Waggallalah: Murder, Methodism, and marriage

Waggallalah, also referred to as Wagahrallah, refers to a rural property in the parish of Lerida, to the south-east of Gunning, New South Wales.

When pioneer Methodist preacher, John Wheatley (snr) moved, with his family to the Gunning region around 1850, he launched a campaign of zealous religious conversions in the Goulburn/Gunning Circuit from his son’s property of Waggallalah.


According to Longmire, in ‘A Glimpse of the History of Gunning’, the town of Gunning originally lay just to the south of its present location, and local tradition suggests that Waggallalah was the spot that the township originally began; Waggallalah was the site of a police barracks on the Gunning/Lake George Road. I often wonder how much the preacher John Wheatley knew about the horrid murder that had taken place on this very property not too many years before his arrival. The original holder of this property was Henry Dunkley who had 640 acres to his name. In 1842 Dunkley was murdered by his wife, Lucretia and her lover Martin Beech. They were both hung at Berrima (see the links below for more on this). After Dunkley’s death, the property was sold and, around 1853, leased to the Wheatley family. John Wheatley’s daughter, Loanna married John Gale of Queanbeyan at Waggallalah  in 1857.

John Gale
John Gale statue, Queanbeyan, NSW

John Gale was a well-known preacher, journalist and politician who has been honoured by a statue on the corner of Monaro and Lowe Street, Queanbeyan. He owned and edited the Queanbeyan Age Newspaper and is often referred to as “the father of Canberra”. It seems that he spent much time here, stopping by during his preaching circuit to stay. John Gales is even recorded as keeping stock on the property at times. After significant contributions to the local community, and commitment to the Methodist cause, John Wheatley (snr) died in 1872. His sons continued to expand the property and the old ‘Janglor Inn’, which was on the property served as the home of one of John Wheatley (snr) sons for a period. After leasing the property for some years it appears that the Wheatleys purchased it around 1892. Waggallalah was also the site for a small provisional school which began operating sometime in the 1880s. This school was attended by my great-grandmother (Mable Luck). She and her family were living nearby at ‘Willowbank’ on the Meadow Creek.

LeridaParish Waggallalah

Mentioned in this post:
John Wheatley (snr) b.1792 d.1872
John Gale b.1831 d.1929
Loanna Gale (nee Wheatley) b.1836 d.1919

Links sources and Further reading:
‘A Glimpse of the History of Gunning’ by T. H. Longmire
‘The History of Goulburn’ by R. T. Wyatt.
‘Gunning Methodist Church Jubilee Souvenir’, Gunning Peerless Printery (1926).
‘Where Once the Wagons Went’ by K. L. Brown.
‘The Day that Dunkley Died’ by K. L. Brown.
Canberra Times (Tim the Yowie Man): why-is-this-grave-in-the-gunning-sewerage-works




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