaving the racecourse I journeyed on my way through Mr. Geary's station and then through part of Mr. Brown's for a distance of ten miles, emerg ing on to the main south road at Bookham, or more generally known in the district as Bogolong. A mile or so before reaching Bookham, alongside a creek are the remains of a smelting furnace and the usual debris pertaining to a defunct iron mine, which never did any good, probably from the want of capital and good management ; if it will ever be tried again is very uncertain. The country I had been riding over was destitute of all feed, and water was only to be obtained at Geary's creek and that in holes here and there.

Bookham consists of an inn of that name, kept by Mrs. Hall, also a store belonging to Mr. Drummond, while a small hut does duty as a post office. Proceeding along the main road, which here is in good order and repair, a journey of ten miles brought me to Berremangra station, belonging to Mrs. Lehane. The homestead is situated by the roadside, and through the kindness of the proprietress, Cobb and Co. have stables here, at which a change of horses for the mail takes place. The hospitality of Mrs. Lehane is well known to many a passenger who has travelled on this line, and the same was extended to myself, of which I was only too glad to accept.


Berremangra, with the adjoining station, Coppaballa, are the property of Mrs. Lehane, and contains some 40,000 acres, of which 27,000 are secured. On these runs 25,000 sheep besides a small quantity of cattle are depastured. Within the last four years eighty miles of wire fencing has been done besides other improvements in the shape of large dams, &c. At present water is very scarce, the nearest being about eight miles away from the homestead at a large dam on the Coppaballa run. Prom this dam water has to be brought twice a day to supply Cobb's horses. The Sunday before I arrived a thunderstorm passed over the station, but only gave sufficient to fill a tank for household use. That which fell and ran into the creek alongside the homestead was like a drop in the ocean and was quickly absorbed by the heated earth. The following day I resumed my journey to Jugiong, distant ten miles. The main road is having some extensive repairs done to it, as the two contractors' camps bear witness. These improvements were sadly wanted years ago, but only now as the traffic is decreasing is it thought worth while to undertake the work. There is one thing, they will last the longer when done. Mrs. Lehane's property runs both sides of the road till joining that of Mr. B. Osborne whose land runs past Jugiong. Mr. B. Osborne resides half the year at Redbank, four miles back from the road; the remainder of the year the family spend at Berrima. Mr. Osborne had left Redbank some three weeks at the time of my visit. I learnt afterwards that the station had been largely increased of late through the purchasing out those who had formerly selected thereon. A mile from Jugiong I crossed a bridge over the Jugiong creek, now almost dry. This bridge is built on three tiers of iron cylinders sunk into the bed of the creek, the floor of the bridge being about fifty feet from the creek bed. The whole has a light appearance, but at the same time looks substantial. The village of Jugiong is built on one side of the main road, while the Murrumbidgee river flows through the flats in front of the village. These flats have generally been noted for their pasture ; at present they are as bare as the road, with the exception of some burnt up thistles, from which the cattle were endeavouring to obtain some nutriment. The river has never been known to be so low, the running water hardly being perceptible.

The first house I came to was an hotel with corn store attached ; a mile further on is the Bird in the Hand Hotel, now in the occupation of Mr. Owen Cooney, who purchased the property some two months ago, and has already made great improvements. The mail coach changes here, and passengers are allowed time for breakfast or tea. This hostelry in former times was known for the most wretched apology of a meal to be obtained on the road. An entire change has taken place for the better ; travellers will now find a well kept table, good liquors, and civility, and it is the intention of the proprietor to always have every thing of the best. Mr. Cooney has resided for 2 years in the district, and does not wish to lose his good name by mismanagement. A short distance from Mr. Cooney's is Mr. Myers' general store ; this gentleman commenced business here some three years ago, and has prospered well, though the seasons have not been of the best. 

Jugiong Bridge

A mile still further is the Jugiong Hotel, now in the hands of Mrs. Sheahan. The house would be none the worse of a little renovation both inside and out. On the opposite side is Mrs. Sheahan's store, to which is attached the post office, and a fair amount of correspondence passes through the office. There ought to be little fear of the neighbours falling out between themselves as they are situated so far apart. On the side of the hill vising out of the village is the neat Catholic chapel, while two or three habitations are scattered on the opposite side. Jugiong within the last few years has some what decreased in population, and a still further exodus would take place if people could only sell their belongings ; but who would be mad enough to purchase these at the present time ? After rising the hill that leads out of Jugiong a fine picturesque view is obtained of the country below, with the Murrumbidgee river meandering its way between the flats, the high ranges in the back ground all aglow with the evening sunset and the now diminutive appearances of the village ; all these tend to make a picture a person could long dwell upon, and if the flats and hills were only covered with verdure it would make as charming a spot as I have seen. Two miles from Jugiong is Mr. Coggan's farm of 600 acres, running parallel with the road. Here I met with the same complaint; the hay and wheat crops have been bad, with little or no feed, still less water, except by driving the stock to the river. Threshing was to commence the day after I called, but it would hardly pay for the labour. A mile up the creek from Coggan's is Mr. Johnson's selection, who informed me that instead of having 600 bushels of wheat this year he did not expect to get 100, and the enhanced price of grain would not compensate him for loss of quantity while the quality is inferior. From here the country is of a hungry nature, and fit only for station use, to which it is seemingly applied, as not a habitation is to be met with for 10 miles, when there are two or three small farms in the next five miles into Coolac. Coolac is a small village on the roadside with a few farms at the southern end on the flats. The place chiefly derives its support from the teamsters making it a camping spot, at which to replenish their wants. I observed several teams with wool and corn from the Tumut district camped here. 

