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Menindee History

Maiden's Hotel, Yartla Street Menindee

Menindee has a rich Indigenous and European history.

Menindee has a rich Indigenous and European history. The traditional people of Menindee are the Paakantji people, who travelled the length of the Darling River from Wilcannia through Menindee and down to Wentworth. They relied upon the river for water and food, using canoes and elaborate stone traps for their fishing. The town's name is said to derive from the Paakantji place name 'Minandichee'. In 1933 the Aborigines Protection Board established the Menindee Mission to which Aboriginal people were encouraged to live.

Menindee was the first town settled on the Darling River by Europeans. It is thought by some that the first Europeans in the immediate vicinity of Menindee were the 1835 party of Major Thomas Mitchell. The second explorer to the area was Charles Sturt who travelled up the Darling from the Murray in 1844. The third and arguably the most famous early explorers in the area were the Burke and Wills expedition, who reached Kinchega station in October 1860 on their expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria. They journeyed to Menindee by paddle steamer up the Darling River, stayed at the Maiden's Hotel then continued north. However the mark Burke and Wills left on Menindee can still be visited today. The Burke and Wills base camp of 1860 can be visited at the Pamamaroo Creek, Menindee and at Maidens Hotel, in Yartla St, where you used to be able to see an arrow which Burke and Wills carved into the door post of Maidens Hotel which indicated the direction their journey would pursue.

The first settler in and effective founder of Menindee was Tom Pain and his family who arrived in 1852, determined to establish a home and business on the river. He opened the Menindee Hotel the following year. With numerous additions it is still open and considered the second-oldest hotel still in continuous operation in NSW. It is now known as Maiden's Hotel for the simple reason that it was owned, from 1896 to 1979, by the Maiden family. With the growth of the river trade in the 1850s, the arrival of a police force and Pain's presence, prospects for the settlement of the region improved. The runs of the Central Darling were officially surveyed and opened for tender in 1855. Explorer John McKinlay took up several of the properties, including 'Menindel', one of the first small frontage blocks along the Darling. This station later became Kinchega National Park.

A post office opened at the fledgling settlement in 1861 and the site was officially known as 'Perry' but locals protested and the township was gazetted as Menindie in 1863 (it was respelled Menindee in 1918). Growth was initially slow but with the help of the steamers Menindee became an important river port and telegraph station. The boats were quicker and much cheaper than bullock trains although in drought periods the water level would sometimes fall so low the waterways became unnavigable.

The 1860s and 1870s were a period of expansion for the town. However, when gold and other mineral finds were made to the north in the late 1870s and 1880s, employees along the Darling chased the new prospects and Wilcannia displaced Menindee as the main river port and business centre. Consequently, Menindee slowed down to become a service and community centre to the surrounding district. The role of Menindee is currently supplemented by the major production of the much sought after, table grapes, rock melons, many varieties of apricots, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables, irrigated by the Menindee Lakes and Darling River.