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Early Settlers

Early farming


Early Settlement
Although Hume & Hovel discovered the Kiewa Valley in 1824, Hamilton Hume and Captain Wi11iam Wyse crosse the Murray River hunting for stray cattle, when they came across the rich river flats at the junction of the Murrya River. Recognising it's value he laid claim to the land on behalf of Charles Hotsun Ebden.
Settlement south of the Murray River was slow to begin, it was not until the six-year drought of 1838-1844 that the real push began. 
November 2, 1838  was set aside by proclamtion as a day of fasting and prayers for rain.

But the drought continued - Rivers (even Lake George) dried up, cattle died, crops failed and the colonists were in a very bad way.

River levels were so low that in 1843, James Mitchell, then aged seven, remembered crossing the Murray River near Thurgoona without wetting his feet.
Graziers, seeking feed for their stock, turned southward searching for the lush lands described by Mitchell and Batman, in this way, they 'discovered' the green and fertile Kiewa Valley, its river fed by the melting snow from Mount Bogong and the Bogong High Plains.

Squatters and Selectors.
In the very early days of the nineteenth century, 'squatters' settled on the land with no legal right but by claim of 'first discovery', but in 1836 Governor Bourke decreed that annual grazing licences would be granted to settlers willing to go into the virgin outback country and develop its pastoral potential. The licences were for one year only, but were renewable at a fee of 10 pound ($20). No title was given for these runs - some up to 25,000 acres - only permission to graze, and all improvements were made at the squatter's risk.

One of the first settlements in the Upper Kiewa Valley was at Tawonga Station.
It was taken up in December, 1841, by James Roberts, and transferred to John Routh 1849, then to Thomas Ibbotson in 1854. Mr. Ibbots on's manager was Mr. John Eyre, whose daughter, Mrs. Hobbs, lived at the homestead for 92 years. She died in 1949, and was for many years "the grand old lady " of Tawonga.

The land in the early days was taken up in 320 acre blocks at about one pound ($2) an acre, and after the land was cleared, the rich river flats became productive.

Beechworth was the market for cattle in those days, and any produce grown was transported there by bullock wagon; then flour and other commodities were brought back on the return trip. Flocks of turkeys walked to Beechworth, but they would not travel after sundown. There were no roads in those days, only tracks through the bush and hills. A horse track was used to the township of Bright, 20 miles away over a steep hill. About 1896, a vehicle track was cut, and this became very useful, for Bright was the nearest railhead.
Cattle and pigs were driven over to the railhead to be trucked to Melbourne.

Dairying became an important industry, and a butter factory was built in 1901, where 'The Old Tawonga Store' now stands. It was owned by local shareholders, and later was bought out.
Farmers used to drive a wagon with five horses to Bright with the butter from the factory, taking three days on the trip. After some years, the local factory closed down, and cream was then sent to the Kiewa Butter Factory. This factory (now called the North Eastern Dairy Company) has continued to collect the cream two or
three times a week for well over 50 years. Some dairy farms now send whole milk to the factory.

A timber mill was started in Tawonga by Mates, of Albury, in 1945, and electricity became available in 1946 the S.E.C. bought the mill, and enlarged it. In 1960 it was purchase by a local  family, they also started a timber mill in Mt Beauty worked both until 1980 when they closed it. The Tawonga mill and enlarged the mill called Mt. Beauty Timbers Pty Ltd employed approximately 50 people.

BOGONG HOTELOriginal Bogong Hotel
The Bogong Hotel has operated Tawonga for nearly 90 years. The bungalows, with roses around the doors, were popular with artists for many years. 
Sir Thomas Blarney stayed there, also Lord Baden Powell visited the hotel 1931 and 1935, mainly for the trout fishing. Many trout fishermen have made the hotel their headquarters returning year after year.
The hotel was re-built as a brick a cement building in 1955 and unfotunately  
burnt down in 2012.

Bogong Hotel 1992 Bogong Hotel 2012


A caravan park and camping area at the river was established in 1958 in like grounds with native and other ornimental trees. It has many amenities , is being improved all the time and has become very popular with the tourists.