A Snapshot of Taralga's History

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 the Commissioner John Thomas Bigge came by the same route from Bathurst travelling 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 was accompanied by Lachlan McAlister and John Hillas, these men became three of the first landholders in the Taralga area. Other early land holders were Thomas Howe, T. H. Moore and Thomas H. Scott, all holding land in 1829.

The real pioneers of Taralga were the convicts assigned to these men, but few relics of those days remain. Today you will see only reminders of the hardworking settlers who came to this district after 1840. They cleared their block the hard way, with an axe, and planted small paddocks of crop by hand. From the trees that they cleared away they built slab huts which can no longer be seen today. In those days Taralga's assets were the same as they are today, good soil in a relatively safe climate. The early settlers who followed the first landholders were also quick to recognise this.

There is much doubt as to how Taralga got its name and no definite or conclusive evidence on the original naming has ever been discovered however some of the theories are that Taralga was originally called "Trial Gang" as it was one of the chief centres in Argyle where convicts and bushrangers were tried. Another theory is that Taralga means "Native Companion" in the tongue of the Burra tribe which used to frequent this area.

The actual date of the beginning of Taralga as a village 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 the Macarthur brothers, his home was describe as being of stone with a shingle roof, which was later added to and became the school master's residence and (2) Duncan Rankin, Public Pound Keeper at the time, (before this, Alan Cameron held the position of Pound Keeper in 1840) his house was slab with a shingle roof.

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

The first national school 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. Luke's Anglican Church has its 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.

The population of Taralga has fluctuated over time - from 100 or so in 1863, to over 700 thirty years later, followed by a decline to half that size immediately after the depression of the 1890s. By the mid 1950s it had regained almost its largest size, but today houses approximately 370 people.

The rapid expansion after the 1860s was partly due to the influx of migrants following the gold rushes, and the Land Acts of 1861 which made it possible for people to take up small grants from the government at favourable rates.

The Taralga Vigilance Committee was formed on the 30th January, 1875 and it was similar to a present day Progress Association, and was responsible for many improvements.

Mr. Sid Holt brought electric lighting to Taralga with his lighting plant in the 1930's and continued to supply this until the erection of electricity lines from Goulburn in the mid 1950's.

A lady who had a great influence on the lives of Taralga residents for many years was Dr. Ettie Lyons, one of the first lady physicians in NSW who began practice in Taralga in 1917; she sold the practice thirty-seven year 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 she was a good diagnostician.

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

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

Taralga differs from many towns in that a large proportion of its existing buildings date from the 1860s to 90s (although now subject to later uses) and because most of them are of stone construction - built from the vast number of stones and rocks which litter the volcanic soils for miles around. These two assets combine to produce an architectural style which is unique to Taralga - not quite Georgian, not quite Victorian - with a tendency to larger windows and quite substantial construction even for modest dwellings. It also means that the town retains a special heritage of particular interest to the traveller.

The original main street was Macarthur Street, not the present one, and some of the earliest buildings can be found there.

The village of Taralga today remains the centre of a fertile district with a reliable rainfall, producing fine wool, fat lambs, prime beef, potatoes, berries and wine. It is home to a very active Historical Society preserving the proud heritage from the hardy pioneers. The tree-lined main street presents an impressive spectacle, and the many interesting and historic buildings make a stop and stroll around extremely interesting and worthwhile.

Taralga Historical Society is located at the old Methodist Church 83 Orchard St Taralga and is open every Sunday afternoon from 1pm - 4pm or by appointment. Ph: Mary Chalker 4840 2084.

The information in this publication was provided and compiled by members of the Taralga Historical Society in conjunction with the Crookwell Visitor Information Centre.

Contact Details

  • Crookwell Visitor Information Centre
  • : 02 4832 1988
  • : 02 4832 0119
  • crookwellvisitor@bigpond.com