The first non indigenous people to sight the Gundaroo valley was a young Joseph Wild and Charles Throsby Smith in early December 1820 who were exploring the district when they found a river now known as the Yass River and were told by the natives that they were at a place they called “ Candariro”. ! He was sent on a journey of exploration and discovery by Sydney surgeon Charles Throsby . Whilst the topography has not changed the vegetative cover of the valley has not seen much change either. A description of the valley by Throsby Smith stated that they had found “a beautiful country with thinly wooded gum and bastard box”

By 1825 scattered settlement was taking place in the Gundaroo valley and surrounding areas but it was not until May 1829 that a feature survey of this village was made by Robert Dixon. It should be remembered that until 1825 the Governor of NSW ruled the state as an autocracy. In 1825 a Legislative Council was elected and a little more control over what happened in rural NSW took place. and squatter pastoralists sent their flocks to unclaimed Crown Land. Dr Robert Townson of Minto could be called the first squatter in the area and was the first to press for a considerable number of claims on land around Gundaroo, Murrumbateman, Gunning, Breadalbane and Collector in 1820. A huge amount of land on which he squatted. In 1827 James Richard Styles was the first of the new settlers to be an authorised occupant of a large area of land (1920 acres) to which he quickly added extensive purchases to form what became known as the “Tallagandra” station. Other allocations were made but none as large as the Styles property. Donald Macleod was given a free grant of 2000 acres in Nov 1825 but did not make a selection of the land of his choice until Jan 1830. Around the late 1820’s Patrick Dyce made a selection and was granted 1280 acres on the banks of the Yass river which he called “Tillygrieg”. This property is about 4 Km on the road back to Canberra and is still owned by the Dyce family. Such was the manner in which the area was developing with unauthorised settlers being forced off “their” ground by decrees from the new found authorities in Sydney who had little idea of the territory they were making jurisdiction overuncil was appointed by the Governor to advise him on various matters. So authority over land dealings in NSW was totally in the hands of the Governor until 1842 when the Legislative Council was partly elected and took on a little more control.

Having made the point that the jurisdiction over land was less than satisfactory in Sydney you could imagine the rough and ready state of affairs in the bush. To put this into perspective you must remember that the colony was still in its infancy. If you cast your mind back to these days when there was little in the way of authority in the area, roads were little more than the rough tracks over which the first drays passed, there were no maps of course, the population was extremely sparse and directions as to the location of their destination was given by travellers who had only been in the district for weeks or possibly months. Doctors were many hours or days away over rough tracks. Misadventure had no respect for the status of people and wealthy landowners and the poorest labourer could die as the result of an overturned buggy or a fall from a horse. Travel over these tracks was extremely slow. One description of travel from Sydney to Queanbeyan in 1856 stated that it took 3 weeks to travel the mainly unmade “road” at a calculated speed of 3 MPH!

Development of facilities was slowly taking place and in true Aussie style one of the first substantial buildings in the Gundaroo district was the “Harrow Inn” on what is now Cork St on the site of the vegetable farm on the edge of the village. Built of locally made brick by William Jackson, this establishment was licensed on 17 June 1834. The inn did very well, being the only licensed premises in the district and thus the meeting place for many. Jackson died suddenly in mysterious circumstances in September 1837. It was suggested that he was murdered and his body dumped in the river behind the hotel. Of course there were no resources or police at all then to investigate such unsavoury propositions.


It was not much later when the “Travellers Home” was opened in 1840 at what was then termed Upper Gundaroo or Sittingbourne. There was much contention as to whether development should take place at Gundaroo where it exists now or at Upper Gundaroo around 4 km back towards Canberra on the Shingle Hill road. A new Anglican church (St Lukes) had been built at Upper Gundaroo. This is now a pottery of some renown. This building was also going to serve as a school. When it was opened on 9 May 1850 it seemingly gave Upper Gundaroo a boost to its claims as the site of the new village. It should be remembered that in those days Roman Catholics and Protestants were not on the friendliest of terms. When the school opened in 1850 there were a good number of students available to attend the Church of England school. By 1856 however the number had dwindled to 3 or 4 and the school had to close as the majority of school age children were then mainly Roman Catholics. So as the fortunes of both sites ebbed and flowed the need for a decision was becoming an important issue. In 1860 the only buildings in Gundaroo were the Caledonia store, the lock up and the Old Harrow Inn. William Affleck, a prominent citizen in the formation of Gundaroo started agitating for the post office to be located in the village, a state school to be established, a church (Presbyterian) to be built and the Marked Tree Rd to be the recognised route from Goulburn to Queanbeyan. This would ensure that the mail came directly to Gundaroo and more traffic would come through the new village and hopefully to his shop. Affleck also started the Mutual Improvement Society and Loyal Faithful Friend Lodge to assist Gundaroo with “intellectual improvement”. Around 1895 William Affleck presented the village with a small weatherboard cottage for the use of the above societies and also to be used as a library, now known as the Literary Institute.


