The Upper Murray
“The Man From Snowy River” country
of North-Eastern Victoria & Southern NSW
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Tooma

Tooma…indigenous for 'large gum tree' Dr. Thomas Bell (Maragle 1839) and Sir James Garland (Tooma 1839) were amongst the first to take out grazing leases in the Tooma and Maragle districts. These men, like many other early Upper Murray squatters, used these properties as outstations, managed by overseers. By 1848 Garland and his business partner Mair purchased the Maragle lease. In the 1850s the first flour mill in the Upper Murray commenced operation near the present day Tooma village. The mill was driven by a water wheel on the Tumbarumba Creek, once known as Little River. It was operated by a man employed by squatters Mair and Garland and was sited below the present day 'Coonara' homestead. The mill was still operating in 1865 but the equipment was later transferred, by miller Mr. John Seaton, to a site beside the Thowgla Creek near Corryong sometime before 1885. In 1862, the Tooma & Maragle properties were transferred to (Sir) John Hay and his business partner, Arthur Dight. This partnership owned over 65,000 acres of land in the Upper Murray, including 15,560 acres at Tooma and 49,640 acres at Maragle.
The land selection acts of the early 1860s created opportunities for more people to own small sections of the squatters' leasehold land. The choices made by selectors were not always good and many a family struggled to support themselves on small rough bush blocks. Some people ventured to Tooma for  local deposits of gold, especially after the Kiandra gold rush of 1860 in the nearby Snowy Mountains. Though gold remained elusive, some miners found rubies and sapphires, albeit in small quantities.
By 1875 about twelve families lived within three miles of Tooma village. Early surnames included  Maginnity, Sheather, Hargreaves, Donelan, Griffiths, Blomley, Woods, Baker, McCallum and Walker. Around this time the Tooma Hotel,  the first General Store (1878) and a school was built. The Tooma Post Office, which officially opened on 1 January 1873, eventually operated from the general store, located on the western side of the Tumbarumba Creek. By then, mail delivery to the village occurred twice a week. Later in the nineteenth century a blacksmith workshop and the first church, both of which no longer exist, were also built. In 1910 the large Tooma and Maragle stations were purchased by Germaine McMicking, who promptly subdivided and sold the land.  Amongst the new owners were Harry Watson, who bought Tooma Station, the Bullivant Brothers, who purchased Maragle Station, Frank Paton, who purchased Coonara, and David Maginnity who purchased 420 acres, including the Tooma Hotel and the general store. Other properties such as Possum Point, Kooyong, Gravel's Point and Brookland were also purchased at this time. A proposal to construct a rail line from Tumbarumba to Welaregang was seriously considered in the 1910s and was surveyed along the
Mannus Creek via Tooma Station to Welaregang. The vision was to join the rail line at Tintaldra, once it was extended from Cudgewa. Rail construction, however, did not proceed as mechanised vehicles and road improvements made a rail option economically inviable. The next wave of population increase to the area came after World War 2, when 2410 acres of Tooma Station and all 14,570 acres of Maragle were acquired for soldier resettlement farms. View of the Tooma village from Tooma Road. Allotted by ballot, the average size of Maragle blocks were 1040 acres and the average size of Tooma blocks were 344 acres in size. It is reported that twenty one new families came to the area as a result of this ballot. The Tooma Services Memorial Hall was built on six acres of recreation reserve provided when Tooma Station soldier settlement blocks were surveyed in 1948. Financed by community fund-raising and built by Jack Cairns, Benny Burgemaster and local volunteers, the Hall was officially opened on 4 September 1953. Cattle and sheep grazing, dairying and grass seed production remain the major agricultural industries of the Tooma and Maragle valleys today.