The first of the early day explorers to traverse the Mungindi area
was Sir Thomas Mitchell in 1831, and then again in 1846. The steady
expansion of settlement across the Liverpool Plains to occupy the
ideal grazing country around the Gwydir, Maal or Boomi and Barwon
rivers bought men with cattle to the banks of the Boomi and Barwon
rivers, properly in the 1830s. Thomas Mitchell’s record of his 1831-32 exploration suggests that there were already settlers in the area and his 1846 Journal names at least one settler of the Mungindi district – A.J. Johnson of Dareel – believed to be Abraham Johnson, whose son, John Albert, was certainly there in 1857.
By the 1850’s with stock moving on both sides of the Barwon (then marked as Barwon) the ford at Mungindi just upstream from the present bridge became the principal crossing. Reliable water holes and shaded flats on the river banks provided early drovers with a pleasant camp on the place which the Aborigines had long enjoyed. Regular use of the track is indicated by the fact that two forty chain stock routes were proclaimed by 1863, both to Mungindi, from St George and from Whyenbah via Dareel.
Mungindi almost certainly got its name from a Kamilaroi word for the locality. The most commonly uncounted explanation of the meaning of the word Mungindi suggests that it was the name for the place where sweet water might be found by digging. Around the same time of its growth, Mungindi was also gaining its name.
In the 1860s the name of the town can be seen on a map of a survey completed by Alexander Grant Walker applied for conditional purchase of 40 acres of Crown Land. Surveyors would take Aboriginal guides with them and were told to name parishes or any other features by Aboriginal names. This saw the surveyors’ name Walker’s land Mogindi.
The movement of drovers and the coming settlers soon attracted others to provide them with goods and services. The first known of these services was a hotel or inn. Built in 1863 by Alexandra Grant Walker, it was located on the south bank or the river. After coming to N.S.W from Scotland at the age of 21, he married at Murrurundi and bought his bride to Moree where they were among the first to purchase land in the town area. They built a hotel in Frome Street but within 12 months transferred the licence to Alexander’s ‘Mungindi Inn’; also know as Walker’s Hotel and in later years, The Green Hut.
During the 1880s movement in the area had led to the development of regular coach services and communications further improved with the opening of a telegraphic office in 1881. At the turn of the century Mungindi had its own newspaper, a hospital, a doctor, a solicitor, two schools, two post offices, a brewery, at least four hotels, two police Stations with three men stationed at each, two race clubs, a P & A Society, two butchers, two hairdressers, two dress makers and milliners, a shoemaker, a saddler, a baker, a tailor, a saw mill, a pawnbroker, a teacher of pianoforte, violin and oil painting, about four contract car penters, a housepainter a decorator, a bricklayer, and a tinsmith. It Approximately 250 residents enjoyed many shared entertainments – balls and dances, fairs and Shows, concerts and travelling tent shows, and fortnightly meetings of the Literary and Debating Society, Today, Mungindi is a country town in full swing. The kids who grew up in the 40s and 50s have many memories of hot summer days in school, swimming, going fishing after school, doing air-raid drills and having to lie in the slit trenches.
They also remember walking to school through thigh-high muddy water during the floods and the biscuit bombing of blankets and supplies, as well a hanging out in the cage after the movies.
Courtesy of Mungindi & District Historical Society Book Committee
The Aboriginal people of this area belong to the Kamilaroi tribe. The Kamilaroi/Gomilaroi, from the word Kamil or Kumil meaning main soul, are a large nation of Aborigines consisting of many tribes. The Kamilaroi are the second largest Aboriginal nation on the eastern side of Australia, and the language is known as Gamilaraay. The nation was made up of many smaller family groups who had their own parcels of land to sustain them.
Their tribal grounds covered an area of over 50,000 klms, extending from just north of the Barwon River, to the south of the Namoi River, Gunnedah. One of the great Kings of this tribe was ‘Red Chief’ who is buried near Gunnedah. The last link with tribal law and custom in Mungindi would be the forbear of the present Cubby family, who was the last known King in the tribe.
In the days when the tribe wandered the plains, they had a regular stopover place on the River. There were times when the land was dry and the water stopped running and the river became a great number of waterholes. At such times, the tribe stayed on much longer at the River than usual, for most of all was the importance of water to Aboriginal life.
As the water holes dried up and the water became brackish and turned sour, the tribe would dig down in to the sandy patches just along from site of the present hospital (Qld side) and the holes that they dug would fill with fresh sweet water. So this became Mungindi, the Digging for Water Place, a happy resting place where there was always food and water to be found, even in the worst of seasons.
The Corroboree ground was situated on the Qld side (near the current Qld police station), and the last Corroboree took place there in about 1895. It is believed the Camp was on the ridge (on the Boomi Road, near the current Namoi Cotton Co-operative). It was certainly on higher ground, with the wurleys constructed in rounded fashion of curved saplings and walls and rooves of bark, immaculately kept. As part of the preparation for feasting, the Aborigines
searched for large river mussels, in particular at the Little Weir, along the Talwood Road. At sunset, the tribe would rest under the trees along the Barwon River banks, gathered for the time being & making the best of the shade.