Due to the efforts of the Afflecks, Charles Alphonse Massey and Hugh Vallance the village we know went ahead. Others were involved of course but these three seemed to be the main activists at the time. A school, a church and several more commercial and residential buildings were erected in Gundaroo by the end of the 1860’s. Upper Gundaroo was suffering as a result of the expansion of Gundaroo at the official village site and never again achieved the level of activity it enjoyed in the 1850’s and early 60’s. St Lukes church is the only structure remaining which indicates the location of Upper Gundaroo.

Gundaroo has been fortunate in retaining many of the early buildings which helps it to retain a uniquely historic atmosphere. It is not too long ago that there were many slab huts in this street which have been knocked down in the name of progress. There are still a few in town and we will make every effort to retain them.

32 thoughts on “History”

  1. Jennifer Beacham said:

    My great grandmother’s birth (Maria Moore) was registered on 22 December 1839 at Gundaroo, Gunning, Yass, NSW. This is what I know about her origins. Jane, her mother was the daughter of convicts, aged 7 at the time of her mother’s death in 1820, spent her early years after that in the Female Orphan School. Originally located in George Street which would have been near where the family lived, in June 1818 a substantial building on Arthur’s Hill overlooking the Parramatta River on 24.3-hectare. was completed, and still stands there today housing the Whitlam Institute. In 1828 Jane was listed in the muster records as housemaid to Captain Robert Lethbridge on an estate called “Flushcombe”. The estate covered a large area of the suburb of Blacktown Sydney.
    Jane married Robert Moore, born in Merrifield Devon England in 1810. He would have been a very early free settler arriving at Port Jackson on 22 January 1829 on the Surry, (also known as Surrey), which had an especially long career transporting convicts to Australia. In 11 voyages, the most of any convict transport, she brought 2,177 convicts, and so became one of the best-known of the vessels that visited Australia. In 1828 however she carried Unassisted Immigrants from London, English workers coming to Australia.
    Jane and Robert were married on 15 Feb 1831 at St Matthew’s Church, Windsor and Robert went to work for his cousin, Captain Richard Brooks (c.1765–1833), a retired ship captain, at Maineroo (Monaro) Plains. Richard Brooks also born in Devon at Withycombe Raleigh (later Exmouth), was said to have had little formal education before entering the British East India Company’s service at an early age, rising to command his own ship. He began his association with New South Wales in 1802 when he captained the notorious convict transport Atlas. After this voyage he earned the censure of Governor Philip Gidley King for the high death rate among the convicts in his charge, which was largely due to his negligence and to the overcrowding on board caused by his large personal cargo. In 1823 he moved from Sydney to Denham Court, a property near Liverpool. Denham Court is still there, a heritage-listed at 238 Campbelltown Road, Denham Court in the City of Campbelltown built from 1820 to 1829. For the rest of his life he lived there, a prominent settler, a member of the New South Wales Agricultural Society, a vice-president of the Benevolent Society, member of the committee of the Bible Society, and a strong supporter of religious charities of all denominations. He owned properties in Sydney at Cockle Bay and Surry Hills and had extensive holdings in the Illawarra, Williams River and Lake George districts. His two sons Richard and Henry became prominent settlers in the Monaro.
    Jane and Robert Moore were to have 15 children, their first six born in NSW, including Maria born in 1839 who became the wife of my great-grandfather Edwin Lee. The first two were christened at St Phillips Sydney in 1831 and 1833. The third child John (1834-1913) married Mary O’Connell in 1855 in Victoria. They had nine children.
    There is little on record of the fourth child Robert (1836-1912)- Born in 1836 in NSW when his father, Robert, was 26 and Jane was 23. He died on 14 July 1912 in Richmond, Victoria,
    Fifth Child Henry (1837-1907) – born in 1837 was blind from an early age and lived with his sister Maria (Lee). He is buried in Birchip with many of the early Lee’s.
    Between 1839 and 1842, as Martha the next child born in 1842 was registered in Victoria, Jane and Robert packed up their six children including Henry who was probably blind to travel by bullock wagon to Melbourne.
    It is hard to imagine setting off.

