|Towns and villages of:|
Population: 283 (2006 census)
Willow Vale Mill (orig. 1845)
now a restaurant and B&B.
The area around Laggan was first settled in the 1830s.
Many Scottish and Irish settlers took up small holdings in Redground, just a few kilometres north of the town.
The red earth, they knew was good for growing potatoes, and in this isolated area they took up subsistence farming.
Other settlers took up more substantial grants, and it was they who first commenced growing wheat in the Laggan area.
By 1845 wheat growing was sufficiently widespread for a steam driven flour mill to be built and within fifteen years wheat was the main crop of the area.
The mill and the village grew up around it. The mill served the region for almost 100 years, initially providing flour, and fodder for cattle from the waste to local farmers, but later exporting it - even overseas during the First World War.
Burnt out in the 1880s, but rebuilt in 1891, production continued up until 1918. Whereas wheat had ceased to be the major local crop, its owners in the early 19th century kept it going by processing grain from the Crookwell and Taralga districts, and even for a while grain imported from Argentina. Its life was prolonged by the artificially high demand of wartime.
The building is still standing today - restored in the 1970s and is now a restaurant and B&B accommodation.
With the opening up of the interior in the second half of the 19th century, wheat farming had largely moved west to drier climates and sheep growing began to replace it as the main local activity.
From the late 1860s hundreds of tons of wool was shipped out of the area by bullock waggon over rough roads, destined for textile mills overseas.
At this time one of the main roads from Goulburn to the new goldfields at Tuena (1850s onward) passed through Laggan.
With distances to Goulburn (4 days) and Crookwell (half a day), this traffic contributed to the development of the town.
There is no record of when the town first began, but by the 1860s some 300m people resided here and there were 4 stores, a post office, school, church (RC), courthouse, lockup and police barracks, 3 hotels, a flour mill, tannery, blacksmith, wheelwright and 2 racecourses and a cricket ground.
Today most of the houses of the period (which would have been slab huts), and other public buildings are gone
Life in those days was isolated and harsh but the hundreds of people huddled together in their picturesque little valley formed a close community.
But they were not so protected as to be spared from the predations of low life criminal elements such as the "bushrangers" Charles Foley and John Brownlow - petty thieves who held up one of the town's hotels (the "Shamrock Inn", now a private home) in 1864. They were captured and served 7 years in gaol..
In the late 19th century Laggan was mostly a woolgrowing area, the coming of the railway to nearby McAlister (2 km away) in 1902 made shipping wool out of the area easier, plus lambs for market and potatoes.
These, with beef, are still the main products of Laggan.
The railway, and later the motor car, also saw the end of the traditional artisans and hospitality businesses of the slower horse-drawn era. Laggan, like many rural towns was dependent on these service industries for its population, and when the businesses closed, the families went with the.
Nevertheless, Laggan profited from the rural boom of the post war era in the 1920s, and several prominent buildings were erected in the town at this time: the Laggan Hotel (1924, on the site of a former hotel); the Community Hall (1926); St. Andrews Roman Catholic Church (1924 - replacing an earlier church); All Saints Anglican Church (1922).
These, together with the Old Mill, schoolhouse, and a few brick and stone houses can still be seen today and are all that remain of a once vibrant rural community.
What you don't see today, of course, is the richness of the surrounding land and the productivity of its farms. Laggan is still one of NSW's major agricultural areas.
As a matter of interest, note the old Presbyterian Church on the Crookwell side of town: no longer a place of worship - now a shearing shed. Perhaps a unique example of how the productivity of the land gave rise to its community's institutions and monuments - and has reclaimed them when the community moved on. It gives perhaps, a new twist to the concept of the Good Shepherd.
Old Presbyterian Church (1878)
now a shearing shed.