Situated 190km north of Melbourne CBD, Shepparton is a regional town in Victoria, in the City of Greater Shepparton. It is in the floodplain of Goulburn River. Shepparton’s main industries are agriculture and associated manufacturing, and it is home to Australia’s largest processor of canned fruits, SPC Australia.
Shepparton, like the rest of Australia has a history of nearly 40,000 years of aboriginal occupation. Since Shepparton’s aboriginal history not documented, history enthusiasts probably could be missing many thousands of years of tribal warfare stories. The aboriginal name for Shepparton was ”Kanny Goopna”, which means the place in the river where big fish are caught.
The aboriginal Panggerang tribe were the early occupants of the Shepparton area. The tribe can be further divided into eight or ten subgroups and Goulburn river remained their main source of food. The limited knowledge now we possess about the lifestyle of these tribes came from the writings of early squatters like Edward Micklethwaite Curr, whose squatting runs were in the Goulburn valley.
Explorers, Hamilton Hume and William Hovel passed through the area in 1824 and crossed Goulburn River near Cathkin. Goulburn river was named by Hovel after Major Frederick Goulburn, then Colonial Secretary of Britain. Major Mitchell passed through the vicinity of Shepparton in 1836. Squatters John Gardiner, Joseph Hawdon and John Hepburn passed through the Goulburn Valley in the same year looking for greener pastures which took them to South Australia. A cairn suitably inscribed was erected at Victoria Park in Shepparton as a testimony to the early squatters.
On 18th August 1953, Argus published an article named ‘’Paddy McGuire monopolist Rascal who built a city’’. The article goes as follows, ‘’ It has to be admitted that Shepparton’s population was not always as reputable as it is now. If we are to believe reports written about him at the time, he was downright disreputable. His name was Paddy McGuire, He owned a bark hut called an inn, and, having been fleeced by the high cost of crossing the Goulburn in his punt, travellers were again fleeced overnight in his inn. The second building in Shepparton also was an inn, which had a reputation little better, so it is not surprising that the third building was a police station. Even that was not above reproach, for we read that on January 27, 1855, the lock-up accommodated two male prisoners, and that “the lock-up is totally unfit for public service, and not safe, though four prisoners were confined therein during the last week.” In the early years of settlement Shepparton was known as McGuire’s Punt.
Shepparton was occupied as a sheep and cattle station as squatters settled in the area in 1840’s. Edward Kuhl’s 160,000-acre Tallygaroopna ( aboriginal name for Big Tree), Gregor McGregor’s 80,000-acre Arcadia and James Cowper’s Ardpatrick were the early runs in the near vicinity of today’s Shepparton.
In the 1840’s Tallygaroopna run was the largest run in Murray District. It was situated on the banks of Goulburn river adjoining Shepparton on the north east. Khull built a slab hut here which still exits. When the Tallygaroopna run was abandoned by Khull in 1843, it was taken up by an Irishman named Sherbourne Sheppard, who arrived in Australia in 1841 in clipper ‘’Red Jacket’’. After a few years probably in 1848, Sheppard left for England. Before leaving for England, Sheppard owed some money to his stock agent Henry Arthur Smith which he forgot to pay. He returned to Melbourne in 1852,only to find that his stock agent had sold all his property and stock to recover the debt. Smith had the right to sell his stock to recover the debt but didn’t have the right to sell the leasehold on Tallygaroopna. With his two friends John Purcell and Albert Soeuf and enlisting another Irishman named Jimmy O Brien sheppard set off for his run. When they arrived at the station, the overseer and the swede in charge of the run shouted at him saying they are armed and if attempt was made for a forced entry, they would fire. After causing some destruction Sheppard and friends took over the property and the stock there. The new owner Khull took legal proceedings against him and three separate cases were heard in the civil sittings of Supreme Court. Sheppard though got his leasehold back, ended up paying around £1300 in fines.
In 1855, Sheppard again left for Ireland and there on 15th November 1855 married Sophia Were, the daughter of J.B.Were, who was one of the famous personalities of Melbourne in those years. The Tallagaroopna was managed by his friend Albert Souef during his absence and later the property was sub-divided into the Tallygaroopna and Katandra runs. Sheppard then sold the Katandra run to Charles Ryan and Tallygaroopna to Hugh Glass in 1852. After marrying Sophia Were, Sheppard joined his father in law’s business and mostly lived in Melbourne.
The first survey of Shepparton township was done by Surveyor J G W Wilmot in 1855. John Downey did a survey of the town in 1864 which was not completed. By 1864, Shepparton had three permanent structures and a population of 30. Government Contract Surveyor Alfred Leahy arrived in Shepparton in 1873 with his wife and completed survey of the township in 1874. Leahy also purchased 845-acre area of land immediately north of Knight Street and built a house which was known as Shepparton Park.
Goulburn river was crossed at two punts on those days, one at Shepparton and other at Mooroopna. The punt at Shepparton was operated by Pat McGuire and today’s Shepparton was then known as McGuire’s Punt. The punt served the diggers heading for Gold towns and it triggered the birth of a small settlement around this area. Until 1855, Shepparton was known as McGuire’s Punt and it assumed the name Sheppard’s Town after Sherbourne Sheppard, and it was slightly changed to Sheppardton and later to Shepparton. In its early days travelling to Melbourne from Shepparton was a time-consuming difficult task. Until 1864, travellers to Melbourne travelled in drays or horseback until Avenel and from there took Sydney – Melbourne Coach. From the 1870’s steamers took over the Goulburn river for transporting men and material. From 1878 onwards, Cobb and Co coaches started regular service from Violet town, Echuca, Seymour and Benalla.