    I would be very interested to know if there is any information about their time in the district.

  2. Greg Hayes said:

    My 2x grandfather was the owner of the Harrow Inn in 1840. Would you have any photos or information on this site?

    • Elaine Russell said:

      Sorry, I have no photos. I looked for the grave of Frederick Hoare who died in 1867 but could find nothing. Fred and his brother built the church which is still standing but no longer used as a church.

    • Greg
      The “Harrow Inn” was one of the first substantial buildings in Gundaroo nearby a creek the southern edge of the village. Built of locally made brick by William Jackson, this establishment was licensed on 17 June 1834. The inn did very well, being the only licensed premises in the district and thus the meeting place for many. Jackson died suddenly in mysterious circumstances in September 1837. It was suggested that he was murdered and his body dumped in the river behind the hotel. Caroline Jackson continued to run the business however the licence lapsed in 1840 and she was declared bankrupt in 1842. Many tenancies followed with John Wishart taking the lease of the Harrow and establishing the Caledonia Store.

      In 1880 William Affleck built the existing Caledonia Store in Cork St and the business moved to these new premises. The Harrow Inn was demolished in 1911. It is reported bricks from the Harrow were used to extend Bowylie Homestead.

      Source: ‘Gundaroo‘ by Errol Lea Scarlett

      An illustration of the Harrow Inn is in an article by Fran and John Stephenson in “Footsteps” Port Macquarie and District Family Historical Society May 2016. We are not sure where this illustration originated from, a photo of the Harrow or drawn from a description.

      A link to their article is:

      • Greg Hayes said:

        Many thanks for sending the article. When next i’m in the area I’ll have to look up the site of the Inn which I see is a private house. Regards Greg Hayes

        On Thu, Oct 29, 2020 at 9:47 AM The Gundaroo and District Historical Society wrote:

        > > > * gundarooanddistricthistoricalsociety commented: “Greg The “Harrow Inn” > was one of the first substantial buildings in Gundaroo nearby a creek the > southern edge of the village. Built of locally made brick by William > Jackson, this establishment was licensed on 17 June 1834. The inn did very > well, being th”

  3. Hi descendant of Casey, Reid & Charters families.
    Any idea where I can locate Casey’ s
    Property on a map?
    George Reid’s & Charters info?

    • Tanya Whatman said:

      I am currently researching a George Reid and saw this post. I was wondering if there is any connection between our Reid’s. Please feel free to contact me be email to chat

    • Kristine Howard said:

      Hi Tanya

      There was a map in Lyall Gillespie’s Reid Family Reunion Booklet from the Reunion in 1979. It is not very clear, I will see if I can scan it and email it to you.

      Kristine Howard

      • Ann Beach said:

        Thanks! It is a rather (very) rudimentary map a someone would draw on a coaster!

        Some 21st century landmarks perhaos?

        Will I know if Charters Reid Casey have get together?

        Once this is OVAH!

        Hooroo Ann

  4. Belinda Bell said:

    My Great great great grandfather John Mulhearn (convict) was assigned to William Jackson of Gundaroo in 1836. Just found an interesting article saying Jackson was ‘suspected murdered’ in 1837. Not sure if Mulhearn would have stayed on property or re-assigned. Might do a road trip to Gundaroo some time in the future.

  5. Elaine Russell said:

    I believe that my great grandfather, Frederick Hoare built the Presbyterian Church in Gundaroo in 1864 but I can find no mention of him on the Gundaroo Historical sites.

  6. Marlene Sutton said:

    My Great, Great, Great Grandparents Maurice (Morris) Hickey (born in Waterford Ireland 1787 – convict – tried for Highway Treason in 1808 and arrived in Australia in 1809 and Bridget (Quinn) born Ireland 1788 – convict) – tried in 1809. We know that they lived in Gundaroo in 1834 and had two or three children.
    On a surveyors map dated around the 1830-1840’s shows “Hickeys Hut ” on the William’s Property which lies along the Yass river near the intersection of the Yass River and Hickey’s creek
    Maurice and Bridget’s daughter Eleanor Hickey, married Thomas Boyd in Goulburn on 5/3/1834. Thomas Boyd was with the Hume and Hovell expedition and was given land at Tumut, where they both died. We don’t know what happened to Maurice and Bridget (still looking) maybe moved to Tumut as well and died on the property but no death has been registered for either.
    At the moment I would like to be able to get to the area of Hickey’s hut and Hickey’s creek which would probably be on someone’s private land. Is there anyone in the Society that would have any knowledge of this area. I have a map showing Hickey’s creek and went for a drive last Saturday but couldn’t find where the actual creek would be.

