In December 1829, the early colonists first sighted the land on which the flourishing City of Wagga Wagga now stands. The persons thus privileged consisted of Captain Charles Sturt, 39th Regiment, stationed in Sydney, Mr George Macleay and six others. This party passed over the site of future Wagga Wagga on its expedition of discovery down the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers. Settlement swiftly followed.
Wagga Wagga was proclaimed a town in 1849 and in the same year surveyor Thomas Townshend marked out the town. In the 1860s the population totaled approximately 700, but by 1881 it had increased to 3,975. In 1879 the railway line was extended south of the river.
The name of the City is derived from the language of the Wiradjuri tribe, which was the biggest aboriginal tribe in New South Wales, embracing the Riverina area.
“Wagga”, “Wahga” or Wahgam” in aboriginal dialect means “crow”. The repetition of a word was the method of expressing the plural or emphasis, thus Wagga Wagga means “crows” or “the place where crows assemble in large numbers”. The Murrumbidgee River which runs through the City also derived its name from the aboriginal language and means “plenty water” or “big water”.
Wagga Wagga is 518km by rail from Sydney and 432km from Melbourne on the main Southern line. It is 185.6m above sea level and situated on the Sturt Highway, which joins the Hume Highway 48km to the east. It is the junction of the Sturt Highway and the Trunk road known as the “Olympic Way”, which enables travellers by road to proceed to and from Sydney via Cootamundra, Cowra, Bathurst and The Blue Mountains area, instead of travelling via the Hume Highway.
The City, incorporated as a Borough in 1870 and proclaimed a City in 1946, has an area of 488,600 hectares, and at 30 June 1998, an estimated population of 58,000.
On 1 January 1981 the existing City of Wagga Wagga became amalgamated with the adjoining Shires of Kyeamba and Mitchell.
Hay is a town and a shire in the Riverina region of New South Wales, 770 km. west of Sydney and 410 km. north of Melbourne. The area of the shire is 11,348 sq. km., and the other main town in Booligal. (Hence, “Hay, Hell and Booligal.”, A.B. Paterson’s poem remarking on the region’s extreme summer heat. “Hell” was One Tree Plain, 40 km. north of Hay. The locals dispute Paterson’s account of their summers.) The terrain is open treeless plains with eucalypts inhabiting the river country.
Hay is on the Murrumbidgee River, and at the junction of the Sturt and the Cobb Highways. The district was first settled in 1850 and a township was surveyed in 1859. First known as Lang’s Crossing the name “Hay” was given when the town’s design was approved in June, 1859. John Hay (later Sir), was the local member of Parliament. The wool produced in the district was transported by Murrumbidgee river boats from Hay. In 1872 a municipal council was proclaimed. Hay was connected by rail to Narrandera in 1882, to capture some of the river trade. (The line lasted until 1983, and the station is on the Register of the National Estate.) In 1881 The Australian Handbook described Hay as
…situated in the Riverine district, on the Murrumbidgee river. It is a shipping port and port of entry, 460 ;miles (493 postal) SW. of Sydney; the more speedy communication with which is via Melbourne to Echuca by rail, thence by Deniliquin and Moama railway, a distance in all of 275 miles.
To Sydney overland the route is by coach to Wagga-Wagga, thence the railway. Cobb’s coaches leave Hay for Deniliquin daily, and on Tuesdays and Saturdays for Wagga-Wagga, Wednesdays and Sundays for Bolligal, &c. It is in the county of Waradgery, police district of Hay, and electorate of Balranald, returning two members. In the municipal district are 21 miles of streets, and property of the annual rateable value of L24,185.
It is an important crossing place, by a fine iron bridge on the Murrumbidgee river, which is navigable to here by steamers during the greater part of the year. This bridge is 400 yards in length, with a swing to enable steamers to pass in food seasons. The river is navigable to Wagga-Wagga (470 miles) during a greater portion of the year. The highest rise in the river above summer level ever known here has been 24 feet.
The leading hotels are the Tattersall’s, Caledonian, Commercial and Crown. The Hay Standard, weekly, and Riverine Grazier, biweekly, are the local journals. The Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and Wesleyans, have places of worship here; there is also a hospital, Athenaeum and free library. Banks: N. S. Wales, Union and Joint Stock.
The premises of both the N. S. Wales and joint Stock Banks are fine spacious buildings. Insurance Agencies: Sydney, Alliance, United Victoria, Mutual Life Association, and Austsralian Widows’ Fund. Principal buildings, besides those mentioned, are the court-house, post and telegraph office and police barracks, public school, Masonic hall and theatre, municipal chambers, and gaol. There are at hay Masonic, Foresters’ and Temperance lodges, lands office, three breweries, and a bonded store.
