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Irrigation Heritage

Curlwaa Irrigation History
Dareton Irrigation History
Pomona Irrigation History
The Wentworth Fruit Growers Association
Road Names

Wentworth irrigation grapes

Naming the Settlement – Curlwaa

In 1908 the settlers on the Wentworth Irrigation Area discussed another name. Abbottsford was the only one mentioned.  This was generally favoured and agreed to be suitable.  Because of the punt it was quite common to see and hear “going to Abbottsford” – ‘at Abbottsford’, but the matter lapsed.

In 1911 when the Mildura Co-operative branch was to be opened, Walter Sage, the settler’s representative and Mr. Hawke, the manager of the Co-op agreed that the name apart from m Wentworth was necessary if the local produce was to be branded. Three names were submitted: – Valetta, Orana and Curlwa. The latter an Aboriginal name for native peach, indigenous to the area, the Quandong tree.

Quandong fruit bears little resemblance to peach fruit, except the stone is rough, but it was known as the native peach.

Mrs. Ivy Page tells of quandong trees on sandy ridges, and picking the fruit.  The children also gathered cranberries from the bushes low on the ground. Both fruits are excellent for pies.

Curlwa was chosen, having the advantage of being unique. It had to be approved by the postal authorities. The settlement by Act was Wentworth Irrigation Area – gradually it became Wentworth Irrigation Area (Curlwaa). It is not recorded who slipped the second A in. Dried fruit was branded ‘CURLWAA’.

Perhaps residents could grow a Quandong tree? They are parasitic in their growth, outback people say even a kikuya root will do as a foster mother, it is not true that the stone has to pass through an emu to germinate, heat generated by leaf mould does just as well, and is less trouble.

Helen Ball, who came to Church Road in 1908, and planted the tall palm, said that people were disappointed that the Aboriginal name Tuckers Creek was not chosen for the area, Tchilltaullcurra. The creek connected the two great rivers, encircling the area, it seemed very suitable. Ivy Page confirmed the story. The authorities turned it down. Just as well for poor spellers. It was pronounced CHILTACURRA.

Wentworth irrigation grapes 6

Dareton Irrigation History

Dareton is the centre of the Coomealla Irrigation Area, best known for its superior dried fruit and wine grapes.

The irrigation area was once known as ‘Nine Mile’ and owes its existence, in part, to the visionary ‘The Million Farms’ scheme that flourished following World War One. The cornerstone for Coomealla’s ambitious horticultural development was laid in 1922, when Murray Lands Advisory Committee members inspected the area and recommended an irrigation scheme be established.

The town is named for Water Conservation and Irrigation Commissioner Henry Harvey Dare, a staunch proponent of the proposal.

It was his report to the Cabinet Committee on Land Development and Settlement that is generally held to have prompted the advisory committee inspection, tipping the scales in favour of the initiative.

Pioneering families sowed the seeds of irrigated horticulture here in the mid-to-late 1920s, but it was the influx of soldier-settlers following World War Two, under the auspices of the War Services Land Settlement Scheme, that supplied the impetus for rapid growth and development.

They came and conquered, transforming the bush landscape into a neat cross hatch pattern of flourishing vineyards and orchards, literally carving out a prosperous future by hard work and sweat.

Today Dareton, and the surrounding Coomealla Irrigation District, are together a thriving horticultural showpiece renowned for quality products.

It is also home to the renowned Coomealla Memorial Sporting Club and a Mecca for freshwater fishermen while boasting one of the most picturesque championship golf courses in the country.

Wentworth irrigation grapes

Pomona Irrigation History

Pomona takes it name from the largest island of the Orkney Group, to the north of Scotland, between John O’Groats and the Shetland Isles.

Originally known as ‘Seven Mile Point’, the district became Pomona, taking its name from a farm holding in the area owned by former Wentworth stalwart and Mayor, John Dunn. His wife, Catherine (nee Muir) was Pomona Island born.

