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Swanpool & District History (15 March 2013)
contributed by BarryOconnor
(contact BarryOconnor about this story)
The area was originally inhabited by the Wurundjeri people, as part of a tract of land in North East Victoria that they roamed over, following the food chain and reliable water supplies. The Broken River area, as it was later known by the early settlers, was inhabited by the Pangurang (or Bangurang) and the Taoungurong tribes.
In late 1824 the area was explored by Hume and Hovel. Following this initial exploration the squatters moved in, followed soon after by Government officials.
In order to understand the task that the Europeanís faced, you need to understand that there were no roads, and the only permanent landmarks available were hills, mountains and rivers. Simple tracks were developed, which were routed around deep creek and river beds and steep hills and mountains. These tracks also followed a route past reliable water supplies. Swanpool and the surrounding districts are known for the natural springs that abound in the area. The initial tracks became roads with common use. All land travel in the early days of settlement was by horse, or horse drawn vehicle, donkey, bullock wagon, or on foot.
The districts of Swanpool, Samaria, Lima, Lima East, Lima South and Moorngag were all once part of the Lima Station which was subject to a pastoral lease taken out by Mr. William McKellar. The property was occupied from May 1839 and comprised an area of 88,000 acres (35,628 hectares) as assessed by an independent surveyor in 1847. The leases were eventually revoked and the land was surveyed into smaller parcels of land in 1855, and later came under what was known as the Duffy Act in 1865. The land was listed for selection, with William McKellar purchasing much of the land at auction to maintain his pastoral enterprise. William McKellar was one of the very few squatters in the district that purchased land and remained on a large portion of the originally leased area. William McKellar died in January 1893 and is buried in the Benalla Cemetery.
The township of Swanpool developed as a stop on the main road between rail facilities at Benalla and Mansfield. Originally the district was known as the Broken River area. The first mention that we find of Samaria, Lima and Swan Pool (two words) is on a map drawn of the Lima Station in 1847. Moorngag first appeared on maps in around 1855 when the area was formally surveyed into smaller parcels of land.
Parish plans were drawn and updated as the land was either sold or leased. Large areas of common lands were gazetted with some later being subdivided to meet the demand for smaller farm size blocks. With the new settlers came schools, churches and public facilities. Commercial operations came later with butter factories, saw mills, quarries, retail premises and post offices. The recently completed Heritage Murals at Swanpool depict some of the early commercial operations in the area.
The community focus for the area was Swanpool, as it was located on the main road between Benalla and Mansfield. Delivery runs of mail, bread and other supplies emanated out of Swanpool to the surrounding valleys.
Schools were a high priority for the new settlers with many being built in the area. Samaria had no less than four schools gazetted for the area. All, except for Swanpool, have now passed into history. The commercial operations that now exist are contained within the township of Swanpool. Agriculture, horticulture, forestry, quarrying, and tourism are the current business operations in the district.
Nestled in the fertile Broken River Valley, Swanpool is conveniently located on the Midland Highway, just 25 minutes south of Benalla, and 40 minutes north of Mansfield. Being in the foothills of the Victorian High Country the area abounds with natural beauty and there are many naturally beautiful, and spectacular areas to visit. To the south, the imposing Mount Samaria reflects in the waters of Lake Nillahcootie. To the west are the Strathbogie Ranges with numerous recreational driving and walking tracks. Bird watchers will be amazed at the variety of bird life that abounds in the district and the surrounding mountain ranges. All types of recreational boating can be enjoyed on Lake Nillahcootie. Fishing can be enjoyed on the lake, or in the Broken River and surrounding creeks.
Being in North East Victoria all of the food and wine trails, and snow fields are easily accessed from the Swanpool area. The multiple valleys of the North East offer motorists and motor cyclists some of the countries most spectacular cruising opportunities. For those who like to view the scenery at a slower pace there are numerous walking tracks throughout the ranges and cyclists can tour the Murray to the Mountains, or the Goulburn River High Country trails. These combined with the recently completed High Country Rail Trail, offer over 250 kilometres of safe off-road tracks across the High Country. For those bicycle riders who are a little more competitive, there are a number of events including the Alpine Classic and the 7 Peaks Alpine Challenge that will test your skills.
Our other sporting devotees are not forgotten. Football and Netball club along with tennis, table tennis and bowls clubs are all available in Swanpool for those who enjoy their sport, either as a participant, or spectator.
Swanpool is the home of the famous Swanpool Cinema. This is one of the very few original memorial hall cinema facilities still operating in Australia. The cinema is run as a community co-operative by volunteers and profits are reinvested in improvements and maintenance of the hall and surrounds.
The Swanpool streetscape is currently undergoing restoration work and the recently completed Heritage Murals are becoming a significant tourist attraction, as is the eclectic collection of memorabilia at the recently refurbished Swanpool Store.
With a district population of just over 600 people, Swanpool and the surrounding district have a very active volunteer group. In addition to supporting the cinema and the sporting clubs, the community also run an annual Community Spirit Picnic at which contributions made by our volunteers are acknowledged. There is also the annual Swap Meet and Village Market, which now incorporates a Show & Shine for trucks, cars and motor cycles. This event has grown considerably since the first one was held in 2010. Held on the first Sunday in December, it is well worth a look. All profits from this event go to the local community groups and projects.
This story was uploaded into the Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia entry for the Suburb/Regional Area 'Swanpool'.
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