The earliest recorded human inhabitants were the people of the indigenous Gringai tribe. They would have enjoyed the undeveloped natural beauty and living resources that the bush and sea offer. Carrington-born William Scott recalls “they (the Gringai Aborigines) had a great sense of fun and sharing.” They were peaceful people and apparently lived quite harmoniously with the whites in the early years. (C R Theobald, A Place Called Tahlee, page 1)
Early European Settlers
The first Europeans to settle here were a group led by Mr Robert Dawson, who was appointed to establish the headquarters of the Australian Agricultural Company (AA Company), in 1826. As the Company’s first Commissioner, he built the original house where Tahlee House now stands. The building was modified and extended by subsequent inhabitants over the years.
The second Commissioner of the AA Company was Sir William Edward Parry, a very competent administrator. He and his wife, Isabella, showed caring concern for the increasing number of people living in the Tahlee and Carrington Settlement, including several hundred convicts.
In particular, they had a concern for the moral and spiritual needs of the people. So the Parrys began to conduct regular Sunday church services in the carpenter’s shop in Carrington Village. Sir Edward established a school and organised fun days and dances for the local community.
Before leaving Australia in 1834, Sir Edward and Lady Parry offered this prayer:
“Earnestly indeed we pray that God would … bring forth the fruits of true holiness so that peace and the ‘Gospel of peace’ may reign throughout this settlement when we are far away.”
The next Commissioner was Lieutenant Colonel Dumaresq. He added a couple of rooms to Tahlee House before his death in 1838. He was followed as Commissioner by Captain Philip King in 1839. He laid the foundation stone for Carrington Church in December 1846, which was officially opened in November 1847.
In 1849, the AA Company moved its headquarters to Stroud and, in 1854, sold the estate to Mr Frederick Manton. In 1860, the original Tahlee House burned down. In 1871, the Tahlee estate was bought by Rev James Cameron and Mr Andrew R Cameron.
In 1880 Tahlee was bought by Mr Robert Hoddle Driberg White, an elected Member of Parliament for Gloucester, the year he came by a fortune of 175,000 pounds. He invested heavily into Tahlee and what we see today is largely a legacy of his tenure. However, the Boat Harbour, Wine Cellar and Servant’s Quarters to the rear of Tahlee House are a legacy of the AA Company days. White arranged for the restoration of Carrington Church in 1888 and “ensure attendance, he arranged for a steamer to bring people from surrounding districts.” (Newspaper article, 1934, A Place Called Tahlee)
In 1927, the property was inherited by his son, Mr ABS White.
Gospel Fishermen Mission
In 1949, the Gospel Fishermen Mission, under leadership of Godfrey and Winifred Theobald, moved from its base at Tanilba House to begin leasing the Ballroom, Billiard Room, and Waterfront Cottage at Tahlee. It became a place to conduct children’s and youth camps and Bible teaching conferences and was also a base for workers to go out to help rural churches. The White family was very supportive of the ministry.
In 1951, the Mission commenced a Missionary Training Camp to prepare missionaries for working overseas. In 1959, the Mission purchased the property from Mr White and started Tahlee Bible College.
The name of the Mission changed to Gospel Service Ministries in 1998 and then to Tahlee Ministries Inc. in 2004.