The Dunns arrived in Wentworth in 1876 and John went on to become a community leader and important businessman. He is also thought to be Sunraysia’s first winemaker, producing his debut drop in the late 1880s. There is no report of how it tasted!

On his selection, comprising rich, alluvial river soils, his predominant experiment was with orchard and vine irrigation, drawing his water from the Darling River and following in the footsteps of the Canadian Chaffey Brothers in Mildura.

It was success!

The Darling River Irrigation Company purchased Pomona Farm in 1910, instigating the first extensive irrigation development.

The company developed stone fruit and citrus orchards as well as vines. Perhaps the project was not as successful as expected, or maybe the owners wanted recoup their investment, but a decision was made to subdivide Pomona into smaller blocks and sell them off. This was about 1919. The development was after known as the Pomona Irrigation Estate.

The original Estate comprised about 500 hectares (1228 acres) divided into 20-hectare (50 acre) blocks. It was described by the press at the time as “an oasis of cultivation in the desert flats of the Darling”.

The smaller holdings flourished, but the 1920s were turbulent times and legal wrangles over vital irrigation water supplies took their toll. Development came to a standstill.

Eventually these challenges were overcome when, in the early 1930s, the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission stepped in. Representing the State Government, the Commission formed the Pomona Irrigation Trust to ensure equitable water supplies for all.

With water entitlements assured by Government control, the area went ahead in leaps and bounds.

Today it is a cohesive community, proud of its pioneering irrigation history while being at the forefront of modern practice.

Coomealla Fruit Co-operative

The Wentworth Fruit Growers Association

This was the name of the Fruit growers Association until 1917, when Mr. Wilkinson moved it to be changed to Curlwaa Fruit growers Association. In 1921 Bert Midgley moved that the name be changed to Curlwaa Fruit growers Progress Association. These days it seems to be FGA by common usage.

The Road Names

Roads were so appalling in the early days; they did not get a name. Tracks were called after the Gates. These were in the fences that surround the settlement. One gate was called Lord’s Gate, not named after the Almighty, but R.E Lord, and there was the Pumps Gate.

The road from the Post Office at Curlwaa to Wentworth became known as Creek Road, it was completed by the Wentworth Council in 1915. The fruit growers planned call it Grahame’s Road, after the Minister for Agriculture at the opening of the School ceremony. This function which was planned with a very imposing guest list did not seem to take place. Creek Road became James Highway, this because Mick James had a contract to reform the road and took so long about it. Now officially Delta Road. From the Silver City Highway to the Post Office, the beginning of Delta Road was to be Scobie Road, after Mr. Scobie MLA, he did a lot for the settlement during his term of office and had dies in 1917.

Church Road was to be Sage’s Road; Memorial Road was originally Boyd’s Road, after the first settler. Channel Road they planned to call Abbotts Crescent, very suburban. Syndicate Road has had that name since 1911 when Lot 10 was owned by C. A. Arnold, H. B. Crang and W. Chilvers-Hall, Arnold and Coy, A Block of land with many owners, used for growing Lucerne until H. J. Robinson planted trees.

Present road names were chosen when it became difficult to find people, and Cr. L. B. O’Donnell was asked to name them with some local representatives. Ken Wall was one. They were mainly named from landmarks. Bamboo Road for instance got its name from a large clump of bamboos in front of the Lush Property. Neither the family nor the bamboos are there now. Creek road was to be called Billabong Road (section 15) as it followed the line of the old Horseshoe Billabong, the residents did not approve of such a name so Creek and Billabong reversed places.

The Commission in 1918 favoured using Aboriginal names to complement Curlwaa, the settlers of the time did not appreciate the idea, so there was just a protracted stalemate. The Silver City Highway was generally known as Abbottsford road. Some bridge specifications were spelt Abbotsford, the reason for the spelling confusion. The Abbott name had two T’s. There were several Abbots Fords back in England where Abbot crossed a stream to reach his monastery.

Contact the Wentworth Historical Society for more information

 

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