Major Thomas MITCHELL 1792-1855
80th Anniversary of Crossing the Wannon River on 11th August 1836
Glenelg & Wannon Region, SW Victoria, Australia

"The Casterton Free Press" (Casterton, Vic.) Monday, 14th August 1916.
EIGHTY YEARS AGO. -- MAJOR MITCHELL'S CROSSING. -- The Spot Where the Wannon was Forded.
A public meeting to celebrate the crossing of the river Wannon, about a mile and a half from Casterton, and an equal distance from Sandford, took place at the spot on Saturday afternoon, the demonstration having been arranged by Cr.(Major) John Little, president of the Glenelg Shire, who, during his period of active and whole-souled presidentship, has evinced a marked and praiseworthy interest in the matter of preserving the facts of the past for the enlightenment of the people of the future. Early in his present period of office as Chief Magistrate of the Shire, Cr. Little spoke about commemorating this historical spot, but for a long time he has experienced difficulty in accurately locating it, there being some conflict of opinion among old residents, whose knowledge was necessarily based, at this remote period, upon the opinion of others. However, by a display of that diligence which has characterised Cr. Little in all his public doings, he at last secured such evidence as he wanted, and the spot fixed upon is, he says, unchallengeably the one where the crossing of the river by Mitchell's party took place. Once the place was located Cr. Little had the tree nearby, on tne river bank "blazed," and last week Mr Dale, monumental sculptor, Casterton, did the work of cutting the words :

"MAJOR MITCHELL CROSSED HERE 11th August, 1836."

on the "blazed" trunk. This task was performed gratuitously by Mr. Dale.

Had the day been fine the attendance would no doubt have been much larger. As it was there was a sufficient number present to denote that a fair measure of public interest was taken in the proceedings. Access to the spot was obtained through land belonging to the estate of the late Donald Ross, permission to use the paddock having been kindly granted by the executors.

The place is a picturesque one, as will be judged from the accompanying illustration prepared from a special drawing for the "Free Press" by our artist. The water-scape, the bank beyond, the trees and the huge black stump in mid-stream have been portrayed with an accuracy equal to that of the camera and the result is a picture which should be long portrayed by our readers as a souvenir of an event important in Victorian history.

The proceedings commenced shortly after halfpast two o'clock, the light rain that commenced to fall at that time, though cold and unpleasant, being insufficient to "damp the interest" of the audience, among whom were a number of old residents well as school children. The former felt reminscent and the latter swarmed up the tree that had been "blazed," as in the belief that it had been specially planted there by nature to provide an elevated platform for clambering juveniles. And the effect was pretty.

The impromptu platform accommodated, with the Shire President, several local gentlemen who have been in this district since the early days, these being Mr J. T. Dancocks, Mr G. Grant, Mr Stewart Miller, Mr E. _. Hughes, Cr. A, Mitchell, Cr. Jas. Ross, Mr Geo. Ross, Mr W. J. Nicholls, Mr. J. Glancy (Shire secretary), and Mr Geo. Smith. The principal speech was delivered by Cr. J. Little who said he had arranged the gathering to try to revive the memory of the explorer, Major Mitchell and his Party, who first travelled from north to south of this rich country and gave it the name of "Australia Felix."

After referring to work done by various explorers, Cr. Little came to the tour of Major Mitchell who was sent down the Lachlan in New South Wales to confirm some reports of previous discoveries on that route, and to cross the Murray or Hume River and reach the Glenelg. This he did by coming down through the Wimmera country and by Mount Arapiles, where a tablet has been erected to his memory. Coming south by Chetwynd and Warrock, and to Wando Vale (Nangeela) Mitchell saw a lubra running away carrying a child on her back. He rode around and caught her, and when she was questioned by an interpreter belonging to the camp (an aboriginal woman) the lubra gave information as to the class of coutry lying ahead. The dress of this woman was similar to that of the Lachlan blacks. She was presented with a tomahawk by Major Mitchell and so alarmed was she that she threw it down and fled for her life. Her tribe had lived in this district for many years and was known by the name of "__ Tiger."

It was on the 11th August 1836 that Mitchell saw the junction of the Glenelg and Wannon and crossed the latter stream at the spot where they were now assembled.

A report by Mitchell described the nature of the country, and referred to the place around here as being thickly wooded with stringy bark trees of large dimensions.

This class of tree, said Cr. Little, was unknown in the locality now, therefore he could not understand the reference to the variety in Major Mitchell's notes.

On reaching the bay the men were surprised to see what they thought was a roof of a shed, but on closer inspection, it proved to be a ship at anchor, belonginging to the Hentys, who were much delighted at the visit of the party. Cr. Little said he had convened the present meeting because the old residents were disappearing fast from our midst and it was desirable that the spot should be permantly marked before it became too late.

Cr. Ross said the comprehensive speech of the president had covered all the ground of importance so far as making reference to Major Mitchell's tour was concerned. He felt that the generations of the future would be grateful to Cr. Little for what he had done to mark this spot.

Mr W. A. W. Kell, on behalf of the Australian Natives' Association, spoke of the importance of the gathering. It was right that Casterton should show respect to the explorer who had been the means of opening up this district to settlement and had done so much for the present generation. At the conclusion of his speech Mr Kell read the accompany ing verses appropriate to the occasion, which had been written by Mr W. J. Spring, Casterton.

A photograph of the group was taken and the proceedings terminated.

MITCHELL'S CROSSING, By W. J. Spring, Casterton.
Here Major Mitchell crossed this stream, In days now long since fled,
In search of pastures fresh and green, He forged his way ahead.
He blazed the trail from New South Wales, and found this sylvan glade,
That fellowmen might come and dwell, Along the track he made.
He gazed upon these verdant flats--Those rich and grassy hills,
And heard the music that was made, By Wannon's rippling rills.
Now eighty years have passed and gone, And Mitchell's 'neath the clay--
And we to-day, are gathered here, To celebrate the day.
We mark the spot, where long ago, This limpid stream he met--
That generations still unborn, His name will not forget.

Links to Pioneer Names at...

Carapook & Muntham : Casterton : Chetwynd : Dartmoor : Digby : Harrow & Balmoral : Hotspur :

Merino & Henty : Sandford : Strathdownie : Wando Vale


Daryl Povey

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