Pre-European Settlement

“The grass good.  The natives evidently numerous.” So Hume & Hovell (Click for Separate Entry) noted of the Tatong region in 1824.
The people who lived here then used ‘fire-stick farming’ to clear and regenerate the landscape, providing easy movement through the bushland, and fresh growth to attract the kangaroos.
Since then the burning has stopped, large scale clearing occurred, and what with introduced fauna and flora such as cloven-hoofed ruminants, rabbits, foxes, mice, grasses, blackberries, etc., the place has changed.
Hume and Hovell described the land NE of Tatong as “a level forest, with here and there a small creek, flowing towards the N W. The soil excellent, and the trees numerous--a stunted species of blue gum.”
The Broken River they recorded as a “ - strong stream, thickly bordered with reeds.”

Between here and the Murray they “ - met with a considerable number of native women and children, about 30. The children were engaged in play, throwing small spears, formed of reeds, at a circular piece of bark, about a foot in diameter, while it was rolling along the ground; and the women were employed in spinning the native flax.”

On November 29th Hovell mused: “ - whatever place we have been in, whether on the top of the highest mountain, or in any of the deepest ravines, we always find evident marks that the natives occasionally resort to them, although there does not appear to be any inducement for them to visit those secluded places.
Those are the people we generally call ‘miserable wretches,’ but in my opinion the word is misapplied, for I cannot for a moment consider them so.
They have neither house-rent nor taxes to provide, for nearly every tree will furnish them with a house, and perhaps the same tree will supply them with food (the opposum).
Their only employment is providing their food. They are happy within themselves; they have their amusements and but little cares; and above all they have their liberty.”

Major Thomas Mitchell, coming from the South in 1836, crossed the Broken River and passed through “an open forest of box”.

Hume and Hovell (Click for Separate Entry)

The 1824 expedition to reach the southern coast took them within about 7 km of the present township of Tatong.
On November 26th 1824, the night before they arrived at Fern Hills, they stayed at a “ - summit, where the rock appears to contain a portion of lime, the soil and herbage are both excellent; the trees here also are large, and in addition to those before mentioned they meet with the honey suckle and the wattle.” 
At the area now called Fern Hills, where they camped by the Hollands Creek on November 27th, their principal comment was that the preceding range had lamed their cattle and there was insufficient grass to feed the stock.

White Settlement in the Tatong Region

Following the reports of Hume & Hovell, and Mitchell, of good grazing land, settlers and their stock moved in. They displaced the aborigines and somewhat changed the landscape.

Graziers were granted annual pastoral licences for an area of land according to the number of sheep or cattle he could afford to buy.
Tatong was one of these pastoral holdings, occupied by William Francis Splatt from 1847 until 1850. His brothers Frank and Edmund Lasky renewed the pastoral licence yearly from 1850 to 1854.
The Splatt brothers gave the name Tatong to their run, and the meaning is given as a corruption of the aboriginal word ‘TUTTING’ meaning ‘out of sight’. (However the 1978 "Back to Tatong" booklet gives the meaning as "Water Hole".)

In 1869 the Run extended from a few miles south of Benalla to a point approximately midway between Tatong town ship and Wrightley, with Mt. Pleasant as the western boundary, with the eastern boundary being a few miles to the east of White Gate.

Edmund Lasky Splatt was succeeded in July 1860 by McCulloch and Sellar who were there until January 1870, paying a half yearly rent of £147.1.0 for "Tatong Run".
Then John and Alexander Dennistoun became the occupants of Tatong station until the licence was surrendered about 1874 as part of the policy of the Victorian Government to break up these big holdings and make land available for smaller landholders.
An account of one such selection is under Michael Savage.

The original size of Tatong station was 33,000 acres (another account says 35,520 acres)  with a grazing capacity for 16,500 sheep.
A pre-emptive right to 640 acres was granted to the occupant of the property when the pastoral licence was surrendered and he also had the right to lease or buy adjoining land if he wished to do so.

Mr. Hector Norman Simson appears to be the first rate payer having paid £40.11.0 rates on an area of 4,087 acres to the Benalla Shire Council in 1869, the first year of Local Government for Benalla Shire.

Rabbits were first introduced to Tatong by Mr. Frost.

'Back to Tatong' states: "Amongst the first permanent settlers to the district before the turn of the century were Mr. Joseph and Miss Sarah Harrison. Having arrived in 1865, they would probably be the first. Following on (not necessarily in order) would be the names of Sullivan, Worrall, Mcintosh, Larkin McCauley, Hughan, Wallace Bilham, Cooper, Coghill, Monaghan."

The first selectors were obliged to clear and fence the land, and to crop it. In time dairy farming proved more suitable, with creameries set up around the district (more information - & picture of Tatong Creamery). The cream was manufactured into butter by the factory, and skim milk was taken back to the farm in milk cans, by spring cart, dray or wagon.

With the arrival of the hand or farm separator, the Tatong creamery ceased operations. For many years Mr. F. McCauley of Moorngag travelled around the district in a spring wagon drawn by two horses, collecting cream in ten and five gallon cans from the farmers, returning to the Moorngag and Swanpool Co-operative Dairy Company, where the cream was manufactured into butter.
There were two dairy companies operating in Benalla: The Benalla Dairy Co-operative Company and The Broken River Dairy Company, the latter being privately owned. These two factories each had a motor truck coming out to the district collecting cream and delivering dairy farmers’ needs.

In the 20th century tobacco has been grown, by the De Fazios, at Hollands Creek, White Gate.

Michael Joseph Savage (Click for Separate Entry)
New Zealand Labour Prime Minister from 6 Dec 1935 to 27 March 1940, he was born in the Tatong district on 23 March 1872.
He attended school in Rothesay (North-West of Tatong, East of White Gate) 1879-1884, and when 14 took work in Benalla. In 1893 he went to NSW and worked as a station hand on North Yanco, returning to Victoria in 1900 to work at the Rutherglen mines. He became involved in the Political Labour Party, and just missed nomination for the seat of Indi.
In 1907 he went to New Zealand. Entering parliament in 1919, he held the office of Prime Minister from 1935 until his death in1940.
He assisted the unemployed, started state housing construction, nationalised commercial broadcasting, and introduced guaranteed minimum prices for dairy products. His social security bill brought free health care and universal superannuation. It is said that no New Zealand Prime Minister aroused more genuine affection from the people.
His sympathy for the struggling class is attributed to his own upbringing; in Tatong. An abridged version of the first chapters of Barry Gustafson's “From the Cradle to the Grave” is on this site. A biography of Savage, it is also an account of the early selection around Tatong, 1860-1900.

1978 Back to Tatong
March 4th & 5th, 1978 saw ‘Back-to’ celebrations with floats, bands and Marching Girls. A dance was held in the Tatong Hall feature Bernie Kirlie’s Band, followed on the Sunday by a picnic lunch at the Sportsground.
It was organised by a committee comprising Mesdames G. Carter, B. Lindsay, M. Wallace, F. Waters, Messrs P. Bates, J. Crump, A. Henderson, H. Hughan, A. Lewis, H. Lewis, W. Quenton, with Mrs. Jenny Campbell as Treasurer and Assistant Secretary, Mr W. Crowe, Secretary and Mr W. McCauley, President.



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