Wyalong (and West Wyalong) lies about 375kms due west of Sydney in the centre of NSW, in a low flood plain along the Bland Creek about half way between the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan rivers. It is about 266m above sea level.
Its traditional inhabitants were the Wiradjuri people of the 'Lachlan' tribes. The Wiradjuri roamed over a large area in the west and south of the state and had a reputation of being a warlike peoples.
The first Europeans to visit the area were the explorers John Oxley and Allan Cunningham who travelled north of the area on a expedition of exploration in 1817 to trace the Lachlan River. They travelled east of Ungarie, near Yalgogrin, Weethalle and on to near Rankins Springs where their path was blocked by vast marshes. Oxley gained the impression the land was worthless (covered in mallee scrub) and that it possibly bordered an inland sea.
History was to prove him wrong on both accounts, the soil of the floodplains later proving suitable for grazing and cultivation.
With the opening up of the inland to settlement it was not long before the first squatters arrived in the area, taking up huge runs for cattle after 1833. The name of one of these - The Blands - later became the name for the region and shire.
Sheep, especially merino were introduced from 1852 on. Shearing sheds were built on large on large stations, the wool carted by bullock train to Young railhead and later Temora and Forbes. The first mechanical shearers were introduced to the Bland in 1887, and anthrax vaccine in the 1890s. Later crossbreeds were bred for mutton and the area profited by the rabbit industry after the plagues of the 1880s.
Eucalyptus oil, from the Blue Mallee, became a major industry up until 1907, by which stage the land had been largely cleared. Only about 200 acres remain today in state forests.
Wheat was originally farmed north of Wyalong in Hiawatha (now Calleen), the land cleared by bullocks. Wheat growing expanded in 1911 with the subdivision of the Lake Cowal region, and with later improvements, and access to rail to markets, became a major agricultural resource, as it remains today.
By 1885 over 850,000 acres were under lease or occupation, making it impossible for smaller landholdings as planned for in the Robertson Land Acts of the 1860s.
Closer settlement only came with the discovery of gold in 1893 by Joseph Neeld. This was much later than the great gold rushes of the 1850s, but the Wyalong fields soon attracted up to 10,000 people seeking their fortune.
Small businesses followed in their wake (what we would call today 'service industries'), mostly gathered around the main strikes at West Wyalong.
Life on the goldfields was 'wild and woolly', as the saying goes - the government being slow to catch up with the sudden appearance of a new settllement. A local Progress Association was formed to try and bring some local planning and order.
Finally a town was surveyed by the government surveyor, J. Richmond in 1894. Wyalong was chosen as being not on the goldfields, and on healthier higher ground - some 422 acres bounded by todays Barmedman Rd, North St, Copeland St, South St, Oak St & part of Cassin St. Richmond was right, as West Wyalong was later notorious for being infested with plague and yellow fever.
Wyalong Police Station and Lockup (1897) - now a private residence.
(For the further story of gold and later development of the towns see West Wyalong.)
The name Wyalong was chosen as the name for the government town from the name of an original run and the parish. 120 buildings were erected within 2 months and imposing official buildings - a Public School (1894), police residence and lockup (1897), Court House (1900, replacing original 1894), Post Office (1900 - replacing the original post & telegraph office of 1894) and one of the first telephone exchanges in the state.
Wyalong was declared a municipality in 1899 and a Council Chambers erected in 1902.
Significant private buildings include the Queensland Hotel (1894 - now the Top Town Tavern), Commercial Hotel, and Wyalong House (1895), the first brick home in Wyalong built by the pioneering Neeld family, discoverers of most gold deposits in the area and long time city fathers.
All of these buildings are still standing and can be seen on an historic walk around Wyalong, together with evidence of commercial activity in the early C20th (now empty shops - before most relocated to West Wyalong).
Despite the best intentions of government planners, relationship between the two townships was often acrimonious: some members of the original Progress Association moved their activities to West Wyalong and succeeded in having that township laid out in 1895, and it was that town to later prosper with the demise of gold by 1912 and the growth of agriculture in the area.
The railway, first applied for in 1894, did not come until 1903 and when it did the station was placed to the east and between the towns (called Central Wyalong in 1908). Like most country towns, passenger trains no longer run, the line here now being used to transport wheat.
Most development in the C20th took place in West Wyalong - retail shops, banks, churches, government offices and instrumentalities. In 1936 Wyalong Municipal Council merged with Bland Shire Council.
Today Wyalong is like a sleepy suburb near the town centre, its former public buildings mostly in private hands, its quietness punctuated by the traffic on the Newell Highway and the large roadhouses catering to travellers.
However, it is a town with an interesting history and is a memorial to the pioneering past.
Take a little time out as you travel through, hop out of the car and take a stroll around its streets and savour some of the the elegant and bold architecture of this late C19th pioneering town.