Doug Finlayson and Brian Rhynehart
European settlers pushed out from Sydney in the early 19th century in search of new pastures for stock and in 1820 Joseph Wild, James Vaughn and Charles Throsby Smith crossed from Lake George to a camp on the banks of the Molonglo River near Pialligo. In their subsequent report to authorities in Sydney they commented favourably on the pasture. The next year Charles Throsby explored the area further and found the Murrumbidgee River; he also reported limestone outcrops suitable for making building mortar which resulted in the region being called Limestone Plains.
In 1824 Joshua John Moore took up a land grant and called his property on Acton Peninsula “Canberry”. In 1825 Robert Campbell sent James Ainslie with a flock of sheep from Yass to establish a property that is now called “Duntroon”. There were subsequent European settlers on the Limestone Plains.
1848 map of Murray County showing the Murrumbidgee River western boundary.
In 1835 Charles Sturt, in part as a reward for his exploration of the region, was granted land in Murray County and he called the property “The Grange”. He subsequently sold the property to Charles Campbell (son of Robert Campbell) in 1838. In 1850 Charles Campbell had a stone house built and renamed the property “Belconon”. That house on “Belconnen Farm” still stands today; it is within the boundaries of the ACT.
In 1840 Thomas and Eliza Southwell and their two children settled on Ginninderra Creek calling their property “Palmerville”. In 1854 Thomas purchased more land and renamed the property “Parkwood”. The homestead is still occupied today. Thomas build a wooden slab Wesleyan Church near his homestead in 1863; this was subsequently replaced in 1880 by a fine stone church that still stands today (Belconnen Community Council, 2011).
Crucial to the establishment of rural grazing properties was the reliability of water supply across the whole of the upper Murrumbidgee River catchment area. For the last 150 years the area has been used mostly as grazing country but in recent years vineyards have been planted, quarrying has been conducted and an urban recycling centre has degraded the public amenity and visual impact.
Heritage listed “Belconon” homestead built by Charles Campbell in 1850.