Dalgety – a local history study

Many people visit State Records researching a village or town, usually for a significant anniversary. It can often be daunting and hard work to go through the large number of archives that might mention the town.

Suzanne Upton, an archivist working in Public Access at State Records set out to research the town of Dalgety to demonstrate the types of records you might find when undertaking local history research. This page contains a number of examples of records found in the State archives that show the history of the small village of Dalgety.

Suzanne has provided a step by step account of the approach that she took in her research. We hope that this will give you some tips and tactics for your local history project.

Outlook over Dalgety Village Barry Way, one of the main streets through Dalgety Buckleys Crossing Hotel Dalgety Police Station & Court House

Step 1 – Obtain the basics online

I started this local history research on Dalgety knowing very little about the history of the town. I used the internet to find out the basics, looking at local government pages, local historical groups and Wikipedia for some background information.

The Geographical Names Register of NSW is a useful source to find county and parish information and what a town may have previously been named. In this instance, I found that Dalgety was in the parish Bobundara, county Wallace and had two former names: Buckleys Crossing, and; Barnes Crossing.

Origin: From the maiden name of the wife of J R Campbell, the surveyor who laid out the township. (Ziegler, O L 1960, ‘Snowy Saga’, p.38)
History: The area was known as ‘Buckleys Crossing’ as early as 1837. It was also known as ‘Barnes Crossing’ after Barnes settled there in 1848. Village was gazetted on 1 October 1880. (Ziegler)
Geographical Names Board

Step 2 – Find a map

Next I looked at some parish maps to ascertain the names of some early land holders in the town and the surrounding area. By the end of this process I had established a brief history of the town, I had the name of the first surveyor and some names of early settler families.

Village byline Village and land owned by Richard Barnes, 1881

Step 3 – Search State Records’ online sources then visit in person to view the records

I now started to look for other archive records. I started by searching Archives Investigator and the Online Indexes on the State Records website using Dalgety as the search term.

I then continued drilling further into the Online Indexes using the surveyor’s name and the other family names I had discovered in my first general search using Dalgety. This provided me with more maps, school files, hall files and records relating to business, mining, Conditional Purchase, probate and deceased estate, insolvency and files on Dalgety as a possible Federal site.

After searching the available online sources visit State Records to view the records. See information on opening hours and how to pre-order records.

The facts and figures discovered

A brief history of Dalgety

Dalgety is a small village situated on the banks of the Snowy River near Cooma, in southern New South Wales. The location was a river crossing on the Stock Route between Gippsland in Victoria and the Snowy Mountains High Country.

The settlement was originally known as ‘Buckleys Crossing’ after Edward Buckley who had a farm nearby in the early 1830s. Later, it was also known as ‘Barnes Crossing’ after Richard Barnes who settled in the area in 1848. It was Surveyor JR Campbell who laid out the town in 1874 and named it Dalgety, the maiden name of his wife.

When Campbell laid out the village its population was 23. The town was supported by a farming community and some gold miners. The population was largely Catholic and a Catholic school was opened in 1874. Dalgety was once considered as a possible site for the new Federal capital. Today Dalgety is the only remaining town on the Snowy River in NSW and has a population of 75.

Establishment of village

My research led to the first official survey of the Buckley’s Crossing site and the establishment of the village of Dalgety. The records include:

  1. Instructions from the Surveyor General to Surveyor RJ Campbell for laying out the village. The design needed to include a reserve for the Police station and a Punt Reserve.
  2. Sketch of proposed village layout by Surveyor RJ Campbell, 1873
  3. Letter by Surveyor Campbell, 1874 – reasons for choosing the Punt Reserve as the site
  4. Letter by Surveyor Campbell, 1874 (cont.)
  5. Recommending site for village, 1880
  6. Official notification of the establishment of Dalgety (Government Gazette) laying out the boundaries
  7. Government Gazette declaration of the reserve at Dalgety
  8. Tracing showing allotment for sale.

Instructions from the Surveyor General to Surveyor RJ Campbell for laying out a village at Buckleys Crossing Sketch of village layout, 1873 Letter by Surveyor Campbell, September 1874 Letter by Surveyor Campbell (page 3) Recommending site for village, 1880 Notification of site for village at Dalgety, 1890 Dalgety reserve, 1880 Tracing showing allotments for sale, no date

Village Buildings

Featured here are some of the famous landmarks of Dalgety:

  1. Dalgety Memorial Hall and the Imperial Hall, built by JH Quill in 1889 (later the Dalgety Post Office).Both would have hosted a number of community events
  2. Police Station built in 1876 – the first public building in Dalgety
  3. A number of hotels in the village.


Imperial Hall in Dalgety Dalgety Imperial Hall, 1946 Closure of the Imperial Hall, 1954

Police Station

Dalgety Police Station & Court House Police paddocks, 1874


Buckleys Crossing Hotel Horse and Jockey Hotel, Dalgety Imperial Hotel publican's license

School records

School records contain the correspondence between individual schools and the Department of Education. They can sometimes contain information about teachers and students. The records shown here are:

  1. Inventory for Buckleys Crossing School, 1878
  2. Inventory for Buckleys Crossing School, 1878 (cont.)
  3. Map showing public school site, 1881
  4. Plan for Dalgety school
  5. Photo of Dalgety schoolhouse, 1940s
  6. Plan for classroom, for up to 50 pupils
  7. Application for a school, listing parents and school-age children
  8. Dalgety school students, c.1900 (no names listed)

inventory-for-buckleys-crossing-school inventory-from-buckleys-crossing-school-page-2 Map showing public school site plan-for-dalgety-school Dalgety Schoolhouse  Plan for classroom at Dalgety school Application for a school at Dalgety Dalgety School students

Colonial Secretary records

The Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence can provide a wealth of information about many aspects of Colonial life.

