Wahgunyah 3687Wahgunyah, on the south-east side of the Murray River, is 235 km. north-east of Melbourne. The nearest medium-size town to it is Rutherglen, about 8 km. to the south-east.
The name came from the Wahgunyah pastoral run taken up approximately in 1841 by John Foord and John Crisp. The run extended from the Murray River, southwards to Black Dog Creek, occupying about 13,800 hectares. "Wahgunyah"is thought to be an Aboriginal word for big camp. In 1853 Foord purchased half a square mile of his holding, on the south-east bank of the river, and three years later had it surveyed for a township. The Wahgunyah Hotel was opened in 1856.
Foord installed a punt across the river in 1857 and built a flour mill at Wahgunyah in 1858. (The mill operated until 1941 and was burnt down in 1956.) Foord replaced the punt with a toll bridge and went on to be known by locals as the Emperor of Wahgunyah. A school was opened in 1858 and a police station in 1859. Wahgunyah was first reached by a river boat in 1853 and became a river port for the district. The discovery of gold at Rutherglen (first called Wahgunyah Rush) in 1860 brought population and increased river trade. Boats from Wahgunyah carried goods and passengers to Echuca (for connecting rail service to Melbourne when the line was opened in 1864), and beyond Echuca to South Australia.
Despite Wahgunyah's transport function, it was overtaken by Rutherglen and Chiltern because of their gold-mining, viticulture and subsequent direct railway connection with Melbourne and Wodonga (1873). A branch line from Springhurst to Wahgunyah was opened in 1879.
The wine cellars mentioned in 1903 are All Saints and St. Leonards. The All Saints Winery was begun by George Sutherland Smith in 1864 on sandy river flats two kilometres north of Wahgunyah. The winery is surrounded with turreted castle walls (1880) and is on the Australian and Victorian historic buildings registers. St. Leonards winery (1866) is also adjacent to the river.
Wahgunyah's population has increased during the 1980s. It has a primary school, two churches, the Uncle Toby (Tobey?) food-processing factory, grain sheds, a hotel, two motels, sports clubs and Lake Moodemere, four kilometres to the south. A customs house (1886) in Foord Street is on both historic buildings registers. Wahgunyah is the terminus of a railway line, now confined to freight. It is joined by bridge to Corowa, a larger town with the advantage of poker machines until the machines were introduced to Victoria in the early 1990s.
Wahgunyah's census populations have been 225 (1861), 809 (1891), 596 (1933) and 373 (1967). Its estimated population in 1992 was 600.
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