Jericho is one of the earliest towns in the Southern Midlands, with land grants in the area going back to Thomas Salmon’s 1818 grant, ‘Hollow Tree Bottom’.
In the early 1820s Jericho became the administrative centre of what would later become known as the Oatlands district. As early as 1821, Jericho boasted a ‘Government Hut’, a gaol and a small military detachment. The gaol, a small structure built of logs, was run by a Mr Liddell who was eventually dismissed for keeping company with disreputable women and convicts. By 1827, Governor Arthur had decided to found a new government post further north, and on the suggestion of Thomas Anstey chose Oatlands for its central location and large (if unreliable) freshwater lake. Late in 1827, the government stores, military and gaol were all relocated to Oatlands, leaving Jericho simply a traveller’s rest on the Hobart Town to Launceston road.
The name ‘Jericho’ is believed to have been bestowed by Hugh Germain, an early explorer. Legend has it that Germain and his comrades carried with them a copy of the Arabian Nights and a bible, from which such names as Jericho, Bagdad and Jerusalem derived. By the mid 1820s, most of the good land around Jericho had been granted, and European agriculture began to take over the landscape. Amongst the free settlers to be granted land here were Peter Harrison and Dr Hudspeth, both of whom kept journals which have survived to this day, providing a fascinating glimpse of colonial Jericho. Hudspeth, who named his grant ‘Bowsden’, also served as local medical officer, and his diary includes snippets of daily life (such as his convict servants stealing anything they could get their hands on). Harrison, on the other hand, kept his journal in the form of advice to potential emigrants, and mentions such details as the four days needed to get from Hobart Town to Jericho with bullock and cart. Harrison and Hudspeth were joined by emigrants such as William Pike (‘Park Farm’), Thomas Gregson (‘Northumbria’), Thomas Anstey (‘Anstey Barton’), James and Edmund Bryant (‘Sandhill’) and Benjamin Jones (‘Rosehill’). Many of the substantial homesteads built by these early settlers remain to this day.
Jericho was also the location of a substantial ‘probation station’. Work began on the station in 1840, with the unusual choice of ‘pise’ construction. This method uses rammed earth forced into timber formwork, and a small section of the station (which gave its name to the Mud Walls Road) survives to this day on the old Midlands Highway. At its peak, the station could house over 300 convicts, most of whom were set to work on the roads. Convicts from this station also built the stone bridge over Jericho, with an outstation in the tiers above Jericho providing the timbers for the bridge decking.
Today Jericho is a much quieter place, with far fewer people working in agriculture and the old highway bypassed in the 1970s. However Jericho’s rich heritage is still very visible in both the landscape and the many early buildings.