AFTER John Wilson’s discovery of the Goulburn Plain in 1798,the district was forgotten for another 20 years. The Governor was far too busytrying to maintain a precarious toehold at Sydney to worry about the rest ofthe country.
It is likely, however, that escaped convicts and others hadpenetrated the district. Wilson thought he had heard gunfire in the distancewhen he camped near the future site of Bowral.
There is a legend that a runaway sailor arrived here soon afterthe arrival of the First Fleet. Charles Macalister, who grew up in the 1830’s,tells the tale in his book, “Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South” (1907).When he was a lad, an old aboriginal named Budyong told him that, when he was achild, the sailor had joined the tribe for a “walkabout” to Taralga. Hissubsequent fate is unknown.
Reverend Cartwright, who carried a bible in his saddlebagall over this district for more than fifty years, claimed to have visited LakeGeorge as early as 1812.
An article in the “Town and Country Journal”, dated January24, 1870, reported that the district may have been discovered by a stockmanfrom “Throsby Park”, near modern Moss Vale.
“Goulburn Plains [so runs the legend] were discovered by a‘fluke’, about 1817 or 1818,” it read.
“Bargo Brush was supposed to be impenetrable, but a convictstockman of the late Mr. Throsby, having from time to time missed cattle fromthe herd, which occasionally returned in prime condition, determined to watch,and eventually succeeded in discovering the path taken through the Bargo Brushby the straying cattle. Carefully following the tracks he was rewarded afterseveral nights of camping out with a sight of the Goulburn Plains, and a considerableherd of his master’s missing cattle and others grazing upon them.”
Many history books state that the first explorers to reachthe Goulburn Plain were James Meehan and Hamilton Hume, in 1818.
They came by pure accident – trying to find a route from ThrosbyPark to the coast, forced southward by flooded creeks that were too deep to cross,and then by the Shoalhaven Gorge.
Meehan almost reached the present location of Thorne’sBridge, within sight of the site of Goulburn, before turning around.
Two years later, Governor Macquarie and his party set out toinspect the district to see if it was suitable for grazing. When they arrived,they found the Macarthur family’s cattle had beaten them to it; they werestanding in grass up to their bellies.
The Governor and his party crossed the Cookbundoon Range,and followed the Wollondilly River past Kenmore, over the present site ofEastgrove, and camped for the night near Lansdowne Bridge.
Two days later, on the 25/10/1820, Surveyor-General JohnOxley was the first European to set foot on the site of the city of Goulburn. But wait! Here’s a scoop that you won’t readanywhere else – Hamilton Hume, the man most widely credited for the discoveryof the Goulburn Plains, already knew about Wilson’s expedition to Mount Towrang,even though it took place before he was born.
His father was the superintendent of the Government Farm atToongabbie where most of the Irish convicts had escaped from, and from where Wilson’sparty had set off. The story of the Irish search for China would often havebeen told in Hamilton’s presence.
The Hume Highway should be renamed Wilson Way.
• The old Terminus Hotel in Sloane St, which once stood on the site the Carlton Hotel now occupies.
• The Salvation Army Citadel in Clifford St was demolished to make way for the Argyle Mall, which was later purchased by Centro.
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