Mungerannie, once part of the Cowarie and Kanowa run, had already made history, and an important contribution to life on the Birdsville Track, before it became a station in its own right. Conditions along the track were rather poor in the early days and in 1883 it was reported that Mr Bagot's survey party, on its way to Mungerannie to survey a railway line to Queensland, had found little or no water for his men and animals, and the waterhole at Dulcaninna almost dry.
Fortunately a new government well had just been completed at Mungerannie but no troughs as yet for the animals to drink. With more wells being planned and eventually completed travel along the stock route became a little easier, although it was still hampered by recurring droughts and dust.
Facilities improved a great deal when Richard Forbes Sullivan and his wife opened a store, eatinghouse and hotel at Mungerannie in 1886 to supply shepherds, drovers, travellers and surrounding station people with most of their daily needs. He even put up a travellers' tent with several bunks for people to sleep in if they arrived during the night. The Sullivans ran the hotel until September 1889 when it was taken over by Robert Rowe. In 1888, William Crombie, one of the regular travellers and mailman along the track took up a block near the store. Now he had a place to spell his horses and sell water for passing cattle from the just completed government bore drilled in 1900.
Newspaper advertisement 1 January 1887.
Crombie, born in Adelaide in 1867, started out as a blacksmith apprentice after having completed his education, but was more interested in the wide open spaces of the far north. He found himself a job at Blanchewater and soon had saved enough to buy a few horses and a wagon making it possible to start out on his own. In 1891 he married Susan Scobie, daughter of a Scottish station owner at nearby Mulka. Together they reared eleven children and made the name Crombie synonymous with that of the Birdsville Track and the Far North.
Although drought stricken more than once, their home was washed away twice by flood waters from the Derwent river. Each time they moved to higher grounds, rebuild and stayed. From 1891 the hotel was run by Grace Carolin Mary Samson providing also some female company for Susan Crombie.
The ever increasing traffic along the track made the presence of a police camp necessary and a station was opened at Mungerannie in 1903. Meanwhile the Crombie family was also increasing in numbers and the parents were quite concerned about the lack of educational opportunities for their children. On 10 October William Crombie wrote to the Minister of Education in Adelaide and stated that;
It only requires twelve children of a school going age to get a government teacher in a district. I beg to state that I have six of my own family of a school going age and that being only a working man I can ill afford to pay the salary of a teacher and it is quite beyond me to board my children out. Can you assist me in any way as my children must have some education.
The minister could not and did not even bother to write back. So on 24 April 1906 Crombie wrote once more. This time he tried a different approach and offered to pay $40 per year plus board and lodgings for a female teacher if the department was willing to supply one. Although he supplied references from (Sir) Sydney Kidman, John Kingsmill and A Helling, nothing came of it until 1915 when a school was finally opened at Mungerannie.
At the police station, where George (Poddy) Aiston was stationed from 1912 until 1924, the constables were kept fairly busy. They not only looked after, and kept, law and order, they also filled out numerous forms, collected statistics and issued licences, permits and performed duties normally carried out by public servants. After completion he would then have to travel to Oorowillanie to have the papers signed by a Justice of the Peace, even if there was nothing to report!
Before 1910 William Crombie had been a JP but lost this appointment after being convicted of an assault on an Aborigine at Hergott Springs. Mounted Constable Aiston tried to have Crombie appointed again but was unsuccessful. Papers which could have been signed in a few minutes now required a trip of a full day.
Naturally there were also the good and happy times such as picnics, tennis, race meetings and station dances. Race meetings, when as many as four hundred people could be expected, were very busy times as most of the catering was done by the Crombies themselves.
During the 1920s Mungerannie was the Head Office of the Great Northern League, which proposed the seperate State of Brachina.