Binalong lies about 30km north-west of Yass and 30km south of Boorowa, some 475m above sea level on the edge of the Southern Tablelands.
The land around it was on the traditional borders of the Wiradjuri and Ngunawal peoples, often the scene of territorial disputes under the pressure of encroaching European settlement which contributed to the decline of the Ngunawal tribes. Between 1841 and 1851 the local indigenous population fell from about 800 to 300 indigenous people.
Binalong was bypassed by the earliest explorers Hume (1824) and Sturt (1828) who travelled further south and along the Murrumbidgee on their expeditions inland.
In fact it was placed "beyond the pale" by Governor Darling in 1829, who defined the limit of the explosion of settlement that followed the discoveries of the explorers to 19 counties - Yass being the furthest limit of setllement permitted. A ploughline was drawn across a track at Mt. Bowning - about half way between Yass and Binalong - beyond which it was prohibited to go.
This did not deter the settler's insatiable quest for pastoral land and by 1835 a James Manning had already squatted at Cumbumurra Station, between Binalong and Jugiong, which later grew to 60,000 acres.
The Swan Inn (1847).
Now a private residence.
The government was soon forced to relent with the Squatting Act (1836) and Land Act (1839) allowing controlled leases to be taken up on the edges of settlement.
To control the spread of flocks and leases in the area in 1839 a border police camp was set up in Binalong - the first European settlement. Six troopers and convict assistants patrolled as far as Cowra along the Lachlan River to assess stock numbers and maintain order. A permanent police presence was installed in 1847 (prison block 1850 and police station 1862).
Before long there were a number of large grazing runs in the area. Earliest grazing leases were at at Illalong (1836 Patrick Kiley) and Bungalal (1840), close to the current town, and Galong (Ned Ryan, former supervisor of James Meehan's Goulburn estate) which by 1848 comprised 38400 acres. After the granting of more permanent leases in 1848 many more settlers arrived.
By 1841 Binalong itself boasted 11 residents and the beginnings of a township were laid out.
In 1847 immigrant Miles Murphy built a store and the first inn - The Swan Inn. A significant contributor to Binalong's early history, Murphy and his family established other businesses.
The Swan was run as an inn until aboout 1886 when the licence was transferred to Patterson's Hotel, closer to the new railway station. After many years as a residence and derelict it was renovated in the late 1970s as a popular restaurant - the Black Swan - which it remains today.
A town was properly surveyed & gazetted in 1850, most buildings being around the Swan Inn on the main road to the west.
Paterson's Inn (c.1850).
Now a private residence.
The first post office was established in 1849 and other town improvements soon followed - hotels (The Golden Fleece1848, Shamrock 1875? now gone, The Commercial, The Royal 1880s); shops and residences; St Peter & Paul's Roman Catholic Church (1861, now a ruin, rebuilt 1911; and the first school (1861).
Binalong did not particularly benefit from the Lambing Flat gold rushes (1860s), most traffic to the diggings passing through Yass and Boorowa to the north. It did have a population of 210 by 1861 and gained in later years as ex-miners came to settle on smaller blocks after the breaking up of large runs. For a while there were a number of horticulture farms and orchards but today land use is mostly pasture and wheatgrowing.
What did change its fortune was the arrival of the southern railway in 1876. Binalong became an important terminal as its elegant Victorian railway station (1883, after the original of 1876 burnt down - now closed) attests. Passengers disembarked here and travelled by coach to Boorowa and other towns.
The railway attracted the focus of town development away from the main road (now Burley Griffin Way). Here the Paterson's and the Old Royal (rebuilt 1910) were joined by shops, Mechanics Institute (1912), new Post office (1915), and banks - Australian Joint Stock Bank (1893 - 1899); Australian Bank of Commerce (1911, later Bank of NSW 1931 closed 1981); and Binalong Hotel (1930).
Further developments in the town included: telegraph office (1876); courthouse (1883, closed 1974), the existing courthouse adapted as a new police station; St Thomas' Church of England (1886); public school (1890); St, Brigid's convent (1895, rebuilt 1920) and catholic school (1901 - both closed 1968); telephone exchange (1911).
By the beginning of the C20th Binalong was a small country town, its growth as a rural centre limited by its position midway between the centres.
A minor gold strike at Marshall McMahon's reef - 12 miles west of Binalong from 1870-80s produced little output up until its eventual closure in 1942 and did not have much effect on the town. Nearby Kangiara's population of 600 during the heyday of its silver, copper, lead and gold mine (1909-13) is now long gone.
The advantage of the nearby Goondah-Burrinjuck 2' gauge railway (1908 to 1925) where people and supplies were marshalled for transport to the great dam project was counterbalanced by the building of the Galong-Boorowa branch line (1914, closed to passengers 1980 and finally to freight 1987), business being lost to the new informal township.
Binalong's heyday as a rail centre had come to an end, the duplication of the line in 1915 seeing the closure of the elegant station, now moved to a more prosaic building - itself to close in 1989 - the end of the railway age. From 1914 to 1950 most traffic through Binalong came from the branch line (closed 1955) to the metal quarries at Illalong (childhood home of Banjo Paterson) and on to Burrinjuck.
Like many country towns Binalong became a sleepy village with the coming of the motor age.
Again, like many country towns in the C21st, Binalong is enjoying a new lease of life as an attraction to visitors and to "tree changers" looking for a quieter, more peaceful life.
Binalong is also home to many artists and craftspeople with shops and studios open to the public.