An early history of Moss Vale, written by prolific district historian AVJ 'Jack' Parry, was serialised in the Southern Mail during 1948. Extracts continue here.
"Research so far has not indicated the actual date when settlement may be said to have actually commenced in the private township of Moss Vale. Subject to the accuracy of his memory, however, a pioneer of the district, the late Joseph Lansdowne's recollections, published in the Scrutineer of May 16, 1903, may be taken as casting authoritative light on the point. Lansdowne, who reached the colony in 1839, arrived in Moss Vale on May 9, 1853, and he said that at that time the settlement had only five buildings, built of bark and slabs, and 'poor at that,' whilst the total number of men, women and children living there was 27 or 28.
Lansdowne continued that he had helped to garner many a good load of wheat and oaten hay from land between where the Wesleyan Church and the Royal Hotel stood in 1903. Only three habitations existed between there and Sutton Forest: Handcock's, Byrne's, and the old Parsonage, and most of the land was thick bush, whilst he remembered seeing the land where the Scrutineer office stood in 1903 'under splendid crop'.
Lansdowne, incidentally, settled in 1855 on a small farm a short distance below the town on what was later known as Waite's Creek. He gave an interesting commentary on the vagaries of travel in the pioneer days. It was necessary, he said, to go to Berrima over a bush track, which he, personally, cut over what was in 1903 known as Morrice's hill, then a dense scrub, and there board the mail coach and, after 15 or 20 hours rough riding, arrive in Sydney nearly worn out and unfit to do any business.
The generally accepted version of the origin of the name Moss Vale is that it sprang from an early settler, Jemmy Moss, who thus named his property near the present railway station, and that the name was certainly established by May 1864, when it appeared in an advertisement for a land sale. The value of land in 1867 may be gauged from the fact that town lots offered in a sub-division in June that year realised 31 pounds each. Considerable impetus was lent to the progress of the Moss Vale district with the opening of the railway to Sutton Forest (as the railway station was originally known) on December 2, 1867, and in this connection the following letter is of interest.
Written by Richard Roberts, from Roberton Park, dated June 24, 1867, it reads: 'My dear Sir, I spoke to the Minister for Works in reference to the erection of yards etc for shipping cattle by rail, he seems inclined to comply with our request, the question now is, which is the best position for them, Mittagong or Moss Vale, considering that Moss Vale is the centre of the grasing (sic) district and paddocks for stock are available, such not being the case at Mittagong. I am in favour of erecting the yards at Moss Vale but of course will give way if the majority think they ought to be at Mittagong. Therefore, if you will write me a letter requesting me to bring the matter before the Minister for Works accompanied by a sketch of the proposed yards. I have no doubt the yards will be erected shortly'. The letter was addressed to John Badgery Esq, Ivy Hall, Sutton Forest. Research to date has not revealed how the question was determined.
The amenities brought by the railway quickly developed the township to such an extent that in 1877 the railway station was renamed Moss Vale (which name the Post Office already bore) to avoid confusion with the adjacent village of Sutton Forest.
Another matter of interest in connection with railway matters is the statement by Ransome Wyatt in his 'History of Goulburn', that gas was first used for lighting railway carriages on the southern line on May 16, 1879, being made from tallow forced into cylinders at 100 lbs to the square inch, and that footwarmers were first supplied in carriages in 1880. According to a contemporary newspaper report, the railway refreshment rooms, which had been transferred from Mittagong, were formally opened with a banquet and ball on Friday, December 19, 1890, whilst another source states that they commenced to function at Moss Vale on January 1, 1891."
- Berrima District Historical & Family History Society - compiled by PD Morton. Part 2 of a 6-part series. To be continued.