    I would love to come out to a meeting of the Historical Society if you still have them and maybe talk to some people and get to know the area. I do have more information on this subject.

    Kind Regards

  7. Leanne Caddy (Casey) said:

    Hi Sue, Casey Close (sorry not Way) is Off Tallagandra Lane , my Great, Great, Great Grandfather had land backing onto Back Creek. (my map says 614 Tallgandra Lane) I believe there was a “Casey” family reunion on the 20-21 September, 2014 but I was unaware at the time. His daughter Mary Casey married George Reid who also had property near there. I have found newspaper articles from the Queanbeyan Age & Goulburn Evening Penny Post from Tuesday, 20th May, 1882 stating John’s Funeral was a terrible rainy day but approx 200 people attended! Apparently he was one of the earliest bullock drivers as well as a farmer so I am hunting any photos you may have. Thanks to another relative who wrote the History “The Casey’s of Loughmore” (he lives in Sydney) I have quite a bit of information but only one photo of John & his wife Carolyn. (also presumed buried in the Pioneer Cemetery but no headstone) – I would appreciate so very much any information or photos you may find, Kindest regards Leanne – myrtlemouse@hotmail.com

  8. Leanne Caddy (Casey) said:

    Good morning, last Wednesday my husband and I visited Gundaroo in search of my Great, Great, Great father’s grave, John CASEY, convict from Ireland. We had a wonderful time, found his and other relatives graves and visited the property near Casey’s way which he use to own. (we even by chance met the now owners who intend to built a home on it soon-such a bonus) – I am just wondering if you have any records of the land apparently sold to the Reid family, I am guessing after both John & Carolyn died the rest of the family had moved elsewhere. (one of the Casey girls married into this family) or any photos of our family/or with the Reid family I could use to add to my research. We LOVED our visit, a much wanted experience but never enough time to do it when we have traveled from our home on the Mornington Peninsula to relatives in Sydney. Kindest Regards Leanne Caddy (Casey) – myrtlemouse@hotmail.com

    • Leanne Caddy (Casey) said:

      oops sorry I meant to type Great, Great, Great Grandfather!

      • HI Leanne Thanks for your query. We are a very small Historical Society , aiming to preserve whatever history we can collect . Much of our research is reliant on a boot about the history of Gundaroo published by Errol Lea Scarlett in the 70’s. I will look through that and see what I can find. I am not aware of Caseys Way, can you tell me where this is. I will get back to you with anything else I can find.
        Sue Burns

        The following link may provide some further information

        Click to access johncasey.pdf

  9. Susan Foster said:

    Hi my maiden name is Susan Goslett and I have reason to believe my grandfather William Goslett was born in Gundaroo to a single mother I knew as Kittie Goslett. How can I find out any more information about the family history.? I did find some information that said there was a previous William Goslett and Mary Anne Goslett buried in St Luke’s cemetery near Gundaroo. Kind regards Susan Foster my email address is yambaosteo@gmail.com

  10. Hi my name is shani im looking for any information i can find on the whites in gundaroo my late grandmother was born there 23rd October1917 her name was Ida Jean White

    • Hi Shani I wil look into your query over the next week and get back to you. Did your grandmother stay in the area or move away, and what were her children names. Regards Sue Burns GDHS

      • Shani haerse said:

        Sorry just seen this msg no she moved away to canberra im more looking for her family before children trying to find of our aboriginal back ground my great grandmothers name is Alice edith white and her father was joseph white my great great grandfather is buried in the Gundaroo cemetry

        • Maryann Matikainen said:

          Hi Sharni, could your ancestor be related to mine- Florence E White who married Alfred J Kershaw in 1919?

        • Maryann Matikainen said:

          Hi Sharni, I also have another relative Alice White who married Walter James Kershaw in 1929 and died in 1941 and buried at Gundaroo.

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