Beehive Hotel, Coolac NSW

The principal hotel, the Beehive, is the property of Mr. W. Hoare, who drives a very good trade in this line. Excellent accommodation at moderate charges can be obtained at this house. A general store fairly stocked is attached to the hotel, while Mrs. Hoare acts as postmistress. Two large hay and corn stores are established, one on each side of the road, respectively belonging to Mr. Fox and Mr. Dominick. Although the price of provender has risen 100 per cent, within the last three months with the prospect of a still further rise, these two stores both do a large trade. Messrs. Vincent and Hopper, blacksmiths, are kept busily at work attending to the numerous wants of their customers. All around the hills are looking very bare and the farmers have very long visages at the continued hot dry weather. The thermometer was 110 in the shade, quite warm enough to make both man and beast lie down till towards the evening, hoping for a cool breeze which did not come. The following day was still hotter with so fierce a hot wind blowing that it would have been cruelty to animals to attempt to proceed on my way till late in the evening, when it somewhat abated, and I once more journeyed on - with a thunderstorm rising ahead. For a dusty piece of road commend me to that between Coolac and Gundagai. As I neared the latter place, the thunderstorm commenced, the heavens appeared afire with incessant lightning, and the wind rose to almost hurricane force, driving not clouds but banks of dust all over the country. This lasted for an hour or so with only a few heat drops falling, and then the storm passed towards Yass. The air was cooled ; but great disappointment was felt at no rain falling. The following day a similar phenomenon happened but more intense, and Gundagai only got the tail end of the storm. The township of Gundagai is situated now on the side of a hill, where those rescued from the flood of '52 pitched their tents. A peculiar road, comprising no less than five angles, leads into the main thoroughfare in which is situated the principal businesses of the township. The public buildings of Gundagai are anything but remarkable, except for their simplicity of outside design. The various places of worship are very unpretentious, while the public school is a weatherboard building lately put into a state of repair at a cost of £500. If the amount had been doubled, it would not have improved it any more. What is wanted is a brick building of modern style, not a patched up place. The number of children on the roll at present is 105, with an average attendance of 80. Mr. Hooworth deserves great praise for having worked the school up to the present number. When Mr. Hooworth took possession months ago the average attendance was only 30. The court house is decidedly the best building in Gundagai. There is ample room inside with the necessary rooms for offices; it is well raised and lies back from the main thoroughfare. A dead wall encloses the grounds in which it stands, and entirely spoils the tout ensemble - a dwarf wall with iron palisading would have been less costly and more sightly. The gaol lies at the rear of the courthouse and the head gaoler, Mr. Benton, has turned what was once a yard uneven and full of rocks, into a flower-garden with all sorts of flowers and shrubs. These were obtained from Sydney at his own cost. The hot weather has almost disheartened Mr. Benton from proceeding any further with his designs. There are only four cells and quarters, and four months ago they were put in repair ; before that any determined prisoner might have easily escaped. The quarters occupied by the police are opposite - a sort of tumble down lean-to house in which a person might study astronomy through the roof without any trouble, and these have been in the same state for the last two years, but I hear new quarters are to be erected - when is hard to say. The hospital is on the side of a hill at the entrance to the township. Some repairs are urgently required both inside and out, and as the committee are in funds, no doubt this will be at once attended to. Dr. McKillop is the medical officer, and I am happy to state that only only patient was in the ward. Dr. Marshall has a dispensary in the main street.


The post and telegraph offices are combined and are in the centre of the township; the postmaster has two assistants, and the business is transacted in quite the Government stroke, but that is I suppose to keep up the name that Gundagai has obtained of being about the sleepiest place in N.S.W. There is some talk of moving in the matter of obtaining railway communication, but talk seems all. The stores are neither large nor showy, but still do a fair trade. Mrs. Davison's, Mr.Norton's and Mr. Russell's were those I noticed, besides two Chinese stores, doing a fair share among the Europeans. The saddlery establishments are represented by Mr. Osmond and Mr. Mc'Cook. In the boot line Mr. O'Sullivan has lately started a factory, and as he experiences great difficulty in obtaining leather it is his intention to shortly open a tannery. Mr. Smith and Mr. Howard also have a nice show of boots in their windows. The only jeweller in the place is Mr. Engelen, who also combines the business of a tobacconist. The hotels are large and numerous, the most noted being the Gundagai Hotel, more familiarly spoken of as Fry's. The Royal, in which Mr. Paine presides, and at which I located myself during my stay - meeting with every comfort, Morton's Family Hotel, and Leary's. Mr. Belford has the cordial factory, and the temperance coctions are quite equal to any to be had elsewhere ; the factory has been kept hard at it to supply the large demand that has existed during the warm weather. This week has again been extraordinarily hot, but on Sunday the weather changed, becoming cloudy, threatening rain, but up to time of penning this none has fallen, though anxiously looked for. The Murrumbidgee River runs through the flat, but very slowly; advantage is taken of it by any strangers to enjoy a good bath and swim - quite a luxury to those who have not had the chance for sometime. The water carts take the water from above where the b athers enjoy their swim, still I hear the police have strong objections to anyone making use of the river for that purpose.

Australian Town and Country Journal was a weekly English language broadsheet newspaper published in Sydney, New South Wales, from 1870 to 1919. The paper was founded by Samuel Bennett with his intention for it to be "valuable to everybody for its great amount of useful and reliable information".

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