In the early 1800’s, explorers moved west from the early European settlement in the Sydney area and over the Great Dividing Range. Settlers followed and although it was not legal to settle beyond the designated boundaries, many did so, becoming squatters, taking up large tracts of land known as runs.
At that time, it was not practicable to prevent this happening, so the government, for a nominal fee, created an annual licence. In 1845, Leopold de Salis, with a partner named Smythe, took up land centered on what is now Old Junee which became known as the Jewnee Run. The Run boundaries were generally north from Yathella Road to Junee Reefs Road and from near Burnt Creek Lane (east of Junee Cemetery) west to about the Rockview level crossing.
As de Salis held a number of runs and lived at Darbalara with his family, it is unlikely that he ever lived in “Jewnee House” which he built on the western rise from Houlaghans Creek, just south of the bridge at Old Junee.
When Thomas Wardle Hammond and his business partner Richard Gwynne acquired the Jewnee Run from Henry Loughan in 1857, it carried about 10,000 sheep which, until fences were erected, were cared for by shepherds. Hammond was the resident partner, initially living in Jewnee House and in 1860 constructed a large dam on Houlaghans Creek.
In 1856, the NSW Deputy Surveyor-General recommended the proposed railway line from Yass to Albury should pass along the Houlaghans Creek valley. Accordingly, in 1860, District Surveyor P S Adams surveyed a one square mile site (about 256 ha) for a township to be named Jewnee and prepared a map.
After the release of the map, a land sale saw the sale of about 12 lots with James Harris being the principal buyer. He soon built and operated the Jewnee Hotel which was licensed in 1861 and which still stands as the private residence “Birralee” at present day Old Junee. The hotel operated as a horse changing station for coaches on the Sydney Road from Yass until train travel predominated. The licence was surrendered in 1907. A store and licensed Post Office were also operated although previously, supplies could be obtained from Hammond’s station store.
The former hotel is the oldest still occupied building in the Junee Shire. After it opened, the revelries at the hotel over a couple of months persuaded Thomas Hammond to move from his nearby residence to a new homestead which he built about 2km downstream and on the eastern side of Houlaghans Creek. There he resided until his death in 1899.