LEETON'S settlement by Europeans is relatively modern compared to some other towns in the Riverina like Wagga Wagga, Whitton and Narrandera.
It can be easy to forget that some of the businesses that we walk past every day are currently housed in buildings that go right back to the start of our town.
One of these buildings is located at 42 Kurrajong Avenue, which is currently owned and occupied by St Vincent De Paul.
The first businesses in Leeton were established around the edge of Crusher Camp, named so due to its proximity to the quarry and stone crushing plant.
This area, in general terms, was bounded by Wade Avenue to the west and Palm Avenue to the east.
The first school, police station, newsagent and small general stores were established in this area.
In 1937 Mr C Ledwidge wrote an interesting article for the Murrumbidgee Irrigator titled 'Leeton 25 Years Ago.'
In that article he explained that in early 1913 there was an auction of town blocks but it was sometime before the 'Crusher Camp' businesses moved into the town area.
It was not until 1914 that there was much commercial activity and that among the first to shift was Mr David Peter Taylor.
Mr Taylor established his business at the present day 42 Kurrajong Avenue and built a large corrugated iron structure known as Taylor Bros, Grocery and Produce Merchants.
The business was a prosperous one and on 19 July 1915 Mr Taylor had little problem selling it to John Thomas Sykes and Henry Watson. "Sykes and Watson" promised that their produce would be "...the very best lines procurable." and their prices would be "...bedrock."
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The partnership however, would not last long and in 1917, Mr Sykes, described as boisterous and noisy, left the area and relocated to Wollongong where he would establish a mercery and drapery business.
Henry Watson, who was also known as Harry, continued on with the business, renaming it H Watson & Co. The phone number, should you wish to place an order, was 61.
The business was quickly established and My Watson became a highly respected member of the community and in 1916 was appointed a justice of the peace for Leeton. In those days, two justices of the peace could perform the role of the magistrate and Mr Watson frequently heard matters at the Leeton Local Court.
By way of example, in May 1920 he sentenced a poor individual to either a thirty-pound fine or three-months gaol, for selling sly grog at Yanco. In 1918 he was also appointed a trustee of the Leeton Showground.
Business was good, and in 1922 Mr Watson constructed the two-story building which is still standing today at 42 Kurrajong Avenue.
However, in May of that year, Mr Watson sold the business to a Mr A.A. Elliott and he relocated to Sydney.
For the next eight years, Mr Elliott would conduct the business as a grocery and produce store. The upstairs rooms would be let out, firstly to a Mr V Ryall, solicitor, and later to a Miss Ward who gave lessons in ballet and tap dancing.
In 1930, Mr Watson returned to Leeton and remarkably, purchased back the business from Mr Elliott. He continued his business at the Kinloch Buildings while H Watson and Co continued on from where they had left off.
The business continued on for the following decades with a second store of the same name being opened at 48 Pine Avenue in 1932, being conducted by his sons. Mr Watson died in Leeton on the 12 September 1962.
On the 14 August 1977 the building was purchased by St Vincent De Paul who have maintained it until the present time. Of interest is that descendants of the original occupier, Mr Taylor, have volunteered at 'Vinnies" and have been an integral part of that organisation.
Mrs Aileen Troy, grand daughter of Mr Taylor, volunteered there in the 1980s and 1990s while Mr Brian Troy, great grandson of Mr Taylor currently volunteers there today.
- A Brief History of Leeton - A.E. Bowmaker
- Leeton 25 Years Ago. Early Day Reminiscences - C. Ledwidge
- Marie Maguire
- NSW Land Registry
- Wendy Senti
- The Murrumbidgee Irrigator
- Bruce Washington
- Disclaimer: The information found in this article has come from a number of sources. The Leeton Family and Historical Society has taken every measure where possible to ensure accuracy and therefore cannot accept any responsibilities for inaccuracy or omissions.
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