History

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Leeton is the birthplace of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and was purposely built as part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme.

Being 1,1672 kilometres in size, Leeton Shire includes the towns of Yanco and Whitton and the villages of Murrami and Wamoon.

Leeton was designed by Sir Walter Burley Griffin – who also designed the national capital Canberra.

Thirty five buildings in the town are listed with the Australian Institute of Architects’ Register of Significant 20th Century Buildings, including the landmark Roxy Theatre, which has been screening movies since the 1930s.

Leeton

Leeton is located in the country of the Wiradjuri nation.

Leeton, unlike most country towns, did not develop around a local pub, supply store or railway station. It was purposely built as part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme.

The Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) was developed through the foresight of the Water Conservation and Irrigation Conference, which was chaired by Charles Alfred Lee in 1905 and initiated the construction of Burrinjuck Dam.

The first buildings to be erected in Leeton in 1911/12 were the offices of the employees of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Trust (with control later transferred to the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission). Many businesses were created during the 1920’s and 30’s which has left the Shire with a legacy of many beautiful Art Deco style buildings.

After World War II there was an increase in Italian immigration to Australia. Many of the newcomers were experienced farmers so were drawn to the Leeton area. Those that prospered were able to sponsor family and friends to migrate, resulting in a high population of people with Italian heritage in Leeton.

Yanco

The town of Yanco, located 5kms from the Leeton CBD, came into existence when the railway line was extended from Narrandera to Hay. The railway arrived in the area in 1881.

Yanco is the home of the 'Father of Irrigation', Sir Samuel McCaughey, who demonstrated the viability of irrigation in the region. On his 'North Yanko' farm, 16,187 hectares were irrigated using around 320km of channels drawing from the Murrumbidgee River with steam driven pumps.

It wasn’t until the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme was proposed that the town began to take shape. The Yanco Experiment Farm, now called Yanco Agricultural Institute, was developed in 1908 to determine what could be grown in the area.

Whitton

The historic township of Whitton, 24kms west of Leeton, was established in 1881 on the South Western Railway from Junee to Hay to connect the valuable western Riverina wool trade to Sydney.

Opened as ‘Hulong’, after the Pastoral Run to the west, the Railway Station was renamed in 1883 by the SRA. They predicted that the future town to grow around the station would become an important regional centre and the new name would be a good way to remember John Whitton, the Chief Engineer of Railways NSW since 1857.

During the 1880s-1900s period, the Whitton Railway Station received wool and wheat from Pastoral Stations north towards the Lachlan River mainly around Cargelligo and Euabalong. Copper ingots were also carried to Whitton Station by horse or bullock teams from Mt. Hope until 1910. Whitton was the main town for Selectors on Nth Kooba, Nth Benerembah and Nth Bringagee Pastoral Stations from 1885 until c1918. ‘Whitton District’ extended from Mt. Ida (Tabbita), Jondaryon (Griffith), Rankin’s Springs and Binya until railways reached those areas.

People from this wide area were drawn to Whitton for the Railway Station (wheat, wool, copper ingots, livestock, passengers, mail and shop supplies), A.J.S Bank (1889-1910), Postal and Telegraphic services, a variety of shops, hotels and a Rabbit Meat Canning Factory (1897-1906). Whitton also hosted community groups such as the Farmers and Settlers Association and the Riverine Carriers' Union during its colonial era.

A series of fires from 1892 to 1927 destroyed many of the original Colonial style wooden buildings. Art Deco style buildings replaced these, some of which remain today.