The Melbourne Essendon Railway Company opened the first section of Tocumwal railway line aka Shepparton line from North Melbourne to Essendon in 1860. After the Victorian Government takeover of the Railways in 1867, it was extended to Tallarook and Mangalore in 1872. In 1880, it was extended to Shepparton ending Shepparton’s travel woes.
Shepparton was part of the Echuca Road District and in 1871 Shire of Echuca was formed of which Shepparton was a part of. Shire of Shepparton was incorporated on 30th May 1879. The first President of Shire of Shepparton was Cr George Graham. The town of Grahamvale in the local Government area of City of Greater Shepparton is named after him in recognition of his services to the region. Shepparton’s growth as a regional town began from this period.
Another name synonymous with Shepparton is ‘Furphy’. John Hare Furphy arrived in Shepparton in 1873 and after a few years founded a foundry. Furphy made water carts and Furphy water carts became popular during World War I as it were extensively used by Australian troops. Furphy’s watercarts had a capacity of 180 gallons. Initially it carried a slogan which read, ‘’Born 1880 and still going strong’’. In 1895 he added another slogan in his carts,
‘’Good, better, best
Never let it rest,
Till your good is better
And your better best’’
John Furphy’s brother Joseph Furphy was the author of the book, ‘’Such is Life’’.
On 18th April 1884, south eastern section of the Shire of Shepparton was split to form Shire of South Shepparton and on 11th September 1885, Shire of Shepparton was renamed as Numurkah. On 2nd July 1886, the shire of South Shepparton was renamed as Shire of Shepparton. By the 1890’s Shepparton had four banks, Post and Telegraph Office, a Shire hall and many well-known businesses.
On 23 December 1903, Devenish Riding of the Shire of Benalla (Dookie) was added to Shire of Shepparton and on 24th May 1911, part of the South Riding of Shire of Euroa (Kialla Riding) became part of Shire of Shepparton. On 31st May 1927, the Shepparton Riding was severed from the shire and became a borough which became the City of Shepparton in 1949. City of Greater Shepparton came to existence on 18th November 1994.
Like the rest of Victoria, the Land Acts introduced in 1860, 1862, 1865 and 1869 made a gradual shift in land ownership from squatters to selectors in Shepparton. Smaller farms came into existence and more people started settling in the region. For the newly established farms, getting water for farming activities remained a pestering issue during drought seasons.
Water Conservation Acts introduced in 1881 by Minister of Water Supply, Alfred Deakin paved way for the establishment of The Shepparton Waterworks Trust in 1882. In 1891 Goulburn Weir was built. As the infrastructure to irrigate farms were built, farmers were making change from crops to orchards for long term sustainability.
In 1905, Victorian Minister of Water Supply, George Swinburn, introduced a legislation which established State Rivers and Water Supply Commission. The push was for closer settlement and intensive land use by irrigation. Waranga Dam of which construction began in 1905, was completed in 1915 as a part of the Goulburn River Irrigation System. State Rivers and Water Supply Commission was given control of closer settlement, along with the subdivision of land for irrigated holdings. It resulted in settlement of 3,200 acres in Grahamvale. In 1912 and was followed by a 6,000 acres settlement of former wheat and gracing area which became known as Orrvale and Shepparton East.
Due to the availability of water through irrigation, by the first decade of 1900, fruit production in Goulburn Valley has increased many folds. Shepparton Fruit Preservation Company (SPC) came into existence in 1918. Today known as Shepparton Partners Collective, trading as SPC Australia and formerly SPC Ardmona, owns and operates a canning factory in Shepparton.
In 1928, a decision was made to construct an artificial lake on grazing swampland at the city centre to generate much needed employment during The Depression. 1929, Victoria Park Lake constructed and filled with Goulburn River water.
Post-World War II migration helped increase the region’s population and most migrants in the early years came from southern Europe. The focus was on housing shortages and slum reclamation. Council purchased an area near Hays Street and sold to Housing Commission, where it built 50 houses. By 1955, Housing Commission built more than a thousand houses in Shepparton.
Post war migration saw Shepparton’s population doubling during this period which made it necessary for more services and a better township to serve the needs of the people. The City of Shepparton Planning Scheme 1953 was approved by Governor -in – Council on 17th May 1955.
In the 1990’s La Trobe’s Shepparton Campus came into existence. The University of Melbourne’s Rural Health course relocated teaching facilities to Shepparton around the same time. Today Shepparton is a beautiful regional town of Victoria with a growing tourism industry and gradually increasing population.
Goulburn Valley Stock and Property Journal (Vic. : 1916 – 1942) Wed 12 Oct 1938 Page 31 Life Story of Shepparton Pioneer
On Mc Guire’s Punt – A profile of Shepparton from Squatting to Solar City 1838 – 1988 by Ron Michael.
CITY OF GREATER SHEPPARTON HERITAGE STUDY STAGE II HERITAGE OVERLAY PRECINCTS by Allom Lovell & Associates Conservation Architects