A certain Nelligen butcher had a wife by the name of Nell. Apparently, he did away with her and threw the body in the river. From time to time it would float to the surface prompting locals to exclaim, “Here comes Nell again”.
This is NOT the official version of how Nelligen got its name but it's as good as all the others because mystery still surrounds the origins of the town’s name. Colonial government policy at the time was to adopt aboriginal place names where possible. With no indigenous written language, however, European translation of aboriginal locality references was approximate at best.
“Nelligen” may be a corruption of an aboriginal term relating to its locality description, its function, a person, or perhaps of a dreamtime event. In the early years the town and its fresh water creek were spelt at different times: Nellican and Nellikeng.