Located at about 697m above sea level, Michelago (50 km south) is one of the higher localities in New South Wales. It was founded in the 1820s in the Monaro region, on the main route from Sydney to the Snowy Mountains. Michelago is 63 km north of Cooma, the eastern gateway to the Snowy Mountains.
Michelago is situated in a valley between two mountain ranges, the Tinderry Range to the East and the Clear Range to the west. A road crosses the Tinderrys from Michelago, leading ultimately to the 1950s silver mining settlement Captains Flat. The highest peaks in the picturesque Tinderry Range reach approximately 1600m above sea level, while Michelago itself has an elevation of around 800m. The Murrumbidgee River separates the village from the Clear Range. The Michelago Creek passes through the village, and is a source of water for the residents. Its catchment area is in the Tinderry Range, and after passing the town the creek flows into the Murrumbidgee River. It has been claimed that Michelago represents the territorial divide between white-backed and black-backed magpies on the Monaro Highway from Canberra to Cooma.
Currie and Ovens explored the Michelago region in 1823 and the first settlement proceeded soon thereafter, involving the ex-convict couple, Emmanuel and Catherine Elliot. The explorer Dr John Lhotsky claimed that his journey in 1834 south from the Limestone Plains toward Michelago represented a descent into what he considered barbarism: no church south of Sutton Forest, no window pane south of Canberra, no white woman south of Michelago. The first Monaro Superintendent of Police, the Corsican Francis Nicholas Rossi, built an ironbark slab homestead in the region called Micilago on 35,000 acres (14,175 hectares) in 1837; this station was bought in 1859 by Alexander Ryrie who married Charlotte Faunce the daughter of Alured Tasker Faunce the police magistrate at Queanbeyan; one of their children being Granville Ryrie, later a General in World War I, knighted and involved with the League of Nations in Geneva. Alexander Ryrie who'd renamed his property Michalago,built St Thomas' church in the village of Michelago and life for those in the area was very self-sufficient, with income from wool, cattle for meat, milk and butter, locally grown fruit and vegetables, with soap and tallow candles also being made by hand.
A big social event was the picnic races and over 200 people attended the Michelago Public School picnic in 1906. During the 1930-50's eucalyptus stilling was a profitable occupation in the Tinderry Range above Michelago and a drum of eucalyptus oil (44 gallons or 200L) was worth 100 pounds on site in the 1940s.
In October 1840 a gang of five bushrangers broke out of the lockup at Queanbeyan and police magistrate Captain Faunce had to give chase to Michelago before he recaptured them. On 1 June 1866 a bushranging gang consisting of the Clarke brothers, Patsy Connell and two accomplices held up Michelago town (which then consisted of Thomas Kennedy's Hibernian Hotel, a police station and lockup, Abraham Levy's store, a Church of England schoolhouse, a Catholic church and a few houses) and drank its entire liquor supply before staggering off to their rocky hide-out called Beefcask in the Tinderrys.
The railway to the town opened on 7 December 1887. In the 1920s Michelago was visited by the Great White Train with fifteen exhibition coaches encouraging people to 'Buy Australian Made'. The railway line closed in 1989 along with the rest of the line from Queanbeyan to Cooma. From 1993 until 1997, the Australian Railway Historical Society ACT Division operated the line to Michelago as a heritage railway. However, as the line deteriorated, services were truncated to Royalla (approx 23 kilometres north). Due to significant damage to some of the older wooden bridges in the 2010 floods near Queanbeyan, the ARHS ACT is unlikely ever to run to Michelago again.