Taralga Historical Society

Brief history of Taralga

The first known visit by white men to the Taralga District was an expedition led by Charles Throsby in 1819 when he passed Burra Burra lake on his way to Campbell's River from the Cowpastures. The following year John Oxley and Commissioner John Thomas Bigge came by the same route from Bathurst traveling to Lake Bathurst. By this time Hannibal Macarthur had a large property at Arthursleigh, across the Cookbundoon River east of Taralga, his cousin James Macarthur, came from there looking for land suitable for a cattle station. James Macarthur came accompanied by Lachlan McAllister and John Hillas, and these men became three of the first landholders in the Taralga area. Other early landholders were Thomas Howe, T.H. Moore and Thomas H. Scott, all holding land in 1929. The real pioneers of Taralga were the convicts assigned to these men, but few relics of those days remain, and in the main you will see only reminders of hardworking settlers who came to the district after 1840. They cleared their blocks the hard way, with an axe, and planted small paddocks of crop by hand. From the trees that they cleared away they build slab huts which can no longer be seen. In those days Taralga's assets were the same as they are today, good soil in relatively safe climate. The early settlers who followed the first landholders were also quick to recognize this.

The actual date of the beginning of Taralga is still obscure, however it would be safe to say it commenced sometime before 1843, when it was reported to consist of two houses, an orchard and one small area of land cleared and sown to wheat. The occupiers of the two houses were:

  1. Thomas Denning, sheep overseer for Macarthur brothers, his home was described as being of stone with a shingle roof, which was later added to and became the school masters residence; and
  2. Duncan Rankin, Public Pound Keeper at the time his house was slab with a shingle roof. Before him, Alan Cameron held the position of Pound Keeper in 1840.

About 1850 it appears Taralga made its real start as a township, Thomas Taylor (the first white child born in the district 1828) stated in his memoirs that he was stripping bark and carting it to town for dwellings going up in 1852.

The first national schools started in 1857 with 16 pupils, the master being Mr Rich followed by Mr Phillips in 1858. Stores and Public Houses began to appear in the 1860's, and the first church, the Presbyterian, was built in 1861.

St. Ignatius Catholic church (now as old St. Michael's) was built in 1864, and old St. Lukes Anglican Church had it's foundation stone laid by the wife of Bishop Thomas in 1866. The Methodist Church now owned by the Taralga Historical Society was built in 1868.

Population has fluctuated from 110 in 1863 to 723 in 1891, down to 359 in 1901, back up to 664 in 1954, down to 370 in 1995.

The Taralga Vigilance Committee was formed on 30 th January, 1875, it was similar to the present day Progress Association, and was responsible for many improvements. Mr Sid Holt brought electric lighting to Taralga with his lighting plant in the 1930s and continued to supply this until the erection of the electricity line from Goulburn in the mid 1950s. (A large spanner used by Mr. Holt has been mounted on a slab and can be seen in the grounds of the Museum.)

A lady who had a great influence on the lives of Taralga residents for many years was Dr. Ettie Lyons She was one of the first lady physicians in NSW, who began practice in Taralga in 1917. She sold the practice thirty seven years later. During that time she took care of all the people in the district, and few defied her instructions because she not only had a very forthright manner but also was a very good diagnostician.

The railway came to Taralga in the mid 1920s. There was a regular weekly service but extra trains would run when the necessity arose to cart stock, wool, potatoes or other produce and passengers. The last train to Taralga was in 1954.

Dairying was a flourishing industry at one time there were over 160 farms in the district. There were butter factories at Richlands, Yalbraith, Myrtleville and Taralga at various times.

Taralga is still a small but solid rural community retaining a heritage theme, but with motor travel and better roads more people are moving to the area to take advantage of a country lifestyle whilst working in Goulburn or surrounding areas.