Harden Murrumburrah History


by Richard Littlejohn (dec.), Harden resident and local historian

District HistoryThe history of this district begins with Hamilton Hume's discovery of the Yass Plains in 1821 and his journey to Port Phillip in 1824, which opened up the area for squatting.

As squatting was an illegal enterprise there are no records of the earliest occupation. The first record for the district is dated 1830 showing Ned Ryan at Galong, James Roberts at Currawong and Dr John Harris at Callangan (Kalangan), although there is evidence that these three settled 1828.

In those early days when land was available only on an annual lease, runs were sold on the basis of the stock only with 'rights to station and buildings given in'. In 1829 Governor Darling had issued a proclamation limiting settlement to the 19 counties (the boundary for this area ran through Bowning), but this obviously had no effect on the squatters spreading out beyond the limits of settlement.

The year 1843 saw the great financial crisis and although the local squatters continued on their runs, little progress was made in more effectively developing the country because of the existing land tenure. Enormous holdings under lease, the insecurity of tenure which militated against permanent improvements and the vagaries of the Land Commissioners (appointed in 1839), who controlled these areas with great power and caprice, all prevented further development.

The gold rushes (after 1851) increased population enormously and after the hectic days of looking for gold, a proportion of the new colonists chose to seek land rather than crowd into the cities. Hence, a new class of land seeker came to disturb the squatters on their vast runs. A map of 1856 shows a number of new runs and some change in ownership. After the passing of the Robertson Lands Act in 1861, the way was open to the small settler to select areas in centres of the great squatting leases, so free selectors began to 'pick the eyes out' of the runs. A clash of interests and personalities was inevitable, but gradually settlement increased and more effective use was made of valuable land.

By 1879 all the big runs had been broken up, being replaced by smaller free-hold properties with security of tenure. With the introduction of various types of fencing, sheep replaced cattle and agriculture followed.

Contact Details
Harden Shire Council
Phone: 02 6386 0100
Fax: 02 6386 0105