In sight of the majestic Snowy Mountains, Sydney Grandison Watson settled at “Walwa” on the Upper Murray, in 1845.
“Grandie”, as he was known, was to expand his pastoral holdings on the Upper Murray to around 100,000 acres and became known as the “King of the Upper Murray”. Grandie bought the lease of the 24,000 acre Tintaldra Station in March 1858.
By this time also, selectors were nibbling away at Watson’s huge lease and to obtain some stability, he selected as Freehold blocks 320 acres at Tintaldra and, later, Walwa. Under the Duffy Act of 1862 only 320 acres could be made Freehold under one name, so names of family members and friends, known as “dummies” were used.
Rowland Shelley had first settled Tintaldra in 1837 and erected huts from local timbers. The hut keepers travelled ‘all found’, with their pack saddles filled to capacity with provisions to last some time, as they relied on supplies being delivered to them.
As no permanent dwelling had been established at Tintaldra, it had changed hands several times before Grandie Watson took it up in 1858. During the period 1851 to 1859, gold rush had increased Victoria’s population from 77,000 to 540,000, then, as the gold ran out in the 1860’s the population began to spread out to areas such as the Murray River and this may have inspired Grandie to built the Tintaldra store in 1864.
Before roads and coaches there were there were horses and pack horses for supplies as well as two wheel drays. As rough tracks emerged the bullock wagons began to appear bringing the goods from the railheads at Gundagai and Wodonga to Tintaldra.
In 1864, Grandie employed Edwin Jephcott to build the Tintaldra Store. The store is still open for business as the local post office and tea rooms, until recently, run by long time owner and historian Betty Walton. The store, constructed mainly of river red gum and red stringy bark slabs, was originally the only store on the Upper Murray and served an area from the Snowy Mountains to Albury/Wodonga.
In 1870, Grandie also built the Tintaldra Hotel, accross the road from the store. It may have originally been called the Old Punt Hotel. The old Pet Lamb Hotel was in fact not on the same site and some remains are still visible in a nearby paddock.
In 1875 the landlord, Grandie Watson, sued the licensee for breach of contract and the removal of items and fittings including the the cost of repairing ‘the dead house’.
The synopsis of Section 24 of the Victorian Licensing Act of 1839 as published in the Gazette wonderfully stated: “Travellers and corpses not to be refused under penalty”, but the Tintaldra Pub’s ‘dead house’ wasn’t connected with freshly dead cadavers awaiting coronial enquiries.
The trial judge wasn’t across the term and sought clarification.
Watson, the plaintiff obliged: “The dead-house is where they put in those who are dead drunk.”
Edmund Finn in 1888 also wrote: “The “dead-house” in reality was a humane institution for the accommodation of “casuals” helplessly intoxicated, who, instead of being tumbled out of doors, were ” bedded down ” for the night.”
Grandie Watson died in 1891 at the age of 75. His son Harry Watson then managed both the store and Tintaldra Station for a time and in 1910 the property together with the Store and adjacent Hotel were sold to the Mackinnon family.
Three of Grandie’s youngest sons (Greg, Harry and Sidney) from his first marriage to Isobella Robinson, overlanded north to settle “Gregory Downs”, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, in 1877. Another three sons, from his second marriage to Constance Armstrong (‘Young’ Grandie, Eddie and Leo), pioneered Cape York and settled at “Merluna”, some 10 years later, not far from the present township of Weipa.
In 2010, Melbourne author and publisher, Norman C Hutchinson completed a book on the exploits of Grandie Watson titled – “Grandie – Sydney Grandison Watson and his sons from the Upper Murray to the Gulf and Cape York”.
The book also refered to the eleven month overlanding of 900 Walwa breeding cows from “Walwa” to “Gregory Downs” by Harry and Bob Shadforth; as well as the exploits of another son, Archibald, the first Professor of Anatomy at Adelaide University, after whom the Watsons Crags near Mt Kosciusko are named.
The book was launched at the Tintaldra Store and Tea Rooms in September 2010 and hosted by store owner and historian, Betty Walton. Following the launch of the book, Betty provided “A Taste of the Past”, with Aussie Stew, Drover’s Damper with Golden Syrup, and Tank Water Tea on the menu as well as some bush poetry and music.
Also in attendance at the launch were some descendents of Grandie who have helped with research for the book. Brian Watson, a great grandson descended from the “Merluna” (Cape York) Watson’s while Greg and Robert Blackmore are great, great, grandsons descended from the Watson brothers who took up “Gregory Downs” in the Gulf Country. Greg’s son David also attended.
Brian Watson lived in Sydney and was a major contributor to the book on the Watson’s titled “Grandie”. His proof reading and track changes and suggestions as well as the information he had researched and provided on Sydney Grandison Watson and on both the Gulf and Cape Watson’s was invaluable. Although not used in “Grandie”, Brian had also transcribed Jesse Watson’s Diary, a sister of the Watson Bros.
Brian was a grandson of Leo Watson who with two other brothers took up country in the 1880’s at “Merluna” on Cape York.
Brian Watson sadly passed away on the 13th August 2014 from Pancreatic cancer aged 72.
A year previously, on the 29th July 2013, the book’s author, Norman C Hutchinson, had also passed away from a long diagnosed illness.
Betty Walton passed away on the 21st May 2020 at age 93. Betty had owned and operated the store since the 1970’s initially, along with her late husband Alan.
Betty had also prepared a 23 page booklet titled “Tintaldra – First Settled 1837 – A Brief History”, which may still be available at the store. Betty’s daughter took over the running of the store until it was listed for sale in early 2023.