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The History of Tumut

Beyond the Boundaries
   Sheltered in the lush Tumut River valley on the western foothills of the
   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.
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(Last updated Feb 2003)