The town is supplied with water from the nunicipal waterworks, the water being pumped up from the river and carried in pipes through all the principal streets. The town is well laid out, the streets are broad, in some cases planted with trees, and the footpaths asphalted.
The surrounding country is entirely taken up for sheep and cattle stations, and consists of plains sparsely timbered. The population is now stated at upwards of 2,000, and the district at upwards of 4,200. About 70,000 bales of wool are sent from Hay during the season.
The Hay gaol was built in 1879 and is on the Register of the National Estate. For want of prisoners it has been used as an emergency hospital (Spanish Influenza epidemic, 1919), a Red Cross Maternity Home, and hospital for a Prisoners of War camp and as a postwar Institute for Girls. In 1976 it was made into a museum.
In 1994 the Hay Shire had 675,000 head of sheep and fat lambs, 67,000 cattle and 25 sheep stud establishments. Farming was predominantly grazing, with small areas of cereals, rice growing and market gardens. The Hay township had five manufacturing establishments in 1994, and its position on two highways gave it nearly $1.5 million in accommodation takings through seven hotels/motels. The aerodrome, 3 km. south of Hay, has night landing facilities. The township has four banks, a high school and primary schools, a student’s hostel, the weekly riverine Grazier newspaper and a full array of community and recreational facilities. Hay won the N.S.W. Tidy Towns State title in 1991.
The populations of Hay have been 2,461 (1911), 3,156 (1933), 4,349 – shire, 2,817 – town (1971), and 3,808 – shire, 2,817 – town (1991).
Postcard dated December, 1907.
Hay Historical Society, “The Witcombe Heritage: A History of the Buildings of Hay”, 1993.
Leeton is a town and a shire in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. It is 12 km. north of the Murrumbidgee River, 100 km. north-west of Wagga Wagga and 430 km. west of Sydney.
The town is relatively recent. In the early 1900s Hugh McKinney, an engineer with experience of irrigation works in the Indian Punjab, noted the similarity of the Riverina – Murrumbidgee plains to the Indian topography. In association with local pastoralists McKinney’s observation developed into an irrigation plan beginning with the Burrinjuck Dam (1906), on the Murrumbidgee River, south-west of Leeton.
The scheme was greatly assisted by Sir Samuel McCaughy, local pastoralist and member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, who had carried out irrigation works. He was the owner of North Yanco, the site of the future Leeton.
The Murrimbidgee Irrigation Areas Trust erected buildings at North Yanco in 1911. In 1912 the place was named Leeton after Charles Lee, Minister for public Works and a member of the Trust. The following year the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission (successor to the Trust) added further buildings, including a School of Arts, as more workmen were engaged forirrigation works. It also commissioned Walter Burley Griffin to design thetown. Over 140 town allotments were sold on 2 April, 1913. Schools and churches were established from 1913 onwards, a hospital was completed in 1919, anda railway connection to the Narrandera line made in 1922. The commission established and operated numerous secondary undertakings including a stock sale yards, abattoirs, butter and bacon factories, a power house and canneries. Leeton was also noted for Co-operatives, including dairy farmers (1921),fruit growers (1932), cannery (1935), stock treatment (1937), poultry farmers(1943) and rice growers (1950).
Local government was vested in the Commission until 1921 when an Executive Board was appointed to assist. In 1928 the Willimbong shire was created,with Leeton as the administrative centre. The population of Leeton in 1933 was 3,629.
In 1949 The Australian Blue Book described Willimbong Shire (473 sq.km.) as –
By 1949 a substantial change had occurred in the social background of farmers. In 1924 61% of horticultural holdings in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area had been occupied by soldier settlers and 1% by Italians. In 1949 the figures were 18% and 32% respectively, and in 1972 Italians occupied 75%of holdings. The figure was lower in the Leeton (Yanco) area – 50% – but still a significant presence in the community.
Notwithstanding Leeton’s recent past, it has several buildings of note. The Historic Hydro, originally built for the Water Commission, is a motor inn and reception venue. There are 21 listed Art Deco buildings, including the Roxy Theatre. Leeton is the location of several educational services, including agricultural schools, a TAFE and the St. Francis De Sales Regional College. Sir Samuel McCaughy’s mansion is part of the Yanco Agricultural High School.
In 1993-4 crops in the Leeton Shire (1,132 sq. km.) comprised 11,562ha. of rice, 5,196 ha. of wheat, 2,330 ha. of orchards, 659 ha. vegetables and 474 ha. of vineyards. There were 142,000 sheep and lambs (mainly for meat) and 37,000 beef cattle. Manufacturing locations numbered 21, with a turnover of $373 million in 1991-2.
The census populations of Leeton have been –
Town/locality: 2,793 (1933), 5,148 (1954) and 6,245 (1991).
Shire: 8,992 (1947), 11,359 (1971) and 10,795 (1991).