Colonial Secretary's correspondence Petition signatures, 1873

Land Records

Land records can provide lots of details about the early settlers of a township and the surrounding districts. The records below are:

  1. Land Lease, Jimenbuen – Government Gazette 1848 for Amos Crisp Jnr
  2. Depasturing license, 1845 for Amos Crisp Snr (allowed settlers to graze stock “beyond the limits of location”)
  3. Condition Purchase, 1873 for Richard Barnes (large landholder and businessman)

Lease for Jimenbuen, Amos Crisp Junior Depasturing licence for Amos Crisp Conditional purchase for Richard Barnes

Searching land records

This can be a time consuming and sometime futile endeavour. I started this research with a letter number (74/48) and notation of a tracing sent to the Surveyor General by Surveyor JR Campbell on 31 May 1874 (from Map 2653 Village of Dalgety, 1874).

In 1856 when Responsible Government was introduced into NSW, the Surveyor General’s Dept came under the ministerial control of the Secretary of Lands. In 1867 the clerical branches of the Lands Dept and the Surveyor General’s Dept were amalgamated so that the correspondence formerly dealt twith by the Surveyor General’s Dept was now dealt with by the Ministerial, Miscellaneous, Roads and Alienation Branches of the Lands Department. Therefore, I had four sets of correspondence to search for letter 74/48.

I began my search with the Index and Letter registers for all four branches and searched for the letter number and the date as a cross check. I had no luck in the Roads and Alienation Branch but did locate other references to Campbell in the Ministerial Branch Index, including his monthly report for May 1874. On further checking though, the report was found to have been “destroyed under vide min 05/263”. I continued onto the Miscellaneous Branch and once again could not locate letter 74/48 but I did find other references to Campbell and Buckleys Crossing/Dalgety. I then followed the letter numbers through to the Correspondence Registers until I reached the ‘put away’ stage. I now had four letter numbers but found only three letters. Eventually in one of the letters I did find a tracing of Dalgety from 1874.

You could say that perseverence won in the end!

Village personalities

While many of the records on this page illustrate how the town of Dalgety developed over the years it is the more personal records, such as the ones below, that can give an indication of how the people in the township may have lived their lives.

Quill and Wellsmore, General Storekeepers

Entry from the Register of Firms

General store at Dalgety

William Freebody – insolvency

Declaration of insolvency of William Freebody, the ferryman in Dalgety. After many years, Freebody finally sold some land at Cooma to pay back his debts.

insolvency-of-william-freebody-1884 insolvency-of-william-freebody-1904

James McMahon – deceased estate

At the time of his death McMahon had over 400 acres of conditionally purchased land. From this list you can see the livestock and farming implements used. He had a four bedroom slab hut on his farm, the furniture is described below as “very old and dilapidated”.

deceased-estate-for-james-mcmahon-1905 deceased-estate-for-james-mcmahon-1905-2 receipt-from-mcmahons-deceased-estate-this-outstanding-bill-from-the-dalgety-federal-smithy-nrs-13340-20-258-duty-paid-18-3-1905

Amos Crisp Senior – probate

Amos Crisp died on July 4, 1881 without leaving a will.

probate-for-amos-crisp-snr bond-for-crisp-family

Dalgety as Possible Federal Capitol Site

It is not widely known the Dalgety was a candidate for the new capitol city of Australia following Federation. These records include examples of the residents of Dalgety out to sell their town and the official reports of the long selection process.

  1. Report (page 1) attempting to have Dalgety added to list of sites being considered for the Federal capital
  2. Report (page 3) showing signatures from prominent Dalgety citizens
  3. Telegram asking when Dalgety will be surveyed
  4. Telegram asking for schoolhouse to be made available as accommodation for Federal Parliament inspection visit
  5. Final report of Royal Commission
  6. Area around Dalgety named as the site of the federal capital but the NSW Government would not agree to this. Dalgety was not a popular choice due to its distance from Sydney and proximity to the Victorian border. Dalgety lost out to Canberra in a final ballot in 1908

Buckleys Crossing Progress Committee Report, 1899 Buckleys Crossing Progress Committee signatures Telegram to Alexander Oliver, 1900 Telegram re Federal site Commonwealth Report on Federal capitol site Commonwealth Report on Dalgety (page 1)

Tips for searching

The research for this page was started with by searching Archives Investigator using Buckleys Crossing and Dalgety as search terms. Some online indexes can also be searched by place name and that was an invaluable tool for tracking down the records of people who lived in Dalgety. Archives in Brief 6 on Local history research is also a good guide into the different types of archives State Records holds. Other records were consulted and not included in this page: see NRS 10105; NRS 10296; NRS 15243; NRS 15318 Dalgety Memorial Hall.

The Monaro Pioneers website provided invaluable details on many of the locals mentioned on this page.