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Robert Brown
First European settler of what is now Albury, NSW
Submitted by
Scott Brown


"When I settled down nearly under the Shadeless tree on which Mr Hume carved the name Hume River on November 17 1824, I could little imagine that so rapid a transformation would take place in a few short years, my only companions a few blacks, the kangaroo, the emu, the native dog. Now Albury can boast of it's newspapers, fine buildings, steam mills, its churches, bank, court house, etc."
- ROBERT BROWN writing in 1857

Robert Brown was the first white man to settle on the site of present day Albury, although Hume & Hovell had discovered the site in 1824.He arrived in 1836, a few months after the first settlers "squatted" on either side of the river where Albury-Wodonga now stands. It was the same year that Major Thomas Mitchell explored Western Victoria, re-crossing the Murray at Howlong, unaware settlement had begun 32km upstream some months earlier.

Nearly 12 years had passed since Hume & Hovell had explored the region. The long delay between discovery and settlement was due to the governors of New South Wales (which included what is now Victoria) forbade settlement outside the "Nineteen Counties" around Sydney. No land could be bought or sold, there were no roads and no Police protection. Despite official disapproval, there was a gradual surge southwards by squatters searching for new pastures. After 1836, the governors grudgingly granted licences to settle.

In 1836 William Wyse was sent by Thomas Ebden to select a run at the Crossing Place near where Albury, NSW, stands today. He called it Mungabareena. Later in 1836 Paul Huon selected the Wodonga Run near Wodonga Creek closely followed by his brothers Charles and Aime, who selected adjoining properties. Their brother-in-law, Robert Brown came with the Huons and built a hut and store near the Hovell Tree in 1838. He in turn brought his parents and two sisters, Mary and Eleanor who married Charles and Aime Huon. The family was completed when the Huons widowed sister, Elizabeth Mitchell and her ten children were settled on the original Mungabareena Run in 1839.

Albury and Wodonga grew from these families. They built simple bark huts with slab walls, bark roofs and log chimneys. In 1838, Robert Brown built the first dwelling in Albury (a slab hut) near the Hovell tree - the one marked by the explorers (Hume & Hovell) as they passed in 1824. Albury was gazetted as a town in 1839. In 1839 it was noted that mail for areas outside of Albury was deposited with Robert Brown. The letter rate from Albury to Sydney was 11d. The cluster of huts multiplied, and a hotel for travellers was built nearby (on the site now occupied by the Turks Head Museum). By 1844 Robert Brown had provided the forerunner of the present Union Bridge: the most primitive of punts ... hauled people across the water. The charge was 1 pound for a horse and dray.

Soon after the first land sales, Robert Brown built brick additions to his slab hut, which became the Hume River Inn - Albury's first hotel. A Mr Edward Crisp (who had a wheelwright business in Townsend Street) bought the Hume Inn from Robert Brown and changed the punt rate to 16 shillings for a horse and dray. Brown, in 1845, took up a pastoral run called 'Collendina', about 30 miles downriver from Albury. His interest in the town, however, was unflagging and his zeal for the support of worthy causes unremitting.

The enterprising Mr Brown who had established a vegetable garden on the river flats and produced the first district oranges, is also credited with having grown the first stand of wheat.

Robert Brown died on the 19 of February 1789 in Corowa, NSW.

Sources:-
GV Lawrence and GK Smith (Eds), 'The Book of the Murray' , Rigby, 1975, pp 111-112. (ISBN 0 85179 917.5)
WA Bayley, 'Border City: History of Albury', Albury City Council, Albury, 1976
Parts of this page are from AnyPoint Australia


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Last modified: May 20, 2006