TUMUT FAMILY HISTORY GROUP Inc.
The History of Tumut
Beyond the Boundaries
Snowy Mountains, Tumut is a truly beautiful place to live, or just to visit.
These days Tumut is easy to access via a multi-lane highway (the Hume
Highway), which will bring you to within 30 kilometres, where you can take
a bitumen road full of sturdy bridges allowing a pleasant drive over the
numerous rivers, creeks and gullies in the district.
This was not always the case. Once, the only access was by way of a
winding track from pastoral station to pastoral station, through rivers and
creeks, with bullock drays taking weeks to drag their loads to the Tumut
Valley, where we can now journey in but a few hours by car. Tumut was
once considerd outside the 19 Counties of permissible settlement as it
was "Beyond the Boundaries".
The area was first opened up for European settlement following the epic
overland journey to Port Phillip of Hume and Hovell in 1824. Even though
the area was beyond the boundaries of permissible settlement, it did not
stop the squatters who were always on the lookout for prime pasturage for
their cattle and sheep.
By the early 1830ís, large runs had been taken up - Darbalara, Been
(Tumut Plains), Bombowlee and Brungle. These were soon followed by the
smaller holdings of the predominantly Irish immigrants and emancipated
convicts, who made their way south. These groups made up the majority of
the population until the 1850ís.
The 1850ís heralded the great gold rushes all over eastern Australia, and
the Tumut area was no exception. The main rush here was along the
Adelong Creek where thousands of miners and their families came and
went - with or without their fortunes. One of the major groups was the
Cornish miners, many of whom came and stayed, and an area near
Adelong is known as Cornishtown to this day. There was also an
identifiable group of German miners who had a marked effect on the
population of Adelong and Tumbarumba.
The mighty gold rush to Kiandra in 1860-1862 also had a profound effect
on Tumut. Fortune seekers from many parts ventured up to the harsh alpine
climate where a few became rich and prospered, while the majority barely
survived. Chinese miners came to pick over the less productive land and
stayed after the other miners moved on to the goldfields of Lambing Flat
(now known as Young) or back to the Adelong. Other Chinese scratched a
living from the stream-beds of the Middle Adelong and Upper Adelong
goldfields. Most were ultimately absorbed into the local community to
become market gardeners, store-keepers and tobacco growers.
After the excitement of the gold rushes, the Tumut Shire settled into
comfortable pastoral activities - until the coming of the railway. What a
joyous day that was in 1903. From this time dairying really took off as the
milk and butter could be taken to markets by the train. In Batlow the climate
to grow fruit had long been recognized and great orchards were planted.
The railway now meant that the fruit could be whisked away to the city
markets arriving fresh and relatively undamaged - and so another industry
Following the First World War, some of the larger holdings were taken over
for the Closer Settlement Scheme, but greater changes came with the
Second World War. Most notable were the Land Army Girls who came to
work primarily on the orchards around Batlow but also to lend a hand in
other farming activities such as digging potatoes at Kunama. Many of
these girls stayed and married into local families. Another influx of families
came about through the Soldier Settlement Scheme with the subdivision of
large properties at Ellerslie, Kunama and Jeremiah.
However, by far the greatest impact of all on the Tumut Shire was the
building of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme in the 1950ís and
60ís, and particularly the construction of the Blowering Dam. Not only did it
displace many families who had lived in the Blowering Valley for over 100
years, but it brought the influence of many European and American
workers. It seemed there was every possible nationality represented
among the Snowy Workers and the life-style, food and language they
brought made Tumut a truly international town long before the concept of
multi-culturalism was conceived. Whilst many of the workers moved on
after the completion of the Snowy Scheme, many also stayed, married into
local families and are now part of the fabric of Tumut and district.
Time has brought more changes - dairying has declined, the butter factory
closed and the railway washed away. Timber has become Tumutís
principle industry. The earliest softwood pine plantations had been started
in the late 1920ís and were steadily increased in area over the next 40
years. By the mid 1950ís the first millable pine timber was ready for
harvest. New sawmills were encouraged to establish in the area, with their
output being initially aimed at the production of fruit cases for the
burgeoning fruit industry around Batlow and further afield in the
Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA).
Declining availability of native eucalypt timber for construction purposes in
the early 1970ís, coupled with a swelling demand for plantation pine as a
viable substitute, catalysed a massive annual expansion of the planted
forest estate by the N.S.W. Forestry Commission. This in turn has
attracted, to both Tumut and the local region, further softwood milling and
processing industries which handle the resource - Weyerhae user, Carter
Holt Harvey, Norske Skog Newsprint Mills, and the recently opened Visy
Pulp and Paper Mill.
The softwood pine industry has fuelled a huge demand for expertise and
skills - be it in planning, planting, pruning, harvesting, transport or support
infrastructure for the industry. Many of these workers have come to Tumut
from both interstate and overseas - Scandinavians (particularly Finnish and
some Swedish), New Zealanders (both Maori & Pakeha), Germans,
English and Canadians. All have contributed to the rich fabric of our town.
Tumut Family History Group Inc.
Tumut Shire Library
Tumut Shire Library
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